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Loretta still Young at heart

GOOD MORNING: “For the first time in my life, I’ve got time for myself,” Loretta Young youthfully laughed to me as I phoned to wish her a happy 87th birthday. (She volunteered the number — I didn’t ask.) She was toasted Thursday by friends including Jane Wyman, Carol Channing, Francis Lederer and wife Marion, Alice Faye’s daughter Phyllis Middleton, Gloria & Norma Monty, Bill & Rose Narva, Beverly Rogers, Bill Frye and Jim Wharton at longtime friend Virginia Zamboni’s home in Rancho Mirage. Loretta had moved from L.A. to the desert a decade ago. She is feeling fine, thank you. And laughs, “I can now say ‘no’ to anything, with the explanation ‘I’m just too tired!’ ” Jane Wyman, who celebrated her 83rd birthday Wednesday (at the Thunderbird Country Club in Palm Springs) was also birthday cake’d Wednesday night. Lederer, who celebrated his 100th (!) birthday Nov. 6, receives Austria’s Cross of Honor for Science & Arts, First Class, Wednesday in L.A. from Austria’s Consul General Werner Brandstetter. Lederer was born in Prague which, 100 years ago, was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire … Add Hollywood history revisited: New Millennium follows its upcoming release of “King Cohn” in trade paperback with additions by author Bob Thomas and preface by Daily Variety‘s Peter Bart, with a ditto updated “Thalberg” also by Thomas, again intro’d by Bart. And from the sublime: New Millennium is readying a colorful (200 pix) “Official Baywatch Book” by the show’s producer Greg Bonann and Brad Lewis.

PREEMS, BIG AND SMALL SCREEN: “The Beach,” Leonardo DiCaprio’s first biggie since “Titanic,” gets a mammoth launching in Maui next week, with a four-day press junket by 20th Fox for reps from the U.S. and the Orient. (The pic filmed in Thailand.) 20th follows with a giant Feb. 2 preem at Mann’s Chinese and party at a huge Hollywood site which will boast a giant reclining Buddha … And HBO, which launched the new season of “The Sopranos” Wednesday night in N.Y., follows with screenings of segments one and three in L.A. at the DGA Tuesday. The second season starts airing Jan. 16. HBO chairman-CEO Jeff Bewkes congratted the cast and filmmakers before the N.Y. screening at the Ziegfeld. Exec producer David Chase thanked ’em and filled in plot points to prep the audience for the new season’s episodes. Also there were producers Brad Grey, Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green. All cast members then took a bow in the SRO crowd, which included Christopher Walken with wife Georgianne, who casts the series; newlywed Jessica Seinfeld, Aidan Quinn, Rosie Perez, Robert Klein, Darren Star, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Cynthia Nixon, Spike Lee, Janeane Garofalo, Peter Bogdanovich (new in the cast) and Jon Bon Jovi. The party followed at Roseland which was Italy-decorated, including full-size gondolas with singing gondoliers. Taking turns singing with the La Bamba band were Southside Johnny and cast members Jamie-Lynn Sigler (who plays Meadow Soprano), Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior) and E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt (Silvio Dante) … The New Yorker’s “Fiction Live” holiday fiction double issue comes to life Jan. 12-13 at L.A.’s the Mint, with readings by Swoosie Kurtz, Camryn Manheim, Dana Delany, Harry Shearer, Tony Danza and others … Hal Kanter hosts/m.c’s “So Far, So Funny” an evening of standup comedy featuring Karen Benjamin and Alan Chapman, Jackie Kahane, Mark Schiff and Bruce Smirnoff Feb. 5, 6 and 8 at the Gindi Auditorium of the U. of Judaism. “So Far, So Funny” is the title of Kanter’s hysterically funny autobio — and he’s writing a followup, which, anyone who knows Kanter will agree, has to be equally as funny, if not funnier.

DUDLEY MOORE, WHO IS TOO SADLY SUFFERING from progressive supra-nuclear palsy, returns to L.A. for a get-together hosted by longtime friend and agent Lou Pitt, Jan. 22 at the Pitts’ home … Christopher Thornton, who heads the cast of “Hamlet” bowing Jan. 13 at Hollywood’s Lillian Theater, is a brilliant young disabled actor, the first to play the role in a wheelchair. Joanne Linville directs. Thornton also guestars in a “Family Law” seg upcoming … Jason Alexander stars in “Les Miscellaneous,” an evening of cabaret at the Ahmanson Jan. 17 to benefit the Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic at the Gay & Lesbian Center. Sam Harris, Colm Wilkinson and the cast of “Les Miserables” also perform, including a satire of “Les Miz” from “Forbidden B’way” … “Swifty,” the legit story of Irving “Swifty” Lazar, is moving apace with David Brown readying to read Tony winner Joel Grey in the role. Brown, also readying the legit “Sweet Smell of Success” and pix including “Chocolat” and “Along Came a Spider,” says he’s also thinking of a pic version of wife Helen Gurley Brown’s upcoming bio, “I’m Wild Again” (St. Martin’s Press), for which David contributed the title … Last year, Kate Hudson (Goldie Hawn’s daughter) made her mark starring in the bigscreen feature “200 Cigarettes” — now Kate’s brother Oliver Hudson stars in “The Smokers,” his first leading feature role. Christina Peters directs and Quincy Jones produced for International Prods., which preems Jan. 12 at the Green Theater in the Pacific Design Center … Shirley Temple and husband Charles Black celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary. And Veronique and Gregory Peck toasted their 44th on New Year’s Eve. Congrats and Happy New Year to ’em all.

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