Scoop

updated 07/11/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/11/2005 AT 01:00 AM EDT

FRENCH DISS?
Was refusing to let Oprah shop at Hermés after hours a simple business decision or a ...

So what really happened when Oprah Winfrey and her entourage were turned away from Hermés's Paris store 15 minutes after closing time? In what has become an international brouhaha, people close to Oprah hint racism played a role, while a spokesman for Hermés insists that when the daytime talk show queen arrived at 6:45 p.m. on June 14 they were setting up for a private public relations event. The rep adds that Oprah was even politely invited to return the following day. "Hermés regrets not having been able to accommodate Ms. Winfrey and her team," the company said in a statement. But the apology fell on deaf ears—Oprah has already called the president of Hermés's U.S. subsidiary to tell him she will not be spending her money there again. And the star, who went to the luxury retailer to pick up a watch for Tina Turner before dinner, has a dramatically different version of events. According to her rep, she asked if she could just run in and buy the watch, but was snubbed by a clerk and a manager, "I saw it, and it was really, really very bad," Oprah's pal Gayle King told Entertainment Tonight. "Oprah describes it herself as one of the most humiliating moments of her life." Hermes says their version is all documented on a store videotape, although they are not currently releasing it to the press. King says Oprah will remain mum about the incident until the fall, when she will devote some time on her hit show to what her rep calls "Oprah's Crash moment"—referring to the recent film that deals with shades of racism.

+ NO STAR TREATMENT
Everyday snub or subtle racism? Scoop asked other minority performers if they had encounters that made them think twice about how they are treated in public.

MICHELLE WILLIAMS (Destiny's Child)
"When we are flying, they always look at our ticket stubs when we're in first class to make sure we're in the right seat."

S. EPATHA MERKERSON (Law & Order)
"About six months ago, I was in a fabric store, [Security] followed me and insisted they look through my bag. So I emptied my purse and said, 'Please find something in there that belongs to you.' They picked up my things, but they didn't apologize."

DEMI: POSTER GIRL
Coming to a magazine or billboard near you: Demi Moore, the new face of Versace's fall campaign. The 42-year-old actress posed for photographer Mario Testino In April. Said Moore: "E was thrilled and honored when they asked me to do the campaign." Moore follows Madonna, who modeled for the designer's spring ads.

Crunch Time
Lindsay Lohan is thin, but, she says, she wants to be thin and toned. "I don't like to run," says the 19-year-old actress, who will spend six weeks in Minnesota filming A Prairie Home Companion. "I've been lifting. I do crunches a lot. It's mostly legs and stomach and arms. Everyone was saying that I was losing too much weight, so I want to put some muscle on my arms." And not strictly for personal reasons: "There are some films I want to do where I need to bulk up my arms," Lohan said at a Manhattan gala.

Heart Monitor

Mena's New Love
After filing for divorce on May 10 from cinematographer Robert Brinkmann, 43, Mena Suvari, 26, seems to have found love again. Her personal trainer Jay Bulloch, 34, got very personal with the American Beauty star on a Port Douglas, Australia, beach on June 27.

ENGAGED: AVRIL LAVIGNE
Avril Lavigne swapped her rocking for a little romancing the weekend of June 24. On the last leg of her European tour, Lavigne, 20, and beau of a year Deryck Whibley, 25, stopped in Venice and got engaged. No word on a wedding date or location, but the two singers—Whibley is the frontman for the punk-pop group Sum 41—both hail from Ontario and now live together in Santa Monica. Whibley previously dated Paris Hilton, and Lavigne was linked with her ex-guitarist Jesse Colburn.

SPLIT: Elle Macpherson
After nine years together, three of them engaged, supermodel Elle Macpherson and French banker Arpad "Arki" Busson have called it quits. "Whilst remaining the greatest of friends, we have decided to spend some time apart to consider our future," the couple said in a June 24 statement. "In consideration of our sons' [Flynn, 7, and Aurelius, 2,] welfare, our priority lies with our responsibilities as parents. There is no third party involved." Macpherson, 41, and Busson, 42, share homes in London and the Bahamas.

