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Revenge of the Mummy

Think movie-making is all glitz and glamour? The cast and crew of “The Mummy Returns” had to contend last year with blinding sandstorms and torrential rains during the seven-week shoot in the Sahara Desert. It got so bad that 90 crew members were airlifted to safety in a Moroccan army helicopter.

“It was like something biblical,” director Stephen Sommers told us over the phone the other day. “It was a quarter-mile-high wall of brownness. Then it rained, and a river opened up.” Luckily, no one was seriously hurt and some of the Moroccan soldiers and their horses got to be extras in battle scenes.

For stars Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz and Patricia Velasquez, the weather wasn’t the worst of it. All three actors were injured during filming.

“I blew up Brendan’s knee, broke one of his ribs, and tore a disc in his back,” Sommers said. “Every once in a while, when you see a pained look on Brendan’s face, he ain’t faking it.” Weisz and Velasquez, meanwhile, “will never be hand models,” Sommers said. “Their fingers are all scarred up” from the film’s spear fights.

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“The Mummy Returns” premiered Sunday at Universal Studios for an audience of 3,000, raising $185,000 for the USC School of Cinema-Television. It opens in theaters on Friday.

Niki Still Critical

Supermodel Niki Taylor remained in critical condition at press time, with a “life-threatening” liver injury from a weekend car crash, her doctor said. Dr. Jeffrey Nichols told “Good Morning America” that the 26-year-old mother of twin boys “lost extensive amounts of blood.” It could be weeks before he’ll know whether she will make a full recovery.

Taylor, a top model since she was 14, is in the intensive care unit at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. She was a passenger in a friend’s Nissan Maxima when the car hit a pole about 2 a.m. Sunday. Driver James Renegar, 27, told police he looked down to answer his cellular phone and lost control of the car. Taylor, who was wearing a seat belt, initially seemed fine but later experienced severe abdominal pain.

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Taylor’s sister, Joelle Bolline, told ABC that Taylor is unable to speak but opened her eyes, nodded and squeezed the hands of family members. Her parents, Barbara and Ken Taylor, also are at her bedside. “She knows we’re all here for her,” Bolline said.

Undue Influence?

A battle royal is brewing over the estate of “That’s Entertainment” producer Jack Haley Jr., who died two weeks ago. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior court, a pair of longtime “household servants,” Haley’s sister, a niece and a nephew accuse his bookkeeper of coercing the ailing man into signing over control of his estate.

“This case involves efforts of plaintiffs to protect the . . . estate of Jack Haley Jr. from a venal former employee,” court papers say. The suit alleges that bookkeeper Kelly Beardswood, who also goes by Kelly Brandt, has “stolen and misappropriated” the late producer’s money and property. Haley, son of “Wizard of Oz” tin man Jack Haley, was 67 when he died April 21. He was married for five years to entertainer Liza Minnelli during the 1970s.

According to the suit, as Haley’s health declined in 1999, the bookkeeper starting writing checks for him. Last year, the suit says, she had him sign papers turning the Jack Haley Jr. Trust over to her and naming her his executor. Haley “was incompetent to sign such documents and incapable and of unsound mind,” the lawsuit charges.

Brandt declined comment.

Haley’s 1995 will left trusts for family members and provided for longtime employees Irene and Deiter Fritsch. The will states that the Fritsches could stay at Haley’s home for as long as they liked after his death. But they left three weeks before Haley died because they couldn’t tolerate the bookkeeper’s abuse, says the suit, which seeks to remove her as executor and enforce the terms of the 1995 will.

Desperately Seeking Fekkai

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Frederic Fekkai made a name primping New York’s ladies who lunch. But these days, L.A. is demanding more chair time from the famous French hairstylist. Contrary to reports, Fekkai says he hasn’t completely abandoned Manhattan. He’ll still tend to A-list locks in New York, but he’s become a truly bicoastal creature, spending more time at his Rodeo Drive shop. “Los Angeles is a newer salon, a new market, and I love being here,” Fekkai told us. “It’s just nice.”

Quote, Unquote

We’re both going to be 8 years old forever because we never had a chance to be 8 when we actually were.

--Macaulay Culkin, 20, on his friendship with Michael Jackson in New York magazine.

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Times staff writers Louise Roug and Gina Piccalo contributed to this report. City of Angles runs Tuesday-Friday. E-mail: angles@latimes.com.


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