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The Insider

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The best celebrity-watching in Manhattan right now is at Rent, the smash Broadway musical that updates La Bohème. Ricki Lake has seen the show three times. ER’s George Clooney has caught it twice and had tickets last week to see it a third time. (Both Lake and Clooney had freebies for opening night but paid $67.50, the going rate for an orchestra seat, for each subsequent ticket.) Also shelling out for Rent: Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster went together, then visited the cast backstage. Other notable attendees have included Ralph Fiennes, Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Jennifer Aniston, Helen Hunt and Jerry Seinfeld. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman have ducats for an upcoming show. Our favorite story, though, is about the artist formerly known as Prince, who went on May 10 with his pregnant wife, dancer Mayte. Prince’s manager requested a third seat for a bodyguard. But, says Rent’s publicist Richard Kornberg, “We had no more seats, so the bodyguard had to buy standing room [for $20].”…

Picture this: It was 4 a.m. in Monte Carlo, hours after the May 8 World Music Awards, and the members of Hootie & the Blowfish were walking along a deserted street, when a passing taxicab suddenly slowed down and Diana Ross stuck her head out of the backseat window and yelled, “I love you guys.” To which Hootie’s lead singer, Darius Rucker, yelled back, “We love you too.”…

Over the weekend of May 10, the world was seemingly divided into two groups: Paul Allen’s guests, and the rest of us. Allen is the Microsoft cofounder and billionaire financier who invested $500 million in the startup of the Steven Spielberg-David Geffen-Jeffrey Katzenberg-owned DreamWorks movie studio. Well, obviously Allen is still spending money. With the annual film festival on in Cannes, Allen flew in 200 people for a Caribbean-themed party at his luxurious villa in nearby Cap Ferrat. Guests arrived from Los Angeles, Seattle and London on three chartered jets. Those on board included Peter Gabriel, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Darryl Hannah, Eric Idle, the aforementioned Geffen and Carrie Fisher….

Call it a sweeps trend affecting New York City police detectives: First, on NYPD Blue, Dennis Franz’s character, Andy Sipowicz, fell off the wagon, and now, on Law & Order, Jerry Orbach’s character, Lennie Briscoe, a recovering alcoholic, will start drinking again on the May 22 season-ender after witnessing an execution….

Has the leopard changed its spots? Phoenix Pictures was so concerned about the possibility that Courtney Love would misbehave on the set that when the controversial rocker was cast to play Althea Flynt—wife of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt—in the biopic The People vs. Larry Flynt, the company took out extra insurance. But I understand that Love was such a sweetie that Arianne Phillips, a costume designer on the film—who says Love was “a consummate professional and a lot of fun to work with”—bought Love a $400 Erica Courtney-designed necklace as a gift. The movie is due this fall….

From my What Goes Around File: Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Hank Ballard (he wrote “The Twist”) was arrested some years ago for beating a former girlfriend. Now the 59-year-old singer will donate part of the income from his new Pool Party Records single to the Nicole Brown Simpson Charitable Foundation. The song’s title? “Women Are Made for Lovin’ (Not Pushin’ and Shovin’).”