October 28, 2002 12:00 PM

Family Woes

Sometimes life can resemble a Sopranos episode

Betrayal, violence, political squabbles: Recently the sort of nasty doings typical of The Sopranos has touched some of the show’s actors in real life. Take the case of star James Gandolfini, who as mob boss Tony Soprano is forever getting in trouble with his wife—but still tries to work out their problems in a civilized manner. Offscreen Gandolfini, 41, is in the midst of a tough divorce battle with his wife, Marcy, 35. Yet, says the actor’s publicist Stan Rosenfield, the couple is trying to remain amicable for the sake of their child Michael, 3. “They went to a PTA meeting together last week,” says Rosenfield. “They are still working together on parenting issues. There is dialogue.”

Meanwhile Edie Falco. 39, who plays Tony’s long-suffering wife, Carmela Soprano, suddenly had to deal with a real-life loved one in trouble with the law. Falco’s brother Paul, 37, a Long Island house painter, was charged with assaulting his live-in girlfriend last month. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

On a less serious note, Lorraine Bracco, 48, the show’s Dr. Melfi, and Dominic Chianese, 71, who plays Uncle Junior, were invited by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to participate in New York City’s Oct. 14 Columbus Day Parade. Then parade organizers, who feel the show denigrates Italian-Americans, nixed the appearance. Bloomberg, in turn, refused to march and instead took the stars to lunch at an Italian restaurant in the Bronx. “I’m a little confused at their aggressiveness towards us,” said Bracco. “I’m not just Dr. Jennifer Melfi on the Sopranos, who by the way, is an extremely educated Italian woman.”

Certified Up, No Place to Go

Don’t tell Lance Bass he’s not going into space. Even though last month the Russian space agency, Rosaviakosmos, booted the ‘N Sync star out of the Gagarin cosmonaut training center outside Moscow—he missed the deadline on his ticket payment (estimated at $20 million)—Bass tells Scoop that he has gone ahead and proceeded with his space training. “I just got [flight] certified,” says Bass, 23. Of course, the singer doesn’t seem to be headed for the stars any time soon, but once a ride becomes available Bass says he’s primed and ready to go. “Learning the systems is pretty intense. Training has been a lot of fun, with the zero-g flights,” says Bass. “It has been tough. This is rocket science!”

J.R. II: A Big Hat to Fill

Forget who shot J.R. The big question is: Who’ll play J.R.? A movie version of that classic prime-time soap, Dallas, is now in the works. “The timing is perfect,” says Larry Hagman, 71, who played Dallas’s scheming oil baron J.R. Ewing from 1978 to 1991. “People have lost their shirts in the market, and real-life scoundrels are responsible for the mess. Enron, Tyco…the men running those companies are all J.R.s.” Who would Hagman pick to fill his size 7 3/8 Stetson? “Maybe Nicolas Cage. Maybe Billy Bob Thornton.” What about the popular vote? In a quickie poll on PEOPLE.com, 75 percent of the more than 1,400 voters thought Tommy Lee Jones would be the perfect big-screen J.R.

The Final Frontier

Mr. Spock is fighting the Federation. Fear not, Trekkies: The organization is the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, which dropped Leonard Nimoy—once Star Trek’s valiant Vulcan, now a pro photographer—as a speaker at its Oct. 23 fund-raiser, citing concerns over the appropriateness of Shekhina, his new book of art photography, for their event. The tome features nude models, some posed with Jewish ritual objects. “We felt it would alienate large segments of our audience,” says the Federation’s Barry Goren. Nimoy, 71, understands. “When you start talking about religion in revolutionary ways, people get nervous. I just hope this is an anomaly in this project’s journey.”

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

The Princess and the Plea

For 20 years rumors have swirled that Princess Stephanie was at the wheel and caused the car crash that killed her mother, Princess Grace, in 1982. In the Oct. 17 issue of Paris Match, Stephanie told her side of the story for the first time. “I wasn’t driving,” she said. “I tried everything [to stop]. I even pulled on the emergency brake…. Did my mother get the gas and brake pedals mixed up? I don’t know.” Stephanie acknowledged that she had climbed out of the driver’s side window, which made some think she had been driving. “The passenger’s side was crushed,” she said. “I came out on the only accessible side.” Why tell her story now? “I can’t stand it anymore,” she said. “Let my mother rest in peace, and as for me, let me live.”

Moby Books a Road Trip

Oprah canceled her book club, and suddenly the literary world was jumpier than Ahab at a termite convention. Now to the rescue comes…Moby? The techno-rocker has started his own version of a reading circle, encouraging fans, band and crew members to swap used books via bins set up at his concerts. “It’s a way for people to trade books when they’re finished with them,” says Moby, who favors Walker Percy and Flannery O’Connor, “primarily for their depiction of the human condition in a perpetually flawed state of pursuing grace.” (Hey, you won’t get that kind of quote from Tommy Lee.) Another benefit? Donations from expat fans who catch his shows in other countries: “It’s hard to find good books in English when you’re in places where they don’t speak English.”

POP QUIZ

with Hannah Storm

On Oct. 14, CBS News announced that Harry Smith, Julie Chen, Rene Syler and Hannah Storm would be the new anchor team for The Early Show. The network is banking that this four-person crew will be able to do what Bryant Gumbel and Jane Clayson failed to accomplish: Pluck a few feathers from the peacock network’s Today show. Storm, 40, a former NBC Sports anchor, talked to Scoop about how she and her coanchors plan to take on Katie and Matt.

Despite CBS’s long history of low ratings in the morning, you’re not afraid?

I feel like I have already had some enormous uphill battles in my career to get where I am. This is why I am not viewing this show in a negative light. I’m going to work hard, and I’m going to have fun.

How will you take on Today and Good Morning America?

We decided to go in a different direction and have a new format. We have four anchors. We are providing an alternative that is a little bit less formal, a little bit less structured, a little warmer in terms of interaction.

What’s your current routine when you watch morning TV?

I make lunch. [Storm, married to NBC Sports anchor Dan Hicks, 40, has three daughters, ages 5, 4 and 1.] I look at the weather report: Do we need raincoats? Is everything in the backpack? Do I need to write the teacher a note? Please eat your oatmeal.

Do you think juggling job and family life will be tough?

They won’t really know I’m gone except for that crazy hectic time in the morning. It’s important to me to be home when the children get home and on weekends.

What are you going to miss about covering sports?

I love what sports tell us about human emotion and strength and frailty. No one dies. Hearts are broken, but not in the most serious of ways.

ON THE BLOCK

THIS EMPTY HOUSE

Need proof that Bob Vila, TV’s ultimate handyman, can live in an apartment and not tinker with the beams and floorboards? Check out his Manhattan apartment, selling for $5.25 million through the Corcoran Group. “I did very little work on it,” says Vila, in his 13th season as host of Home Again. Well, he did add a marble mantel and fitted out a walk-in closet in the Tribeca loft—but that’s all. Vila, 56, who also has a home in Cambridge, Mass., plans to move closer to his ailing mother-in-law on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

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