Alec Michael/Globe Photos
April 17, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

DISSED Grammy-winning hip hop star Eminem, who on May 23 will release a follow-up to his triple platinum debut ”The Slim Shady LP” entitled ”The Marshall Mathers LP,” tells Britain’s New Musical Express: ”You can only rhyme f—in’ ‘fire’ and ‘desire’ and ‘heart’ and ‘fall apart’ so many times, and I’m sick of hearin’ it. And if I lose my fans ’cause they find out Eminem doesn’t like ‘N Sync, I don’t give a f—. F— ‘N Sync, f— Backstreet Boys, f— Britney Spears, f— Christina Aquilera, f— all that bullshit.” And it’s not the first time Eminem has dissed fellow Grammy winner Aguilera — the lyrics of the rapper’s new single, ”The Real Slim Shady” (to be released to radio on Friday) reportedly contain a graphic description of her performing a sex act. Aguilera told MTV News the alleged lyrics are ”disgusting and offensive.”

LEGAL BRIEFS Hawaiian prosecutors decided on Friday not to press charges against Whitney Houston, who in January was allegedly found with 15.2 grams of marijuana in her purse at a Hawaiian airport…. Sean ”Puffy” Combs denounced a story from Friday’s New York Post which claimed the hip-hop mogul was the target of a new grand jury investigation for alleged witness tampering and perjury associated with charges stemming from the shooting incident at Club New York in December. In a statement, Puffy says: ”I am outraged by the New York Post’s story. My attorney Ben Brafman confirmed again today with the lead prosecutor in the case that I am absolutely not a target of any further grand jury investigation… I am not guilty of any crime”…. Echoing these sentiments in an Atlanta courtroom was rapper and FOM (friend o’ Mariah) Da Brat, who on Thursday learned that there was enough probable cause for her felony count of aggravated battery (for her alleged role in a nightclub altercation) to be reviewed by a higher court. In an eloquent display of legalese, Da Brat asserted to the press that she was ”innocent, baby, all the way.”

CASTING NEWS Fresh from his bad guy turn in ”Battlefield Earth” John Travolta is set to play a badass in director Dominic Sena’s ”Swordfish.” In the film, produced by Joel Silver (”The Matrix”), Travolta is a superspy hired for a big-money top-secret mission by the CIA…. Silver is also rumored to have nabbed action star Jet Li for the two ”Matrix” sequels and is producing a new vehicle for Li called ”The King,” which is described as an action-packed marriage of ”Indiana Jones” and ”The Mummy.” And who said a film about an intergenerational gay couple couldn’t get greenlit in Tinseltown?

REEL DEALS Disney has snapped up the rights to horrormeister Clive Barker‘s upcoming series of fantasy/adventure novels collectively called ”The Abaret Quartet.” Barker will get a $4 million advance against nearly $8 million for merchandising and ancillary rights. And the books, which tell the story of a 16-year-old girl who crosses the boundary between Earth and another dimension, will begin hitting bookstores in Fall 2001…. Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water or even consider seeing a movie with the word ”water” in the title, Variety reports that ”Waterworld” collaborators Kevin Costner and director Kevin Reynolds may reteam for ”Okracoke,” the story of a naval captain who hunts down the notorious pirate Blackbeard on a waterway near South Carolina. The budget is set for $80 million. Yeah, right!

PROBABLE STRIKE Yesterday the Eastern Section of the Joint National Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) voted to strike against the TV and radio advertising industry starting May 1. (The strike won’t be final until the Western Section of the Joint Board votes Tuesday night but is expected to pass.) At issue for the strikers is whether actors in network commercials will get paid each time a commercial is aired or receive a flat fee, which is what the industry is proposing. On the plus side, the strike could ring the death knell for all those garish ”West Side Story”-themed Gap ads. Then again, it could mean we’ll be seeing a lot more spots featuring the Taco Bell Chihuahua.

HOLLYWOOD HAND-ME-DOWNS On May 24 the old-fashioned (i.e., not online) auction house Christie’s will sell off such Hollywood memorabilia as a pair of Judy Garland‘s size 6B ruby slippers from ”The Wizard of Oz”; ”Oz”’s Cowardly Lion costume; a Rolls Royce from ”Goldfinger”; and Christopher Reeve‘s ”Superman” capes and body stockings.

OBITUARY Illustrator Edward Gorey, who was perhaps best known for his drawings featured in the credits of the PBS ”Mystery” series, died Saturday at age 75. For more on Gorey’s work, see Goreyography or his Bibliography site.

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