HOLLYWOOD, June 6 (UPI) -- At the halfway mark of year 2002, Tinseltown is facing an identity crisis, emphasized by the death of Lew Wasserman, once the most powerful man in the movie business.
Wasserman's death marks the end of the most prosperous era in Hollywood history, when more movies made more money than ever before.
Ironically, 2002 may be the most deflating year since the great Depression, with increased unemployment for creative personnel, technicians, craftsmen and support industries.
Still, thanks to tabloid TV shows, supermarket scandal sheets and misleading box office records, Hollywood continues to be its old rambunctious self with enough gossip and tinsel to provide sufficient razzle-dazzle to convince the world all is well.
It is a brave and somewhat silly facade to keep up appearances, which is something of a show business shibboleth wrapped up in the old song "Hooray For Hollywood!"
The show must go on and all that sort of thing.
But the forced glamour is somewhat tawdry and often workaday tiresome.
Does anyone really care if Puff Daddy is making a comeback? Not when half the population has no idea what a Puff Daddy is.
How important is it that Salma Hayek may consider being tattooed?
Is Tom Cruise thinking about marrying Penélope Cruz, or is that a manufactured rumor to promote interest in the star's new movie?
Then, again, who cares?
Probably Tom and Penélope, but with Osama bin Laden making headlines the machinations of Hollywood celebrities pale into insignificance.
All the same there were some genuine news stories abroad in the first half of 2002:
Robert Blake is standing trial accused of the murder of his wife, Bonny Bakley, a tragic situation that will make continuing headlines.
Winona Ryder was busted for shoplifting, and then her trial was postponed when her arm was injured by a photographer outside a courtroom.
Kim Delaney, former cast member of "NYPD Blue" and a co-star in the series "Philly," was nabbed for drunk driving in Malibu.
Dionne Warwick, 61, was arrested at Miami International Airport when marijuana was allegedly discovered in her bag. The Grammy-winning singer said there must have been a mistake.
In a burst of gratitude for his "Tonight Show" staffers, Jay Leno called a meeting of some 200 members last April to hand each a check for $1,000 for every year of service. His largess cost Leno about $1.5 million. He could afford it.
"Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer also shelled out big bucks -- $2 million, but not to his cast and crew. A federal court ordered him to lay the money on his former talent agency in back commissions.
Grammer can afford it too. His income is about $1.6 million per episode.
Phyllis Diller announced her retirement during her act at a Las Vegas hotel, saying she was 84 years old and hopes to live to be 100.
She told her audience, "If I live that long I'm going to be a sweet little old lady with a cane full of gin."
Also calling a halt is noisy TV hostess Rosie O'Donnell, 40, quitting her daily talk show. She also announced loud and clear she is a lesbian, as if that were world-shaking news.
On a more serious note, another TV celebrity, newsman Tom Brokaw, said he would be leaving his anchor post on NBC in 2004 after three decades with the network.
Horror of horrors: Sarah Michelle Gellar had three inches shorn from her blonde locks for her role in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to give her more maturity.
Bear up, America! There will be one fewer anorexic blonde leading ladies on the tube next television season, thanks to the dreadful news that Calista Flockhart (that is not a typo) is leaving her starring role in "Ally McBeal."
Bruce Willis proved he really loves his kids, who live with ex-wife Demi Moore in Hailey, Idaho. He bought a mountain home across the street from the family so he could spend more time with his youngsters.
Male sex symbol Richard Gere clearly has gone over the top. Well, sufficiently enough to drive a fan bonkers. Police arrested a 51-year-old German fan named Ursula Reichert-Habbishaw for stalking him all the way to India when the actor visited the Dalai Lama. Now there's a true believer for you.
Yasmine Bleeth, the "Baywatch" beach-chick who turns 34 next week, was busted for drugs. Her boyfriend Paul Cerrito, 31, was jailed for possession of illegal substances earlier this year.