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 ladyhood—yes, the Church now has steeples—and her handlers are freaking out about how to market this newly tumescent creation.
Having a Britney Spears type 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 Marie was dumped by Tim Burton, who then (to use his official 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 fax—not 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 course—a heaping serving of Oscar hopefuls with a couple of stale hors d’oeuvres afterwards. Iris is a lovingly made, slightly suffocating film—very Masterpiece Theatre meets Disease of the Week—about Iris Murdoch, the brilliant novelist whose love of words was muffled by Alzheimer’s. At the premiere, Glenn Close forgot 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 Park again tomorrow,” he enthused. “I actually called Maggie Smith and 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 playing British, 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 Broadbent was last seen warbling “Like a Virgin” in Moulin Rouge—one 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 Iris bash. (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 that connection.”
I couldn’t make any connection with Hibbert—like find him—at the Gosford Park premiere, 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 Redgrave was 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, so—rather than call her later—I stepped right up to the great Dame and asked for a quote. “I’ve already done all 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 Beard murmured, “Hilary Swank came off like she was from the Bronx.” That’s different from Queens, by the way.)
At the overcrowded Gosford bash at the Central Park Boathouse—in Manhattan—Bob Balaban was looking anxious and saying, “As long as I’m near a door.” Jennifer Coolidge was 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 Phillippe—so cutely ambiguous in the movie—told me that wife Reese Witherspoon surprised 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 Chenoweth—who everyone thinks is her cosmic twin—and said, “My daughter watches the TV version of Annie every day!” They don’t have a son, but maybe he’ll come out tomorrow. (Ugh.)
The original optimistic moppet, Natalie Wood, came out—or at least up—again when the ever twinkling Maureen O’Hara and I shared our passion for her at AMC’s special showing of Miracle on 34th Street at 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 right—just 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 Mason is Ivana Trump—or at least the Mamma Mia! star was asked to dress like 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. Kelly is 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, everyone adores them, but three decades from now, the old folks will probably dig Eminem.
And now for your dessert, I’ll tell you that the actor who plays the very cute upperclassman in Harry Potter is fortuitously named Sean Biggerstaff. He’s got it going on.