Ethan & Uma | Madonna | Rocco | Johnny Cash, B.B. King

Did 'Kill Bill' Kill Uma's Marriage? 

Now that the five-year marriage of youngish actors and Oscar nominees Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke appears to be over, friends have been pointing fingers and making accusations.

The most frequent rumor — other than the fact that Hawke seems to have acquired a young girlfriend on the Canadian set of his latest film, "Taking Lives" — actually concerns Thurman.

"Uma and Ethan always had a pact that they would never make a movie at the same time," says a friend. The couple has two children and apparently decided early on that the parents would work one at a time.

"But Uma violated that," says the source. "First she made Quentin Tarantino's 'Kill Bill,' which went on forever. Then Ethan was supposed to do 'Taking Lives.' But Uma also took a movie, 'Paycheck,' with Ben Affleck. That meant they'd both be away at the same time."

"Taking Lives" has been shooting in Montreal while "Paycheck"'s schedule was in Vancouver. Both cities are in Canada, but this is the equivalent of filming in Los Angeles and New York at the same time.

A tabloid item ran out of the set of "Paycheck" earlier in the summer to the effect that Jennifer Lopez, Affleck's fiancée, was running back and forth to Vancouver to see Affleck because she was afraid he was becoming too close to Thurman. Who knows if that was true, but it certainly seems prescient now.

But it was the Tarantino movie, my source insists, that really put the kibosh on the marriage. The martial-arts film had a grueling schedule, shooting in Los Angeles, but also in Mexico and parts of China, for months. The result now is a two-part movie, scheduled for release in October 2003 and February 2004.

Another friend, who remains anonymous, insists that the Uma-Ethan relationship, however, had been in trouble for a long time.

"They were in couples counseling," this source insists, "and Uma told Ethan, 'If you think I'm difficult as a wife, wait 'til you see me as an ex-wife.'"

Thurman, according to this source, may have even retaliated when she heard of Hawke's now much-publicized affair on the "Taking Lives" set.

From a purely gossip standpoint, I have to say that the celebrities of 2003 have been much more active and interesting in their romantic affairs than stars of recent generations.

Between J-Lo and B-Lo, Ashton and Demi, Jude  and Nicole and Sadie, Tom and Penelope, Ethan and Uma, Winona Ryder and (you fill in the blank pop star), Gwyneth and Coldplay's Chris Martin, Salma and Ed Norton, Sharon Stone and the newspaper guy, Leo and Gisele, Jennifer Garner and Michael Vartan from "Alias," Gray Davis and California, and the lesser quadrangle of Justin/Britney/Cameron/Jared, this gang has managed to turn Hollywood into a musty issue of Tiger Beat. Gossip columnists haven't had this much fun since Dino, Desi, and Billy were on the prowl!

PS: Attention all poachers: This column is copyrighted 2003, Fox News. This means you.

Madonna Skips Her Own MTV Party

Madonna may have sung her criticisms of the material world in her flop single "American Life," but she's not too shy about shilling for corporate America — and I don't mean those ridiculous Gap ads.

Last night, celebrities who attended Madonna's MTV Video Music Awards show after-party at the architecturally famous Four Seasons restaurant were shocked to see banners for Sony's PlayStation 2 in both the Pool Room and Grill Room.

That's because Madonna's record label, Maverick, couldn't possibly have paid for the shindig itself.

Maverick Records, still run by Guy Oseary, hasn't had a hit in a long time. According to SoundScan, its two biggest recent albums were Madonna's "American Life" and Michelle Branch's "Hotel Paper." Sales for each are hovering at a little over 500,000 copies.

For Branch, that's OK. But for Madonna, and for Maverick, the numbers are more than a little disappointing. Considering how many people are working at Maverick, and that the label seems to have a bunch of other artists signed who aren't selling CDs, those sales figures aren't very good.

As for the party: Madonna, to be "cutting edge," allowed her staff to turn the famous restaurant — where power players ordinarily pay $200 for lunch — into a tacky video arcade.

But she skipped the party herself, and jetted home to London right after her appearance at the start of the Video Music Awards. Maybe she was too afraid to ask what exactly Maverick president Oseary, "who ordered the party," is doing to bring in revenue.

Maverick's only actual hits are the soundtracks to the "Matrix" movies. But those are supposed to be slam dunks since Warner Bros., which now owns Maverick, makes and distributes the films.

Otherwise, Maverick, which launched Alanis Morissette but almost lost her when Oseary tried to dump her last year, needs a smash in the worst way.

