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Deeply Submerged in 'Houdini' Role

November 06, 1998|IRENE LACHER

Maybe we should scratch movie stardom from our list of career goals. After all, nobody said anything about having to flirt with the grim reaper, the least attractive prospect on any girl's dance card.

That job tip comes courtesy of the dedicated and toothsome Johnathon Schaech. The star of TNT's upcoming "Houdini" is still with us--vertically, that is--thanks to the magic of movie crews, who pulled him out of a Chinese water torture chamber before he was beyond pain.

Schaech was hanging upside-down in a telephone booth filled with water, minding his own business, when it crossed his mind that he might actually be re-creating the death of the notorious escape artist.

That cinema verite. Nasty business.

"I had to pace myself, because I knew after the fourth or fifth take I wasn't going to be able to get out of that thing, because I just wouldn't have the strength," Schaech told us at Tuesday's premiere after-party at the Magic Castle for Pen Densham's film. "There was one time when I did panic. I had exhausted all my air space, and they were trying to extend shooting, and I got scared and they pulled me out."

How did they know?

"I banged on the window," said Schaech, who was accompanied by a curiously brunetish Christina Applegate.

Resurrection. The universal language.

*

Scott Berg had more to celebrate at his recent book party hosted by brother Jeff Berg than an endless supply of Drai's hors d'hoeuvres. Not only was his new tome "Lindbergh" (Putnam) surfing bestseller lists, but "Quiz Show" writer Paul Attanasio had just been enlisted to do the screenplay for Steven Spielberg, who is set to film next fall.

"Lindbergh was the first modern media superstar," Scott Berg says. "In this age of celebrity, there are very few genuine heroes, and Lindbergh was a true hero. He performed a death-defying deed and did something nobody had ever done before.

"That's a far cry from most people who command the cover of People, and that's why fame today is usually 15 minutes long. With Charles Lindbergh, it lasted a lifetime and beyond."

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