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Hello, Sweet Spirits

I have it on good authority that Holly Hunter will win the best actress award Monday night for her portrayal of an erotic mute in “The Piano.” The prediction is solid. It comes from the spirit world.

Recently deceased Greta Garbo passed it on to me through Kenny Kingston, who is L.A.'s self-proclaimed Psychic to the Stars, both living and dead. Gloria Swanson, also deceased, says Liam Neeson will win best actor for “Schindler’s List.”

“All the spirits voted for ‘Schindler’s List’ as best picture too,” Kingston said the other day in his Studio City home. He is a pink-faced man with glowing blond hair and a tendency toward expansive gestures.

“After the ceremonies, they’re going to party at the Sinatra compound in Palm Springs. He’ll feel them there but, of course, he won’t see them.”

Kingston says all this with such disarming flamboyance that you almost believe him. At one point in our conversation he said hello to Marilyn Monroe so naturally that I turned, expecting to see her standing behind me. Is that weird or what?

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I went to see Kingston because I knew he would have some sort of telepathic contact with celebrities beyond the grave who, given their spiritual powers, could name this year’s Oscar winners.

Everyone in L.A. is talking about the Academy Awards and making predictions. We are nothing if not a movie town. This was never clearer than at a Westside saloon the other night when two men began punching each other out over the comparative talents of Winona Ryder and Emma Thompson.

I’ve seen a lot of bar fights in my day, but never over best supporting actress.

*

As a columnist expected to be occasionally topical, I began scratching around for an approach to the Oscars that had not been used to excess. I even thought about a People’s Poll for the Worst of Everything, including worst picture of the year, worst actor and so on.

My personal choice was an art film about sex in China, the name of which, thank God, I can’t remember. It was on an artistic level with “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective,” but more scatological.

I was really getting into this when Kenny Kingston called. I knew it was him before he gave his name when he said “Hello, sweet spirit.” He calls everyone that.

He said a copy of one of the books I’d written had fallen from a shelf in his study not once but twice and he knew it was a message from the spirit world for him to call me.

Kingston does radio and television and plays the clubs, so it was not unusual for him to telephone a newspaper source hoping for a little mention. But mostly people are directed to us by living publicists like Stan Rosenfield or Lee Solters, and not by the dead.

I was intrigued by this so I said what’re you up to, sweet spirit, and he said that HBO and the BBC were sending crews over to televise his spiritual predictions for the Oscars.

Ah ha.

It was like a message from beyond for me too, telling me to be a conduit for Oscar predictions that emanate from what Shakespeare called the undiscovered country.

How many other newspaper columnists get to be involved in a kind of daylight seance with stars who have long since taken their final bow?

*

As it turned out, Kingston didn’t light candles, ask me to join hands or speak in tongues. He mostly bounced around his study, pausing occasionally to look off toward the distance, and handed down the spiritual messages.

After he told me who would win best actor and actress awards and what movie would be named best picture, he came up with another flash from beyond: Liz Taylor was Michael Jackson’s mother in another life.

“Richard Burton told me,” he said, holding a finger to his temple. “That’s why there’s such a strong bond between Taylor and Jackson, sweet spirit. Burton was the father. They had a baby girl who was reborn as a boy. The boy was Michael.”

That was an extra he threw in before he quoted James Dean as saying Tommy Lee Jones would win best supporting actor for “The Fugitive” and (quoting Ingrid Bergman) Emma Thompson would win for “In the Name of the Father.”

As I thought about it later, I felt a little silly for having sat there taking notes for two hours and asking Kingston to repeat comments he was receiving from the dead, but what the hell.

It’s almost spring and I’m taking a short vacation and this is a nice way of dancing off the stage before the rotten eggs fly.

By the way, sweet spirits, I just remembered, the name of that lousy movie was “Sex and Zen.” It’s about a man and his dog and his concubine in the Mysterious East. Michael Landon says don’t bring the kids. Amen.


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