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The Case of Kathie Lee Gifford's Missing Wedding Ring

Kathie Lee's Missing Wedding Ring | Grammys Snub Boss, Beatle | Jacko Land Default | Sidney Lumet Snubbed

The Case of Kathie Lee's Missing Wedding Ring

Kathie Lee Gifford had lunch on Wednesday with a hunky younger guy, the biggest Mexican movie star right now, and she wasn’t wearing her big diamond wedding ring from football great Frank Gifford.

The scandalous lunch took place at Michael’s, the East 55th Street lunch hotspot in New York for media types. The Mexican heartthrob was Eduardo Verastegui, star of the surprise fall hit, "Bella," which won the 2006 Toronto Film Festival audience prize, languished and is now a success in limited release from little Roadside Attractions. He’s 33. She’s a hot 50-something "cougar."

While the pair carried on, laughing and imbibing, the rest of Michael’s was full of A-list witnesses.

Just behind them in the window seat, Harvey Weinstein entertained "Control" star Sam Riley with a group of journalists. Anderson Cooper was having an animated lunch in the front corner with a guy who looked like he might be a CNN cameraman, while "Men’s Health" editor Dave Zinczenko ate with bon vivant Joe Armstrong. Actress Natasha Richardson was in the main aisle, and a group of women — including realtor Dolly Lenz — were offering fun recollections of the late, great Linda Stein.

But it was Gifford who got the most attention, sitting front and center with Verastegui. Turns out she’s a big fan of "Bella" and its star and has even been calling talk shows to help book him and get some publicity.

And why not? "Bella" is hot, as things have happened. Made for $33 million, it’s already taken in double that at 435 theaters. "Bella," which this reporter extolled at that Toronto Film Fest, may be the most profitable film of 2007.

So what’s the story with Gifford's wedding ring? "I knew you’d ask," she said. "I broke my finger, and now the ring is being re-sized. That’s all, trust me."

And what’s the story with Mr. Mexican movie star?

"We met through friends at a party up in Greenwich, and we — my entire family — invited him to stay with us." That’s right, Verastegui has been lodging with the Giffords — Frank, Cody (now 17, believe it or not) and Cassidy because they … like him.

"Cody wants to be a film major," Gifford told me, "so having Eduardo there has been amazing for him. He’s learning a lot."

Seriously, the Giffords simply fell in love with "Bella" I think even more than with the actor. I’m not surprised. The only thing is, in the real world when we really like a film, we don’t get to keep the actors!

Grammys Snub Boss, Beatle for Scandal Magnets

The 2008 Grammy nominees have been announced, and they are an embarrassment.

Neither Bruce Springsteen’s “Magic” nor Paul McCartney’s “Memory Almost Full” was nominated for Best Album. They were the best reviewed CDs of the year, and easily the most important.

Instead, a Grammy committee picked albums by Amy Winehouse, a drug-addicted wreck who makes tabloid headlines by the hour, and Kanye West, a charismatic fellow who strings together other people’s work to make albums.

Also snubbed was Alicia Keys, whose “No One” was eligible for Best Song and Best Record. The record has been No. 1 for weeks, and comes from a huge-selling current album. This was a big mistake.

Instead, the Best Song category has been completely devalued. It’s a little unclear, for example, who would pick up the award for Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” which was “written” by Jay-Z. According to reports, the beat from "Umbrella" is called Vintage Funk Kit 03, and is a loop taken from Apple's GarageBand, a musical production application. Whatever that is.

According to Wikipedia, for example, Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” is a Stargate production, “using acoustic guitar parts made by Espen Lind and Amund Bjørklund, and then making it into a full track with drums, bass, and strings. Ne-Yo wrote the lyrics to the song and added some harmonies. Beyonce came up with the refrain ("To the left, to the left..."), as well as the melody.”

That should be interesting, too.

The Grammy nominations were also a miracle of prescience. On the dais and presenting the awards were the Foo Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift and Vince Gill — of whom were nominated!

