Plus, Norm and Cliff settle ''Cheers'' robot lawsuit, the Ramseys sue Court TV, and more

Ashley Judd
Credit: Ashley Judd: Darla Khazei/Retna

LEGAL BRIEFS Ashley Judd, involved in two suits over the accuracy of articles written about her, won one and paid a settlement in the other. She won an undisclosed sum last week from British magazine Now, which she said had fabricated an article about her. But she also settled with freelance journalist Larry Birkhead, who accused her of libel when she appeared on ”Entertainment Tonight” two years ago and accused him of making up a story in USA Today. The article quoted Naomi Judd as disapproving of her daughter’s role as a frequently undraped Marilyn Monroe in ”Norma Jean and Marilyn.” For his part, Birkhead, who also reportedly received a settlement from ”ET,” says he bears no ill will against Ashley and remains a fan. He even ordered new personalized checks that he says ”are really neat. They have the Judds’ pictures on them.” And a Judd’s money in the account….

Eight years after ”Cheers” went off the air, Norm may finally be able to pay off his bar tab. George Wendt and John Ratzenberger have finally reached a settlement in their eight-year-old lawsuit against Paramount Pictures, which owns ”Cheers” and which populated airport bars throughout the U.S. and New Zealand with robots who evoked Norm and Cliff. Paramount licensed to Host International the right to create ”Cheers”-themed airport bars, complete with robots named Bob and Hank that Wendt and Ratzenberger argued had been modeled after them without their permission. (A California law gives individuals exclusive rights to profit from their own likenesses.) Paramount argued that it was only licensing its own intellectual property, and that the robots bore no resemblance to the actors. Neither side has released the terms of the settlement, but surely everyone is relieved — robots can get ugly when they’re both drunk and litigious….

Court TV is facing litigation of its own. The parents of JonBenet Ramsey have filed a $70 million suit against the cable channel, as well as its (and’s) parent, AOL Time Warner. The suit seeks damages over a 1999 report that cited Burke Ramsey as a prime suspect in his sister’s murder. The Ramseys say that Boulder police never officially listed Burke as a suspect. A Court TV attorney refused to comment on the suit, saying, ”We have not been served yet.”

UNAUTHORIZED Hard rockers Slipknot have angered officials in Springfield, Mo. over their profanity-strewn performance Sunday at Price Cutter Park. Several neighbors filed obscenity complaints with local police. Ramey/Price Cutter, the supermarket chain that paid the minor league ballpark for the right to name it, is now determining whether it also has the right to oversee the venue’s booking policy, lest its name be associated with such unsavory performers in the future.

ZOO STORY Even though Sharon Stone‘s husband’s toe was nearly bitten off by a Komodo dragon, the Los Angeles Zoo has no plans to curtail its policy of allowing VIPs behind-the-scenes tours of its cages. (Other recent visitors granted special access include Drew Barrymore and Shaquille O’Neal.) ”Our zoo needs to be rebuilt. We need the money,” zoo director Manuel Mollinedo told the Los Angeles Times. ”Potential donors want to be treated in a special way.” In fact, the publicity surrounding the lizard bite helped the zoo sell out tickets to its annual Beastly Ball faster than ever. The zoo sold a thousand tickets to the fundraiser, held Saturday, for $300 apiece. Mollinedo said to the Associated Press, ”It’s amazing how many calls I’ve gotten from ladies trying to arrange behind-the-scenes tours with the Komodo dragons for their husbands.”

GIRL TALK More than 60 years before ”Sex and the City,” a group of well-off New York women shopped, lunched, and talked about sex in Clare Boothe Luce‘s play ”The Women.” Now, ”Sex”’s Cynthia Nixon is set to star in the Broadway revival this November, playing a society wife alongside Jennifer Tilly, who will play her husband’s mistress, and Kristen Johnston (”3rd Rock From the Sun”) as a gossip who humiliates Nixon’s character by revealing the affair. These are the roles immortalized in the 1939 film version by Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell, respectively. At least there are no men in the cast of 22, so Nixon won’t have to worry about anyone leaving the door open while he’s in the bathroom.

TUBE TALK Kelly Ripa was a week into her monthlong maternity leave from ”Live with Regis and Kelly” before she delivered her baby. Lola Grace Consuelos was born to Ripa and soap star husband Mark Consuelos on Saturday. The 8-pound, 3-ounce girl has a 3-year-old brother, Michael Joseph. Ripa may ask for (and producers may grant) an extra couple weeks off because, as she told Regis in an on-air phone call yesterday, the baby is ”cuter than we expected.”…

Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘s upcoming NBC sitcom still doesn’t have a name, but it now has a cast. Joining the Artist Formerly Known as Elaine, who will play a Los Angeles-based nightclub singer and voiceover artist, will be ”The Daily Show”’s Steve Carell and ”Fargo”’s Peter Stormare, who played Slippery Pete in the ”Frogger” episode of ”Seinfeld.” Also, her sister, Susan Bowles, may have a recurring role on the series, while the executive producer is her husband, Brad Hall, who produced ”The Single Guy.” Carell will play her ex-boyfriend, and Stormare will play a jack-of-all-trades type who lives in her building. Sound familiar?…

Hoping to boost ratings on a night when most people are out watching fireworks, ABC has planned a star-studded live special on July 4. ”Independence Day 2001” will feature a Garth Brooks performance in Philadelphia and a reading of the Declaration of Independence by a battery of movie stars, including Morgan Freeman, Mel Gibson, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Bates, Edward Norton, Kevin Spacey, Michael Douglas, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Guess she’s there as a token representative of the country against whom we fought the Revolutionary War.

PASSING NOTES Joe Darion, the Broadway lyricist who won a Tony for ”Man of La Mancha,” died Saturday at age 90 in Lebanon, N.H. The musical adaptation of ”Don Quixote” was one of the longest-running shows on Broadway and was made into a movie in 1972 with Peter O’Toole. He was working on a new show, ”Oswego,” at the time of his death.


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