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RSVP / INTO THE NIGHT : It Was Kind of Like the Old Days

May 15, 1995|HILLARY JOHNSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Event: Esther Williams was the guest of honor Thursday night at a poolside cocktail party at the Chateau Marmont to celebrate the publication of the rather biblical "Chronicle of the Cinema." Author Robyn Karney spent a year compiling the 920-page book, which documents "100 years of the movies" almost day by day. Guests drank martinis and ate caviar and cucumber sandwiches while a pair of young lovelies in mermaid attire floated in the pool. The air was fragrant with gardenias.

Who Was There: The Hollywood of legend was fabulously represented by Carroll Baker, Martin Landau, Margaret O'Brien, Turhan Bey, Angie Dickinson, Constance Moore, George Sidney and Lana Turner's daughter Cheryl Crane. The particularly apt venue evoked many a memory of the old Sunset Boulevard. The general feeling was summed up succinctly by one observer, who shook his head and said: "If this pool could talk."

She Still Has It: Miss Williams regaled a gaggle of adoring young women with the story of Howard Hughes, Jane Russell and the invention of the under-wire bra. When interrupted mid-tale by a photographer, she gave the man a supremely entertaining dressing-down: "If I can't get your attention with 'from armpit to nipple and nipple to sternum,' then you are over the hill, man. I have to think you're still living with your mother." She can still smile underwater too.

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To: George Sidney described how he gave Williams her first screen test with Clark Gable. "Clark says, 'How do you want it?' because we had numbers for the kisses. I said, 'Medium, Champ.' So he gave her the medium kiss."

Where Are They Now: Landau is about to follow up his Bela Lugosi role by playing Gepetto in the live-action version of "Pinocchio." "I'm used to working with wooden actors," he said. Well, we do recall him working wonders with a giant squid in "Ed Wood."

Trivial Pursuit: Copies of the book were everywhere, and much fun was to be had looking up party guests in the index. Perhaps the most unusual entry belonged to Crane. From Page 473: "When (Johnny) Stompanato threatened to take a knife to her mother, Crane plunged a nine-inch carving knife into his chest. The police arrived almost immediately, but too late to save Johnny. Cheryl has been arrested but is claiming self-defense."

Better Than Mermaids: It was 8:30, but suddenly the word went out. "The hunky blond guy from 'Barbarella' is here!" And apparently he was, but without the loincloth and the angel wings it was hard to spot him.

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