Tag Archives: TORONTO STAR

Patrick hits the ice in France, those wacky Women hit Vegas, and COC closes its season with Semele

OUR TOWN: Indefatigable charmer Dinah Christie hosts Chartwell’s 2011 Senior Star National Finale tonight at 9 pm on Zoomer TV (aka Vision.) “Wait ‘til you see the amazing talent of our Top 10 National Finalists,” says Dinah

CHRISTIE: hosting tonight

– “not to mention the incredible performance of our 2011 Senior Star winner, Toni Pinto.” So maybe Canada’s Seniors Got Talent too? … spotted shopping at Pusateri’s in Yorkville: Covert Affairs heartthrob Christopher Gorham, sans collapsible white cane … spotted huddling over coffee at the By The Way café: Producer Allan Novak and playwright Brad Fraser … spotted savouring the brisket at Caplansky’s: Toronto Star arts columnist Martin Knelman and better half Bernadette … and it’s official — the season closer for the Canadian Opera Company is the COC premiere of Handel’s Semele with Canadian coloratura soprano Jane Archibald in the

GORHAM: Yorkville steak-out

title role. The production will be directed by famed Chinese visual and performance artist Zhang Huan, with Italian Baroque opera specialist Rinaldo Alessandrini set to lead the COC Orchestra and Chorus. The COC’s presentation of Semele is the first opportunity for audiences to experience Zhang’s production outside Brussels, Belgium, where it premiered in 2009, and Beijing in 2010, where it was China’s first major staging of a Baroque opera.  Semele will run for only eight, count ’em, eight performances at the Four Seasons Centre starting May 9 … and yes, today’s the day when Why Men Lie, the new novel by Giller Prize-winner Linden MacIntyre (The Bishops Man,)  officially becomes available at a major bookstore near you.

MERCER: Shhh, it's a secret

APRIL IS THE COOLEST MONTH:  Okay, T.S. Eliot might not agree — but then he never met Women Fully Clothed. Fabulous foursome Robin Duke, Jayne Eastwood, Kathryn Greenwood and Teresa Pavlinek will kick off next month with their first gig in Las Vegas – at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, no less — followed by half a dozen shows in California (Thousand Oaks, Napa, Saratoga, etc.) before returning to Home Sweet Ontario for their May bookings here.

P.S.: Shhhh, it’s a secret, but Greenwood and Pavlinek both appear in the same sketch with WFC fan Rick Mercer, who incidentally made a splashy visit to Montreal yesterday,  tonight on the Rick Mercer Report. 

AND NOW, FROM THE SOUTH OF FRANCE: The 2012 World Figure Skating Championships start today in Nice, with Scott Russell hosting CBC broadcasts with Brenda Irving and Canadian figure skating legends

CHAN: He's the Man

Tracy Wilson and Kurt Browning. This year’s big story is to see what reigning World Champion Patrick Chan will do to keep his crown, and to watch as Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir attempt to reclaim the World Ice Dancing Champions title. Our Canadian contingent also includes rising star Amélie Lacoste, pairs teams Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford and Jessica Dubé & Sebastian Wolfe, men’s single skater Kevin Reynolds and ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje and Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill. It all starts today at 3 pm on CBC Television, bold and CBCSports.ca., so rev up your PVRs and get ready to root for your favourites!

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Bye bye Bistro, Kathleen keeps her clothes on, and Titanic goes on and on (and on, and on, and …)

ANCHORS AWEIGH: Apparently it’s not only Céline’s heart that will go on and on. A boatload of new productions mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic next month. First up is the premiere of the new Julian Fellowes four-part mini-series Titanic on Global this Wednesday. This new version by

TITANIC: sinking ship syndrome?

