Josh Wolk
August 31, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

GLOVES ARE OFF Get ready for the She said/She said battle of the millennium in book stores this fall. Geri Halliwell and the Spice Girls are both releasing autobiographies a month apart in which both sides describe their split with wildly differing recollections. According to MTV News, Halliwell sent an advance copy of her November release, ”If Only,” to her former bandmates as a friendly gesture, but what was inside reportedly got them all in a tizzy times four. The Spice book ”4 Ever Spice” (out in December) is apparently merciless in its criticism of Halliwell’s solo career. If either is half as scathing as David Lee Roth’s ”Crazy From the Heat,” that remainder bin is gonna be chockful of controversy by 2001.

CASTING Brad Pitt is in negotiations to play a mobster tracking down a cursed antique pistol in ”The Mexican.” For Pitt’s sake, hope it’s not the same curse that struck ”Meet Joe Black”… Rachael Leigh Cook may star in Miramax’s planned adaptation of Jane Austen’s first novel, ”Northanger Abbey”…. Mark Harmon and Tom Selleck will both try to hide their TV-pretty-boy pasts under 10-gallon hats as two cowboys fighting over a widow in the gritty TNT Western ”Crossfire Trail”…. Melanie Griffith, Stephen Dorff (”Blade”), and Alicia Witt (”Urban Legend”) are starring in John Waters’ next comedy, ”Cecil B. Demented,” about guerilla filmmakers who kidnap a star and force her to act in their movie.

RAGING WRITER Peter Farrelly isn’t all about hair-gel jokes, but you wouldn’t know it from Miramax’s misleading ads for ”Outside Providence,” the new movie he cowrote with his brother Bobby and director Michael Corrente. The TV ads call it an ”outrageous” new comedy from the creators of ”There’s Something About Mary,” while it’s really more a low-key tale about a working-class boy adjusting to life at an elite private school. ”Truthfully [Miramax] should be marketing it as a coming-of-age story,” Farrelly told the Los Angeles Times. ”It’s a great movie, but it’s more in the vein of ‘Good Will Hunting.’ If people go in expecting ‘Mary,’ it’s going to be jarring.” The president of Miramax’s L.A. office, Mark Gill, conceded that although ”Providence” may not have the pure scatalogical joie de vivre of ”Mary,” the company felt it had to play up the connection to attract people. ”The first job is to get an audience in and the second thing is for them to feel that they got something good out of it,” he told the Times.

TECHNOPHILE David Bowie continues to lead the online music revolution by announcing that he will be the first rocker on a major label to presell an album exclusively online. His new Virgin release, ”hours…,” will be available for digital download on Sep. 21, but to appease panicky retail chains who fear Internet commerce will be the death of four-walls-and-a-roof record marts, Bowie’s music will be available only on the sites of such major chains as Tower Records and HMV and not on Bowie or Virgin’s sites. On Oct. 5, the CD will be distributed to all U.S. stores for sale to the modemless. Those who buy it online won’t get the cover art, but they will get a bonus track not included on the actual CD.

HONORED Pamela Anderson Lee will receive PETA’s first annual Linda McCartney Memorial Award for appearing in the first antifur billboard in New York’s Times Square. Paul McCartney will make the presentation during PETA’s Party of the Century and Humanitarian Awards on Sep. 18: It’s open bar, but BYO fake cow’s blood.

SWITCHING CHANNELS NBC newsman Jack Ford has been hired away by ABC to be a host and correspondent for ”20/20.” He will also sub for ”Good Morning America” and may well take over if Charlie Gibson leaves in the spring.

RECUPERATING The perpetually injured Elizabeth Taylor has been released from the hospital after her most recent calamity, a compression fracture in her vertebrae that she suffered after a fall at home on Aug. 19. She has returned to her Bel Air house, where she will receive physical therapy.

OBITUARY Rob Fisher, the keyboardist from the two-hit-wonder ’80s band Naked Eyes (”Always Something There to Remind Me,” ”Promises Promises”), died last Wednesday at the age of 39 from an undisclosed illness. He and his Naked Eyes bandmate, Pete Byrne, had been working on a new album to resurrect their band, after splitting up back in 1984.

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