By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
You ordered the plate of steamy gossip with a side of glitzy premieres and grasping multimedia stars? Well, for starters, I hear that the unintentionally campy teen diva Charlotte Church has been biologically catapulted into a possibly premature ladyhoodyes, the Church now has steeplesand her handlers are freaking out about how to market this newly tumescent creation.
Having a Britney Spearstype singing "Ave Maria" wasn't exactly what they had in mind, even if they are trying to cross her over into pop. Expect much strapping down of bosoms, which will prompt even higher notes.
Still hungry? As you know, the busty, lusty Lisa Mariewas dumped by Tim Burton, who then (to use hisofficial chronology) took up with simian sweetheart Helena Bonham Carter. Well, the shattered Lisa Marie is telling friends that the usually communicative Burton had the nerve to break up with her via faxnot even by e-mail! She tried to reach the guy on the phone to discuss things, but he never bothered to call her back. Talk about your nightmare before Christmas. (By the way, in pre-breakup interviews, Lisa Marie talked about the challenges caused by her and Tim being apart for long stretches. But I'm sure she never counted on monkeyface swinging in and peeling Tim's banana.)
And now for your main coursea heaping serving of Oscar hopefuls with a couple of stale hors d'oeuvres afterwards. Irisis a lovingly made, slightly suffocating filmvery Masterpiece Theatre meets Disease of the Weekabout Iris Murdoch, the brilliant novelist whose love of words was muffled by Alzheimer's. At the premiere, Glenn Closeforgot to say, "Excuse me," when she walked past me to her seat, but Noises Off's Edward Hibbert was oozing delightfulness from the next row. "I'm going to see Gosford Parkagain tomorrow," he enthused. "I actually called Maggie Smithand told her she had my two favorite lines in the movie. She said, 'I'm so glad you liked them. I wrote them myself.' "
This wasn't a line, but I'd always thought Hibbert was only playingBritish, albeit extremely well. "I was born in Queens," he admitted, "but they took me homeside when I was two, so it's not just affectation."
Speaking of Madonna, Iris's sublime Jim Broadbentwas last seen warbling "Like a Virgin" in Moulin Rougeone of the headache-inducing flick's more inspired moments. "That's the kind of thing that makes you want to do a film," he told me at the Irisbash. (Works for me.) Broadbent justified my love for him when I smirkingly asked if Iris Murdoch was in any way related to Rupert Murdoch. "I think they come from different planets," he replied. "I never heard Rupert boasting about thatconnection."
I couldn't make anyconnection with Hibbertlike find himat the Gosford Parkpremiere, maybe because I was so dazzled by the security guard who kept telling me, "Come right in, Mr. Mizrahi!" Inside the Ziegfeld, there must have been a lot of people from Queens because Lynn Redgravewas insisting that tonight we'd witness "more English accents than we've ever heard on this earth." I heard Maggie Smith's accent wrapped around her dulcet tones, sorather than call her laterI stepped right up to the great Dame and asked for a quote. "I've already doneall that [meaning interviews]," she said, wearily, then relented with "All right, what do you want to ask me?" I repeated the Hibbert anecdote and wondered if it's at all true. "I'm not going to get into that," Smith moaned, slapping my arm like Miss Brodie castigating one of her "girls." She paused dramatically, then threw me a flinty smile and said, "Tell him he's naughty." (This was the best performance at a premiere since The Affair of the Necklace's, where Peter Beardmurmured, "Hilary Swankcame off like she was from the Bronx." That's different from Queens, by the way.)
At the overcrowded Gosfordbash at the Central Park Boathousein ManhattanBob Balabanwas looking anxious and saying, "As long as I'm near a door." Jennifer Coolidgewas sitting at Clive Owen's reserved table and cooing, "I'm waiting for him. He's so sexy! He's got it going on. He should be the next James Bond." And the next James Dean, Ryan Phillippeso cutely ambiguous in the movietold me that wife Reese Witherspoonsurprised him that day, secretly flying in to pose as a journalist at the junket. "When I saw her, I thought something horrible had happened and she was going to break it to me gently," he said, so cutely and ambiguously. By the way, Reese broke it to me bluntly that she loves Kristen Chenowethwho everyone thinks is her cosmic twinand said, "My daughter watches the TV version of Annieevery day!" They don't have a son, but maybe he'll come out tomorrow. (Ugh.)
The originaloptimistic moppet, Natalie Wood, came outor at least upagain when the ever twinkling Maureen O'Haraand I shared our passion for her at AMC's special showing of Miracle on 34th Streetat the Loews IMAX. (By the way, Pauline Kael's only misstep was saying that Natalie couldn't act. She didn't have to!) "Natalie was a darling," said O'Hara. "She called me 'Mama Maureen' and used to make me beautiful ceramic figures. Unfortunately, that terrible hurricane Hugo in the Virgin Islands blew them away, along with John Wayne's chess set and some of his hats." I didn't ask what she was doing with those. Instead, I wondered what she was doing Grand Marshaling the '99 Saint Patrick's Day Parade, an event that caused a terrible hurricane to blow away the gays. "It had nothing to do with me," O'Hara said sweetly. "Whatever a person wants to do, it's their rightjust be prepared to answer to God if it has to be answered for. But there's nothing to answer for." Oh good, because I've misplaced his fax number. And I'm Isaac Mizrahi!
Meanwhile, Karen Masonis Ivana Trumpor at least the Mamma Mia! star was asked to dresslike the glamorous divorcée for her audition, as she told me last week. And while we're dealing in identity issues, I have to report that, despite a recent, ill-informed Daily News item, R. Kellyis most definitely a man!
And so is Dick Cavett, though I winced a little on seeing him talk about the Beatles on Fox News, saying they brought all the generations together, unlike music today, which is so darned fragmented. This is a cuckoo rewriting of history. Earth to Dick: The Beatles jump-started the biggest generation gap in the annals of pop culture. Kids worshiped them, but parents thought they were loud and extremely dirty. Over 35 years later, of course, everyoneadores them, but three decades from now, the old folks will probably dig Eminem.