Stephen M. Silverman and Bryan Alexander
December 17, 2004 09:00 AM

FOUND: Oprah Winfrey has landed a buyer for her 164-acre spread in Indiana farm country that has served as a weekend refuge from her Chicago base for the past 16 years, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. The TV queen, 50, will sell the estate – which includes a 9,700-sq.-ft., five-bedroom main residence, a guest house, a pool house, a caretaker’s house, a log cabin, stables and an orchard – to an unnamed Windy City entrepreneur for an undisclosed price, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Originally listed for $8.5 million (the price was dropped to $6.9 million), the property has been on the market for about a year, according to the real estate agency Koenig and Strey.

ADDED: Michelle Scarborough, 31, a corporate lawyer for the Trump Organization, will join Donald Trump in the boardroom for The Apprentice 3, which will kick off Jan. 20, reports the New York Post. She will essentially be replacing Trump adviser and boardroom stalwart George Ross, 77, who is said to be cutting back his participation in the show by half on the coming season. Carolyn Kepcher, who also assists in the selection of who’s fired and not, will remain.

UNDERSTUDIED: It was a royal letdown for Prince Charles when Nathan Lane canceled his appearance in Thursday’s West End performance of The Producers. A theater source tells PEOPLE that the star’s back went out two minutes before the show was set to begin – and the producers of The Producers considered canceling the show. The audience greeted the announcement that the lead role would be played by understudy Cory English with gasps, boos and walkouts – though not by Charles, who joined the standing ovation for English at the end of the show.

SELECTED: Organizers of the Whitbread Book of the Year Award have named Hugh Grant, 44, to the panel of judges for the 2004 prize. On the award’s Web site, Grant – who studied English at Oxford University – cited Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory and The Blessing by Nancy Mitford as his favorite books. Previous celebrity judges in Britain’s longest-running literary competition have included Jerry Hall and Ralph Fiennes.

ACCUSED: Motley Crue singer Vince Neil, 33, is accused of knocking out an employee of a Dallas nightclub after a disagreement over sound levels during a concert, the Associated Press reports. An arrest warrant for misdemeanor assault was issued Wednesday for Neil in the fight at Gilley’s Dallas during an Oct. 30 show. The soundman was knocked unconscious for about 45 seconds, the warrant said.

SETTLED: All the creditors listed on bankruptcy petitions involving former Miami Vice and Nash Bridges star Don Johnson, 58, have been paid off, Denver lawyer Lee Kutner tells AP. Kutner said Johnson’s companies should be emerging from bankruptcy soon. “He has obtained new financing,” Kutner said. City National Bank sued Johnson in March, seeking to force an auction of his 17-acre ranch to recoup $930,000 it claimed he owed.

CRITICIZED: Comic Chevy Chase, 61, is getting heat even from fellow liberals for his Bush-bashing Tuesday night at the Kennedy Center in Washington, where he hosted a People for the American Way awards ceremony, reports The Washington Post. Following speeches by Alec Baldwin and Susan Sarandon, Chase ranted against Bush, using a four-letter expletive once uttered by Vice President Dick Cheney. He also said, “This guy in office is an uneducated, real lying schmuck … and we still couldn’t beat him with a bore like Kerry.” Ralph Neas, the liberal advocacy group’s president, said in a statement afterwards: “Chevy Chase’s improvised remarks caught everyone off guard, and were inappropriate and offensive.”

OFFERED: Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, 73, has agreed to buy the late Laurence Rockefeller’s Fifth Avenue triplex penthouse, which carries a $44-million asking price, the highest ever for a Manhattan residence, reports The New York Times. The co-op board, which Murdoch now must face before he is accepted into the building, insists that the buyer pay all cash for the apartment. Murdoch’s spokesman declined comment on the transaction.

RECEIVED: The London musical stage version of the 1964 Julie Andrews movie Mary Poppins (which hit stores in a digitally enhanced Disney DVD this week) was adored by critics and is expected to hit Broadway at some time in the future. The stage version, starring Laura Michelle Kelly as the magical flying nanny, was found to be an improvement on the movie’s plot. Six new songs have been added, and the established tunes have been reworked. Still the original score remains inspirational. The Daily Mail headlined its review: “Super Kelly Fragilistic.”

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