Still, the lure of Madonna and free chances at PlayStation brought out the Material Girl's old gal pal Ingrid Casares, plus Nicole Kidman (in a big coat, looking like she was in "Stepford" mode), Ben Stiller, Q-Tip, P. Diddy, Kim Cattrall, Britney Spears, Fred Durst and Pamela Anderson.

Post-teen twit sisters Paris and Nicky Hilton also made the scene, although either their equilibrium was off or Four Seasons owner Julian Niccolini had better get out a plane and check his floors for warping.

Casares, who was once regularly seen in New York with Madonna, has been low profile ever since being part of the trial that put Chris Paciello, her best buddy, business partner and friend of Madonna, in prison for murder.

Here's one interesting footnote to Madonna's "spontaneous" appearance at the Video Music Awards. Her manager, Caresse Henry, merited a special thank-you all to herself at the end of the credits for the show.

The unusual citation was no doubt for Henry's part in convincing Madonna, whose album sales are at their lowest point in 20 years, to frolic with Spears and Christina Aguilera.

Rocco Serves MTV Honchos on a Platter

Meanwhile, up in the mezzanine at Radio City Music Hall, MTV Networks' chief Tom Freston put on the dog with celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito catering. I hope the food was better than the inedible stuff we got at Rocco's recently.

Freston hosted CBS chief Les Moonves, his Viacom cousin, as well as a bunch of CBS/MTV/Viacom bigwigs who were trying to either act cool or be cool. Also spotted chowing down on Rocco's appetizers were former Talk/Vanity Fair/New Yorker editor Tina Brown with daughter Isabelle.

Freston's command of MTV and its odious Video Music Awards brought to mind a question: Whatever happened to the Joni Abbott Music Foundation, which Freston and other music execs started in 1997 in memory of Abbott, director of talent relations who died suddenly in 1995? She had worked for the network for 10 years.

In its first year, the Foundation took in tax-free contributions of $217,000 and gave away $11,000 to kids who wanted to be in the music business. The foundation, run by Abbott's mother, Barbara Carlton, but which counted Freston and rock manager Irving Azoff on its board, also spent $50,000 that year on a fund-raising event that earned them $14,000, according to its tax filing. Carlton made just a shade under $40,000 in salary.

The following year, the Foundation had a deficit of $45,000 and Carlton's salary from the previous year was paid to the group's new head, Achille Arcidiacono, a well-known Houston lawyer who says he was brought in to "wrap things up." The foundation has since ceased operations, Arcidiacono says, "at the request of the board and Abbott's family."

Even though 1999 saw a deficit on paper, the Foundation still reported that it had a total of $204,000 in savings and cash investments on its last tax filing, submitted in July 2000. The Joni Abbott Music Foundation ceased operations after that, although there is no notation of what happened to the excess funds. (They would be well used to start a literacy or comportment scholarship for modern pop stars.)

Johnny Cashes Out, but B.B. King Gets Mentioned

In the end, Johnny Cash didn't make it to the Video Music Awards. He was hospitalized, but it was just as well. At least Justin Timberlake had the good sense to ask the audience to give Cash his due with a round of applause.

Otherwise, the VMAs were the usual sad, illiterate affair, full of yo's from a bunch of yo-yos. 50 Cent and Beyoncé looked confused among their June Taylor-type dancers.

Nearly all the music sounded like it had been made up on the spot, although even host Chris Rock looked impressed at the end of Coldplay's song. Combining elements of The Beatles, Travis and Radiohead, Coldplay's Chris Martin performed the only actual song of the evening with a melody, harmonies and a hook.

Otherwise, the evening went to Missy Elliott. Her music may not be memorable, but her personality is a winner. Did she thank Elektra Record's much-maligned president Sylvia Rhone for sticking with her? Didn't sound like it, but maybe she made up for it later.

Funniest moment: Some guy who called himself "Six" managed to get on stage between Adam Sandler and Snoop Dogg during the final award presentation. His proclamation that B.B. King was the best musician was a non sequitur but a welcome one. I'm sure most of those in the audience had no idea what he was talking about.

As for Beyoncé, the millionth performance of "Crazy in Love" may have been an annoyance to some but was music to the ears of Eugene Record and the Chi-Lites. As I've mentioned before, Beyoncé's big hit is really just a re-working of the Chi-Lites' 1969 record "Are You My Woman." Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby. Nothing.