Gotham grinds to halt

GOOD MORNING from Gridlock City. First it was the Pope, and this week it has been the visit of international dignitaries, including, of course, President Clinton, making life miserable for anyone hoping to get anywhere — almost anytime. North-south as well as east-west streets were blocked from the East River to the West Side, from the 80s to the 50s. At times not only was vehicular traffic stopped, but barricades guarded by zealous police prevented pedestrians from crossing the streets where motorcades would be going/coming to/from events/airports, you name it. And you thought the freeway on Friday was rough — forget it! Nothing moves for an hour at a stretch. Would you believe the always courteous doorman at the Regency Hotel, trying to help non-diplomatic guests reach destinations such as theaters and restaurants, was patiently telling them the best way to travel was — the subway? And he told the strangers to the underground mode of travel how to do it — with a map. It was either that or forget it — which many did. But, despite all of the above, the city rolled out its red carpet for showbiz as well this week — specifically for Julie Andrews’ return to Broadway in “Victor/Victoria.” And Wednesday’s opener, which I was invited to m.c. at the Marquis theater, was preceded by Tuesday night’s preview party for the Society of Singers, led by president Ginny Mancini, whose late husband, Henry, musicked “V/V,” with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. And Monday night, the Society of Singers had another party, this one a cocktailer at the Russian Tea Room. The opening night is TV’d on PBS, carried live to many stations and delayed to others — it’s a tribute to Andrews’ career as well.

AMONG THOSE INVITED TO PAY TRIBUTE to Andrews is this group of longtime pals: Joan Collins, in from London, where she and Andrews appeared together back in 1952 in a revue called “Rat’s Revel Society”! They appeared at the Victoria Palace — before either came to the U.S. Also on the guest list, Robert Goulet, who co-starred with Julie in “Camelot” on B’way. He was Lancelot, Richard Burton was King Arthur. Goulet had a crush on Julie. He’s still touring in the show — but as King Arthur these days. They’ve also appeared together on many TV shows. Also among invitees, Mary Tyler Moore, who co-starred with Julie in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at Universal. Among the guests coming to the party after their own shows, Carol Channing, here in the “Hello, Dolly!” revival . She also was in “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Broadway alumni here include Lauren Bacall, Liza Minnelli (Julie was a Garland fan) … Another Broadway star toasting Julie, Chita Rivera, who appeared on B’way in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and bows in the show Thursday in Cleveland. Chita also appeared with Julie on a Dinah Shore show seg in which they dueted on “Life Upon the Wicked Stage.” ABC’s Barbara Walters and CBS’ Mike Wallace, both of whom interviewed Andrews then and now, also were invited … Earlier in the week I was on hand for the Broadway bow of “Swinging on a Star,” the Johnny Burke musical with lyrics by Burke and music by composers including Jimmy Van Heusen, Arthur Johnston, James V. Monaco. The Music Box theater opening-night audience kept the cast — and orchestra — onstage long after their final bows to get a lengthy and loud standing ovation. Later, at the post-opening party, the shouts and cheers grew louder as the early edition of the New York Times gave the show a rave review. It now joins “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” as a Broadway hit show made up of musical memories. And who knows, this could be next: Sitting next to us at the theater and at the party were Shirley and Jay Livingston, he of the three-time Oscar winning team of Ray Evans & Jay Livingston. A show based on their hits is now being talked.

AMONG MUSICAL FIRST-NITERS, Skitch Henderson. Also Broadway alumna Tyne Daly, who appeared on B’way in “Call Me Madam” with “Swinging” co-star Lewis Cleale. “Murphy Brown” co-stars Joe Regalbuto and wife Rosemarie were talking with Grant Shaud of “Murphy Brown” in the Regency lobby. Regalbuto will direct next week’s seg. And he doesn’t believe this will be the last season for Candice — or the show. At least he hopes not. Shaud said his character, Miles, will “consummate his marriage” to Corky (Faith Ford) on the series in the next few weeks. He’s looking forward to it, he smiled. I also met up with “NYPD Blue’s” Dennis Franz in the Regency lobby. He’s been shooting six segs — or rather, establishing scenes — in N.Y. This is the second return to the city for backgrounds this season, and another is planned to add authenticity to the hit show … Paramount is all over N.Y. these days as well. Sidney Lumet is shooting “Night Falls on Manhattan” here with Andy Garcia as a Manhattan D.A., Richard Dreyfuss as a defense attorney who exposes corruption in the system. Timely? Paramount also was busy Monday night with its preem of the Eddie Murphy starrer “Vampire in Brooklyn.” The party that followed at the Le Bar Bat was a human version of vehicular gridlock. Bodies were packed so tight you couldn’t get in or out — once you fought your way in the doorway. But Sherry Lansing was all smiles.

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