WHAT WE generically call Broadway covered itself with glory last week when Bernadette Peters and Glenn Close tossed a real showbiz party to celebrate John Travolta's performance playing a woman in the hit film Hair- spray. And now with awards season upon us, there is hope for an Oscar nod in John's direction. Hairspray producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron were also honorees. They are men who constantly seek to celebrate the triumphs of The Great White Way by taking its material to the screen. (Close failed to show as the old flu bug had her!)
Peters received at the door of Angus McIndoe's West 44th Street theater hangout. She looked unchanged from the days when I first became aware of her back in 1968's Dames at Sea - sexy, voluptuous, a head of brilliant curls and a serene countenance. (She must have a portrait moldering away somewhere in the attic!)
Travolta arrived unusually early for a big star with no entourage. This lovable guy is a towering presence. When I asked if they'd give him the Academy Award, he laughed: "I certainly hope so. But then it will be a problem because what dress shall I wear?" (Encouraging news! He did receive a Golden Globe nomination. So I say go for the strapless, John!) Jousting and kidding, he was the heart of a showbiz world that simply adores him.
I brought the Tony-winning star of The Producers, Cady Huffman, up to say hello; she had been his rehearsal dance partner for the film Staying Alive when she was growing up in California, only 16 years old. John loved reconnecting with the gifted, sexy Cady.
Sights and sounds from this Travolta fete: Producer Margo Lion, off to the hinterlands to campaign for Barack Obama, "How else can we change this country?" ... Dana Delany, looking like a teenager, in a short skirt and high boots. ... Tina Louise, pale and delicate, talking up her terrific children's book, When I Grow Up, and remarking on future acting jobs, "I started my career on Broadway at age 16. The idea of having to 'sell myself' to the business. Eh - I'd rather help children!" ... John Stamos (three days of stubble can't hide the fact that he has stopped the clock) ... an amiable Chevy Chase ... an adorable Joey Pantoliano (sweetest smile in the world) ... Alan Cumming, who is invariably commented upon as he passes by, "And he is so nice!" ... Joyce DeWitt, the underrated Three's Company brunette with fellow TV icon Cindy Williams (now in Drowsy Chaperone) ... Mariska Hargitay, in sleek movie-queen black, and her hunk of a hubby, Peter Hermann. ... Matthew Broderick sans his Sex and the City wife ... SNL and Wicked alum Ana Gasteyer ... the indomitable AIDS activist Larry Kramer ... Legally Blonde Laura Bell Bundy ... actor Tony Scott ... Audra McDonald, now of Private Practice ... Mary Tyler Moore ... David Hyde Pierce ... Chazz Palminteri, The Bronx Tale creator ... Bob Saget ... Anika Noni Rose ... Grease hottie Max Crumm and Whoopi Goldberg's fabled manager, the handsome Tom Leonardis.
In the center of it all stood Mr. Travolta - cheerful, thoughtful, remembering names, places, faces. And if he didn't, he is too good an actor, too nice a person ever to let it show. He was assured, in control and completely relaxed. This guy is a real star, a gent and he deserved this turnout.