The funniest part of the presentation was the Foo Fighters trying to make the Best New Artist announcement. Like just about everyone, they hadn’t heard of either Ledesi (actually an inspired choice for a total unknown) or Paramore. The latter, by the way, released an album in July 2005, which means they are certainly not a “new” artist by Grammy rules. But by this point, such a distinction probably doesn’t matter.

Jacko Land Default: New Problem

We all know because it was reported first here exclusively on Oct. 26: Michael Jackson is in default on a $23 million loan secured by his Neverland Ranch. He will go into foreclosure on or around Jan. 19 if he doesn’t pay the full amount of the loan to New York’s Fortress Investments, the first publicly traded hedge fund.

So far, no payments have been made and Jackson remains in default.

Now, according to the Los Angeles County Treasurer and Tax Collector, there’s more trouble. Jackson is in tax default on his parents’ home in Encino, Calif. The house was on the county’s defaulted tax roll as of Wednesday.

If someone doesn’t pay the county $16,293.10 by this Monday, there’s going to be trouble with the county. Jackson has a $4 million mortgage on the property where his parents and various family members alight from time to time.

How is it these embarrassing episodes continue to pile up? Jackson is represented in financial matters by Venable LLP, the Washington, D.C., white-shoe law firm headed by Benjamin Civiletti. You’d think by now they would have convinced him to sell his remaining stake in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, erase debts totaling around $340 million, establish a home for his children and return to work.

Sidney Lumet Snubbed by National Board

So, the National Board of Review has issued its annual awards.

The fee-based ($650) fan group gave everyone and anyone it could think of some love, starting, improbably, with George Clooney as Best Actor for "Michael Clayton."

It’s not that Clooney didn’t do very good work in "Michael Clayton." But even he, a practical man, knows that three other lead actors are odds-on favorites this year: Johnny Depp for "Sweeney Todd," Daniel Day-Lewis for "There Will Be Blood," and Philip Seymour Hoffman for three movies: "The Savages," "Charlie Wilson’s War" and "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead."

But the NBR loves Warner Bros. movies, so Clooney and "Michael Clayton" were a must. On the upside, they love Warner Bros. so much that they did something of which I approve: They gave a nod to Casey Affleck for "The Assassination of Jesse James." Sometimes you gotta get it wrong to get it right.

Unfortunately, their love for Warner also meant choosing Rob Reiner’s piece of treacle, "The Bucket List," over hometown hero Sidney Lumet and "Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead" on their list of top-10 films.

The Coen’s "No Country for Old Men" won for Best Picture and Best Ensemble, just to ensure that everyone from that film will come to their dinner. The awards, you know, are all about that annual soiree.

The Lumet film, in fact, got nothing from the NBR. It’s the most egregious error the group has made in some time and surely has something to do with the absence from their junta of actual film critic Annette Insdorf. I told you on Wednesday she was ousted from the Exceptional Photoplay Committee, a small group that picks the awards.

If Insdorf were still around, I highly doubt "The Bourne Ultimatum," "Jesse James" or "The Kite Runner" would have made their so-called top-10 following "No Country."

Also missing, along with "Devil," are Todd Haynes’ "I’m Not There," Adam Shankman’s "Hairspray" and Michael Moore’s documentary "Sicko."

Just to show you how completely arbitrary all this is and why it’s just about spreading awards among studios to guarantee attendance: Ben Affleck won Breakthrough Director for his "Gone Baby Gone" and Amy Ryan got Best Supporting Actress for the same movie, but the film itself is not on the list of Best Films. Huh?

Also: Already getting tongues wagging is the group’s choices for 10 Best Independent Films. They include four choices from Fox Searchlight, one from Warner and one from Paramount. Only in this bizarre world would those films be thought of as "independent."

I’ve oft criticized the NBR and this year is no exception. I think they simply don’t realize how important it is, if they’re going to do this annually, not to make mistakes. For president Annie Schulhof, especially, true respectability is not going to come until the group cleans up its act and takes itself seriously.