SO SAD to report that my onetime Sports Illustrated pal, Bud Shrake, has died in Austin of lung cancer and complications. Bud had been living the straight and narrow life for years — no booze, taking care of himself and during the years of Gov. Ann Richards ascendancy and until her death, he was her favored male companion. Bud has never quite been the same since Ann’s death three years ago come September. He missed her fiercely. Bud was a wonderful novelist and sportswriter and often the writing partner to the famous Dan Jenkins of “Semi-Tough” fame. His gang up at Elaine’s in New York will really miss him. He is being buried next to Ann in Austin.
BRIAN WILSON, famous founder of the Beach Boys, is still performing his feel-good music all over the world, including selections from his acclaimed “Smile” album. That was an unfinished Beach Boys project that he eventually completed with his current band. He has released it to great reviews. Our Hollywood friend, Hal Lifson, lover of all things circa 1960s, ran into Brian in L.A, the other day. (Hal has created wonderful new additions to the “Archie’s” comicbooks genre.) Brian, who has fought his demons, looked healthy and chowed down on a turkey/spinach omelet. He had on his typical “uniform” — a Hawaiian shirt, his personal style. Brian has a lot to say now about family — his wife Melinda and their two young girls. He laughs: “Well, I really think my kids prefer the Jonas Brothers to my music. But, hey, we were three brothers with a band, too. (He refers to the late Carl and Dennis Wilson.) “We were the original Jonas Brothers. When I put it that way, I get a bit more respect!”
THE TWO great Queens — Elizabeth I and the so-called Mary, Queen of Scots — had been put up against each other for the Tony awards on the day I went to see Friedrich Schiller’s “Mary Stuart.” (This classic has been now adapted by Peter Oswald.) Janet McTeer is Mary and Harriet Walter is Elizabeth and what fabulous queens they are! These royals and embattled cousins never met in real life, but Schiller decided they should have. The Schiller-Oswald play is mighty and powerful with writing that blows you away. We must give credit, too, to director Phyllida Lloyd, also Tony-nominated. I’ll just note as a curiosity that she directed the stage and screen versions of the massive hit “Mamma Mia!” (A woman for all seasons.) This production has no trappings, no furniture. It exists in sound and the emphasis of the actors. The Queens are queenly in dress and demeanor. The men surrounding them are in modern business suits. I suppose it’s to show the villainy of “suits” up to their own pursuits. It’s an interesting conceit and I thought it jarring, but I’m old-fashioned. I was happy to see a thoughtful performance by an actress I admire, Maria Tucci, as Mary’s nurse. We can never get enough of the Tudors and the Stuarts. They’re in our blood; perhaps for some Americans, they are our blood. But Ms. McTeer and Ms. Walter have given them formidable new dimension. This is an unforgettable evening.
GUESS YOU’ve seen the glam ad of Cher and Bette Midler touting their Las Vegas extravaganzas. When I mentioned it to the divine Miss M, she went off into a burst of praise for her compatriot Cher. “She is so great. She has never looked better. She is beautiful!” said Bette. So then Bette reminded me to get tix for her May 19 barbecue picnic in Fort Tryon Park where she and many others, some almost equally famous, will hold the New York Restoration Project Annual Spring event. This is Bette’s 10th anniversary of her big green project and her group has rescued 114 community gardens, just to name one triumph. So if you’d like to chow down outside with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson or hear the “In the Heights” star Lin-Manuel Miranda do his rap on his “hood” or rub elbows with Dolly Parton or listen to Judy Gold run the whole shebang, do call 914-579-1000. Our Miss Midler is a concerned citizen par excellence. Everybody talks about going green but Bette has been there, done that and she’s not only Greener than “Shrek,” she is “The Jolly Green Little Sex Bomb.” We must not fall back from helping Bette accomplish her great good work for New York City.
RAN INTO Victor Garber in Joe Allen’s theater cafe where you can hardly get a table before any theater performance these days. Looking handsomer and younger than ever, Victor is moving back to NYC from LA. He will open soon at the Roundabout in Noel Coward’s, “Present Laughter,” directed by Nicholas Martin. You do remember Victor with Jennifer Garner in TV’s “Alias” but better you remember him as I do, as a fixture of the Broadway stage having appeared in 14 major Broadway shows — a guy who played Jesus in “Godspell” and then “the Devil” in “Damn Yankees.” Welcome home, Victor!