Fellowes, who penned Downton Abbey— which, coincidentally, started with news of the Titanic sinking – follows the aristocrats staying in first-class cabins and the lower class families residing in steerage. “Each episode focuses on individual families but will feature every character as their stories become

REID: in four-part mini-series

intertwined with each other. Viewers will also see the ship begin to sink in every episode as the series builds up to the finale when it will be revealed who survives and who doesn’t.” Advance reviews are a bit iffy so far (c’mon, we already know how it ends) but insiders say the real fun is betting on which of the familiar faces on board (eg., David Eisner, Toby Jones, Linda Kash, Noah Reid, Linus Roache) will sink or swim. Next up: Titanic: The Canadian Story, a new two-hour special on the historical event we can’t seem to get enough of, set to air Thursday April 5 on CBC’s Doc Zone. Did you know that included among the more than 2,200 passengers and crew on the Titanic were 130 men women and children bound for Canada? Me neither. But

CAMPBELL: in 12-part series

wait – there’s more. On Monday April 9 National Geographic kicks off a week-long Titanic salute with Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron. (Do we believe that ‘final word’ bit? Not for a minute.) But wait – there’s more. Also in the works is Titanic: Blood & Steel, at 12-episode dramatic series that focuses on the construction of the ship, its owner and the workers, and is set in the Belfast shipyards in 1907. All-star cast members already signed include Sir Derek Jacobi, Neve Campbell and Chris Noth.  Can Titanic: The Musical and Titanic: The Mobile App be far behind? Stay tuned.

QUOTABLE QUOTES: “I’ve learned that great style has little to do with what you wear. It’s how you wear it and who you are. Confidence is the best fashion

BEKER: 60 reasons to celebrate

accessory. I’ve learned never to wish to be in someone else’s shoes — you never really know where they’ve come from or where they’re going. I’ve learned that aging should make us better, not bitter. I’ve learned that Botox can help.” The learner? Jeanne Beker, suddenly 60, in one of her best columns ever, in today’s Toronto Star. My personal favourite? “I’ve learned that inner beauty is the only kind that really counts. But good lighting helps.” To read the unsinkable Ms. Beker’s unique summing up of what she’s learned so far, click here.

FOOTLIGHTS: Toronto audiences will get a chance to see Kathleen Turner’s much-lauded stage performance as a salty nun trying to rehabilitate a 19-year-old drug user when High opens in May at the Royal Alex. And before you ask, this

TURNER: on a High

time it’s her young male co-star who appears on stage in the nude. Sister Turner, I’m advised, keeps her clothes on … among the sparklies on the New York stage this week is Eric McCormack, currently treading the boards with Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones, John Larroquette and Candice Bergen in previews for a star-studded revival of Gore Vidal’s truth-searing political drama The Best Man … Tony Award-winner Rob Ashford is set to direct and choreograph the stage adaptation of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, a new big-budget Disney musical set to premiere in London next year. The musical will

McCORMACK: back on Broadway

incorporate Burton’s unique aesthetic into the show’s design, follow the plot of the 2010 film — the ninth highest-grossing film of all time (!!!) — and will feature a book by the film’s screenwriter Linda Woolverton … and Kate Winslet is toying with the notion of making her stage debut in a revival of David Hare’s drama Skylight. The production would be helmed by Hare himself, with Bill Nighy reprising his role as Tom Sergeant, most likely for a West End opening followed by a limited Broadway run.

Stay tuned.

THE NIGHT THEY CALLED IT A DAY: Once the Sardi’s  of Toronto, Bistro 990 served its last suppers Saturday night and officially closed Sunday morning, with a closing party on the premises last night. Among the dozens of

BISTRO 990: Going, going ... gone

merry mourners greeted by owner Tom Kristenbrun and maitre d’ Victor Magalhaes were Bistro regulars Austin Clarke, Larry Dane, ‘Party Barbara’ Herschenhorn, Bill Marshall, Gordon Pinsent, Sari Ruda, Rob Salem, Sara Waxman and Rita Zekas, whose Stargazing columns put the French bistro on the media map and kept it there for decades. Meanwhile, across town at Eglinton and Bathurst, despite headlines announcing its imminent demise due to city expropriations, the House of Chan is still thriving.  One media scribe reported

HOUSE OF CHAN: Business as usual

that the restaurant entrance was locked after he personally checked it out; apparently he didn’t realize that the legendary Toronto steak oasis that Donny Lyons lyonized  is open only for dinner, from 5 pm on. If proposed subway construction forces the restaurant to close in the future — and that’s still a big If —  it won’t happen until at least 2014. Until then, you can expect Chan to continue to serve up all its famous specialties seven nights a week. And amen to that!

