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City of Angles

A Sweet Lemmon Tribute

July 12, 2001|ANN O'NEILL

Everybody loved Jack Lemmon. On Tuesday, the late actor's friends and colleagues had another chance to gush at the Geffen Playhouse's gala performance of "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks." They also gushed about one another.

Uta Hagen held court at a cocktail party after the play, in which she stars as a cantankerous widow, and David Hyde Pierce plays her equally cranky dance instructor. Kicking back in a powder-blue hat and pantsuit, ciggie in hand, the 82-year-old Hagen shared fond memories of teaching Lemmon in a 1947 acting class. "I was so nervous," she said. "It was my first acting class. He had something--a sense of innocence ....There are few actors like that." She added that Lemmon was the real deal as an actor. He was in it "for the work, not the dough, not the fame."

"He was a star, but not because he sought it," Pierce said. "He worked up to the last moment. Age was meaningless to him."

Lemmon was supposed to share hosting duties with Christine Lahti at the event, a fund-raiser for the Actors Fund of America, HB Playwright's Foundation and Geffen Playhouse. But after Lemmon's death June 27, the event was recast as a tribute to Hollywood's Everyman.

"The remarkable thing about Jack Lemmon," recalled Hollywood Square/comedy writer Bruce Vilanch, "was that he was unafraid. He did everything--TV, movies, theater. He was perfect."

Vilanch recalled an Oscar rehearsal to which Lemmon brought his standard poodle. "Nobody ever did that before," he said, laughing.

"From the moment I met him, he was like an old friend," recalled Lahti, who joined Pierce in spreading a little love Hagen's way, too.

Lahti, who studied acting under Hagen, said her former teacher could be a little demanding. It was not unusual for Hagen to exclaim: "Darling, would you mind doing the scene again--in Russian," Lahti said.

Working with Hagen "is incredible and I'm not just talking about the sex," Pierce joked. "She's show-stopping, heart-stopping and time-stopping." Hagen cooed back. "David is the new love in my life."

Brando Cools Off

Lights! Camera! Action! Pants!

Picture this: A 77-year-old Marlon Brando, playing piano in his underwear on the set of "The Score" between scenes. That much is true, but director Frank Oz is scuttling rumors that the rotund one refused to wear trousers on the set so that he'd be shot only from the waist up. It's "absolute bull," Oz told us.

There was a pants-less incident, and it had more to do with the heat than with vanity. Oz maintains that Brando was just cooling off on a 90-degree scorcher.

"Marlon was wearing a large shirt ... and his underwear," Oz said. "We were setting up the lights. He was playing piano and then we said, 'Let's go!' and he put his pants on and starting working."

You got a problem with that?

Not Easy Being Green

Robert Redford is getting on President George W. Bush's case again. This time, the actor was speaking out in the German magazine Stern. Bush, he said, "doesn't have a clue" about environmental issues. In fact, the actor added, "he's a terrible ignoramus." As for Bush's advisors, "They are blind and deaf to the changes of the last 40 years." So there.

Pleasure Boating

Kim Mathers, estranged wife of Emmy-winning rapper Eminem, was arrested over the weekend on an outstanding warrant. It all began when police in Harrison Township, Mich., stopped Mathers and a friend as they walked down the street in their bathing suits. Cops had been summoned by neighbors worried about a beached "personal watercraft."

Mathers and Jennifer Freeman explained that they were having mechanical trouble. But the coppers smelled other trouble--alcohol.

"We could tell they had been drinking," Sheriff Mark Hackel told the Detroit Free Press. The warrant check revealed that Mathers was wanted for failing to appear in court to answer a disturbing-the-peace misdemeanor. She was released after posting $3,000 bail, but the situation gets even more complicated. Police now say they found a "white powdery substance" in the back of the squad car where the women had been sitting. The powder was sent off to the police lab for analysis.

Quote, Unquote

"I love Benjamin. He's a good man, he's a fine man. He is, to the exultation of the female single population, not my man anymore."

--Julia Roberts, making her first public comments about her "kind and tenderhearted" breakup with Benjamin Bratt on David Letterman's "Late Night."

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Times staff writers Louise Roug and Gina Piccalo contributed to this column. City of Angles runs Tuesday-Friday.

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