Plus, Oscar trouble, Eriq La Salle, Kelsey Grammer, Laura Dern, Doug Stone, and more

By Josh Wolk
Updated March 08, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST
Credit: John Falls

ON THE ROAD Attention all flannel-wearing college students: The Dave Matthews Band has already planned the beginning of their summer tour, even as their work to complete their new album that will be released just before the gigs start. The jaunt will begin on June 19 in Columbus, Ohio, and will end on Aug. 5 in George, Wash.

OSCAR TROUBLE Eliminating the dance numbers is the only thing that’s gone right with the Oscars so far: The 4,000 ballots addressed to California-based Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences members were dropped off at the Beverly Hills Post Office last Wednesday, and were promptly lost. The voting cards were dumped off in eight bags (two of which were later found in a bulk mail depot in a town 20 miles away), and now the Academy is scrambling to reprint the ballots and rush them out so members can get them back by the March 21 deadline, which may be extended depending on how long the process takes. ”If we get the ballots out on Wednesday the members will have two weeks,” says Academy spokesman John Pavlik. ”So let’s hope they have thought about things beforehand so they can get the ballots back to us on time”…. If they don’t get their tallies in time, they can always call the Wall Street Journal for the victors. Journalists from that paper have been reportedly calling members of the Academy to find out who they’re voting for in the Oscars, so as to predict the results in advance, but the Academy is desperately trying to keep the voting secret. ”It just spoils the fun of it,” Pavlik told Reuters. ”The Academy Awards are important to the people who win, and they’re important to the people who don’t win, but it’s not like electing a president, and part of the fun of it is waiting until they open the envelopes to see who wins.” The Academy has sent a letter to all members asking them to keep their picks quiet, even though there’s no official rule against blabbing. A spokesman for the Journal would say only that recent press citing that its reporters were not identifying themselves as working for the Journal when trolling for information were untrue.

REEL DEALS ”ER”’s Eriq La Salle will step behind the camera for ”Danger,” his feature film directing debut. The thriller is about a man mistakenly pursued after he sits next to a serial killer on a plane. First rule of travel, when someone asks you to hold his bloody power drill while he rearranges the overhead bin, politely decline!… And another Must See TV face is going behind the scenes: Kelsey Grammer is executive-producing a pilot for UPN called ”Girlfriends,” about a group of African-American gal pals. And who better to take on this project than the whitest man alive? You goeth, Grammer!

CASTING Laura Dern may play hygienist/girlfriend to Steve Martin’s dentist in ”Novocaine,” a movie that better be good or will surely face 431 uses of the word ”numbing” by pun-happy critics…. Helen Mirren will atone for ”Teaching Mrs. Tingle” by playing Jack Nicholson’s shrink in ”The Pledge,” the 1950s crime story directed by Sean Penn…. ”Melrose Place”’s Rob Estes didn’t have too much success trying comedy on ”Suddenly Susan,” so now he’s going back to the world of nighttime soaps, signing to play the head of a law school legal clinic that does pro bono work on the pilot for the WB’s ”Sullivan Street.”

GROUNDED Country musician Doug Stone was injured after crashing his ultralight aircraft in Robertson, Tenn., on Tuesday. He was rushed to the hospital, and although his publicist tells Live! Daily that he was conscious and okay, the extent of his injuries was not revealed. Stone has not been very lucky lately in the air: He was on a December American Airlines flight that crash-landed in Chicago, although no one was hurt in that incident. If ever there was a sign to stay on the ground, this is probably it.

NOT SO FAST A U.S. appeals court reversed most of a 1998 Maine court decision finding NBC guilty of defamation for a ”Dateline” story about a trucker who violated safety rules, according to Reuters. Driver Peter Kennedy said that the TV crew that accompanied him on a cross-country drive told him the story would be positive, and then the segment went on to show all of his violations. The federal jury originally awarded him $175,000 for damage to his reputation, and also gave his employers $350,000. But the appeals court said that it wasn’t defamation since Kennedy admitted his own transgressions, even though he claimed it was off the record. But it’s not all bad news for Kennedy: He may be recruited for a new Fox special called ”Logy Truckers’ Secrets Revealed!”