Jennifer Love Hewitt | Michael Jackson | Katie Couric | 'N Sync | Melody Thomas Scott   

Jennifer Love Hewitt's $4 Million Pay Day

Christina, Britney, Mya, Pink and all the others better move aside, because there's a new girl in town. According to my sources, 22-year-old Jennifer Love Hewitt has signed a deal to make records for Jive/Zomba. Her advance? I am told it's $4 million. 

Jive's Clive Calder, who made Britney Spears ubiquitous, is behind this plan. But how weird will it be for Jennifer when she has to do TRL on MTV with ex-beau Carson Daly? That should make for some interesting video. (She's currently dating Broadway Full Monty actor Patrick Wilson.) 

Jennifer — who recently made the transition from TV to movies with Heartbreakers and the upcoming The Devil and Daniel Webster — released two albums, both on Atlantic Records, when she was on Fox's Party of Five, which seems eons ago. She told a fan Web site recently that on her new record she'd like to do "a bit of a female David Gray [number], with a little Tracy Chapman/Jewel feel to it. Like rhythm and blues, singer-songwriter stuff." Originally, she wanted to include a cover of Don McLean's hit "American Pie," but Madonna beat her to it. (Hewitt's Japanese album includes a cover of "Dancing Queen").

However, I am told that despite her interests, the first single has already been chosen for Jennifer, and it will be more in the tradition of Britney than Jewel. Someone's got to record those Max Martin songs now that 'N Sync writes their own music.

Michael Jackson & Friends Sell Out the Garden 

Yes, tickets for Michael Jackson's all-star anniversary shows went on sale yesterday and pretty much sold out. But Ticketmaster.com, which was handling the sale, had some problems. 

For one thing, tickets to the first show, on September 7, were unavailable online through most of the day. Either that, or they sold out so fast that Ticketmaster's site couldn't handle the business. Every time this reporter tried to click through for the seventh, an advisement came up that said, "Tickets are not currently on sale for this event." Additionally, by 1 p.m., it seemed that the only tickets that could be purchased were for either $800, $1500 or $2500. A Ticketmaster phone operator told me she could only pull up the “really expensive” seats for both nights and that there was a better selection on the second night. Presumably all the $45, $95, and $350 seats had been sold. 

And what might you get for $1500 per ducat? The sixth row of Section 8, which is on the floor, but some distance from the stage. Sections 5, 6, 7, and 8 are all behind a barrier that separates them from Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4 — where I was able to ask for tickets for $2500 apiece. But don’t worry — I haven’t lost my mind. 

Still, this show promises to be a doozy, and producer David Gest has too much riding on it for it not to be a success. Frankly, someone should make a documentary of the behind the scenes stuff for posterity. 

Katie Redux: Betting On Today 

This column told you on June 8 that Katie Couric was renegotiating her contract with the Today Show. There was an implicit threat hanging over everyone that she might succeed Rosie O’Donnell in her syndication spot at Warner Bros. Now we know that Caroline Rhea got the job. 

So many other publications followed with stories of their own, I thought I'd reiterate what we said at the time. Couric had been asking NBC to double her pay to around $24 million. Her manager, Alan Berger, told me then: "This is a great time for Katie. We haven't ruled out a nighttime show, syndication, cable or an afternoon talk show." 

But the good betting from those who know her is Katie will re-up with Today and get her increase as well. 

'N Sync: A Hit, But With Strings Attached 

We're waiting for the numbers today on the first week sales of 'N Sync's Celebrity album. Their last effort, No Strings Attached, debuted with a sale of 2.4 million copies in its first week. 

At Tower Records' HQ they tell me that Celebrity sold 40,000 copies in their stores through Monday night. No Strings Attached sold 45,000 in its first week at Tower last year. So we can expect something around 2 million, if the numbers hold up elsewhere. 

Soap Stars Pushed From Shows? 

Here's a cliffhanger any soap opera would be happy to have on screen but not in real life: Melody Thomas Scott, the star of CBS's The Young and the Restless for 22 years, is being pushed from her perch. The 45-year old Scott has played Nikki Newman all these years, but more recently she's been edged out by younger, more restless ingénues. 

Of course, it could all be a negotiating ploy since Scott's contract has run out. But a TV Guide article claims that Young and the Restless co-executive producers Kay Alden and Edward Scott, who happens to be Melody's husband, are at war over various issues including this one. 

Year by year, the movie Soapdish rings even truer as the executive producers of all the soaps make their egos the centerpiece of their shows — and by consequence, soap operas have lost so much audience that they may be extinct within a decade. Let's hope this revelation dawns on them faster than a paternity secret would to one of their characters. 

"We just don't comment on contract negotiations," a rep for the soap told me. A spokesperson for Thomas says that the actress is negotiating with Columbia Television and CBS. 

Scott — who actually had a small part in the classic film The Shootist, directed by Don Siegel and starring John Wayne — is performing in The Vagina Monologues in Beverly Hills for the next month. She's off the soap for three weeks at her own request while she does the show, her rep said. 

Meanwhile, I'm told this may be epidemic in the youth-oriented soap business, or at least at CBS. Actress Kathryn Hays, who's played Kim Hughes on As the World Turns since 1972, has been AWOL most of the summer. There is speculation that CBS may be easing her out, too. 

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