September 16, 2002 12:00 PM

Lost in Space?

Russians bark ‘Show us the rubles!’ and cancel Lance Bass’s ticket to ride

Focus

Lance Bass’s hopes of exploring the final frontier are up in the air. The ‘N Sync singer, who had been scheduled to launch into space aboard a Soyuz rocket next month, was grounded when officials at Russia’s space agency, Rosaviakosmos, evicted him from the Gagarin cosmonaut center in Star City, outside Moscow. The Russians said Bass and his sponsors had not come up with the fee (estimated at $20 million) for the rocket ride and said his place on the spacecraft would be taken by a container of supplies weighing about the same as Bass. “It’s over. His sponsors didn’t fulfill the conditions of the contract, and we never received the money,” said Rosaviakosmos spokesman Sergei Gorbunov.

But wait! David Krieff, president of L.A.-based Destiny Productions, which has been coordinating Bass’s trip with the help of corporate sponsors and the sale of TV rights, says the countdown is still on. “We’re going to deposit funds this week, and Lance Bass is going to go,” says Krieff, who adds that there is a financial dispute, but it’s over a reluctance to guarantee a refund of the $20 million ticket price if the launch is canceled. Meanwhile, Bass is “five minutes from Star City” and still raring to go.

Couric and Werner Redial Their Romance

Just two months after their June breakup, Today host Katie Couric and TV producer Tom Werner are back together. Early last month Couric, 45, and Werner, 52, took in the races at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club near San Diego. On Aug. 28 they were seen in the owners’ seats at a Red Sox game in Fenway Park. (Werner is one of the team’s owners.) “It’s no secret that the two of them care deeply for each and have decided that they want this to work,” says one source. “They are both one-day-at-a-time people, and that’s how they are taking this.” Though reps for both won’t comment, pals say Couric’s glow is unmistakable. “There’s an inner peace to Katie that is really a great thing to watch,” says a friend of the couple’s. “I think they are both happy that everything’s on the table and they worked it out.”

In the Stands, Denzel’s Just John Q.

Denzel Washington looked like any other father in the stands on Aug. 31 at Henderson Stadium in Macon, Ga. Chewing gum and tapping his foot on the bleachers, Washington, 47, and his wife, Pauletta, 51, were in town to watch their son John David Washington, 18, a freshman running back for Morehouse College’s Maroon Tigers, play his first college game. “We’re here to get a feel of the team,” said Pauletta, who cheered and chatted with the other fans while Denzel, a college basketball player for Fordham University in the ’70s, remained focused on the action on the field. How’d Junior do? Despite the Tigers’ 23-0 loss to Fort Valley (Ga.) State University, “He did an okay job,” says the team’s head coach, Willard Scissum, of the 5’10”, 160-lb. John David. Adds Scissum: “He’s good at carrying the ball and finding openings.”

Keiko: Thar He Goes!

There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but Keiko, the killer whale from the Free Willy movies, is a people orca. Six weeks after his release from a pen in Iceland, Keiko, who spent almost 27 years in captivity, surfaced in a Norwegian fjord some 870 miles away. Boaters befriended, petted and fed him. That may not be good. Keiko needs to bond with fellow whales to survive at sea, some experts believe. He’s halfway there, says whale activist Dave Phillips, noting that since mid-July Keiko has “been hunting and diving for fish—he’s hanging out with the big-boy whales.”

I’d Like to Thank…Oops

Alas, it was another tough week to be a Jackson. A bankruptcy trustee put the family’s Las Vegas home up for sale for $439,900, hoping to partially repay creditors from various lawsuits they lost in the ’90s. As for the King of Pop, he gave a stirring speech at the MTV Video Music Awards accepting “the Artist of the Millennium Award.” The only problem: There is no such honor. Yes, Britney Spears called Jackson “the artist of the millennium” when she presented him with a cake for his 44th birthday. Unfortunately, says an MTV spokesman, “there was never an award.”

Jailhouse Guests

Anthony Hopkins. Quincy Jones. Oscar nominee Sally Kirkland. The guest list at Spago? No, just the visitors’ roster at the L.A. county jail, where actor Robert Blake, 68, has welcomed celeb pals and TV news types like Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters and Larry King. “They provide a morale boost more than anything,” says Dale Olsen, the actor’s friend, while Blake faces charges of murdering his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. (Blake says he’s innocent.) All guests present a photo ID, sit on stools at conference stations partitioned off by glass and speak to Blake by phone. He told one visitor, “I’ve been in worse locations.”

Pepsi Cans Ludacris

After Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly asked Americans to boycott Pepsi for airing ads featuring raunchy rapper Ludacris—he called the performer “a man who degrades women [and] encourages substance abuse” in his songs—the beverage giant backed down. Citing customer complaints, Pepsi yanked the 30-second spot, much to the 25-year-old rapper’s dismay. “Pepsi chose me, I didn’t choose Pepsi,” says Ludacris. “They knew about my lyrics and me as an artist before they signed me to the contract.” Says a Pepsi rep: “We’re sorry that we’ve offended anyone.”

POP QUIZ

with Roseanne

A recent item on Roseanne, 49, caused some Hollywood types to speculate she’d had more plastic surgery. Scoop asked. She answered. And, for free, threw in her latest thinking about sex, Court TV and the babe quotient of George W. Bush.

So, did you have surgery?

No, but it made me feel good that somebody thought I looked good. I do have to say, I’m hot. I’ve been getting beautiful the right way this time.

Which is how?

Not eating like a cow. And exercising.

You aren’t married now.

Oh, hell, no.

How’s single life?

I like it. There’s nobody trying to take the remote away when I’m watching my 10th hour of Court TV. This is the first time I haven’t had somebody telling me what to do.

What about sex?

I hate sex. I’m over it.

You know, many people find it intriguing.

Well, they’re taking drugs to make them that way. No one really enjoys it once they’re past 25. But you kind of feel you owe it to somebody.

Will you ever get married again?

I personally can’t handle being married. I’m a three-time loser. I’ve gotten more religious the past few years, and I can’t inflict that on another man. But I would like to have a date.

With what kind of man?

I’d love him to be very wealthy and very old. What would have been perfect is if Anna Nicole Smith‘s husband had a brother for me. I’ll tell you something I shouldn’t.

What?

I have a huge crush on President Bush. I saw him at a recent fundraiser, and he’s a babe. He’s got that Ronald Reagan charm. I think he’s hot. I respect his wife, but if he wasn’t married I’d be putting on my cowboy boots and coming around.

ON THE BLOCK

TRADING PLACES

Drew Bledsoe’s Patriot games may be over, but he’s leaving behind a legacy—his 26-acre estate. The quarterback, who was traded in April by New England to the Buffalo Bills, is selling his Medfield, Mass., mansion for $8,995,000. Bledsoe, 30, shared the 11,000-sq.-ft, 20-room house with his wife, Maura, and their three sons. Features include a pool with waterfall, a combined basketball-and-tennis court, a putting green, a billiards room and a home theater—a perfect spot for watching the NFL in a warm environment.

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