Plus, news about Kate Winslet, Britney Spears, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Jane Kaczmarek, Bradley Whitford, Chevy Chase, and others
Winona Ryder
Credit: Winona Ryder: Steve Granitz/Retna

LEGAL BRIEFS Police arrested Winona Ryder Wednesday night after she was allegedly caught shoplifting nearly $5,000 worth of merchandise from the Saks Fifth Avenue department store in Beverly Hills. Store clerks allegedly spotted her on their video monitors, using a scissors to snip the security tags off clothes, a handbag and hair accessories and putting them into a bag of Saks goods she had purchased earlier. Police also found her with an unmarked bottle of pills. She was booked on charges of grand theft and possession of prescription drugs without a prescription, then released on $20,000 bond.

Ryder’s lawyer, however, insisted that the actress is still living in the age of innocence. He blamed the theft charge on a ”misunderstanding” and said, ”It will become clear that there was no theft here. Ms. Ryder had no intent of depriving anybody of any property.” He also said she did have a prescription for the pills, which he described as painkillers (one report, however, said they were the anti-depressant Zoloft), though he asserted that she was not suffering any drug-induced impairment at the time of her arrest. Ryder, 30, suffered such severe stomach pains in August that she was hospitalized (doctors described her ailment as a severe gastroenterological disorder) and had to drop out of a starring role in the film ”Lily and the Secret Planting.” She was replaced byKate Winslet.

Speaking of Winslet, she and director husband Jim Threapleton were granted a ”quickie” divorce in a British court yesterday. Neither of them appeared at the hearing yesterday. The actress met Threapleton on the set of her ”Titanic” follow-up, ”Hideous Kinky.” They were married for three years before Winslet filed for the divorce, citing Threapleton’s alleged unreasonable behavior. Custody details for the couple’s one-year-old daughter, Mia, still have to be worked out. Winslet is currently dating ”American Beauty” director Sam Mendes, who says they began seeing each other after she separated from her husband in September.

SOUND BITES The fur is flying again between the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Britney Spears, whose publicist denied PETA’s assertion that she would take it all off for a PETA anti-fur campaign. ”Notwithstanding the meaningful work that PETA does, we cannot be involved with an organization that would distort the truth,” said publicist Lisa Kasteler. However, she said, Spears ”still feels strongly about animal rights” and would ”find another organization to be involved with.”

PETA spokesman Dan Mathews, source of the original report that Spears would ”join our new crop of fur-fighters,” denied saying that Spears was going to pose nude, but the campaign slogan is ”I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur,” and all the other celebrities who’ve appeared on the posters have posed nude, including the current poster girl, ”Lolita” star and fellow nymphet Dominique Swain. Mathews added that at least Spears has changed her tune from a few months ago, when PETA criticized her use of a caged tiger in her MTV Video Music Awards performance and on tour; Spears apparently listened to the complaint and agreed to stop using animals in performance. ”If the downside [of the fur flap] is that the whole world knows Britney Spears is anti-fur, that’s a good thing,” Mathews said….

Ghost World
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