By Tom Cunneff
June 17, 2002 12:00 PM

What’s the best way to celebrate turning 51? Well, if you’re an avid bike rider like Robin Williams, you chase a bunch of cyclists. On the big day, July 21, Williams will be in the region of Mont Ventoux, France, watching his good buddy Lance Armstrong go for his fourth straight Tour de France. This will be Williams’s third trip to the race. What’s unique is that he will ride in a team support car driven by a former rider that can get right in the middle of the action. “It’s like being on the field in a football game,” says Williams, currently costarring in Insomnia. He has tried to get his wife, Marsha, interested in his passion for pedaling—he rides about 100 miles a week on one of his 50 bikes—and recently bought a tandem bike for them to share, but so far she has declined.

On May 31, 34 years after he dropped out of college, Steven Spielberg received his B.A. from California State University, Long Beach. He tells us he got all A’s, with Schindler’s List fulfilling the credit requirement for a humanities course and Amistad satisfying a black-history class. Jaws didn’t earn credit for a marine biology class, however, so he wrote a paper about the California coast. And how did the movie mogul cap off his graduation? By taking his wife, Kate Capshaw, parents Leah Adler and Arnold Spielberg, and a few friends who had attended the morning ceremony to an IHOP for a pancake feast. During college he ate there four or five days a week. For graduation gifts, he says, he got a lot of “How To” books on getting a job and avoiding post-graduate panic attacks.

As Padmé Amidala in Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones, Natalie Portman gallops through the galaxies. Now the actress, who just finished her junior year at Harvard, is doing some traveling in real life. She’ll soon be leaving for a 10-day guided tour of Scandinavia and Russia with her parents, she tells us. But Portman, who’s multilingual (she speaks Hebrew and French), isn’t learning any Swedish or Russian for the trip. She’s too busy immersing herself in Civil War books. Immediately after her vacation Portman heads to Romania to begin rehearsals with Jude Law for the movie adaptation of Cold Mountain, the bestselling novel about a forest-wandering Confederate soldier. Why Romania? “It looks the most like North Carolina during the Civil War period,” says Portman.

To thank The King of Queens cast for completing 100 episodes recently, the studio that produces the show commissioned caricature artist Al Hirschfeld to do one of his famous pen-and-ink drawings of the show’s stars, Kevin James, Leah Remini and Jerry Stiller. But Remini tells me she and James had no idea how special the gift was—or how valuable. (An original Hirschfeld starts at $8,600.) All they could think about were the $40,000 Porsche Boxster sports cars the four stars of Will & Grace received after their successful first season. “Kevin and I are uneducated idiots,” Remini says now. “We were like, ‘What the hell is this?'” Though she has since come to appreciate its value, I suspect she would have preferred a Porsche.