Tom Cunneff
May 05, 2003 12:00 PM

Matt Lauer may make a reported $8 million a year as Katie Couric’s cohost on the Today show, but he’s not one to throw money around. His wife, Annette, sees to that. At an April 21 benefit auction of Audrey Hepburn’s personal belongings held at Sotheby’s in Manhattan, Lauer was in the thick of bidding for one of the actress’s prized Hermes handbags. But when the price for the black crocodile “Kelly” purse reached $35,000, Annette told him to stop (the bag went for $36,000). Maybe she’s being fiscally responsible because the couple are expecting their second child (son Jack will be 2 in June). Annette, who wore a loose-fitting silver dress, just laughed when we asked if she was pregnant, but she did say, “Jack is ready for some company.”

It’s been reported that Nicole Kidman and Jim Carrey went on a date. It’s true they did have dinner together recently at Nobu in Manhattan, but they had a chaperone: writer-director Nora Ephron. The trio met to discuss making a film version of the popular 1960s TV series Bewitched. “Nicole had been circling the project long before I got involved,” says Ephron, who is writing the script with her sister Delia and will also direct. Kidman won’t need to twitch a fake nose for this film: She looks just like Elizabeth Montgomery, who played Samantha. And Carrey, if he takes the role, is a dead ringer for the first Darrin, Dick York. Ephron will have a finished script later this year and hopes to start shooting in 2004.

Mario Thomas has two anniversaries coming up: On April 26 she hosts the 40th-anniversary gala of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which her father, Danny Thomas, founded in Memphis. Then, on May 21, she and husband Phil Donahue will celebrate 23 years of marriage with a 10-day trip from New York City to Cape Cod aboard their 57-ft. cabin cruiser, which they christened “Mugsy” after her childhood nickname. Their marriage isn’t quite as equitable afloat, since Donahue is the captain. Says Thomas, the sole crew member: “When he says jump, I jump.”

When actors reunite to make a movie sequel, they can let their hair down with one another—and occasionally their pants too. Last summer, when Hugh Jackman arrived late to the Vancouver set of X2, the X-Men sequel that opens May 2, he asked costars Ian McKellen and newcomer Alan Cumming how they spent their weekends. Cumming told him they’d been going to the beach. He neglected to mention, however, that it was a nude beach. So when Jackman met them there, he was a bit taken aback: “Ian had on his English sun hat, walking along the beach butt naked,” he says with a laugh. Cumming adds, “A few people recognized us, but they respected the fact that we weren’t there to sign autographs. Honestly, where would we keep the pen?”

A few weeks ago Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt invited Courteney Cox Arquette and David Arquette to their new hangout, Mastro’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills, but a good-natured fight broke out over who would pay the $500 bill. The victor? Aniston, who won by slipping her credit card to the waitress. She left a generous tip, too.

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