Moon landing hits milestone

FINALLY, AFTER heaven only knows how many years, Whitney Houston’s new album, “I Look at You,” arrives in September from Arista Records. This disc was slowly completed under the guidance of Whitney’s discoverer/mentor, the legendary Clive Davis. Clive has never given up on Whitney, no matter the rumors whispered, the tabloids screamed and her own infamous reality show with ex-hubby Bobby Brown. So, on July 21, at the Allen Room of Jazz at Lincoln Center, the maestro Clive is putting on a cocktail reception and then an exclusive listening party. A select group will get to hear what Whitney can still deliver. I am betting this album goes over like gangbusters. I first interviewed Whitney when she was just a young girl, fresh and dewy and untouched by the vagaries of fortune. What a doll she was then. And the last time I saw Whitney perform was two years ago in Los Angeles at a tribute to Clive. She looked glorious and sounded even better. Everybody was screaming — “Come back!” But then our Whitney sort of fell off the map again. Well, she is back now! She is really serious about re-activating one of the great musical careers of all time.

THE TWITTER friends of the magnificent astronaut Buzz Aldrin have soared over the 100,000 mark as we rush toward the 40th anniversary of the July 20th date of Buzz and Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon. Buzz’s autobiography “Magnificent Desolation” from Random House landed on the Times top 10 list in its first week. In the United Kingdom, it is No. 3. Los Angeles is designating Aug. 27 as “Buzz Aldrin Day” and there’ll be festivities at the famed Griffith Park Observatory where Jimmy Dean played his big scene in the old movie “Rebel Without A Cause.” The world’s telescopes will be focused on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility with Buzz himself giving a guided tour of the spot where he and Neal and no one else has yet set foot!

LET’S TALK a minute more about books. I’ve written here about the two books published from the work of Swedish author Stieg Larsson. He died of a heart attack just after the first of his trilogy was published. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is considered one of 2008’s “breakout novels” and it appears now as No. 11 in the paperback list. This book is about an amoral hacker who becomes involved with a discredited journalist and together they solve a horrible crime. I have already said that the novel is a bit hard to get into because you have to plow through difficult details of a libel suit in the early pages to get to the meat of the plot. (Also, all the Swedish names take some getting used to!) The ill-fated author Mr. Larsson has his number two, “The Girl Who Played With Fire” coming in hard cover on July 28. This is a dynamite thriller but you really need to read number one first to enjoy it. Sonny Mehta of Knopf is the astute publisher behind the Larrson novels and he says there is still a third book to come. Well, that’s good news.

IF YOU are a dramatic actress, and you yearn to stretch your un-tapped musical talents slightly, the very best thing to do is find a production of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.” This is not only a dazzling showcase for any actress (playing an actress — the maturing, insecure Desiree Armfeldt) but the musical role doesn’t require the creamy tones and high octaves of a Barbra Streisand. Or even the very good voice of a Meryl Streep. The famous “Send In The Clowns” can easily be “sung” in a speaking manner — like Rex Harrison in “My Fair Lady.” Even Elizabeth Taylor tackled “Night Music” in the unfairly maligned 1977 screen version, directed by Hal Prince. So who will be the next Desiree to croon, “Isn’t it rich/aren’t we a pair?” Kristin Scott Thomas! The actress is best known for her Oscar-nominated performance in “The English Patient.” Kristin lives in Paris and will appear in “A Little Night Music” at the Theater du Chatelet in February. This comes as a surprise to almost everyone. Her own agent says, “She’s never done anything like this before. I don’t know if she can sing!” Like I said, she doesn’t have to. She can act, and “Send In The Clowns” is all about acting, not shattering a glass with a high note.

MY TALENTED longtime friend Holland Taylor, the mother-scourge in CBS’ “Two and a Half Men,” is knocking them dead these nights with Buck Henry at their new Off B’way play “Mother,” written by Lisa Ebersole. They are at the Wild Project Theater, 195 East 3rd Street and Andrew Grosso directed these fabulous actors. It’s all about an eccentric family gathering for their annual New Year holiday in an upscale West Virginia resort. Joining the stars are Ms. Ebersole herself, plus Haskell King, Keith Randolph Smith and David Rosenblatt. This runs to Aug. 1, so hurry. Call 212 – 352-0255.

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