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Britney Spears Aces 'How I Met Your Mother' Cameo

Britney Aces TV Cameo | Joan, Jackie Collins Shop Target | Oscar Wars: Shorten or Change? | Prayers for Paul Newman

Britney Aces TV Cameo

There’s not a lot to say about Britney Spears’ cameo on "How I Met Your Mother" Monday night. She played the receptionist in a dermatologist’s office. She had nice comic timing for her few lines, seemed spunky, alert and with it. Considering the last 18 months of her chaotic life, all of that equals a success.

Her character didn’t appear written especially for her. But Spears’ final scene with Neil Patrick Harris, who plays the show’s lothario, was a good inside joke. Harris’ Barney is trying to lure her up to his apartment to see if his broken bed has been repaired. Britney’s character replies, with chirping enthusiasm, "If it is fixed, can we have sex on it and then go shopping?"

Maybe there’s a future for Britney Spears out there yet.

Joan, Jackie Collins Shop Target

Joan Collins was in New York City Monday night, dining at the Waverly Inn with hubby Percy Gibson and PR maven Peggy Siegal. Joan was on her way from Los Angeles to London, with an eventual stop in Scotland to film a new movie with director Robin Hardy called "Cowboys for Christ." It’s a remake of his 1973 hit, "The Wicker Man."

So what did Joan — who is so completely unlike her "Dynasty" character, the famously bitchy Alexis Carrington — do in L.A.? Why, she and sister Jackie, the best-selling writer, hit neither Gucci nor Prada nor Ferragamo the other morning, but Target. The one on the way to LAX. How do you like that?

"We bought the place out," Joan laughed. "We got in there early and shopped!"

So it’s not true that she and Jackie are always feuding?

"Not at all," she insisted. "It’s just for publicity. We’re the best of friends. We spend all our time together!"

Percy nodded in assent. He’s a calm man, and a brave one. Those Collins sisters are a handful!

Joan told me she still wants to get onto "Desperate Housewives." She loves it. Marc Cherry, are you listening? She has a couple of other favorite shows, too, such as "30 Rock." Tina Fey, that’s your cue.

If you’re interested, and I know you are, Joan is still friends with lots of the "Dynasty" cast. But she really came to the show from movieland, and that’s her world. Last week, she and Percy had dinner at Barbra Streisand’s house.

"She gave me a tour," Joan confided. "It took over two hours. It was amazing. She’s amazing!"

Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter, who owns the Waverly, was very happy to see Joan; they chatted forever. Carter was hosting the New York Times’ Frank Rich and his writer-wife, Alex Witchel. Introductions were made all around, but Witchel did not recall meeting Miss Collins previously.

Alas, Miss Collins remembered it. Witchel profiled her at length in the Times on Feb. 9, 1992. They played Scrabble together. It’s in the Times archives. The first word she put down was "noose." She told Witchel back then: "I know it sounds facile, but I'm a happy person. Why shouldn't I be? I have luck and advantages, the bad things, too…"

I am pleased to report, nothing has changed. All the Hollywood stars of this generation should take a page from a Joan Collins' book. They’d learn a lot.

At the next table: what seemed like a reunion of hip royalty from 150 Wooster, the short-lived hot hot hot restaurant of 1988: Bianca Jagger in sunglasses, a very spindly Calvin Klein and Baby Jane Holzer all dined with lit agent David Kuhn.

I hope they had a drink to Andy, Halston, Truman and Liza. Life has changed, hasn’t it? No more 3 a.m.'s in the Studio 54 basement. Just the Waverly pot pie and home in time to play Scrabble. Maybe.

Outside, the paparazzi were in force, waiting patiently for Joan. One of them was one of those video geeks from TMZ.com. He fished for an embarrassing question. "Do you have any beauty tips?" he yelled as Collins slid into the back of her Mercedes.

"I’ve written three beauty books," Joan Collins replied in a lilting British accent.

Oscar Wars: Shorten or Change?

The low-rated 2008 Oscar telecast has not gone unnoticed in Hollywood. I’m told there have been high-level discussions about what to do about the show next year, from shortening it to two hours to changing the format altogether.

Sources say that ABC is "furious" with what went on this year, that not only were the ratings low, but people were simply not tuning in and out to see what was happening. They just ignored it.

Of course, much of the criticism has been leveled at the kind of movies that were chosen for Oscar nominees. Critics complained that movies like "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country for Old Men" were too narrow, independent films without big stars or big enough audience to deserve an Oscar.

This, I think, is a specious argument. Every year it’s a crap shoot as to which films are finished. You don’t always get a blockbuster or an epic. Sometimes, it’s the little movies that produce the biggest surprises in terms of performance or craft.

Certainly, this year the writers strike made it impossible for Jon Stewart and his staff to prepare for much in advance. Planning for a real Oscar telecast takes months; Stewart’s group had two weeks.

What has to change? Hollywood has gotten to the point where stars don’t show up for premieres unless they’re in the movie being featured. That attitude has trickled up to the Academy Awards. Where are all the big stars on Hollywood’s most prestigious night?

Instead of Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill presenting awards, or Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway promoting "Get Smart," we should have seen the crème de la crème of Hollywood’s upper-tier royalty, as it were: not just Goldie Hawn, Jane Fonda, Clint Eastwood, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Warren Beatty and Barbra Streisand, but the next generation: Brad, Angelina, Leo, Sandra Bullock, Meg Ryan.

Hey, we paid to put these people through this school. Let’s see them at graduation!

Prayers for Paul Newman

There seem to be new rules when it comes to celebrities and illness. Suddenly, if a person is sick, it’s public knowledge. I’m not too comfortable with that, but in the case of Paul Newman, we’re not first to report that apparently something is wrong. Page Six has noted his doctor’s appointments twice already.

Now I’m told by reliable sources that Newman has been back and forth to New York from Westport, Conn., more than a few times, all health-related. The fact is, everyone loves Paul Newman, and our prayers are with him.

Just in case you don’t know, 83-year-old Newman is one of the most charitable people on the planet. His Hole in the Wall Gang Camps for children are fueled by profits from his salad dressing and other products under the Newman’s Own banner.

With net assets of $62 million, the camps serve kids around the world. Last year, the camps spent $6.7 million entertaining and caring for them.

Forget Butch Cassidy or Hud or The Sting — Paul Newman is famous where it really counts. Get well soon, Paul!