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Shriver and Arnold still "hot for each other," Maher fires back at ex, Tarantino smeared with underwear charge.

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The ceremonial lighting of this year’s whopping Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is expected to completely mess up New York City traffic — which is why would-be gapers might just want to plunk down on the couch and watch it in the comfort of their own homes (7 p.m. ET, NBC). And then, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the premiere of “The Real Gilligan’s Island” (8 p.m. ET, TBS), a reality show in which a real professor, farm girl, movie star, millionaire and his wife, etc. (actually, two teams of each) compete to get off a desert island after — we suppose — a three-hour tour.

Morning Briefing:
She’s incorrect — and not just politically? Bill Maher has shot back at the allegations his ex-girlfriend Coco Johnsen made recently in a $9 million palimony lawsuit filed against him. In a written request (posted in its entirety on the Smoking Gun) that the court dismiss Johnsen’s claim “at the earliest stage,” Maher’s lawyers call Johnsen’s allegations “false and a complete fabrication”: “Bill Maher dated Coco Johnsen on and off for a period of about 10 months (not 17). They never lived together. Bill Maher, a confirmed bachelor, and a very public one at that, never promised to marry her or to have children with her. He never supported her financially, and he never promised to support her or to purchase any house for her. He never asked her to quit her job, or to take part in some sort of ‘power couple,’ or to be available to be seen with him. Further, Bill Maher never assaulted Coco Johnsen, never made any racial slurs, and never committed any battery. He dated her. And when the dating ended, she launched a campaign to embarrass, humiliate and extort ridiculous sums of money from Bill Maher.” Maher further contends that filing frivolous lawsuits is Johnsen’s “modus operandi,” noting a 1997 suit she brought against a Miami socialite whom she accused falsely of kidnapping and raping her. (According to a footnote in Maher’s memo, Johnsen filed the suit as “retribution” because the man, Anwar Zayden, “failed to pay Coco Johnsen $5,000 which she characterized as her fee for ‘babysitting’ Zayden. Zayden failed to pay because his girlfriend arrived home while Coco Johnsen was ‘babysitting,’ and he ushered her out the back door to evade discovery.”) (The Smoking Gun)



Arnold and Maria, exposed: How did Arnold Schwarzenegger’s family cope with all those groping allegations made against him during his gubernatorial campaign? By looking away, apparently. Maria Shriver said she turned off the TV and shut out the newspapers, and took her family to the Kennedy compound on Cape Cod. “This was painful,” Shriver tells Vanity Fair magazine. “Flat-out tough, painful, no doubt about it.” Nevertheless, Shriver says she and her husband are still “hot for each other.” And Schwarzenegger says he’s learned his lesson, having taken a sexual harassment class after his election, adding, “I know now what can be said and what can’t be said. Now I would not even tell someone I like their outfit. It could go south.” (Vanity Fair via N.Y. Daily News and the Reliable Source)

Talk about dishing the dirt: New York Daily News gossip Lloyd Grove has been given an advance look at New York Times writer Sharon Waxman’s forthcoming book “Rebels on the Backlot” and he was apparently shocked, shocked, by Waxman’s portrayal of director Quentin Tarantino as, in Grove’s terms, “a self-absorbed, inconsiderate, disloyal stinky genius.” Writes Grove, “Waxman, who secured Tarantino’s cooperation for the book, which is scheduled for a January release, repeatedly recounts his alleged antipathy to bathing and changing his underwear.” Ick. (Lloyd Grove’s Lowdown)

Also: Last Sunday’s heavily hyped episode of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” in which Christine Estabrook’s nosey Mrs. Huber was bumped off, pulled in 27 million viewers and had the highest ratings among adults 18-49 of any show (including the Olympics and the “American Idol” finale) since the final episode of “Friends” aired seven months ago (Variety) … Speaking of bumping off, Princess Diana’s former bodyguard Ken Wharfe has cast doubt on the late princess’s taped allegations, released this week, that another bodyguard, Barry Mannakee, was killed after her affair with him was discovered. “Of course I don’t think he was killed, there was no reason for him to be killed,” Wharfe said of Mannakee, who died in a motorcycle crash, in an interview with Britain’s ITV television. “He died tragically in a road traffic accident.” (Associated Press) … Tavis Smiley has announced his plans to leave NPR after three years hosting his own show, saying the organization has not done enough to reach out to a “broad spectrum of Americans.” Said Smiley, “In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future” (Reuters)

– Amy Reiter

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