Britney Spears | Tom Cruise | Katie Holmes | Hall of Fame | Anna Nicole Smith

Britney Spears 'Hates' Manager

Does Britney Spears “hate” her manager, Larry Rudolph? And is Rudolph even her manager?

Here’s a better question: Who is in charge of Britney Spears, anyway?

A day of frustrating phone calls yesterday leads me to believe that actually no one is calling the shots for the beleaguered pop tart.

Spears, for example, has been telling friends that she “hates” Rudolph and never intended to sign with him again after leaving his orbit in October 2004. That’s when Spears severed her relations with Rudolph after nearly a decade.

But then, when Spears went off the deep end last year following her separation from the infamously impaired Kevin Federline, Rudolph stepped in and got Spears’ name back on the dotted line.

“She signed a five year contract with him,” says a source. “She says she didn’t know what she was doing at the time, and can’t stand him. But what can she do? Bring in a lawyer and say she signed under duress? That she was drunk or stoned?”

If Spears did want to call a lawyer then the next question is, who would that be? Her music business legal rep, Gary Stiffelman, didn’t return calls yesterday. I speak for a moment to her high-powered Hollywood divorce attorney Laura Wasser, wife of Dennis Wasser, who only said, “I can’t discuss anything.”

Rudolph also didn’t return calls yesterday. His ReignDeer Management company has a telephone voice answering system that doesn’t work. More curious: His Myspace.com page features another artist, not Britney, whom I guess he’s representing now.

Spears also has no proper publicist in place. Leslie Sloane-Zelnick, who got her through years of scandals, is off the case. Spears' record company publicist, Gina Orr, doesn’t respond to emails or calls.

If Britney is unhappy with Rudolph, it’s likely that she can’t do much about it, especially with that contract. But after her divorce, all her rehab expenses and her constant nights on the town at pricey L.A. restaurants like Koi or The Bridge — she’s been spotted picking up the bill at both places recently — Spears had better get back to work. And just an album won’t cut it. She’s got to figure out a way to tour. It’s the only way left to make money in what was once known as the music business.

Tom Cruise: Committing Career Suicide?

Great scoop in The New York Post today: Tom Cruise is hosting a Scientology benefit on April 19 in New York for the group’s controversial detox program for 9/11 survivors.

But here’s a flash. I wrote this story on December 22, 2006: The New York Fire Department does not support the program, and there is much hostile feeling toward Cruise. The latest public endorsement of Scientology and its programs — decried by experts as pure "hooey" — may be the last nail in Cruise’s coffin. I will tell you about another one on Monday.

But now: The gist of what I would call the FDNY’s anger toward Cruise started after he arrived here right after the World Trade Center disaster to offer "detox programs" to firemen who had respiratory problems. The detoxing, he said, was developed by Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard, a dead science fiction writer who believed in space aliens.

Of course, the real goal was to grab new members for Scientology. Apparently, the group had some success. According to my sources in the FDNY, several firefighters not only joined Scientology but left their families in the process.

"They told the firefighters that they’d been unhappy in their lives before 9/11 and that they should leave," said a higher up in the department who spoke to me recently. "Cruise is responsible."

Dubbed the "New York Rescue Workers Detoxificiation Project," the program got tax-free status, and Cruise and Scientology used a California CPA named Roland Fink, who happened to be a Scientologist, to vouch for them in writing as an "independent auditor."

Fink, according to reports, has coincidentally made the Scientology "honor roll" twice in the last four years.

The result, according to their federal tax filing, is the usual financial roundelay for the IRS-sanctioned religion.

In 2004 the organization raised $1.6 million, nearly all of which went to "expenses." Of that, $880,000 went to something called Downtown PC. Another $173,300 was funneled back to Dr. Steven Lager of Williston Park, N.Y., a major Scientologist who advocates alternative methods of detoxification.

The detox method is considered to be another name for Scientology’s "purification" program, long in existence before 9/11 and designed to "cleanse" its followers.

How the Scientology detox program raises its money is perhaps even more interesting. As detailed on the Web site, its new fundraising initiative — launched Nov. 1 and set to conclude on May 1, 2007 — reads very much like a pyramid scheme at worst, or Amway at best.

"To reach our goal, we are asking for your help and the help of all New Yorkers. Those who join the campaign as Participants agree to ask 25 of their family, friends and co-workers to donate $5.00 each to the project. When a donation sheet with 25 donors donating a minimum of $5 each is completed and mailed to the project, the Participant will then be entered into a drawing to win a Caribbean Dream Vacation for two to the Atlantis Hotel & Casino in the Bahamas. Participants are encouraged to complete as many donation sheets as they can — each completed sheet qualifies you for another entry in the drawing."

