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Jim Carrey stages an Andy Kaufman-ish hoax

Plus, Jennifer Lopez, Backstreet Boys, Pedro Almodovar, Ralph Fiennes, Goldberg, and more

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Jim Carrey, The Man in the Moon

THE HYPE BEGINS The publicity for the Andy Kaufman biopic ”The Man on the Moon” (opening Dec. 22) began in the tradition of true Kaufman hoaxes. Jim Carrey was speaking at a Los Angeles press conference on Saturday when suddenly the boorish lounge singer Tony Clifton (Kaufman’s alter ego) barged in, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Whomever was playing Clifton this time (most likely Kaufman’s longtime writer, Bob Zmuda, who occasionally portrayed Clifton when Kaufman was alive) loudly protested that he (Clifton) should be considered for an Oscar. He then spray-painted the words ”Man on the Moon” on the hotel’s double doors behind Carrey, and for his grand finale, pulled out a fake phallus. Carrey then began grappling with Clifton, dumping iced tea over him.

INSURED Jennifer Lopez has insured her most precious asset — her own body — for $1 billion, according to the British tabloid the Sun. The paper says her agents at ICM recommended the policy, which may be the highest premium ever taken out by a celebrity. But don’t get your hopes up: You’re lucky to get $75.43 if anything happens to YOUR butt.

CHARITABLE SNAFU A problem has arisen with the Backstreet Boys‘ honorable plan to force the House of Blues to pay $75,000 to the Columbine College Fund after the House leaked some tickets to a Denver concert to scalpers: The charity was in the process of being shut down, having only raised $800 since it was started. The House says it is looking for another charity to make good with.

AWARDED Pedro Almodovar‘s ”All About My Mother” dominated the European Film Awards on Saturday, winning Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress (Cecilia Roth). Also taking home awards at the Berlin ceremony were Ralph Fiennes for his acting work in the Hungarian film ”Sunshine,” Wim Wenders for his documentary ”Buena Vista Social Club,” and David Lynch for directing ”The Straight Story.” Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones both won People’s Choice honors for Best European Actor and Actress for ”Entrapment,” making one think that perhaps the subtitlers translated it into a better movie abroad.

BOOK DEAL F. Scott Fitzgerald, you call that writing? Hey, Jane Austen, you’re gonna wish you never put pen to paper! That’s right, there’s a new champ in the literary world, and it’s Jewish wrestler Goldberg. He just signed a six-figure deal with Crown Books to write his autobiography, which should be out by Christmas 2000, no doubt printed in some sort of ass-kicking font.

OBITUARY Just a month after she publicly announced that she had ovarian cancer, Madeline Kahn succumbed to the disease at the age of 57. Kahn most recently starred in the sitcom “Cosby,” but was most warmly remembered for her collaborations with Mel Brooks: “Young Frankenstein,” “History of the World, Part I,” “High Anxiety,” and “Blazing Saddles,” for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1975. She was also nominated in 1974 for her work in “Paper Moon.”

REEL DEALS Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich”) is creating a new series called “Jack Ass” for MTV, according to Variety. MTV wouldn’t comment on the premise of the show, but with that title, it could have something to do with “The Real World”…. Universal has signed actor-turned-filmmaker Peter Berg (“Very Bad Things”) to write and direct the imaginatively titled “Hostage Rescue,” based around the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team.

CASTING Brad Rowe (“Wasteland”) has joined the cast of NBC’s miniseries “The ’70s” (the inevitable sequel to “The ’60s”), playing one of four students who meet at Kent State University.

LAWSUIT Country star Mickey Gilley has been sued for sexual harassment by a woman whose cleaning service took care of his Branson theater since 1992. Connie Sue Smith says she was fired after complaining that the singer had “continuously and consistently made sexual comments and remarks” to her and often touched her “in a sexually offensive and improper manner,” according to the Associated Press. Gilley denies the charges and says that he let Smith’s company go because she was making unauthorized phone calls from his theater. “In my nearly 30 years as an entertainer,” he said, “I have never ever had anyone suggest that I would ever engage in this kind of behavior.”

BUSTED Andrew Pargh — who appears regularly on “Today” as “The Gadget Guru” — was arrested Saturday morning near Miami Beach and charged with cocaine trafficking, according to the Associated Press. Pargh, 45, was released on $50,000 bond. Makes you wonder what kind of gadgets he wasn’t showing Matt and Katie.

ONE MORE TIME! If you’re still mourning the defeat of “The Tick” — Fox Kids’ Network’s 1995 animated anti-superhero series — then take heart: The Tick shall fight crime again. Barry Sonnenfeld (“Men in Black”) is developing a pilot for a half-hour live-action version of the show for Fox.