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Russell gets Cannes, Leah gets yoga, Jeff gets on stage, Brenda gets new Shoes, and Rick gets Rideau Hall??

NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE: First it was all those enthusiastic fans who launched that Rick Mercer For Prime Minister campaign. Recently it was Toronto Star sportswriter

ALLEN: next month in Niagara

Randy Starkman who proposed that, due to Mercer’s unflagging support of our amateur athletes, Canada should make him an honorary Olympian.  Last weekend legendary Montréal Gazette editorial cartoonist Aislin proposed yet another new role for Mercer, as our next Governor General. Where was Mercer when Aislin’s creative comment was published? Hiding out at one of 007’s favorite haunts in the Bahamas, enjoying some well-earned post-season R&R and trading sunburn remedies with fellow resort-dweller Paul McCartney.  Meanwhile, to see Aislin’s clever cartoon, just click here …. funnyman Tim Allen and SNL alumnus Joe Piscopo are both set for two-night stints at Fallsview Casino next month …  Al Pacino’s reportedly eyebrow-raising portrayal of Dr. Jack Kervorkian premieres this coming Saturday night on HBO Canada … crowd-pleaser Christian Potenza has just launched his own YouTube Channel … Brenda Hoffert’s new photography exhibit, Shoes, opens April 30 at Gallery 888 on Queen Street in Leslieville

TRAVIS: looking for heroes

Thursday night headliners Ken Lindsay and Mark Cassius surprised fans at Fuzion last week by switching roles for The Nearness Of You. While ex-Nylon Cassius caressed the ivories (the ivories loved it,) piano man Lindsay delivered the vocal … terminally gorgeous screen siren Leah Pinsent has signed up for a double fitness marathon of yoga and high-energy Zumba Fitness sessions on April 25 at the 2nd annual Yoga in Motion at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex. The award-winning actress is fund-raising in support of breast cancer research at Mount Sinai Hospital. For more info, click hereModern Family scene-stealer Ty Burrell is reportedly set to star opposite Jennifer Garner in her new romantic comedy Butter … and the biggest buzz-du-jour in TV circles is Debbie Travis’ new prime-time show – her first for CBC.

CROWE: heading for Cannes

Especially fascinating is her current search for local heroes. If you know someone you believe deserves to be recognized for his/her service to your community, don’t keep it a secret – just click here!

FLICKERS: Okay, don’t get me wrong, I realize that director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe are one of filmdom’s most dynamic duos. First there was Gladiator, then A Good Year (hey, nobody’s perfect,) then American Gangster with Denzel Washington and then Body Of Lies withLeonardo DiCaprio.  All in all, pretty good stuff.  But did I expect their new collaboration, Robin Hood – yes, that Robin Hood – to be invited to open this year’s Cannes Film Festival? Nope. Which strongly suggests

EHRENREICH: Grow-ing concern

that this Robin Hood must really be something to see … and Toronto’s fast-approaching Hot Docs filmfest will celebrate springtime by presenting three special open-air screenings in its new Rooftop Docs series. The annual marathon of documentary films will take over the top tier of the Citipark Cumberland Garage in Yorkville on Thursday May 6, Friday May 7 and Saturday May 8, presenting film screenings and live music, with locally brew courtesy of Steamwhistle Breweries and free popcorn courtesy of Whole Foods Market. For more info, click here.

