People Staff
August 20, 2001 12:00 PM

Thank You, Lord!

Bill Clinton sells the rights to his memoirs. The $10 million question: Will they be memorable?

Focus

In what’s believed to be history’s biggest nonfiction book deal, Alfred A. Knopf Inc. last week agreed to pay Bill Clinton more than $10 million for the rights to his autobiography, due in 2003. (Clinton retained the movie rights. Hello, DreamWorks!) That’s $2 million more than the former President’s wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, received for her book and $1.5 million beyond what another famous Chief Exec, Ronald Reagan, collected. Financially, says book agent Chris Calhoun, the agreement could be risky: Knopf needs to sell a million copies of the book in the U.S. and hope for around $5 million in sales overseas to turn a profit. Still, “it’s certainly prestigious to publish the memoirs of an American President,” Calhoun says. Adds Daisy Maryles of Publishers Weekly: “It gives you a lot of play in the media. This is the book he’s going to write about his presidential years.” What will he include? Robert Barnett, the Clinton lawyer who made the deal, told The New York Times it will be comprehensive, “with particular emphasis on the White House years.” But he’d better pay close attention to one year if he wants to sell books, says Hardball host Chris Matthews: “He’s going to have to deal with the impeachment. He’s going to have to explain his feelings for [Monica].” Don’t bet on it, says historian Douglas Brinkley. “She’ll be there for two to three pages,” he says. “But you don’t write memoirs to gloat about your personal failures.”

A Short Detour on Recovery Road

Suffering an infection connected with injuries sustained in her near-fatal car crash in April, model Niki Taylor, 26, checked into the intensive care unit of a Hollywood, Fla., hospital July 31. Not to worry, though. “All this attention is a bit of a shock,” says her father, Ken. “Every time she gets a sniffle and someone finds out, the world wants to know what’s going on.” What exactly is going on is not something Ken Taylor wants to share, but he insists his daughter’s treatment is “something routine.” A source says she’s in the hospital’s intensive care unit only to protect her privacy from photographers and fans. Notes one hospital employee: “She’s being treated like a VIP.” A very important patient.

For Gayheart, a Court Date Awaits

Somehow, the matter was kept quiet for nearly two months. After a lawsuit was filed against former Beverly Hills, 90210 actress Rebecca Gayheart on Aug. 6, however, the news is out: Driving near Paramount Studios in Los Angeles on June 13, the 29-year-old actress struck and killed a 9-year-old boy. Criminal charges have not been filed. “The police department is assembling an investigation,” says Steven Lerman, the lawyer for the victim’s parents, Jorge Cruz and Silvia Martinez, who in the meantime are suing Gayheart for recklessness while driving. “The whole experience is a numbing tragedy,” adds Lerman, who alleges that Gayheart was on her cell phone at the time of the accident. “The boy’s mother has been overwhelmed with grief.” The couple are asking for a yet-to-be-determined amount in damages and medical expenses. Gayheart’s lawyer insists that phone records show she was not on a cell phone, and says the boy jaywalked. “Despite the allegations, the facts will establish that this was a most unfortunate accident,” Gayheart said in a statement. “The pain of this tragedy will live with me forever.”

Tom’s Phantom Bride

Ah, romance! For some, it’s strolling hand in hand on a secluded beach. For others, it’s parading around the front yard of your in-laws draped in linen. Such is the world of comic Tom Green and wife Drew Barrymore, wed July 7, who spent part of their post-nup time toying with an Ottawa Sun photographer outside Green’s parents’ Gloucester, Ont., home. The visit turned more Halloween than honeymoon when Barrymore emerged from the house wearing an outfit of a pizza box and a mask of tinfoil. She later appeared covered in a bedsheet only to be spirited into a car by Green. For anyone who assumed matrimony might curb the antics of the married pranksters—not a ghost of a chance.

Downey: Still Standing

One condition of much-troubled Robert Downey Jr.’s three-year probation is that he be gainfully employed. On July 31 he was. Taking the day off from his Malibu rehab facility, he accepted his first acting job since pleading no contest to drug charges last month. Hired by longtime friend Elton John, Downey, 36, shot a video for the singer’s upcoming single “I Want Love,” lip-synching the song while walking through an L.A. mansion. He has no other jobs yet but plans to attend September’s Emmy Awards.

