Melinda Spaulding

Gotham Gala

While millions watched Barbara Walters’ ABC pre-Oscar special Monday night, she was too busy working the packed room at Elaine’s to pay close attention. The event: Entertainment Weekly’s Annual Oscar Party at the Manhattan restaurant, which drew, among others, Peter Jennings, Dennis Hopper, supermodel Frederique, Donald Trump, Elizabeth Berkley, Regis Philbin and Walter Cronkite.

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Diamonds Are for Oscar

Stuart, the first to preview this year?s $200 million display of Winston’s international collection, is just one of many Academy Award attendees who will don the famed jeweler’s pricey artworks, which range from a 220-carat yellow and white diamond necklace to a $40,000 pair of diamond studded Ray Ban sunglasses. But who gets chosen to borrow these glittering goodies for the night?

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Brandy for Two

Some 3,400 theater owners at last week’s ShoWest convention in Las Vegas got an advance peek at soon-to-be scream queen Brandy Norwood. The singer/TV actress (UPN’s “Moesha”) will make her big-screen debut alongside Jennifer Love Hewitt in the much-anticipated sequel “I Know What You Did Last Summer 2,” which is slated for release this November.

An animated Brandy told EW Online that she was excited about working with Hewitt and starring in her first feature.

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Queen's for a Day

She may be the matriarch of hip-hop, but when Dana Owens – a.k.a. Queen Latifah – walked onto the set of Warner Bros.’ “Sphere,” she had no idea that she’d develop a friendship with a reigning member of Hollywood’s royal family, Sharon Stone.

“I’d heard rumors [that Stone could be difficult], but Sharon was really cool,” says Latifah. In fact, Stone, 39, and Latifah, 27, got along so well during the filming of “Sphere” that they’ve decided to pair up again in front of a camera.

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Rapping the Grammys

Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard isn’t the only one upset by the Grammy picks in urban music categories. (At Wednesday night’s ceremony, O.D.B. hijacked Wyclef Jean’s mic and badmouthed the choice of Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs’s “No Way Out” for Best Rap Album, explaining that “Wu-Tang is the best.”) Earlier in the week, an all-star panel at Manhattan’s Planet Hollywood – including Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Stevie Wonder and the ubiquitous Combs – discussed the state of rap, R&B and the Grammys.

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Winner Takes Fall?

(1990’s winner), there’s a Marc Cohn (1991).

Some past victors are busy trying to jump start their misfiring careers (Tracy Chapman, Jody Watley), while others have disappeared entirely from the pop horizon (A Taste of Honey, Sheena Easton, Starland Vocal Band, Culture Club). So this year’s Best New Artist nominees – Fiona Apple, Erykah Badu, Paula Cole, Puff Daddy and Hanson – may have good reason to be apprehensive about winning.

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Love Stories

Just because celebrities are the objects of their fans’ affections doesn’t mean they have it easy when it comes to romance. In fact, Valentine’s Day seems to evoke the same range of emotions for them as it does for the rest of us. EW Online caught up with a few well-known spectators at the NBA All-Star game last weekend in New York City, where they shared their thoughts about Cupid’s big day.

Jennifer Love Hewitt, of “Party of Five,” doesn’t know her exact V-Day plans with her boyfriend, but she has a scenario in mind.

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Nothing Two It

For those lamenting the unlikelihood of a “Seinfeld” spin-off, we offer one word: “AfterMASH.” That follow-up to the sitcom hit “M*A*S*H” made its debut in September 1983, only to be shot off the air within a year. “It did horribly,” says Robert Thompson, the director of the Center for Television Research at Syracuse University. Thompson notes that successful spin-offs from a smash series such as “Seinfeld” and “M*A*S*H” are as rare as type AB negative blood in a remote field hospital.

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Calling Card

“Hello and welcome to MovieFone!” Love it or hate it, moviegoers can’t escape the voice that has been barking out showtimes and theater locations since 1989. You might think the vocal stylings behind MovieFone belong to a high-priced voice-over pro or a retired game-show host. But in fact, those distinctive pipes belongs to Russ Leatherman, the company’s president.

MovieFone, which has logged more than 250 million calls in eight years, was created out of one man’s frustration. “I was with a bunch of people who wanted to go to the movies,” Leatherman, 35, explains.

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Master Cast

Many filmgoers know about Steven Spielberg’s coup in casting Golden Globe nominee Djimon Hounsou for a leading role in “Amistad.” What they may not know is that hiring the film’s leads was easy, says casting director Vicki Thomas – at least when compared to filling “Amistad“ ‘s smaller roles.

Because of the authentic Mendhe language spoken by the movie’s slave characters, director Spielberg insisted that these actors be African-born. The perfectionist auteur believed that the 13 slave characters with talking roles should be native speakers of one of the more than 100 African languages.

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