FOOTLIGHTS: First Ken Gass directs the much-anticipated return of George F. Walker’s hit comedy Featuring Loretta, opening May 1 at the Factory Theatre. Then the

SEYMOUR: on stage in June

theatre world gathers to celebrate Factory’s big birthday with a 40th Anniversary Gala on May 10. And yes, tickets are still available. For more info, click here … David Mirvish is set to premiere Jake Ehrenreich‘s now-fabled  stage production A Jew Grows In Brooklyn at the Panasonic Theatre on April 28  … after winning glowing reviews in L.A. for both his direction and his performance, Jeff Seymour is set to co-star with Len Lesser (a.k.a. Uncle Leo on Seinfeld) in Ronald Ribman’s Cold Storage, on stage for 10 performances only, June 1-11 at the George Ignatieff Theatre … how do you attract attention for a new play without a big ad/pub budget? Bobby Del Rio is garnering eyeballs with an intriguing movie-style trailer for his new theatrical venture, The Market, now set to open in T.O. next month. To sample his stage wares on video, click here .

And have a great week!

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Brace yourself for movies, movies and more movies for children and Comic Book lovers in filmfest-crazy T.O.

Better rest your eyes this week. Two more major film festivals are almost upon us.

The Toronto international Film Festival’s celebrated children’s festival, Sprockets, proudly offers “the films kids around the world are lining up to see.” And yes, these children’s

IRREVERENT TUNESMITHS: the gang's all here

films really are international. This coming weekend includes five features short films from Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Germany and Mexico, presented in collaboration with the Canadian Film Centre’s popular Worldwide Short Film Festival. And no, black tie is not required. Screenings start Saturday morning at 9:30 am, and one of the best things about the excellent Sprockets website is that you can personally program Best Bet viewing for your kids by based on age or their current school status [Grade 3, Grade 5, etc.) For all the deets, just click here.

HIRSCHFELD by Hirschfeld

Also premiering this Saturday is the 2010 Toronto Jewish Film Festival, which may have snagged more hot titles than ever before. Two movies about movies, The Brothers Warner and Cinemas Exiles: From Hitler To Hollywood, are ringing that Don’t Miss bell for me. Also bound to garner attention: Gay Days, which chronicles the rise of openly gay citizens in Israel [from three in 1985 — yes, three — to 3,000 by 1998;) and is one of more than two dozen Canadian premieres; and a screening of Larry Weinstein‘s much-lauded dramatic documentary Inside Hana’s Suitcase.

HANA'S SUITCASE: encore screening

Special focus of this year’s TJFF is People Of The Comic Book, a salute to the artists and innovators who communicate with millions by creating images that make us laugh and cry. Hot ticket highlights of this special sidebar series include The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story, about the brilliant New York Times caricaturist; Irreverent Imagination: The Golden Age Of Looney Tunes; and encore screenings of Bob Zemeckis’ classic Disney ‘Toon Town comedy Who Killed Roger Rabbit, Ralph Bakshi’s X-rated Fritz The Cat, and Ron Mann’s classic Comic Book Confidential. (Talk about yer embarrassment of riches!) Tickets are now on sale for the run of the festival. For the complete schedule and more info, just click here.

AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME: Do you think Rick Mercer deserves an Olympic medal?Toronto Star sports reporter Randy Starkman does. Yesterday in his excellent Olympics blog at http://www.thestar.com Starkman proclaimed that Mercer should be named an honorary Canadian Olympian.

“For one thing,” he wrote, “the bits he does with Canadian Olympic athletes are hilarious, but at the same time show a great appreciation for the athletes and their sports. Check out Rick trying out bobsleigh or biathlon or synchronized swimming and water polo.

MERCER: honorary medalist?

“Maybe Mercer keeps going back to the Olympians to do his shtick because he finds them so accommodating and easy to work with, but you also gets the sense that he understands what they’re about and the contribution they make to the country.His March 2 blog in which he takes up their cause with future funding on the line really shows that. He writes:

“And see this is the thing about governments; governments can take any amount of money and they can make it seem like a lot or a little. And we’ve been told over and over again that this government – this wonderful government – has spent over 55 million dollars over five years supporting amateur athletes. What a huge amount of money. Who’s ever heard of such a sum? 55 million over five years. In fact it’s the same amount of money this same government has spent in one year, in one Conservative riding, preparing for one G8 meeting. A meeting by the way that will last one day. Starts at nine, ends at five. And at the end of the day the only Canadian on a podium will be the prime minister. Never mind Owning the Podium, this is more Pass the Imodium.

