Matteo’s loses its best treat

GOOD MORNING: Matteo’s Matty Jordan, who had been confined to a lengthy convalescent home stay, was feeling well enough last Friday to ask his wife of 25 years, Jackie, to bring him his favorite dish, Fettuccine Alfredo. But alas, even Matteo’s Fettuccine couldn’t stop the clock — Matty’s heart gave out and he died Saturday. Matty was 74. Services will be held Tuesday, Sept. 7 at the Westwood Village Pierce Bros. Cemetery and his ashes buried alongside those of his parents in Hoboken, where Matty was born — delivered by midwife Dolly Sinatra, Frank’s mother. Matty and Frank became lifelong friends and the one-year memorial of Frank’s death was recently held by Barbara and 20 close friends at Matteo’s … Matty had been a trucker in N.J. where he opened his first eatery, a stand with hot dogs and clams on the half shell. He came to L.A. and started at Patsy D’Amore’s Villa Capri alongside Jean Leon. It was the favorite eatery for Sinatra and all of swinging Hollywood in the ’50s. Matty segued to work for Jean Leon when the latter opened his La Scala restaurant in BevHills; in 1963, Matty opened his own Matteo’s on Westwood Blvd., later adding an annex, A Taste of Hoboken. Matty was a friend to Presidents well as to Mafia hit men. He cooked fettuccine for President Clinton and delivered it to him at the BevHilton; Presidents Reagan, Ford, Carter and VP Spiro Agnew were visitors to Matteo’s when they were in town. Even Reagan’s “kitchen cabinet” made Matteo’s their Sunday night stop along with the Hollywood regulars who included Charles Bronson, Milton Berle, Joe Pesci, Mike de Luca, Al Davis, Don Rickles, Bob Newhart, Norm Crosby, Tim Conway, Dick and Dolly Martin, Steve and Eydie, Roger King, Kenny Roberts, R.D. Hubbard. Other regulars included those for whom dishes were named, like “Chicken (Sidney) Beckerman,” “Veal Clint Eastwood” (though the actor-director always eats linguine and clams) and “Chicken Kerkorian.” Among those on hand this past Sunday night, Red Buttons had Jackie Jordan laughing and crying, recalling some of “the good old days.” Larry Cullen, Matty’s maitre d’-pal for 25 years, was in Las Vegas over the weekend and, as a final parting bet, put $8 on a nag named I’m From Jersey — it paid $240 … Matty’s paintings decorate the walls of Matteo’s and his hand-made electric trains, which run atop the bar, are favorites with customers/friends’ children and grandchildren, including those of yours truly. Matty loved kids. And although he was tough-sounding, he was a pussycat and always a gentleman. His wife Jackie will keep Matteo’s and the tradition going — and perhaps name a dish for Matty?

THE SHOW MUST GO ON: Walter Matthau, hospitalized for three months (with pneumonia), looped some of his lines for “Hanging Up” via a telephone line in the hospital — with director-costar Diane Keaton on hand. Matthau is making a great recovery, ordering hot pastrami and chopped liver sandwiches, and he’s due to be released from the hospital next week. Unless the pastrami and chopped liver act up … Garth Brooks, warming up the songs his “Chris Gaines” pop rock character will sing, packed Stage 12 last Friday and Saturday at Sony (where he’ll produce a Christmas 2000 spec, “The Colors of Christmas” or “Call Me Claus”). He taped his Sept. 29 NBC special, plus the album, “Garth Brooks … In the Life of Chris Gaines” (Capitol). Shades of Elvis: The crowd at Sony was so enthusiastic, one fan yelled out a request for the towel Brooks was using to mop the sweat from his brow; he delivered it, just as Presley used to wing his sweaty scarves to faithful fans. Brooks’ versatility ranged from R&B ballad “Driftin’ Away” to rock number “White Flag,” which had the audience dancing in the aisles. He performed the songs of Gaines, but not in that costume or persona. However, Brooks will play the character in Paramount Pictures’ “The Lamb,” the pic is produced by Tracey Edmonds, Lisa Sanderson and Brooks. Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds is exec producer and Jeb Stuart (“The Fugitive”) is scripting. Brooks was born in 1962 in Tulsa, Okla., and he explains that “Gaines” was born in 1967 in Brisbane, Australia — and never the twain shall meet as Brooks embarks on a new, challenging career. As Brooks’ partner Sanderson notes, “Garth is thoroughly involved with the creation of Gaines. It’s very courageous of him. But he is having a good time.”

MORE MUSIC NOTES: Gary LeMel, president of WB Music, performed Aug. 26 at Lunaria with a Big Band arranged and conducted by Roger Kellaway, re-creating LeMel’s new CD (Atlantic Records), “Moonlighting.” The packed house included WB execs Phil Quartararo, John Schulman, Dan Fellman, Dan Romanelli … Hugh Hefner’s Mansion was the site for the 19th annual Garden Musical of the American Jazz Philharmonic. Close to $70,000 was raised to benefit the Henry Mancini Institute, the summer educational program founded by music director Jack Elliott. Carl Reiner hosted the program, which awarded 80 fellowships to young talented musicians from around the world … With $1,433,000 given away in the first outing of ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” show, Bob Iger told Regis Philbin, “It’s a delicious phenomenon.” Reege believes they’ll go the same, two-week, route again in November — and then maybe talk about a full season’s possibility.

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