Bruce Willis Rocks NYC in Sold out Show

Bruce Willis | Brian McNally | Oscars | Fox and CNN 

Bruce Willis Rocks NYC in Sold out Show

Bruce Willis may not be the greatest singer in the world, but he has a lot of enthusiasm.

That said, Willis took over B.B. King's in Times Square for the last two nights to help his friend Ivan Neville promote a new album. It didn't hurt that Bruce has a new movie, Hart's War, opening Feb. 15. But that's not what these remarkable shows were about. They were about the blues.

I'm told that Tuesday night's show didn't gel, but I can tell you that last night Willis, Neville and the Accelerators took the stage at 10 p.m. and played for two and a half hours. Bruce, dressed in black, and looking a little thin after making several movies back-to-back, sported a dark mustache. He guided the group Blues Brothers-like through a panoply of numbers, leading when he could and letting the real singers — out of respect — take over when the work got hard.

Willis was joined by Blues Traveler's newly slim John Popper, who threw his whole body (180 pounds lighter) into electrifying harmonica playing.

But the real highlights of the night were the guest singers: Phoebe Snow, Cyndi Lauper and Bernard Fowler. Lauper, dressed in a denim jacket and jeans, alternated vocals with Snow on songs like "Fever" and "Slipping into Darkness." Willis could not have been more pleased, pushing both of the women to do more vocals while he rested in the background.

Among the celebrities in the sold out room were Kiss's Gene Simmons, The Sopranos' Aida Turturro, and record producer Nile Rodgers. Nile's documentary/video project, We Are Family, had such a successful run at Sundance that he told me it will play several times in Salt Lake City for Olympic athletes. "Robert Redford liked it so much he asked us to do it," he told me.

Willis, by the way, goes next to shoot Antoine Fuqua's Man of War, which will get a title change.

Brian McNally's Back and It's 1988 All Over Again

For months Robert De Niro has been telling us that business is bad in Lower Manhattan because of the World Trade Center disaster.

So who would open a restaurant on the Lower East Side now, in the middle of a recession? Why, Brian McNally, of course.

McNally's new hot spot, Smith, has opened on a strange little block — First Street between First and Second Avenues. It's by an auto repair joint. Of course, there is no sign.

McNally is most famous for his 44 Restaurant in the Royalton Hotel. Prior to that he had a string of famous places including Canal Bar, the Odeon and 150 Wooster. The latter, which started in 1988, was the hottest restaurant in New York in years. Bianca Jagger and Calvin Klein and all the beautiful people took it over and bore down on it. Richard Gere's then-girlfriend Nessia Pope ran the door. The whole thing was out of control.

Consequently, 150 Wooster imploded, and it soon closed.

Last night I got kind of a jolt walking into Smith. It looks like a 150 Wooster Redux. And sure enough, sitting at the quickly filled tables were publisher Morgan Entrekin, writer Glenn O'Brien, and man about town Hamilton Fish. Beautiful young things strutted up and down the main aisle as if it were a runway. For a minute I thought I'd fallen asleep and awakened in 1988. It was all the same people. It was oddly comforting.

Bravery after Sept. 11 wasn't Brian's first concern. It turns out that McNally bought the little building on First Street as a real estate investment. "But of course that didn't work out," he said. "There was no one to sell it to. So I had to do something with it."

I don't have to hype Smith, but I'm telling you now, within a month you're going to start seeing stories about the people lining up, the limos, the celebrities. The beautiful people have a place to go to at last. We can all rest easy now.

Oscar's Last Big Day

Today is the last full day of Oscar balloting for nominations. Ballots must be returned to the Academy offices by 5 p.m. tomorrow Pacific Time.

Liz Smith writes in her syndicated column today that Nicole Kidman's failure to get a SAG nomination is due to the inclusion by that group of Jennifer Connelly as a best actress. In the Oscar voting, Connelly is in the best supporting actress category.

I think Liz is right as usual. With Connelly moved to the supporting category, Kidman is certain to be nominated for best actress. She will most likely join Sissy Spacek, Judi Dench, Renee Zellweger and Halle Berry in that group.

Connelly's support, though, is tremendous for her role in A Beautiful Mind. And why not? She will join Marisa Tomei, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren and possibly Cate Blanchett from Bandits in that group.

Nominations will be announced on Feb. 12.

Fox Outfoxes CNN

Finally, congratulations to everyone at the Fox News Channel. Fox has just surpassed CNN in 24-hour ratings. We get to crow a little bit, even if Bill McCuddy's Entertainment Coast to Coast has been on hiatus due to war coverage. When that show comes back, well, then the world will be our oyster. In the meantime, it's quite an achievement considering it was accomplished in five short years.