Only in LA: Hallmarks of an odd couple

SOMEONE RECENTLY made the remark that the Internet is the new rock`n'roll, which might explain why Jerry Hall has moved on from her long marriage to Mick Jagger and has now hooked up with Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft.

News of the liaison has raised a few eyebrows here - after all Hall is a former fashion model while Allen is a pudgy 45-year-old with outsize glasses - but Allen's coup is much more than just a triumph of financial charisma over physical beauty.

Since leaving the side of his childhood chum Bill Gates, he has been trying to earn the good graces of the Hollywood establishment, setting up home in Rock Hudson's old house in Beverly Hills, cultivating friendships with celebrities like Peter Gabriel and Monica Seles, and launching numerous media and entertainment ventures including a $660m investment in Steven Spielberg's production studio DreamWorks.

A high-profile relationship with Jerry Hall might be just the ticket to give him the public exposure he needs - after all, the leap from computer nerd to Hollywood mogul is an awkward one. And it might also manage to banish the spectre of some troublesome women from his past.

Bubbling away is a sexual harassment suit brought by Allen's former business partner Abbie Phillips with whom he worked to turn the West Hollywood children's bookstore Storyopolis into a multi-media venture. Phillips, a married mother of two, alleges that Allen lured her to his bedroom at his mansion on Mercer Island, near Seattle, in 1996 and made highly intrusive advances. She believes her resistance was directly responsible for her dismissal from Storyopolis a year later.

Furthermore, she contends Allen has a "disturbing pattern" of harassing and firing female employees. Her predecessor as Storyopolis's manager, Megan Taylor, was Allen's girlfriend for a time and left her job after the relationship ended.

According to court files, Allen not only denies the allegations but says Phillips was fired for spending nearly $30,000 in company funds on personal expenses. A nasty court battle is in the offing but an appearance by Jerry Hall at Allen's side might work wonders on the jury.

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THE RESIDENTS of Malibu, Los Angeles' ritziest beach resort, are well known for keeping to themselves, and this weekend they had all the privacy they could dream of.

On Saturday morning the highway patrol obligingly cordoned off 27 miles of the Pacific Coast Highway, blocking access to all non-residents and leaving the main thoroughfare behind the beach so blissfully clear that the chirping of seagulls echoed in the hills. Angelenos heading for Malibu's unspoiled beaches were caught in a monster jam before being forced to head back the way they came.The ostensible reason for this decision was nothing more mysterious than a burst water main that left 50,000 homes high and dry. The authorities hurriedly brought in a fleet of water tankers to supply residents with five-gallon jugs, then decided that they didn't want to waste precious water on outsiders. So they did what only a place like Malibu can get away with doing - they shut the whole place down.

Even when the water supply resumed on Saturday afternoon, the highway remained firmly closed - an event that usually signals a landslide or similar natural disaster. Apparently the fire department was concerned to have enough water in case one of Malibu's brush fires broke out.

But it was hard not to suppose, too, that the town's population of beach bums and film stars was thrilled to be rid of the tourist riff-raff for one weekend. "I only come to surf Malibu on disaster days," one local surfer remarked. The only drawback was the lack of recreation. One cafe valiantly struggled on with paper plates and portable toilets, but otherwise the well-appointed citizens of Malibu had to suffer the indignity of eating at home.

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A MOVIE actress at a Los Angeles premiere, a graceful red gown and a big smile. It all seemed so routine to Molly Ringwald, stepping out to the whirring of cameras at the Westwood Village theatre, that the question from an Access Hollywood reporter took her utterly unawares.

"Why are you here, Molly?" he asked.

"I'm in the movie," she replied indignantly.

But she wasn't. She'd turned up to the premiere of a comedy called Love Stinks. The film she was in, Teaching Mrs Tingle, was holding its gala debut around the corner at the Mann Bruin theatre.

Beating a hasty retreat, she fought back her embarrassment, put her best movie-star smile back on and made her entrance all over again.

"People kept asking me if love really stinks," she said afterwards.

"It was creepy."

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