Buckingham Palace burns after Ozzy's set. Plus, news about Jay-Z, Russell Simmons, Cynthia Nixon, Willie Nelson, Natalie Imbruglia, Halle Berry, Bernie Mac, Cedric the Entertainer, Jessica Alba, ''Friends,'' ''Alias,'' Adam Sandler, and others

By Gary Susman
June 03, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Buckingham Palace: Steve Holland/AP/Wide World

SOUND BITES The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. There must have been some scorching licks played at the rehearsals at Buckingham Palace for tonight’s rock concert celebrating Queen Elizabeth II‘s 50 years on the throne. Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, and Queen guitarist Brian May were about to start practicing on Sunday when a fire broke out in a rooftop loft of the Palace’s west terrace. The musicians and several hundred others were evacuated from the building, the first time the palace had been evacuated since World War II. The fire was put out in an hour and a half, and no one was injured. The fire’s cause was undetermined yesterday; they’ll probably just blame Ozzy Osbourne, who had just finished rehearsing his 30-minute set when the fire started. Meanwhile, jubilee organizers still plan to launch several tons of fireworks from the palace roof tonight….

Some of the biggest names in East Coast hip-hop will take to the streets Tuesday to protest proposed cuts of $205 million to the New York City public schools budget. Rappers Jay-Z, Ja Rule, Fat Joe, Mos Def, Wu-Tang Clan, KRS-One, Grandmaster Flash, and Lil’ Bow Wow; singers Ashanti, , and Patti LaBelle; and impresarios Russell Simmons and Damon Dash will join thousands of teachers in a rally at City Hall against the cuts. Jay-Z has even urged the city’s schoolkids to join the rally after classes let out Tuesday afternoon. Of course, when it comes to the education budget, the old-school activist is ”Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon, who earned street cred last month by doing time (for a few hours) after getting busted during a sit-in protest over this issue. Simmons, who’s been trying to channel hip-hop’s anger into political action lately, says Nixon was the catalyst for the tomorrow’s influx of rappers. ”I love Cynthia Nixon,” he tells the New York Daily News. ”I love her dedication. I asked what I could do, and she asked me, ‘Can’t hip hop get involved?”’ Simmons says that he, too, would be willing to go to jail over the issue. ”I was willing to last time, but nobody would arrest me,” he says….

Willie Nelson, who’s done his part for American farmers by helping organize the Farm Aid concerts over the years, continues to support American family-owned farms by buying their grain for his own line of bourbon. Nelson’s Old Whiskey River, named for his song, is distributed by Alive Spirits, the same firm that brought you Sammy Hagar‘s Cabo Wabo tequila a few years ago. The 86-proof, six-year-old bourbon costs $28 a bottle, but it comes with a Nelson-autographed guitar pick….

Natalie Imbruglia probably wasn’t too torn about accepting a deal as a spokesmodel for L’Oreal. In representing the beauty products company, she’ll be following such famous faces as Claudia Schiffer, Andie MacDowell, Milla Jovovich, and Catherine Deneuve. The 27-year-old singer will earn a reported $150,000 to start with…because she’s worth it.