Kids Learn the Darndest Things

Now that we hear he might be sending out his resume, we're pondering those recent rumors that President Clinton might seek an even higher office in the pantheon of popular culture--studio exec.

Just kidding, DreamWorks. Calm down, already.

Look, everyone knows that politicians and Hollywoodians are siblings under the skin. So why not a swap? Let Clinton come to town and fill the void left by some good ole L.A. boy like, say, the late George Burns, and then those uber grown-ups in Washington can swear in Rob Reiner as our 43rd president.

"Yeah, right. That's all I want to do is have the world check into my private life."

Why, Rob, is there something we ought to know?

"No, there's nothing you need to know."

Au contraire. We insist on investigating the identity of the very small person bobbling up and down next to Reiner, the one who bears a suspicious resemblance to him. Could that be his son or a precocious sycophant trying to get a leg up on the competition?

Tush up, actually. Nick Reiner is tumbling under the table at the Maple Drive restaurant, where we are deconstructing his first day of developmental kindergarten.

"He's floppy," observes the jumbo Reiner. "He's always moving around. He was born like that. When he came out, the doctor said 'this is a squirmy one.' "

We put away our catcher's mitt because Nick's photographer mom, Michele, has arrived to scoop him up so he can take his next meeting.

Since we're staring at Nick's dad over a hunk of cold salmon anyway, we figure we might as well find out what the director's been doing lately, which is: not directing. For two years now, Reiner has been working full time on Proposition 10, which would bankroll programs for early childhood development by slapping a 50-cent tax on cigarettes.

By the way, Reiner isn't just a spokesmodel for Proposition 10. He is Proposition 10, along with an army of early childhood advocates whose efforts are getting more ink these days.

"Celebrity is terrific to throw light on something. But then when you really want to move the agenda forward and impact things, then you want to make sure you are knowledgeable about the issue. And then you can really do some amazing things. Because the fact is that the media is the fourth branch of government."

Oh, we bet you say that to all the girls. Is there something you'd like to tell the folks?

"I was involved in the inception of this. My agenda is a national agenda. Even though it's only a ballot initiative, California's a bellwether state. And if we pass it here, it will have a tremendous ripple effect, I hope, on the rest of the country. So it has national implications. That's a very virtuous lunch you have there."

Why, thank you, President Reiner, sir. Carry on.

"Well, I'm kind of, by default, a spokesperson for early childhood development. Initially, I had an instinct about early childhood development and social outcomes. And it was borne out by the Carnegie Corp. report that came out in '94, which basically said that there was this direct correlation between the nurturing experiences the parent provides and the child's ability to function in school later on in life.

"One of the things that I did was a one-hour special for ABC hosted by Tom Hanks. We put two brains out there, brain scans. One was a perfectly formed brain with all the gray matter filled in. One was about two-thirds the size with a lot of black crevices. Neuroscientists would look at these things and just assume that that was a brain of someone with Alzheimer's disease.

"They were both brains of 3-year-olds. The normal brain was the child who had received a lot of love and attention, and the other was the product of extreme neglect or abuse. That brain will never grow."

Reiner is enough of a not-just-a-pretty-face celebrity that he is off to Palm Springs to address the California Medical Assn. He's been running up and down the state giving speeches, working the phones, hitting up supporters for money. Just a few weeks ago, he co-hosted a dinner in Los Angeles with Michael Huffington, Charlton Heston and Pat Boone, to put a few famous Republican faces on what has become a bipartisan effort.

After Election Day, the 53-year-old Reiner goes back to film work. In December, he'll start shooting his first picture since "Ghosts of Mississippi" came out in 1996--"The Story of Us," a romantic comedy with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Meanwhile, he is putting all that homework on early childhood development to good use with Reinerette No. 3: 9-month-old Romy.

"I see myself a little bit different with Romy than I was with the boys. I'm talking much more to her, interacting much more early on. Whenever I put her to bed, I sing her 'Mockingbird.' Then I segue into 'I've Been Working on the Railroad' and a George M. Cohan medley of 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' and 'Over There.' I end with 'Keep Your Eye on That Grand Ole Flag.' By then, she's either sleeping or she's ready . . ."

To commit patricide?

"Yeah."

*

Viv It Up: British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is a little bit couture, a little bit mother of punk rock, a little bit 18th century.

Actually, not such a little bit 18th century. The woman doesn't even have a TV, if you can imagine that.

"I'm a little bit reclusive in the context of popular culture," says the statuesque designer. "When I have spare time, I'm reading. I'm going to the theater, the ballet, art galleries. I never watch movies. I never read fashion magazines.

"I think my things are very, very elegant and very cultured, and I think that is really an achievement in an age of mass market."

We're chatting at Cafe La Boheme--which is a little bit opera, a little bit West Hollywood. It's the perfect time-traveling backdrop for Neiman Marcus' party celebrating Westwood's latest collection, which is inspired by the 17th century and filtered through Westwood's postmodern lens.

Indeed, the place is packed with Westwoodians in such distinctive designs as her "stature of liberty"--a bone corset, some emblazoned with the image of that fashion forward gal, Queen Elizabeth I.

"The most important thing is the decollette," Westwood notes, "which you can't get by any other method."

Oh, really? Hang around in L.A. for a while.

Westwood has been dressing the adventurous ever since she dressed the Sex Pistols in the '70s, fastening the safety pin seen 'round the world. But she's only now opening her first showroom and shop in the States--in New York's SoHo, where her doors will swing wide in February.

"You have to get round to it eventually," she says. "And at this stage, we really are a maison. It's the only maison that's come up from the other way, from the street."

*

And the Winner Is . . . : Listen, when it comes to award events, we love to love ya babe as much as the next guy. But every now and then, we like a glimmer of realness with our gazpacho, a bit of well-earned anger spiced with stiletto wit.

And who better to wear the stilettos in the family than Women in Film?

How about the men who love Women in Film?

Meryl Streep may have been the cranky, hilarious headline-maker from Women in Film's Crystal Awards last spring, but the folk who tarted up the group's recent Lucy Awards luncheon at the Regent Beverly Wilshire were not your usual suspects.

They were two angry men.

One was erstwhile Trekkie Patrick Stewart, who showered USA Network founder Kay Koplovitz with kissiness in presenting her Lucy. He lauded USA's "Moby Dick" as a Koplovitz coup--the miniseries starring Stewart was the highest-rated entertainment program in cable history.

Then Stewart got snarky.

"There were 40 speaking parts in 'Moby Dick,' " he declaimed in deep Stewartian tones, "and I don't think one of them belonged to a woman."

Don't snark a snarker.

"Patrick," Koplovitz later said molassesly, "Moby Dick was a woman. Sometimes men don't get it."

The other guy was presenter Sidney Poitier, who elegantly castigated the industry for failing to appreciate Lucy winner and barrier-breaker Diahann Carroll.

"We made two movies together," he said. "We would have made many, many more, but Hollywood wasn't as smart in those days. . . . Hollywood did itself a considerable disservice."

The last Lucy went posthumously to Shari Lewis, whose puppet baby Lamb Chop will rise again in a KCET special next year, according to Lamb Chop's sister, Mallory Tarcher, who accepted the award for her mother.

Tarcher, who is 4 1/2 months pregnant with Lewis' grandchild, later talked about the perks of being the daughter of a television icon.

"My husband and I have already installed in the baby's room a TV and VCR, and underneath it is all of the many, many hours of Shari TV. We'll say, 'That's grandma and grandma lives in the box.'

"Having produced most of it, I know it's all quality children's television, and I feel very blessed that although my mom only saw my baby's sonogram, my baby will get to know my mom."

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