PARIS HITS THE INTERNET—YES, AGAIN—WHILE TURNING 24 ON A ROLLER-COASTER WEEKEND
It was fitting that Paris Hilton hopped on Walt Disney World's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to celebrate her 24th birthday—adding to the twists and turns the hotel heiress's life took during the weekend-long celebration. The trouble started late on Feb. 18 when, while Hilton was at her Orlando nightspot Club Paris, her friends began receiving nonstop calls and text messages. "Paris received a call a few minutes later, and whoever was on the other end told her that her address book was on the Internet," says club co-owner Fred Khalilian. "Paris was pretty upset about it....She felt it was a huge violation of her privacy." Apparently someone obtained the password for her wireless account, hacked into it and posted her phone numbers, text messages both racy and puzzling ("Carsondaily said to document everything guy said next truth or dare have cams at all times") and photos (including a bare-breasted Paris) on various Web sites. The results? "I got 2,000 e-mails in one day," says Nicky. Many of the 500 or so people in the Hilton address book had similar problems. (A rep for Hilton's service provider, T-Mobile, for which she's a spokeswoman, said an investigation is under way.) Having dealt with an Internet scandal in the past, though, Hilton kept her cool. She hosted a birthday party at the club the next night, and "she acted like nothing happened," says Khalilian. "She seemed to have a great time."
+ THEY'RE ON THE HILTON LIST
Ashlee Simpson, Nicole Richie and Luke Wilson changed phone numbers after they hit the Net. Also listed: Avril Lavigne, Fred Durst, Andy Roddick and rapper Lil John, who went on MTV to say: "Stop calling on my cell phone!"
Renée's New Tune
Since splitting with White Stripes lead man Jack White in September, Renée Zellweger seems to have found a new rocker to follow: Irish singer Damien Rice. The 35-year-old actress was recently spotted in Ireland with the Dublin-based Rice. Her rep says that Zellweger is a fan and friend. "They just happened to be [in Ireland] at the same place at the same time," says the rep. "They've been friends for years." Adds a rep for Rice's label: "She has been a supporter of his career. But that doesn't mean they are going out. He's a very private person."
Michelle Branch, 21, and husband Teddy Landau, 40, wed last May, are expecting their first child in early August. The expectant parents soon begin a 23-city tour.
Is Katie Couric playing the field? Despite a recent report that jazz trumpeter Chris Botti was devastated when The Today Show anchor dumped him to reunite with businessman Tom Werner (inset), Botti's rep insists the pair are still friends--and have never been all that serious. "He's not heartbroken," the rep says. "They are casually dating. The relationship is based on friendship. They see each other when he's in town, like at his [Feb. 11] date at Madison Square Garden." But what about Werner—with whom Couric broke up last fall after a four-year relationship? The two had dinner together in New York City the week after she saw Botti, but "they are just talking," says an inside source. "She is dating, yes, and she is having a good time."
JESSICA VISITS THE HOSPITAL
In town Feb. 21 to tape a segment on Oprah—having recently completed filming The Dukes of Hazzard in Louisiana—Jessica Simpson checked into a Chicago hospital with signs of a stomach virus and dehydration. "She is already feeling better," says her rep, "after being checked into and released from a hospital for dehydration." Simpson managed to appear perky while taping the Oprah show, in an episode where Simpson's stylists, makeup and hair people helped make over a chicken farmer from the South.
On TV: Young and Gay
What do two of TV's hottest shows have in common? Gay teens, it seems. On The O.C., Marissa canoodles with her new girlfriend, Alex; on Desperate Housewives, Bree's son Andrew kisses another guy in the pool. These shows "help gay teens who are struggling," says GLAAD's Joan Garry. Viewer reaction? "Very supportive," says O.C. creator Josh Schwartz.
ROYAL WEDDING WATCH
MUM: NO SHOW
Prince Charles can count one less guest at his April 8 wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles: his mother, Queen Elizabeth. "The Queen will not be attending the civil ceremony because she is aware that the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles want to keep the ceremony low-key," a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman announced Feb. 22. British tabs saw it otherwise. "Queen Snubs the Wedding" blared the Daily Mail. "Royal Bombshell" shouted The Sun. Elizabeth will host a reception at Windsor Castle following the nuptials. "The Queen is very much supporting this marriage," a Palace source insisted to PEOPLE.
Let's Get Small
So many celebs are becoming dolls—check out the Destiny's Child playthings in outfits designed by Beyoncé's mom, the mini Lindsay Lohan and a talking Donald Trump—that the latest Barbies come dressed as American Idol contestants. Turnabout? Fair play.
Crowe On Hold
Russell Crowe insists he had nothing to do with the $25 million drama Eucalyptus being put on hold just three days before filming was to begin in Australia. Well, almost nothing. In an e-mail to Sydney's The Sunday Telegraph, the temperamental actor took issue with press reports and comments by costar Hugo Weaving (The Matrix) that he helped scuttle the project because he disliked the script. "Oh, for goodness sake, what's next? Perhaps I wanted to play [costar Nicole Kidman's] role as well?" w rote Crowe, who is also the film's executive producer. He did write that he admired the original script, calling it "magical and mysterious," but "I was taken aback at the addition of a scene requiring me to expose my penis to the young Queen Elizabeth." Fox Searchlight Pictures calls the postponement "a collective decision," while Crowe said he is still passionate about the movie.
On FOX's 24, Shohreh Aghdashloo plays a loving mother and cold-blooded Islamic terrorist—a role praised by critics and criticized by some as promoting anti-Muslim sentiments. (The show now airs spots reminding viewers that most American Muslims denounce terrorism.) Aghdashloo, 52, an Oscar nominee last year for House of Sand and Fog, spoke with Scoop over lunch.
What do you say to those who claim the 24 storyline stereotypes Muslims as terrorists or sympathizers?
I do understand their point of view and I respect it. Although all Muslims are not terrorists, unfortunately in today's world most of the terrorists are Muslim—especially the ones in focus in the series. Plus, this is pure fiction.
Then your character is not a caricature?
I don't feel like I'm a stereotype. I feel like I'm involved in a great television drama and a project that's reflecting society in a dramatic way.
Does freedom of expression enter this debate?
Absolutely. The U.S. has always been an advocate for freedom and democracy, and this is part of it. You can't say you believe in democracy and not let the other party talk.
In one memorable scene, your character serves her son's girlfriend poisoned tea. Chilling!
The more chilling scene for me was when they made me hold a gun. All my life I've been against owning a gun, but as an actress I had to do this.
What does your 16-year-old daughter think?
I watched the first two episodes with my daughter and her friends....
We guess you didn't serve them tea....
No. (Laughs) My only concern was what if my daughter's friends, teenagers, would not come to my place to eat anymore, because I'm a good cook and I make good Persian rice. They love my rice. They're smart kids. They can tell the difference.
What's the secret to playing pure evil?
I don't judge my characters. If I did, I wouldn't be able to play them truthfully. She is who she is, and she's pretty complex.
ON THE BLOCK
PRICE: $7.85 million
PLACE: New York City
Gwyneth Paltrow is looking for a little privacy since daughter Apple joined the family. The actress is selling the four-story West Village townhouse she purchased in 1998 for $1.6 million and hopes to find something less accessible to the paparazzi. The Greek Revival-style home includes a security system with night-vision surveillance.