NY Mirror

Van Praagh said his otherworldly connections are something like long-distance calls--just dial 1--but he admitted he wasn't always such a smooth operator. He worked at William Morris "pulling staples out of contracts in the basement," while dreaming not of dialing deadheads, but of writing sitcoms. Everything changed when a medium told him he has a gift of spirit, and he's been pretty much gabbing to heaven ever since. Now he claims he has a three-year waiting list--screw sitcoms--and is tapping into afterlife obsessions so well that I suggested he work in tandem with Dr.Kevorkian, who can off 'em, after which Van Praagh can get 'em on the line.

His most successful star trips? He reached Marilyn Monroe, who said, "I wish they'd all pay homage to themselves instead of me." He got Audrey Meadows in touch with Jackie Gleason, who told her, "Get it right"--meaning Meadows's book should correct the myth that he was an alcoholic. And while Van Praagh says Barry Manilow wanted to contact Judy Garland--quelle surprise--"I told him, 'What makes you think Judy's around you?' You have to have a link with that person." That must be why I can't seem to get my agent on the phone.

Over at Pieces--"where every year is 1979"--brilliant impressionist Jimmy James's act last Wednesday seemed to reach every deceased diva we've longed to hear from, on a big, fab conference call. "So many people have died this year--lots of new material for me," said Jimmy, sardonically. He did a dead-on Tammy Wynette, Karen Carpenter, Judy, Billie, and even a flawless Sonny and Cher, but that last one came only after an assurance that Ms. Sarkisian Bono Allman Whatever will never die. "Long after the nuclear holocaust," he cracked, "there will be two things left--cockroaches and Cher." Doesn't quite have the ring of Sonny and Cher.

Finally, Jocelyne Wildenstein and I--now that has a ring to it--commingled at Life's "Get a Life" party the next night, where I presented the beleaguered, but very alive fabulosity with a NightLIFE Achievement Award in lieu of cash or freedom. Before a crowd consisting only of photographers, I read a dazzling tribute poem to Wildenstein ("Your husband's a pig/But your celebrity's so big . . . "), as she--looking thrilled (I think)--took the plaque with one hand and slipped me her purse with the other. A fair exchange--and hey, it matches my face!

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