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Mort Did Help Gloria’s Ms.

There’s been quite a contretemps at Vanity Fair since the magazine printed its story on the life and times of Gloria Steinem, written by reporter Leslie Bennetts. (This article happened in conjunction with Steinem’s return to the limelight via pre-publication word-of-mouth about her new nonfiction work, “Revolution From Within: A Book of Self-Esteem,” due from Little Brown in January.)

A large portion of the Steinem story has become, unfortunately, a trek down memory lane, having to do with her long and eventually unhappy love affair with rich publisher Mort Zuckerman. Let’s leave aside that history, except to note that the magazine story indicates Mort never tried to use his considerable wealth to help then-light-of-his-life Gloria in the faltering fortunes of Ms. magazine.

(Ms. was sold by the feminists who created it--and ever since it abandoned advertising to become an editorial-only entity, the magazine is actually making money!)

Anyway, I want to set some of the record straight, since I am quoted as an admirer of Steinem in this article. Steinem’s inevitable letter to Vanity Fair correcting the statement about Zuckerman’s “non-help” will probably clarify matters, but such “corrections” seldom overcome the original stuff.

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Not only did Zuckerman lend Ms. $700,000, but he has check stubs that show $406,151 in gifts to the magazine and its foundation. Ms. repaid the loan to Zuckerman with interest. The publisher also sent one of his own top executives to spend two weeks trying to overhaul the magazine.

I told Bennetts at the time she interviewed me that Mort had assisted Ms. magazine. I didn’t have any proof, but I was absolutely sure of the fact. For some reason she ignored this background or perhaps misunderstood either me or Steinem. But Zuckerman deserves credit and a correction.

So you think it’s all fluff and fantasy and box-office receipts out there in Hollywoodland? Well, sure, a lot of it is--that’s why they call it entertainment! But there are still plenty of politically concerned show-biz types who balance the fiction of their work with the facts of all our lives.

Last week, Hollywood heavyweights gathered for a major private kickoff to raise money for Democratic presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. This event, hosted by former Columbia Pictures president Dawn Steel and her husband, Charles Roven, attracted no fewer than four studio heads--Tom Pollock (Universal Pictures), Mike Medavoy (Tri-Star), Mark Canton (Columbia) and Barry Diller (Fox). Also on hand for serious talk were actor Richard Dreyfuss, TV’s Maria Shriver and producers Sandy Gallin, Paul Witt, Lynda Obst and Alan Lorn.

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Where do stars enjoy privacy, good food and (most important!) dim lighting in Los Angeles? It’s an eatery called Muse--so dark inside that patrons occasionally have to ask for a flashlight to read the menu. A recent night had “Blue Velvet” and “Twin Peaks” director David Lynch, gorgeous Sherilyn Fenn and Madonna dining in darkness. (These three were not together, though the idea of a Lynch-Madonna pairing is fascinating!)

There were reportedly “at least a dozen” other major movers and shakers present. But the place is really too dark for anyone to work the room as people do at the Ivy and Morton’s.

For Christmas: Fans will love James Haspiel’s new book, “Marilyn: The Ultimate Look at the Legend” (Henry Holt). A lavish coffee-table item and touching memoir, it is already topping the best-seller lists in England. Haspiel was 16 when he and Monroe struck up an unusual friendship during the 1954 filming of “The Seven-Year Itch.” He was more than a fan, less than an “intimate.” Haspiel and MM remained close until her death in 1962.

This work is non-exploitative, amusing, tender and, naturally, loaded with photos--many taken with Haspiel’s candid camera. (One shot of a grinning Marilyn, sans makeup, is worth the price of the book.) “The Ultimate Look” also offers a fresh perspective. Through this author’s eyes, the “tragic” star emerges strong, sane and healthy. Scandal aficionados need not bother.


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