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By Emma Peele

Which Witch is "witch"?

I don't get it. I don'tgetitIdon'tgetitIdon'tgetit!!!!!!

First, I've gotta give filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez props for setting up a whole other dimension to the "Blair Witch" experience by creating the Web site and the Sci-Fi TV special. Time magazine this week touts the film and the Internet connection as a watershed moment in the horror film genre and says Artisan Entertainment revolutionized the way films are sold with cleverly timed ads and movie trailers.


I admit to being one of the few numbskulls who are screaming "SO FREAKIN' WHAT?!?" after sitting through the movie and being sorely disappointed. I'll admit: Heather Donahue has a terrific scream. But I may have sabotaged the experience by reading TOO much about the film. I might have had nightmares if the directors hadn't revealed so much about how the flick was made. Going in, I knew the legend was fake. I knew the filmmakers left instructions overnight about how each actor was supposed to perform the next morning, etc. I knew too much!

Donohue tells the on-line entertainment site Mr. Showbiz: "I got myself all freaked out by buying all these survival books and witchcraft books and cinematography books. I was prepared to trap and skin and roast my own squirrel. I was prepared for absolute horror." Well, so was I!

I DID have to close my eyes several times to keep from throwing up my hot dog because of the shaky camera movements. And I was shocked to see the stranger next to me jump and toss and recoil as the film unfold. THAT was cool.

Anyhoo, "The Blair Witch Project" has stunned the movie machine and indie filmmakers have ARRIVED. "Blair" geniuses Myrick and Sanchez have even come up with four -- count 'em, FOUR -- variations on the theme of their hit movie for possible future filming. Could be sequels, could be prequels, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The lastest victim of "Witch"? The Maryland town of Burkittsville, population 214. Weirdos and curious folks have descended, searching through the town cemetery, seeking clues and wanting to help search for the missing student trio! Psychologists, occultists (and even a British woman with kids) all wanna help, according to Entertainment Weekly. It has gotten so surreal that the town hall has left a message on its answering machine that says: "If you're calling in regard to 'The Blair Witch Project," it is fiction!"

Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr.

Throw away the key already

Good Lord, Robert Downey Jr. is heading back to the Big House. The coke-snorting actor couldn't quite lick his demons and a frustrated judge decided it's time to quit babying the actor. Twenty bucks says his three-year sentence for violating probation for a 1996 drug conviction ain't gonna help. Why? He's an ACTAH! He probably sees the whole experience as suffering for his art!

No, Downey needs to be punished with something he cares about: his acting career. Despite all his court appearances, his coke binges, his falling asleep in strange houses, Hollywood has welcomed him back with nary a disapproval look. Of course, that's because two-thirds of Tinseltown is up to its eyeballs in drugs, too!

But it's time for Hollywood to help one of its finest by demanding the talented actor clean up his act before he's handed another part. Make him piddle in a cup before they sign him on. Make him buy insurance for every movie role in case he doesn't deliver. Make him responsible for his behavior.

Downey's legal eagle, Robert Shapiro -- yeah, THAT Robert Shapiro -- had argued that the actor should again get probation and more treatment at a rehab center.

"This is a person who is suffering from a disease he can't control," he reportedly said. "Even the dire threat of jail or prison is not enough of a deterrent."

But even Downey told the judge he understood why the court's patience had run out. He begged for another chance at rehab.

"It's like I've got a shotgun in my mouth, with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal," Downey told the judge.

But Malibu Municipal Court Judge Lawrence Mira accused Downey of manipulating his doctors and shrinks during seven court-ordered drug rehab and missing appointments.

"I don't think we have any alternative," the judge said. "We have used them all."

Downey, 34, is looking at a year in the slammer. And his friends say they are worried about his return to the clink. In February 1998, he was slashed in the face by another convict while serving 113 days in L.A. County Jail.

Austin Powers
Mike Myers as Austin Powers

We didn't want to know this

Guess who's an Austin Powers fan.

George W. Bush (shuddderrrr).

Yup, the Texas gov with his eye on the White House is such a big fan of the Mike Myers spy spoof "Austin Powers" he would show off his impersonation of Dr. Evil and tell his staff to "Zip it! Zip it!"

The Republican Bush even joked about his yen for raising campaign bucks by putting his pinky to his lips and purring "a meel-yon dollars" for the audience on his campaign plane.

Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker told the press: "He was really into Dr. Evil, but then he saw the new movie, and now he can't get enough of Mini-Me. Back in June, he took the whole staff to go see the new movie in Austin."

So prepare to hear him yell: "Groovy, baby!" if he gets elected next year.

Tracey Pollan and Michael J. Fox
Tracey Pollan and Michael J. Fox

He's defecting!

His wife of 11 years, Tracey Pollan, is American. His three kids are American-born. He became a star here. So Canadian Michael J. Fox has decided to quit resisting and become an American after 20 years in these United States, says People magazine.

Apparently, Fox wants to vote. "I pay a lot of taxes, and I'd like to say where they go," he told reporters. "And I'd like to be able to vote on my children's issues and things that will affect them." Atta boy!

Meanwhile, Parkinson's disease has forced Fox out of doing a biopic of James Cagney.

"That would be hard now," the star of TV's "Spin City" told reporters. "Dance is such a big part of who Cagney was that if you don't know how to do it, you're just going to look like an idiot."


98 Degrees and getting hotter

The white, blue-eyed soul that is boy group 98 is humming along now, but the four cuties had sort of an identity crisis in the beginning, members Jeff Timmons, brothers Nick and Drew Lachey and Justin Jeffre say.

For one thing, their label, Motown, allegedly told them to lie about their ages. But, poor guys, "we were so stupid, we kept getting confused," Jeffre says in Entertainment Weekly. (For the record, Timmons and Jeffre are 26, Drew is 23, Nick is 25).

Then, the Motown suits told them to pack up and hightail it from Cincinnati to Noo Yawk to be in the center of all things urban. The boys balked, and the suits said, according to Timmons: "Don't move, and your record won't come out.' So we get to New York, and they had this idea that we were country bumpkins, so they wanted us to hang out with an urban crowd, get a lot of urban gear. You have a certain amount of faith that the record company knows what they're talking about."

Then, the suits told them to move to Brooklyn! To join the choir of a Harlem church! "We go through the Yellow Pages," says Drew, "find a church, and drive to Spanish Harlem. And there's yellow police tape all over the building next door. The pastor gets up and says, 'We want to pray for the people who died last night in the illegal gambling hall.' We're like, 'WHAT are we doing here?"'

Did the Backstreet boys have to go through this???

Luckily, Motown underwent some shakeup at the top, and the boys took the opportunity to bolt to Universal Records, where they're finally flying high and are breathing down the necks of Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. Says Nick: "We learned the hard way it's better to be ourselves."

Odds and ends ...

It's refreshing to see two mature, sexy people, Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan, doing the electric slide in a movie, "The Thomas Crown Affair." (We're still recovering from the saggy Michael Douglas-Gwyneth Paltrow pairing.) But when you see two bodies writhing and twisting on the marble floor and staircase in Brosnan's character posh pad, alas, some are done by stunt double lovers. "There were a lot of times when I said, 'You know what, please, I don't want to be on that large marble floor day after day,"' Russo told The New York Daily News at the film's premiere party at Southampton's Club Collette. "But whenever it was us together in close-up, we had to appear in those scenes. It wasn't easy."

Talk about a cliffhanger. "Dawson's Creek" star Joshua Jackson, 21, was yanked out of the waters off Wrightsville Beach, N.C., last week by the Coast Guard after he and a friend tried to save two girls stranded near a rock jetty, but powerful waves swept all four over the jetty and into the inlet, Coast Guard Petty Officer Jody Howey told the press. The falling tide prevented them from swimming back to shore. The actor, who plays Pacey Witter, "kept them safe," David Hartley, producer of the show, which is filmed in nearby Wilmington, told the media. A Coast Guard boat rescued the four about 7 p.m. Everybody was fine.

Pro B-baller Grant Hill married his honey, singer Tamia, after dating for more than two years.

A British software salesman recently stranded in London's posh Sloane Square when his BMW broke down was surprised to see who hopped out of a car to help him push the Beemer out of the way. Simon Thompson said Prince William, 17, and bro Prince Harry, 14, "acted as though it was no big deal,.' a flabbergasted Thompson added, "It is amazing when there are two princes pushing your car down the road. I could not look them in the face because I did not want them to feel uncomfortable."

Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams

Actress Michelle Williams, appearing in "Dick," insists in Time mag, "I have great breasts."

And that's what's passing for pop culture these days!



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