Hopper, Warhol and the artist’s retrospective

GOOD MORNING: There’s reason for Dennis Hopper to be honored at today’s bow of the Andy Warhol retrospective at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). As a matter of fact, there are several reasons. Back in 1963, Dennis gave Warhol his first party in L.A. “It was the best party he’d ever been to,” Hopper modestly (laughingly) recalls. It was at the Ferus Gallery on La Cienega, where Warhol first showed his soon-to-be-famous paintings of Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley and Campbell’s soup. Hopper took an advance look at the generous exhibition that bows today and he’s agreed to be involved “to help get people to go downtown” to the museum. He, of course, became a collector of Warhol’s work — he had many but allows when he and Brooke divorced, they (he and his Warhols) parted company. But he still has a couple. Meanwhile, artist Hopper has returned from exhibits of his own works in Amsterdam and Vienna and now is readying for the chef d’oeuvre display of his multiple-media group of works at no less than the L’Ermitage in St. Petersburg. Of course he will attend. And yes, Hopper continues to create — at his studio in Taos, a converted movie house … While downtown at MOCA, Hopper also look-see’d the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry that’s due for its bow next year. Hopper was overwhelmed by Gehry’s genius — “The five walls do not even touch — there will be absolutely no vibration. It will demystify the concert world for Americans.” He was impressed not only by the concert hall itself but by the largest parking structure in the area. “It will be a living center.” As for his film career, he will return to directing “in the next couple of months.” Meanwhile, he is high on “The Piano Player,” which he filmed in Cape Town, South Africa, with Chris Lambert, Jean-Pierre Roux directing. He’s a killer–and as you’d expect from a Hopper portrayal — he’s a different kind of killer.

RICHARD BENJAMIN AND STEVE MARTIN as Oscar and Felix in Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple”? Well, they played the roles in readings to cast the two femmes in Simon’s “Oscar and Felix: A New Look at the Odd Couple,” which bows June 11 at the Geffen. And the ladies set for the roles are Maria Conchita Alonso and Alex Meneses. Simon decided the neighbor sisters should be Spanish in this 2002 version of his hit play of 38 years — and still playing globally! Simon told me, “All I changed was 70% of the dialogue! I thought I could do it better ” He didn’t change the male characters — “only what they say.” If it works here, he’d take this “Odd Couple” back East. Alonso, whose only other U.S. stage experience was in “The Vagina Monologues,” laughingly related their roles: “We’re from Spain and we speak very little English.” Alonso also is busy co-writing — a sitcom, “Spanish Nights,” with Juliana Agosto, and she’s completing a CD of Latin pop-jazz recorded here and in Venezuela … While starring in “Vagina Monologues” in Chi, Dawn Wells also is readying to produce, with Larry Germain, “Back to the Bat Cave,” with Adam West and Burt Ward reprising their ‘Batman” series roles. They film in July with Artisan Entertainment’s Paul Kaufman.

MICHAEL DOUGLAS HAS MADE “a sizable” donation to help rebuild the media in post-war Afghanistan. It is being administered by the Open Media Fund for Afghanistan. It was launched in February by author Ahmed Rashid, who gave one-fourth of his royalties from his bestseller “Taliban” “with the aim of rebuilding professional local media in Afghanistan,” Internews tells me. In addition to trying to re-establish a solid media base in Afghanistan, other projects include a children’s magazine and weekly newspaper. Douglas made his donation in the name of the late Sen. Alan Cranston, who was a journalist before entering politics … Michael and his dad, Kirk Douglas, have completed their roles in “A Few Good Years,” and on June 4, Kirk receives the first Triumph of Spirit award on behalf of the Jerusalem Fund for Aish Hatorah. Proceeds of the dinner at the BevHilton will aid families of victims of the suicide bombings in Israel as well as the Douglas Family Theater, nearing completion opposite the Western Wall in Old Jerusalem. Jack Valenti makes the presentation to Douglas pere. Ten days later, Kirk receives UCLA’s highest award, the rarely bestowed Chancellor’s Medal, during commencement exercises. In between, he and wife Anne will attend dedication ceremonies of new playgrounds at schools in Eagle Rock and North Hollywood … Robert Evans gets his star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame Thursday. Among those who will speak at the ceremony: Peter Bart, William Friedkin and David O. Russell. Among those expected to attend, Evans’ third ex-wife, Ali MacGraw, as well as Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Kelly Lynch and Cheryl Tiegs … Jenny McCarthy and husband John Asher welcomed their first child, son Evan Joseph Asher, Saturday … Tony and Tricia Griffin celebrated their 10th wedding anni at papa Merv Griffin’s Resort Hotel & Givenchy Spa in Palm Springs… A celebration honoring the late George Sidney will be given by the DGA Sept. 26 at the DGA theater. Christina Stevens is heading the (invitational) evening for the well-liked Sidney, who was DGA president for 16 years. Among the many speakers will be Baz Luhrmann, who met with Sidney shortly before his death to express his appreciation for the many great musicals Sidney created.