George Hamilton goes to ‘Chicago’

Britney needs to cover up

IT’S GOOD TO BE underestimated.” That’s what George Hamilton says, as we sit in the dimly lit bar of Manhattan’s plush Plaza Athenee hotel. He has arrived; impeccable, calm, but amused by something that he said delayed him slightly. “It’s time to get married or get a butler,” he laughs. “Being alone is not as much fun as one might imagine.” (For the record, George has been married, to Alana Stewart, and they have a son, Ashley. The rest of the time has been spent romancing great beauties who never speak badly of him once the affair is over.) … But is it really good to be underestimated? “Of course. My whole career has been getting past people’s low expectations, and appreciating the joke. I’ve survived because I always had a sense of humor–about myself, and others.” … Typecast as a young matinee idol in the ’50s, Hamilton saw the handwriting on the klieg light and he took the career he preferred, and becoming famous for being famous — and spectacularly well-groomed. (He has actually made about 80 feature films.)”I am content with what I am, and what I’m supposed to be to people who don’t know me.” … Beginning Friday, Hamilton will appear on Broadway in “Chicago” as the lawyer Billy Flynn. This will be the actor’s second go at the role having played it back in 2001. “I find I can’t quite do what I did physically, six years ago. But six years is a long time. I am a different person now, and I wanted to examine this role again because I am different. I wanted to see what else I could get from it, and what else the show itself says about our culture. It seems to me that ‘Chicago,’ with its themes of media manipulation, is increasingly relevant. I have to admit, I’m having more fun this time around.” … When his “Chicago” stint is over, George will devote himself to pre-production of the movie sequel, “Love at Second Bite,” and to his memoirs, which he is writing with William Stadiem, known for his enjoyably lurid — and sometimes disputed — books about Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra.

THE CINEMA SOCIETY and Focus Features screen David Cronenberg’s new film, “Eastern Promises” starring Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel today at the Tribeca Grand Screening Room. Dinner follows. The director and his cast have promised to attend. Along with the colorful types these intimate Cinema Society screenings attract. … Another date to remember is Oct. 10, the annual Rita Hayworth Gala, raising funds for Alzheimer’s. As always, it happens at Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria, and Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, the late Rita’s devoted daughter, oversees the event. This year, the gala is titled “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” after the song Rita sang in the 1957 film version of “Pal Joey.” Patty Smyth and Scandal will perform.

BRITNEY SPEARS seemed awkward and sadly out-of-practice Sunday at the MTV Awards, but this tentative “comeback” isn’t indicative of her future as a pop star — her live performing skills have never been lauded, anyway. Spears’ outfit was very unflattering, but enough already with dissing her body. After two pregnancies she looks fine — just not onstage-in-a-bikini fine. She needs help from fashion expert Tim Gunn. At the Pure nightclub post-party, the host, Sean Combs, observed Britney and her posse dance atop the booths of her VIP cage. He commented, “She’s a sweet girl who needs some respect.”

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

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