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Here's to the Uniqueness of the Women of '90s Tinseltown

December 04, 1996|BRIDGET BYRNE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"The women interviewed for this issue didn't want to talk about the glass ceiling or gender bias. They wanted to talk about work," said Premiere magazine's editor in chief, James Meigs, who stood in front of a big screen image of Meryl Streep on the cover of the magazine's "Women in Hollywood" special issue.

Streep, with producer Laura Ziskin, president of 20th Century Fox's new Fox 2000 division, and directors Jane Campion and Penny Marshall, received the magazine's ICON awards, handed out at a lively lunch in the ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel on Monday.

Last to the podium, following a slew of witty speeches from presenters and honorees, Streep rued not having written one of her own.

She noted that she didn't know the event was going to be such a big deal, adding Streep said she was pleased that her "air-blown image" had vanished from the screen as she wouldn't stand comparison to the "real thing."

But the "real thing" was strikingly individual, reflecting the feeling of the gathering, which seemed to illustrate that Hollywood women have reached a new plateau in which uniqueness has triumphed over the mere rules of the game.

Power suits were present, but not de rigueur; there were men aplenty, not out of duty, but out of affection and respect. And there was an abundance of humor as the crowd munched its way through salad, broiled fish and sorbet, and enjoyed the chance to network and opine.

"It's great being with all these girls. It is better in Hollywood, isn't it? Women are freer. I loved it that they were bitching about each other's clothes, because that's what girls do," said social observer Tracey Ullman.

Carrie Fisher offered up a collection of tall stories about Streep, "my best friend and the best damned actress in the world."

Buck Henry, presenter to Ziskin, said she deserved it "because she's as passionate about her work as anyone I know and because I like her."

Garry Marshall presented the award to his younger sister, Penny, claiming it hadn't been easy for her to make it in Hollywood, first as an actress now as a director, because she has "a whiny voice, stringy hair, is not very perky and not good at being coquettish with men. So it's good now that coquettish is out."

Hoping that the growing numbers of women executives and actors with real clout will alter the "testosterone driven content" of the movie business, Ziskin admitted, "I don't know what estrogen driven content is, but I know it's not narrow. We have the chance to be culture makers and that's really, really exciting, thrilling and really, really cool."

Witnesses to this declaration included Amy Pascal, just appointed president of Columbia Pictures. Warner Bros. executives Lorenzo Di Bonaventura and Bill Gerber and actresses Jamie Lee Curtis, Lauren Bacall and Minnie Driver. producer Lili Fini-Zanuck and Premiere's executive vice president Jean-Louis Ginibre.

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