May 15, 2000 12:00 PM

Bye for Now

When stars say farewell, the end may not be near

Focus

When is a farewell tour not a farewell tour? Perhaps when it leads to two, three or more returns to the concert trail. Remember The Who? Farewell Tour in 1982; subsequent tours in 1989, 1996 and 1999. And now another one’s scheduled for this summer. Or Ozzy Osbourne? His No More Tours show played in 1992, only to be followed by extravaganzas in 1996 and 1999. The Judds did their first farewell tour in 1991 and returned last year. Billy Joel announced his concert retirement in 1998—but just keeps going and going. Before embarking on her current 43-city jaunt, Tina Turner told Britain’s TV Times, “I want this tour to be the biggest and the best because it’s going to be the last…. I want to go out on a high.” But now her spokeswoman says, “It’s not her farewell, but it will be her last major tour in so many cities at one time and in such big stadiums and arenas.” Oh.

So who’s to believe that KISS’s absolutely final tour this summer is for real? Well, according to drummer Peter Criss, “It’s as serious as a heart attack. Every time I go out and play I think, ‘Wow, man, I ain’t ever going to play here again.’ ” Criss, 54, thinks the time to go is when you can still walk off the stage under your own steam. “I want people to go, ‘I saw those guys when they did their last show and they were dynamite.’ Not, ‘Those guys have big beer bellies; Gene [Simmons] has an ass like a rhinoceros, Paul [Stanley] couldn’t move, and Peter couldn’t pick up the sticks.’ ” Of course, the guys in KISS have an unfair advantage-they get to wear a lot of concealing makeup, which isn’t really an option for veterans such as crooner Vic Damone, who, after 53 years in the business, is kicking off his farewell tour in New York on May 27. As for KISS and the other supposed retirees, Damone, 71, isn’t buying their protestations about retirement. “How could they?” he says. “They’re youngsters.”

Discovering the Beauty of Pageants

Clear the runways. Hot on the high heels of last year’s two Hollywood movies about beauty pageants, Drop Dead Gorgeous and Happy, Texas, three new films covering the same walkway are preparing to sashay onto the big screen.

Minnie Driver competes for the Miss American Miss crown in Beautiful, Sally Field’s directorial feature-film debut, scheduled to hit theaters this fall. Sandra Bullock plays a straitlaced FBI agent who goes undercover in pursuit of the Miss Liberty title (and some bomb-threatening terrorists) in Miss Congeniality, due toward the end of the year. And Meg Ryan’s production company is currently developing Second Chance, about a beauty queen whose crown is tarnished by apparent irregularities in the judging process.

What makes the world of mascara-streaked acceptance speeches so attractive to moviemakers? Says Nina Sadowsky, Ryan’s producing partner: “Beauty pageants are hilarious and heartbreaking.” Wendy Japhet, an executive producer on Beautiful, says Driver’s character “overcomes obstacles to reach a goal and really discovers herself in the process.”

The inside track may belong to Miss Congeniality’s Michael Caine, who gives Bullock a course in Pageantry 101: Caine’s wife, Shakira, came in third in the 1967 Miss World contest.

Gumbel tumbles; Robelot Rises

Ratings for CBS’s The Early Show have dropped at least 9.3 percent since Bryant Gumbel took over Nov. 1. His predecessor, Jane Robelot, now anchors the 6 p.m. news for Atlanta’s WGNX, where ratings doubled.

Reed’s Gone, but the Role Goes On

Sure, ogle away at Russell Crowe’s pecs in Gladiator, but also keep your eyes on Oliver Reed’s star turn as trainer-promoter Proximo in the epic flick. The veteran British actor was drinking in a bar in Malta, where part or the swashbuckler was filmed, when he died of a heart attack on May 2, 1999. One problem: His final scene had yet to be shot.

What to do? Director Ridley Scott used close-ups of Reed and a dash of digital wizardry to change the lighting and draw in lines to put his character behind bars for a prison scene. The Roman guards then haul away a body double for Proximo’s last shot. Everything else, though, is real Reed. “It was actually his performance,” said an insider on the film. “We just used the computer to enhance the close-up so that it fit in a different scene.”

