Britney will open a Manhattan bistro. Plus, news about the Ramones, Billy Joel, Elton John, Sandra Bullock, Eddie Murphy, Johnny Depp, Ron Howard, ''Celebrity Boxing,'' Susan Lucci, Molly Shannon, and others

By Gary Susman
March 21, 2002 at 12:00 PM EST
Britney Spears: Roger Vikström/SCANPIX/Retna

SOUND BITES Entrepreneur and sometime pop singer Britney Spears, who has spent the last week mulling over possible new ventures (a clothing line? a fragrance?), is going into the restaurant business. Crain’s New York Business magazine reports that Spears and restaurateur-to-the-stars Bobby Ochs are opening a place in May. The singer is apparently undeterred by Ochs’ track record of failed celebrity eateries (Patrick Swayze‘s Mulholland Drive, Marla Maples‘ Peaches). While Jennifer Lopez is opening a Cuban joint on the West Coast, Spears’ place will be in midtown Manhattan, with a theme and menu to be determined. (Will it feature the Louisiana cuisine of her childhood? Asparagus Spears? Pepsi?) The restaurant will be called Pinky’s, after a nickname bestowed on Spears by Justin Timberlake. Britneyologists may see that as a sign that the two really are still together, despite unconvincing denials of their breakup and rumors of each of them dancing into the wee hours last week with others. Or maybe they really have split, and the name is a sign that the restaurant is a tax write-off….

Billy Joel tried to get in a New York state of mind last week but ended up working himself into a state of exhaustion. His laryngitis forced the postponement of a show on his tour with Elton John a week ago, but he wanted to be rested and ready when the two played New York’s Madison Square Garden on Friday. Unfortunately, according to the New York Times review of the show, Joel appeared spacey and forgetful and ”seemed to have ingested something quite a bit stronger than cough syrup.” He reportedly ”banged on his keys almost at random,” and his duet with John on ”Bennie and the Jets” was such a mess that when it ended, John mouthed the words, ”Thank God!” Now, the two piano men have postponed the rest of their tour until Joel recovers from what his spokeswoman says is ”an inflamed vocal cord and an upper respiratory infection.” She adds, ”We expect him to make a 100 percent complete recovery.”

Much was made of the irony of veterans of downtown New York rock dive CBGB being feted uptown at the posh Waldorf-Astoria, as last night’s ceremony and jam session saw The Ramones and Talking Heads become the first bands of the punk era to be admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. ”The Ramones said, ‘We created rock ‘n’ roll and we’re gonna take it back,”’ said a mohawked Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, who inducted the Ramones with a 20-minute speech. ”And it may have to happen again,” he said. ”Now it’s Disney kids singing songs written by old men and being marketed to 6- and 7-year-olds, so some kind of change might have to happen again soon.” The evening seemed bittersweet for the Ramones, whose frontman, Joey Ramone, died of cancer last year, and for Talking Heads, who performed live together for the first time in 18 years. They were inducted by Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers, who said the band’s brainy, rhythmic music inspired him: ”I wanted to have sex with a lot of librarians.”

Also inducted were Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, paid tribute by Jakob Dylan, son of Tom’s pal Bob; early ’60s stars Brenda Lee and Gene Pitney, the latter finally inducted after eight previous nominations, by ’60s soul singer Darlene Love; country guitar virtuoso Chet Atkins, who died last year and was inducted by guitarist/orchestra leader Brian Setzer; ’60s soul label Stax Records founder Jim Stewart; and ageless soul man Isaac Hayes, who once was a Stax songwriter, and who performed his classic ”Theme from ‘Shaft.”’ Hayes, who may be more famous these days for playing Chef on ”South Park,” echoed Vedder’s grumblings about the music industry. ”To all the guys that are sitting on my writers’, artists’, producers’ royalties,” he said, ”I’m just asking you to practice some business ethics and a little humanity. Do the right thing by me and my contemporaries.” To young hip-hoppers following his example, he said, ”Know the business, learn the business, own something. Don’t slip into the traps, and don’t forget about your ‘hood, the kids in the ‘hood. Remember, you’re disposable, so take advantage while you can.” The ceremony and jam session will air tomorrow night on VH1….

REEL DEALS Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, and Meg Ryan have been America’s sweethearts for so long that they’ve formed their own support clique. So says Bullock in April’s Biography magazine. ”We have the same dentist, same ob-gyn, same hair person. We all have an agreement. I said, ‘Listen, Meg, you’ve got to stay blond, and Julia, you can go red — but don’t go any darker than a light brown, because I’m going to be the brunette. It’s like an AA thing. We all go to meetings and we talk about being The Girls Next Door.” Let’s hope she’s kidding.

Usually, movies become theme park rides, not the other way around. But is turning its Haunted Mansion ride into a movie that will star Eddie Murphy. He’ll play a workaholic dad who becomes closer to his loved ones after a ghostly encounter. Another syrupy family comedy from Eddie Murphy? Yikes, that is scary….