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Brandy’s TV step-mom, Sheryl Lee Ralph, says she feels a certain kinship with the R&B singer who stars in the UPN sitcom Moesha. “There is a lot of pride that I have in Brandy and her success,” says Ralph, 42, who’s set to stage her annual AIDS benefit, Divas: Simply Singing, in Los Angeles on May 10. “When I see her in all of her braided glory on TV every week, I remember when I braided my hair 15 or 20 years ago and some producer said, ‘Can’t you find a more natural hairstyle?’ ” So it’s only natural that Ralph, who has two children (son Etienne, 5, and daughter Ivy Victoria, 2) with her husband, businessman Eric Maurice, likes to smother—er, mother—Brandy behind the scenes. “She’s 18 now, but I love it when she asks me why I always treat her like a child,” says Ralph, who can then reply with her best Bette-Davis-as-Baby-Jane imitation. “I say, ‘Because you are, Blanche, you are!’ ”

ER‘s Julianna Margulies hung up her scrubs to play a World War II prison camp inmate in the film Paradise Road with Glenn Close and Frances McDormand. But director Bruce Beresford thought she looked “a little too perky” for the part. To remedy that, Margulies, 30, didn’t diet or exercise. “If you cut out fat and start running, you’re not going to look like a camp victim but like someone at a resort,” she says. Instead, she prescribed a get-sickly-quickly regimen for herself. “I sat inside and watched videos,” says Margulies. “In a month I looked very pale and sluggish, like I needed a doctor.”

You have to get up awfully early to beat Mark McEwen, coanchor of CBS’s This Morning. That’s what Men Behaving Badly’s Rob Schneider and Howard Stern sidekick Robin Quivers learned when they faced the eventual champion while taping the annual Celebrity Jeopardy! tournament, which aired last week. “Afterward, Robin said, ‘You shouldn’t have been on the show with us—you were too smart,’ ” says McEwen, 42, who will donate his $26,700 to charity. “It was, according to Alex Trebek, the highest Celebrity Jeopardy! score ever.” The victory was especially sweet for McEwen, who was bumped on an eligibility ruling after successfully auditioning for Jeopardy! 12 years ago. “I watch the show every night,” he says now. “If I could remember math the way I remember trivia, I could have gone to MIT.”

Surely action hero Bruce Willis, best known for his dogged antiterrorist defense in the Die Hard movies, must seek vengeance against the stalkerazzi who hound him and his wife, actress Demi Moore. “People pick apart my trash. They wait outside my hotel rooms. They hide out in my bushes,” says Willis, 42, who stars in the new sci-fi thriller The Fifth Element. But Willis admits that he hits some bumps inside as well. “I live in a house with three daughters, a wife and all of their female friends,” he says. So what’s the hardest part about being the man of the house? “I help my kids with their homework,” says Willis, “and it’s rough. When it comes to doing fractions, it doesn’t matter if your movie’s doing well.”