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Liz Smith Liz Smith
'Wing' and a Player

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'Wing' and a Player
May 14, 2003

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May 14, 2003

'Edward R. Murrow gave a great speech when he left CBS, saying, 'If we don't do the right thing with television as a tool, then it's going to do us in.' That's basically what's going on now. Everything's propaganda. He would be completely shocked if he saw TV today."

So speaks Fleetwood Mac's Lindsay Buckingham in Interview. This little insider publication, with a circulation of 200,000, is brilliantly executed by editor Ingrid Sischy and seems to me to be the place where celebrities love to unload.

THE PEOPLE who stand up for Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas say the couple's next joint project will be a movie titled "Monkeyface." They don't think much of our prediction that the duet might eventually be onstage doing Noël Coward's "Private Lives." Hey, listen, let's wait and see. (Oh, great, these are the people hired by the famous to correct and deny things that aren't even important.)

MICHAEL PITT, the 22-year-old star of Bernardo Bertolucci's coming film, "The Dreamers," will soon be filming "West Memphis Three," a story of Death Row inmate Damien Echols. (He and two others were convicted of killing three little boys as part of a satanic cult.) Pitt went to visit Echols and came away saying, "Prison is the last place I want to go. But I know this movie is too important to just rely on watching videos of Echols' trial. Besides, I only have to be there a few hours at a time. He's not so lucky." (The movie will take the position that Echols and cohorts are innocent.)

WHEN WOMEN do love scenes in movies with other women, what's the downside? Charlize Theron will be seen any minute in "The Italian Job," but she wants to speak of her breakthrough role as murderer Aileen Wuornos in the flick "Monster."

Charlize and Christina Ricci share a "Monster" love scene, but Ms. Theron says they laughed "way too much ... I'd love to see the outtakes!" So would we.

HAD A LONG CHAT with the President of the United States yesterday - oops, I mean the fictional president, Martin Sheen of "The West Wing." This marvelous actor, who has already played John and Robert Kennedy and heavens know how many fabled other acting roles, has become a lighting rod of activism. His TV president remains a kind of candlelit beacon for faltering Democrats and out-of-style liberals.

Martin and his "West Wing" troops are a bit on the ropes, what with the departure of the show's creator Aaron Sorkin and director, Tommy Schlamme. He says, "We felt a bit like we'd been orphaned for a few days, but after the initial shock, we determined to regroup and get behind our producer John Wells and carry on."

Do they have hard feelings at the Sorkin-Schlamme departure? "No, it was always true that Aaron was drawing to a very difficult phrase. His style, and the way he wrote - well, he almost couldn't do it on demand, and yet he did it, over and over. His work was so intelligent, so incredible.

"But we have a solid staff. We still need a new head writer, and there is no other Aaron Sorkin. He was 'The West Wing,' but we will find our way. We are on for two more years should it continue, and I'll stick around for as long as it does."

I kidded Martin about spending most of his time in jail because of his activist causes. He laughed. "I'm never comfortable unless I'm uncomfortable," Sheen said. "But I think it's important for this show to go on. I try now to keep a rather low profile, because my work on the show is more important than making some statement. If the voice of 'The West Wing' is ever silenced, we'll all be the poorer for it. Many people seem to be against what we stand for, but many others depend on us and are backing us up."

When I asked this actor-activist who he is supporting politically, he said, "Howard Dean. He is not afraid to lose."

Martin Sheen goes with his family to Tipperary, Ireland, next week to celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of his late mother. Her relatives are all coming together as Irish-Americans. "That's positively Kennedy-esque!" I said, as I bid my favorite president goodbye.

TWO-TIME Grammy winner and sexy Latin Jon Secada joins the cast of "Cabaret" June 6. He surprised people a few seasons back by playing the lead in "Grease" to a fare-thee-well. Now, we'll see him capturing the spooky, sexy side of the uber-decadent emcee.

"Cabaret," in its revival, has been going strong for five years. It is the Energizer Bunny of Broadway.

TOMORROW, Paula Zahn, the new wonder woman, will rave about other women of accomplishment at Concern Worldwide US' inaugural "Women of Concern" lunch at 200 Fifth Club. (Paula is the VIP of choice for charities.) Time's Eileen Naughton is being honored for her work in developing countries. Call 212-557-8000.

Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.


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