October 5, 1998, 4 p.m. PT
Calista Flockhart and anorexia. What's been whispered in the gossip pages and zapped around the Internet for weeks, finally worked its way into a legitimate news report late last week.
One problem: It wasn't accurate.
Last Friday, CBS' New York affiliate reported on its 5 p.m. newscast that production on Flockhart's hit Fox series, Ally McBeal, had been halted "indefinitely" while the waifish actress underwent treatment for the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.
An hour later, the station issued an onair retort from Flockhart's publicist: The show was not shut down; its star was not hospitalized. Its star was, in fact, in "good health." (This, according to a transcript of the broadcast read by a station worker.)
WCBS-TV did not refer to the second report as a retraction, although that's what Flockhart's publicists called it. Station news officials could not be reached for comment.
"Bogus story" was the two-word comment from Fox on the WCBS broadcast. On Monday, the network and the office of Flockhart's publicist reiterated: Ally McBeal is in production.
A rep for the TV star also confirmed that Flockhart made public appearances this past weekend, including face-time at an event honoring Ally creator David E. Kelley.
"She is healthy," the staffer said. "She is fine."
That's been the mantra from the Flockhart and Fox camps in the wake of what appears to have been a disastrous fashion choice on Emmy night.
A backless gown worn by the TV lawyer at the September 13 awards apparently revealed too much or too little--at least to the liking of the British tabs, which appear to be the first to pounce on headline-mongering eating-disorder stories.
New York Daily News gossip columnist Mitchell Fink kicked it up a notch two weeks ago, reporting that the skinny thespian had been asked to hide her barely there frame in a bulky sweater for a recent Entertainment Weekly cover shoot.
Days later, Flockhart insiders got Fink to publish their response: The actress is working out and never felt better.
It's not just professional gossips, though, who are working this story/non-story. On the Ally McBeal Internet news group, Flockhart's weight is the dominant topic, with fans expressing concern that their reed-thin TV heroine dropped more (read: too much) poundage in the off-season.
Flockhart, who rocketed from New York stage notoriety to People magazine celebrity in the past year, is not the first actress to be dogged by anorexia rumors. Ex-Lois & Clark star Teri Hatcher was the subject of almost identical stories in late-1996, early-'97.
Last November, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.