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A Civil Action

Leonardo DiCaprio is sued for ordering an assault; ABC’s Monica Lewinsky interview pulls in more than 48 million viewers; David Spade gets a white-trash deal

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LEGAL BRIEFS Leo DiCaprio needs a lawyer. DiCaprio and four members of his entourage have been charged in a civil suit for allegedly inciting an assault on actor Roger Wilson, who’s asking for $45 million in damages. Wilson, who has appeared in a handful of movies (including ”Porky’s” and ”Porky’s II”), claims that exactly one year ago today, DiCaprio and friends followed him outside the trendy Manhattan restaurant Asia de Cuba, where DiCaprio ordered a pal to attack Wilson. Reportedly, the physical assault (a ”blindside blow to his throat”) occurred because Wilson had asked one of Leo’s buddies to stop calling Wilson’s live-in girlfriend, actress Elizabeth Berkley (”Showgirls”). Wilson claims he could not take a movie assignment as a result of his injuries. DiCaprio denies taking part in any assault….

Coolio pleaded no contest yesterday to a felony charge of carrying a concealed weapon. As part of his sentence, the Grammy-winning rapper could be forced to watch a full-day of autopsies for having a semiautomatic pistol in his car. Coolio admitted to possessing the pistol and ammunition when he was arrested last Sept. 16 for driving on the wrong side of the road. Prosecutors say the singer was also driving with an expired California license and carrying a bag of marijuana. Sentencing is scheduled for April 9. On the upside, Coolio has two potential TV gigs in the works: a collaboration with longtime friend Ed McMahon as cohost of a new ”Star Search,” which is shopping for a network, and a ”Malcolm & Eddie” spin-off for the UPN….

A Princeton University music historian, Peter Jeffery, is suing the Smashing Pumpkins for damaging his hearing. Professor Jeffery claims that after attending the Pumpkins’ New Haven concert (his first live rock concert) with his son on Jan. 25, 1997, he experienced hearing loss in his left ear and ringing in both ears, despite wearing earplugs for the event. Jeffery claims that Billy Corgan and crew should have known that the music exceeded a safe decibel level and seeks $15,000 in damages.

TV NEWS Monica Lewinsky‘s weepy confessonal session with ABC’s Barbara Walters was watched by 48.5 million viewers, according to preliminary estimates by Nielsen Media Research. This is the second-highest rating for any show this year (behind January’s Superbowl). Considering that ABC was selling ad time for the ”20/20” special for as much as $800,000 per commerical, it looks like the advertisers got their money’s worth…. NBC is moving its freshman comedy ”Will and Grace” from the Tuesday 9:30 p.m. slot to the coveted post-”Friends” Thursday 8:30 p.m. slot effective April 8. This will be the second move for the show this season. (It launched on Monday nights.) ”Jessie,” which is the highest-rated new comedy this season and currently resides behind ”Friends” will finish its run on April 1. NBC will replace ”Will and Grace” on Tuesdays with the new mid-season series ”Everything’s Relative,” which stars ”Larry Sanders” alum Jeffrey Tambor.

REEL DEALS Soon after finalizing a deal with NBC for an animated show, David Spade has reportedly secured a deal with Warner Bros. to cowrite and star in the comedy ”The Adventures of Joe Dirt,” a movie about a white-trash adoptee looking for his natural parents…. Warner Bros. is also developing a film version of the 1960s sitcom ”Family Affair,” the sappy show about a bachelor Manhattan engineer (with a manservant to boot) raising his orphaned nephew and nieces. Original series creators Sid and Marty Krofft have teamed up with John Hughes as producers and Howard Deutch (”Pretty in Pink”) as director. No word yet on who will play Uncle Bill (played by Brian Keith on the TV series) and family.

APOLOGY MONITOR Remorseful morning-radio host Doug ”Greaseman” Tracht, who was recently fired for making on-air racist remarks about the brutal dragging death of James Byrd Jr., announced yesterday that he’s willing to fly to Jasper, Texas, to apologize to the Byrd family. ”Not even a big mouth like me can explain my own mindless stupidity,” said the Washington-state DJ at a news conference. Tracht has reportedly sent his apologies to Grammy winner Lauryn Hill, whose music had prefaced Tracht’s comments.