Happy day for Hugh

ACTOR-PHILANTHROPIST Hugh O’Brian, 81, was recently wed. The bride is 54-year-old Virginia Barber, now known as Virginia O’Brian. “Oh, like the actress, Virginia O’Brien!” I remarked to Hugh when he called the other day. “Well, yes. And Virgina was a wonderful actress, but it’s not my Virginia.” Hugh says he is “philosophical” about marriage, and took his honeymoon in England where he and the wife studied courses in philosophy at Oxford. The O’Brians were married at the famous Forest Lawn cemetery in Hollywood. “Well, I figured, just in case anything happened during the ceremony, I’d save my friends the trouble of coming out again, gas prices being what they are!” … Jann Wenner and Matt Nye have welcomed an 8 lb, 9 oz son. Noah Jaspar Nye Wenner. Born Aug. 20. Both fathers and baby are doing beautifully. Mazel tov to all!

BELEAGURED CBS insiders keep saying everybody should let Katie Couric “do her job” without so much pressure and scrutiny since she is embarking on the difficult anchor position at the evening news. It isn’t fair, say they, for Katie to be driven mad before she has even said, “Hello, everybody!” or whatever she is going to say to give the Eye Network a different kind of kick-off. … So to leave Katie alone, the network launches a $10 million advertising campaign to put her in the public eye like a cinder and they place her at the center of interview after interview and question after question from her affiliates. CBS wants us all to let Katie start in peace. At the same time they want to call our attention to every breath she takes, having it both ways.

MY U. of Texas classmate Tom Jones has returned in his tuner “The Fantasticks,” playing the role of the Old Actor. He’s hamming it up in all his 78-year-old glory. How well I remember him down in Austin right after World War II ended. He used to bounce around on campus singing, “Wild and reckless! Born in Texas! Tail screwed on — 10 feet long!” Long may Tommy and co-writer Harvey Schmidt wave. (The latter now lives in splendid retirement in Tomball, Texas.)

MUSIC NEWS: Who sings “Don’t be Cruel” better than Elvis? OK, just as good as Elvis? (We don’t want pickets outside the building.) It’s Chris Isaak, who put on a phenomenal show last week at the Beacon Theater. The sexy rocker-crooner went through his own catalog of hits, running up and down the aisles playing guitar, and performed remarkable covers, including Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely.” (This song is on Isaak’s current “Best Of” CD) Chris looks better than ever and he sounds better than ever. … Sam Moore — Bruce Springsteen calls him “The World’s Greatest Soul Singer — is asking radio stations to play his new single “You are So Beautiful” over Labor Day weekend in memory of the recently departed musician Billy Preston, who co-wrote that famous song. Preston can be heard on this cut, his last performance, along with Moore and Eric Clapton on guitar. The number is part of Moore’s new album, “Overnight Sensational” and has Sting, Jon Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey, Fantasia and Wynonna contributing.

CHITA RIVERA’S “The Dancer’s Life” didn’t live as long as it should have on Broadway. Still, the star garnered great reviews, a Tony nomination, and renewed appreciation of her dazzling gams. And “Dancer” has legs, too. In January, the Terrence McNally-penned musical autobiography begins a cross-country tour, high-kicking out of the gate at the new Miami Performing Arts Center. So what is Chita doing until January — resting? Are you kidding? She is now in Australia, wowing those rugged Aussies with a series of intimate cabaret-style engagements. Last week Sydney! This week Melbourne! Next week? Maybe they’ll set up a stage in the barren outback. Believe me, as soon as Chita goes into her act, it won’t be barren anymore. Scorched, but not barren.

(Email Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com)

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