When Sorry Won't Do
Russell Crowe's attempts to make nice with Nestor Estrada—the hotel desk clerk whose cheek got in the way of a telephone hurled to express frustration at less-than-perfect service in New York City on June 6—don't seem to be working. "Mr. Estrada is more interested in Mr. Crowe's testimony from a witness stand than he is with his scripted apologies on national television," said Estrada's lawyer Eric Franz. More bad news: Franz takes umbrage at what he calls Crowe's "unprecedented act of arrogance," claiming Crowe took a theatrical bow before the two hotel employees who witnessed the tirade that night. Local papers also say Crowe struck a karate pose after throwing a ceramic bowl in Estrada's direction. A civil suit appears imminent. (Crowe already faces a felony charge of assault plus criminal possession of a weapon and is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 14.) Crowe's lawyer did not return Scoop's calls for comment but did tell the New York Post, "Russell has done everything he can to make amends." Meanwhile, Estrada is back at work at the hotel, a 1-in. scar on his cheek.

A NEW LOVE?
"I'm totally a homebody," says Courtney Love, whose wild ways culminated in an epic, slow-motion meltdown last year, followed by court-ordered rehab. "I go to my AA meetings. I got really disconnected when I was doing drugs, and now I'm sort of reconnecting with friends." Love is "having a really fabulous time" working on an album with, she says, Christina Aguilera, while considering her daughter Frances Bean's request to write a hit record. "She is 12 and wants her mom to have a 'Hollaback Girl,'" says Love. Some old habits remain: On June 27 Love was spotted pole dancing into the night at L.A.'s Spider Club, then heading off to the lounge Chi at 1:45 a.m.

T-SHIRT OF THE WEEK
One view of Tom's publicity tidal wave, on sale for $30 at crush, a shop in Brooklyn.

POP QUIZ

Dancing with the Stars'
John O'Hurley

Actor, golfer, businessman, dog show host, composer—is there anything John O'Hurley can't do? Famous as Seinfeld's Baron of Bombast J. Peterman ("Oh, Elaine, this dry air is curing me like a Black Forest ham"), he's currently doing his best Astaire on Dancing with the Stars—and serving on the J. Peterman Company board.

Why so many careers?

I've always had the kind of mind that likes to have a lot of plates spinning. And I don't like to be defined by any one thing.

Ever take dance lessons as a child?

In fifth grade. All of us had to go to a little dance school. We tried to throw cookies into the piano. Not a lot rubbed off on me, but I always had a sense of carriage.

Who are you more like: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Savion Glover?

My sense of style is more like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, the sense of the fox-trot, the light-on-the-feet, the gentle glide, the holding the woman lightly and turning her with that sense of grace.

Is the secret of dance like the secret of golf?

It is. As golf is not a game of strength, dance is not an art of strength. It's an art of finesse. It's about gathering speed and releasing. That's what the golf swing is and that's what a dance move is.

You also play the piano and have a new CD out.

It's called Peace of Our Minds. In my head I've been writing since I was 4 years old and at a pond watching turtles. I would say it's like large Yanni: very romantic and sensual.

Can we buy it in the J. Peterman catalog?

No, it's not J. Peterman material, unfortunately.

You're on the Peterman board. What's the best item in the catalog?

I think the furniture collection is interesting, and I also like the new perfume.

You look terrific—dancing seems to agree with you.

I've dropped 15 lbs.! It's a great way to stay in shape.

You promised to dance in a red Speedo if you lost 20. So, just 5 more. An anxious nation waits.

I am a man who will keep a promise.

ON THE BLOCK

PAULEY'S PLACE
PRICE: $13 million
PLACE: New York City

Television's Jane Pauley and her husband, Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, are selling their Central Park West duplex. The 13-room apartment comes complete with seven bedrooms, eat-in kitchen, wood-burning fireplace and centra air conditioning. Famous past neighbors include Robin Williams and Meryl Streep.

MORE ON: Oprah Winfrey

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