Sampras Send-Off Bad News For Jacko | Costner's Comeback

Sampras Ceremony Brings Out the Stars

And so it was off to the USTA Tennis Center in Flushing on Monday night for the Pete Sampras send-off and an opening night bash thrown by USA Networks.

The stars came out too: Sally Field with her son, Kim Cattrall, "Six Feet Under" star Lili Taylor, actor-director Tim Blake Nelson ("The Grey Zone," "O"), plus former teen star Anthony Michael Hall, who stars in "The Dead Zone" on USA Network. Two-time Oscar nominee Sylvia Miles got herself chauffeured out by the network. Susan Lucci took time out from "All My Children" (where she’s finally regained control of a rudderless ship). John McEnroe made the rounds before joining the Sampras send off out on the field. The ubiquitous Alec Baldwin also made the rounds.

And what about Lili Taylor? Is her character really dead on "Six Feet Under"?

The answer is, as far as Taylor’s concerned, yes. She starts an off-Broadway run in "Aunt Dan and Lemon" this fall. "She’s dead," Taylor said of her character. "I guess they could bring her back, but it would be hard."

Jacko: Sony Music Tells Him to Beat It

Bad news for Michael Jackson. Sony Music doesn’t want him back, after all.

The King of Pop had been positioning himself for a possible rapprochement with Sony since the departure of company COO Tommy Mottola. You may remember that last summer Jackson was busy calling Mottola a racist. A few months later, Mottola was forced out of Sony Music and replaced with the former president of NBC News, Andrew Lack.

Jackson, who is into Sony for hundreds of millions of dollars, was thought to be completely finished with the music company as far as new music goes. After his "Invincible" album tanked, Michael even announced the formation of a new record label on his own. More recently, however, Jackson made up with his lawyer, John Branca, the same man who negotiated all of Michael’s previous Sony deals. The thought was that Branca and Charles Koppelman, Michael’s manager, might be able to put him back on track with Sony.

But now I am told, in very definite terms, that Sony is not interested in new albums by Michael Jackson. "He has one album left, a greatest hits album," said my source. "There’s also a boxed set. But that’s it. Nothing new and nothing more." And let me tell you: The person who said this knows what he’s talking about. As far as Sony goes, Michael Jackson can beat it.

Jackson will always have financial ties to Sony, of course. There’s his famous $200 million loan against the Beatles catalog. There’s also all the money Sony laid out for miscellaneous projects like remastering Jackson’s older CDs for re-release in 2001. Jackson, I reported two years ago, ran up bills for millions at Sony Studios choosing improved versions of old songs for the new CDs. But just this month I was able to buy the improved "Off the Wall" album in a Sony clearance sale at Virgin Music in Union Square for a cost-cutting 10 bucks.

So what will Jackson do without Sony? He could start his own record label, of course. Or he could make a deal at Dreamworks Records, where his more-or-less permanent manager, John McClain, is an executive. One music company off his list now, though, is Universal, where Mottola is now set up to revive the un-missed Casablanca Records and may eventually go on to bigger things.

Costner’s Range Stops Seven Year Slide

Kevin Costner’s "Open Range" has indeed become his comeback film. Even though it had some pretty awful reviews, the Western drama co-starring Costner, Robert Duvall, and Annette Bening just crossed the $30 million mark.

This means that "Open Range" is on track to do as well or better than Costner’s 1999 tear jerker "Message in a Bottle," and better than all the other films he’s been in since 1996’s "Tin Cup." That would include some true stinkers like "For Love of the Game," "The Postman," and "Dragonfly."

What accounts for "Open Range," a kind of boring Western with no real love story and not much bite finding an audience? For one thing, Costner — and his studio, Disney — really worked hard promoting the film. They made Costner available to the press and he in turn was incredibly charming. The result was that even if you didn’t like the movie, it seemed incredibly tedious to continue bashing the one-time Oscar winning director.

Now watch this space to see if Duvall, who could read the phone book and get awards, doesn’t mount a serious threat for a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Stranger things have happened. Believe me.

As for Costner, it will be interesting to see if he understands what this opportune moment means, or if he’ll return to his old ways. I am told Costner is planning a new film with Kevin Reynolds at the till — believe it or not. The last time these two worked together was on "Waterworld," with Costner replacing Reynolds part-way through the shoot.