December 13, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

MOVIES ”I’m definitely putting myself on the line with this,” chuckles Dennis Quaid, who’s referring to Shame on You, a biopic he wrote and is gonna direct and star in. He’ll play Spade Cooley, the Western-swing fiddler and B-movie star who stomped his wife to death in 1961, and then — it gets better — died of a heart attack backstage after a special gig he was let out of prison to play in 1969. ”The public loved him,” insists Quaid. ”In fact, at his trial, when he was convicted, a couple of the jurors hugged him, even though they convicted him of murder. That strange dichotomy, between what people perceived and what things really were — I find that so much in the cult of celebrity today.” Katie Holmes will play his doomed wife, Ella Mae. With both In Good Company and Flight of the Phoenix out this month, ”it’s time to do something like this,” insists Quaid, who just started fiddle lessons. ”So here we go!”… Scantily clad Desperate Housewife Eva Longoria promises ”I’ll be much more covered up in Harsh Times,” in which she’ll play Sylvia, ”the only adult in the movie” and the girlfriend of Freddy Rodriguez, who gets dragged into shady business by ”loser” Christian Bale. ”It’s a dark indie, it’s not a blockbuster,” says the ABC star. ”It’s not like it’s gonna be popular with the kids, and that’s what attracted me.” She’ll shoot it on Housewives‘ Xmas hiatus.

TELEVISION Tammy Faye Messner’s laugh — a demented, lovable cackle — could eat Julia Roberts’ big laugh for lunch. And she was full of laughs discussing Death Defying, a doc about her recent battle with lung cancer and a sequel of sorts to 2000’s fascinating The Eyes of Tammy Faye. ”I don’t always look so good in it,” she laughs — boy, does she laugh. On chemo: ”I did not lose my hair, which I’m so grateful to God for. I asked Him to let me keep my hair” — laughter building — ”but I lost all my [trademark, one-of-a-kind] eyelashes, which I never thought to ask Him about — I thought that was a given!” CACKLE CACKLE CACKLE! Messner is now cancer-free, and Death Defying airs on WE in July.

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