Martha like Jesus? Martha Stewart's estranged brother, Frank Kostyra, was on the "Today Show" today and he compared Martha's plight to that of Christ in Mel Gibson's new film "The Passion of the Christ." He also compared her situation to his experience in Vietnam -- a painful duty. Why are they estranged? He says it's because of a misunderstanding over a tabloid story about Martha. Why was Frank on the show? Because he's written a book about his sister and their family called "The Making of Martha." That should keep him in hot water for a while longer. (Fox 19)
Gus goes grunge: Fresh from his success with the movie "Elephant" -- inspired by the Columbine killings -- director Gus Van Sant will next move to Seattle for "Last Days," a grunge band movie reportedly inspired by the life and death of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. (Rock Rage)
Prince hits middle age: Hard to believe, but the Purple One is 45. He's not slowing down, though. Next week he will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And the first major show in his current Musicology Tour will be broadcast live to U.S. movie theaters March 29. (BBC)
Star search to end all star searches: The ur-boy group Menudo, which launched Ricky Martin's career, is looking for the next wave of Latin boys to rule the world of crossover pop. Keep your eyes on New York this summer, when boys ages 10 to 14 will be flooding the city with stars in their eyes. (Reuters)
Roy speaks! Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy and tiger fame has given his first interview since being bitten in the throat by a Bengal last October in Las Vegas. He spoke on the phone to a German magazine and said that he is doing fine and is receiving nine hours of therapy a day from the same trainer who worked with Christopher Reeve. (AFP via Yahoo!)
-- Karen Croft
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It seemed only appropriate that at the Tuesday night premiere for Kevin Smith's new cinematic ode to the art of publicity, "Jersey Girl," a couple of guys who are used to talking through their flacks took it upon themselves to spin their own recent press imbroglios into some fine comic filigree.
Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, who has received some critical attention of late about his penchant for pugilism, introduced director Smith and "Jersey Girl" star Ben Affleck by celebrating the long relationship both men have had with his studio. Noting that Miramax was celebrating the 10th anniversary of "Clerks," and Smith's View Askew production company, and that it was through Smith that the company gained Affleck's 1997 film "Good Will Hunting," Weinstein said, "We really are a family, if sometimes a very dysfunctional one."
Weinstein also told the crowd at the Ziegfeld theater in Manhattan, which included the film's stars George Carlin, Liv Tyler and Jason Biggs, "We have our fights, but nothing to write about, for all you press out there, even though you'll write about it anyway."
Then Smith and Affleck took over the microphone.
"We're gonna get started in just a few minutes," said Smith, clad in a shiny blue jacket. "We're just waiting for J.Lo to show up."
The crowd laughed loud and hard. Everyone knew that Jennifer Lopez, who plays Affleck's ill-fated wife in the film's first few minutes, was not arriving anytime soon. After she and Affleck broke off their real-life (Us Weekly-sponsored?) relationship earlier this year, her small role in "Jersey Girl" has been downplayed.
"That's great. You brought me up here for that?" said Affleck sheepishly. "With friends like these ..."
After joking that he considered renaming his film "The Passion of the Jersey Christ," Smith began to thank his collaborators. "She's not here, but give it up for Jennifer Lopez, she's great in this movie," he said. Next to him, Affleck nodded and clapped stalwartly at the mention of his ex.
After Smith thanked most of the rest of his cast, there was a shout from the audience. "And Jason Biggs!" shouted the director. The forgotten Biggs stood up and took a hammy bow for the crowd.
"Yeah, I totally forgot you because we left you off the poster and the marketing materials," said Smith.
-- Rebecca Traister
Holy rollin' in it: Mel Gibson is set to pocket buckets and buckets of cash from "The Passion of the Christ." Entertainment columnist Martin A. Grove has taken the time to tot it all up for us and found that "If 'Passion' were to generate $400 million domestically, that could translate into $100 million or more of profits to Gibson and Icon." And that's just the beginning ... (Hollywood Reporter)
Good news for Tony and Carm: Proving that "The Sopranos" fans didn't fuhgeddabout the show during its 15-month break, the show's season premiere Sunday on HBO was watched by a whopping 12.1 million people. That's less than the 15 million NBC's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" drew in the same time slot, but then again, HBO is available to only 30 percent of U.S. TV watchers, so, you know, it's pretty impressive. (Associated Press)
Is Jayson Blair up to his old tricks again? Carter Nelsen, who interned with the former N.Y. Times reporter at the Boston Globe in 1997, has spotted a patch of halfheartedly rewritten text borrowed from a Globe story in Blair's new book. After comparing two very similar graphs, Nelson concludes, "I don't know if that qualifies as plagiarism, but it reads to me like it's in the same ballpark." (Romenesko letters)
The mighty pen: Works by John Updike, Tobias Wolff, ZZ Packer, Caryl Phillips and Frederick Barthelme have all been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. (Reuters)
Not feeling the love: On Monday, a misdemeanor drug charge -- disorderly conduct -- was added to Courtney Love's case for being under the influence of a controlled substance. "As a precaution, prosecutors added the disorderly conduct charge because it carries an easier standard of proof, as they won't be required to specify the type of drug involved, should that become an issue," reports MTV News.
White Stripe changes direction: White Stripes frontman has backed off his not guilty claim related to an incident at a Detroit rock club in which he, allegedly, beat up Von Bondies frontman Jason Stollsteimer. In a pretrial hearing on Tuesday, White pleaded guilty to assault and was ordered to pay a $500 fine plus $200 in court costs and to enroll in anger-management classes. (MTV News)
Complete with teeny-tiny nipple ring: A Canadian artist has created a couple of Barbie- and Ken-like dolls in the likenesses of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake -- dressed in their Super Bowl boob-baring finery and put them up for sale on eBay. Bidding, which ends March 14, is now topping out at $61. (eBay via E! Online)
Whoopi Goldberg on gay marriage, which she plans to address in an upcoming episode of her NBC sitcom, "Whoopi": "I do believe it's an issue of separation of church and state for me ... People always say it's in the Bible that man shouldn't lay with man. But it's also in that same quote that should a child curse his parents he should be put to death, so you've got to be real careful when you throw these quotes around." (Reuters)
-- Amy Reiter