May 22, 2000 12:00 PM

Kevin Costner, Goldie Hawn, Kevin Spacey, Patrick Swayze, Michael Clarke Duncan, Lauren Holly, Denzel Washington and Cuba Gooding Jr. were among the fabulous folk who flocked to the 44th-birthday party for hot Hollywood producer Elie Samaha (The Whole Nine Yards). Tracee Stanley, the president of Samaha’s Franchise Pictures, hosted the bash in L.A. But the person Samaha was most shocked to see was Renny Harlin, who flew in that night from Brazil, where he is directing Sylvester Stallone in Champs. Harlin came bearing a gift—a portable DVD player—and a new look: He had snipped off his customary ponytail. (“I thought it was time for a change,” Harlin explained.) “This guy’s so handsome, he’s going to pick up all the girls,” teased Samaha, whose seven-year marriage to actress Tia Carrere ended in February.

It’s show time, and a Who’s Who of Hollywood have been cheering the Lakers on during the NBA play-offs. Jack Nicholson cozied up with his current lady, The Practice’s Lara Flynn Boyle, to watch the Phoenix Suns fall to his team on May 7. Two days earlier, Edward Norton and Salma Hayek double-dated with Dustin Hoffman and his wife, Lisa Gottsegen, to see the Lakers whomp the Sacramento Kings. Sarah Michelle Gellar also scored a seat to that game but took it a step further, asking to meet the team’s star center, Shaquille O’Neal, at halftime. Alas, O’Neal was a bit busy. But would he have made time if a certain Oscar winner had made the request? After all, he did tell me, “The celebrity I want to take on a date is Angelina Jolie.” Too late, Shaq. Ms. Jolie has been spoken for (see page 71).

Tough-guy actor Tony Danza, who used to box, isn’t easily intimidated. But when top tap dancer Gregory Hines and veteran band maestro Skitch Henderson recently came on the same night to see Danza’s song-and-dance act at the Regency hotel in New York City, the performer was really pressed to put his best foot forward. “When you have people like Gregory Hines or Skitch Henderson watching…it’s a little tough,” says Danza. “It was a very heavy night.”

Contrary to published reports, David Hasselhoff says he will return as an actor in Baywatch Hawaii. “I still own a piece of the show,” says Hasselhoff, an executive producer of the syndicated series which has its season finale this month. “I don’t want people to think Mitch is gone. I’d like to appear once in a while.” A source close to the show says, “The door is always open. Our story lines will be different next season. It’s just a matter of whether it will work out.”

Mel Gibson, in Chicago filming What Women Want with Helen Hunt, favored Cub fans inside Wrigley Field on May 2 with a stirring seventh-inning-stretch rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” But the Aussie also left a memorable impression on fans at the Steppenwolf Theatre, where he tried to slip in unnoticed to catch Gary Sinise in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. According to the Chicago Tribune, when Mel got up at intermission, there was a large, very-hard-to-miss RESERVED sign from his seat stuck firmly to the back of his leather jacket. Nice try, Mel.

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