“And my guess is when the meeting’s done, no six year old is gonna be inspired to be the best in the world at anything. That is the job of our Olympians. Team Canada did their job now it’s time we do ours and make sure the bucks don’t stop here.”

STEWART: chicken zzzzoup

Adds Starkman: “Maybe Rick Mercer should be in that parade in Montreal later this month.”

Maybe he should.

SEE/HEAR: And now, for the educational part of our program, Martha Stewart will show us how to put a chicken to sleep. And yes, I know what you’re thinking. And no, I’m not making this up. Hey, seeing is believing. To watch  Ms Stewart induce poultry zzzz’s, just cluck, uhh, click here.

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Doyle and the Dragons rule the TV roost tonight en route to their revealing Road To Riches (and high ratings)

HOW TO TAME YOUR DRAGONS: I’m kidding, of course. It can’t be done. But then, who’d want to?  Tonight you’ll discover more about them than you’ve ever known before. The Road to Riches, the special season finale of Dragon’s Den, airs  at 8 p.m. on CBC Television

DICKINSON: Dragon lady

and retraces the Dragons’ personal progress, from humble beginnings to self-made success. Arlene Dickinson came here from South Africa; Robert Herjavec grew up in a farm house in rural Croatia. Kevin O’Leary was an east coast hippie. Jim Treliving was raised in small town Manitoba. And Brett Wilson still describes himself as “a proud Prairie boy.” Dragons they may be, but each of them has paid a price for their riches, leaving broken marriages and personal regrets behind them. And each of them appears to be driven to accomplish still more. In anticipation of tonight’s finale the Toronto Star is currently publishing some exceptionally well-written profiles on the five,  culminating in the story on  Wilson in today’s edition. And auditions for new would-be entrepreneurs with creative ideas and money-making savvy began March 1 across the country. (For audition information and scheduling details, just click here.) In the meantime, as they wrap up their most successful season ever, our favourite five fearless  financiers  demonstrate that Dragons are made, not born, tonight at 8 pm on CBC-TV.

ACCORDING TO DOYLE: Just when we’d started to forget about Thomas Magnum and Jim Rockford, along comes a brand new P.I. to capture our fancy: Brawl-addicted maverick

HAWCO: hit series

Jake Doyle, a.k.a. emerging screen lion Allan Hawco. Set in Newfoundland, Hawco’s Republic Of Doyle is enjoying a very auspicious first season, and no wonder — it’s a light-hearted whodunit that refuses to take itself seriously. It’s not light on talent, however; guest stars adding sparks to the first 10 shows have included such heavy-hitters as Nicholas Campbell, Mark Critch, Cathy Jones, Robert Joy, Greg Malone, Shaun Majumder, Eric Peterson, Gordon Pinsent, Leah Pinsent, R. H. Thompson and Mary Walsh, and the first season isn’t over yet! Mix in with those three fabulous Doyle dames — Linda Boyd, Rachel Wilson and Krystin Pellerin, all three of whom seem to be revelling in their uncommonly strong roles — stir well with Sean McGinley’s solid portrayal of Doyle’s dad (and frequently unwilling partner,) and then add what may be the most gob-smackingly gorgeous views of St. John’s ever captured on film, and is it any wonder the series has already been picked up for a second season? If you’re not already addicted, you can sample it tonight at 9 pm, immediately following that splashy Dragons’ Den finale on CBC.

QUINTO: by George!

CASTING ABOUT: Heroes favourite Zachary Quinto is set to play George Gershwin in a new screen biography of the legendary US composer … Naomi Watts, who just gets better and better with every new role, is in T.O. with 007 alias Daniel Craig shooting a new thriller called Dream HouseLittle Mosque alumnus Derek McGrath is set to play a corrupt politico (“Isn’t that redundant?”) on She’s The Mayor, the new Vision/Zoomer series created by Jennifer Holness, Min Sook Lee and Sudz Sutherland. (Move over, Mayor Dan!) Natalie Portman will star in the screen version of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. And no, I’m not making that up … Blake Lively is set to play Ryan Reynolds’ love interest in The Green Lantern… and Dermot Mulroney is set to pick up where James Garner left off in the all-new Rockford Files. And yes, those rumors are true: The pilot for a new and updated Hawaii Fivc-O has already been shot. Will this one get picked up too? Stay tuned.

