OBIT ”The Soprano”’s Nancy Marchand died of lung cancer in Connecticut on Sunday, the day before her 72nd birthday. The actress will be remembered best for her roles as the Machiavellian matriarch Livia Soprano and as the regal newspaper publisher Mrs. Pynchon on the comedy ”Lou Grant.” She won four consecutive Emmys — 1979 to 1982 — while on ”Lou Grant” and an Emmy nomination for her work on ”The Sopranos.” Marchand continued working on the HBO series even after she was diagnosed with cancer.
COURTS Robert Wagner is suing Aaron Spelling Productions for allegedly cheating him out of profits from ”Beverly Hills, 90210.” Wagner says he should receive dough from the exceedingly successful show as part of a legal settlement reached long ago between Spelling and Fox. Spelling threatened to sue the network in 1990 over the cancellation of ”Angels 88,” a never produced series Wagner helped create. Back in 1973 Wagner and his wife Natalie Wood made a deal with the TV tycoon that they would submit pilot ideas — such as ”Charlie’s Angels” — to Spelling for an equal share of the profits — regardless of whether the shows went into production. Wagner believes he is due a cut of the ”90210” profits because Fox’s agreement with Spelling included the right to produce the series in exchange for canceling ”Angels 88.” Maybe he should put Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore on the case.
MONKEY BUSINESS It looks like legal tangles have silenced Mike Myers’ ”Dieter.” Universal Pictures ended preproduction of the SNL spin-off and sacked 25 people involved in the early stages of making the film. Hope that doesn’t mean they’re turning to the Spartan Cheerleaders for inspiration.
SURVIVOR CBS.com has hired 11 Web staffers to keep up with the intense traffic on its ”Survivor” companion site. The Web page apparently received a record 150,000 hits on Wednesday, most of them shortly after San Francisco attorney Stacy Stillman was voted off the show…. Meanwhile, the Eye network may add another 30 to 60 minutes to its final installment of the series, according to the Hollywood Reporter. This means viewers can eagerly anticipate a lot of very expensive advertising in the ”Survivor” finale.
FASHION CRIME Labor activists are accusing Regis Philbin of attaching his name to line of clothing that has a history of abusing workers in foreign factory sites. Members of the garment workers union demonstrated at a New York department store next to a display of the $77.50 cotton shirt and satin tie marketed as ”Regis by the Van Heusen Company.” Last year, Philips-Van Heusen was named in a class action lawsuit claiming that its laborers on the Pacific island of Saipan toiled in sweatshops. The company (which has declined to comment about the current situation) then promised to fund an independent monitoring company.
LEGALESE The legendary early 1960s girl group the Ronettes won $2.6 million in back earnings from their even more legendary producer, Phil Spector. The group had sued him for $11 million claiming that he had cheated them out of royalties for their songs such as ”Be My Baby” and ”Chapel of Love” and that they had not received any money from him since 1964. However, the judge denied them ownership of the titles, which Spector composed and produced in his signature sound. Britney Spears must be thanking her lucky stars that she wasn’t around in the ’60s.
SNOOPED Snoop Dogg‘s Up in Smoke touring van was stopped and searched at the Temecula, Calif., border after patrol officers caught a whiff of burnt marijuana smoke pouring from the vehicle, Launch reports. An officer said that 3 separate bags of weed valued at $1,566 were found in the van and that one occupant ”accepted responsibility” and received a citation for the incident. Wonder if they recovered any gin and juice?
MEA CULPA Robert Lucente, President of the New York state chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, who angered the gay and lesbian groups when he called Bruce Springsteen a ”floating fag” after hearing the singer’s Amadou Diallo tribute ”American Skin” issued a public apology today. ”The statement was made out of disgust for a public figure I once admired, not against someone’s sexual preference,” he said. Apparently, he meant to say that Springsteen is a ”floating breeder.”
CASTING Tim Roth is in negotiations to play Professor Snape in Warner Bros.’ ”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”…. ”Shaft”’s Christian Bale will star in Dimension’s futuristic thriller ”Librium,” about a totalitarian world in which emotions are forbidden. Bale will play a rebellious law enforcement officer opposite Emily Watson and Taye Diggs…. Cybill Shepard is reportedly in negotiations to replace Eleanor Mondale as host of Columbia TriStar Television’s ”Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus”…. Paul Hogan is returning to Australia to make ”Crocodile Dundee III.” Maybe he’ll consider a guest appearance on ”Survivor II.”
WEBNEWS Add another Madonna rumor to Web mill. The singer’s fansite reports that the title track of her upcoming album ”Music” may be released a little early, in part because of its premature postings on the Internet. Not surprisingly, her publicist declined to comment…. A survey by the Digital Media Association found that 60 percent of heavy music listeners who download tracks on the Internet later end up buying that music. But 6 out of 10 just ain’t enough for the Recording Industry Association of America.
AWARDS Charley Pride became the first black singer voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Pride’s first three singles were released sans photograph in order to conceal his race…. Michael Caine was knighted in Queen Elizabeth’s annual birthday honors list Saturday.