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The Beat

Still wondering why Matt Leinart stuck around USC for one more year? Look no further than Mood, the Hollywood nightclub where he was feted on May 11 with a 22nd birthday party fit for a Trojan king. The Heisman Trophy winner and 30 of his closest friends, including Nick Lachey, Jessica Simpson, Lindsay Lohan (below) and once-rumored love interest Alyssa Milano, "reveled all night," says Mood host Josh Richman. "We set them up dead in the middle of the club, and they took the place over; they never left the dance floor." Vince Vaughn stopped by for a hug, and at night's end Milano presented her buddy with a cake. The crowd--which also included Jake Gyllenhaal, Fred Durst, the Braves' Andruw Jones and Leinart's USC backup, Brandon Hance--then serenaded Leinart with Happy Birthday to You.

■ Bill Belichick's days of dodging injury inquiries with his favorite cop-out--"I don't know; I'm not a doctor"--are over. On Sunday he received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. Dr. Belichick graduated with an economics degree in 1975 after an undistinguished career as a lineman and long snapper on the Cardinals' football team. He also captained the lacrosse team his senior year. "Now he's simply the best head football coach in the NFL, ever," says a Wesleyan official.

■ Memo to anyone who thinks Ernie Johnson's is a dream job: For the right price, you can swivel in the Inside the NBA host's seat. TNT is auctioning off the set from which Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith pontificate, to make way for a bigger, better version and to raise money for charity. Other items up for bid include the backboard Smith uses on the Kenny's Court segment and a hanging scoreboard. But Smith says the desk will be the hardest to part with: "It's pretty sentimental to us." As of Monday bidding on the desk--Smith says he always wore pants but occasionally went without shoes when he sat behind it--had reached $2,000. (The auction closes on May 31.) "Whoever gets that is getting a '59 Chevy," says Smith. "It's never going to get old."

‚ñ† Soccer legend Pelé is in talks with Freddie Fields, the producer of Victory, about producing a follow-up to the 1981 film, in which he starred with Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine. Victory told the story of Allied World War II POWs who escape during a soccer match against the German national team. For now, fans can catch the Brazilian-born star in Pelé Forever, a documentary that includes never-before-seen footage from his career. "A lot of things I saw in the film I didn't remember," Pelé noted after a screening at the Cannes Film Festival. "I said, 'Oh, my God. I did that?'"... Speaking of Stallone, the Sly one is seeking a new home for his reality boxing show, The Contender. NBC declined to renew the show, which was due to conclude on Tuesday, but Stallone and executive producer--host Sugar Ray Leonard haven't thrown in the towel yet. "The Contender's a hit," says Stallone. "It's gonna have a home. It may not be at NBC, but it'll have a home and it'll come back stronger."


Arsenal soccer star Freddie Ljungberg needed surgery and missed four weeks because of a reaction to tattoo ink.

They Said It


Heavyweight who was KO'd in Round 1 by Lennox Lewis in 1997, after a 53-second loss to Lamon Brewster: "I cannot believe this happens to me every decade."



What could be more relaxing than a nice swim followed by a poolside tranquilizer dart? With temperatures hitting 88Àö in Los Angeles on Sunday, this 150-pound female black bear, who had wandered over from the nearby Santa Susanna Mountains, went for a dip in Granada Hills. She was able to get in a few laps before California Department of Fish and Game officials subdued her and returned her to the wild.