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Oprah's Meatball Diet Works!

Oprah | Travolta | Elvis Costello

Oprah's Meatball Diet: It Works!

Let's face it: Oprah Winfrey looks fantastic. She's never looked better. In fact, few people have ever looked this good.

She showed up last at the Directors Guild annual honors dinner to present an award to director Jonathan Demme, and Oprah — the same one who struggled with her weight for all those years — was thin, gorgeous, svelte, shimmying, shimmering.

Did she eat at all this summer?

"I ate a lot, actually," she told me. "I ate a lot of meatballs. There's a wonderful place in Montecito, and they have terrific meatballs."

Oprah was accompanied, of course, by her best pal, Gayle King, who also edits O Magazine, and her trusty P.R. gal Lisa Halliday.

She came to salute Demme, who directed her in the film she produced, "Beloved," based on Toni Morrison's famous novel. And Oprah accepted kudos on her new season, which has already started with the highest ratings she's ever had.

"I'm signed until 2011," she said. "I'll be on longer than Leno! Who would have thought that?" she said, with a laugh.

As for this season, which began with her giving away 200-plus Pontiacs: "I'm more energized and excited this season than I have been since the first season. I think the audience can feel it, too."

Winfrey was not Demme's only special guest last night, and Demme was not the only DGA honoree.

Famed B-movie director Roger Corman, his wife and recent Harvard-grad daughter made the trip from Los Angeles to be at Demme's table, and the "Manchurian Candidate" director had a surprise for him.

Citing Corman as his mentor and the man who gave him his start in the business, Demme made a really poignant and lovely testimonial to Corman in front of a crowd that included Liam Neeson, Steve Martin, Candice Bergen, director Julie Taymor, Caroline Kennedy, Mike Nichols, Julie Delpy, Martin Scorsese, Edward Norton, Sean Penn, most of the cast of "Saturday Night Live" (Darrell Hammond, Rachel Dratch, Fred Armisen, Will Forte, Seth Meyers, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Chris Parnell and Amy Poehler), Richard Belzer, Swoosie Kurtz, plus other DGA honorees Lorne Michaels, Paramount chief Sherry Lansing, French director Bernard Tavernier and Robert De Niro.

Demme not only feted Corman, but also called out his three favorite movies of the year so far: "Fahrenheit 9/11," Neil Young's "Greendale" and "Napoleon Dynamite."

Mike Nichols — in a sharp black-suit black-shirt white-tie combo — did the toasting honors for Lorne Michaels, offering three memorable quotes in his snappy speech: Lenny Bruce, he said, described a flamenco dancer as a guy applauding his own ass. Ambrose Bierce said God made war to teach Americans geography; and back when he was Second City in Chicago, Nichols recalled, they used to say Canada was the Philadelphia of the north.

Nichols would have gotten the best laughs of the night if it hadn't been for emcee Dave Chappelle. The latter actually made for a very witty host, although most of his hilarious jokes — regarding the lack of other black people in the room and in the movie business — you'll have to hear on his Comedy Central show.

Meanwhile, Nichols's new movie, "Closer," based on the stage play and starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Clive Owen and Natalie Portman, is done, he told me.

"We're just seeing the answer print this week," he said, which means it's ready for public consumption. But he joked that one journalist (not me, don't worry) mistakenly called it "Closer" with a "z" sound, as in "The Closer." Whoops!

Stars Climb Travolta's Ladder

P.R. maven Peggy Siegal has thrown a lot of great parties, but last night she helped Disney put together one that turned out to better than most.

It was for the new John Travolta-Joaquin Phoenix movie "Ladder 49," which everyone seems to like.

It was the party at the famous Four Seasons restaurant, though, that turned out even better than the movie.

That's because the legendary musician Robbie Robertson, of The Band, set up a stage and sound system in the restaurant's fabled Pool Room and played a beautiful new song he contributed to the movie's soundtrack.

Maybe it was the water in the pool or the Four Seasons' famous cuisine, but the chemistry was there like a well-shaken martini. Everyone had a good vibe, from Ashford and Simpson to Donna Karan, Dick Ebersol, ABC's Elizabeth Vargas and husband Marc "Walking in Memphis" Cohn, Donna Dixon Aykroyd, MSNBC's Dan Abrams, Christian Campbell, Ann Dexter Jones, musician Ben Taylor (son of Carly Simon and James Taylor), director Terry George, Griffin Dunne, Jann Wenner and Matt Nye and Ashleigh Banfield, not to mention Travolta and Phoenix, co-star Jacinda Barrett and the guests who, like yours truly, drifted over from the DGA: Liam Neeson, Roger Corman, et al.

It was a real New York night. Amy Sacco, who owns the Bungalow 8 nightclub, was busy corralling celebs for some late-night fun.

Robertson begged off, but he did tell me about a Broadway musical for which he's composing the music.

"It's called 'Ceremony,'" he said, "and David Henry Hwang is writing the book and David Laveaux is directing. The team that did 'Bombay Nights' is producing."

The show, with Native American themes, should come to fruition some time next year.

Robbie did buttonhole Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation president Suzan Evans, though, to get Percy Sledge  — "When a Man Loves a Woman" — inducted this year. Let's hope it did the trick, although Evans reminded us that she doesn't pick the inductees. It's done by ballot and so far only a third of the voters have sent in theirs.

Now, the Robertson song on "Ladder 49" is called "Shine Your Light" and it is really wonderful. It does make me nervous, though, that maybe some of you readers under a certain age will not know that Robbie wrote "The Weight (Take a Load Off Fanny)" or "Up on Cripple Creek" and a dozen or more classic songs (including Rod Stewart's "Broken Arrow") or that The Band was the band that backed Bob Dylan.

If this is indeed news to you, please, quickly click on amazon.com for Robbie's classics and enjoy yourself!

Elvis Costello Doesn't Deliver

I am perplexed and heartbroken: Elvis Costello's new album, "The Delivery Man," sold a paltry 20,000 copies in its debut week according to hitsdailydouble.com.

Widely praised here and elsewhere, "The Delivery Man" should have sold at least 100,000 copies in its first week and made some kind of impact among young people, baby boomers, anyone interested in great popular music.

I mean, Ashlee Simpson sold 75,000 albums last week and she's a joke, frankly.

Costello's album is full of gorgeous ballads, complex rock songs, achingly beautiful vocals by guests Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris and Costello's usual biting, incisive, comical, smart lyrics.

I could listen to "Monkey to the Man" or "There's a Story in Your Voice" over and over. "The Delivery Man" is the great album of 2004. Give it a listen. You won't regret it.