About Jack: Nicholson Parties for Oscar

Jack Nicholson | The Rolling Stones | Chevy Chase | Fred Armisen | Julia Roberts

About Jack: Nicholson Parties for Oscar

Jack Nicholson's been in town. He was here in New York last Thursday and Friday to celebrate the early premiere of his new film, About Schmidt.

Jack -- let's call him Jack; it's easier to type -- had plenty to be happy about. When I left him at the downtown hip spot Man Ray at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, he was still dirty-dancing with a number of young beauties who were determined to stay in his orbit.

The man is 65 years old, for God's sake! Most actors his age are finished, or at least asleep, by that hour. But not Jack.

Of course, it didn't hurt that About Schmidt was received with such unanimous praise and accolades on the opening night of the New York Film Festival that he's guaranteed an Oscar nomination -- and a very possible win.

His performance as Warren Schmidt, the widower and retiree from Louis Begley's superbly nuanced novel, is mesmerizing. Even when Alexander Payne's deft satire of a movie feels like it's struggling to become nothing less than perfect, Nicholson does magnificent stuff. You can't take your eyes off him.

Because he's made a career for himself as a character actor who's also a leading man, Jack comes to Schmidt with no type-casting baggage. Even with Oscar wins for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Terms of Endearment and As Good As It Gets -- and memorable turns in Chinatown, Five Easy Pieces, Prizzi's Honor, Batman, Reds, Hoffa, The Shining and The Last Detail -- nothing prepares you for Schmidt.

When his grieving character sits at his wife's makeup table -- the wife he readily admits he's never understood even after 42 years of marriage -- and starts to put on her cold cream, I'm telling you, Academy Award voters will start plotzing. Who knows what the Hollywood Foreign Press will do. They will kvell.

For all I know, Nicholson is still partying even now. And you know what? He deserves it.

There's more to Schmidt than just Jack -- Kathy Bates, the movie's screenplay and Alexander Payne's direction will all start getting awards and kudos in about six weeks.

But for now, just know that the best American actor of 2002 is Jack Nicholson, hands down.

Stones Press Ban Costs Them

You can still buy any number of tickets to see the Rolling Stones on tour. Ticketmaster had plenty of them Monday morning -- including 12 seats at 300 bucks apiece for this Friday at FedEx Field outside Washington, D.C. The tickets are in SECTION A4, ROW 20, SEATS 16 TO 27.

Monday night, the Stones are playing a historic show at the Roseland Ballroom here in New York. But there isn't a whisper of it in the local papers. In Monday's New York Post, there's only a passing reference to the group's show on Saturday night in New Jersey.

On Sunday, the New York Daily News' Michael Gross complained about the shabby treatment the press has gotten on this tour. It seems that the Stones's attitude of banning press and alienating rock writers has finally cost them. They're in town -- and no one cares.

Of course, the high ticket prices haven't helped. In cities outside New York, few people want to pay $300 to see a bunch of 60-year-old millionaires play rock and roll, especially in this economy.

This scenario can't be good news at Virgin Records, which is issuing a double-CD greatest-hits Stones package Tuesday called Forty Licks. The company has high expenses because it paid to license tracks from music attorney Allen B. Klein, who controls the rights to all pre-1971 Stones recordings.

If the CD package doesn't sell, Virgin -- which already paid $50 million to Mariah Carey -- may take "forty licks" of its own.

Al Pacino's Significant Other Lets Loose

Beverly D'Angelo will soon have a lot of explaining to do the father of her children.

Al Pacino's significant other -- and mother of his toddler twins -- took center stage Saturday night at the Annual Friars' Roast and belted out a pretty dirty ditty for the assembled crowd. Unfortunately, the song is supposed to be used for Comedy Central's broadcast of the event next month.

For the roast skewering comedian Chevy Chase, D'Angelo performed a bawdy number called "I Can't F--- Without Falling In Love." She has a good voice -- you may recall her as Patsy Cline from Coal Miner's Daughter some twenty years ago -- so that didn't surprise anyone.

