"When you start a column, you're in a very creative state; you're building a personality in a piece of writing. It's a strange kind of business. After a while the column becomes a tyrant. You've created a personality that is one aspect of yourself, and it insists on your being true to it every time you sit down to write. As time passes and you change, you may become bored with that old personality.
"The problem then is how you escape the tyranny of it. In a way it's always a struggle between you and this tyrant you've created that is a piece of yourself."
This was Pulitzer Prize-winning Russell Baker talking to the late Nora Ephron in her divine book "Scribble, Scribble: Notes on the Media."
I just ran across this and it seems to be a piece that affected Nora and she used it psychologically in her new play "Lucky Guy," which is about a tabloid columnist, Mike McAlary. He is played eight times a week by the giant Tom Hanks, acting on the Broadway stage. And Mr. Hanks will, undoubtedly, win the Tony!
They wouldn't let anyone come to the posh New York Public Library lunch for "The Great Gatsby," happening today, if one hadn't already agreed to see a big screening of the movie beforehand. We met the demand. Read more on Leo DiCaprio's "Gatsby" in future columns. So far, he looks entirely lovely in all the ads and previews. But I'm a sucker for a guy who can act and also give his money away to good causes.
The Stella by Starlight gala is set now for June 10 and those who run this annual charity to keep the Stella Adler Studio going have elected a grand "Stella" graduate to honor -- Elaine Stritch!
"The work of theater is written on water," says Tom Oppenheim, artistic director of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, nevertheless, Elaine is always recalled as a girl sitting in Stella's classes with Marlon Brando, working with director Harold Clurman in the original cast of William Inge's "Bus Stop" (in which I happened to first see Elaine onstage) and "Stritchie" went on to fame as a Stephen Sondheim specialist after she had long graduated from Stella.
They are going to announce an Elaine Stritch Scholarship Fund so some lucky young actor will get training here. On this June 10 night they hope to raise at least $50,000 more and they are offering us Alec Baldwin (Elaine played his mother on NBC's "30 Rock"), the ubiquitous Liza Minnelli, the gifted Bernadette Peters, "Star Trek's" George Takei and Warren Beatty? On film I presume. Many others will join in.
Get in touch with tom(at)stellaadler.com, if you want to attend or send money. I have a weak spot for this studio. They gave me the Harold Clurman Award some years ago and I have always remembered telling them how horrified the tempestuous director would have been by that gesture. I also announced from the stage that I wanted to thank my theater "lovers" -- directors Sidney Lumet and Jack O'Brien. This amused their wives a lot!
(Oh, Mr. O'Brien doesn't have a wife; so much the better!)
Here's a sighting! At the Interview magazine party, Deborah Harry, one of the favorites in this column, at the opening of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," wearing a feathered hat designed by Ivy Supersonic. The show closed recently, but, this very week, the original Truman Capote script sold at auction for $306,000, going to the Russian billionaire Igor Sosin.
Do you sense that this column has drifted toward acting? The other night at the Actors Fund gala where the Medal of Honor went to Robert De Niro, 750 people simply kvelled when he accepted. He swept the actress Holland Taylor -- just nominated for a Tony Award for "Ann" -- into three separate hugs. She said she would always remember the moments, "distinctly and permanently."
Miss Taylor, when she got up to speak about Steve Kalafer, the volunteer treasurer of the Actors Fund, told the guests that she had had to "take medication; mostly illegal" in order to bear to assemble her tax information every year. So she said, anyone handling ledgers, adding machines, deserved undying admiration.
My pals Gigi and Harry Benson are everywhere like white on rice. On May 16 they will kick off their latest book "Harry Benson: The Beatles: On the Road" and the wonder of this is that it will happen at Taschen, the original Farmers Market at 6333 West 3rd Street, with Tessa and Tucker Tooley and Wendy and Michael Landes as hosts. (I didn't know that they appreciated the Beatles out in L.A. (Kidding!)
I'll never forget Whoopi Goldberg telling me about meeting Paul McCartney in her early days. He told her to relax and enjoy her rising star. He said, "Don't be like we were when fame struck. We didn't know how to enjoy it. We went crazy. You can and should enjoy yours all the way to the top!"
Louis B. Mayer of MGM speaking of Greta Garbo's fans in the 1940s: "Women like to see her suffer and die!"
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)