Sharon Stone, actress and activist, called me from California to say she was in my corner in the matter of my “retirement” from the New York Post. (But not from my TMS syndication, Variety, and my Wowowow website!) I was pleased to hear from her, but cravenly I asked, after the niceties, “Darling, got any news?” She said, laughing, “Well, aside from my good deeds? I’m such a good deed doer, I don’t think so. I don’t think I have any news. I’m much more interested in the fact that my children got into the school I wanted. It’s such a wonderful school. I think if you feel you need to spoil your kids, spoil them on education.”
Yes, yes … this is wonderful, I said, but what about acting, what about your career? “You are such a great actress.” Sharon just about dropped the phone, “Yes, dammit, I am a great actress. And I do have to get back to work.” (I wasn’t blowing smoke, she is a wonderful actress. But she is pretty laid back about her abilities.) In fact, the star has two movies upcoming, “$5 a Day” with Christopher Walken and “Streets of Blood” co-starring Val Kilmer. Of the latter effort she says, “The cast was ablaze with talent! Especially 50 Cent. He is smoking hot, brilliant!” (50 Cent, famous for his music, was born Curtis James Jackson III, and I think that name would look just as good on a marquee.)
IT SEEMS only yesterday I was interviewing young Michael Jackson on the set of “The Wiz,” so soft-spoken and shy, on the cusp of his singular superstardom. He was already a huge name, as the lead singer, heart and soul of the Jackson Five, but like his friend ex-Supreme Diana Ross, talent like his needed to go solo. How sad to read that on April 22-25, hundreds of items from Michael’s beloved Neverland estate will go up for auction, including the gates of the sprawling playground itself! Michael’s money woes, brought on by years of scandal and inactivity have come to this. But I doubt Michael is suffering over this ultimate public humiliation. He separated himself psychologically from his former home a long time ago. (During the last scandal, when police roamed through Neverland, Michael declared it had been “ruined” for him — too many unhappy associations.) He’ll never be poor, so long as he owns the Beatles catalog. And he’s probably stashed millions in safe havens around the world. I visited Neverland once — if you can call being a guest and the sole reporter at Elizabeth Taylor’s wedding to Larry Fortensky a “visit.” All I remember is the dozens of helicopters hovering, Michael wearing more makeup than the bride, and Larry looking a little shell-shocked. Oh, and running in high heels to my TV crew so I could report the event, which was amazingly low-key, all things considered.
The impressive “Mamma Mia!” director Phyllida Lloyd is in rehearsal now in NYC, recreating her heralded staging of “Mary Stuart” for an April 19 Broadway premiere. The original stars, Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter will battle it out as Mary, Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth I. (“Mary Stuart” was a sellout hit in London’s West End!)
There’ll be big doin’s in Tribeca Tuesday when Tom Hanks presides over a special screening of his film “The Great Buck Howard” — he wears his actor and producer hats for this one. (It is a tale of a has-been “mentalist” looking to make a comeback.) The Cinema Society is putting this together. Attending along with Hanks will be the movie’s stars — John Malkovich, Colin Hanks (Tom’s son) and the delectable Emily Blunt. After the screening there is the usual fete at the Soho Grand Hotel, with the usual admonition, “party will go late.” I’ve attended these, and they do.
SPEAKING OF parties, on Friday Miss Elizabeth Taylor celebrated her 77th birthday at her Bel Air manse. Swaths of lavender silk were draped from the ceiling, flowers were super-abundant. The luxury trappings (paid for by Miss Taylor’s good friend and business associate Jason Winters) were off-set by the menu. Fried chicken from the Abbey, barbecued spareribs and mouth-watering cakes from the Ivy, and other comfort foods that Miss Taylor adores. Elizabeth’s entire family — children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there, along with a lot of friends. It was “warm and cozy — very real.” The party went on till 11 p.m. and the star of stars hung out with her guests all night. Elizabeth got a lot of presents. She loves presents. Richard Burton once said of her, “She gets as much pleasure if you give her a lipstick, as when you give her a diamond. I give her presents just to see her react, it’s a wonderful quality.” I don’t know if Elizabeth received any lipstick, but she did get a lot of furs. Black mink, coral mink, mink mink. “Elizabeth’s into very soft things now — cashmeres and cuddly silks and, well, furs!” explained one source. Actually, Elizabeth has always loved her fur. Back in 1971, Richard bought her what was then “the most expensive fur coat in the world.” She modeled it for the cover of Look magazine, thrown over a teeny hot-pink bikini. She got a lot of flack for this. (“Wasteful!” “Excessive!” “Vulgar!” Miss Taylor’s reaction? “Who the f**k’s business is it?!”) And I assume PETA will be up in arms over this. Elizabeth Taylor — long may she cuddle in mink.
P.S. But just in case you think La Liz has abandoned all to cozy sables — and have forgotten the many, many millions she has raised to fight AIDS — think on this.
Inspired by Barack Obama’s “spirit of bi-partisanship,” Miss Taylor, a Jewish convert, has just donated $100,000 to Santa Barbara’s Alliance for Christian Education Program. Elizabeth says, “I feel we need to reach beyond the limitations we place on ourselves in the name of religion or other ways we define ourselves … Our new president challenged us to break down the barriers that drive us … I hope other will join me in finding some aisle to reach across.”
Ah, but don’t get me wrong — she still loves presents.