Published April 11, 2002
So, you thought our Mary was pure as the driven snow? I have news for you: she’s turned Mary Richards, her old TV character, into a tabloid reporter.
Last night, I ran into Mary and her husband, Dr. Robert Levine, at the Museum of Modern Art’s tribute to director David O. Russell. (He’s a little young for a tribute, but he did make one of my favorite movies, Three Kings.)
A stunning Mary, turning the paparazzi into a frenzied pack of shutterbugs shouting her name, told me a little bit about the CBS reunion of her old castmates, which airs May 13.
Mary, who interviews each member of the cast individually, even unearthed a bit of a salacious scandal Mary unearthed as she interrogated the whole gang (sans the sadly departed Ted Knight).
“It turns out that Cloris Leachman and Ed Asner had a bet I didn’t know about,” Mary said. “Cloris bet Ed that if he lost 30 pounds, she’d, let’s say, 'do something very nice for him.'” Mary didn’t say “sexual,” but she did wink — and I think we understood exactly what she meant. Calling it a Lewinsky would not be inappropriate.
“The funny thing is, Ed lost 28 pounds — and everyone found out about the bet. The two of them met up and were face to face. What would happen? But they turned and went their separate ways!”
Oh, Mr. Grant!
Mary — who has one interview left to do, with Valerie Harper — says she was surprised by some of the responses she got from her former castmates. “Surprised by the depth of feeling they had for me, and for the show,” she said. Mary and Dr. Levine are the class act couple of Manhattan celebrity circles — always a pleasure, and Mary is on the upswing as always.
But if you want to talk to her about favorite episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore Show — the best sitcom ever — don’t bring up the famous “Veal Prince Orloff” segment to animal rights activist Mary. (This is the one where Rhoda brings a seventh guest to dinner — Henry Winkler — but Sue Anne has only made six portions of the main course. Mr. Grant takes three, and Mary makes him put them back. It’s wonderful.)
I mentioned "Veal Prince Orloff," and I’m still regretting it. I’m sorry, Mary! “If you knew what they did to the calves to get veal, it’s not funny,” she said. So call it "Vegan Prince Orloff," if you must.
MOMA, meantime, was awash with stars for the Russell dinner and film clip show. Mark Walhberg and Patricia Arquette, who will co-star with Jason Schwartzman in Russell’s next comedy — The Existential Detectives — were there, along with Sandra Bernhard, director Wes Anderson, and married directors Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola.
Also among this tony crowd was Nena Thurman, mother of Uma and wife of Dr. Robert, who runs Asia House. “Did you know David Russell was a student of my husband’s at Columbia," Mrs. Thurman said. "They’re writing a screenplay together." Russell confirmed that he and the highly-esteemed professor of philosophy and religion are hard at work on a project that will follow Existential Detectives.
Mrs. Thurman also reported that her friend, the Dalai Lama, is feeling much better after having struggled with a bacterial infection while in India. A scheduled stop in New York for April 17 at Radio City Music Hall — as well as a visit to Ground Zero — had to be postponed.
And Uma? The new mother is in Los Angeles taking martial arts classes for her role in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.
Prince is happy. Stop the presses.
Tuesday night at Avery Fisher Hall, the artist once again known as Prince put on the most electrifying three hour show I’ve seen in years. It featured a newly talkative version of the diminutive musical genius. He seemed happy, chatted with the audience, and — after a 40 minute jazz jam — launched into a stunning recollection of some of his best known numbers.
But next fall, if episode nine of The Sopranos seems a little off kilter, you can blame the born-again purple rocker. That’s because his after-hours show didn’t start at the World nightclub until 2 a.m. — and went on for two hours. Tough for us mortals, but worse for Edie Falco, who had a 5 a.m. makeup call for her role as Carmella Soprano.
“I just have one scene,” she conceded while Musiq Soulchild and funk legend Larry Graham serenaded us with Sly and the Family Stone’s “If You Want Me To Stay.” "I’ll go straight in to work, then go home and get some sleep,” she said. At least she had a good excuse: one of the show’s producers, Ilene Landress, was right there with us, boogeying along.
But no one in their right mind would have missed Prince on Tuesday night. The three-hour show at Lincoln Center was something of a tour de force, ranging in genres from jazz to funk to hard rock to falsetto R&B and psychedelia. He covered oldies like “La La Means I Love You” and Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” He tantalized the racially mixed, highly energized crowd with lovely versions of “Raspberry Beret,” “No One Compares 2 U,” “When You Were Mine” and “Diamonds and Pearls.”
Possibly married for a second time (he’s wearing a ring on that finger, but who knows?), he seemed lighter and more accessible. He reconfirmed his status a born-again Christian, sang a song called “God Is Love,” and channeled everyone from James Brown to Jimi Hendrix to Miles Davis to Russell Thompkins Jr.
He also spoke. “My parents taught me change is good,” he said. “The bible talks about a new personality. I’m trying to be better.” On that note, I was told that the only comp ticket in the house — every single person, including celebs like Chris Rock, paid $150 — went to his half-sister Sharon Nelson.
“Anxiety is just fear of the future,” Prince told the crowd. “It’s written in the Holy Scriptures.” When rapper Q Tip came on stage, Prince told us, “I try to stop him from cussing.”
You only think you remember Apollonia, Vanity, Wendy and Lisa, “Sugar Walls,” Kim Basinger. But the statute of limitations has run out on all that.
As with the main show, the after hours rave up featured James Brown’s famous horn player Maceo Parker, along with appearances by the legendary George Clinton, the aforementioned Graham, rapper Doug E. Fresh, Musiq Soulchild and — at 3:20 a.m. — Alicia Keys, who joined him on stage for a sizzling version of “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?”
Exhausting? Yes, but well worth it. Prince still batters the subject of slavery (there are video projections of The Underground Railroad, a quote from Abraham Lincoln) — he once wrote the word Slave on his face in a video when he tried to break from Warner Bros records — but he is only slave to himself now. He puts out his own records, owns his own masters, and goes into his 25th year of music-making his own way.
Prince and Elvis Costello are the last two iconoclasts of an era — literate and musically gifted. Their musical genius, background in composition in the language of jazz, pop and blues, is something no one can claim in today's generation. Maybe Alicia Keys can do it — time will tell, and her performance in the middle of the night was nothing short of spectacular. In the meantime, Prince should have no anxiety or fear of the future — he is assured of a permanent spot in the top echelons of rock history.