Plus, Penelope Cruz shoots down Tom Cruise rumors, a busy week for Madonna, and more

By Gary Susman
Updated July 23, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Sean P. Diddy Combs
Credit: Sean Combs: Lisa O'Connor/ZUMA Press
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CHART START Diddy make it to No. 1? No he didn’t. Sean ”P. Diddy” Combs had to settle for a No. 2 debut on the Billboard chart this week, selling 185,750 copies of ”P. Diddy and the Bad Boy Family…The Saga Continues,” according to SoundScan. Twenty-year-old newcomer Alicia Keys, whose ”Songs in A Minor” debuted at No. 1 two weeks ago but dropped to No. 2 last week, returned to the top slot with sales of 221,800. The only other top-10 debut this week was Melissa Etheridge‘s ”Skin” at No. 9, while rockers Linkin Park saw their ”Hybrid Theory” climb to No. 10.

Otherwise, the top 10 was filled with longtime holdovers, including D12‘s ”Devil’s Night” (No. 3, 156,525 sold), Staind‘s ”Break the Cycle” (No. 4, 148,875 copies), Destiny’s Child‘s ”Survivor” (No. 5, 113,250 units), Jagged Edge’s ”Jagged Little Thrill” (No. 6), Blink-182‘s ”Take Off Your Pants & Jacket” (No. 7), and Lil’ Romeo‘s self-titled debut (No. 8). Next week, though, expect releases from Aaliyah, Kurupt, and Foxy Brown to shake up this familiar list.

CRUZ CONTROL If Penélope Cruz really is dating her namesake and ”Vanilla Sky” costar Tom Cruise, it’s news to her publicist. ”There is not a relationship that I’m aware of,” the spokeswoman told reporters this week. Cruise publicist Pat Kingsley said earlier this week that the two had been dating since his 39th birthday party on July 6 (apparently, one lunch at Spago and you’re ”dating”), but even she can’t confirm or deny reports that Cruz didn’t accompany Cruise, ”Vanilla” director Cameron Crowe, and the rest of the actor’s entourage on his current Fiji vacation.

MATERIAL WITNESS Madonna‘s so busy, it’s hard to keep up with her. First, she gives an interview to the U.K. edition of In Style magazine, where she praises husband Guy Ritchie as ”gorgeous, talented, supermacho,” says ”Give me macho or give me death!”, and calls true love scarier than mere commitment, inspiring ”major fear and awe.” Then, she and Mr. Supermacho set the London tabloids atwitter with their tacky behavior in a fancy restaurant; one report had them squabbling, another had them leaving with a doggie bag. Finally, she’s cited in the racketeering trial of an Atlanta strip club owner, who says the singer once left his club with one of his strippers, a woman named Baby. ”I doubt it happened,” says Madonna spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg. But then again, ”I don’t know if it’s anything that Madonna would be ashamed of.”

MODEL HOME Two and a half months after sustaining near-fatal injuries in a car crash, Niki Taylor has finally returned to her Davie, Fla., home. She’d spent eight weeks in Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital, recuperating from emergency surgery to repair extensive internal organ damage from the crash, in which she was a passenger. She was released briefly to a nearby physical rehabilitation facility but returned to the hospital two weeks ago to have fluid drained from her liver. The 26-year-old supermodel still faces a long regimen of physical therapy. She issued a statement thanking the hospital staff, saying, ”Words cannot express the gratitude in my heart for Dr. [Jeffrey] Nicholas and everyone at Grady who worked so hard to save my life.” But maybe money can; she wants to host a celebrity fundraiser for the hospital.

NAKED TOOTH Janet Jackson canceled yesterday’s concert in Milwaukee at the last minute, citing a dental emergency. Local TV station WTMJ reported that she chipped a tooth and needed root canal surgery. Guess it’s hard to sing with a mouth full of Novocaine.

