Plus, ''Will & Grace,'' Hole, ''Sex and the City,'' Scott Weiland, Kathie Lee Gifford, and more

By Josh Wolk
Updated September 22, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

IN DEMAND Everyone wants a piece of children’s-book hero Harry Potter, including Steven Spielberg, Jonathan Demme, and Rob Reiner. These three (and other top-name directors) are reportedly fighting for the job of making the first movie based on the stunningly successful series, according to Variety. And this is before anyone’s even seen a script: Warner Bros. has commissioned an adaptation by Steve Kloves (”Flesh and Bone”), but it’s not due for a month.

EDITED FOR TV NBC buckled under pressure and omitted a joke at the last minute from last night’s premiere of ”Will & Grace”. The network had come under fire from Latino groups for a gag in which Karen (Megan Mulally) called her Latina maid a ”tamale”; the word was changed to ”honey” at the zero hour. No jokes were taken out of the previous night’s premiere of ”Suddenly Susan” because, well, nobody could find any.

COMING BACK HBO has renewed three of its popular series: ”Sex and the City” will make at least 16 new episodes for its third season, ”Oz” will have 8 for its fourth year, and, inexplicably, ”Arliss” will get 13 for its fifth.

UNDER FIRE Kathie Lee Gifford is in the midst of another clothing controversy, and this time it goes beyond whether or not she’s gone braless. The National Labor Committee, a labor rights organization, has charged that her clothing line is still being manufactured in sweatshops, three years after a similar revelation. ”I have a signed agreement by Kathie Lee stating that she would never again tolerate sweatshop conditions,” says NLC head Charles Kernaghan. ”None of these promises have been kept.” Women churning out the Gifford line in El Salvador are allegedly working 12- to 15-hour days at 60 cents an hour, according to Reuters. The chairman of Kellwood, which owns her label, said ”We have dispatched investigators in El Salvador and they are addressing these allegations.”

QUITTING ROUNDUP Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur has quit the band and is looking to pursue photography and other independent projects, according to Allstar. She’s also considering a solo album, but that won’t be for a while, as she reportedly wants to take her time. There have also been rumors that she’ll join Smashing Pumpkins to take the place of recently resigned bassist D’Arcy Wretzky, but nothing has been confirmed…. Janet Maslin is stepping down as movie critic for the New York Times after 22 years with the paper. She and the Times were tight-lipped about her future plans, saying only that she would ”try life without deadlines.” She will stay with the paper until December, during which time she will help out in the search for her replacement.

LETTER FROM THE CLINK Scott Weiland has sent a public letter out to all of his fans from inside the rehab center where he’s serving a one-year sentence, according to MTV News. One excerpt from the sporadically lucid missive: ”It is one of the travesties of mankind to lose ones [sic] freedom, to be locked and bound behind bars of steel, but if the wheels of a mans [sic] mind are free to turn and the wings of his spirit cannot be clipped, than is a man truly in chains? And is any man truly free? Are you free? Free to shop at the 7-11 I suppose, or free to fill your car with gasoline, ever a slave to the Oil Company’s [sic] that dangle inflation and deflation in front of your nose like a carrot.” So let me get this straight, they’re NOT giving him drugs in there?

ARRESTED Once a diva, always a diva. Diana Ross was arrested at London’s Heathrow airport this morning for allegedly assaulting a security officer, according to the Associated Press. She was boarding the Concorde to New York when the officer reportedly stopped her for a routine search, and, well, Ms. Ross apparently is not a big fan of being touched.

STALK NO MORE ”Excuse me, Mr. Stalker Man, but if you could please make with the stopping of the peeping and the following and the hiding in the bushes and the oh my foot is caught in the toilet!” Well, his case was a little better stated than that, but Jerry Lewis got the restraining order against his stalker extended for another year. Gary Benson, a 56-year-old schizophrenic, will be released from prison on Oct. 5 after serving four years of a six-year sentence for aggravated stalking, but Lewis requested that his 1992 protection order be elongated. ”You are to have no contact with Mr. Lewis,” the Las Vegas judge told Benson.

THE NAME GAME Is there anything more frustrating than heading to the circus hoping to name an elephant, only to find that they’ve all been named already? Man, what a buzz kill. Well, now you’ve finally got your chance to dub a pachyderm: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is holding an online vote to name its newborn Asian elephant. Just visit the Ringling site by Oct. 3 and choose which of the five names — Barnum, Boomer, Osgood, Petey, or Webster — you prefer. What, ”Divine” isn’t an option?

FREE AT LAST! Hookers rejoice! Ex-Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss was released from prison Tuesday for good behavior after serving more than two years of her 37-month sentence. (She had been found guilty of conspiracy, tax evasion, money laundering, and attempted pandering.) If she and Amy Fisher end up cohosting a talk show on Fox, I’m leaving the country.

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