TOMORROW:

Funnyman Colin Mochrie, cuisine queen Sara Waxman and

platinum record collectors Sharon, Lois & Bram — at the same party?

Ken Branagh reunites Tony and Colm for a comic book epic, & Dame Elizabeth reviews This Is It

TOGETHER AGAIN: Savvy screen-stealers Colm Feore and Anthony Hopkins, who last worked together on screen in Julie Taymor’s flawed but

HUARD & FEORE: Bon Cop, Bad Cop

fascinating take on Titus Andronicus, have teamed up again for director Kenneth Branagh’s production of Thor, which will bring the Marvel comic book hero to life and, no doubt, box office glory. Before winging to the movie set, Feore received a rollicking reception last week at the Ursula Franklin Academy when hundreds of high school students gathered to watch him cavort with Patrick Huard in Bon Cop,

HOPKINS: reunion for Thor

Bad Cop. And he wasn’t the only one winning cheers. Director Bruce MacDonald and leading lady Lisa Houle were in another gathering, taking questions after the screening of MacDonald’s latest opus Pontypool. And filmmaker Michael McGowan (St. Ralph) was in another assembly room, taking questions after the screening of his Joshua Jackson odyssey One Week. Making all three events happen, and simultaneously at that, was Reel Canada, a remarkable organization now in its fifth year of introducing young people to Canadian film achievements by bringing the films and the filmmakers to the classroom. Now that’s show business.

QUOTABLE QUOTES: “I loved genius in my lifetime. God was so good to me. I will love Michael forever and so will you, if you don’t already. God kissed

JACKSON: genius?

him. There will never, ever be the likes of him again.” The speaker? Dame Elizabeth Taylor, tweeting about the Michael Jackson concert film This Is It. Sez Liz: “You owe it to yourselves and your loved ones to see this again and again. Memorize it and say to yourselves, ‘I saw genius in my lifetime.’ I truly believe this film should be nominated in every category conceivable.” Yup, she likes it. She really likes it.

HOPE LIVE: Newfoundland news junkies Rick Mercer and Seamus O’Regan are headlining tonight’s Hope Live black-tie charity gala in Ottawa in

O'REGAN: in Ottawa tonight

support of Fertile Future, which helps young women and men who have had   cancer can find ways to have their own children. Among the perennial Mercer targets and political playmates expected to attend: Peter MacKay, Jason Kenney, Helena Guergis, Maxime Bernier and Scott Brison. Incidentally, Mercer was one of four sparklies honoured by the University of Ottawa last week at an AGO dinner in Toronto, picking up a Distinguished Canadian Leadership Award with high-note master Michael Burgess and high-flying astronaut Julie Payette. (CTV National Affairs

MERCER: with his Montreal posse

correspondent Lisa LaFlamme picked up U of O’s special Alumni Achievement award at the same bash.) Now on his Christmas break, Mercer resumes SRO tapings of his top-rated Rick Mercer Report in January, but wait ‘til you see him crash (you should pardon the expression) a women’s roller derby competition (ouch!) in Montreal (!!) tomorrow night at 8 pm on CBC Television.

FOOTLIGHTS: How much does New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley love Fela!, the new musical that opened last Monday night on Broadway? “There should be dancing in the streets,” sez Brantley — and that was merely the first

THE MADONNA PAINTER: rave reviews

line of his ecstatic rave review. According to Brantley — no easy sell — there’s never been anything like it on Broadway. Which should bode well for producers Will & Jade Pinkett Smith and their comrade in showbiz arms Jay-ZRisking The Void, the touring art exhibit showcasing the work of Canadian stage designer Cameron Porteous, is set for a 10-week run Jan 20-April 4 in Guelph, Ontario at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre … and Factory Theatre has done it again. Good news is, Linda Gaboriau’s new translation of Michel Marc Bouchard’s The Madonna Painter opened to rave reviews from the Toronto Star, the Globe & Mail and Now magazine – how’s that for a range of opinions? Bad news is, the show must close in two weeks.  To secure your tickets now, click here!

