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Cynthia Nixon: From 'Sex' to Politics

Cynthia NixonTony RandallMichael JacksonHoward Stern

Cynthia Nixon: From 'Sex' to Politics

Well, you'd think that because she'd been outed on the front page of both New York City tabloids, "Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon would run and hide somewhere.

I mean, who needs this acting thing if your life is going to be turned upside down? After all, Nixon has two children who are old enough to hear and understand an entire city nosing into their mom's business.

But on Monday night, Nixon came to the premiere of her new four-part TV series "Tanner on Tanner" with her head held high like the classy dame her mother raised her to be.

Anne Nixon, who is pretty elegant and smart, told me tabloid headlines do not affect her family. Damn straight. They are from New York City after all.

Of course, she told me this while her daughter's new publicly identified friend — a stout but intelligent-looking woman — helped Cynthia accept congratulations from well-wishers about Nixon's terrific performance in "Tanner."

Nixon, as you may know, reprises her role from "Tanner '88," an HBO series directed by Robert Altman and written by Garry Trudeau now being repeated on the Sundance Channel.

During the political conventions this summer, Altman reassembled his entire cast from 16 years ago and shot a two-hour film about Nixon's character Alex Tanner making a documentary about her father who ran for president in 1988 and is now a congressman. Got that?

The four-part miniseries is also a movie within a movie. Michael Murphy and Pamela Reed reprise their 1988 roles, and newcomer Luke MacFarlane makes an impressive debut as the student filmmaker following Nixon around.

The story arc of the four episodes gives Nixon a lot to bite into after six years on "Sex and the City." Her performance is just great, and more along the lines of the theatrical work she'd done before TV, including plays like "The Real Thing" and "Lydie Breeze."

No one's knocking "Sex," but even Nixon agreed it was time for a change.

"This was kind of a relief after playing Miranda," she said at the post-screening party at a restaurant called America.

Also on hand: one table with Maureen Dowd, Michael Beschloss and Jack Valenti. Yikes! In other parts of the overcrowded, underfed room: director John Sayles and lots of people who wanted to be him.

Most of Tanner's plot turns on the father-daughter relationship, which works well considering Murphy has perfected the weasel in American cinema.

His turn in 1978's "An Unmarried Woman" directed by Paul Mazursky, still resonates as the all-time weasel. Murphy told me last night that people are still coming up to him about it. (Really, when he tells Jill Clayburgh he's leaving, the look on his face is priceless.)

Murphy — who also appeared in such seminal '70s hits as Altman's "Nashville" and Woody Allen's "Manhattan" — can currently be seen in John Sayles's very own wonderful political satire "Silver City."

As for Altman, I will say it again and it cannot be said often enough: America's premier film auteur does not have an Academy Award. He is 80 years old and has made more important contributions to cinema than any other living American director. (Woody Allen and Marty Scorsese will not disagree, I am sure.)

Altman is currently assembling an opera based on his great — and I do mean great — 1978 movie "A Wedding" at the Lyric Opera in Chicago. It opens there on Dec. 11.

It is time for the Academy to give Altman an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement.

There are other actors and directors for whom annual small campaigns are mounted for similar reasons. Doris Day, Richard Widmark , and others all deserve recognition certainly.

But let's correct this error before it's too late. Does anyone else have a list of films like "M*A*S*H", "Short Cuts," "Nashville," "The Player," "Gosford Park," "Brewster McCloud," "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" and "Cookie's Fortune?"

Even Altman's so-called failures bear study, such as "Prêt-à-Porter," "Health," "Dr. T and the Women," "The Gingerbread Man" and "Vincent & Theo."

It would be lovely to see Frank Pierson pull off this coup and have Robert Altman and his beautiful wife of 45 years, Kathryn, on the stage of the Kodak Theater this February.

Trudeau: No ‘Doonesbury' Movie In the Offing

Award-winning political cartoonist Garry Trudeau has no plans to bring his beloved Doonesbury strip to the big screen.

He tells me that despite his success writing "Tanner on Tanner" for Robert Altman (see above), there's no chance of the "Doonesbury" gang going live-action.

"We tried an animated version a long time ago," Trudeau said at the "Tanner" premiere on Monday night. "There was a Broadway musical, too. But I'm happy just keeping the characters where they are and watching them grow."

Trudeau — whose wife, Jane Pauley, skipped the premiere and screening because she was taping her syndicated talk show — told me he does regret it when newspapers drop the controversial strip.

"We hate to lose papers," he said.

As a "Doonesbury" addict myself, I have to say I'm glad I've never had to deal with that withdrawal.