‘LIFE’ AND DEATH Dennis Quaid says he still talks to Meg Ryan almost every day. ”We were together for 13 years, we have a child together. She knows me like nobody else. Why not?” he says in an interview in W magazine. Of the couple’s bitter breakup last year — she was seeing ”Proof of Life” costar Russell Crowe, Quaid sued for divorce, she countersued — Quaid says, ”Marriages and relationships get stuck, you know? Sometimes you can crack out of it and sometimes you can’t.” The actor stars in the upcoming cable movie ”Dinner with Friends,” about a couple whose marriage is rocked by their friends’ divorce. ”When you break up, your whole identity is shattered. That’s why it’s like death. It is a death. I’ve been off looking for that new identity, and I think Meg’s doing that, too. We’re both trying to find out, ‘Who am I outside of this relationship?”’

LEGAL BRIEFS A New York State Supreme Court judge sentenced ODB to 2 to 4 years in prison Wednesday for cocaine and marijuana possession but also asked that correction authorities determine whether the rapper still needs treatment for drugs and depression. The 32-year-old Wu-Tang Clan star, who has already served 10 months of the sentence in a Queens jail, whose officials turned him over to a county hospital in May for psychiatric treatment. He appeared in court earlier this week with a bandage on his right wrist, leading to a suicide watch, but his lawyer, Peter Frankel, said the wrist injury was an accident, not a suicide attempt. Frankel acknowledged that his client needs drug treatment, though ODB went AWOL from a California rehab center last fall. Over the years, ODB (real name: Russell Jones) has been convicted of several offenses in New York and been arrested on numerous other charges in New York and California. The current sentence stems from an incident two years ago, when cops pulled him over for running a red light and found the drugs in his car….

Australia has decided to grant Eminem a temporary visa to perform there next week, despite protests from lawmakers and activists that his brushes with the law and politically incorrect lyrics made him an unsuitable visitor. But officials granted his application, with the warning that the visa ”carried with it a responsibility of respect for our multicultural society and values and the need to avoid vilifying or inciting discord…to the point where a potentially dangerous disturbance resulted.”

In the U.K., they’re less worried that Eminem might start a riot than that he might hurt someone with his chainsaw. London city councilors say they will send safety officials to his rehearsal to make sure that the part of his act where he dons a hockey mask and wields a chainsaw is safe; if not, they could halt the show mid-performance….

Meanwhile, Eminem’s estranged wife, Kimberly Mathers, has been charged with cocaine possession, stemming from an incident earlier this month where police in Harrison Township, Michigan, took her and a friend in for questioning after a watercraft accident and later found a bag of white powder in the patrol car. Her attorney insists the drugs were not hers.

SLURRED SPEECH Chatting with Conan O’Brien on his show last week, comic Sarah Silverman may have wanted to poke fun at racism and racial epithets, but Asian-American activists weren’t laughing at her use of the word ”chinks.” ”I’m a fan of Conan’s and Sarah Silverman’s, but I was disappointed when she started using that word,” said Guy Aoki, president of the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans. ”They wouldn’t do that with ‘nigger.’ But every group has to fight its own battles and educate the public.” On the July 11 show, in a bit about trying to get out of jury duty, Silverman said, ”My friend is like, why don’t you write something inappropriate on the form, like ‘I hate chinks.”’ But she didn’t want to appear racist, so instead, ”I just filled out the form and I wrote, ‘I love chinks’ — and who doesn’t?” NBC issued an apology, saying, ”The joke on ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien’ was clearly inappropriate and the fact that it was not edited by our Standards and Practices department was a mistake. We have reviewed our procedures to ensure such an incident does not reoccur, and we will edit the joke out of any future repeats of the show.”

REEL DEALS Frighteningly thin Lara Flynn Boyle will play the heavy in ”Men in Black 2.” She’s replacing former James Bond villainess Famke Janssen, who dropped out due to an illness in her family….

Taye Diggs is negotiating to star opposite Sanaa Lathan in the romantic comedy ”Brown Sugar.” It would be a reunion for the two, who appeared together in the romantic comedy ”The Best Man” two years ago….

Colin Farrell (”Tigerland”) is in talks to star in ”The Farm,” a thriller about a CIA newbie who thinks his instructor may be a double agent. Farrell also appears in Steven Spielberg”s upcoming ”Minority Report,” opposite Tom Cruise.

Brown Sugar

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  • PG-13
  • 108 minutes
  • Rick Famuyiwa