David Hochman wonders what other celebs' potentials are being wasted


The Chipmunks sue Universal Studios for lack of promotion

What with all the fuss this week over the Sydney Olympics and the failed revolt on ”Big Brother,” you may have overlooked a new lawsuit that somehow epitomizes the absurdity of the Hollywood worldview. In court papers filed Sept. 13 in Los Angeles, the creators of Alvin and the Chipmunks sued Universal Studios for $100 million for failing to fulfill its promise to put the helium voiced rodents in motion pictures, videos, and theme parks, a move the Chipmunk people say destroyed ”an American icon.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been more than content with the roles Alvin, Simon, and Theodore have played in the pop culture arena. I mean, it’s perfectly wonderful to see the ‘munks — who were created in 1958 and have changed little since then — in their floor length sweaters belting out chirpy renditions of ”Silent Night,” say, once every two or three years. (The latest dose o’ rodent is the Christmas song played over the opening credits of ”Almost Famous.”) But apparently, the cash hungry heirs to the Alvy millions think there’s more potential to be mined from those towering little giants of show business.

All of which has me thinking there might be lots of people in entertainment feeling neglected and undermarketed these days, and for whom today’s seemingly inane showbiz contributions could become tomorrow’s amusement park rides and video sensations. Here are my suggestions for the franchising of ”American icons” in the near future.

Disney’s Paltrow Family Karaoke Caravan Critics are hailing Buena Vista’s ”Duets” as the best bad movie in years. Which is why Gwyneth Paltrow and her dad, Bruce, ”Duet”’s director, should turn their film about karaoke hustlers into pure cash money. The Karaoke Caravan would be a traveling theme park, where paying customers could don long blond wigs and croon the night away with Gwyneth inspired tunes, among them: ”Don’t Lose Your Head” by INXS (for ”Seven’), ”It’s a Man’s World” by James Brown (”Shakespeare in Love”), and Sammy Hagar’s ”Pits,” in this case spelled with two Ts.

Richard’s Hatch a Scheme Board Game Most magazine and newspaper profiles of ”Survivor” winner Richard Hatch have depicted the corporate trainer as a friendly, outgoing guy liked by his neighbors — a far cry from the Machiavellian rogue who ruled Pulau Tiga. But when Hatch lost his $500,000 publishing deal with St. Martin’s Press this week because of some duplicitous behavior (he submitted two different book proposals: a toned down one to please CBS, a more lurid version to satisfy St. Martin’s), the snake in him reared its muh-nip-u-luh-tive head. Now that he’s out a half mil, Rich might consider approaching Milton Bradley with a board game concept to add to his corporate trainer’s retinue. It would begin in Borneo, of course, return via the Rhode Island courthouse where he was brought up on child abuse charges (since dropped), and offer tips along the way on surviving reputation damaging TV appearances by showing up on MTV and at the Emmys awards, and cohosting ”Live With Regis.”

Big Brother: The Lost Surveillance Tapes Sure, the CBS reality game show is boring now, but in a few years, who’s not going to want to see all that footage that didn’t make the show? I’d especially want to see the recent tapes. Not the ones of George getting a new bedroom or Cassandra’s poignant final moments in the house. No, I’d like to see the tapes of the programming executives sweating behind the scenes to improve the show’s ratings: the desperate attempt to buy one member out of the house; the vain ploy to introduce a newer, cuter roommate named Beth. Then again, we probably know already what they’re yelling behind the scenes: ”Aaaalviiiin!!”