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The Queen of the Wannabes

Victoria D’Angelo has a million-dollar smile. Not because she’s spent that much tarting it up with fancy dentistry. And not because people have paid that much to see it on-screen.

A million bucks, give or take, is what D’Angelo has saved smiling her way past the gates of big-ticket events over the years.

They call her the Crasher.

Or they don’t, which has her miffed at Warner Books, the publisher of Shirley Lord’s latest novel, “The Crasher.” More on that later.

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D’Angelo is that particular breed of Angeleno known as a wannabe, although she is a special-needs case. Not only is she a wannabe-in-the-biz, she’s also a wannabe-served-tasty-hors-d’oeuvres. For such a creature, there is only one destination--a Hollywood event.

After all, it’s a truism that the wheels of Hollywood are greased with champagne, that all work and no play means you’re not working hard enough. Which leads us to the paradox of the wannabe: Wannabes gotta be where movers are shaking their martinis. And that’s often at the A-list events that are A-list precisely because no one there is from the W-list.

So what’s a girl to do?

Put on red lipstick, a low-cut black velvet dress with fringe, and a dazzling smile. Then sail through the pearly gates of premieres, the Academy Awards, an inaugural ball, even the VIP section of an Olympic game. OK, so the velvet dress is optional when her arena is an arena.

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“I look innocent, and I am fairly innocent, except for this little thing of not having an invitation,” she says over lunch at Shutters on the Beach.

D’Angelo has found crashing useful for Step One of her fledgling career in the WPA (writing-producing-acting)--meeting the suits. She says she met Brandon Tartikoff at a crash about 10 years ago, backstage at Mitzi Shore’s Comedy Reunion at the Universal Amphitheatre. D’Angelo, who says she’s in her late 30s, used one of her favorite techniques to get in.

“I just walked in with people.”

With no ID?

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“Sometimes they’ll ask and I’ll have some excuse like, ‘I was in there before and I left it inside’ or ‘My boyfriend’s there,’ or I’ll just start talking with some guy. [At the Universal] there were so many people pushing and shoving, and if you’re kind and not nasty, why not let you in?”

Because they’re not supposed to? Whatever.

Anyway, she barreled up to Tartikoff and his wife, Lilly, and volunteered her services in WPA. When no work had materialized six months later, she crashed NBC’s offices and left a note on his desk.

Pretty soon, they were running into each other at events. Tartikoff figured out her MO and began daring her to crash parties he was attending. She blew off the first challenge, Marvin Davis’ Christmas party at his home.

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“I’ve never crashed a private party. Intentionally, anyway.”

She did take him up on the next bet, Barbara Davis’ AAA-list Carousel Ball.

“That was no problem. In fact, when there are Secret Service [types] involved, it’s very easy. They’re just there to make sure that whoever they’re guarding is safe, and of course they’re going to be safe from me.”

A number of crashes later, D’Angelo and Tartikoff figured they might have something even more valuable than free eats on their hands--a project.

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Three years ago, D’Angelo sold him two three-page treatments about an entertainment industry crasher named Ginny Walker who witnesses the murder of a business big shot. Tartikoff, who had just launched his own imprint for Warner Books, recruited Vogue contributing editor Shirley Lord to write a novel about a crasher named Ginny Walker who witnesses the murder of a business big shot.

Of course, fashion priestess Lord took that ball and ran with it to the world she knows--the garment industry, rife with models, photographers and financiers. A Warner spokeswoman says Lord believed the idea came from Brandon, whom she thanks for having “inspired this book.” Lord was on a cruise and couldn’t be reached.

D’Angelo says she received $25,000 for her idea, but that Tartikoff, who passed away last year, promised her more money and credit on publication. She says Tartikoff had pledged "$100,000 worth of free publicity” for being associated with him. As for Warner, the publisher says D’Angelo’s money beef is with Tartikoff’s estate, which says she has been paid in full under the contract.

At any rate, D’Angelo, whose letters to those involved have produced a raft of testy responses, doesn’t understand why Warner is nixing her offer to help publicize the book. Simple, says Warner.

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“We’re in the business of promoting authors and Shirley Lord wrote the book,” says spokeswoman Tina Andreadis. “This Victoria person didn’t write the book.”

Not too surprisingly, the one party D’Angelo didn’t crash was last month’s New York bash for Lord’s novel.

“I’ve certainly never crashed parties where people say ‘Don’t come,’ ” she says.

So that’s why we are gathered here. Because these days, D’Angelo thinks crashing mere parties is old. Nothing much has really come out of it workwise, and dressing up is getting to be a drag. So D’Angelo has raised her sights to the ultimate crash--your consciousness.

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“Really, in this country,” she says, dipping into her side salad, “publicity is what helps careers.”

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Bringing Up Babies: Quick! What’s the first word that springs to your mind when we say Katharine Hepburn?

Is it children?

