Renee Fleming dressing couture for opera

“HEY, EVERYBODY is reuniting. Even Nicole and Paris got back together. Why not us?” That’s soul legend Lionel Richie, talking about an upcoming reunion with his famous group, the Commodores. Lionel is also working on a new solo album, with producer Jimmy Jam. Lionel looked trim and healthy, dressed head to toe in black, chowing down on a Caesar salad at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Our friend, the gadfly music historian and press rep Hal Lifson –he is now guiding Olympic glamour runner, Kara Goucher — asked Lionel about other projects. The singer laughed, “Well, as you know, things have been kinda slow in my business, so luckily I have been picking up some side gigs as a babysitter! (For his grandchild, Harlow, by Nicole and Joel Madden.)

WHEN THE divine Renee Fleming opens the Metropolitan Opera gala Sept. 22, she’ll be wearing couture by those legends John Galliano, Christian Lacroix and Karl Lagerfeld. Renee will sing three of her most acclaimed roles in fully staged selections from “La Traviata,” “Manon” and “Capriccio.” This is the first time such renowned fashion names have designed for the Opera … THE BESTselling author Anna Quindlen offered to name a character in her forthcoming book for a generous donor at the Barnard College auction. When two people each bid $20,000 for the privilege, Anna put both names in her latest work of art; netting $40,000 for Barnard… DUSTIN HOFFMAN is having “a toilet” named after him at the modern new Broad Stage Theater in Santa Monica. He has raised a lot of money to help build this place over the last nine years. They wanted to name the theater after him, but he said, “No way.” So one of the backstage bathrooms will bear Dustin’s name… SENATOR Hillary Clinton and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney celebrate the birthdays of Pat Schroeder and Eleanor Smeal on Wednesday in Washington. Call 202-715-0387 and get a signed book from Carolyn’s “Rumors of Our Progress Have Been Greatly Exaggerated” … IN Watermill, they’ll rub elbows with Christie Brinkley on Sunday at the “Wild, Wild West Family Day Carnival” for the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. Call 718-430-2818… MY FAVORITE “run” happens Aug. 24. Join Rosanna Scotto in the “Strides for Life” three-miler starting in Southampton.Lung Cancer research benefits; call 212-332-4403.

I hear that Barbra Streisand has agreed to appear on “American Idol” next year! Like other big stars who have special-guested “Idol,” Barbra would sing and perhaps give a bit of advice to the youngsters competing for the big prize. I called Barbra’s admirable press rep, Dick Guttman. He said, “I have never heard such a rumor, I don’t know anything about it.” So, that’s kind of a denial. (He has never heard it as a rumor because… maybe it’s a fact?!) But I also realize that sometimes the press rep is the last to know. This can lead to hard feelings between the press and the star-protectors. “You lied!” we complain. “I didn’t!” the rep insists. “She/he does what he/she wants to do!” Mr. Guttman, who also handles Elizabeth Taylor, has always been a straight shooter. Barbra changed management recently –though she retains Marty Erlichman, her main man behind the scenes for her entire career. An “American Idol” stint would give her oomph and exposure. Of course, her appearance might actually end “American Idol” on the spot. The interpreter par excellence of great American standards on the same stage with a lot of kids who, I am sorry to say, don’t know how to leave a song alone. All that multi-octave showing off (a single note split into four parts!) When Barbra hits one of those stratospheric notes, it has a musical point; she’s not just making a big noise to show she can. And who caresses a ballad more exquisitely than Streisand? Anyway, it’s a rumor. We checked. We’ll see.

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