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Barbra Streisand: Not the Way She Was Anymore

 Barbra Streisand | Ben Affleck | Rao's | Gladys Knight

Barbra Streisand: Not the Way She Was Anymore

Has yet another Hollywood celeb fallen under the knife? 

I am told that the biggest of them all, Barbra Streisand, has had quite a nip and tuck recently. The rumored doctor is Cap Lesesne, the very same plastic surgeon who briefly dated Katie Couric and is in demand on both coasts for his reshaping abilities. 

When I spoke to him, Lesesne (pronounce Leh-sane) did not confirm the story but didn't completely deny it either. Rather, he said: "I have no comment. I can't discuss anything." Of course, he has his oath of confidentiality to maintain. 

Streisand's publicist, Ken Sunshine, told me: "I don't know anything about it, but the answer is no, it didn't happen." 

A source close to La Barbra said, however: "She had it done a few weeks ago. The whole thing." 

The timing is curious, though. Initially, reports came back that it was impossible for Streisand to fit such a long recovery into her busy schedule. She even appeared at the memorial service for Donna Karan's husband, Stephan Weiss on June 11 in New York. But the service was private, and Streisand is a loyal friend. No pictures were taken. 

The whole thing is a big deal considering Streisand's face is very, very famous, especially her treasured nose. Personally, I don't get it. When I spent some time with Streisand and husband Jim Brolin during Oscar week in March, she looked like a billion bucks. But as another actress around the same age as Streisand said to me recently: "Everyone has to do it at some point. Camera close-ups are killers. And 57, 58, 59 is when you do it." 

Close-ups are not an issue right now, however. Streisand has no plans for a new movie just yet, but she and Brolin — as I wrote in this space back in March — are planning to produce a one-hour weekly dramatic show for VH-1 about the music business. Brolin will play the head of a record company; Barbra will produce it. 

 Affleck Addicted to Neon?  

Ben Affleck is certainly enjoying his fame and wealth. The 30-year-old star of Pearl Harbor spent the weekend at Las Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. And it wasn't the first time. 

Affleck made a more famous appearance there some months ago, when he reportedly won $140,000 and gave $5,000 tips to the staff. No word on how he did this time. A source at the Hard Rock said that Affleck has been there no more or less than other steady customers, and that the hotel has a lot of repeat business. 

It's not like Affleck hasn't been working, however. This spring he finished two films, Changing Lanes and The Sum of All Fears. He also co-produced and appeared with Matt Damon in The Third Wheel for Miramax, and appeared in Kevin Smith's imminent Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, for Miramax/Dimension. 

My Night at Rao's: Some Secrets Revealed 

I can tell you I ate dinner on Monday night at the very famous, very exclusive Rao's restaurant in East Harlem. 

I cannot tell you who I ate with or how I got there. Otherwise, well … there was a hearse parked right outside, you see. 

Rao's has been in business for 100 years, all with the Pellegrino family. Frankie Pellegrino runs it now, and he's opened Baldoria down on West 49th St. for the frustrated. Because, you see, there are 11 tables at Rao's and they are all booked forever. You recognize Frankie because he moonlights as an actor, playing the FBI agent who's trying to catch Tony Soprano. Marone! 

There's no menu, no wine list and no information. A nice man comes and sits at your table and discusses your meal with you. He suggests a wine, some appetizers, veal parmigana, baked clams, and the most delicious fried chicken you've ever tasted. If the Colonel had eaten this he'd be alive today. 

We sat under a picture of Jackson Browne, one of the hundreds of autographed 8x10's in the room. Some nights there are a lot of celebrities. On this night, we had only David Caruso, who was on NYPD Blue but chose obscurity over a career. On the other hand, Jason Flom, the Atlantic Records exec who's made Kid Rock, Lil Kim, Uncle Kracker, Sugar Ray and a bunch of acts into hits, was there with his wife and friends. 

Michael Amonte came in after awhile and sang some opera for us. Michael is a Rao's find, managed by movie producer Sonny Grosso, a regular. Michael sang "O Sole Mio" from the center table, and then joined Frankie for a song. Frankie's voice is good, but Michael — ciao bella! I don't know why such a gifted singer is performing at Rao's instead of La Scala, but we enjoyed him immensely. When Amonte's album comes out later this summer, I guarantee we'll be hearing a lot about him. 

Frankie Pellegrino also puts on a show. The Temptations' "My Girl" is put on the CD player, and Frankie gets the whole crowd to sing along with it. He likes everyone to whoop it up when the Temps sing "Hey, hey, hey!" I don't know who has more fun, Frankie or the patrons. But for a minute it seemed like we'd gone back to the future. It was charming. 

Will I get back into Rao's? I don't know. In the meantime, they sell their sauce (gravy to you) in supermarkets. It's expensive, but worth it. (Personally, I alternate between Rao's and Patsy's.) And so was the meal. A great New York night — the kind I thought they didn't make anymore! 

Gladys Knight, Ice Cream Heir Each Play NYC 

What a great city! Tonight at Shine, a little rock club at 285 West Broadway in Manhattan, you can catch Kenli Mattus' rock group. He's the grandson of Reuben Mattus, the man who invented Häagen-Dazs and then the even better tasting low-fat Mattus Ice Cream we all live on from the world-renowned Jefferson Market. I hear Kenli is a little like Moby — well, he looks like Moby — and we should all get down there and support him if for no other reason than three words: Chocolate Chocolate Chip! 

Then, on Saturday night, the one and only Gladys Knight — the greatest voice of her generation, hands down — makes her debut at Carnegie Hall. Gladys' most recent album on MCA was a winner, but radio is predictably cool to her — even though R&B oldies formats live on "Midnight Train to Georgia" like vultures at an Elks Club picnic. Gladys, save the overtime for me! And cross your fingers too because there may be an appearance by the remaining Pip, Merald "Bubba" Knight, Gladys' dancing, singing brother. Whoo-hoo!