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She’s Cookin’

You’ve heard of four-car garages? How about a four-oven kitchen? In the land of one-is-not-enough, Jackie Collins is cooking with, as the expression goes, gas.

Oh, yes. She also has three marble-topped islands.

And why would anyone need a personal bushel of appliances and surfaces? For Christmas lunch, of course, when the renaissance author cooks for 40 revelers. One oven is for the turkey, one is for roast potatoes and caramelized carrots, another takes care of the sweet potatoes and baked onions, and the last gets the Yorkshire pudding. Each dish gets an oven to call its own.

“Most people want to have planes and stuff like that,” Collins muses from her headquarters in the flats of Beverly Hills. “I just want to have a house that is a great environment, that I can cook in and be in with my kids and never have to leave if I don’t want to.”

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Such are the perks of bestsellerdom. Collins lives in that high-rent district (with all the ovens) thanks to her many fans who have consumed 190 million of her romantic thrillers, or thrilling romances, at last official count. Not surprisingly, her latest is called “Thrill!” (Simon & Schuster). It’s about a dazzling movie star with the world at her feet and a je ne sais quoi with a successful film director and a stunningly handsome actor with a mysterious past.

Collins is used to snooty, one-oven journalists sniffing at her handy-dandy formulas. We are here to attest to the fact that nobody gets four ovens for nothing. Indeed, a year ago Collins told a Chicago paper she was planning a novel about someone who has illicit sex with the president, if you can imagine that. Don’t ever say Collins doesn’t know how to surf the Zeitgeist.

“I have a character called Lucky, who’s coming back in the next book, called ‘Dangerous Kiss,” says the sister of actress and embattled-sometime-author Joan. “I don’t know whether she’ll have sex with the president or not, but she’s going to have interesting times with him because she’s going to go to Washington with her half-brother, who happens to be black and is a very successful lawyer named Steven.

“Obviously, I’ll have to make up a fictitious president.”

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Obviously.

“At one point I played with the idea of having Lucky run for president, but I don’t think she would want everyone to know her past. You know she did inhale,” says chatty Jackie, suited up in her favorite gray pinstripes.

There’s a disturbing development afoot in thriller town. Washington seems to be eclipsing Hollywood in one of our cottage industries--sex ‘n’ sin.

Or, it would if Washington had any credibility.

“I think that if I wrote about it, nobody would believe it. They would say, ‘Oh, Jackie Collins has gone too far now.’ ”

Of course, topping our heritage of sleaze is a tall order. Collins, who trolls for poop at parties (like some people we know), considers herself a prime forager of Hollywood secrets, which are the tastiest kind.

“I never name names, but there’s this famous action star who’s always rushing into the ladies’ room or the men’s room in public places with his wife who he’s just about to divorce, having wild sex, screaming and coming out all disheveled and thinking nobody’s going to notice.”

Either we’re going to different parties or she writes about sex and we write for a family newspaper. But she does it like a lady. A fiancee, actually. She’s committed to a long engagement to shopping mall developer Frank Calcagnini.

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“I think I write about sex with humor, and I think I write about erotic sex, what turns you on. And I think sex should have sort of an edge to it. A lot of male writers are too graphic. They write like gynecologists.

“In Chapter 27 of ‘Thrill!’ Joey seduces Lara but doesn’t really. He does things that are much sexier than actually leaping on her, but really hooks her in. I get readers’ fantasy going, and then when their fantasy is in full bloom, I drift out of the room.”

And into the kitchen.

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Poster Boy: Robbie Conal is taking his poster art to a new level--science. He may be a guerrilla artist to you, but he’s a ‘90s kind of guy, which can mean only one thing: focus groups.

Not long ago, Conal decided to gauge the reaction to his latest poster, which shows Microsoft emperor Bill Gates along with the pithy phrase “Anti Trust Me.”

Of course, these were focus groups, Robbie-style. That meant packs of his favorite guerrilla volunteers would convene in all-night cafes in prime Gates territory--Seattle and its environs and the San Francisco Bay area. Conal was in the neighborhood because he was on tour with his President Clinton “Dough Nation” poster, which generally involved midnight runs, plastering posters around town and then running.

“People certainly seemed to be up for it,” says the L.A. artist. “I think they’re afraid of him gobbling up the universe.”

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Now, Conal isn’t shy about plastering his opinions all over the country. Thirty posters later, we all know what he thinks about popular boys of the right like Jesse Helms and Newt Gingrich. But this time, Conal put Gates to a vote because he’s, well, special.

“It’s a nice stretch for me to get a little outside of ugly, old politicians and get into critiquing corporate culture. And I think it’s hubris to make this kind of art about something you don’t know anything about.”

Conal started thinking about the alleged Microsoft monopolist because Conal’s wife, movie title designer Deborah Ross, makes it her business to combine computer-generated images with hand-painted images. And that can only mean one thing: “We all find ourselves paying the Bill.”

As we speak, the Bill poster’s in the oven.

“We’re making like bunnies,” Conal reports. “Maybe Easter would be a good time to spread around some rotten Easter eggs.”

