"IF it can't be good, I'm not going to make it!" said Oscar-winning producer Wendy Finerman to me last week, while we were doing a lunch catch-up.
We were running down Oscar lane because Wendy's Forrest Gump, 20 years ago, caused the young producer's film to take home six Academy Awards. I asked if she was trying to teach a lesson to her then Hollywood tycoon husband, Mark Canton? Wendy laughed: "Oh, we worked out our problems long ago. Now we concentrate on not neglecting our mutual children. (She also has younger offspring with New York's David Peterson.)
What about the fact that Wendy, a youthful aspirer when we first met, went on to produce another of my favorite hits, The Devil Wears Prada in 2006. It took two Oscar nominations.
• "Two of La La Land's biggest stars -- Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep -- how do you feel about that on your resume?" I asked.
Wendy waved a manicured hand, "Yes, they are the greatest! And I love them both. But somehow I am equally proud of a small hit I produced called Drumline. Nobody thought it would go anywhere - about a southern marching band of kids who are just incredible! And now in Atlanta we are making a sequel, Drumline II. Hey, do you ever go to Atlanta? It's become my favorite city in America.
"Atlanta has a Civil Rights Museum where you can experience the infamous lunch sit-in. It is just an incredible opportunity."
"But right now I am taking all my children on vacation -- my grown-up ones, their friends and my younger boy.
"I have experimented taking them to glamorous places like Sardinia, Capri, and the French Riviera. But now we're going to Holland and hit the art museums and try to learn something. And my youngest is a World War II buff so I'm taking him some places in France. Oh, and one of the great gifts from making Forrest Gump was it turned Gary Sinise into a star. He advanced from his acting as an amputee to doing great real work for wounded veterans. He founded the Gary Sinise Foundation which serves veterans, first responders and their families. Go to www.garysinisefoundation.org to see how you can help. "So I feel that so far my life has not been in vain."
I went away from lunch with Wendy thinking maybe I had under-estimated her all these years. She has produced Hollywood miracles, nice kids and she still looks like she did 20 years ago. She has becomes a good citizen as well. More power to her!
•We see all kinds of "honor"-ings taking place in Art, Music, Food and the honorees are often people most of us never heard of. So it's a pleasure to write about someone generous and glamorous being honored on September 3rd at Lincoln Center.
I do mean the wonderful Carolina Herrera who gets a high-toned lunch and it benefits The Museum at FIT. Last year 600 up and coming fashionistas attended this event honoring Michael Kors.
If you want to participate try calling 212-217-4105. Or visit www.fitnyc.edu/ccherreralunch.
•NEWS ON two of my favorite women.
Chita Rivera, whose honors and accomplishments would fill this column, is returning to NYC's Birdland this fall. Chita's Back! will run for seven shows only, from Oct 7-11. She'll do everything you expect and want. And then she'll surprise the hell out of you! Call 212-581-3080.
Channel surfing the other day I landed on The Cooking Channel and who do I see fussing over a stove, making delicious Italian (Tuscan) food? The adorable actress Debi Mazar. The show, which also features her husband Gabriele Corcos and their two daughters, is titled Extra Virgin. (Seems like a nod to her recipes and the old Madonna days!) The show's been around a couple of years, I found out, but it's new to me. The couple are terrific in the kitchen together, and this year put out a cookbook, Recipes & Love From Our Tuscan Kitchen.
Debi never loses her appeal. I love her recipes, but I'd love to see her acting just a bit more. She does do a lot of indies and will be seen in next year's movie version of Entourage reprising her role in the TV series. And, she appeared in something last year that totally slipped under the wire. It sounds quite amusing. Titled Return to Babylon, a satire about silent films.
Debi plays Gloria Swanson. Jennifer Tilly is Clara Bow. Maria Conchita Alonso is Lupe Velez. Ramon Navarro, Johnny Weissmuller, Louise Brooks, Josephine Baker, Alla Nazimova, Mabel Normand and Virginia Rappe are also enacted. (Rappe, for those of you up on vintage Hollywood scandal, is the young woman whom Fatty Arbuckle supposedly raped so brutally, that she died. Of Arbuckle's three trials, two were hung juries. The third acquitted him. Most evidence pointed toward his innocence, but his career was destroyed.)
•THE WONDERS of YouTube! Aside from going to see Dwayne Johnson in Hercules which I loved, I caught two performances on my computer over the weekend, one by Bette Davis, the other by Joan Crawford. I'd never seen either before, and I'd venture most of their fans haven't.
Joan and Bette (and everybody else!) were doing episodic TV back in the 1950's. One of the most popular spots to work up a dramatic lather was the G.E Theater.
Joan's hour was titled Strange Witness. She was glam, misty-eyed and deadly to the max. Bette performed in With Malice Toward One -- intense and deliciously mannered in true Davis fashion. (Never mess with Bette Davis when she's holding a gun.) What a treat!
There are hundreds of similar classic one-or two-shot TV performances circulating out there. (Sometimes leading to series work, as in the cases of Loretta Young, Jane Wyman Barbara Stanwyck, Eve Arden.) They should be properly restored and put out on DVD.