The SopranosAnnie LennoxMadonna and Peter Sellers | Radio Payola

'Carmela Soprano' Disputes Report on Show

Does anyone really know what's happening with The Sopranos?

My colleagues at the New York Daily News got a good scoop the other day from Sopranos creator David Chase. He indicated that he would have to extend the fifth season of the show — which is currently shooting — by at least half a dozen episodes.

Then came word from Silvercup Studios in Queens to this column that HBO had already booked The Sopranos for a sixth season. The owners of the studio — where Chase creates his fictional world — were said to already have an agreement for Tony, Carmela and pals to return.

Of course, in Hollywood leases and contracts are made to be broken. But sources insisted that the Silvercup honchos have been very specific when talking about how much room will be available to new shows in 2004. And then of course that Daily News report did sound pretty good.

But Edie Falco, the Tony-winning, Emmy-winning actress who plays Carmela Soprano, one of the three leads on the show, says none of it is true.

"And I should know," Falco said last night at a party for Annie Lennox's new album Bare and a showing of her self-portraits.

No extra six episodes? No sixth season? Are you sure, Edie?

"I am sure about the no extra six. We have 13 episodes. That's all anyone's been told. I swear. As for another season, even David doesn't know. No one knows."

So that's it. I have to believe Edie Falco because I tell you she is one of the most level-headed, earnest people I've ever met in show business.

A year ago, we watched Prince perform live in the middle of the night at a club in Times Square. After that kind of bonding, it's like Survivor. I trust her.

We'll have to wait and see what happens next.

As far as Silvercup and HBO go: They have a lot at stake for more Sopranos, since Sex and the City is finished forever. I have no doubt they're putting some pressure on Chase.

Annie Lennox Bares Almost All

I didn't mean to skirt past that Annie Lennox party: Clive Davis gave her a triumphant gallery party at the Spike Gallery on West 20th Street so she could show off very arty black-and-white photographs she'd taken of herself. She was naked in all of them, but covered by things like big electric guitars. They were attractive, but not sexy.

Annie's album, Bare, which came yesterday on J Records, is, however, very sexy and magnificently performed.

Lennox's voice — some 25 years after her first recordings with the Scottish new-wave group the Tourists — is an astonishing instrument. She and Julia Fordham are tied in my heart for the place of Best White Girl Singer.

But where Julia comes from the Nina Simone school, Annie is like a tweaked Judy Collins.

Lennox came to the party looking a helluvalot happier than she does in the pictures. She's over her big divorce, which is what the album is about, and she's been touring all over the world.

Is there anyone she wants to duet with? (She has one famous hit collaboration, with Aretha Franklin, on "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves.")

"I don't think so," she said in her heavy brogue. "I'm happy singing solo I think."

I asked her if she gets a lot of mail from fans, especially considering the heavy emotional impact of her solo hits like "Why?" and "No More I Love You's."

"Yes, lots," she said. "It's amazing how the songs mean so much at different times in people's lives. They write to me all the time."

Bare is her first solo album in eight years, so I wondered if we'd have to wait as long next time.

"I don't know," she said, "I have children. When I was lucky enough to have them, I knew my career would change."

She spent a good deal of time touring the photo exhibition with Davis, who's putting out her album — and she was almost the last to leave the party.

Alas, the true stragglers were the professional party crashers who invaded the gathering gradually, like termites, and ate their way through the hors d'oeuvres. I wish one of the press photographers had taken their picture; it was almost like a class reunion.

There was "Shaggy," the Peter Frampton-coiffed heavy-set fiftyish guy who is always on the scene, as well as the ones who are dubbed The Ken Doll, the Walrus and the Dentist.

A few others also made the scene, some of whom have to yet achieve nicknames but are easily spotted in every crowd around town. They were still carrying on well after the main guests had moved on, very delighted to have achieved a Zelig-like moment at least for one night.

Madonna and the Pink Panther: One Degree of Separation

In the bizarre world of deals and projects, Madonna is now one degree of separation away from the Pink Panther.

The material mom's longtime former manager, Freddy De Mann, is producing a film for HBO about the life and death of actor Peter Sellers, who played Inspector Clouseau so brilliantly in the Pink Panther movies.

De Mann's previous movie credits don't exactly bode well for Sellers' life story. He has his name on the unreleaseable John Candy movie Canadian Bacon, as well as Madonna's Abel Ferrara calamity, Dangerous Game, and on a Madonna tour movie. But maybe De Mann's demands this time have made him luckier.

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers stars no less a presence than Geoffrey Rush as the randy, gifted comic and John Lithgow as director Blake Edwards, who ushered the actor through the Pink Panther movies.

Lithgow told me at the Tony Awards that he'd met Edwards, but didn't really know him. Believe me, Blake Edwards — whose movies are usually about sexual compulsion of one kind or another — could be the subject of his own film. Or, indeed, he already has been — I'm thinking of 10, S.O.B., Switch, That's Life, etc.

Radio Daze: Pay as You Go

I had quite an interesting conversation yesterday with the CEO of an urban radio network. I inquired if the network, which reaches black listeners around the county, would be interested in interviewing one of the soul legends who star in Only the Strong Survive.

The answer was: "We're interested in making money here. Are you paying for a promotion?"

Not surprisingly, this is the answer I've heard from almost every radio station or producer a music station over the last two months. News and talk stations never ask such a question. But music stations, very pointedly, want money in exchange for anything anyone asks them to do. It doesn't matter if they're black, white, or purple.

The talk these days in radio is, as it always is, of payola. "Payola" used to mean paying a disc jockey to play one's record. Various scandals over the years have unearthed instances of widespread payola, and some people are usually carted off to jail. There's a cry all over the land that payola is over. Then it starts right up again.

Unfortunately, we don't have any money to pay anyone a red cent in exchange for interviews. But I guess some movies do. Definitely record companies are held over this barrel if they want their records played on music stations.

It is sort of refreshing that the stations simply make the demand without any kind of embarrassment or foreplay. More than ever, the point has been driven home to me: Nothing is played and no one appears on a music station without some kind of financial exchange. Ka-ching!