Plus, news about R.E.M., Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Nicole Kidman, Val Kilmer, David Bowie, Marc Anthony, and others

By Gary Susman
Updated October 25, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Celine Dion: Big Pictures

GUIDED MISSIVES At Saturday’s Concert for New York, Billy Crystal quipped that stars don’t want to do awards shows anymore because they’re afraid to open envelopes. But that’s a real concern for a lot of celebrities, who have been avoiding opening their fan mail for fear of anthrax exposure. Performers are being cautious in the wake of reports of tainted letters on Capitol Hill and in at least four major media offices in New York.

Publicist Pat Kingsley, whose firm PMK gets letters for Tom Cruise and other A-list clients, tells the Associated Press, ”For the time being, we are just not opening fan mail.” PMK is urging stars to redirect their letters to private mail-handling services, like Studio Fan Mail, which has been advising fans to send postcards instead of sealed letters. Studios like Warner Bros. are returning fan letters and asking fans to send email instead.

Police in Quebec say they’ve caught a hoaxer who sent Celine Dion and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien letters full of white powder that turned out to be salt. As for the next big awards show, November 4’s Emmys, organizers are redirecting their incoming mail to an undisclosed location to be sorted and tested. They haven’t received any threats or suspicious missives yet, an Emmy spokesperson says, but they’re not taking any chances.

FRINGE BENEFITS Last weekend’s benefit blowouts in New York, Washington, and Nashville weren’t the only musical fundraisers this week; nor was terror relief the only charitable cause. Groundwork 2001, a six-night string of concerts for a United Nations hunger relief program, ended Monday night in Seattle. Performers included R.E.M., Alanis Morissette, Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, the Wallflowers, Emmylou Harris, Heart‘s Ann and Nancy Wilson, Joe Strummer, Chocolate Genius, Daniel Lanois, Chris Whitley, and the Blind Boys of Alabama.

The shows raised a reported $1 million for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Some of the artists who played are also donating songs to a benefit CD called ”Groundwork: Act To Reduce Hunger,” which will also feature Madonna, Moby, Sheryl Crow, and Tom Waits.

Harris and Crow also performed at last Thursday’s Women Rock! Girls & Guitars, a concert to support breast cancer research. The show, at Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theater, included Mary J. Blige, Dixie Chicks, and Pat Benatar. The event was taped for broadcast on Lifetime this Friday night, October 26.