Saying I love you in big lights Benefit: To honor his sick mom, actor Edward Norton brings Woody Allen's latest film to the Senator Theatre to raise money for treatment of brain tumors.


Amazing, the things a son can do for a mother when the son is Edward Norton, rising Hollywood star, native of Columbia. He can arrange for limousines to appear curbside and a spotlight to shoot a smoky blue arrow high over the Senator Theatre. He can marshal Drew Barrymore for celebrity juice and muster as much glitter as Baltimore can supply on a Wednesday night.

For his mother, who has known better times than now.

They sold out the 900-seat Senator Theatre last night at $75 a head for a special screening of Woody Allen's new movie, "Everyone Says I Love You," starring, among others, Norton and Barrymore. The ticket sales plus other contributions raised more than $100,000 for a Johns Hopkins Hospital oncology team pioneering a new treatment for brain tumors. Norton's mother, Robin, who is 54, had a brain tumor removed there this year.

"I think there's a somewhat disproportionate attention paid to some things," says Norton, 26, who got rave reviews for his film debut last April in "Primal Fear" with Richard Gere. Some things get plenty of press, he says, like the latest Woody Allen movie or anything that moves in the universe of celebrities, of which he is now a part. The work of people like Dr. Henry Brem, well, that tends to make a splash mainly in the medical journals.

Dr. Brem is the Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon who removed his mother's brain tumor. He's the man who -- with scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a pharmaceutical company -- has created a new treatment for brain tumors.

The treatment, developed over the last 10 years and approved by the Food and Drug Administration last month, uses a polymer wafer the size of a dime containing cancer-killing chemicals. Doctors remove a tumor and line the spot with these wafers, which release their chemicals over time. Unlike conventional chemotherapy, which usually causes severe side effects, the treatment hits the cancer directly without affecting the rest of the body. No nausea, no hair loss, says Brem.

It's not the sort of thing that gets your name in lights. But maybe it ought to, says Norton.

"He's being too modest," says Norton, nodding his head in the direction of Brem, a big man with a warm smile.

"It's a rare example of industry, academics and clinicians" cooperating on a project, says Brem. "Working together we have changed the way brain tumors are being treated."

Outside the theater, Robin Norton arrives in time to see her son the celebrity pose for the television cameras with Barrymore for the unveiling of the sidewalk slab marking the occasion of this movie premiere. The slab joins a mosaic of markers for other nights of champagne and glitter: "Diner," "Tin Men," "Primal Fear," "Homicide."

Mrs. Norton, in a straw hat and hot pink blouse, watches and smiles. She's in a wheelchair, her face cocked to one side. She is guided into the theater by her younger son, James, and accompanied by her husband, Ed, and daughter, Molly, and a host of Baltimore's beautiful people, including Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Guests sip champagne from fluted glasses. Waiters circulate with hors d'oeuvres on shiny trays. A trio plays standards under the light of a grand brass chandelier. Mrs. Norton -- who by all accounts is doing well after surgery -- is wheeled through the crowd. The night presents a strange mix of the dreadfully serious and the utterly frivolous.

Woody Allen's first-ever musical, for example, to be released in January, a movie so romantic that in one scene Goldie Hawn actually floats into the evening. A few other surreal things happen, too.

Norton sings romantic songs from the 1920s and '30s. Barrymore too, sort of.

Neither one had any idea that singing was part of the deal when they signed up to appear in the film. Allen wanted it that way. He wanted people who did not sing for a living, people whose singing was rough. He got, among others, Alan Alda and Goldie Hawn and Julia Roberts and Lukas Haas. He told them not to try sneaking in a few voice lessons before the filming began.

After he found out he had to sing in the movie, Norton says, "I spent about three days with a paper bag over my face."

He never earned a dime singing, he says. His father says he did some singing at Wilde Lake High School and at Yale University, adding that his son is "sort of a tenor. It's nice, a nice voice."

Barrymore, 21, wearing a tight black dress, her hair dyed the color of Orange Crush, says she does all of her singing around the house. Just the other day she was tidying up her place in Los Angeles and warbling along with the Rolling Stones, Etta James and Blondie.

Movie-goers will never know what her singing sounds like. Early in the filming, Allen realized that her deep, raspy singing voice didn't suit her character. He had her singing parts dubbed.

Barrymore, a big Woody Allen fan, was not offended.

"He's the best director I've worked for," she says.

Pub Date: 10/31/96

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