THAT CYCLONIC force of nature, Elaine Stritch opens at the Cafe Carlyle with her brand-new bombshell of a show on Sept. 12. At this point, La Stritch is downright legendary, and if you don’t avail yourself of this icon’s generously offered talents, you are just plain foolish. Stritch called me from L.A. to announce that, “something happened to me the other day that made me realize I am finally a grown-up! There I was by the pool, talking to Warren Beatty — I had no makeup, ratty clothes, in the early light of day. Not glamorous,” she emphasized wryly. “And I just didn’t give a damn how I looked.” Show runs through Nov. 4.

I AM NOT a diva!” If Mariah Carey said it once, she said it a dozen times during her New York concert the other night. Mariah, honey, we believe you. But guess what — your fanatically devoted fans don’t care. They love you as a diva. Mariah wore her usual selection of bodacious body revealing get-ups, which can lead one to miss some of those big notes. Questions? Will that bodice burst? Will we see all the junk in the trunk? … Mariah is very laid-back, and talks to her audience as if they are sitting next to her at a table in a restaurant. Some people think that’s too casual an approach. But, yes, the fans love her intimate chatting. Her stardom and those fans mean everything to her, and it’s obvious in every breath she takes.

JUST WHEN they release some statistical study saying that people are more motivated by a desire for fame than for anything else, Martin Short brings his show “Fame Becomes Me” to Broadway. This particular evening in the theater contains more pop culture truths than months of reading the tabloids, fanzines and tuning in to entertainment TV. … For two things alone “Fame Becomes Me” is worth seeing. First, Marty’s imitations of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. This is a work of genius. Marty’s evocation of Kate Hepburn is also great. Marty Short, one of the most civilized and nicest men in a heartless business, pulls it off.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON has a new book coming, titled “On Becoming Fearless.” This is a guide for women on how to be “bold, bulletproof and bullish when it comes to people and issues that matter most to them.” Other powers who contribute essays to this book include Nora Ephron, Diane Keaton and Sherry Lansing. On Sept. 23, Viacom chief Tom Freston and his writer wife Kathy will celebrate Arianna at their New York home. On Oct. 3 in L.A., Lynda and Stewart Resnick will fete Huffington. … One of the nicest and most attractive men in television is having the last laugh. I do mean Sam Champion, going big time from local weather reporting to one of the gang on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” When Sam was up for this job in the past, executives were nervous about putting him on a national show. He was too good-looking. His clothes were too perfect. People might view him as lightweight. Sam’s addition to the mix is a big plus for “GMA.” … A tiny thought on why Viacom/Paramount chairman Sumner Redstone’s firing of Tom Cruise made tidal waves last week. Nobody, but nobody has ever heard of movie business being conducted in public where everybody just says what’s on their mind. While showbiz dissolutions are invariably papered with “we are still best friends” or “we have creative differences,” Redstone just flew off the handle. It is a watershed moment in Hollywood’s vast spectacle of friendly deception and backstabbing.

I WAS invited for lunch with Marie Claire’s new editor, Joanna Coles, and to inspect the new Hearst building at Eighth Avenue and 57th Street. (This is the all-glass edifice placed on top of the historic Hearst building that was.) Coles has a British background in news, not fashion, reporting. She has had stints at the BBC, the Times of London, the Guardian, More, and New York magazine. Married to writer Peter Godwin and with two young sons, she has that ethereal Grace Kelly look — blonde, beige and demure. But her evidence at the helm is already reflected in the September issue with its Maggie Gyllenhaal cover. … If anybody asks you to visit the new Hearst dining room, go. They make a mean cheeseburger. And that’s what us real women — the editor and me — had for lunch. Just as at Conde Nast, there is uber girl-watching at the new Hearst building. Youth and glamour on the hoof.

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com)

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