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The Downward Spiral

Fallen Powers

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* Director Lawrence Kasdan, 45, fell off his high horse with the turgid three-hour flop Wyatt Earp. Audiences weren’t the only ones to neigh: Screenwriter Dan Gordon loudly and publicly complained that Kasdan’s rewrites destroyed his and star Kevin Costner’s original concept.

* It used to be the literary must-read, but publishing insiders are grumbling that the New York Times Book Review is in bad need of an overhaul. The critics’ consensus: Too many knee-jerkishly PC pieces, fuddy-duddy presentation, and too much puffy praise for books by Times staffers.

* As last leading light Phil Hartman staggered out the door, Lorne MichaelsSaturday Night Live opened its 20th season to brutally negative reviews. Meanwhile, the Lassie update by the 49-year-old producer (below) had a ”ruff” time finding an audience, and if anyone is pumped for that long-threatened Hans and Franz Go to Hollywood flick, we’re sure Michaels would like to meet them.

* Hollywood may be in a tizzy over the upcoming movie version of his megaselling first novel, The Bridges of Madison County, but others aren’t nearly as enchanted. Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend, the sophomore effort by Robert James Waller, 53, couldn’t measure up to its predecessor; his folk album was widely ridiculed; and his third book, Border Music — due for release in February — could cement his status as a one-superbook wonder.

* Troubled Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose , 32, may have played out his welcome as rock’s reigning nutcase: Abuse lawsuits have been filed by his former wife, Erin Everly, and by an ex-girlfriend, supermodel Stephanie Seymour. Rumors of a Guns N’ Roses split abound, even as the group is at work on a new album. Meanwhile, guitarist Slash played a stint with Paul Shaffer on Letterman. What’s next, Vegas?

* Months of speculation ended in September when Peter Guber, 52, stepped down after five years as Sony Pictures’ free-spending CEO. ”Managing … became less and less appealing” was his version. Sony may have found Guber less appealing after box office losers like Last Action Hero, but it’s giving him a Sony-funded multimedia company-how else to justify his reported $40 million golden handshake?

* Maybe creators Sheryl Leach and Richard Leach landed at No. 3 on Forbes‘ top 40 list of entertainment moneymakers, but this year, Barney looks like he’s finally bound for La Brea: One licensing company estimates that sales of Purple One merchandise have dropped 50 percent.