Britney | Sting | Springsteen | Well Wishes

Britney: Scandal Kills Radio Play

Britney Spears has lost custody of her kids and of the radio.

Spears’ ongoing scandal over her children, drug use and other tabloid matters is serious enough. But it’s finally affecting her questionable career as well.

According to Radio and Records, the service that monitors radio play of current releases, Spears’ current hit, “Gimme More” is getting less play than it should.

For the week ending Friday, Radio and Records shows “Gimme More” stuck at No. 18 for the second week in a row on its Top 40 playlist.

The only other place “Gimme More” turns up is at what is euphemistically called Rhythmic Radio. That’s code for dance or disco stations. “Gimme More” is ranked at No. 39 out of 40.

I told you last week that I’d heard other tracks from Spears’s forthcoming album and that they were all quite catchy, ready-to-roll hits. Since then, “Gimme More” has remained the No. 1 downloaded hit on iTunes. The song is not listed at all on Amazon.com’s new download service, however.

But radio is where Spears has to be a presence, and it seems as though that is not happening. “Gimme More” may have just been made available for sale, but on radio it’s already four weeks old.

The record’s opening admonition: “It’s Britney, bitch,” sounded cocky and fun a month ago, but now that Spears’ entire life has fallen apart, the whole idea may be causing winces instead of knowing clucks.

And that poses the ever-bigger problem: What can Jive Records do about the album that’s supposed to hit stores on Nov. 13? Now that she’s lost custody of her toddler sons, the last thing Spears needs is a series of sexy or risqué videos to promote the album.

But without videos, the still-untitled album has no marketing tools. Without a doubt, Spears can’t go out and give interviews to support the album.

And every lyric — even though she doesn’t write her own lyrics — will be scrutinized. Fans and critics will pore over every word of every song to find meaning or references to her last few disastrous months.

One possibility for Jive is to hold back the album’s release until next spring, with the hope that Spears’ fortunes improve. But that would involve her having a manager or an entertainment lawyer who could guide her now, and for Spears to listen to those people.

But currently, Spears has no actual team to represent her with Jive, and the record company is determined to plow ahead with the Nov. 13 release.

That decision could cost Spears what’s left of her career, however. Jive, which is part of Sony BMG, faces an uphill battle on that release date when rival releases by Alicia Keys and Celine Dion — each also part of the Sony BMG family — will get huge promo pushes of their own.

Sting's Birthday Present: French Knighthood

Sting celebrated his 56th birthday — we should all look so good — three times this week.

On Tuesday night, the Police gave him a party after their sold-out show in Turin, Italy. On Wednesday, Kanye West and his girlfriend Alexis Phifer joined Sting and wife Trudie Styler for lunch at the magnificent Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Market restaurant off the Champs-Élysées.

West is in town for Fashion Week with an eye toward following Sean Combs and other rappers into the designer field. West will be all set for this new role, too. Sources say one way the fastidious dresser keeps his cool on the road while touring is by ironing his own shirts.

But much of the talk at lunch was about the Police receiving France’s knighthood for Arts and Letters — the Chevalier.

The three members of the group – meaning Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland — and their wives pedaled bicycles to the ceremony, causing a paparazzi frenzy.

The two Police shows in Paris last week were also sold out. The band picks up its international tour Thursday night in Dublin.

Oh — and the third birthday celebration?

“That’s private,” Styler said with a wink as they exited Market. She also gave the rocker a beautiful, buttery, black leather jacket from Hermès.

Bruce From the Beginning

There once was a record business, you know.

Steve Popovich, who’s been in a long legal battle with his former employer, Sony/Columbia, over Meat Loaf — which he originally cooked — was there when things were hopping.

He sent me an e-mail the other day after Bruce Springsteen’s triumphant performance on the "Today" show.

“The first albums on Columbia worked by my staff and I are still killer over 30 years later," he writes. "Steve Van Zandt produced 'Southside' and I signed them at epic. ... the E Street band were on my first single on Cleveland International by Ronnie Spector, 'Say Goodbye to Hollywood.' …

"E Street members played on 'Bat Out of Hell' and albums by Jim Steinman, Ellen Foley, Ian Hunter’s classic 'You’re Never Alone' and Iron City Houserockers. ... ’77 to ‘80 they were sort of my house band. ...

"I’m proud of the fact that from ‘74 to ‘77 my staff and I signed Michael and the Jacksons, Joe Tex, Southside, Boston, Jaco Pastorius, Cheap Trick, Engelbert, Tom Jones, Wild Cherry, all of whom continue to generate millions. ...

"At 26 I was the first VP at Columbia during the Clive years: Earth, Wind and Fire, Chicago, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Dylan, Boz Scaggs, Johnny Cash, etc. We were the music people!!!!!”

You can read all about Steve’s amusing adventures in the vinyl trade on his blog at www.oneamericanagainstsonymusic.com.

Get-Well Wishes

The word is that director-producer-actor Sydney Pollack — whose credits include many collaborations with Robert Redford including "Out of Africa" — needs some get-well wishes and good thoughts.

The multi-talented Hollywood favorite, who flies his own plane and is a gourmet cook, can be seen on screen right now in “Michael Clayton.” He’s terrific as usual.

Sydney is currently producing a bunch of new films right now, too, with partner Anthony Minghella.

Sydney is one of Hollywood’s good guys — actually beloved in a town of snakes and sharks.

A couple of years ago, I had the great opportunity to share a dinner table with him and Regis and Joy Philbin at a Peggy Siegal event. We didn’t want the stories to end!

And P.S., get a copy of Sydney’s documentary, “Sketches of Frank Gehry,” his excellent film about the brilliant architect. …