Frank Sinatra -- He Did it... Ava's Way! Also -- Awarding Jackie Bisset -- Celebrating Arlene Dahl -- A Thank You From Jane Fonda

"I don't make people comfortable. But that's what couches are for!" said writer Donna Lynn Hope.

Here is one extra tidbit gleaned from the brand new book about the late MGM star Ava Gardner. Writer

Peter Evans talked, in London, with the movie star who has been named "the most beautiful woman ever." These talks and Evans' ideas have now come out in "Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations."

Toward the end of this book, Ava became quite exercised over the easily believed idea that "The Mob" ever gave her beloved Frank Sinatra anything, especially during the singer-actor's fallow period in the early Fifties. This was a time when Ava's own career was booming but Sinatra couldn't get himself arrested. The Ava-Frank romance was anything but calm. They loved one another but could not get along.

Ava was adamant and furious in defending Frank, during the period that his career was in ruins. She insisted no criminal elements ever helped him back to success.

"I did!" declared Ava. She says she paid bills, paid airfare back to Hollywood so he could test for the movie "From Here to Eternity." (He won the Oscar and began a spectacular comeback.) Ava, telling all this, remembering, began to weep.

It is possible, author Evans ponders, that Sinatra later gave Ava money NOT to let the "conversations" be published while he was alive. But the star, suffering the after effects of several strokes, drinking and smoking too much, couldn't work. She and Sinatra did stay in touch, but by then he was wed to Barbara Marx and Ava said she never called him. Still, he called her off and on, never forgetting her birthday.

Frank Sinatra was finally richer and more successful than anybody had ever imagined. I know he was generous, so why didn't he set up some kind of comfortable annuity for Ava?

This is a truly diverting book, full of details about Ava's growing up, her "discovery" from a photo in New York, MGM's Louis B. Mayer, Howard Hughes, Mickey Rooney, Clark Gable, John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Artie Shaw, Lana Turner, etc.

Ava's profanity, like something from a David Mamet play, is astounding. And she herself when seeing and reading it, objects to it.

• Maybe you don't believe in applauding someone rising from birth in a charity hospital and going bravely on as a black child using the Head Start program. Maybe you look down on kids born with nothing, getting scholarships and then becoming successful.

Then I guess you weren't impressed last week when Darren Walker, raised in Texas, ascended to the Head of the Ford Foundation--the nation's second largest philanthropic organization.

Darren Walker is only 53 and for a longtime has been regarded as top drawer by all who know his ebullient and charming personality. I am so proud of him and that he is my friend.

• Here's a comment from one John Jayne about Jon Voight who we covered only a few days ago.

Jayne: "I'm probably alone on this, but I remember the actor in 'Return to Lonesome Dove,' but I was disappointed when I learned that he'd be taking over Tommy Lee Jones lead in the second part of 'Lonesome Dove.' I almost didn't watch it, but to my surprise--Jon Voight turned in an excellent, memorable performance on a level at least equal to Tommy Lee."

• One of my other pet friends is the beautiful talented actress Jacqueline Bisset who, on August 10-13, will be receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Locarno Film Festival. (Locarno is on France's border with Switzerland.)

The Festival is doing a film retrospective dedicated to the late director George Cukor and Jackie herself produced Cukor's last work, "Rich and Famous." This movie is one of my favorites and it starred Jackie and Candice Bergen. (I had a warm connection with Mr. Cukor, having been with him in both New York and Russia.)

"Rich and Famous" is a telling comedy about two childhood friends who become successful writers. It was first made as "Old Acquaintance" with Miriam Hopkins and Bette Davis in the roles.

• Arlene Dahl, one of the great beauties from the heyday of MGM, is celebrating her 85th birthday on August 11th. She and her successful husband, Marc Rosen, are fixtures on the New York scene, often seen at Swifty's...I want to correct a name that appeared here as Whitney Bulger when I was actually talking about James "Whitey" Bulger and why Johnny Depp wanted not to take a salary cut in order to play this criminal onscreen...The beautiful Maureen O'Hara (she of the John Wayne classic "The Quiet Man") is now living in Utah. For a while she was in Dublin but at 93, wanted to be near her grandson...And this office is in receipt of a wondrous thing. We are always writing about movie stars, old and new, but seldom do we hear from any of them.

Here's a charming letter from Jane Fonda, regarding an article I did about her recently: "I write to thank you for the wonderful picture story you did on me in Quest. I really enjoyed reading it and looking through the photographs. Thanks, especially for making it clear that you believe my quest is still on-going. I do too.

There's still a lifetime of things I want to do, new things. I'm still excited. My very best wishes to you, Liz, whom I've known for so long. Hey, we're both still at it. Stay strong. Love, (signed Jane)