Leonardo in Love

DiCaprio's Crush | Rich Fundraiser | Brando Book

Leo's in Love — With a Rock Band

"Titanic" actor Leonardo DiCaprio has a new love, and it's not a supermodel.

I'm told that DiCaprio, who may get an Oscar nomination this season with his new film "The Aviator," has become enamored of a rock band. In fact, DiCaprio is such a big fan of a new group called Leroy that he's offered to invest whatever money it takes to put them over the top.

Leroy is the brainchild of bassist Stuart Zender, 28, formerly with the British group Jamiroquai . Zender is married to Melanie Blatt, one of the singers from the British girl group All Saints. They have one child together, a daughter named Lily. (An All Saints song was featured on the soundtrack to Leo's movie "The Beach," which dates back to when all parties met.)

Zender left Jamiroquai, which never quite realized its potential in the U.S. despite superstardom overseas, in 1998. According to his Web site, he went to Costa Rica last year and started putting together Leroy as a cross between The Beatles and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Since then, I'm told, DiCaprio has been fixated on making Leroy a hit. Well, why not? The actor made tens of millions from "Titanic." He might as well spend it on things that make him happy.

Denise Rich: Pardon Her, She Raised $1.4 Million

Most of the time, Lorraine Bracco is Dr. Melfi, mob shrink on "The Sopranos."

But on Saturday night she helped emcee Denise Rich's big fundraiser for cancer research on the latter's splendid Southampton estate. You could hear Bracco's distinctively textured voice all the way over by the fountain in Rich's driveway — and that felt like several acres from the podium.

It was her voice that announced the purchase, by Starkey Laboratories' William Austin, of a rare $350,000 Rolls-Royce for $550,000. You couldn't have missed it if you tried. The Rolls, by the way, comes equipped with a sterling silver-capped umbrella that pops out of its own niche in the side of the rear passenger door.

Bracco, who just bought a house in the Hamptons with her "Sopranos" earnings, was one of several celebrities who helped Rich raise $1.4 million for her G&P Foundation for Cancer Research.

Michael Bolton performed (including his own concept of Puccini's "Nessum Dorma," the Pachelbel's Canon of this generation), ABC's Star Jones buzzed around, singer Ashanti put in an appearance, as did Reverend Al Sharpton (fresh from a photo-op at Hamptons Magazine's party a few miles away in Bridgehampton).

But mostly there were tables and tables of pretty rich people and pretty, rich people who'd forked over a bundle to come be part of Denise's summer Angel Ball. Unlike some of the more notorious Angel Balls of the last few years, there was no Bill Clinton or Michael Jackson.

Denise's pal, Patti LaBelle, couldn't make it because she's touring in Europe. Aretha Franklin, who was supposed to come, had to head back to Detroit pronto, we were told, because there was a flood in the basement of her estate there.

"She has a lot of antiques, you know," said one partygoer confidently.

And yes, among the guests was Denise's summer tenant at the huge property called Swan's Way. Anna Anisimova, a 19-year-old Russian model, was surveying the spread she'd paid $550,000 to rent for July and August.

Of course, this is the "disconnect" in the story, since Anna confirmed for me that her billionaire father, Vasily Anisimov, as previously reported, is in the international aluminum business and is an associate of Denise's ex-husband, fellow international metals (and oil and other commodities) trader Marc Rich.

Vasily Anisimov is so entrenched in the cut-throat metals-trading world that his other daughter, Galina, and her husband were murdered execution-style in 2000 by rivals.

Many have speculated that a connection existed between the Clinton pardon and Denise's contributions to the Democratic party, the Gore 2000 campaign and the Clinton Library in Arkansas. A congressional inquiry by Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana into the pardon promised much but produced little.

Denise has protested loudly over the years that she and her ex-husband have had no contact with each other and that she has nothing to do with him. But you can bet a whole smelter and box of Reynolds Wrap that little Anna the model is not house-sitting by coincidence.

That's what makes the riddle of Denise Rich. She has raised an enormous amount of money for cancer research since the death of her daughter Gabrielle. There is no doubt that her heart is in the right place, or that her intentions in this regard are pure.

Funds donated by G&P and Denise herself have already led to breakthroughs. And Denise is a lot of fun, too, very unpretentious and down-to-earth for a woman worth half a billion dollars.

If only she could really sever the ties between herself and Marc Rich, including playing landlady to the daughter of one of his dangerous associates.

Brando Book, King Arthur's Stand Down

I see my colleague Liz Smith reports that George Englund, long the pal of Marlon Brando, has signed on to write a book about his friend for Harper Entertainment. Englund is the former husband of Emmy- and Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman and director of the 1966 Brando film "The Ugly American."

He had a falling out with Brando when the latter published his own book in 1995. They patched things up to the point where Englund was Brando's last visitor at home before the portly actor was taken to the hospital on July 1.

Englund was grief-stricken when he got the news that Brando was gone, but I guess he pulled himself together long enough to get an agent and a book deal. His take on Brando should be fascinating. ...

Disney's "King Arthur" had a rough weekend. It opened on Wednesday and through yesterday it had taken in $23 million. This movie cost $170 million, including outlays for marketing and promotion!

Meanwhile, the movie Disney rejected, "Fahrenheit 9/11," crossed the $80 million mark yesterday. It's made 8 times what it cost! Hello! "F9/11" is now likely to hit $100 million.

Meantime, "King Arthur" joins "The Alamo," "The Ladykillers," "Around the World in 80 Days" and "Home on the Range" on the scrap heap of Disney's gigantic costly 2004 write-offs. Could those Florida tax breaks for Disney World have been worth all this? ...

Last, there are still some tickets left for Wednesday night's evening with Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson at the Avon Theater in Stamford, Connecticut. "Tin Men" and "Liberty Heights" are on the menu. Call (203) 967-3660 for more information. ...