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Gotham goes down the (storm) drain

GOOD MORNING FROM N.Y. as the city tries to pull itself together after what they tell us visitors was the worst storm in 50 years. We believe them. A few minutes before a car was skedded to pick us up Friday to go to Lincoln Center to see “The Sisters Rosensweig,” the car service called to say there’d be no car. There were no cabs, either. And even if you had a car–where would you go? The traffic was totally gridlocked. Some cross streets were shut by the police with telltale yellow streamers. Sirens from fire engines, ambulances, emergency vehicles and the police screeched non-stop as even their cars fought to make their way to sites of flooding and wind destruction. Gusts hit up to 70 miles an hour. We had earlier left the Regency Hotel at Park Avenue and 61st to walk to the Russian Tea Room for lunch. Ha! As we turned the corner at 61st and headed toward Madison Avenue, a gust nearly blew us back to the corner. But we carried on, heading toward Fifth Avenue. The streets were covered with carcasses of destroyed umbrellas, their spokes bare, standing like tombstones. Rubbish cans at each street corner were filled with earlier-destroyed rain gear. There was no way to hold an umbrella above your head. So you just got wet. It was impossible to carry on a conversation because of the din of the car horns honking incessantly–as if that would make the traffic move. Even the blasts from truck horns proved of little avail to move traffic–but they made us pedestrians jump. Callous New Yawkers admitted to us they’d never seen anything like it. Bridges were closed, subways stopped running , railroads to suburbs were washed out. The East River Drive became part of the East River. Glass from previously gleaming skyscrapers tumbled to the ground, trees were uprooted, power and phones failed. It was a mess. We were happy to make our way back to the lobby of the Regency, where managing director Richard Natale was helping arriving survivors of the storm. We must have looked like (and certainly felt) like drowned rats. He ordered hot chocolate for us immediately.

YOUR FRIEND GINGER ROGERS couldn’t get out,” he told me. Rogers, along with everyone else, was turned back from LaGuardia Airport, shuttered by the storm. And then, it was almost impossible for her to get transportation back to the city and the Regency. We had spoken to her earlier last week as she, too, arrived here from the Kennedy Center Honors. Wednesday night in N.Y. she had gone to see “Crazy For You”–at the Kennedy Center Honors, the troupe performed a scene from the show as part of her tribute. But now she saw the entire show–she starred in the original “Girl Crazy” in 1930. At the finale, co-stars Harry Groener and Jodi Benson announced that Ginger was in the audience. She got a standing ovation. “And I must have signed 150 autographs,” she beamed to me. She loved the story and the cast. Then on Thursday, she went to see “Jelly’s Last Jam,” with Gregory Hines. It was difficult for Ginger, wheelchaired, to make her way in the Virginia Theater. Her assistant told me there was no assistance for handicapped and Ginger had to go up a flight of stairs … Nevertheless, she loved this show, too … There was another reunion for Ginger at the Regency where assistant manager Jennifer Alphonse reminded she had been the maitre d’ at the Blue Room in New Orleans, years back when Ginger performed there. And had pix taken of the two together … In the Regency lobby, Steve Guttenberg was ending his two-month stay, having directed the CBS Afternoon Special “Love Off Limits.” He said Larry Tisch and Jeff Sagansky were both high on the subject, which ranged from the arts to AIDS. Steve next stars in ABC’s series “Showroom,” set in a 1963 Cadillac showroom.

IN THE REGENCY ELEVATOR, Jane Seymour, fresh from CBS interviews for her upcoming (Jan. 1) “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” series, said Howard Stringer told her to be ready to start filming new segs (second season) in February. She’d just arrived from Merv Griffin’s Paradise Island and was off to Vancouver to see James Keach, who is filming his “Jack’s Place” series with Hal Linden. Then Seymour and Keach head to her English castle (now up for sale) and she returns in time to co-host the Rose Parade on CBS. (Keach also guests in two “Medicine Woman” segs.) … Around town: At the Matisse exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art, we bumped into Robert Redford and his daughter Shauna. He was beaming over the box office success of his “A River Runs Through It” and hopes it will generate more studio action for pictures of this quality. He himself plans to star in a romantic comedy early next year and told me he’ll direct a movie based on the famous quiz-show scandals … Also at the Matisse exhibit (for her second time), Lauren Bacall, looking forward to her C.B. DeMille Award from the Foreign Press. She’s busy writing her book for Knopf covering the past 18 years of her life–last year was her busiest ever, she said … Also at the museum, Jodie Foster, Peter Stone (second time) … Jonathan Tisch was celebrating his 39th birthday at Peter Luger’s Steak House … At Elaine’s, Marianne Rogers, Phyllis George Brown, the Walter Cronkites and Edwina Johnson.

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