Tony Randall: A Standing Ovation Goodbye

The great, legendary, lovely human being Tony Randall died on May 17, 2004, but yesterday afternoon, his friends were finally able to give him a proper public sendoff.

At 1 p.m., the Majestic Theater — home to "Phantom of the Opera" — was packed. There wasn't an empty seat in the house. It was just amazing. But then again, so was Tony.

Jack Klugman, Tony's great friend and acting partner, described him this way: "You could go to an art museum with him and come out after two hours with more information than you could believe. Then you'd get in a cab with him and he'd tell you the best dirty joke you ever heard."

Just to show you how the arts community felt about Randall, no one else could have gotten opera greats Sherrill Milnes and Marilyn Horne to sing, or Broadway star James Naughton to perform an unplugged version of the song he originated for "Chicago," "Razzle Dazzle," which was Tony's favorite song.

There were beautiful speeches from Ben Vereen, Garry Marshall, Paul Newman, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, Maria Tucci and Julie Harris .

The latter was especially emotional since Harris is not yet completely recovered from a devastating stroke. But she walks perfectly and without assistance, thank goodness. Her speech is nearly back, too. What a lady.

We watched clips from Tony's wonderful film career in comedies such as "Pillow Talk," "Lover Come Back," "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" and "Let's Make Love."

Since most everyone knows Tony from "The Odd Couple," it will come as a surprise if you rent these sophisticated bits of fluff and discover what a gift he had for making the movie sidekick rise to the occasion like a haute-cuisine soufflé.

Of course, an outtake reel from "The Odd Couple," full of mischief and four-letter words, was the highlight of the afternoon. (They should put this on a DVD — seeing Tony and Al Molinaro do spit takes was just genius.)

I did run into many of Tony's friends, including "Knots Landing" star Michele Lee, "Good Morning America" critic Joel Siegel, Broadway and TV veteran Charlotte Rae and Hemingway biographer A. E. Hotchner at the reception that followed at Sardi's.

They were just a few among the many producers, directors, casting agents and character actors who knew and loved Tony through his National Actors Theater.

Klugman put it best in his speech when he declared: "It's time for a theater with Tony Randall's name on it!"

True enough. My guess is we'll see it before the next Tony Awards.

Jacko's Music, Rodney's Respect

Contrary to a flurry of inaccurate reports yesterday, Michael Jackson is not selling his half of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and neither is Sony.

I've written about this extensively in this space before, and I will again in the next few days. It's a complicated situation, but come here if you're interested about what's really happening.

Now Rodney Dangerfield is gone too; he died last night at age 82.

Like Alan King , he was a mainstay of "The Ed Sullivan Show," where I used to watch them when I was a kid. Long before Rodney became kind of a weird public figure, he was a killer comic.

I think of him, King, Buddy Hackett, Totie Fields (all gone now) and the ones who remain — Joan Rivers, Pat Cooper, Shecky Greene, Norm Crosby, Don Rickles, Phyllis Diller, and of course Bill Cosby .

Chapters keep closing and new generations don't know what it all means. They really had a championship season.

Rodney, you finally got some respect. Rest in peace.

Howard Stern Jump Predicted Here

The big news this morning: Shock jock Howard Stern is jumping to Sirius Satellite Radio in 15 months when his contract expires with Viacom.

Stern said this morning on the air that this was a recent development. But readers of this column will recall I reported the first sign of this huge change in radio back on March 15, 2004.

I wrote that Stern had been seen at Sirius's impressive Rockefeller Center studios during the week before. At well over 6-feet-4-inches tall, he'd be hard to miss.

At the time, Stern was reeling from Clear Channel dropping his show from six major markets. He was also awaiting massive fines from the Federal Communications Commission regarding obscenity.

Stern was denouncing Clear Channel on a daily basis on his show, so it was unlikely that he'd be joining Sirius' competitor, XM Radio. Clear Channel is one of its backers.

My report on Stern's visit to Sirius must have had some impact with the company's own investors, however. The volume of the number of shares of their stock traded leapt off the charts on April 6 and 7, when it was 129,998,800 and 199,088,608 respectively. On average, Sirius traded around 40,000,000 shares a day before and after that.

Sirius is on the move: They have the NFL, whole channels programmed by celebrities like Little Steve Van Zandt, and contracts with rental car giants (Avis) and EchoStar (where they picked up six million new subscribers back in May).

The Stern signing, by the way, is something of a personal triumph for Scott Greenstein , the head of entertainment for Sirius.

A year and a half ago Greenstein was ousted from what had been USA Films — where he'd made hit, award-winning films like Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic" and Robert Altman's "Gosford Park" — when it was turned into Focus Features. Previously, Greenstein had been at Miramax for several years.