GOOD MORNING after an evening with the man who made “Shine” happen: David Helfgott. The Aussie pianist received standing ovations at his Tuesday night SRO performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; later, he delighted movie friends and music lovers at a reception atop the theater, where he smilingly sat down at a piano again. As we stood alongside him, Diane Shuur eased onto the piano bench and serenaded him with “It’s Been a Long, Long Time.” Helfgott smiled and put his left arm around her, while holding tightly to me with his right hand. When Shuur broke into lyrics, “Kiss me once, and kiss me twice and kiss me once again,” Helfgott obliged by kissing her repeatedly on the cheek. He made his way among the equally smiling guests, hugging and kissing them — especially Lynn Redgrave (there with husband John Clark), who played his wife Gillian in the movie. (Gillian complimented Redgrave on her portrayal.) Helfgott met, for the first time, Armin Mueller-Stahl, praising his performance as his father. Helfgott told me he loved the movie; he also said, “It’s so good to be in America.” I’m not a classical music critic, but I do play (and have studied) the piano and I can tell you I was enthralled by Helfgott’s performance on some of the most technically difficult pieces, ranging from Mendelssohn to Liszt to Beethoven. Sure, he’d make occasional sounds (of joy?) and he bounded on stage and ran off at beginning and end of each act. And between numbers, during the lengthy applause, he walked to the stage apron, ever-smiling, leaned over to shake hands with front-row audience members. He smiled often during his playing, but sometimes heaved a great sigh as well. Musicians Corky Hale (piano-harp), composer Mike Stoller, composer-conductor Artie Butler all agreed Helfgott was “wonderful” … He was applauded into playing three encores, the finale, “Flight of the Bumble Bee,” the teaser he played at the Oscars, as in the movie. “Shine” director Scott Hicks came on stage at the end to present a huge bouquet to Helfgott … “In this cynical age, it is refreshing to see someone so innocent as Helfgott, while so talented as well,” Redgrave said. “Just because he speaks so quickly, doesn’t mean he doesn’t take everything in.” (He answered my questions about the movie readily). Redgrave’s now playing the angelic (?) ruler of limbo-land in the “Wonderful World of Disney” vidpic “Toothless,” co-starring Kirstie Alley, with Melanie Mayron directing … After tonight’s performance again in the Chandler, Helfgott returns to L.A. with an Aug. 25 date at the Hollywood Bowl. In the interim, he travels to N.Y. and dates abroad. The Fine Line film, “Shine,” featuring Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush, remains on 911 screens.
MISSING FROM ALL THE POST-OSCAR party talk was the fact Larry Flynt showed up at Sony/Columbia’s party at Eclipse. He met up with those who told him the studio didn’t have an Oscar ticket for him (as I revealed here, March 21). Sony P.R. rep Dennis Higgins had told me, “The studio only has a limited number of tickets for important executives plus the talent involved with the nominated pictures.” An onslaught of ticket offers for Flynt ensued. At the party, Flynt said Higgins told him, “I should have known not to underestimate you.” Nominee Woody Harrelson, who brought Flynt to the Oscars after reading here that he had no ticket, also insisted Flynt go to the Columbia party. “But I only stayed a short time,” Flynt admitted. “Now I’m going to focus on the publishing business — and leave the movie business to someone else!” After reading here about Flynt, Jack Nicholson called up Col TriStar motion picture group vice chair Lucy Fisher to complain, he told me. (Nicholson didn’t order a ticket himself to offer to Flynt.) He’s awaiting a startup for another week on “Old Friends” for James Brooks.
LOOK FOR BRUCE WILLIS to guest on pal Paul Reiser’s “Mad About You” two-part season finale, to air May 20. That’s the show in which Helen Hunt welcomes the baby. It’s not yet decided if it will be a boy or girl; they’ll probably shoot it both ways. Also appearing in the seg will be Eric Stoltz, Carol Burnett and Carroll O’Connor. On April 15, the “Mad About You” soundtrack CD will be released (Atlantic), with Anita Baker redoing the theme. It will also include songs by Hootie & the Blowfish, Lyle Lovett and Elvis Costello, in songs inspired by the relationship of Reiser and Hunt over their five years on the show. Reiser’s also finishing his second book “Babyhood,” the first, “Couplehood,” having sold 2.5 million copies … Carroll O’Connor signed with Pocket Books for his memoirs. Max Cleland, U.S. senator from Georgia, is houseguesting with the O’Connors at Easter … Aussie director Rod Hardy directs Fox TV’s “Nick Fury” vidpic based on the comic book hero, with David Hasselhoff starring … Duet, the new Westwood eatery owned by Larry Minetti and Jayson Kane (Cohen), bows April 14, but tonight they preview with “JAG’s” wraparty … Dan Tana is so proud of daughter Gabrielle’s bow as a movie producer with “Animals” in South Carolina, that papa’s dispatched his eatery’s chefs to cook Easter dinner for the cast and crew (70).