Rambling Reporter

6:00 AM PST 11/06/2012 by Merle Ginsberg & Gary Baum

Britney's Hearing Aid: The X Factor viewers might have noticed Britney Spears wearing an accessory on her right ear for the season's first live episodes -- and we're not talking about the sparkly kind. To the trained eye, it seemed the pop star had an in-ear IFB (interruptible feedback), which allows a producer or the control room to communicate directly, possibly feeding lines or direction. Or so an on-set source tells THR. But Spears' manager Larry Rudolph insists it's a custom-molded earplug aimed at noise reduction. A show rep confirms it's to deaden the sound: "Britney wears it for the crowd noise. It's absolutely not an IFB." As for why fellow X Factor judges Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid and Demi Lovato are plug-free, Cowell's rep says it's "just personal choice -- same as the crew. Some choose to use them, and some don't." Still, if Spears is sound-sensitive, why was she wearing a plug in only one ear? Rudolph says she lost the left earpiece -- but she'll be sporting both on future shows.

Banks' Horse in the Race

The Hunger Games actress Elizabeth Banks sure knows how to bet the ponies. She attended the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 3, and though her ensemble of a blue-and-white print dress paired with dowdy brown boots got trampled by the press, she and her husband, sportswriter Max Handelman, hit a superfecta in the 11th race that paid $750. She was spotted filling out cash-in forms at the IRS window at day's end and tweeted: "Fort Larned for the win @BreedersCup Classic … Great day at the races." Fort Larned took the showcase $5 million Classic race against 9-to-1 odds.

Low on Loews?

Some at the American Film Market have had it with the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. At this year's event, which ends Nov. 7, grousing about aging infrastructure and spotty web connectivity has been constant. "Internet that works: It's not too much to ask when you're paying $20,000 to get a suite to do business for the week -- one that doesn't even have a balcony," says one AFM veteran. (Rooms start at $6,180 for AFM.) "The place is tired and claustrophobic." AFM organizers recently re-upped their contract with Loews through 2017 after considering a move downtown, prompted when the hotel asked for more money. AFM decided to stay put because European buyers blanched at leaving the beach. The hotel did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Power Lunch

The recently opened New American restaurant MessHall in Los Feliz has seen Steven Soderbergh, Jon Hamm, Lea Michele, Kevin Bacon with Kyra Sedgwick and Jerry O'Connell with Rebecca Romijn. … Sony Pictures boss Michael Lynton broke bread with producer Irwin Winkler at Spago one day, and Randy Jackson and Home Shopping Network CEO Mindy Grossman shared a table on another. Cheryl Tiegs, Roseanne Barr and Jerry Weintraub also have been in. … Martha Stewart held court at Scarpetta, while Rihanna chatted up Chris Brown's mother at another table and Kelly Rowland ate with a friend. … Bradley Cooper dined with Harvey Weinstein at Chateau Marmont. … Lionsgate senior vp Jennifer Hollingsworth and attorney Christopher Spicer shared a table at Bouchon. … At The Grill on the Alley, WME's Dan Aloni met with director Jay Roach on Halloween while producers Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher shared a table with director Daniel Espinosa nearby. The following day, Haim Saban gathered with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry while across the room CAA's Richard Lovett joined Irving Azoff.

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