BC-NAMES:PH – national, world, people (1020 words)

Names in the news

(EDITORS: Archive photos for many of the celebrities mentioned in the PEOPLE column are available on KRT Direct.)

By Tirdad Derakhshani

Knight Ridder Newspapers

(KRT)

It’s official: Ambrosial Hollywood enchantress Halle Berry is divorcing that loutish excuse for a husband, R&B crooner Eric Benet. Berry’s rep confirmed Tuesday that the “X-Men” star filed her papers in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, but wouldn’t elaborate. The couple, who were married barely three years, separated in October amid rumors that Mister Insincerity – remember “Spend My Life With You” from “99? – had been cheating on the most beautiful woman in the universe pretty much since they met in “99. We send Ms. Berry our best wishes (and a reminder that we’re still single).



MARRIAGES ON THE ROCKS

The splits don’t end with Berry-Benet. According to the syndicated gossip show “Extra,” the talented and equally troubled thesp Robert Downey Jr. is divorcing his wife of 11 years, model/actress Deborah Falconer. The pair actually split up back in April “96 at a time when any partner probably would have been sick of Downey’s revolving-door relationship with jail and rehab. This leaves the now-sober (but-for-how-long?) actor to wed his new honey, producer Susan Levin.

Meanwhile, the New York Daily News says Ronald Perelman is having a trial separation from his fourth wife. We wouldn’t really care that much about the Revlon billionaire’s love life, except that the current Mrs. Perelman happens to be sizzling “Sea of Love” star Ellen Barkin. The couple, whose fourth anniversary is next month, have no kids. Barkin, 50, has two with her former hubby, Brit actor Gabriel Byrne. A divorce could turn out to be a financial circus: The 60-year-old Perelman is estimated to be worth $3.6 billion.



BUST FOR SINGER

June Pointer-Whitmore, who was kicked out of the Pointer Sisters three years ago because of her drug problems, now has some legal problems too. The youngest of the original Pointers, who’s 50, was charged Monday with felony drug possession for cocaine and misdemeanor possession of a smoking device. The singer, who was arrested Thursday with two friends outside her home in Hollywood, is scheduled to appear Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. She faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison.



SPRINGER GETS OPERATIC

That rumble Tuesday wasn’t an earthquake. It was the sound of Richard Wagner turning in his grave at news that “Jerry Springer – The Opera” is coming to Broadway. No, you don’t have cataracts; you read right: Some bloke (well, blokes: composer Richard Thomas and lyricist Stewart Lee) actually wrote a stage musical about Jerry Springer, the man who defines baroque entertainment with his grosser-than-gross talk show. The $13.9 million production, which opened in London to rave reviews – and won the Olivier Award – will first play in San Francisco next February, before landing in the Big Apple in the fall.

Producer Jon Thoday says that, like “The Producers,” the show “appeals to people who like musicals and people who don’t.” Talk about crossover appeal! With its tap-dancing Ku Klux Klansmen, nasty language, and parade of low-lifes and freaks – all set to music! – it’s going to appeal just as much to Met subscribers as to residents of the nation’s seediest trailer parks.



THE HILTONS GET REAL

With a single act of sexual congress some 24 years ago, Kathy and Rick Hilton bequeathed America its greatest cultural treasure. Now Paris Hilton’s parents want to give more: According to the Hollywood Reporter, the couple are launching their own reality show. NBC’s “The Good Life,” for which the Hiltons are exec producers, will be a sort of postmodern “My Fair Lady” meets the Bizarro World version of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” with 10 young women moving into the chichi Waldorf-Astoria and competing to make it in New York society. Kathy will spend the show teaching the li’l trailer-trash Liza Doolittles how to succeed and join “the good life.” The winner gets a one-year stay at the Waldorf-Astoria.

What is the deal with the super-rich? Aren’t a few hundred million dollars and the headache of running a massive hotel chain enough to keep ennui at bay?



TIMBERLAKE GOING ROTTEN?

We never took Johnny Rotten’s calls for the destruction of Western civilization too seriously. But now we’re quaking in our boots: The Sex Pistols frontman wants Justin Timberlake to play him in the film adaptation of his autobiography, “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.” According to London’s Guardian newspaper, Rotten, a.k.a. John Lydon, says the former Mouseketeer has agreed to take the part. That is so long as Lydon stays away from the set of the Penelope Spheeris-helmed pic.



SPEARS RAKES IT IN

While Justin is off making his teeth look diseased and, uh, rotten, for his Rotten flick, his old girlfriend will be counting her mountain of cash. Signature Network, which handles merchandising sales for Britney Spears’ concert tours, says she has pulled in more than $30 mil for T-shirts and other goodies sold during her current Onyx Hotel tour, making her the biggest seller of merchandise among solo female artists in the last five years. Wonder how many Malibu Barbies you can buy for that?



STERN ON TOP, AGAIN

Isn’t it just ironical? A few weeks after the Federal Communications Commission launched a jihad against Howard Stern for being such a dirty boy on air, comes a report that the long-maned Rabelaisian shock jock is kicking big rear in the ratings game. According to the Arbitron radio ratings service, Stern’s show has made big gains in the three largest U.S. markets – New York, Los Angeles and Chicago – for the winter quarter ending March 31. In Gotham, where he’s based at WXRK-FM, he topped all morning drive-time competition with a 7.2 share of total audience, up 22 percent from the fall quarter and 18 percent from last winter, his best numbers there since fall 2000. That’ll show those federal regulators!



(Wire services contributed to this column.)



(c) 2004, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Visit Philadelphia Online, the Inquirer’s World Wide Web site, at http://www.philly.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-04-27-04 1906EDT



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