Michael Richards: Kramer's Curse

Michael Richards | Michael Jackson | Elton John | Blake Edwards | 'The Passion' | Sightings

Michael Richards: Kramer's Curse

"Seinfeld" star Michael Richards isn't exactly ruing the day he got the part of Kramer on the famous TV series. But "enough already" is how I'd paraphrase his current feelings about the show.

Richards told me on Saturday night, at the big New Line Cinema party at Bob Shaye 's house, that he's had it with being typecast as Kramer. The result of his seven-year run, besides having millions of dollars, is difficulty finding new roles.

"I'm working on some things, but nothing's happening right now," he said. "We tried to do something different from Kramer with 'The Michael Richards Show,' but that didn't work out."

Richards, by the way, turns out to be a mellow fellow, quite different in demeanor from the exuberant Kramer, whose trademark was bursting into Jerry Seinfeld's apartment. He did get a taste of New York in Shaye's living room, though, when he met the exotic and beautiful Padma Lakshmi. She's the fiancée of famous writer Salman Rushdie and a regular on the New York celebrity circuit.

How bizarre to watch East Coast and West Coast meet and greet. The two basically had never heard of each other!

As for Richards, my advice would be to take some small roles in indie films with good directors. But of course, he didn't ask my for advice, now, did he?

Jacko Staying at Pillsbury Heir's Ranch

Just in case you were wondering where Michael Jackson is: He's in Snowmass, Colo., near Aspen. He's renting a ranch from Davis Pillsbury, the very wealthy heir to the Pillsbury baking fortune. The price of the ranch is $20,000 a week, and Michael's time there is set to end on March 6.

At that point Jackson, who is still renting a Beverly Hills mansion, for which he pre-paid $700,000 for six months, plus one month's security deposit, will have to decide whether or not to return to his rented home or find yet another locale.

The problem is that Jackson is burning through his entire cash allotment for 2004 and refuses to listen to advisers who are asking him to cut back on expenses.

Meanwhile, the Nation of Islam — still firmly entrenched in Michael's camp and not leaving any time soon — is an ominous presence in Snowmass, guarding the pop star not well enough to have prevented his ski-mask Wal-Mart incident the other day.

Elton John Parties Like It's 1999

Yes, that was Prince at InStyle's Elton John AIDS Foundation party on Oscar night. And no, despite rumors that he would play with his band, Prince — ever capricious, whimsical and diminutive — passed on the chance to entertain the invited guests.

Had he done so, Prince might have found an interesting group in Sting, wife Trudie Styler, Sir Ben Kingsley with newish wife Alexandra, rocker Gavin DeGraw, new singer Joss Stone (who gave Elton's guests a hot 45-minute set earlier in the evening), plus Elton's companion David Furnish, Tim Allen, and newly svelte "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson, who told me that both Elton and Paul McCartney have agreed to appear on the show as celebrity judges next month.

Me, I'm still holding out for an all-classic soul night on "American Idol." I'd like to see the contestants handle "Soul Man," "When Something Is Wrong with My Baby" or "In the Midnight Hour."

Kingsley — who likes to be called Sir Ben, by the way — told me he has five movies lined up, one after another.

"I'll be working straight through until 2007," he said, with directors like Ridley Scott and Jonathan Frakes, the latter on the highly anticipated "Thunderbirds."

A Gold Watch for the Pink Panther

Director Blake Edwards has seen everything in his 80 years. After all, he's made movies about singing transvestites, alcoholic couples, man's obsession with beautiful women, the vagaries of Hollywood cowardice, you name it.

Edwards got a much deserved Lifetime Achievement Award at Sunday night's Academy Awards for movies as diverse and brilliant as "The Days of Wine and Roses," "10," "S.O.B.," "Victor/Victoria," and "The Pink Panther." But what surprised him most about Sunday night's Oscar show?

"Look at this watch," he said. He showed me a gorgeous-looking wristwatch, with a rectangular face and art-deco design, silver and black.

"How much do you think it's worth?" he asked Academy president Frank Pierson. "I mean, how much?"

Pierson, who's produced movies starring people like Barbra Streisand, is no innocent.

He answered, "Twenty-five thousand dollars?"

Edwards pointed to me. "No no no. What do you think?"

"Fifteen?" I asked.

"Three hundred thousand dollars," he said. "I mean, can you believe it? Harry Winston called me up and asked if I wanted to borrow a watch. I said, 'OK, why not?' And this is what they sent over!"

Edwards was amused, not impressed, you see. His wife Julie Andrews, sitting next to him, nodded with appreciation. She understood that Edwards could not fathom any of this.

How did his Oscar entrance in a motorized wheelchair come about? (He crashed through a wall and was covered in sheetrock dust.)

"We didn't have any rehearsal," Edwards said. "It was my idea. I wanted to do something funny," he said.

So, it worked.

Passion Critic Seated With Film's Staff

Maybe the most popular person in Hollywood is Army Archerd . His long-running column in Daily Variety, called Just for Variety, is the template for all Hollywood gossip. No ego-driven nasty Walter Winchell, Archerd shoots his arrows straight, and remains dispassionate, calm and without agenda after half a century.

On Sunday night, Archerd and his wife got a little bit of a surprise. They were seated at the Governor's Ball with Newmarket Films, the distributor of "The Passion of the Christ."

Ordinarily, it wouldn't matter who the Archerds sat with, since they get along with everyone. So why was Sunday night different from all other nights? Because Archerd claimed recently that he was banned from screenings of "The Passion" because he criticized the film in his column.

(Archerd, who rarely descends into the fray, wrote on January 26th that Mel Gibson refused to show his film at a seminar on anti-Semitism at a Jesuit school in Nebraska despite repeated requests.)

On Sunday night, as he and his wife were moseying out of the Ball, he said to me: "I was at the Newmarket table."

I was stunned.

"What did they say?" I asked. I mean, holy cow!

"I don't think they knew who I was," Archerd replied, with his characteristic understated sarcasm.

Hollywood Sightings

One thing established during our visit to Hollywood this week: Larry King likes to eat lunch out. Last Friday he was at The Grill, an industry hangout in Beverly Hills. Yesterday, he was at Spago, while ailing oil tycoon Marvin Davis dined across the way and record producer Phil Ramone was on the patio.

Just behind King and his group: Sidney Poitier (who I think has the most frequent eater miles at Spago) with director/actor Robert Townsend. "English Patient" producer Saul Zaentz also lunched, with "Amadeus" actor Tom Hulce (Saul produced that one too). Zaentz did tell me he's considering selling the famous Stax Records catalog to the highest bidder. Sony Legacy, I've heard, is interested.

Also at The Grill last Friday: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Motion Picture Association of America outgoing leader Jack Valenti (I mean "leaving," not "gregarious") with CAA agent Richard Lovett , the New York Post's Richard Johnson and visiting New York publicist Norah Lawlor.