Editor's note: This week's Ecollywood was so long, we cut it into two parts. Read the other half, about all the stars we interviewed at the Oceana fundraiser.
Volkswagen's 2012 Eos won't be available until February 2011 but "Gossip Girl"'s Jessica Szohr, "Glee"'s Mark Salling, "Brothers and Sisters"' Gilles Marini, "Dancing with the Stars" pros Karina Smirnoff and Anna Trebunskaya, and Bill and Giuliana Rancic got a sneak peek at the hardtop convertible at a launch party in Santa Monica.
In town briefly from New York, Szohr, whose first car was a Volkswagen, doesn't own a vehicle now. "I take public transportation," she said, adding that she also recycles, shops at farmers markets and takes a reusable bag to the grocery. On "Gossip Girl," her character Vanessa goes off to visit her parents, "and when she comes back there's a big change in her." Szohr (pictured right) recently finished shooting a movie called "Art Machine," in which she plays another Brooklyn girl, "but very different from Vanessa. She befriends a young artist and they teach each other a lot about life."
Arriving late from the "Glee" set, where as usual, Puck is "hanging out, causing trouble," Salling (pictured left) talked about his new CD, "Pipe Dreams," and singing "Jingle Bells" (with Cory Monteith and Kevin McHale) on the "Glee" Christmas album. Currently an Infiniti driver, he's "looking to branch out" and was eager to check out new cars. So was "Dancing"'s Trebunskaya: "This is a very fancy way of car shopping," she said, adding that she wants one that is "comfortable, easy to park and doesn't use much gas" and is also considering hybrids and electrics. (Volkswagen says the Eos gets 31 MPG on the highway.) At home, she has a dual-bin garbage can for trash and recycling, and washes and reuses plastic bags. "Maybe it's from growing up in Russia," she mused. "I hate throwing stuff away."
Just back from a day trip to Arizona to rehearse with eliminated partner Kurt Warner for a season finale performance in which they'll team with Rick Fox and Cheryl Burke, Trebunskaya was surprised by frontrunner Brandy's elimination that night and was unable to predict who'd win even though Jennifer Grey "has the most experience and the best dancer by far. Kyle Massey is the most entertaining, and Bristol Palin is the most improved." For her next partner, she'd love to dance with athletes Lance Armstrong or Michael Phelps or comic actors Mike Myers or Will Ferrell, and wouldn't mind someone with a bit of dance experience. In late January, she'll join Louis Van Amstel and other "DWTS" pros and stars for a two-week Los Angeles run of the touring show "Ballroom with a Twist."
Gilles Marini, who drove a red Volkswagen Beetle before he traded it in for a Mercedes, finds his motorcycles — a Harley and a Suzuki — better for navigating L.A. traffic. He was shocked by Brandy's elimination, as was Karina Smirnoff, who was voted out fourth with partner Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino. "Regardless of how early we went, I had so much fun with him," she said, noting that they're rehearsing a cha-cha number for the finale. Next time, she'd like a partner with more dance ability, like Corbin Bleu from "High School Musical." Recently engaged to baseball player Brad Penny, Smirnoff (pictured right) is thinking about a "very princess" dress, a guest list with lots of "DWTS" pros and alumni, and a Bora Bora honeymoon, but hasn't set a date, as it will depend on the couple's respective work seasons. She may consider incorporating green elements into the wedding, but already lives eco-consciously by recycling and installing solar outdoor lighting. "It's not only economical, it's great for the environment and adds so much to the décor of the outside."
E! reality show couple Bill ("The Apprentice") and Giuliana Rancic (pictured left) are also incorporating green elements into their new house in the Chicago suburbs (they split their time between there and L.A.). "We're putting in a rooftop garden, and we'll do organic vegetables in the backyard — basil, tomatoes," noted Bill. "In our driveway we used clay pavers, which are a lot more environmentally friendly, with better drainage." Eager to attend the Eos unveiling, "We are in the market for a new car. We're sharing a Mercedes right now," said Bill, who laughed at the memory of his first auto, a rusty '79 Datsun 280ZX he bought for $400. As viewers of their E! series know, they've been trying to have a baby. "We're not giving up," he told us. "We're taking it day by day," Giuliana added.
"I just put solar panels on my house in L.A.," says Will Estes, who's not there to enjoy them as he's working in New York on the CBS series "Blue Bloods." He switched the light bulbs in his rented downtown Manhattan apartment to compact fluorescents and air-dries his clothes instead of machine drying them. "My power bill dropped by 60 percent," he notes. The former child actor and "American Dreams" alumnus (pictured right) has his richest role yet as Jamie Reagan, a Harvard Law-educated rookie cop and son of the police commissioner (Tom Selleck) who's conscripted to secretly investigate a clandestine group within the police department that may have ties to his family. "You have the crime-solving action but at this show's heart and core is a character-driven family drama," points out Estes, who has two films in the can. He plays another police officer — the small town variety — in the independent movie "Magic Valley," opposite Scott Glenn, and plays one of eight friends "that have gotten separated over time but get back together for a wedding" in "Not Since You," another indie.
Tune in: Planet Green's "Dean of Invention" explores the latest in electric car technology in the Nov. 19 episode, and on PBS, "Deep Down," airing Nov. 23, focuses on two friends on opposite sides in a community battle over a mountaintop coalmine in eastern Kentucky.
Additional photos: Jessica Szohr, Mark Salling, Karina Smirnoff and Bill and Giuliana Rancic by Lisa Rose; Will Estes by John Paul Filo/CBS.