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Apple sings Rhapsody in Blue while the SPAM sizzles

Comdex may have Elvis and Einstein impersonators, but, at Macworld this week, Apple didn't skimp on phony-baloney dead celebs.

SAN FRANCISCO--Comdex may have Elvis and Einstein impersonators, but, at Macworld this week, Apple didn't skimp on phony-baloney dead celebs. The Mac-heads cranked out enough star power to light a small galaxy. Too bad when Monday comes around everyone will have forgotten the Macworld glitz, and Apple will have to get down to the dirty work of smacking its OS into shape by the end of the year.

But Tuesday's keynote by Gil Amelio was all champagne wishes and caviar dreams, an episode of Life Styles of the Rich and Geeky. Celebrities abounded as if, by simply showing up, they could polish Apple's tarnished fruit.

On stage, Jeff Goldblum, tongue deeply embedded in cheek, compared Apple's latest strategic direction to the comic-book heroism of his latest popcorn movie, Independence Day. "We were striking a blow for humanity, just like today," Goldblum japed.

After Goldblum showed a clip from ID4, Microsoft's Paul Maritz picked up on the fun. Maritz cracked that someone backstage looked at him during the video clip and said, "You see that big alien space ship. That's you, of course." The audience laughed.

There were other, more predictable trade-show stars on hand as well: Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and the cyber-savvy Peter Gabriel (doing a demo). Beyond that, the list of big shots got downright weird. Doc Amelio invited tap dancer Gregory Hines, funny man Sinbad, and former deity Muhammad Ali to stand up from the audience, never explaining why they were there. Amelio didn't even say what's on their PowerBooks.

Thankfully, one of my spies managed to get at least some of the answers back stage in the VIP room. Hines and Goldblum confessed that they're die-hard Mac fans and that they've both been promised Hoopers. Perhaps the most touching backstage scene was the Woz telling Ali and the pugilist's wife how he loves teaching kids to use computers, and that nothing else matters.

Meanwhile, the real world continued to turn outside of Macworld. My spies tell me that America Online has inadvertently blocked email from some ISPs, even if they're not on AOL's list of spammers. AkaMail claims that email from all 92 of the domain names it hosts are being blocked by AOL. The company claims it's not on AOL's filter list. My column may be free, but it's not a trial copy. No upgrade necessary, no money down, just send me email with your juiciest rumors.