August 02, 2004 06:00 AM

When Justin Timberlake unexpectedly took the stage at House of Blues Orlando recently, the locals didn’t recognize him through the beard. “He was scruffy, and it was hard to tell who he was,” one of the club’s waitresses tells Insider. “Then, slowly, people caught on and started to cheer.” But the biggest applause was for girlfriend Cameron Diaz. “During one of the encores, she came out and danced onstage. The crowd went crazy.”

Timberlake was there to support the scheduled band, hip-hop trio N.E.R.D., who had collaborated on his debut album. The set lasted nearly 90 minutes, with Timberlake singing his hit “Senorita” along with a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White.” As he performed, Diaz drank rum and coke and blew kisses at him. “She had this huge smile on her face, like she was having the time of her life,” says the waitress.

Earlier, the celebrity pair surprised onlookers at the Virgin Megastore at Downtown Disney, where they stopped to buy copies of Prince’s Musicology and Maroon 5’s Songs About Jane. “They were here for a good 20 minutes and were holding hands the whole time,” says a clerk who helped them. “They’re definitely still together. I’ve never seen anyone who looked more together than those two.”

Let It Ripa
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons recently raised $1.5 million for his foundation, which gives impoverished city youth more exposure to the arts. Kelly Ripa and Chris Tucker hosted the event, which included appearances by Mary J. Blige, Ashanti and Chevy Chase, who became irritated as guests socialized instead of paying attention to him, in his role as auctioneer. “Everyone who is talking right now is not going to give a cent,” Chase scolded. “I thought you were going to help.” Ripa tried a joke to calm things. “Now, you’ve made Chevy mad,” she warned. But it was only after Simmons grabbed the mic and called for order that the donations began. Later, Ripa told us how much she’s enjoying summer in the Hamptons: “Regis asks me what I did over the weekend, and I tell him, ‘I applied sunscreen.'” Nice work if you can get it.

Fast Takes:
Jon Bon Jovi surprised the house band at the Borgata Hotel Casino’s Gypsy Bar recently when he jumped onstage and sang a couple of songs. Of course, true fans know that he named his very first band Atlantic City Expressway in homage to his Jersey roots.

• Ever the journalist, Katie Couric did her best to appear impartial when she taped a recent segment at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Though Couric is clearly partial to Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, whom she’s dating, she donned a Kansas City Royals cap for the segment. “She wanted to be Switzerland and not wear a Yankees or Red Sox hat,” her spokeswoman tells us. A nice bonus – the Royals cap sported Couric’s initials: K.C.


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