People Staff
June 08, 1998 12:00 PM


TV egghead Bill Nye flunks Hollywood for its Sci-fi fabrications


The truth is indeed out there—but one place you won’t find it is in this summer’s rash of science-fiction films. So says ex-rocket scientist Bill Nye the Science Guy, the wacky host of the same-named acclaimed syndicated series for kids. “It’s just so stupid” that movies like Deep Impact, Godzilla and The X-Files—which he has either seen or read about—are “so chock-full of bad science. Real science is so cool.” Here, the Mr. Wizard of the new millennium reflects on this season’s blockbusters:

Deep Impact: “It’s embarrassing for the people who made it,” says Nye. “There just isn’t time” to build a newfangled rocket to nuke the comet. And no way would the government keep the project a secret. “It’s the war-effort effect,” says Nye, a former student of Carl Sagan’s. And finally, there’s all that noise battling the comet. “If you ever go into space,” he reminds us, “there is no sound.”

Godzilla: “You can’t make a dino that big. It’s just not open to debate,” says Nye of the 200-foot-tall movie creature. It would “collapse under its own weight.” Fossils show that some of the biggest dinos ever were only 70 feet long.

The X-Files: Despite all the conspiracies, “there’s no evidence” of the paranormal that fills the TV series and new movie, due June 19. “It’s sad that people embrace it so easily.”

It’s not that Nye is a literal-minded spoilsport. “Getting DNA from mosquito blood,” a la Jurassic Park, “could actually happen someday,” he says. But Hollywood’s silly science scares him: “If it ever comes to crunch time, I’m not sure I want these movie people involved.”


Just like that other Bill Gates, the zillionaire up Seattle way, Bill Gates of Mayer, Ariz., starts his workday by booting up: With 200 cows and a 1,920-acre ranch, that type of footwear is as vital as the softwear (a nice cowboy hat) on his head. Gates’s wife of 52 years, Phyllis, says that’s her guy in a nutshell: “Bill,” she explains, “always wears his cowboy hat. You might see him without his pants but never without his hat.”

With three daughters, 15 grandchildren, 6 greatgrandchildren and 4 dogs, rancher Gates, 70, has had a very rich life, although not that rich. “This guy,” he says, “owed me some money, and one day he read in the paper that Bill Gates is the richest man in the world. So he called me and said, ‘You don’t need this money, I’m not going to pay you.’ I just told him to pay me and charge it to the other Bill Gates.” The couple also take ribbing at the bank (“They say, ‘I hear you’re the richest man in the world,’ ” says Phyllis, 68. “They must be surprised when they look at our account”) and at the airport, where they hear cracks like, “I thought you would have your own private jet!” Prompted in part by his famous name, Gates figured he might as well learn a thing or two about computers at the local college, but that just led to more jokes. “The teacher said, ‘Are you taking an advanced class?’ And I said,’No, I’m taking a beginner class.’ I got laughed at a little bit.” So don’t look for any gee-whiz programming from this Bill Gates anytime soon. As Phyllis puts it, “he still can’t even type.”

Are They or Aren’t They?

Texans are wondering whether Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt are no longer lone stars but a couple. Aniston, 29, in Austin filming Office Space, has reportedly been visited by Pitt, 34, who is described as an old friend. Local papers say he helped Aniston—just split from longtime love Tate Donovan—search for her lost dog (later found) and conferred with her at a hotel bar. “You could definitely tell they were into each other,” reports one guest. Reps for both insist there’s no Texas two-step going on.

Capital Clown

There’s a Bush taking on Bill Clinton in Washington again, only this one wears Hawaiian shirts and once rolled a coworker down the Capitol steps in a garbage can. “My name is pretty high-profile,” acknowledges Billy Bush, 26, arguably one of D.C. radio’s hottest disc jockeys. “I wear it on my sleeve.” The cohost of a morning show on Z-104, the young Bush’s hijinks have included pasting Monica Lewinsky’s head onto a cutout of Marilyn Monroe for passersby to pose with. “All Bush men are naughty and love bathroom humor,” explains Bush, who is the son of George’s younger brother Jonathan. “We may be a little on the rude side, but fun, lovable, rude.”

