Liza's Marriage Spat | Springsteen Dances in The Dark| Jacko Gives Thanks  | Puffy's Greatest 

Liza in Marriage Spat?

It may be that VH-1 will never get a chance to film "Life with Liza and David" at the rate things are going. My spy at trendy Upper East Side bistro Le Bilboquet tells me that on Wednesday night, Liza Minnelli ate dinner there with another man, not husband David Gest. During dinner Liza was sobbing, according to my eye-witness. Finally she jumped up and ran out of the restaurant, leaving her partner to pay the bill. Her parting words: "And he's going to keep the ring!" 

As you know and everyone knows, Minnelli made producer David Gest her fourth husband back in March. Minnelli is about a dozen years older than Gest, knew him a short time and had to fend off questions about her new husband's sexuality, eyebrows and predilection for old Hollywood stars. Ruth Warrick, the octogenarian star of All My Children (currently enjoying quite a wild renaissance, by the way), then announced that Gest had proposed to her not too long ago.

Is it a spat or is Liza's marriage in trouble? If it's the latter, I want to see the Vegas oddsmakers' payouts immediately. Money will be changing hands all over the world. But Liza, honey, even if he does take back the ring, you'll live.

Springsteen Dances in The Dark

Not surprisingly, Bruce Springsteen couldn't stop himself. After playing "The Rising" live with the E Street Band from a stage set up outside the Rose planetarium on West 81st Street, the Boss just kept on going. In front of a small invited crowd, Bruce launched into a 90 minute show while 30 blocks downtown the MTV show rolled on without him.

According to fans who stuck with him in a light rain, Springsteen played many of the songs from his current tour, but added his hit "Dancing in the Dark." After the MTV lights went off, one of the band members shouted out, "It's Boss time!" And that did it.

Ironically, Springsteen merited inclusion on the VMA's because of the Sept. 11 theme of his new album. But in reality he hasn't a lot to do with MTV these days. He's way older than their demographic (see below) and his music is not heard on the station. Hopefully, some MTV fans were exposed to his work last night. But in all likelihood the ones at home did what the ones in Radio City did - -talk, mill about, and pretend to like Shakira.

Jacko Gives Thanks for Nothing

The MTV Video Music Awards are like Mardi Gras, Fourth of July and Halloween all rolled into one. The music is mostly awful, the so-called artists are forgettable. But the show! The show is a wonderment! It's full of so many simultaneous excesses -- like the godawful Shakira belly-dancing, and Justin Timberlake's failed attempt to launch his solo career, and  Eminem insulting Moby -- that you can't take it seriously. You just to have to enjoy it.

Anyway, MTV is not about the music, and never was. It's about demographic reach. Judy McGrath and Tom Freston know that, which is why when they do public issue programming or invite a candidate to speak, they're taken seriously. The music is just filler. The question is, did making the music filler destroy pop? Did it create Britney and Shakira and boy bands and all the rest of the horror stories that blew across the stage of Radio City last night like fall leaves? And the answer is, probably not. Great moments, like Bruce Springsteen and James Brown, are there for balance.

Michael Jackson's annual weird visit to the show was compounded by him not really receiving an award -- it was more of a birthday salute. (Who really knows what it was -- but Lisa Marie Presley was there, newly married, just to add to the surreal quality.) Still he thanked Elizabeth Taylor, his managers Trudy Green and Howard Kaufman, attorney John Branca and his old friend and sort-of manager John McClain ("the genius of John McClain," he said). He said, "I want to thank my mother, Katherine and Joe," which was Freudian, and left out his siblings. He did not mention former business manager Myung Ho Lee, who is suing Jackson for breach of contract and $12 million. A hearing in the case takes place this morning in Los Angeles Superior Court. Jackson will probably not appear, although he split from Radio City right after his appearance.

Milling around Radio City while the bands played on: Donna Hanover with her daughter Caroline. I don't know what she thought of the ovation for her ex-husband Rudy Giuliani, but Donna couldn't have been sweeter down in the Green Room and looked great besides ... twitty Hilton sisters Paris and Nikki, wearing mascara purchased in bulk, along with Paris's MTV boyfriend, Brian ... The great Caroline Rhea, who's starting her talk show on Monday with a taped Labor Day episode. On Tuesday, Matthew Perry does her first live show. Don't miss it ... Denise Rich, who called me out on last Friday's column about her charity, but was charming as ever ... David Alan Grier, on his cell phone ... and Joey Fatone of 'N Sync taking compliments for his performance in Rent -- which, by the way, he must have missed last night.

Puffy's Greatest, or Least Latest, Party

I'm writing this column at 3 a.m., and I can tell you there are still several hundred people dancing away at the Cipriani on East 42nd St., all listening to P. Diddy/Puff Daddy/Sean Combs' exhortations over rap, disco and R&B. It was billed as Combs' Greatest Party Ever and it no doubt was.

The gold (albeit cardboard) invites were numbered and were supposed to correspond to a list somewhere, but as usual it was chaos and pandemonium getting into Cipriani. Even with lots of off-duty police and security personnel, no one seemed to know which end was up. Arista Records chief L.A. Reid and US Weekly editor Bonnie Fuller were among those trapped in a long uncomfortable queue outside the front door. One reporter (not me, I swear) was initially turned away by a (ho ho ho) fashion guru who thought his shoes weren't proper. Much grumbling and trading of war stories once everyone was inside.

But there we found director Penny Marshall, comic actor Martin Short, Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer, plus singer Michelle Branch, actors Edward Norton, Heath Ledger, Naomi Watts, and Fisher Stevens, Donatella Versace, Mary J. Blige, swirling and twirling among the 1,500 guests. Overhead, topless acrobats danced (topless, yes, with glitter spread o'er their nipples) on elevated platforms and swung about on ropes. It was quite chic, actually, and very Studio 54. Steve Rubell would have been proud.

I did find model Sophie Dahl shimmying with her new beau, a 6-foot-2-inch artist named Jonathan who told me he'd been "a child prodigy." Be that as it may, Sophie -- who famously dated Mick Jagger -- is following now in the footsteps of her late granddad, Roald Dahl. Her first novel, The Man with the Dancing Eyes, has been bought by Bloomsbury Press in the UK and will be published internationally next February. It's a fairy tale for adults with illustrations.

Meanwhile Combs -- who was sharply dressed in a tux at his soiree -- is in an interesting position right now. He took his Bad Boy Entertainment away from BMG Music and Arista Records, but in the process lost a lot of his artists. He's been waiting to make a deal elsewhere but so far it hasn't materialized. "I don't think the size check he's looking for is out there," said one record exec last night who surveyed the room and also observed, "Thank god we're not footing this bill." (Motorola, Infinity Audio, and Reebok, in fact, were the benefactors.)

So what will happen? "He may find the grass is not greener elsewhere and go back home," the exec said, meaning back to Arista. Stranger things have happened. On Wednesday afternoon I waited in a cab on West 45th St. while a driver in a powder blue private Bentley-Azure sports coupe (starting price $356,485) idled in front of BMG/Random House and waited for his passenger. In other words, no one over there is suffering.

Have a Happy Labor Day weekend, folks -- see you next week!

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