Lori Reese
October 19, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

LEAVE TAKING It looks like somebody wasn’t too happy about the scaffolding climbing stunt that got Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford arrested during the MTV Video Music Awards last month. Singer Zack de la Rocha has decided to quit the group. The band’s ”decision making process has completely failed,” he said in a statement yesterday. ”It is no longer meeting the aspirations of all four of us collectively as a band, and from my perspective, has undermined our artistic and political ideal. I am extremely proud of our work, both as activists and musicians, as well as indebted and grateful to every person who has expressed solidarity and shared this incredible experience with us.” Rumors that RATM were ready to split abounded after the fracas at the VMAs. (De la Rocha told Rollingstone.com that he was ”so humiliated” by the incident.) Just one week later, the group sacked their management team G.A.S. Entertainment and returned to promoting themselves. But it looks as though Rage will rage without de la Rocha for now. ”We are committed to continuing with our efforts to effect change in the social and political arena and look forward to creating more groundbreaking music for our fans,” they said in a statement yesterday. In other words, we’ll keep it loud, keep it funky and most definitely rock on… Hey, maybe they could get Ralph Nader as a replacement.

LEGALESE Omigod! Another ex Mouseketeer may soon be facing the courts. Britney Spears and management team are being sued by a company that helped design her official website, reports SonicNet. The company, DNA Visual Business Solutions, alleges it was hired to design the site but never got paid. Spears’ lawyer could not be reached for comment at press time…. Christina Aguilera‘s ex manager Steven Kurtz is firing back at the diva-ette, who sued him for fraud last week. Kurtz issued a statement suggesting that he may file a claim of his own against Aguilera. ”Knowing Christina’s intelligence and independent mind,” says Kurtz, ”I am hopeful that, upon reflection, Christina will question the motives of those persons who have encouraged her to pursue this baseless litigation and isolated her from those who have contributed to her success.” Wait. We thought she was already questioning someone’s motives.

MUSIC BIZ Antonio ”L.A.” Reid has signed Kenneth ”Babyface” Edmonds in another major deal since taking the helm of Arista Records. The two old pals — who were once briefly estranged — engaged in mutual sycophancy in their Arista statement. Edmonds called Reid ”an intuitive businessman,” while Reid said Edmonds was ”an artist of substance [who] comes along once in a musical generation.” Babyface has won 10 Grammys, including three for producer of the year. The two have worked together for years, cofounding La Face, Toni Braxton and TLC‘s label. In the past Edmonds and Reid have been known to have their creative differences, however. Maybe Babyface wanted to lose that nickname but L.A. thought they’d already spent too much money on the business cards.

CASTING ”The Phantom Menace”’s Ewan McGregor will next appear in a biopic about Brit pop pioneer Billy Fury, according to London’s Daily Express. Fury had hits in the ’60s with the tunes ”Halfway to Paradise” and ”Jealousy.” He died in 1983 of heart disease as he was trying to resurrect his career…. ”The Perfect Storms”’ Diane Lane is in negotiations to star opposite Richard Gere in ”Unfaithful,” a thriller from ”The Fugitive” producers Anne and Arnold Kopelson, Variety reports. The two were last seen together in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1984 flick ”The Cotton Club.” But will fans really go for Gere on screen with a woman only 16 years younger?

DEATHS Venerable Broadway performer Gwen Verdon died of natural causes at the home of her daughter, Nicole Fosse, in Woodstock, Vt. The actress was best known for her work in ”Damn Yankees,” ”Sweet Charity,” and ”Chicago.” She also appeared in such films as ”Cocoon” and the ”Cotton Club.” She was 75…. Walter Shenson, producer of the Beatles films ”A Hard Day’s Night” and ”Help!” as well as 12 others, died in Los Angeles of complications related to a stroke. He was 81.

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