OBITUARY Actor Walter Matthau, who rose to stardom playing slobbish sports writer Oscar Madison in ”The Odd Couple,” has died at age 79, according to CNN. Matthau reportedly died early Saturday near Los Angeles of a heart attack. The well known character actor made more than 45 films, including ”The Front Page,” ”The Sunshine Boys,” and ”The Bad News Bears.” He won an Academy Award for best supporting actor for Billy Wilder’s 1966 comedy ”The Fortune Cookie.”
SURVIVORS Some 23.98 million people tuned into the ”Survivor” episode in which contestants booted the Bible-thumping Dirk, according to Nielson. Though ratings were down about 1 to 2 percent in the crucial adult category, CBS undoubtedly has a billion dollar ad revenue winner on its roster. The show is averaging 21.02 million viewers each week (according to CBS research), making it the most watched summer series on record. The trials of the stranded collective have even surpassed the ratings juggernaut ”Seinfeld,” which some 20.16 million viewers watched in the first five weeks of summer 1990. No wonder Playboy, which just undressed game show contestant Darva Conger, has set up a ”Survivor” query on its website. Readers are asked to decide which woman they would most like to see in the buff. Thus far, bikini-clad college student Jenna has a healthy lead (41 percent), followed by Greg’s bunk mate Colleen (33 percent).
POTTERLAND J.K. Rowlings plays down rumors that she clashed with Steven Spielberg over the film adaptation of ”Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” in an interview in Britain’s Times newspaper today. ”Did I have a fight with him? No, I definitely did not,” she says. ”There were things he said that I didn’t agree with and things he said that I did agree with.” (The project is now set to be directed by Christopher Columbus.) The author goes on to reveal that the fourth installment in her series, the 640 page ”Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” features the death of a favorite character – but she declines to give the name. Rowling’s publisher has ordered a record 1.5 million copies for the book’s first run.
SPLITSVILLE The ever-prurient New York Daily News reports that Meg Ryan may have taken up relations with her ”Proof of Life” costar Russell Crowe even before the announcement of her previously reported separation from Dennis Quaid. The paper says the two were spotted snuggling up at a David Bowie concert in London, before turning up together at a local pub. A publicist for Ryan and Quaid says that there was no third party involved in their breakup.
MUSIC NEWS The Rolling Stone’s Ronnie Wood entered a rehab clinic to receive treatment for alcohol abuse, his spokesman said today. The guitarist, 53, has never made a secret of his battles with drug and alcohol abuse since he first became famous as a member of the Small Faces. ”I’ve always said I must have hollow legs to cope with all the drink I get through,” he said in a recent interview…. Tina Turner’s current tour will be her last, said her publicist today. The veteran singer, 60, plans to make the announcement in front of some 75,000 fans in Zurich at the start of the European leg of her 24-7 tour…. Superplatinum Eminem told the Detroit Free Press today that fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. ”It’s almost turning into more of a nightmare than a dream,” he said. ”I miss going to the park and playing baseball.” So do the rest of us, and we’re not even famous.
BOX OFFICE Sony’s ”The Patriot” scored about $5 million for Wednesday night’s premiere. The opening was hardly the most threatening battle cry ”The Perfect Storm” could have heard. (Paramount’s ”M:I-2” earned $12.5 mil the Wednesday before Memorial Day.) But it wasn’t bad for an R-rated – and very long –period action piece. ”Storm” blows into 3,061 theaters tonight – making the third widest debut in history.
CRIME Rapper DMX has been indicted on two counts of unlawful possession of weapons in the third degree and possession of marijuana. The charges stem from a January car accident in which it was alleged that DMX (real name: Earl Simmons), driving a 1999 Jeep Cherokee, spun off the road, hit the center guardrail and came to a stop in the right northbound land of I-684 in Harrison, N.Y. A 9mm pistol and two joints were allegedly found in the 29 year old hit maker’s vehicle. He faces up to seven years if convicted.
REEL DEALS Darling blond Cameron Diaz may be losing some of the box office pull she once had. Instead of releasing her latest movie in theaters next month as planned, MGM will ship ”Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her” straight to Showtime in early 2001, Variety reports. The film’s ensemble cast includes Holly Hunter and Glenn Close…. William Shatner told Hollywood Reporter that he’s developing a dark comedy based on the death of his wife Nerina…. ”28 Days” director Betty Thomas is reportedly in final negotiations to direct Columbia’s first-look comedy ”Surviving Christmas.”
SENSATION Sylmenstra of the band Gwar plans to electrocute herself online tonight while performing at a sci-fi convention in Atlanta. Online webcam center Cammunity.com will capture the moment as she sends 200,000 volts of electricity through her body while immersed in a swimming pool. Gwar frontman Odorus Urungus recently told MTV news that the band participates in such antics in order to ”appeal to the 12-year-old, pimply, ‘drink Big Gulps all day and hang out at the comic bookstore only to be molested by the shop owner’ demographic.” It’s just lucky that courting attention isn’t always that difficult in junior high.
GRAFT GTE Corp. allegedly slipped millions of dollars’ worth of fiber optic and other communication services to Hollywood bigwigs in the hopes of obtaining lucrative industry contracts, according to an investigative report yesterday in the L.A. Times. Among those who reportedly received freebies were Steven Spielberg and his DreamWorks SKG and Creative Artists Agency. While favoritism and ”gifts” for key clients is the norm in the entertainment industry, it is prohibited in California’s regulated local phone markets. The company has yet to comment on the report.
REAL TV Fox ordered six episodes of ”Wanted,” a game show that mixes elements of ”The Fugitive,” ”Survivor,” and ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” The show will feature teams of ”runners” who try to escape capture by teams of former professional bounty hunters and police officers charged with arresting the fugitives. Viewers will also be allowed to participate in the chase.