Tom Cunneff
April 22, 2002 12:00 PM

Jokes aren’t the only thing Jay Leno can dish out. On April 1 he called nearly 200 Tonight Show staffers into a conference room at the NBC Studios in Burbank and, with his 10th anniversary approaching on May 25, told them he wanted to show his appreciation for all their hard work. Holding a stack of personal checks, he explained that each of the stunned staffers would receive $1,000 for every year of service, regardless of salary or position. An April Fool’s Day joke? Nope. Leno, who makes about $15 million a year, handed out about $1.5 million of his own money.

It’s been 25 years since Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason shared the screen in The Goodbye Girl. They finally reunite on-camera in the April 21 episode of his CBS series The Education of Max Bickford. She plays a pushy literary agent trying to sign college professor Dreyfuss. In real life Mason, whose marriage to playwright Neil Simon ended in 1983, has been running a 250-acre herb farm in northern New Mexico for the past five years. She and her crew harvest hundreds of pounds of organic and medicinal herbs such as echinacea, Saint-John’s-wort and chamomile and sell them to wholesalers. Although the actress tells me she has a lot of money invested, it’s not yet a moneymaking enterprise. But profit is not her main motive. “I love staying connected to nature and the environment,” says Mason.

Janet Jackson was spotted nuzzling record producer Jermaine Dupri in Miami Beach recently. The pair, joined by a female friend of Jackson’s, spent $449.58 on dinner at Kiss, a hip steak house, then retreated upstairs to a private room, taking along the restaurant’s entertainment—a Latin-themed, fire-wielding dance troupe. Our spy reports that Jackson and Dupri downed kamikazes and snuggled on a couch watching the pyrotechnic dancers perform until 1:40 in the morning. A rep for Jackson says the pair are “just friends.”

Attention, members of the Glastonbury High School 20th-year-reunion committee, class of 1982: Don’t expect to see Judging Amy star Amy Brenneman. “High school makes me want to throw up,” says Brenneman, who declined a recent invitation to be a commencement speaker this June at the Hartford, Conn.-area high school. The actress didn’t mind attending her 10-year Harvard reunion in 1997, but she really didn’t participate in the official functions on campus. “I just did what I did in college,” says Brenneman, “which is drink beer with my friends.”

It’s been 15 years since Fleetwood Mac released their last studio album, Tango in the Night, but their fans won’t have to wait much longer for a new CD. The band—Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie—is back in an L.A. studio recording new songs. (Christine McVie, John’s ex, called it quits and is home in England.) The group had hoped to get going earlier this year, but the birth of Fleetwood’s twin daughters in February replaced rock and roll with lullabies for a while. The two biggest changes between now and then? They are recording during the day as opposed to the middle of the night, and Wheat Thins are the energy booster of choice. I hear Buckingham insists on 12 boxes at all times.

Additional reporting by Hugh McCarten and Marisa Laudadio

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