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No, we did not say the last word. OK, so “children” wouldn’t really be the first word, but “Master Class” alum Zoe Caldwell wants you to know that it’s in Hepburn’s lexicon.

Indeed, in “Come a-Waltzing With Me,” Caldwell’s recent one-woman show at the Mark Taper Forum celebrating great women she’s known and become, the theater monarch unveiled a little-known side of La Hepburn. The performance benefited programs dedicated to young audiences, which may be particularly apropos Hepburn-wise.

“She’s marvelous with kids,” Caldwell said later. “She’s really terrific. She doesn’t underestimate their ability to do practically anything.”

Even whip out their credit cards.

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Hepburn was a family intimate, thanks to her stage association with theater producer and Caldwell spouse Robert Whitehead. So naturally, one Christmas the couple decided to feed the friendship with “quite a bit of caviar.”

On second blush, quite a bit of caviar seemed like it might seem quite a bit ostentatious. So they sent the mountain of delicacies with a note signed by their young sons, Sam and Charlie, who had incidentally been among Hepburn’s audience.

For skateboard lessons, that is.

“Posthaste came a letter back, saying"--and here Caldwell breaks into her best “On Golden Pond” imitation--"Dear Sam and Charlie, it was so good of you to remember your old friend. And I don’t know why your friends Robert and Zoe decided to drop me.”

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Dinner--His Way: Here’s a second helping of Frank Sinatra memories, from people who knew the way to the man’s heart--through his chicken curry.

They are the men of Chasen’s, or rather the old men of the old Chasen’s, who were clinking their Courvoisiers recently upstairs at the new Chasen’s in Beverly Hills. The occasion was a party celebrating the new documentary by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, “Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen’s.”

A healthy portion of the legendary eatery’s retired royalty turned out, including Claude Krihning, for 30 years the king of captains and the captain of kings. He had the best station, serving the three prime booths to the left of the entrance, where the aristocracy of Hollywood and Europe chowed down.

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Krihning’s job was to know exactly what people liked, the way they liked it. And one thing the late crooner liked was his boyish figure. No Hobo Steak for him. Krihning recites:

“Frank Sinatra liked his shrimp sauteed in butter with no garlic. Then he loved chicken curry cut into small pieces, very fine, very little. Just one spoon of rice and a spoon of curry. Then he had espresso coffee with Sambuca. He had the bottle of Sambuca right in front of him.”

Didn’t trust you?

“No, no, he liked to do this himself. Make sure the bottle is full, not half-full. He didn’t drink much, but he just liked to see a full bottle.”

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Don’t assume you’ve seen the end of the old crew. Chasen’s scion Scott McKay says Pepe the Bartender may make monthly guest reappearances to mix up those undying Flames of Love. With any luck, that will help lure the old-timers who--as duly noted by the press--haven’t come back to the comeback Chasen’s.

McKay says recent reports of turmoil in staff turnover, supplies and an investor’s finances are exaggerated. But hey, it’s a nutty business.

Says McKay: “Nothing’s easy in the restaurant business. I don’t even know what I’m doing in this business, to be honest. It can be very frustrating. But we’re making an effort to keep the Chasen’s name alive.”

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Writers’ Tips: We would like to report a rare sighting of indigenous fauna--the L.A. specimen known as Steve Martin. Hunters searching for Martin or his cinematic self lately have been focusing on rarefied milieus, such as films written by David Mamet.

We recently spotted the real thing at the Writers Guild. Martin was in the company of other wits whose work has appeared on the New Yorker’s back page--playwright Wendy Wasserstein; local renaissance boy Harry Shearer; Christopher Buckley, co-author of “God Is My Broker: A Monk-Tycoon Reveals the 7 1/2 Laws of Spiritual and Financial Growth” (Random House); and Bruce McCall, who is scribing the upcoming “Viagra Nation.”

But don’t think Martin is narrowing his sights to the cultural elite. After lo these many years, the prolific humorist has finally broken into prime water-cooler territory.

“In truth, I’ve had more response from the back page of the New Yorker than many films,” he told a recent authors’ panel sponsored by Writers’ Bloc.

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He mentioned a grueling prep session with a TV special producer, who told him to cool it.

“He said, ‘Just remember, Steve, no one watches.’ What he meant was, you put all this effort into something and the next day it never happened. I’ve had films like that, even hits, that have no impact in the world. No one says anything. You never see them again. But for some reason, this little tiny thing on the back page of the New Yorker gets more response--I get more feedback--than anything I’ve ever done.”

One down. Martin has finally found career nirvana, but it never hurts to jot down job tips. Buckley discovered a brave new field when he sold “God Is My Broker” to New Line Cinema--the armies of clerks, messengers and guys in the Xerox room who photocopy manuscripts and send them to studios.

“The going rate is $1,000 a manuscript. It’s an interesting little sub-industry, which I’ve just become aware of. And I’m hoping to break into it.”

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