The other day, casting our usual furtive glance at the L.A. X….Press curbside news box, we were startled to see starlet Kate Hudson — fresh-faced, golden-haired and (most crucially) bare-shouldered — smiling at us from the cover amid banners promoting “midnight rendezvous,” “adult services,” “LAX 24 hrs singles guide” and the like. Our, um, investigative juices flowing, we thought it worth a quarter for a deeper look into the issue. Inside, it turned out, there were no opportunities for a “date” or a lap dance with the young Goldie Hawn progeny and media-anointed Next Big Thing, not even a few lean-and-hungry snippets from a vintage (circa May or June of this year, say) R-rated photo session. Instead, we found, on Page 2, a heartfelt if high-pitched puff piece from one William Marigold touting the fall release of the film Almost Famous, in which Hudson stars as early-’70s groupie — excuse us, we mean “Band-Aid” — Penny Lane. (Sample Marigold soundbite: “The production radiates a ‘good’ feeling from the screen that will have you enjoying the warm tears as they spill down your smiling cheeks.”) And lots more stills, albeit less seductively cropped, from the movie.

So how, we asked ourselves, does such a photo wind up on the cover of such a rag? Was it the first (and last, no doubt) bright idea of some overzealous publicist? Could newcomer Hudson herself, overwhelmed by feelings of unworthiness after landing the covers of Jane, Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone magazines — a near-perfect celebrity trifecta — be affecting a “common touch”?

Neither, as it turns out. According to Mr. Marigold, a self-described “world’s leading authority on the X-rated industry,” use of movie reviews and other “quote socially redeeming material unquote” as the pretext for celebrity front pages is far from unprecedented: Past X . . . Press cover girls have included Kim Basinger, Liv Tyler and Boogie Nights “Roller Girl” Heather Graham. Has this sort of “fair use” ever drawn legal action by the studios? Never, says Marigold. (A legal expert agrees that the film review probably protects the use of the cover photo by X . . . Press, although he says it is a gray area. Hudson’s representative was unavailable for comment.) The standard, Marigold claims, is “Any publicity is better than no publicity. Or, in the words of legendary Twentieth Century Fox publicist Jed Fore, ‘Sell it, don’t smell it.’”

Which evokes all sorts of associations we’d rather not (not here, not now anyway) commit to writing.

—Ron Stringer

Smack Down

Now, the life of a news columnist is a glamorous one indeed. But OffBeat didn’t feel we had really scaled the apex of prestigious media assignments until our recent gig covering the annual Musicians Assistance Program (MAP) awards at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Sandwiched between a correspondent for Heroin Times and a cable-show hostess at the $500-a-plate affair, which benefited the group’s musician drug-intervention program, we were quickly caught up in enough witty repartee for a Nick and Nora Charles movie.

Heroin Times correspondent Ron Miller, it turns out, works for Amateur Chef magazine as well as the online drug sheet, but he was happy to be on the smack beat this evening. “They should be glad I am not writing about the food,” smiled Miller after sampling the herb-encrusted halibut with fennel sauce, scalloped potatoes and asparagus. “Did you know that fennel is the most expensive spice?”

We were just savoring a glass of white wine when we overheard cable hostess

Estelle Bascin expressing her appreciation for O.J. Simpson. “O.J. is a very nice man,” she remarked, or words to that effect, to her Loni Anderson–look-alike dinner mate.

The event, which also featured kickass performances by legendary bluesman Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, Hugh Masekela, David Crosby, and Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (all former drug addicts), raised $250,000 for MAP, which earlier this year rejected a proposed merger with the controversial National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS). NARAS chief C. Michael Greene has been under investigation for his financial practices by the Internal Revenue Service, the L.A. Times has reported.

“MAP is what the other outfit was supposed to be but wasn’t,” said Crosby, on hand to receive MAP’s Stevie Ray Vaughan Award.

OffBeat’s exuberance after the evening’s entertainment was short-lived, however, as we slunk up to the valet-parking stand, waiting for our old jalopy to join the shiny lineup of BMWs and Porsches. “I wish I had washed my car before coming here,” we said glumly. “I wish I had taken my girlfriend’s car,” Miller agreed as we parted.

—Christine Pelisek

Hooey Quotient Rising at L.A. Times

How much hooey can a gossip columnist spew before her column becomes humbug? The L.A. Times’ own Hedda Hopper wannabe, Booth Moore, managed to cram three mistakes into five short sentences in her October 10 “So Cal Confidential.” Moore was trawling a 10th-anniversary schmooze for “fashion diva Tracey Ross’ Sunset Plaza store,” when she spotted “photojournalist Lisa Eisner, the sister-in-law of Disney Exec Michael.” Boo-boo number one: Lisa is not married to Michael’s brother, perhaps because the Disney Co. chairman doesn’t have a brother.

In the brittle, self-conscious demimonde de mode, the name of the game is names, names, names (preferably boldfaced), and the more frequently you can append your own to those of the rich and famous, the closer to center stage you move. And so, to build on the mention of Eisner (whom Isaac Mizrahi has called his “muse”) — hence, to make the gossip juicier — Booth blundered on. “Eisner, looking fab in a black cowboy hat, gold leather skirt and gold conch belt . . . said that rumors that Madonna’s new western look was inspired by Eisner’s recent book, Rodeo Girls, are true. Eisner’s next book, Kustom, is due later this month. With L.A. photographer Dewey Knicks, she explores the art of obsession, from custom interiors and hot rods to plastic surgery.”

Blunders two and three: Kustom is not Eisner’s next book. It is Dewey Nicks’ solo debut — his words, his photographs, his obsession. And, it’s N-I-C-K-S not K-N-I-C-K-S. Perhaps the confusion arose because Eisner is the co-publisher of Kustom, not its author, a subtle distinction that apparently escaped Booth’s inflationary imagination.

Newly appointed Times editor John Carroll and managing editor Dean Baquet being a bit touchy about facts, the newspaper dutifully printed a correction two days later. “Tuesday’s So Cal Confidential column misidentified Lisa Eisner. She is not related to Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner.” Disney’s Ken Green says that his company did not make the catch that prompted the “For The Record” admission. Times spokesman David Garcia did not return Offbeat’s calls concerning Moore’s other mistakes. And why should he? “So Cal Confidential” is gossip, not news, so what’s the harm of a little embellishment whispered among (catty) friends?

—Greg Goldin

LA Weekly