An erudite and relaxed Richard Gere got plenty of ovations last night as the American Museum of the Moving Image's man of the year.
Gere brought wife Carey Lowell, plus his mom and lots of relatives from the Syracuse area, to see him get gently roasted by friends and receive the prestigious award.
It wasn't a solemn night at all — Gere regularly interrupted speakers like Garry Marshall and Denzel Washington from the floor to add his own opinions and observations.
After a clip from his forthcoming tango movie with Jennifer Lopez — a remake of "Shall We Dance?" — Gere stood up on his seat and put a white napkin in his mouth in lieu of a rose.
You'll see the whole thing soon on USA Networks, which taped the star-studded event. Among Gere's friends who showed up were Sharon Stone, Laura Linney, Matthew Modine, Hector Elizondo, Marisa Berenson, Kim Cattrall, Winona Ryder, Tim Robbins, Louis Gossett, Jr., Marty Richards and Liam Neeson.
But it was Gere's last remark that USA may have a little trouble with.
"Trust is so important," Gere said, and I paraphrase a little here. "I've learned not to trust anyone who thinks he has God exclusively on his side." Pause. "Not even the president."
During that pause I thought he meant Mel Gibson, who, like Gere and Washington, is agented by ICM's Ed Limato, was also in the audience. But Gere told me after the dinner, "'The Passion' is just a movie."
He hasn't seen it, by the way. "No, anyone who knows me knows it was a political statement."
It will be hard for USA Networks to clip out the comment considering it's the culmination of Gere's lovely acceptance. Perhaps they will be courageous enough to keep it in.
Another controversial comment that will also probably make it into the show was from Gossett, who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar opposite Gere and Debra Winger in "An Officer and a Gentleman."
Said Gossett of his relationship with Gere: "We never had a cross word or a tense moment. Debra Winger took care of that."
Winger was one of the few Gere co-stars noticeably absent.
Also not at the dinner were some who had legitimate excuses because of work or illness: Susan Sarandon, Queen Latifah, Diane Lane and Julia Roberts. Latifah and Lane sent video messages.
But the most glaringly absent were Uma Thurman and her parents. Gere and the Thurmans — once thick as thieves — had a falling out some time ago over Tibet and the Dalai Lama.
There were a lot of film clips shown last night from Gere's many, many films. Some are best forgotten; a few are excellent.
Scenes from "Chicago," "Days of Heaven," "Officer" and "Primal Fear" were the highlights. Rent all four to see how Gere — who every woman in the room was drooling over — has sustained a career as a movie star for more than a quarter of a century.
I told you yesterday that Janet Jackson's "Damita Jo" had sold a tad under 70,000 copies last week and finished at No. 5. I was a little optimistic. Apparently it sold more like 65,000, but did finish in fifth position.
This is a kick in the gut to Virgin Records, which has invested millions and millions in Janet and pinned their hopes of success to the album. Otherwise, Virgin is not having such a great time. Watch for major upheavals there soon.
Here's the lowdown on Harvey Weinstein's installation by the Queen of England as an honorary CBE — Commander of the British Empire. Harvey and his beautiful wife Eve were one of the host couples of the AMMI dinner. But they don't want to be called Lord and Lady Weinstein.
"I like 'Master and Commander,'" Eve Weinstein quipped.
Just so we're all square, there is no Oscar-like campaign to get this prestigious honor.
"They call you up and you have 10 minutes to accept," Weinstein told me. There's no advance word.
The truth is that Harvey Weinstein has probably made more British films, or films with Brits, than any other Hollywood producer in the last 50 years. From "Mrs. Brown" to "Shakespeare in Love," "Sliding Doors" to "The English Patient," Weinstein is almost like the president of the chamber of commerce.
Cheerio! I say. The Queen has good taste.
Kevin Kline recited part of one of Hamlet's speeches, Tovah Feldshuh performed a couple of schmaltzy numbers from her one-woman show and Elaine Stritch was, well, combative, contentious and endearing — in other words, Elaine Stritch.
Alec Baldwin refereed them all in a hushed voice as emcee of a lunch Monday at the Pierre to honor the late head of the American Theatre Wing, Isabelle Stevenson, who passed away last year at the age of 90.
If you've ever seen a Tony Awards broadcast or a Theatre Wing show on PBS, you know Stevenson. She was the perennially old but elegantly coiffed blonde woman who did all the introductions of each celebrity while wearing about $50,000 of her own jewelry and a gown of some sort that was better than those worn by the actresses. She also kept the Tonys going single-handedly since she took over in 1966.
The Pierre ballroom was as packed as I have ever seen it, by the way, stuffed with celebs such as our pal Liz Smith, "Twentieth Century" star Anne Heche, playwright Tony Kushner, the New York Post's Michael Riedel, legendary star Celeste Holm, plus Tony Roberts, John Cullum, Lillias White, "Fiddler on the Roof" director David Leveaux, Swoosie Kurtz, Christine Baranski and so on and so forth.
I did see Faith Stewart-Gordon's name on the attendees list in the program, but luckily I didn't see her myself. The former owner of the Russian Tea Room must be embarrassed to see what's happened to New York's most important watering hole since she sold it in 1995 to the late Warner Le Roy.
I did run into "Law & Order" and "As the World Turns" star Tamara Tunie, still one of New York's underappreciated acting treasures. Somehow she was not nominated for a Daytime Emmy this year even though she would clearly have won. Something is very strange about those Daytime Emmys. It's amazing nothing has ever been done to fix them.
We also got to meet Marcy Perry, the 19-year-old great-granddaughter of the actress Antoinette Perry, for whom the Tony Award is named. She's just come from Colorado to take classes at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and work in the Tony office.
But get this: Her family is not automatically sent tickets to the Tony Awards every year. And the one year the family did go, it had to pay for them!
Winona Ryder wore a vintage dress last night, looked great, sounded better, seems ready to take on the world. She told me last night she's about to sign on to a big hush-hush project that will "surprise everyone." There's an Oscar in her future now that her scandals are in the past...
Tonight at Carnegie Hall, the Rainforest Foundation is putting on its annual concert with Sting, Elton John, James Taylor and a lot of surprise guests singing songs from movies. There are no bad seats in Carnegie Hall; it's worth trying to get one even if it's at the top tier...
Being sidelined by illness meant succumbing, one afternoon, to "General Hospital." Does ABC know this show is still on the air? It boasts some of the worst acting and writing in TV history, and that's saying something for a soap.
The main character is a mobster who imitates Al Pacino as Michael Corleone and keeps threatening to kill people with a gun he brandishes a little too frequently. The main drama on the show concerns waiting to hear if he will enunciate a sentence.
I couldn't tell if the cotton was in his mouth or my ears! Please, ABC, whatever happened to Luke and Laura?