MARIA RIVA has written a tremendously moving book about her mother, Marlene Dietrich, “A Woman At War,” to be published in June. This work has been compiled and edited by Dietrich’s grandson, J. David Riva, who contributes his own tender and admiring composition. The book — a series of essays and interviews — is a reminder not of Dietrich, the film icon, swathed in shadow and light, nor of the mythical, ageless creature of the world’s glamour stages, encased in her sheer Jean Louis gowns, whispering out her famous songs. No, here is Dietrich the impassioned USO entertainer; the German who turned her back on her homeland and worked for the “enemy” — the United States. Refusing the Fuhrer’s blandishments, she took U.S. citizenship, denounced the Nazis, and when war finally came, traveled abroad for two years near enough to the front to risk capture. … The book is full of marvelous anecdotes — historians, Nazi hunters, GIs, writers, directors, old friends such as Burt Bacharach and the late Rosemary Clooney offer great tales of Marlene in every mood. One of the most wide-ranging essays is contributed by Cher. She writes about the image and the woman she perceived behind the image.
I SAT down the other night to watch a new documentary titled “Toots” and found myself transported back to the Manhattan of yesterday. One of the pleasures of this documentary is how it shows the changing culture, in which encroaching TV and a different approach to the mob and to sports figures, put saloonkeeper Toots Shor out of the running, after he’d been on top for years. … Producer Tom Brokaw and Shor’s granddaughter, Kristi Jacobson, are behind this work of history. She and her Catalyst Films have rounded up a few perspicacious old-timers to talk about the legend that was Toots. They include Pete Hamill, David Brown, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Bill Gallo, Mike Wallace, Nick Pileggi, Sidney Zion, Gay Talese, Walter Cronkite and Frank Gifford. There is terrific TV footage — Toots on “This is Your Life” and Toots with Mike Wallace on “Nightbeat,” the show that invented tough talk. This film bows on April 27 at the Tribeca Film Festival.
SHARON STONE and Harvey Weinstein return to Cannes on May 25 for the annual amfAR gala. Among those joining the movie star and the studio head will be Elton John, Sofia Coppola, Giorgio Armani and amfAR’s new chairman of the board, Kenneth Cole. Last year the event took in $2 million. Call (212) 219-0297. … Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen had a very good time going from Italy to Hollywood. There she met Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw right after the director stepped on her dress. “Excuse me, sir, but you are on my dress!” said Sasha and Spielberg jumped off. He then congratulated her on her Olympics win. Kate then told Sasha that earlier in the evening someone stepped on her train and utterly ripped it off. “Don’t wear long trains!” Sasha also had a chat with Ben Stiller, who told her about his next comedy, focusing on figure skating. What’s next for Sasha — the bigscreen?
MIKE NICHOLS AND Diane Sawyer were among those who caught the opening of “On the Line” at the Cherry Lane Theatre. At the after-party, I was sitting between two incredible women — Elaine May and “Sesame Street” creator Joan Ganz Cooney. They were discussing exercising, how much they hate doing it, how important it is, etc. May allowed as how she had developed one hell of an ability to do push-ups. She told of speaking somewhere when the audience seemed skeptical of her push-up ability. “I dropped to the floor and gave them a stunning sample and won their hearts. Now my problem is I need to be invited somewhere so I can show off my chin-ups. But very few people have steel bars across their doors, so it’s a problem — showing off!”