According to the group’s Web site, at least two New York City firefighters joined Scientology as a result of the detox program. Both Sebastian Rapanti and Joe Higgins offer themselves as case studies for the group on the site. They also appear in pictures with actress Jenna Elfman and her husband, Bodhi Elfman, two avowed Scientologists, from a party at the group’s Hollywood headquarters, some 3,000 miles from their homes and families.

According to The New York Times, Higgins wound up joining Scientology and becoming a paid adviser.

My source within the Fire Department warns that Scientology will not be allowed in again if there’s another terrorist attack. "Our crisis workers weren’t equipped to deal with them last time. They’re ready now," my source said.

By the way, the Scientology/Detox people should re-designate one of the spokeswomen in their recruitment and fundraising video. Margarita Lopez is no longer a New York City councilwoman, as she is billed. She is now a Surrogate Court judge in Brooklyn. Her efforts to become Manhattan Borough president in 2005 were blunted when The New York Post reported that she directed hundreds of thousands of city dollars into the controversial detox program after receiving $115,000 in campaign donations from Scientology.

Katies Holmes: New Mouthpiece

Katie Holmes has done something unusual. She’s gone and gotten herself a new publicist.

For years Holmes was represented by the aforementioned Zelnick. But when she met Tom Cruise, she fired Zelnick, as well as her agents and manager. Holmes was being repped by Cruise’s flack agency, Rogers and Cowan.

But now, out of nowhere, she’s hired Ina Treciokas of ID’PR, a good, solid agency that handles everyone from Sean Penn to Diane Lane, Kevin Kline, and Wynona Ryder. Everyone likes the ID’PR team; they’re easy to work with.

But Holmes’ move away from Rogers and Cowan is kind of interesting. Insiders say she was guided to the firm by her agents at CAA. Many top CAA clients on the West Coast, however, go to Steven Huvane at PMK HBH, because of the connection to CAA’s chief Kevin Huvane, his brother. ID’PR was a little out of left field.

Is it Katie’s new independence we keep reading about in the supermarket tabloids? I doubt it. The couple is not breaking up any time soon, folks. The deal is done. But Holmes is making a movie, “Mad Money,” and starting to feel her way around town a little these days. Insiders tell me that so far, Tom — always depicted as controlling and stifling — did not sit in on the meetings between Katie and her new flacks.

That said, nothing explains her turning down $2 million to make the sequel to “Batman Begins.” But our gain there is the sterling Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is never short of perfect in anything she does.

Rock Hall: Scholarships at a Price

So let me get this straight. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation says they’re starting a scholarship program for New York City and Cleveland high school seniors who want “to study music or the music business” in college.

OK, sounds good, right? The foundation has an $11 million war chest. But the total amount of the scholarships: $50,000. Hilarious!

The best part: The scholarship money will come from funds “evenly split” between the foundation and the Rock Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland. As it is, the foundation gives almost no money to the museum, which has to sustain itself.

Even funnier: The press release from the foundation takes credit for half a dozen educational programs that, in fact, it has nothing to do with. All the programs are run out of Cleveland, under the guidance of Terry Stewart, head of the museum. Last year the foundation’s sole charitable effort was to disburse about $10,000 to indigent musicians.

As for the scholarships, does this mean the kids are going to be musicians or executives? And if they’re studying to be executives, in what industry would that be? They’d be better off studying Starbucks' business plan.

Anna Nicole Doc as Predicted; Ryan Seacrest

After we wrote all those pieces about Anna Nicole Smith’s shrink, Khristine Eroshevich, and then got a wishy-washy answer from the California Medical Board on Wednesday, our old pal Dan Widdicomb at Reuters was able to confirm late yesterday that the doc is under investigation. Whew! It took a village to get to the obvious answer.

I think Eroshevich’s hearing should be in public. We’d all like to hear her thinking about the volume of prescriptions, the kind and the many different identities under which she procured them …

I was thinking about Ryan Seacrest this week. His name was splattered on the cover of one of those tabloids with the question: “Is he gay?” Not there’s anything wrong with that, but no, he’s not. The magazine even arrived at this conclusion inside. I run into this guy about twice a year, and all he’s doing is working, frankly. He does a morning radio show, “American Idol” at night and about 40 other jobs in between. Is it the highlights that make him seem gay? If I had hair, I’d get them myself …

Finally: On Monday, the PaperMill Playhouse in New Jersey is having a big fundraiser for $1.5 million. Otherwise, it may go out of business. Every major star has appeared there, and the PaperMill’s contribution to American theater is indelible. Call (973) 379-3636 for tickets, or donate online at www.papermill.org.