Stephen M. Silverman
April 18, 2003 10:00 AM

LAST LAUGH: Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally will be getting much heftier paychecks on NBC’s “Will & Grace,” said the Hollywood Reporter. Effective immediately, McCormack and Messing will be receiving $250,000-$275,000 per episode, with Mullally and Hayes getting only slightly less than that. By the seventh season, McCormack and Messing should be pocketing about $400,000 per episode. All four stars are also tied into syndication rights.

BLOOM EULOGIZED: Thousands of mourners turned out Wednesday for a memorial service at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral for NBC News correspondent David Bloom, who died while covering the war in Iraq. Bloom, 39, the weekend anchor of “Today” and a former White House correspondent, died of an apparent blood clot April 6 while embedded with a military unit in Iraq. “David was the Ernie Pyle of his generation,” said NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, 63, comparing his colleague to the legendary newspaperman who covered World War II, and remembering Bloom’s “boyish enthusiasm.”

CHICKS CHAFED: The Dixie Chicks apparently still remain political hot potatoes. Singer Vince Gill — who initially rose to the defense of Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines, 28, after she famously said “we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas” — back-peddled. “It’s pretty imperative that I communicate that I held the completely opposite view of Natalie Maines,” Gill, 46, told the Tennessean newspaper. “The troops and the president don’t have a bigger supporter than me.”

CARREY CRAZED: Jim Carrey got slimed and feathered. Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake put on brave faces and laughed together — though clearly kept their distance. And Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jackie Chan were honored for what they do best (kick butt) at the 16th annual Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. After his dousing, Carrey, grabbed the slime hose and let event host Rosie O’Donnell have a little green goo herself. “What does it feel like?” Carrey, 41, said backstage afterward, according to USA Today. “It feels like love, man, slimy-gooey love.”

MOVIE MADNESS: MTV announced its free-for-all Movie Award nominees Monday, with the winners to be named at a June 6 ceremony. The top contenders: “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and “Spider-Man,” which scored eight nominations apiece, including nods for best film. Other nominees in that category are “Barbershop,” “The Ring” and “8 Mile,” whose star, Eminem, is also in the running for best actor. Other acting nominees: Tobey Maguire (“Spider-Man”), Vin Diesel (“XXX”), Leonardo DiCaprio (“Catch Me If You Can”) and Viggo Mortensen (“The Two Towers”). Among the women: Kirsten Dunst (“Spider-Man”), Reese Witherspoon (“Sweet Home Alabama”), Halle Berry (“Die Another Day”), Kate Hudson (“How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days”) and Queen Latifah (“Chicago”).

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