Did the Great One pull a fast one? JANET JONES GRETZKY, wife of hockey legend WAYNE GRETZKY, allegedly placed bets with a $1.7 million illegal-gambling ring in New Jersey. And Gretzky's assistant coach at the Phoenix Coyotes, Rick Tocchet, allegedly financed the ring. Neither Gretzky faces charges in the investigation, which authorities call Operation Slapshot, although she may be a witness before a grand jury. Tocchet's lawyer says he is innocent of all charges. Despite his proximity to the case, Gretzky says, "I didn't bet. Didn't happen. Not going to happen. Hasn't happened."
Q&A TYLER PERRY
In last year's Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Tyler Perry played Madea, a gun-toting grandma. She returns this month in Madea's Family Reunion.
As this movie's writer and co-star and a first-time director, how nervous were you that you would crash and burn? Not at all. I grew up in Louisiana, where they throw you in a creek and say, "Swim!"
You were homeless at one point, and now you own mansions in Atlanta and Beverly Hills. How did you do that? It's been my faith in God and belief above everything that if I worked really hard, it would all pay off someday.
Who was your inspiration for Madea--Flip Wilson's Geraldine, Mrs. Doubtfire or Sanford and Son's Aunt Esther? She's based on all of those people, plus Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence characters. If I hadn't seen a man put on a dress, I wouldn't have had the courage to do it. The inspiration comes from my mother and my aunt. Madea is the PG version of them.
Who would win a fight between Madea and Lawrence's Big Momma? The fight would end up in a draw because both of them come from the same school of wisdom. They would end up being really good friends.
What advice would Madea give you for coping with overnight fame? Don't internalize, just kick ass and take names.
What's next? I have a book of Madea's advice on love and life coming out, titled Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings, which boils down to, Don't p___ off a black woman.
TAKE THAT, DAVID HASSELHOFF
The hot new sensation of state-owned TV in Russia is an 87-year-old dissident with a juicy backstory. A mini-series based on ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN'S once banned 1968 anti-Soviet novel, First Circle, attracted 15 million viewers a night, beating out even a broadcast of Terminator 3. After being imprisoned by Stalin, exiled to Vermont and triumphantly welcomed home in 1994, the reclusive writer has not always been in the forefront of Russians' hearts. Dismissed as passé, he endured the indignity of seeing his talk show canceled because of low ratings. But the success of the mini-series, for which the Nobel winner wrote the screenplay and appeared on billboards, may signal a new era of hipness for him. Do we hear Gulag Archipelago for sweeps?
RECLUSIVE STAR EMERGES. HAS NEW HAIRCUT