Stephen M. Silverman
January 04, 2002 11:45 AM

DIDDY’S DO: As servers dressed as angels with wings poured champagne, P. Diddy rang in 2002 wishing for “peace” and then lighting up the Miami skies on New Year’s Eve with an extravagant midnight fireworks display to punctuate his 2002 Black & White Ball, held at South Beach’s swank Shore Club hotel, reported PEOPLE. The tuxedo-clad Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, 32, whose Miami base is a rented manse that Madonna used to call home, was surrounded by security and his family. The by-invitation-only event, an homage to “In Cold Blood” author Truman Capote’s notable Black and White Ball in 1966, drew approximately 1,000 guests, including rock star Lenny Kravitz, 37, who mostly hung out in the VIP penthouse, munching sushi from Robert De Niro’s, 58, Nobu restaurant.

CROWE’S FEAT: Several film critics zeroed in on a glaring omission in director Ron Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind,” starring Russell Crowe, based on a book of the same name by Sylvia Nassar: Nash’s bisexuality, which the book openly reveals. (Nash is a Nobel Prize-winning mathematician, still teaching at Princeton, who suffered as a schizophrenic.) “That was a big question for us, how far to go into that,” Crowe, 37, referring to Nash’s sexuality, told Entertainment Weekly (which, like PEOPLE, is published by Time Inc., a division of AOL Time Warner). “It was relevant to his character, but we didn’t want to imply that there was any possibility that schizophrenia and homosexuality are related. That would be ridiculous.” Nash’s conflict, however, is suggested in a scene in which Nash gives a lengthy glance to a young man walking toward him.

ICONOCLAST DIES: Movie producer Julia Phillips, 57, who in 1973 made Hollywood history as the first woman ever to win a best picture Oscar (for “The Sting”), died Tuesday at her West Hollywood home. Yet the outspoken Hollywood figure, who made no secret of her many indulgences, will probably be best remembered for her rage-ridden 1990 memoir “You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again,” which skewered such former colleagues as Goldie Hawn and Steven Spielberg. Family members said she had been diagnosed with cancer in August. After the success of “The Sting,” which she coproduced, Phillips closed out the ’70s with successes including Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed “Taxi Driver” in 1976 and Spielberg’s 1977 smash, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

MOVIE MONEY: Magic worked at the box office this past year, as evidenced by the three top-grossing flicks of 2001: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Shrek” and “Monsters, Inc.” North American ticket sales for the year were a record $8.35 billion, which marked the first time that the $8-billion barrier was cracked, it was announced Wednesday. This also marked a record 10th straight year of annual expansions in total movie receipts. Unlike 1999, which produced one monster hit, the $400 million money-making machine called “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” 2001 witnessed a solid slate of commercial successes throughout the year, including 17 films that passed the $100 million mark and a record five movies that entered the $200 million club.

KILL BILL: A new shock film that depicts the assassination of Microsoft CEO Bill Gates is set to debut at the alternative film festival Slamdance in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 13, reported the Los Angeles Times. In the mockumentary “Nothing So Strange,” the richest man in America is shot dead in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 2, 1999. The film’s producer and director, Brian Flemming, co-author of last year’s Off Broadway hit “Bat Boy: The Musical,” said that he went through a “period of soul-searching” before planning to target Gates, who, at age 46, is alive and well in Seattle. Ultimately, Flemming claims, he threw caution to the winds. “This is a scary, provocative idea,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.” Microsoft did not concur. According to BBC Online, a company spokesman commented, “It’s very disappointing that a moviemaker would do something like this.”

WHO’S IN & OUT: The Washington Post published its annual list of what’s “in” and what’s “out.” For starters, Tom Cruise is “out,” and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in “in.” On a similar note, Nicole Kidman is “in,” Penelope Cruz is “out.” P. Diddy is “out,” I-Pod is “in.” Blood oranges are “in,” clementines are “out.” German-style noodles, spaetzle, is “in,” garlic mashed potatoes are “out.” Alicia Keys is “in,” Destiny’s Child is “out.” Recently exited New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is “out” AND “in.” Red, white and blue is “in,” while the Red Cross is “out.” Carol Burnett is “in,” Christina Aguilera is “out.” And firemen are very “in.”

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