It's official: Patrick Swayze (search) will do a star turn in Dirty Dancing 2, also known as Havana Nights.
The sequel to the original Dirty Dancing is shooting in Puerto Rico as we speak. So far, only Swayze is a repeat from the original film. "You're not going to see Jerry Orbach (search) doing the salsa," a source quipped.
Havana Nights is an attempt to cash in on the Latino market by Miramax and Artisan, who are producing the film as a joint venture.
Originally, there had been talk of Ricky Martin (search) playing the lead role, but that's disappeared. Diego Luna, a young Mexican actor who appeared in Frida and Before Night Falls, will play the romantic hero. Jonathan Jackson, who got his start on General Hospital, also has a role. Sela Ward and John Slattery will play the uptight parents who don't want their daughter getting involved with Luna.
As for the director, the film companies chose Guy Ferland, a TV director with a couple of awards under his belt. So far, there are no writers listed for the project, but undoubtedly someone or some group of people have put the finishing touches on a script.
The movie is set in Havana, Cuba, in 1959, around the time Michael Corleone and friends would have been visiting with Hyman Roth from The Godfather, Part II. Maybe we'll see Michael and his brother Fredo fighting in the distance in a nightclub scene.
Monday night at Lincoln Center's New York State Theatre, there it was yet another 80th birthday salute to Liz Smith, and she was as tired of it as a lot of other people. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stopped by and said, "This is the 20th time we've celebrated Liz's 80th birthday." Her birthday was in February.
To make matters even more exciting, following readings and presentations in the theatre for Liz's charity, Literacy Partners, her cake went up in smoke. When the candles were lit, they connected with the real flowers on the Sylvia Weinstock creation. A Liz doll — very cute and realistic — was poised at the top of the cake but was saved from burning by quick waiters with Coca Cola. But the smoke rose and the whole room smelled like toasted marshmallows.
Liz, looking like an Oscar in a glittery gold pants suit designed by her pal Arnold Scaasi, wielded a big cake knife. "I'm so tired of this [expletive]," she joked. "It's just another ["Lewinsky" would be the appropriate metaphor]."
She got big laughs. But look, Liz is timeless. Eighty? Please. We should all be so lucky.
Kitty Carlisle Hart, also ageless at 90-plus years, was a vision. What's her secret? "If I knew I'd be the richest woman in the world," she said.
Natalie Cole was there with Denise Rich, looking hot. Sir Howard Stringer, the head of Sony, asked me to introduce him to her. I obliged, as Barbara Walters pushed past and nearly knocked me over to go say hello to someone. Now I see how she's gotten all those interviews.
Cole was thrilled to meet Stringer. Maybe there's a future record deal there. Other notable names: Diane von Furstenberg, Barry Diller, Harvey and Eve Weinstein, Scaasi and Parker Ladd and Kim Cattrall of Sex and the City.
"I'm so mad at the New York Observer," Kim said to me, eyes on fire. "They published my new address. Now I may have to move."
I didn't know what to say. She seemed mad to me. I said, "That's terrible." Turns out she thought I wrote for them. Wrong, but OK. Kim, newly separated, had two male escorts with her and looked great.
At dinner, there was also a table of terrifyingly accomplished ladies from Good Housekeeping magazine, including snappy Ellen Levine (the editor in chief of GH), Evelyn Reynolds, and Gayle King (from Oprah). Dominick Dunne and Cynthia McFadden, Liz's great pals, were also there to support their pal.
Literacy Partners is a terrific organization that actually makes a huge impact here in New York. Basically they teach adults who can't read. It's always an amazing story when they bring out one of their graduates, and so they did last night. An African American woman, LaVenus Ross (great name), read a beautiful poem and thanked the audience for their contributions. Tears welled up in the eyes of all the patrons.
Some other people read poems from the podium as well. Howard Stringer said, "I haven't written a poem since I wrote one for a French chambermaid when I was 19."
Later he told me, with a mock French accent, her name was "Jeannette." One of the witty rhymes was about Liz working for Cosmo years ago. "For Brown ... Helen, not Tina, who's really no meaner." It got a good laugh.
Diller gushed over being in love with Diane von Furstenberg since they first met in 1974. He was at Paramount. She was married to Egon von Furstenberg. DVF, as he called her, also gave Liz a birthday greeting.
There were readings from Susan Orlean, E. Lynn Harris and most especially from America's poet laureate, Billy Collins, who was such a success that everyone wanted to meet him. Even Kim Cattrall, who Collins had never heard of but took an immediate liking to. He got a dance with her in exchange for a signed book.
Some quick notes: Mary Wilson got a personalized chocolate dessert the other night from the chef at Lola on West 22nd St. He made a cookie nameplate for her to adorn her mousse. Seems the pastry chef at the famed eatery also sings and dances, and will tour with Wilson this summer! Lola is quite the talent factory. By the way they still have their lively gospel brunches every Sunday.
So sorry to hear about the passing of the first ever supermodel Suzy Parker. She died at 69 years old according to her stepdaughter. Parker was hot stuff in the late '50s and early '60s, and had a short lived movie career (The Best of Everything). She was married to actor Bradford Dillman, and then retired to get off the fast track. Someone should do a big piece on her in Vogue.
Warner Bros. announced they're turning Anne Rice's Vampire novels into a Broadway musical yesterday. All I could think was that my dear late friend, producer Julia Phillips, was the visionary who saw the value in Rice's work and tried forever to get Interview With the Vampire made into a film. Ultimately, David Geffen did the deed, with mixed results. But Julia knew what a bonanza there was in these books, so I'm giving her the last chuckle today. Some people are too ahead of their time.