January 14, 1985 12:00 PM

Emcee Steve Martin made it nearly impossible to avoid spending money at an auction to raise funds for L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art. “There are other ways of bidding besides raising your paddle,” he told the crowd. “If you flick your ear, you’ll be considered a bidder. Anyone taking a drink is a bidder. Coughing, smiling or smoking will be considered a bid. Standing will be considered a bid, also sitting.” Looking out at Aaron Spelling, the multimillionaire creator of a long line of prime-time TV hits, Martin added, “Anyone named Spelling will be considered to be bidding.” Spelling smiled and didn’t disappoint Steve. He bought two landscape paintings for a total of $4,500.

At the same event, the power went out briefly as Dynasty’s Diahann Carroll sang jazz and pop tunes to the crowd, which included Cary Grant, Morgan Fairchild and Gavin MacLeod. “Wait,” Diahann implored across the now pitch-dark room, “I thought I was black enough already.”

A case of the giggles made it a challenge for Marilu (Taxi) Henner to play a Jean Harlow-type gangster’s moll in the new spoof Johnny Dangerously. Co-star Michael Keaton dubbed her Marilu “I-can’t-get-through-a-sentence-without-laughing” Henner. “But it was his fault,” complains Marilu. “Every time I looked at Michael all I could think about was that the men in this film were wearing more makeup than I was. That would never happen to Harlow.”

The five rockers in REO Speedwagon, famous for consuming 100 Big Macs in a single night, agreed to de-beef themselves for the sake of their art. Sports diet expert Robert (Eat to Win) Haas offered to make them his “rock guinea pigs,” and before they toured the country to sing their bubble-gum hit I Do’ wanna Know, the group consented. Haas laid down the same law he inflicted on Martina Navratilova: no red meat, cream or fried foods. That means they even order pizza with no cheese. But what benefits! “I used to walk offstage after a show and collapse,” says lead singer Kevin Cronin. “Now I come off and I’m still jumping.” Adds Cronin, “My manager is threatening to feed me a few pats of butter just to calm me down.”

In an attempt to liven up its mail-order catalog, Banana Republic, the San Francisco-based purveyor of outdoorsy clothing, asked a few of its illustrious patrons for “fan” mail. The respondents included Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who rhapsodized about his $295 aviator jacket. Trudeau hinted that he doesn’t exactly mind the studly image he projects when wearing the leather garment. However, he’s realistic. “I am not an open cockpit aviator,” wrote Trudeau. “The truth is that all I really want is a simple jacket that wears well, has deep pockets and resists baby formula. If people want to mistake me for Sam Shepard, that’s their problem.”

Francesca Hilton, the photographer-daughter of hotel-chain king Conrad Hilton, complained to a travel agent about the poor quality of her digs at Manhattan’s Chelsea Hotel, the offbeat hostelry where Tennessee Williams, Thomas Wolfe and various other authors lived. “Why don’t you stay at the Hilton?” the agent asked. “I hate that hotel,” came the reply. “They think I’m checking up on them. And competing hotels think that I’m spying on them. It never works out.”

At a Sotheby’s auction in New York, Dustin Hoffman bought a 1947 jukebox complete with bubble tubes that change color and two dozen 78s inside. Hoffman paid $7,425 for the vintage box, which he gave as a Hanukkah present to his family, including Jake, 3½, and Rebecca, 1½. That’s some expensive toy for a couple of toddlers, but don’t worry: Dustin found a dollar in change in the machine’s coin slot.

Calcutta-based actor Victor Banerjee likes A Passage to India—he also stars in it—but he’s never been a fan of the 1924 E.M. Forster novel on which the film is based. “The book is bloody tedious,” says Banerjee, who tried reading it in college but gave up. He admits: “I only read the parts on which I knew I would be tested.”

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