Mandy Moore | Billy Joel | Denise Brown | Brett Ratner

Mandy Moore: No Pop Tart

Why isn't Mandy Moore more like Lindsay Lohan? They are the same age, have names with double initials and are both actresses. Of course, Mandy is a real singer while Lindsay is singing the blues these days, but still: How did Mandy escape Lindsay's fate?

"I have a great family," she told me the other night after the premiere of her movie, "Dedication."

Justin Theroux directed this indie romantic comedy in which Mandy plays a children's book illustrator with whom Billy Crudup is forced to work after his long-time partner (Tom Wilkinson) kicks the bucket. The film is clever and happy, a real crowd pleaser and maybe the best date movie of the summer.

"My parents live in Orlando, I go to see them as much as I can," Mandy said.

Her hometown is not where she lives —- that would be near Hollywood (California, not Florida). Her brothers, who used to room with her, are down the block. She is a centered girl and no pop tart. When "Dedication" was shown at Sundance, even skeptics were shocked at how good she was in it.

She's also two other things: very tall and a great singer. Why Mandy Moore isn't Kelly Clarkson is anyone's guess, but her new single, "Extraordinary," is a little pop gem. Next week, she starts a national tour with Paula Cole, who has a hit with her own single, "14."

At the "Dedication" party at the Pink Elephant in West No Man's Land, Mandy's co-star Billy Crudup wandered over to say hello.

"What do you do, exactly, on your tour?" he asked.

Mandy offered to let him come along and sing duets, but Crudup, a Tony-winner, declined. Singing is not his forte. Maybe he could do soliloquies instead?

"Oh yeah, 'Macbeth,'" he said.

Billy Joel Likes It 'Hungry and Pissed'

Billy Joel — New York's favorite rocker — looked dapper and proud Tuesday night at the Hudson Hotel. His wife, Katie Lee, was being honored by Jason Binn's magazine galaxy for her cover story in the current issue of Hamptons.

While Katie Lee is planning the publication of her cookbook and a lot of other projects, Billy is still rockin' hard. He starts a tour of the Pacific Northwest at the end of October. And then there was his recent Hamptons gig at which he sang his heart out and did lots of hits. The songs sure hold up.

"Ray Charles once told me you better like what you're recording," he said. "You're going to be singing it the rest of your life."

Billy says that during his punishing two-and-a-half-hour shows, he tends to get very hungry. There's nothing he can do about it.

"I can't eat before a show. So, it's like five hours since I've eaten when I'm stage," he said. "But I think it's good to go a little hungry and a little pissed off. It gives you an edge."

So far, there's no news of a new album, although Billy did release a one-off single last spring, "All My Love," which he wrote for Katie. She says she cried when he played it for her. When I mentioned that it wasn't good for that one song to be out in the world by itself, Billy did reply, "You're right." So maybe one day it will be joined by 11 others. We can only hope.

And, yes: The steak marinade that Katie uses in her book, and which we had last week, was invented by Billy.

"The thing is," he said, "it has to be served cold. And the steak has to be rare. But it is my recipe."

Just so we're square on that.

Denise Brown Hates O.J. for Many Reasons

Denise Brown, sister of Nicole Brown Simpson, is upset that O.J. Simpson's book is coming out.

That's what Denise — equipped with a beautiful new facelift and puffy new lips — said Wednesday on the "Today" show when she debated the book's publisher. (It's really strange. Denise, who never looked like Nicole, now has her high cheekbones.)

Of course, what Denise is really upset about is that the Browns don't get a cut of the book's proceeds; it all goes to the family of Ron Goldman.

Denise did mention on the show that they still have annual vigil for Nicole in Dana Point. And Denise still runs the Nicole Brown Charitable Foundation. The first story I wrote for this column in July 1999 was how Denise drew a salary from the foundation.

Every year since then, Denise has managed to pocket some of the tax-free money donated to the fund. Last year was no different. According to their federal tax filing, Denise got $10,000. It was the largest expense on the foundation's sheet. The second largest was "Auto Expense #8212; $5,100."

The charity is supposed to give money to women's shelters and that kind of thing. But on the same form, they say they gave $1,300 as direct payments to charitable organizations. That's 10 percent of what Denise and her car received. That's pretty much in line with previous years, although as funds have dwindled so has Denise's allocation.

The foundation also says it spent $12,863 on educating the public, through public speaking, on abuse. It's unclear why it cost them money. Shouldn't people have been paying Denise to speak? The group also spent $3,845 on supplies, $2,400 on travel and another $6,824 on a phone bill and $4,000 on rent.

All that to give away just $1,300.

Don't Fret for Brett

It was a little amusing Wednesday, reading about director Brett Ratner's so-called summer of discontent.

The director of "Rush Hour 3" is doing just fine, thanks. "RH3" will turn out to be a winner, with everyone making money. It's already up to $60 million after five days in release.

Ratner also has several projects cooking at three different studios, and one of them — a Hugh Hefner biopic — will probably go before the others. Another, which this column announced, is a black "Ocean's Eleven" sort of deal, in which Chris Tucker, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence would pull off a heist at Trump Tower.

There was an excellent piece about Ratner in Vanity Fair a couple of months ago. Check it out. With all his money, he bought Alan Carr's old estate in Beverly Hills, complete with a working disco. And who did he install in the guest house? His grandparents. He also dates the most beautiful girls anyone's ever laid eyes on.

So, hate him if you must. He's laughing all the way to the bank — and he gets homemade meals, too.