Plus: Liz Taylor's new jewelry line, Idol slaughters rivals, and more

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated February 18, 2005 09:00 AM

CLASHED: The 20 contestants on CBS’s Survivor: Palau were quickly whittled down to just 17 on Thursday night’s premiere episode. The castaways had just become acquainted with their new surroundings when host Jeff Probst said the initial immunity challenge won by Jolanda Jones and Ian Rosenberger (who were the first of the 20 to swim ashore) would last only 10 minutes, until they finished picking their two tribes. The last woman and man chosen, Wanda Shirk and Jonathan Libby, were eliminated from the show. The game’s first challenge then pitted the Koror and Ulong teams against each other for team immunity, leaving Ulong to vote off a player. That ended up being Jolanda, in a 6-3 decision. Her parting words: “I am the oldest and I think differently than my tribe. It’s an experience I think everyone should try.”

DEFENDED: Sylvester Stallone says he doesn’t believe the upcoming reality TV show he’s helping to produce, NBC’s The Contender, is to blame for the apparent suicide death of Najai Turpin, a promising young boxer. “This unfortunate occurrence seems to have nothing to do with boxing but other personal issues that we really don’t know much about,” says Stallone, 58, according to the Associated Press. Stallone says Turpin’s presence will remain throughout the series, which is set to premiere March 7. Added Stallone: “I loved this man. I loved what he stood for. He was incredibly brave. When he was with his child, you saw the child in him come out.”

LAUNCHED: Health woes may have kept Elizabeth Taylor, 72, out of the public’s eye recently, but she will bring her legendary love of jewelry to the public via an exclusive partnership with Jack and Monty Abramov of the L.A.-based Mirabelle Luxury Concepts, the company has announced. The House of Taylor Jewelry will offer pieces ranging in price from $3,000 to more than $1 million. Says Taylor in a statement: “I knew that I wanted to share my passion for jewelry with others so that they could truly enjoy the thrills and pure happiness that jewelry has brought to my life. Something wonderful is about to happen.”

SPOOFED: Tim Robbins pleaded, sang and faced off with protesters to earn the Hasty Pudding Man of the Year award on Thursday, AP reports. The socially conscious Mystic River Oscar winner, 46, also had to deal with sign-toting protesters before members of the Harvard-based student drama troupe, dressed in drag, presented him with the bronze pudding pot. Robbins’s companion, actress Susan Sarandon, was crowned the Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year in 1996. “She actually prepared me for a parade, so she talked mostly about a parade and I didn’t end up getting a parade,” said Robbins. “Next time, maybe after tonight we’ll have an impromptu parade, open air cars, get some of the guys in drag.”

SCHEDULED: A Los Angeles judge on Thursday set a Sept. 16 trial date for famed rock ‘n’ roll producer Phil Spector, 64, who has pleaded not guilty to fatally shooting B-movie actress Lana Clarkson at his home in February 2003. Spector, who is free on $1 million bail, reportedly wore a black frock coat with a dragonfly brooch and black boots, and responded, “Yes, your honor,” when asked if he waived his right to a speedy trial.

RATED: Wednesday’s night version of FOX’s American Idol averaged 26.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. This was more than double the numbers for its nearest rival, ABC’s Alias (with 10.5 million viewers) and better than NBC’s West Wing (10.2 million), CBS’s comedy duo of King of Queens (10.4 million) and Yes, Dear (9.3 million), as well as the WB’s Jack & Bobby (2.3 million) and UPN’s Kevin Hill (2.4 million), says the Hollywood Reporter.

TALLIED: Lovers of Kennedy lore paid $5.5 million for some common possessions of former President John F. Kennedy and his family in an auction of art, furniture and other effects from their homes, Sotheby’s said on Thursday. A Chippendale-style slant-front secretary bookcase inlaid with the initials JFK and a version of the United States seal sold for $452,000. A portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy with her children Caroline and John Jr. painted by Aaron Shikler in 1968 fetched $216,000, reports Reuters.

PLANNED: No sooner will Dan Rather bid viewers a final goodnight as anchor of the CBS Evening News on March 9 than he will be back on the air to lead viewers through a retrospective hour-long special of his 50 years in the news biz, “Dan Rather: A Reporter Remembers.” A network spokeswoman told Reuters that Rather, 73, would address the controversy surrounding his now-discredited “60 Minutes” report last September questioning the military service of President Bush.