What did take many in the audience back were some of the jokes told by the comics on the dais at Pacino's expense. Head Friar Freddie Roman fired off a good one when he introduced D'Angelo -- who was there because she'd appeared with Chase in the National Lampoon's Vacation movies.

"I don't know what their sex life is like," Roman quipped, "but there must be a lot of over-acting in their bedroom."

The Friars' Roast for Chase was marked, though, not by who showed up, but by who wasn't there. The absentees included nearly everyone from Saturday Night Live, except for former bandleader Paul Shaffer, writer Al Franken and original Not Ready for Prime Time Players castmate Laraine Newman.

Not present or accounted for: SNL head honcho Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin, Paul Simon, Bill Murray, Jane Curtin, Martin Short, Goldie Hawn, etc.

Every single person who made his or her way to the mike Saturday night started by commenting on the lack of A-list celebrities. Even Friar Alan King, a fixture at the roasts, was AWOL. His flight from Los Angeles had been cancelled.

The scarcity of stars was a theme, as was Chase's well-publicized drug dependency, his failed late-night talk show and his reputation for being unfriendly.

Franken, whose bit alone will be worth watching the Comedy Central show for, recalled Chase's addiction to "back pills": "I remember the guy who used to deliver Chevy's back pills," Franken said. "Chevy used to chop up the back pills into a fine powder and rub it on the affected area."

Chase, who was last subjected to all this in 1990, kept his sunglasses on for most of the evening. He told me before the show started, "I've been roasted before, by better."

That's probably true since many of the speakers who didn't know Chase bombed precipitously. The few who succeeded included Law and Order actor Richard Belzer and the lesser-known, but very adroit, Todd Barry, who's got a Bob Newhart-type presence.

Commenting on the speakers, Barry said, "If I were a casting director for a dinner theater in Wilmington, Delaware, I'd have an erection right now."

My hero, Freddie Roman, got off the best line of the night, about annoying comic Gilbert Gottfried: "His voice sounds like Ethel Merman [enjoying herself] with a cheese grater."

SNL Taps 'Blue Man' for Top Spot

Lorne Michaels may not have been at Chevy Chase's side Saturday night for his Friars' Club roast, but next Saturday night he's going to be right there for Fred Armisen.


Armisen was chosen by Michaels last week to join the cast of Saturday Night Live. A 35-year-old New Yorker who's been living in Los Angeles, Armisen does not come from the usual SNL sources -- the Groundlings or Second City.

He's a drummer for the Blue Man Group's off-Broadway show, Tubes, who makes videos for HBO and only got into comedy, he tells me, a few years ago.

For Michaels, Armisen may be a genius selection. He's a versatile sketch actor who's very good at creating characters -- a possible Mike Myers in the making. According to one website, Armisen has played a drunken pilot, a foul-mouthed priest, an eccentric female poet and an inept struggling dancer for HBO's little-seen The Zone.

Mona Lisa's -- Er, Julia Roberts's -- Parking Spaces

Residents on West 100th St. in New York will have a very rude awakening this morning. Julia Roberts' new movie, Mona Lisa's Smile, is taking over their block for the next two weeks. The film company is using an abandoned library on the block as the school where Julia's character supposedly teaches.

I found this out personally last night when my own car, parked on the block just so I could watch The Sopranos at my brother's house on the next block, was moved across Amsterdam Avenue by the NYPD without my permission. When I came to the spot where it had been, I instead found two NYPD tow trucks with lights flashing.

There had been minimal warning on the street about the film shoot.

Three Teamsters came over and explained the situation as they saw it.

"Now that Mayor Giuliani is gone, Mayor Bloomberg has signed a contract allowing movie production in New York again," they said. "It's a $5 billion contract. Now we can shoot anywhere we like. It's good for New York."

But perhaps not so good for irate Upper West Siders. Parking spaces are already scarce in that neighborhood. Now there will be none. Is there an up side?

"You'll be seeing a lot of Julia Roberts in this neighborhood for months to come," said one of the Teamsters with a big smile.

As Cindy Adams would say, only in New York, kids.

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