The Continuing Howard Stern Saga

Howard SternDenise RichParamount | Christopher Reeve

Howard Stern Saga: Not Over?

Last week, after Howard Stern shocked everyone by announcing he would jump to Sirius Satellite Radio, it was like an earthquake.

But everyone knows that earthquakes have aftershocks. Stern provided one the next day when he suggested on the air that Viacom might buy Sirius in order to keep him. Could that be?

Over the weekend, I did speak to one Stern insider, who did not discount Stern's proposition. In fact, I would say on the corporate chess board, Sirius made such a good move that Viacom's only response would be to invest in them.

The Stern expert I spoke with was serious when he said it could happen. After all, Clear Channel is a major investor in Sirius's competitor, XM. And Viacom's Infinity Broadcasting depends on Stern. Stay tuned....

Patti LaBelle, Gloria Gaynor: The Wedding Singers

Denise Rich.

You know the name, and of course, this is the time of year when she likes to throw a party. And she did on Saturday night; just 500 of her nearest and dearest to celebrate the August wedding of her youngest daughter Daniella to Brit Richard Kilstock.

Yes, just 500, at the Chelsea Piers banquet hall, which was all done up in white and looked very elegant. Daniella was in white and looking elegant as well, wearing an off-white cocktail dress by Vera Wang.

It was the same dress she wore in August at the actual wedding in Marbella, Spain at the resort owned by her father — formerly infamous former financial fugitive Marc Rich — in front of 40 or so friends and family.

Denise wore a socko Christian LaCroix dress. Her friends came from all parts of the world, but mostly it was a real New York crowd: Lorraine Bracco, Marisa Berenson, Ioann Gruffud (Horatio Hornblower to you), cosmetics titan Peter Thomas Roth, king of the record industry Clive Davis, Ivana Trump with her 33-year-old boy toy, the parents of Paris and Nicky Hilton,  a cameo appearance by Star Jones, "Chicago" producer Marty Richards, Broadway impresario Anita Waxman, movie producer Marty Bregman, Marthe Keller and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" home decorator Thom Filicia.

But did I tell you that no less than Patti LaBelle serenaded the happy couple for their first dance to her hit "Love, Need and Want You"? Or that Gloria Gaynor popped in to sing "I Will Survive" with the disco band that was set up for a mock Studio 54 after-party with not one, but two disco balls?

How do you like that? And that another guest, Miss Natalie Cole, had just arrived from Tokyo the day before?

Of course, my favorite guest was Lois Aldrin, whose husband Buzz was one of the two great astronauts (the other was Neil Armstrong) who were the first humans to walk on the moon in July 1969. How did Lois know Denise?

"I don't know," she said, while the disco band chugged away to Bee Gees hits. "I just do."

Buzz was on his way to give a speech in Johannesburg, so Lois decided to come to the party. Let's say she's a mature woman with great legs who was wearing a Roberto Cavalli dress and a LaCroix necklace. You couldn't beat it.

What does she think of Richard Branson's plan to create commercial space flights?

"Buzz was just with Richard," she said. "He's going to be involved in the project."

But would she, an astronaut's wife, ever be curious to go on up there?

"Not on your life!" she shouted. "I'm happy right here!"

And Denise? The mother of the bride was still going strong around 12:15 a.m. with no sign of letting up on the celebrations.

"We have breakfast coming at two o'clock," she said.

Now that's a mother-in-law who likes having a good time.

Paramount Concern: Upheaval in the Works?

Is Viacom's new chief Tom Freston angling to run the company's Paramount Pictures?

And if he is, what would that mean for the studio's beloved longtime head Sherry Lansing and other Paramount executives and decisions?

The whole saga has been percolating for about 10 days since Freston openly criticized Lansing's latest releases, such as "The Stepford Wives," while speaking at corporate conferences.

He also made some cutting remarks about the Paramount Classics division which left insiders wondering if Freston wanted to scuttle the project, or maybe replace its principals Ruth Vitale and David Dinerstein.

All this came just as Lansing had a classy hit with "The Manchurian Candidate" and was expecting a bonanza with "Team America: World Police."

Vitale and Dinerstein are just about to release "Fade to Black," a concert rap film starring Jay-Z, and have had a profitable year with other releases. Considering that Paramount Classics only has $25 million to play with — about half of what one regular Hollywood film costs to make — it's amazing that they've done so well.

