Published June 26, 2002
On July 26, frozen-in-time '60s spy Austin Powers will face a challenge greater than Dr. Evil. That challenge is Robert Evans, the producer responsible for bringing us The Godfather, Love Story, Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown.
Hollywood's most fabled, scandal-plagued man of cool opens his autobiographical documentary, The Kid Stays in the Picture, on the same day Austin Powers in Goldmember arrives in theatres.
The difference is that The Kid will be on about four screens that weekend. Powers will be on nearly 4,000.
It's a no-brainer who will win, since the character of Austin Powers owes more to Evans than even Powers' creator, Mike Myers, probably knows. Powers, after all, is a swinging cad who manages to survive being frozen for 20 plus years and still gets the babes despite his age and his hapless misadventures.
For the charismatic Evans, married at one time or another to Ali MacGraw, Phyllis George, and Catherine Oxenberg (plus two other lesser known but equally beautiful wives), the similarities are glaring.
Bob Evans has made it through 50 years of Hollywood, including living through three strokes and paralysis, drug addiction, arrest and a murder investigation, and has come out on top. Yeah, baby!
Now Evans, whose full interview I will give you next week, tells me that as he approaches age 72 on Saturday, he has big plans for the coming year.
First, he is zipping through the manuscript of his new memoir, the sequel to The Kid Stays in the Picture. I got a look at the new book, called The Fat Lady Sang, yesterday and I can tell you it's dynamite.
The second project is a new film. No, not How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, which Evans is producing right now with Lynda Obst.
The new film is based on the life of Chicago mob lawyer Sidney Korshak, who died in 1996 at age 87. Korshak was Evans's friend and mentor; it was he who got the Mafia to ease up on the making of The Godfather for Evans when he ran Paramount Pictures.
The Korshak movie, which Evans will make at his home base, Paramount, is based on Nick Tosches's Vanity Fair story, "The Devil and Sidney Korshak." Tosches is writing the script himself. William Friedkin, the Oscar-winning director of The French Connection and husband of Paramount's long-time chief Sherry Lansing, will be the director.
What accounts for Evans's renaissance?
"I feel that I'm only turning five this weekend," he told me. "It’s been five years since my strokes. I can't believe I'm here. I shouldn’t be. I died, literally. Five years ago it was like I was in cement after the strokes.
"Now I’ve put my hands in cement on Hollywood Boulevard," he says, referring to his recent overdue star on the Walk of Fame. "Extraordinary!"
The Fat Lady Sings begins with Evans's stroke in 1998 and covers, among other things, his one-week marriage to Dynasty star Oxenberg.
"Everyone was against it," he told me. "My son, my ex-wives, my doctor was going to lock me up. But I was high on legal drugs, lethal drugs, and I was very romantic. It wasn't Catherine's fault. I fooled her." They have not talked since their abrupt annulment.
The book will be published by Simon & Schuster, which is part of the Paramount/Viacom family. This is unlike The Kid Stays in the Picture, which had to be published by Disney's Hyperion imprint back in 1994 because then-corporate chief Martin Davis wouldn't allow S&S to do it.
"It's worked out for the best," Evans said, with a wink. "And of course, Marty Davis is dead now anyway."
Sumner Redstone, chairman and CEO of Viacom and an Evans associate for 30 years, is one of the important characters in the new book.
"He took care of me after the stroke," Evans said. "He would fly back and forth to L.A. to see me. He wrote to me, sent me things. He saw me constantly."
Redstone, who'd suffered his own near-fatal illness, knew what Evans was going through and didn't want him to suffer. The story of their friendship, the depth of it, will surprise a lot of people.
As for the documentary of his life, which he narrates, USA Films will release it thanks to Barry Diller, with whom Evans once worked at Paramount. The Kid was made by former Oscar-nominees Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen, with whom Evans says, he fought a lot.
"But they won every fight, and they were right." As for his extraordinary life, "it's great to talk about all this now, but it was murder to live it."
More on Robert Evans as we get closer to the release date for The Kid Stays in the Picture.
The record business is in free fall.
This past week sales were worse than ever, according to numbers coming out from Soundscan/Nielsen.
Moby, the techno genius who had a multi-million sales hit with his Play album, is struggling to sell copies of his latest, called 18. This week Moby sold around 30,000 of his Virgin Records CD.
Sony’s Marc Anthony posted only about 34,000 copies of his latest, called Mended.
Sony is also having problems with Wyclef Jean's excellent new Masquerade, which managed to find 62,000 customers. The former Fugee has two excellent solo CDs under his belt and presumably a huge following.
What's going on here? Both Jean and Anthony are stars and should be selling hundreds of thousands of albums. Moby should be in the top five. But CD burning and Internet downloading are eating into the business at a faster rate than ever.
For reasons I cannot figure out, the Moby album was available for free on one Web site for weeks before it hit the stores. What's that all about?
Of course, now that I have my RipFlash MP3 player from PoGo Products, it's easy to see what's happening.
With the RipFlash you can zap whole CD's from a friend's CD player right into portable MP3 files. Bada bing, as they say. You don't even need a computer, and the thing costs less than $200.
Record companies had better wise up and lower the price of all new CDs this summer. A quick look through the record stores — which are like ghost towns — shows a preponderance of releases priced between $15.99 and $18.99. That alone is suicide.
I also don't understand why CDs aren't encoded so they can't be digitally copied. This would seem to be an easy fix.
Movie companies had better start addressing the same issue with DVDs now that VHS tapes are being phased out. Once that genie is out of the bottle, there will be no going back.