It's just a little bright light in Britney Spears' otherwise dim world. Her new album, "Blackout," will finish at No. 1 this week, according to all the chartmakers.
"Blackout" sold between 325,000 and 350,000 copies depending on whom you believe, but it's enough to put Spears ahead of Carrie Underwood — at least this week.
The "Blackout" numbers, though, are severely down from Spears' last release. When "In the Zone" was released in 2003, it sold 609,000 copies in its first week.
Of course, downloading legal and otherwise has eaten into CD sales. So Spears' first week's showing is respectable, even though it's not fantastic by any means.
The embattled pop mom is having more trouble on the radio, which is not playing "Gimme More" much right now. Maybe programmers will be persuaded to spin a second single from "Blackout." We'll see.
"Blackout" remains the No. 1 downloaded album on iTunes and the fifth bestselling CD on Amazon.com. Spears could have a good second week as well, while she awaits the Nov. 13 release of Alicia Keys' anticipated blockbuster, "As I Am." At that point, "Blackout" will likely be over unless a new single captivates radio listeners.
Sunday night, Tom Cruise rewarded high-ranking members of the Church of Scientology with tickets to a private screening of his new movie, "Lions for Lambs."
This is the provocative anti-war movie which he executive-produced for United Artists with partner Paula Wagner.
I rather doubt that director Robert Redford, who's also a co-star, and Cruise's other co-star, Meryl Streep, had any idea that the screening room at the Museum of Modern Art and the cocktail party following was full of Scientologists, including the two big honchos of the New York division.
But others from the standard screening-invite list recognized strangers in their midst. As one inside observer snipped, "Who are all these people?"
While Streep and Redford's guests included family, friends and associates, nearly all of Cruise's retinue came from the Church.
They included Rev. John Carmichael and president of the New York chapter Lori Alpers.
Other Scientologists whom Cruise invited included Jim Woodworth and Carole Hamaker, each of whom have taken extensive classes in the organization. Another couple, Marian and Cal Henry, also have dozens of classes under their belts.
Cruise's other Scientology guests were Randy Hepner, a jet pilot, and John Danielson, partner with former Bush Department of Education Secretary Rod Paige in Chartwell Education.
In 2005, Danielson, according to published reports, tried to push Applied Scholastics, a Scientology education program, in the St. Louis public school system.
Just in case something went wrong, he also invited Scientology's New York lawyer, Eric Lieberman.
Cruise also brought to the screening wife Katie Holmes, her parents and brother, as well his own mother and sister, cousin Amy Mapother, and hot young actor Wes Okerson, whose sole credit, according to the Internet Movie Database, is a small part in a relatively unseen film called "The Grand."
Also invited by Cruise was Las Vegas home builder Ernie Domanico and real estate agent Bob Barnhart. Cruise could very well be buying a home in Sin City or investing in a new development.
All of the Scientologists, said keen-eyed observers at the screening, wore little gold pins in their lapels.
Considering how Cruise's proselytizing about Scientology may have cost him ticket-holders during the promotion for his last movie, "Mission: Impossible 3," it's certainly curious that he risked having so many of his church pals in attendance — especially with United Artists' financial investors from Merrill Lynch and other banks also there.
Even though Cruise has a financial stake in "Lions," he didn't stick around to discuss its merits.
After the movie was over, Cruise and company took off, leaving movie legends Streep and Redford, as well as MGM /UA bigwigs Harry Sloan and Rick Sands, to handle the after-party upstairs in the museum.
Other guests were glum they didn't get to see Cruise and Holmes up close and personal.
But as one insider put it, Holmes, who'd just finished the New York marathon, seemed "robotic." Maybe she was just tired!
It was a much different scene than Saturday night's buoyant "Lions for Lambs" screening hosted by chef Andrew Borrok. That list included Fran Drescher, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Rocco DiSpirito and fashion designer John Varvatos.
Sting and the Police rolled their dice, so to speak, and took a big gamble on playing Atlantic City's landmark Boardwalk Center on Saturday night. But the gamble paid off, as the show sold out and was raved about in the local press on Sunday morning.
Cabbing over from the Trump Taj Mahal, one could see the enormous traffic snarl came from the Police audience. But the 15,000 fans were treated to an old song recently added to the show, "Hole in My Life," as well as some virtuoso singing by Sting on "Walking on the Moon" and "Invisible Sun."
The group did not stick around, but 'coptered right out of A.C. when the show was over. It turns out that Sting is not often seen at the gaming tables.
"You know those chips?" he was overheard saying. "There's a reason they have the casino's name on them and not mine."
Something to think about the next time we're in a casino.
The Police head to Washington, D.C., Monday night, followed by Boston and Toronto before taking a Thanksgiving break.
I'm told a big announcement is expected shortly — not an album of new material, something else — but it's still top secret.
Sunday night's wildly successful Broadway premiere of "Rock 'n' Roll," the new Tom Stoppard play, brought out the stars.
Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer, as well as Lauren Bacall, were among those who came to support Stoppard's second New York hit of 2007.
More importantly, both Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and Lou Reed were there to cheer Stoppard on.
"Rock 'n' Roll" tells Stoppard's semi-autobiographical saga of leaving Czechoslovakia (now split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia) and moving to Britain in the 1960s.
Rufus Sewell, Brian Cox and a mesmerizing Sinead Cusack give Tony Award-level performances that you must see if you love theater.
Imagine: Kevin Kline in "Cyrano" and "Rock 'n' Roll" all in one week, and it's only November! Broadway is hopping!
Michael Patrick King, writer and director of the "Sex and the City" movie, enjoying a rare downtime lunch on Sunday at Nice Matin on the Upper West Side. ...
Roseanne Barr, dining at Fiorello's near Lincoln Center, late Sunday night. ...
Mandy Stein, the brave and outstanding daughter of beloved murdered realtor Linda Stein, running in the New York City marathon. ...