When Barry Levinson and his friends were growing up in Baltimore -- an experience that would later inspire his movie "Diner" -- they lusted after the "great post," their lingua franca for showing up with a gorgeous date on your arm.
"The quintessential great post," Chip Silverman wrote in "Diner Guys," his 1989 memoir, "was a blue-eyed, blonde shiksa, at least 5'6" that no one in Northwest Baltimore had ever seen."
Calling Central Casting for Miss Sharon Stone!
Friday's Liz Smith gossip column brought the word to Silverman and the other grown-up Diner Guys that their pal Levinson is dating the beautiful if reputedly predatory Stone. Could it be true? Could our hometown mensch be going out with feminism's answer to Warren Beatty?
"There's absolutely no truth to it, period," Levinson said from the Left Coast that is home these days.
Levinson said he's been negotiating a movie role, not a date, for his film, "Sphere," based on the Michael Crichton book and starring Dustin Hoffman. "She's agreed, now it's down to the business people," he said of the movie that he is producing and directing and expects to begin filming in March.
Levinson seemed more amused than irked at the column item, which links one of the least gossiped-about Hollywood figures with one of the most. Levinson rarely figures into such entertainment chatter except in relation to new projects. Stone, by contrast, is nearly a daily fixture in the Liz Smith-"Entertainment Tonight"-Page Six gossip circles, usually for romances, both real and rumored.
Most recently, the Scottish Daily Record said in early October that she was said set to marry her "chubby Frenchman" boyfriend, Michel Benasera, after he gave her a big diamond ring that so delighted her that she showed it to everyone in the "chic Paris restaurant" at which they were dining.
She even figured into the recent John F. Kennedy Jr. nuptials: the New York Post reported that he finally popped the question to Carolyn Bessette after she became incensed about rumors that he had an affair with Stone.
With or without John John, her dance have gone out with: Frank's son, Dweezil Zappa; country singers Dwight Yoakum and Ricky Lynn Gregg; actor Gary Shandling (as well as his TV alter ego, Larry Sanders); "The Quick and the Dead" assistant director Bob Wagner; Chris Peters, a musician and son of producer Jon; NFL Properties vice president Jim Connelly; restaurateur Brad Johnson.
Much of the gossip about Stone can be traced to the femme fatale movie roles she frequently plays. Her most infamous on- and off-screen role was "Basic Instinct": On-screen, she played the icy bisexual killer who coolly and pantylessly went through a police interrogation that left the cops in a sweat. Off-screen, Stone was one corner of a very weird romantic quadrangle: producer Bill McDonald left his wife, Naomi, for Stone, while Naomi ended up with the movie's screenwriter, Joe Eszterhas.
Levinson, meanwhile, has pretty much stuck to business, if you were to judge by his lack of appearances in the gossip press. His movies, though, sometimes borrow from his life.
Besides the acknowledgedly autobiographical "Diner" is "Best Friends," the 1982 movie that he wrote with actress and screenwriter Valerie Curtin. The movie starred Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn as two writers who have a terrific professional relationship that collapses when they marry.
Levinson and Curtin also married, but split after seven years of marriage. Levinson eventually married his second wife, Diana, a model and makeup artist whom he met while filming "Diner." They have two sons, and, yes, they're still married.
Back in Baltimore, the gossip caught his old pals by surprise.
Silverman, for one, didn't believe it. He and other Diner Guys, though, say Levinson was quite popular with the girls in his younger days. At Forest Park High School, Silverman recalls, Levinson was voted cutest, best personality, etc., in polls of the female students.
"The girls just loved him. They voted him third best athlete even though he never even played any sports, and second cutest couple, even though he wasn't part of a couple," recalled Silverman, who is director of chemical dependency and government relations for Green Spring Health Services.
He last saw Levinson at his wedding this summer. But with his book and Levinson's movie, the "Diner Guys" will be young forever -- still hanging out, still playing pranks like "closet scenes," in which the pals hid in a closet to watch what happened when one of the gang brought home a date.
Which is why Richard Sher, Diner Guy and WJZ-TV Channel 13 anchorman, had this reaction to the Barry Levinson-Sharon Stone rumor: "I'd like to have been in the closet for that one!"
Pub Date: 11/25/96