His proud uncle agrees. “There’s a relaxed side to the family,” says George. “We just don’t hire a public relations firm to discuss that kind of thing.”

As for the future, Billy, married since April to wife Sydney (née Davis), 26, who expects their first child in August, is looking no further than the next three-minute song. “When it stops being fun,” he says, “I’m done.”

Hand Power

He’s male, 35, and doesn’t sport a catchy nickname. But Rob Chalk is the new seasoning that has been added to the Spice Girls’ nine-week U.S. tour that begins June 15. His role? Hand-signing the band’s tunes for deaf and hearing-impaired concert-goers via videotape.

“When I watch signlanguage interpreters onstage, I feel they are so boring, so I felt I would give it a little more”—you guessed it—”spice,” says Chalk, a London signer. Performing in a marathon taping the day after attending a Spice Girls concert, Chalk confesses that his performance may not be completely faithful. “It’s not like these were the deepest lyrics in the world, but it still would have been better to have a few days to think exactly about what they were saying.” Chalk insists that what he may have lacked in accuracy he made up for in energy by dancing to the Girls’ infectious pop. “I freaked. During a spell of Spanish music, I did some La Bamba.”

Chalk, who has signed for everyone from Ziggy Marley to Tip O’Neill, is not hearing impaired and isn’t a big Spice Girls fan. But his gig has made him popular with his young relatives and neighbors. “Everyone wanted me to get autographs. They think I am cool.”


TV’s AllyMcBeal character was told by her shrink to get a personal theme song. What is yours, and why?

Eve’s Bayou’s Lynn Whitfield

“Marvin Gaye’s’ I Want You.’ I think it’s romantic, sensual and really hot stuff.”

Lethal Weapon 4’s Danny Giover

” ‘Alabama,’ by John Coltrane. It gives me a sense of strength, purpose and resolve.”

Fashion designer Vera Wang

“Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive.’ Being a businesswoman and mother, it represents presence of mind and dedication.”

Celebs Take Fight for Privacy Public

Paul Reiser and Michael J. Fox were looking for help, not laughs, when they appeared in Washington last week to throw their weight behind proposed legislation that would make it a crime for photographers to harass their celebrity quarry.

Calls for such laws heated up after Princess Diana was killed last August. Fox, the star of TV’s Spin City, said tabloid photographers turned his 1988 wedding in Vermont to Tracy Pollan into a “nightmare.” “They have chased me on foot and in my car, yelled obscene comments at my entire family and literally staked out my home on a 24-hour basis.”

Mad About You’s Reiser said his troubles began the day his son Ezra, 2, was born in Los Angeles several weeks premature in 1995. Callers posing as friends and relatives tried to pry information from hospital staffers, and several “intruders” were spotted trying to steal the infant’s photo. After his son left the hospital, Reiser said he was followed, and a caller posing as his pediatrician phoned relatives for health details that later appeared in the supermarket tabloids. Instead of caring for his son, Reiser said he wasted “valuable energy…trying to second-guess” the media.

If Reiser and Fox get their way, stalkerazzi could be jailed for such behavior. A bill introduced by the late Rep. Sonny Bono (and championed by his widow, Mary) calls for up to a year in prison for “persistently physically following” anyone who has a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Another bill would make it a crime to cause “reasonable fear” of injury or death.

Both bills face uphill battles, prompted by concern over First Amendment rights. Yet freedom of the press, said House Judiciary Committee chairman Henry Hyde, “does not confer a license to engage in criminal conduct.”


Woo hoo! Homer Simpson’s beverage of choice, Duff Beer, is back. After debuting in Australia in ’95 for $15 a case, the beer was pulled from shelves six months later because Simpsons execs successfully sued the makers. But now ads are popping up offering up to $6,300 for cases of the black-market brew. D’oh!



In another one of his steps aimed at sustaining Princess Diana’s memory, Mohamed Al Fayed—whose son Dodi was killed with Princess Diana last August—has paid $4 million for Diana’s old boarding school, the West Heath School, near London. Diana attended West Heath, which shut its doors last July because of money woes, for several years as a teenager. Al Fayed says he plans to reopen the building as a school for troubled youth. In a dig at the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, Al Fayed called his plan “a far more fitting tribute to her work than putting her name on tasteless souvenirs.” Only time will tell.

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