Today's News: Our Take


FUND FURY

Boston-based charity The Giving Back Fund is suing Britney Spears's lawyer for $15 million — claiming the singer's decision to cut ties with the group cost it millions in donations. The suit alleges that Mark Steverson violated his duty as a Giving board member by advising Spears last year to end her affiliation with the fund, which manages celeb charities. read more

FAREWELL

Acting vet Rod Steiger, who won an Oscar for playing a bigoted police chief opposite Sidney Poitier in the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night, died Tuesday of pneumonia and kidney failure. He was 77. Steiger's resume also included memorable roles in On the Waterfront, The Pawnbroker and Doctor Zhivago. read more

A BLOW TO HOLLYWOOD MARRIAGE

We thought this one was forever: Rocker Eddie Van Halen, 47, and actress Valerie Bertinelli, 42, have split after 21 years of marriage. The couple secretly parted ways nearly one year ago, right around the time Bertinelli joined the cast of CBS's Touched by an Angel. Um, Monica and Tess, we've got a job for you... read more

DON'T MESS WITH ALI

Will Smith has applied for a temporary restraining order against a former caretaker who allegedly made threats against the Men in Black II star, his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and their children. According to Entertainment Tonight, Smith fired Mike Cooley — who looked after the actor's property — last year. read more

HEATHER'S GOT A GUNN

Heather Locklear — who's thisclose to signing a lucrative TV deal with a major network — has nabbed a supporting role in the upcoming big-screen comedy Molly Gunn. She'll play the mother of Dakota Fanning's character. This is Locklear's first film role in five years. read more

QUANTUM PHYSICS

Quantum Leap fans, brace yourselves: Sci Fi Channel is remaking the NBC series into a two-hour movie, which may serve as a launch pad for a new series. Sci Fi president Bonnie Hammer says a female leaper may take over Scott Bakula's role. read more

Buffy Lowers Its "Bawdy Count"


When UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer returns for its seventh season in the fall, Michelle Trachtenberg's character — the Chosen One's little sister, Dawn Summers — will graduate from terrified tag-along to apprentice butt-kicker. But on the set, the preternaturally mature 16-year-old still gets treated like a kid by her elder castmates.

"They're all very nice, but I'm not in on the dirty jokes," she tells TV Guide Online. "No one cusses around me, either."

Luckily, being overprotected by her grownup peers hasn't gotten the actress's button nose out of joint. On the contrary, she suggests that she just may be performing a valuable service. "I think I've helped a lot of people sort of clean themselves up," she says with a laugh.

If an NC-17-rated problem ever does present itself to the youngster, though, she knows which read more

SHORT CUTS

'N Sync's Joey Fatone joins the cast of the Broadway musical Rent on Aug. 5... Madonna will make a cameo appearance as a fencing instructor in the upcoming James Bond movie, Die Another Day... Ex-Survivor cutie Elisabeth Filarski wed former Boston College quarterback Tim Hasselbeck on Saturday in Cranston, R.I... Steven Spielberg and wife Kate Capshaw have donated $12 million to a community equestrian club in Los Angeles to prevent land used by horseback riders from being sold to developers... Mariah Carey's father, Alfred, died of cancer July 4 at his New York home. read more

HE PITCHES, TOO?

Los Angeles Laker Shaquille O'Neal has pitched a one-hour basketball drama to the major networks, Variety reports. Says one surprised exec: "It was a much more impressive pitch than your traditional pitch by a sports figure." The Kazaam star would serve as the show's executive producer and make occasional guest appearances as his schedule permits. read more

DIAGNOSED

The mystery surrounding Sharon Osbourne's cancer diagnosis is over: The star of MTV's The Osbournes underwent surgery last week for colon cancer. The 49-year-old matriarch is expected to make a full recovery, as the cancer was caught in the very early stages. "[She's] in good spirits and doing well," says her rep. Husband Ozzy — who postponed the first two dates of Ozzfest 2002 to be by his wife's side — resumes the tour Wednesday night in Scranton, Pa. read more

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