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Her Honor: Today, we introduce our very first Miss Out & About--Jennifer Tilly. We are thrilled to honor La Tilly for her outstanding performance in one area--she is even out & abouter than we are.

We caught up with the onetime Oscar nominee at the first anniversary party of Indochine restaurant, which served her up as its hostess. To our utter amazement, that was the second invitation we’d received featuring Tilly as a host on that day alone. She had also been hailed as the headliner of a Costa Mesa boutique opening earlier that day.

“Oh, really? I didn’t know that. They just sent me a bunch of clothes.”

OK, so Tilly is mortal too. So sue her. Anyway, we asked Tilly to explain her night life raison d’etre. Why, oh, why was she everywhere we turned or tuned in lately, from the Blockbuster Awards to the “U.S. Marshals” premiere to the Phillip Bloch “Elements of Style” book party?

“It’s just ‘cause I’m unemployed,” she said. “There are long periods of time where I just disappear and everybody says, ‘Whatever happened to Jennifer?’ And then when I finish doing my movies, I make up for it by going out every single night.”

So there is a method to her madness. Indeed, there are rules. Tilly explained what it takes to be an Out & About girl:

Rule No. 1: “Don’t go places just to go. You have to have a reason. That’s the key to being a successful Out & About girl. You have to know somebody who’s in the premiere. You have to be nominated or be a presenter in an awards show. And never, ever, ever go to the Oscars if your film is not nominated or you’re not nominated and you’re not presenting.”

Pourquoi?

“Because then you look like you’re desperate for press.”

Rule No. 2: “If your name is on the program, if you’re nominated, if it’s your premiere, it’s OK to be overdressed.”

Using the finery test--Missoni sequins--it was fair to assume that Tilly’s name was on the program that evening. In fact, being hostess isn’t all fun and frolic. The woman was working like a dog.

“I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility,” she confided. “I invited all my friends who are celebrities. I think I saw Gina Gershon and Lori Petty and Lesley Ann Warren. So every time I know someone who’s semi-famous, I push them toward the cameras to show that this is a star-studded event.”

Don’t think it’s so easy being an exemplary Out & About girl. Says Tilly: “I think I take my hosting responsibilities more seriously than other people. I was at a party in New York, and Sandra Bernhard was the host and she didn’t show up until 1:30 in the morning. That’s New York for you.”

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Leave It to the Stud Muffin: Whither the Beav?

Selling “Leave It to Beaver” mouse pads, running Cleaver’s Catering Co., putting on 40 pounds, joining Jenny Craig, taking off 40 pounds. And now that he’s very publicly trim as Jenny Craig’s first guy spokesmodel, Jerry Mathers is sniffing at the hors d’hoevres at the opening bash of the William S. Paley Television Festival at the Museum of Radio & Television in Beverly Hills.

“When I came here last year,” recalls the Beav, “the Globe published a story that said, ‘The portly Mr. Mathers. . . .’ And then in December, the [Daily] News called me a GQ stud muffin and I did a layout of their Christmas clothes. So I went from portly to stud muffin.”

Stud muffins are certainly on our diet, and clearly we are not alone. Mathers has in tow Nicole White, an actress he directed in an industrial spa film. “She’s very good in Jacuzzis.” Don’t ask.

Mathers reports that Beaver fever is alive and well. Putnam / Berkeley is publishing his autobiography, “And Jerry Mathers as the Beaver,” shortly before he hits 50 in June. In it, the Beav dishes all his deep, dark secrets. Or he would if he had any.

“Honestly, I’ve had a very, very good life.” Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah.

He’s also cooking up a new series with Beav originals Tony Dow, who played Wally, and Ken Osmond, who played Eddie Haskell.

But hark. Could that be the original, original Eddie Haskell across the room, the one who created Eddie for the pilot and then took off, never to be seen again in Beavland? It is. You know him as Spinal Tapper Harry Shearer (who has tongues in town flapping for dishing “The Truman Show,” the upcoming Jim Carrey film, in the March issue of Details magazine).

Shearer and Mathers squared off in the pilot for the series, which ran from 1957 to 1963. The pilot was called “It’s a Small World” and locked in a Universal vault in Chicago for 36 years until someone came across it. Little Harry took off for other pastures because his parents didn’t want him working on a regular series. As for the Beav, reports of his death in Vietnam in 1968 were highly exaggerated. By both wire services. “Tony Dow sent flowers to my house.”

Shearer: “This is an incredible reunion.”

Or it would be if he remembered doing the pilot in the first place.

Shearer: “If I didn’t have a mom who remembered that I did it, it would be like reading about what somebody else did. I must have been like 13, 14. I’m looking at you. How old are you?”

Mathers: “I’ll be 50 this year so be very careful. I’ve already told her that.”

Shearer: “It was prenatal work. I hologrammed myself out of my mother’s womb to do that pilot.”

Hey, but who’s counting? Shearer is, as he drifts in the direction of the food: “We’ll have to do this again in 46 years.”


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