Meryl Streep Defends Lindsay Lohan

The greatest living actor meets the greatest living tabloid queen. That’s how you might describe the pairing of Meryl Streep and Lindsay Lohan in “A Prairie Home Companion,” the film version of Garrison Keillor’s NPR radio show that opened this weekend.

Streep and Lily Tomlin play a fictional sister singing act, with Lohan costarring as Streep’s comically dark teenage daughter.

I interviewed Streep earlier in the week, and when it comes to her take on Lohan, our greatest living actor gets an Oscar for “Best Cynicism Toward the Press.”

“Lindsay Lohan is a fantastic actress. It’s the gaggle of ‘thing outside’ [read: tabloids] that makes a living off of her hide — and God bless them for doing it. I’m sure they sleep well at night.”

Keillor concurs on Lohan’s talents, having shared scenes with her (he plays himself).

“She is a serious actress, she’s been very well-schooled. I know nothing about what she does late at night. Not my business, nor am I that curious. She goes to really loud places, I guess. I hate loud places.”

Sarah Jessica and Cynthia and Tony

No, the above is not a kinky Hollywood threesome … but a more meaningful triumvirate.

Cynthia Nixon is up for best actress in a play at Sunday night’s Tony Awards for her role in “Rabbit Hole” — and former “Sex and the City” costar Sarah Jessica Parker told me she’ll be cheering her on.

Parker and husband Matthew Broderick won’t be attending — he’s off shooting a movie, and SJP will be driving home from a weekend away (“I’ll have to set my TiVo”) — but Parker says she’ll keep the car phone on (hands free, we assume) so friends can call with the results.

“I have a good feeling about it,” she said of Nixon’s chances.

Though it’s tough for most folks throughout the country to catch Broadway shows, the Great White Way is making serious inroads, so to speak.

Attendance is up 4.1 percent from last year for the same 52-week period, and crossed the 12 million mark for the first time ever. Also, box office gross receipts topped $860 million — a new record. All this is according to the League of American Theaters and Producers.

Still, it would take every single one of those 12 million people who visited B’way — and a good deal more — for the Tony Awards to score high ratings.

No, They Don't Win a Lump of Coal

Although her sitcom pilot for ABC didn’t make the fall schedule, Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) has lots of projects in development at Four Boys Films, the production company she runs with husband David Hunt (they have four sons, hence the company’s name).

Their latest project is documentary called “The Bituminous Coal Queens,” about a local beauty pageant in the small coal-mining town of Carmichaels, Pa., population 556.

“We felt it was important to have a movie that really shows what middle America is like,” Heaton told me. “And that they’re really the backbone of the country. It’s kind of our homage to small-town America. And I think this pageant is really important for these girls because there isn’t any other venue for them to take their talents to. For many of them it’s the only opportunity they’re going to have in their lives to shine in this way.”

Husband David Hunt, who co-directed the film, said, “Somebody came up to me and said, This is like ‘Prairie Home Companion.’ It’s a real window into a small town. Even though it’s centered around the pageant, we dive in and out of the community —"

“And into the coal mines,” added Heaton. “You really see the community … there’s a real yearning for community and for a simpler life. We’re living in a very high-tech age where everything moves very quickly, and I think people really long to have this sense of simplicity and community that’s in this movie.”

So what does the winner get? Three pieces of luggage, a crown (naturally), a bracelet and a $1,500 savings bond. Pretty good, I’d say.

On a side note, I asked Heaton about the rumors that she was going to be named Meredith Vieira’s replacement on "The View," prior to Rosie O'Donnell’s getting the gig.

“I went to Rosie’s house and threatened her but it didn’t work. She got the job.”

But, seriously.

“No, actually it was never offered to me,” said Heaton. “I heard about it the same day everybody else did when it was in the newspapers. In fact, people started calling me and saying, ‘Oh, so you’re gonna be on ‘The View,’ and I was folding the laundry or something.’ But no, I had never heard anything about it. I think it’s gonna be very interesting with Rosie and the new gang. It should be a lotta fun.”