Salary Too Low? Take the Day Off!

When Paramount TV sent a team of doctors to the homes of five Becker cast members who recently called in ill, it wasn’t necessarily out of concern for their well-being. The actors were likely participating in a “sick-out” as a salary negotiations tactic. The studio is “not going to take that lying down,” says Barry Garron, chief TV critic for the Hollywood Reporter. Especially when holdout-itis appears to be spreading. Four West Wing actors failed to show for work as production began for the new season and wound up with nice raises after their return. Tyne Daly, sources say, is renegotiating her Judging Amy salary after missing work due to an injury. As for Becker’s actors, they returned to work the next day, an insider says, perhaps realizing they “could be replaced in a heartbeat.”

Making News With Some New Names

Ex-NYPD Blue actress Andrea Thompson, 41, made her debut on CNN’s revamped Headline News Aug. 6. Initial reviews were weak (“noticeably below the competent level,” sniffed New York’s Daily News). The nightly news shows at NBC and ABC also have a new look this summer. While regulars Tom Brokaw, 61, and Peter Jennings, 63, are taking lengthy vacations (CBS’s Dan Rather, 69, is mostly staying put), younger faces, including MSNBC’s Brian Williams, 42, and 20/20’s Elizabeth Vargas, 38, are at the desks. Ratings are down, however, leading Neil Hickey of the Columbia Journalism Review to wonder if CNN’s casting a former actress wasn’t such a bad idea. “If she attracts and engages viewers,” he says, “that may fulfill their reasons for hiring her.”

SUMMER READING

Who: Model-Actress Jerry Hall

What: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Why: “It’s part of an Open University course that I am taking. I really loved it.”

POP QUIZ

with Caroline Rhea

It’s official: Caroline Rhea will join the desk-and-couch set next year, replacing Rosie O’Donnell as host of her popular morning chat show. Though best known as Aunt Hilda on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Rhea, 37, came to fame as a stand-up comic and later earned nice notices for her work on The Drew Carey Show and Hollywood Squares. She shares her thoughts about the new job with Scoop.

How’d you meet Rosie?

I met her years ago, on her VH1 show, back in 1990.

You have already filled in for her. What was the best thing about it?

Being very close to Colin Firth and being allowed to touch him.

Will your talking cat from Sabrina have a shot as announcer?

There is NO way in the world. I was in Scotland, thinking I was unrecognized there, and this woman comes up and says, “Where’s the wee cat?” Argh! There will be no animatronic animals on this show.

If you were given 10 minutes with either Jay Leno or David Letterman, who would you interview and why?

Oh, David Letterman. I’m always drawn to men who ignore me. Dave doesn’t give away a lot, and it would be fun to try to get to know him.

Can you talk to movie and rock stars about the same topics you talk to friends about?

I would hope so. The topic that always comes up with us is our weight. We heard about this new, innovative thing: combining diet and exercise!

Rosie is staying on as executive consultant—are you nervous?

No, I’m eternally grateful. I’d like her to be there every segment, and I would have one of those things you wear on your ear like Secret Service agents, and she would pipe in how to do it.

Have you thought about your wardrobe, your style for the show?

I think it’s hilarious you’re asking me this question, when you know I made PEOPLE’S 10 Worst Dressed. I like bright colors. If Doris Day wore Betsey Johnson, that would be me.

What are some of your fears?

I’m so looking forward to it, I’m not afraid.

Who’s on your dream guest list?

Hillary Clinton, Mel Gibson. I’d like to talk to everybody.

How will you be different from Rosie?

I’m blonde.

ON THE BLOCK

CASTLE CHAMBERLAIN

If a man’s home is his castle, then he should have a moat—not to mention an 18-karat-gold-tile bathtub, a bedroom ceiling that opens to the stars and an indoor traffic signal giving visitors the green light to “Love.” Most of these groovy accoutrements are included in the 7,200-sq.-ft., six-bedroom Bel Air mansion once owned by basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, who died at age 63 in 1999. (Off the court, he famously claimed to have bedded 20,000 women.) Wilt called the house, on the market for $4.3 million, Ursa Major, after the Big Dipper.

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