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The Insider

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Going for the gold—or perhaps just a romantic memento—happy couple Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche turned up for the Nov. 1 auction of Marlene Dietrich’s personal effects at Sotheby’s in Beverly Hills and bought a 14-karat-gold pendant given to Dietrich by one of her lovers, French actor Jean Gabin. A third party did the bidding for DeGeneres and Heche, who slipped in through a back entrance and spent the better part of an hour holding hands. The pendant, which went for $2,875, is inscribed “Toujours” on one side and “Jamais” on the other. I can tell you that means “Always” and “Ever” in French. But what I can’t tell you is who wears the pendant in this family….

Whoopi Goldberg has sold an idea to CBS for a prime-time dramatic series she calls Harlem. According to sources close to the project, Goldberg envisions herself playing the wealthy matriarch of a very large Harlem family that would be multiracial enough for Harry Belafonte and her boyfriend, Frank Langella, to be cast as brothers. David Jacobs, a TV writer and producer whose credits include creating Dallas and Knots Landing, has been hired to write Goldberg’s pilot script. The series is targeted for fall of’98….

Robert Downey Jr., whose probation was revoked on Oct. 17 by a Los Angeles judge after the actor admitted to using drugs and alcohol in September, now has his urine checked daily by a drug counselor who is paid to babysit him while he’s in Springfield, Mass., shooting the thriller In Dreams, costarring Annette Bening and Aidan Quinn. Downey, who recently wrapped his role in U.S. Marshals, a spin-off of The Fugitive, was sentenced to three years’ probation last year after police found cocaine, heroin and a pistol in his car. He now awaits a Dec. 8 hearing that will determine his punishment for violating probation. Downey faces jail time or, if he’s lucky, a stint at a live-in drug treatment center….

No one was singled out, but Jenny McCarthy‘s junior and senior high school-age fans certainly made their presence known at her Oct. 24 Jen-X book signing at Barnes & Noble in Carle Place, N.Y. A source there tells me that kids “trashed parts of the store by throwing books on the floor and climbing on shelves.” One enterprising 13-year-old even managed to make off with McCarthy’s unfinished can of Coke. Said the store manager, who didn’t really want to comment: “There were teenage boys in the store, okay?”…

It depends on whom you ask, of course, but there is a nice twist to the fact that Merv Griffin signed Marla Maples to play a featured role as an aggressive real estate lawyer in The Christmas List, a movie for the Family Channel that stars Mimi Rogers and just finished shooting in Vancouver. Maples’s estranged husband, Donald Trump, and Griffin have been bitter rivals in the real estate game for years. Griffin laughed while telling me how he pictures Trump seething over the casting of Maples, “because nobody hates me as much as Donald hates me.” Counters Trump: “It’s nice to see he’s putting even more money back into [Marla’s and my daughter] Tiffany’s pocket.”