TOMORROW:

Mamma Mia! Here we go again!

My, my, how can we resist you?

Curious about Eppie? Just ask Ann Landers. And, the Who’s Who who cheered Barbra in the village

Ms LONELYHEARTS: After a memorable guest spot as a dying nurse on the first season of Edie Falco’s hit series Nurse Jackie, veteran stage and screen charmer Judith Ivey opens tonight at Manhattan’s Cherry Lane Theater in a one-woman play about legendary lovelorn advice columnist Ann Landers called The Lady With All the Answers.

IVEY: as Ann Landers

IVEY: as Ann Landers

The last time I remember seeing Chicago’s queen of hearts, as Eppie Lederer (her real name) was called, was at Chaz & Roger Ebert’s wedding. Eppie and Brian Linehan were hot-footing it on the dance floor when it started to get a tad too hot for Eppie. “Tame it down, tame it down!” she protested, and Linehan graciously acquiesced.

After dispensing sage advice to thousands of grateful readers, by the end of her career Eppie was most famous for failing to save her own marriage. Also, much to her chagrin, her daughter Margo Howard, who eventually took over her column, would marry four times. But then, when has a daughter ever really listened to her mother?

I was much better acquainted with Eppie’s twin sister Pauline, who was equally famous as the Abigail Van Buren of Dear Abby. In the days when newspapers ruled, the sisters’ columns competed with each other in rival journals. Ann Landers was in the Toronto Star, so Dear Abby ran in The Toronto Telegram (and later the Toronto Sun.)

ABBY & ANN in their heyday (AP)

ABBY & ANN in their heyday (AP)

Eppie was a permanent fixture in Chicago. ‘Abby’ lived in California and enjoyed it. Like her sister, she was bright, vivacious and always good company. One day I walked into Norman Jewison’s beach house in Malibu and Norman, ‘Abby’ and Washington columnist Art Buchwald were all sitting in the living room, busy debating a burning issue of the day. As I approached them Abby looked up at me and beamed.

“We met in Toronto two weeks ago!” she proclaimed, struggling to remember my name. “I know you!”

“I don’t!” said Buchwald with a shrug, and returned to debating with Jewison.

CHANNING: "Absolutely not!"

CHANNING: "Absolutely not!"

Identical twins born 17 minutes apart, the sisters also got a kick out of teasing people when they were mistaken for each other. One night I bumped into Eppie in the bar at the Four Season in Hollywood and started talking about mutual friends in Chicago until I saw the twinkle in her eye.

“Yep,” she said, grinning – “I’m the other one!”

Manhattan gossip girl Liz Smith says that years ago Eppie’s good friend Carol Channing wanted her Hello, Dolly! composer Jerry Herman to make a musical for her to star as Eppie. “To which Eppie said, ‘Absolutely not!’ But now there is a two-time Tony winner channeling Ann Landers,” adds Liz – “and everybody just hopes Eppie approves.”

VILLAGE PEOPLE: Yes, Barbra Streisand really did return to the tiny Village Vanguard club in Manhattan to perform songs from her new album, Love

STREISAND: stage fright?

STREISAND: stage fright?

Is The Answer, with only a jazz quartet behind her. (Chalk it up to the influence of her album producer Diana Krall. Not that there would have been room for an orchestra, let alone a band. “It’s hard to have stage fright,” Streisand remarked, “when, like, there’s no stage!”) Her audience, comprised mainly of contest winners from around the world, were thrilled to find themselves squeezed against such devoted Barbra boosters as Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Donna Karan, Barry Diller, David Geffen and composers Marilyn & Alan Bergman. Streisand was reportedly in glorious voice, and in addition to tunes from her new CD, she also reprised a few of her classics, including Evergreen (which she dedicated to a misty-eyed Bill Clinton) and The Way We Were.

Apparently you had to be there to believe it. And don’t you wish you had been?

TOMORROW:

What Julie Stewart and Dan Aykroyd are up to in Toronto.