IT’S A GOOD MORNING: back in Hollywood after spending some time reminiscing with longtime friends who were attending the Nortel Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival — which runs through Jan. 21. F’instance I caught up with the Donald O’Connors lunching with Jackie and Gene Autry in the Springs’ brand new Givenchy Hotel and Spa. Owner Rose Narva has created this jewel of the desert on the grounds formerly occupied by the “Gene Autry Hotel”– where we used to go for great Mexican food! You would never know the Autry was once there. The Givenchy looks like Versailles, the dining room like the Espadon of Paris’ Ritz (with chef Jean Pierre Lemanissier of La Tour D’Argent, L’Ermitage, Connaught, Four Seasons, etc.). The Autrys approve the transformation (and sale) — and they still live in a magnificent home at the rear of the 15 acres of the property and enjoy gazing out at the chateaulike hotel — plus partaking of hotel facilities — for the rest of their lives, reminded Jackie. In addition to the fitness building, tennis courts and the spa building that has pools and all manner of equipment — and pampering — for women and men, there are chateaulike gardens, also designed by Narva , which are like a bouquet beneath the dramatic mountains jutting through the pure Palm Springs air … The Autrys said they’ll come into L.A. later this month but only for the baseball owners’ meet at which time the Disney offer will be voted upon. Disney would own 25%, Gene A. retains the remaining 75% of the Angels. Autry said he would no longer have the worries of running his Anaheim-based American League team. Jackie A., exec VP of the Angels, said the one thing they won’t miss is — the media. She had few kind words for reportage on the team, themselves or on baseball in general … Autry was again celebrating the holiday sales of his blockbuster songs, “Here Comes Santa Claus,” which he wrote, and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” which he recorded. Plus hefty royalties from the soundtrack CD of “Sleepless in Seattle” which contains another of Autry’s hitunes, “Back in the Saddle Again.” It goes on and on! … Donald O’Connor again m.c.’d the fest’s gala, (as noted in these pages Monday), which honored Michael Kidd, Leslie Caron, Marvin Hamlisch and Stanley Donen. The O’Connors, whose Sherman Oaks home was earthquake-destroyed, now live in Sedona — where, coincidentally, Autry filmed hundreds of oaters and where he’ll be honored in his old stomping grounds at a fest later this year.
AMONG THE FESTGOERS staying at the Givenchy Hotel and Spa was fest winner Caron, herself a hotel and restaurant owner. Her establishment’s La Lucarne Aux Chouettes, 90 miles south of Paris on the Yonne River at Villeneuf Sur Yonne. Among celebs who’ve stayed at Caron’s intimate place is Robert De Niro. It will be the setting for the honeymoon of Caron’s agent Merritt Blake and Dr. Sara Ward, who will wed March 16. I saw Caron early morning jogging around the castlelike grounds. She had left from Paris where the strike prevented her doing voiceovers for the PBS-BBC “The Great War” seven-hour mini. Instead, she’s doing it in L.A. this week. Others on the docu include Jeremy Irons, Michael York, Ralph Fiennes, Helen Mirren. Friday, Caron heads to Palo Alto to be honored with a two-week retro of her films including, of course, “Lili” and “An American in Paris”… Also at the Givenchy was the beautiful Cyd Charisse (who made the fest presentation to Michael Kidd). Hotel owner Rose Narva’s reputation precedes her as she had earlier refurbished several notable hotels in Washington, D.C., where her husband, Bill, a recently retired admiral of the Navy’s Medical Corps, was physician to the U.S. Congress and a member of the White House medical staff since Lyndon B. Johnson. As you might imagine, he’s been asked to write his book — but says it would be unprofessional. But what a raconteur!
CONGRESSMAN SONNY BONO was back home in Palm Springs for the holidays and to participate in the fest — presenting, among other things, the Film Excellence Award to James Earl Jones. Susan Sarandon was queried about hers and Bono’s respective politics. She said she’d prefer to hear him sing. The glamorous Sarandon was there sans Tim Robbins — who was home looking after their children. Sean Penn, “Dead Man Walking” co-star, did the Sarandon intros … Charles Matthau was taking bows for his “Grass Harp,” which opened the fest, described as “a jewel of a film,” earlier per Daily Variety‘s review at the Toronto fest. His father, Walter Matthau, is feeling OK following colon surgery and is fielding offers, will return to work in May … Also over the weekend in Palm Springs, Loretta Young and Jane Wyman celebrated their birthdays (83 and 82 , respectively). Loretta’s husband, Jean Louis, was flu-felled and unable to attend the dinner given by Virginia Zamboni … Back in town in time for tonight’s tribute to “The Postman’s” Massimo Troisi at Wolfgang Puck’s Cafe at Crescent Heights where James Woods and Jennifer Tilly join Miramax’s talent roster reading poetry by Pablo Neruda, depicted in the movie by Philippe Noiret. The AFI hosts. Director Michael Radford attends at Puck’s place.