Lawyers, Talk to the Hand

Those who take talking socks seriously can appreciate the swift response of Pets.com, an Internet pet supply company, after writer Robert Smigel complained that their Sock Puppet spokesdog was nothing but an imitation of his nasty Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, a fixture on Late Night with Conan O’Brien since 1997. Pets.com sued for defamation. “We’ve got a brand to protect,” says CEO Julie Wainwright. Still, litigation might seem somewhat uncool for a mellow puppet. So the Sock tried to make peace at a press conference last month, saying, “All the puppets are my homies.” Meanwhile, Smigel has been served with papers.

Big Names on Campus

Count these among reliable signs of spring: Songbirds fly north, cherry blossoms bloom, and colleges award honorary degrees to celebrities. For what, you ask? “At Pepperdine, we like to teach values and character and ethics. And Tom Selleck is the only one from the Hollywood industry who is really speaking out on character,” says Charles Runnels, chancellor of the Malibu university, explaining why Magnum, P.I. was honored April 28. Others on the sheepskin circuit: Drew Carey (Cleveland State), the Smothers Brothers (San José State), Gladys Knight (University of San Diego) and Jane Fonda (Emerson College).

POP QUIZ

with Randy Newman

When the producers of Ally McBeal decided to stage the show’s season finale as a musical for May 22, they turned to composer Randy Newman, 56, for the songs. And why not? The man’s melodic work for such films as Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Pleasantville has earned him 13 Academy Award nominations. Then again, he lost 13 times too. So is it true what they say about what an honor it is just to be nominated? Scoop inquired.

Do you have a theory why you have never won an Oscar?

I can’t use the old complaint that it’s a popularity contest, because that’s worse. I’ve always been happy to be nominated, for those few months where you feel good and everything.

Losing doesn’t bother you?

I never minded losing particularly. I don’t like it. I’m sort of relieved I don’t have to get up there and speak extemporaneously. Every time I do, I say something vulgar.

Is it fair?

It’s an odd thing. Getting nominated by your branch [of the Academy] is sort of a bigger honor in a way. I mean, I get to vote for costume design and makeup, and what the hell do I know about it? And what the hell do they know about music? Everyone has CD players and that’s about it.

Ally McBeal is using about 10 of your old songs on the finale. Write anything new for them?

It’s a song called “Forever,” about finding someone with whom you stay forever. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing for everybody, but my wife told me no, no, no, women do want that. I wrote the song with Ally in mind, in that she would like to find someone. I’m really excited about it.

Most people know you from “Short People” and “I Love L.A.”

That’s the way of the world. Pop music is a bigger deal than film music. It’s just so subordinate to other aspects of the movie. It isn’t the main thing. If I make a record, it gets reviewed. But if I work on a movie, they don’t mention the movie music 80 percent of the time.

You come from a family of movie composers, right?

Actually three uncles and two cousins. It’s sort of like a bad Bach family. A Hollywood version of the Bachs. Certainly there’s some genetic thing.

Any other Oscar thoughts?

We’re going down the red carpet, and people are yelling out to my wife, “Where is your jewelry from?” And I said, “It’s from me.” I must look poor.

ON THE BLOCK

TARZANA’S NEW BOY

Fabio, the erstwhile romance novel coverboy, is helping actors Casper Van Dien (Sleepy Hollow, Starship Troopers) and Catherine Oxenberg (Dynasty) celebrate their first wedding anniversary richer instead of poorer. He just bought their 7,000-sq.-ft. home on slightly more than an acre in the Los Angeles suburb of Tarzana for close to $1.5 million. The Mediterranean-style house has six bedrooms, two family rooms, a guest house, a pool and a spa. And why does a single man need so much room? Fabio’s publicist explains that the 41-year-old substitute-butter pitchman has a large, sophisticated sound system, and “he needs room for his 2,000-lb. speakers.”

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