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Star Jones Gone: Freebies Did Her In

Star Jones | 'Superman' | Katie & Spacey | KISS Manager | Arif at a Glance

Star Jones Gone: Freebies Did Her In

It's official, folks. Star Jones is leaving ABC's "The View." Her last day is still being determined, but sources say by next Friday, July 6 or July 13, the ladies will be kissing and hugging her and wheeling out a fat-free cake.

She does not — repeat — does not have any other gig lined up, contrary to other reports this morning. "Her contract is up and she's gone," says a source. "They are working out right now how they will explain it to the public."

I am told that producers for the show had planned to axe Star last fall after the hoopla around her endorsement-plagued wedding. But chief anchor and co-owner Barbara Walters relented. "She felt sorry for her," says an insider.

In the end, though, Walters knew that when Rosie O'Donnell agreed to join the show, Jones was finished.

As for replacements: even though Gayle King wants the job (and would be good, I think) several guest journalists will fill in the extra chair for the last two weeks of July.

The show goes "dark" until Labor Day with reruns, and there may be no permanent replacement named while O'Donnell settles in.

"They're looking for someone younger than Gayle or even Deborah Roberts," says a source. But the goal will be to find a hot, young African-American journalist whose background is clean as a whistle. Talent agents, start your engines!

Superman Debut: Will $300 Million Epic Fly?

"Superman Returns" debuts tonight around the country with special 10 p.m. and midnight shows at all its theaters.

Warner Bros., which has high hopes for the $300 million epic, will be able to tell in just a few hours how things will fare for the "Man of Steel" in his latest go-round, thanks to director Bryan Singer.

And while the juries are still technically out, here are some things to chew on: As of last night, Moviefone, which measures interest in all current releases, listed “Superman Returns” second to Adam Sandler’s “Click.”

The Sandler film grossed a huge amount over the weekend, $40 million, so its listing could be a carryover from that enthusiasm. Still, Warner Bros. would have hoped for “SR” to be listed at No. 1 by Moviefone fans.

Also, according to Moviefone.com, none of the “early” shows tonight have sold out. And none of the regular shows scheduled for Wednesday, the real opening day, have sold out either. By now, a real phenomenon of a film would likely have at least one or two shows crossed off on Moviefone, indicating an impending monsoon of fans.

Of course, that’s New York. In Hollywood, two shows are sold out for tonight — one at Mann’s Chinese Theater and the other at The Grove.

Now the real measure of the success of "Superman Returns" won’t come until Friday night, when the July 4 weekend begins. Even if it has a rocky opening from tonight through Thursday, the weekend is clear for what should be a $25 million per day stand.

“Superman Returns” has competition only from “Click” and the Meryl Streep chick-flick comedy, “The Devil Wears Prada.” With all the other summer blockbusters old news by now, “SR” has every chance to leap tall buildings at a single bound.

Katie Gets to the Core; Spacey Goes Boffo

Two competing cocktail parties for the New York media swelled last night, each with their own personalities.

At the swanky Core Club, Hearst Publications’ Cathie Black and Ellen Levine toasted Katie Couric.

Katie told me she’s been sleeping 'til 8 a.m. every day since leaving the "Today" show, and has watched almost no television at all.

She did look great, and mixed and mingled with folks like Time magazine’s Richard Zoglin and wife Charla Krupp, Oprah Magazine’s Gayle King and Inside Edition’s Jim Moret, who’s filling in for Dan Abrams this week on his MSNBC show.

Several of Katie’s NBC producers have joined her at CBS, and they were all there last night, brimming with plans and ideas for Katie’s debut in September.

Harvey Weinstein stopped into the Core Club after hosting his own toast a few blocks south at the Royalton Hotel for Variety editor Peter Bart’s book, “Boffo: How I Learned to Love the Blockbuster and Fear the Bomb.”

A mostly media-heavy crowd turned out for Bart, but so did two-time Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey, wearing a Yankees cap and trying not to look too much like Lex Luthor, the character he plays in “Superman Returns.” Also spotted: one of our favorite actors, Kyle MacLachlan.

Kiss Manager Sings Different Tune

Yesterday in Manhattan Family Court, the first day of testimony for former KISS manager Jesse Hilsen was a bit rocky.

Under questioning from his ex-wife’s attorney, Jacqueline Bukowski, Hilsen invoked his Fifth Amendment rights several times rather than provide information during sworn testimony.

Administrative judge Nicholas Palos wasn’t too pleased when he heard Hilsen’s intentions, and warned him that “taking the Fifth” might cast a negative perception over Hilsen’s side of the case.

But Hilsen — who’s been in prison for two years after a decade as a fugitive abroad — testified that he no longer knew where his passport was. When Bukowski asked him which countries he had passports for — the United States or South Africa, where he hid for a decade — Hilsen invoked the Fifth Amendment. When she asked him if he had an Israeli passport, he replied that he wasn’t sure.

Bukowski, representing Rita Hilsen, fears that Jesse Hilsen will exit the United States quickly if Palos releases him from prison without first ascertaining the location of his assets. Divorced from his wife in 1984, Hilsen never paid court-ordered child support or alimony. The amount he owes is estimated at more than $1 million, and for the last decade Rita Hilsen has lived in a shelter on the Upper West Side.

In dispute now are the location (or existence) of assets Rita Hilsen claims her ex-husband has hidden, possibly with ex-lover Dr. Joan Packles-Margolis, a Manhattan psychiatrist.

While Jesse Hilsen testified, Packles Margolis — a thin, tense woman — paced nervously around the Family Court waiting room. When I asked her if her husband, Dr. Richard Margolis, had accompanied her to court, Dr. Packles-Margolis rolled her eyes expressively as if to say, "Are you crazy?" and walked away.

Hilsen’s most contradictory testimony yesterday was about whether or not he’d inherited money from his mother’s estate. At first he claimed that his 50 percent interest in the estate was limited to personal belongings, but later conceded that his mother had left behind at least three companies.

He invoked his Fifth Amendment rights when asked what the companies did, and said he couldn’t remember where his mother had lived or what her address had been. Whether or not those were her companies or his has not been established yet. Court resumes again this afternoon.

Arif at a Glance

It’s still impossible for me to think of the great Arif Mardin as gone. This amazing record producer’s work is simply untouchable.

Just in case you want to know more about him, pick up any or all of the following albums: Average White Band’s self-titled debut, featuring “Pick Up the Pieces” and “Work to Do,” Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s 1972 self-titled original duets album, featuring the monumental “Where is the Love?” and “You’ve Got a Friend,” (the best recorded version of that song) or the Bee Gees’ “Main Course,” featuring “Nights on Broadway” and my favorite all-time post-'60s Gibb Brothers single, “Fanny (Be Tender with My Love).” Those are just a few of Arif’s huge accomplishments.