Ignoring that relatively minuscule budget, Freston compared the Classics to Fox Searchlight or Universal Focus, both of which dwarf Vitale's division.

So far Paramount Classics has released a little less than 50 films over five years, including the indie classics "You Can Count on Me" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," as well as the current films "Mean Creek," "Enduring Love" and "The Machinist."

"They've never lost money," says a Paramount insider. "But they've never been given the resources to compete with other studio's similar divisions."

What would really be galling, many point out, is that rival Warner Bros. is not just rolling with its own classics division, headed by Mark Gill. Now would not be the time to start damaging the foundation Vitale and Dinerstein have already built.

As for Paramount itself, it's hard to imagine Viacom's Sumner Redstone wanting Freston — whose real experience comes from running MTV — to replace Lansing. Earlier this year, Paramount got rid of the person thought to be Lansing's biggest headache, Jonathan Dolgen.

The studio should have a gigantic hit in "Team America," which will be followed by two highly anticipated releases: "Alfie," starring Jude Law, and the Lemony Snicket flick "A Series of Unfortunate Events," with Jim Carrey, which is destined to be a franchise like "Harry Potter." Lansing, whose greatest successes include "Forrest Gump" and "Titanic," should be safe when the latter comes out.

Christopher Reeve: A Real Superman

The first time Christopher Reeve appeared in public after his 1995 accident and recovery was at a big black-tie dinner for the Creative Coalition.

Chris had been very involved with the actors' non-partisan group when it began, so it was an extra-special event.

I do remember that no one knew what to expect, and there was a sense of anticipation and nerves. I was sitting at the table right against the stage, a spot where you could hear Reeve's complicated breathing apparatus from behind the curtain. What shape would he be in when he appeared, we wondered?

And then his motorized wheelchair brought him out to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

He made a speech, the first of many I would hear him give over the last several years, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Christopher Reeve was determined, we learned that night, not to fade away.

Over the years since a 1995 horseback riding accent left him a paraplegic, I had the good fortune to meet Chris and Dana Reeve on many occasions. As time went on, and Chris's breathing became remarkably better, it was almost amazing how much traveling he was able to accomplish — more than most well people.

To say he was a role model, a standard-bearer or a hero is a vast understatement. Just think of his accomplishments since the accident (never mind his huge career that preceded it): He directed two TV movies and acted in a third. He wrote a bestselling memoir. And he became a beacon for other paraplegics, giving them hope where there had been none.

At the annual Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation dinner, the room was always filled with friends and admirers in wheelchairs, all of whom looked to Chris as their personal Superman.

He told me at the Tony Awards in June 2003, when we ran into each other backstage, that he wrote or called at least four people a week who had been in paralyzing accidents to give them courage and support.

"And I can give them so much encouragement," he said. "When I had my accident, there was no one and nothing. Stem cells," he predicted then, wisely, "are going to be the next big debate."

You're going to read a lot in the next few days about Reeve's friends and family, the people who took care of him.

If there was any one more super than even Chris, it was his wife Dana. Has there ever been a wife so devoted or loving?

Chris's older son, Matthew — whose college roommate Dhani, son of Beatle George Harrison, suffered his own father's bizarre near-murder by an attacker and then his demise from cancer — has always been at his side.

Former HBO chief Michael Fuchs was always there with private planes and health care. Reeve's buddies from his days in acting school, Robin Williams and Kevin Kline, as well as Glenn Close and countless others, rarely missed an opportunity to be with him or to be supportive.

So were Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, both of whom with Chris shared a birthday and, in some years, a party.

Of course, the saddest part of Chris's death comes in that he had made so much progress. He was determined to breathe off his tube, and had advanced to the point where his public speaking was unaffected by his ailments.

His sense of humor was constant. At another Creative Coalition event, in 2001, Reeve was supposed to introduce Playboy publisher Christie Hefner. But she was detained in traffic, leaving Reeve — who'd been wheeled on stage — out on a limb and determined not to be stared at.

"I could just filibuster," he quipped to the star-studded crowd, "or take the highest bid to get me off stage. Fifty cents?"

Well, no one ever wanted Christopher Reeve off that stage. He will be sorely missed.