By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated January 25, 2002 11:00 AM
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MARIAH’S MOOLAH: Mariah Carey was bought out of her EMI record company contract on Wednesday with a $28 million paycheck, reports Reuters. The London-based music conglomerate could no longer justify her high price after a financially sour year for the company and poor sales of her first album for EMI’s Virgin label, “Glitter.” Carey, 32, had been signed only last spring to a Virgin contract that was said to be worth in the neighborhood of $80 million for four albums. However, “Glitter” failed to cover the massive marketing and video costs that were demanded in her contract, Reuters reported.

BRIDE BRITNEY: There are wedding bells ahead for Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, the pop princess revealed in a TV interview Saturday at the 36th annual MIDEM, an international music conference in the south of France. Spears, 20, told Britain’s ITV music show “CD:UK” that she and longtime boyfriend, ‘N Sync member Timberlake, also 20, are to be married. “It will happen some time in the future, but not this year,” she admitted to the show’s host, Cat Deeley. She also told the host that she had indeed had a date set up with Prince William that had been arranged during their e-mail correspondence. But the young royal proved to be a no-show.

CHELSEA’S CLOTHES: Chelsea Clinton was ringside with Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna at the Paris fashion show for Donatella Versace’s latest spring and summer collection last weekend. Clinton, who turns 22 next month, has also eschewed her student guise for something far more chic. Her new look, consisting of a sexy short and straight hairdo and elegant dark pantsuit, made it to front pages on both sides of the Atlantic on Tuesday. At the fashion show Clinton traded air kisses with Boy George and Sheryl Crow. As quoted by the Associated Press, the former First Daughter said of the Italian designer’s unveiling: “I loved the colors.”

LEE DIES: Legendary singer and composer Peggy Lee, 81, whose career spanned nearly 50 years, died of a heart attack at her Bel Air home Monday night. The platinum-haired, silky-voiced star who gave the world the sultry “Fever” and the deeply ironic “Is That All That Is?” — as well as the score to the 1955 Walt Disney animated feature “Lady and the Tramp” — was a diabetic who had suffered a stroke three years ago. Born Norma Deloris Engstrom in Jamestown, N.D., Lee had a life marked by sorrows, and the highs of her career — she wrote for Duke Ellington and Quincy Jones and was a multiple Grammy winner — did little to erase memories of sad beginnings.

FREE WINONA: Los Angeles gift shop owner Billy Tsangares is having a little fun at the expense of alleged shoplifter Winona Ryder. He’s selling T-shirts with a (not very close) likeness of her on them and the slogan, “Free Winona.” “Sales are exploding, I’m getting 100 calls a day,” Tsangares was quoted by Reuters on Wednesday. By late Thursday afternoon, however, a staff member in the publicist’s office of the “Girl, Interrupted” actress, referring to the “Free Winona” campaign, told PEOPLE.com: “This is the first we’ve heard of it. Can we get back to you?” As of PEOPLE.com’s deadline for Friday afternoon, no one from Ryder’s publicity office had returned the call about the T-shirt phenomenon.

GLOBES GOLDEN: NBC’s broadcast of the 59th annual Golden Globe Awards on Sunday attracted that ceremony’s largest TV audience in three years, according to preliminary ratings reports from Nielsen. The four-hour event (the first hour was devoted to arrivals on the Beverly Hilton Hotel’s red carpet) averaged 23.4 million viewers during its time slot, reaching its peak of 25.6 million viewers in the 10 p.m. half hour, when Harrison Ford collected his Cecil B. DeMille career achievement award from Ben Affleck. The rating represents the Globes’ third-largest turnout in the seven years since NBC began televising the show.