Tom Cunneff
April 23, 2001 12:00 PM

April 4 was a big day on the set of Ally McBeal. Not only was it series creator David E. Kelley’s 45th birthday, but Robert Downey Jr. turned 36 and guest star Christine Lahti, who in the May 7 episode plays a seductive owner of an ad agency that employs only men, turned 51. When they wheeled out her cake, about 100 hunky actors hired for the episode sang “Happy Birthday.” Later that day Downey received a framed letter written by Charlie Chaplin, whom Downey played onscreen in the 1992 biopic. The missive had been sent by fans and delivered to him during his party. Kelley, who has been busy crafting the finale scripts of his three series—Ally, The Practice and Boston Public—eschewed any celebration for himself.

For the last few years CBS has invited its biggest sitcom star, golf fanatic Ray Romano, to play the exclusive Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., the Monday after the Masters golf tournament. (Tiger Woods won the green jacket this year.) So the cast and crew of Everybody Loves Raymond decided to have a little fun with Romano’s 2001 round. They put up a big board next to the show’s food table that read: “What Will Ray Shoot at Augusta?” Everybody who chose a number ponied up S5. Romano, who matched each bet, shot 103 as predicted by two cameramen, who split the $240 pot.

In Someone Like You Ashley Judd does an impressive cheerleading number for costar Hugh Jackman. For help with the sexy scene she turned to her alma mater, the University of Kentucky. With just two days to prepare, two members of the Wildcats cheerleading squad choreographed a routine, videotaped it and overnighted it to Judd, who learned the moves that morning and filmed the scene—wearing only bikini underpants and a tank top—later that day. See how important an education can be?

When pop star twin brothers Evan and Jaron Lowenstein (“Crazy for This Girl”) performed at a recent cancer benefit in Beverly Hills, they dedicated the AC/DC classic “You Shook Me All Night Long” to host Rita Wilson. Although the actress didn’t recognize the tune at the time, I hear Wilson was so flattered that she wrote each of them an endearing thank-you note. In return they sent her AC/DC’s 1980 album Back in Black, which includes the song, along with an autographed copy of their latest, self-titled CD.

Getting people to leave L.A. for Chicago isn’t easy, so Joan Cusack did her best to make sure the producers and cast of her new ABC sitcom What About Joan felt at home there. She gave each of them a welcome basket with a restaurant guide, a Cubs hat and game schedule, maps, earmuffs and more. Cusack wants the show to succeed in Chicago, where she lives with her attorney-husband, Dick Burke, and their two children, ages 3 and 11 months.

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