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A nightclub owner claims Puffy bribed him

”Hannibal” likely to stay No. 1, ”Saved by the Bell” star to join ”NYPD Blue,” and more

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Sean P. Diddy Combs
Sean Puffy Combs: Dennis Van Tine/London Features

TESTIFIED Club New York owner Michael Bergos admitted on the stand Thursday that Sean ”Puffy” Combs and his associates told him they’d ”throw business” his way if he kept quiet during Puff’s bribery and gun possession trial. According to Reuters, Bergos — one of the first witnesses called by Puffy’s defense attorneys — told the prosecution under cross examination that the ”overall feeling” was ”when all these things cleared up they would throw business” his way (he owns the nightclub where the shooting took place in December 1999). But when Puff’s renowned attorney Johnnie Cochran redirected questioning, Bergos said he had yet to receive anything from Combs or his friends. Bergos has filed a $1.8 million civil lawsuit for damages to his property against Combs and his fellow defendants. If convicted, Combs, 31, faces up to 15 years in prison.

BOX OFFICE Despite competition from two newcomers — the Elvis road trip flick ”3000 Miles to Graceland” and the gross out comedy ”Monkeybone” — analysts say ”Hannibal” is poised to devour the box office for a third straight weekend. ”’Hannibal’ is not going to be sharing the dinner table with anybody,” says Robert Bucksbaum of box office tracking firm Reel Source. ”’Miles’ boasts two bankable stars (Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell) but the movie is likely to turn off its targeted older audience, which is tired of the Elvis idolatry theme,” he says. Likewise, ”Monkey’s” PG-13 rating will keep out the kiddies, who generally form the largest audience for films that are driven by physical humor.

Meanwhile, analysts say that Oscar season is one of the most difficult for new films. ”It’s just a tough time of the year for any opener that isn’t a blockbuster like ‘Hannibal,”’ says Bucksbaum. ”Everybody’s keyed up about watching the Best Picture candidates. ‘Chocolat,’ ‘Traffic,’ and ‘Crouching Tiger,’ those films are just going to continue to do well.” –Lori Reese

TUBE NEWS Another former child actor has joined the cast of ”NYPD Blue.” ”Saved by the Bell” star Mark-Paul Gosselaar will be a regular starting next season. So far executive producer Steven Bochco has yet to decide exactly who Gosselaar will play, but expect him to eventually bare it all like everyone else on the Emmy winning drama. What’s next, Kurt Cameron as the new lieutenant?

RESPONDING Suing and sued ”Survivor” loser Stacey Stillman claims that CBS and reality show producer Mark Burnett are trying to frighten her from pursuing her lawsuit. According to the New York Post, Stillman, a San Francisco lawyer, has the following taped message on her answering machine: ”I would never have come forward and invested this time and energy if I did not know for a fact that Mark Burnett manipulated my exit from the show. Knowing this, I had to come forward, and Mark’s $5 million lawsuit is just a blatant attempt to scare me away.”

Stillman, if you remember, filed a lawsuit last week claiming Burnett persuaded two of her tribemates to vote against her to spare Rudy Boesch from being cast off. CBS and Burnett’s production company filed a countersuit Monday alleging Stillman violated her confidentiality agreement. Now that’s what I call entertainment!

TOURING Young country stars Jessica Andrews and Billy Gilman are teaming for a joint summer tour this year. ”It’s going to be kind of a co- headlining thing,” Andrews, 17, told the Associated Press. Andrews’ single ”Who I Am” is currently No. 6 on the Billboard country charts. Gilman, 12, was the youngest ever Grammy nominee (he lost out to one of the oldest, Johnny Cash for best male country vocal performance).

DEBUT Irish pop singer Samantha Mumba will make her feature film debut in the screen adaptation of H.G. Wells’ ”Time Machine.” The big budget sci fi adventure already stars Guy Pearce, Jeremy Irons, and Mark Addy (”The Full Monty”). And for once, the director attached is committed to staying true to the story: Simon Wells (”The Prince of Egypt”) is the great grandson of the author.

CASTING Oscar winner Al Pacino will star in the thriller ”Insomnia” for Warner Bros. Based on the 1997 Norweigan drama, the movie follows a detective (Pacino) who accidentally kills his partner during an investigation. Production begins in April.

Ralph Fiennes has signed on to play a paranoid schizophrenic in ”Fear Itself,” a psychological drama about a man who uncovers a government conspiracy. In other words, this is a remake of the lukewarm Mel GibsonJulia Roberts thriller ”Conspiracy Theory”?

Edward Burns may join Angelina Jolie in the romantic comedy ”Life, or Something Like It,” for director Stephen Herek (”Mr. Holland’s Opus”). Shooting starts in April.

A trio of young actors are in talks to star in the time travel pic ”The I Inside.” Stephen Dorff (”Cecil B. DeMented”), Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Christian Slater may join the independent thriller based on British playwright Michael Cooney’s stage play ”Point of Death,” which opens in England in September.

HONORED The Kentucky state House approved a bill to rename an I-75 overpass near Crittenden, Ky. (his neighborhood) after ”Survivor” contestant Rodger Bingham (a.k.a. ”Kentucky Joe”). Fifty three year old Bingham is a local farmer, teacher, and businessman.