Paul and Heather Avoid Paparazzi Pirates

Paul and Heather | Martha Stewart | Michael Jackson

Paul and Heather Avoid Paparazzi Pirates 

Paul McCartney and pregnant wife Heather Mills narrowly avoided a paparazzi stampede on Saturday night in East Hampton. The pair came to the main movie theater in town to catch a showing of Disney’s "Pirates of the Caribbean." By accident they wound up in the middle of a premiere of Peter Hedges’ new United Artists film, "Pieces of April."

The McCartneys sneaked in and past the "April" crowd and headed into the theater showing "Pirates." I shook hands with Paul and Heather said hello, but they were trying to keep a low profile. Somehow they’d evaded the photographers out front who’d come to cover the "April" screening.

But when "April" let out, we noticed the gang of photographers and a crew from Long Island’s local television channel stationed outside the door to the other movie showing in the complex, "Freaky Friday."

They were determined to “get” the McCartneys and thought they might be in that screening. When "Friday" let out, the whole group moved en masse to the door of "Pirates" and began their stakeout. Luckily, theater manager Lisa Albert discovered what was going on and tossed them all out.

“I didn’t want them to be ambushed,” she said of the McCartneys. “They come here all the time. Lots of celebrities do. But photographers are not allowed inside the building.”

Meanwhile, "Pieces of April" turned out to be the movie to see in East Hampton that night. Too bad Sir Paul and Heather didn’t duck into the premiere. They might have enjoyed the eccentric characters drawn up by Hedges, whose previous work includes the script for “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”

Patricia Clarkson, Katie Holmes, Oliver Platt and Derek Luke are standouts in this emotional comedy. Clarkson and Holmes should find themselves competing against "Thirteen" stars Holly Hunter and Evan Rachel Wood at the Independent Spirit Awards on Feb. 28.

Hedges’ next job is adapting the fashionista roman à clef "The Devil Wears Prada" for film. It will be interesting to see how he clears away the underbrush of the book to make a taut screenplay about backbiting in the world of fashion magazines.

Martha Stewart Story's Ironic Twist

Entertaining maven Martha Stewart and her pal, Sam Waksal of ImClone Systems, are about to be the subjects of a modern O. Henry story.

You remember O. Henry, don't you? All his great short stories, like the famous "The Gift of the Magi," ended with a stunning plot twist.

In this case, Waksal has gone to federal prison for seven years on assorted charges of fraud stemming from insider trading of his ImClone stock. He's been embarrassed and humiliated in front of famous friends and family.

Stewart goes on trial in January for obstruction of justice charges stemming from her alleged insider sale of ImClone stock. Her business has been devastated. She's becoming a running joke all over the world.

So now what? You might not know it because almost no one reported it, but back on Aug. 15, ImClone resubmitted its application to the Food and Drug Administration to gain approval for its cancer drug, Erbitux. No one reported it because the announcement came right in the middle of the blackout. You can't buy luck like that.

But none of the papers that have lambasted Waksal and Stewart for the last year and a half bothered to report this little irony. It was because the FDA was going to reject the Erbitux application back on Dec. 27, 2001, that Waksal told Stewart and his family to sell their ImClone stock. The FDA said the Erbitux testing wasn't right and they wanted more information. Waksal panicked. The rest is history.

Now, with Waksal in jail and Stewart possibly heading toward one, Erbitux is back. According to the Aug. 15 announcement, ImClone — from which former CEO Waksal and his family are now severed — will come to market in early 2004 with frontline effectiveness against colon cancer.

It will generate, literally, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues. One drug industry analyst told the wire services he thought Erbitux could bring in $735 million by 2006. Waksal was fined $4 million before he was sent to jail. Stewart made $288,000 on her stock sale on that fateful December day.

Someone, please, call O. Henry.

How Jacko News Travels Fast

This is an interesting look at how stories move around the globe and take on new attributes.

Last week this space reported, exclusively, that Michael Jackson was opening his Neverland Valley Ranch to strangers at $5,000 a ticket. I observed that Jackson could make a $1 million profit from the Sept. 13 event designed to promote the artist Romero Britto. There were no direct quotes from anyone, just the text of the invite — which only we had obtained — and my observations and reporting.

Next, a British website called People News picked up our story, without credit. Someone at People News must simply read a lot of gossip and entertainment columns and appropriates what they want for themselves. From what I can tell, they rearrange information in the story and add quotes attributed to "sources." The quotes are merely a rewording of the information, but now it looks like someone's said them.

This is how they did it: "A source tells gossip site People News, '(It'll go into) Michael's pocket. He stands to make a million from this — and there's no guarantee he'll even be there!'"

Consequently, another site based in London and Los Angeles called World Entertainment Network News picked up the Jackson story from People News, credited them, and ran it. That service, known as WENN, has among its subscribers the reference site Internet Movie Database. IMDB picked up the Jackson item from People News, with the new quotes, and ran it.

When I tracked down the editor of People News last Friday, she was very nice. She conceded that someone must have written the original story, and offered to insert the credit — which she did. I have to give her credit for that, even if the byline we got didn't actually refer to the Neverland part of the story.

Unfortunately, it was too late for the subscribers to WENN. And even though the editor of WENN in London promised to make the same credit change, he didn't. And none of them questioned the sources or how the story had made it to them in the first place. The cautionary tale here is that the Internet is full of "fake" wire services "reporting" stories. Almost all of them are untrue. If the site isn't attached to a mainstream news organization, you can bet the information on it has been lifted from other places and re-interpreted in some way.

Meanwhile, tickets to that Jacko event are now being offered on German eBay to the highest bidder. If I were Michael, I'd cancel this thing before he has tourists flying in from around the world with Canon Elphs dangling around their necks. Or move it to the Subway sandwich shop in nearby Los Olivos.