The Fix

Smoking Gun celebrates the year in scandals, the pope gives thumbs up to Mel Gibson, and Madonna gives thumbs up to Wesley Clark. Plus: Why did Julia Roberts stop smiling?

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Mo Rocca and one of the founders of the Smoking Gun Web site were on the “Today Show” this morning to promo a TV special about the highlights of the year. The number one celebrity story was, of course, Liza Minnelli and her macho husband David Gest, because what could be better than a diva being accused of hitting her gay husband? But there was also Courtney Love who, as Mo pointed out, was getting “white trash heroin” (Oxycontin) from her docs. When asked why that was a story, Rocca said, “Because she has a personality!”

I’ve never quoted Peggy Noonan about anything, because then I have the sound of her voice in my head all day. But you can’t ignore her when she quotes the pope on a Mel Gibson movie. Seems Pope John Paul II knows how to run a DVD machine (or at least his pals do) and he watched “The Passion” the other day. No doubt emulating Gene Shalit‘s way with brevity and wit, the holy father gave this five-word review: “It is as it was.” Think that’ll be the end of the controversy? Not a chance in hell. (Wall St. Journal)

It’s all over. President Bush can give up now. Madonna has thrown in with presidential candidate Wesley Clark, and we know how strong her marketing abilities are. After meeting with Clark for an hour a few weeks ago Madonna said, “I think he has a good handle on foreign policy, I think he’s good with people, and I think he has a heart and a consciousness. He’s interested in spirituality — I mean, those things mean a lot to me.” Don’t be surprised if you see the general in a pair of Gap jeans alongside the material spiritual girl in an ad campaign to rock the vote. It could work … (CNN)

Speaking of marketing geniuses, it’s good to know David Bowie still has it. Reports on his Madison Square Garden show were raves. David got up off his sickbed, shook the flu and delivered what the Hollywood Reporter called “a transcendent performance.”



Don’t get Julia Roberts mad. When someone mentioned that her new movie, “Mona Lisa Smile” (about a gaggle of girls at Wellesley in the 1950s), was being called “Dead Housewives’ Society,” the famous smile disappeared. “I don’t think we made a chick flick. We just made a movie,” said Roberts. Can’t feel too sorry for the gal. At $20 million a chick flick, she should let people call it whatever they want. (Reuters)

Lord of the urinals? Does Elijah Wood have a bladder obsession, or what? First the 22-year-old “Lord of the Rings” star issues the following warning to the audience at this week’s “Return of the King” premiere: “Don’t forget to pee!” Then he follows that fine piece of advice (the movie is three hours long) by confirming to the New York Times that he and his fellow hobbit Dominic Monaghan relieved themselves on “Rings” director Peter Jackson’s favorite statue after a night out drinking during filming. “There was a little urination in one of the local fountains and a drunken evening with the hobbits,” admitted Wood. “Nobody saw us doing it. We later did tell Peter. It got to Peter eventually and he was a little upset, sort of sad. He was a little sad, but he took it well.” Could that “9″ Wood and eight of his costars got tattooed on their bodies actually be a backward … P?

Money Quotes
Looney Toon law?: Jackson family attorney Brian Oxman on the Santa Barbara County D.A.’s decision to hire a P.R. firm to handle media inquiries about the Michael Jackson child molestation charges: “First we had a press conference where the DA told jokes, and now we have a PR firm the DA has hired that also represents the Cartoon Network.” (Associated Press)

Half-nip: Helen Mirren on the nudity in her new film about a group of old British gals who bare all, “Calendar Girls”: “There was a whole discussion with the director over how many nipples were allowed to be shown. It came down to 3.5, or something like that.” (USA Today)

Best of the Rest
Page Six: Hilary Duff tries to get teen-star rival Lindsay Lohan tossed out of L.A. premiere party, insists she didn’t steal Lohan’s man; MTV draws PETA fire for showing Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend Tiffany cuddling teeny, 2-week-old monkey and force-feeding him a grape; Howard Dean denies wearing tie emblazoned with crests of exclusive club; Paula Poundstone feels Michael Jackson’s pain, says, “I don’t find pleasure in someone else’s demise. It may be a newfound position. I hope I wasn’t too mean before, but I’m not going to carry the torch up the hill going after the Frankenstein monster. It’s yucky.”

Rush and Molloy: Meryl Streep, the Hansons, Cyndi Lauper, Sophie Dahl, Ethan Hawke, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Elijah Wood and N.Y. Gov. Pataki among those who show up at “Return of the King” premiere, but Viggo Mortensen nowhere in sight; Ben Affleck says he and Jennifer Lopez are “taking it one day at a time,” offers advice on how to deal with Saddam Hussein (“‘It’s a great opportunity for’ President Bush, the ardent Democrat acknowledged. ‘If he capitalizes on it correctly, he could hang on to the office. If he were smart, he would declare victory right now and bring home the soldiers.’); Lenny Kravitz steps out without Nicole Kidman, while Sean “Puffy/P. Diddy” Combs spins records in support of Michael Jackson; Lauryn Hill denies she was rude during Vatican visit, asks, “Is telling the truth bad manners?”; Heidi Klum says gender of the child she’s expecting “doesn’t matter as long as it’s healthy”; Wynonna Judd loses driver’s license for one year after pleading guilty to drunken-driving charges.

Amy Reiter

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Karen Croft is the editor of Salon Sex.

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