August 06, 1990 12:00 PM

JUST PLANE FUN

Despite his image as a taciturn recluse, MARLON BRANDO was a spirited practical joker on the set of The Freshman. “Marlon was really funny,” says PENELOPE ANN MILLER, 26, who plays Brando’s daughter in the new film. “He told the producer that he was going to Tahiti and called him from ‘a plane,” and in the background there were these plane noises. Of course, it’s every producer’s nightmare that he won’t return. Later on, Marlon called [producer] Michael [Lobell] back laughing and said, ‘Mike, I’m here at the hotel. That call before was me in my room with a tape recording I made of a plane.’ ” And what acting advice did Brando give Miller? “He told me that if I forget my lines, to pretend to choke and ask for water and then, while I’m getting it, ask the other actor, under my breath, what my line is. This way the director doesn’t know. Marlon said, ‘Never say I forgot my line.’ ”

FOR THE MOST PARTS

KIRK DOUGLAS has a novel excuse for giving up film work. “I’ve played many roles in my 80 or so movies, hut playing the role of a novelist in real life has been the most exciting of all,” says Douglas, 73, who has just published his first novel, Dance with the Devil. “People come up and ask me, ‘Don’t you miss acting?’ and I say to them, ‘What the hell do you think I’m doing at my desk?’ When I write a novel, I get to play all the parts. I play the men, women and children. I decide who gets hired, who gets fired and who gets laid. My son Michael wants me to act in a movie with him. I tell him I may never do that movie or ever act on film again. I’m having too much fun and am too busy acting all the parts to settle for just one.”

VOWS TO BE CAREFUL

She plays a stressed-out young bride in her new film, Betsy’s Wedding, but MOLLY RINGWALD, 22, is far from altar-bound in real life. “It’s hard for me to see someone at age 22 being that confident about spending their whole life with someone,” says the never-married Ringwald. Molly may be unsure about marriage, but she is sure about at least one prospective wedding site: “All I know is I don’t want to go to Las Vegas.”

PAYING THE BILL

Comedian BILL COSBY now ranks third on Forbes magazine’s annual list of the richest entertainment industry figures, but he still remembers starting at the bottom. “The first nightclub where I was hired [in 1962],” says Cosby, 53, whose newest movie is Ghost Dad, “was a coffeehouse in New York City. But I was not prepared for the salary and what it cost to live there. I was working in Greenwich Village, and the guy said, ‘I’ll give you $60 a week, and you work six days a week.’ I took it, I was just so happy to have the job. Then I started to figure out how much it would be to live there. He said, ‘I know $60 is not much, but we’ve got a storage room over the club.’ There was a mattress [in this room], and I went out and bought DDT and sprinkled it all around. I gave a guy $5 a month to use his bathroom, and he allowed me one shower a day.”

SLEEP TALK

Because the Talking Heads band isn’t as loquacious as it used to be (the group’s last album, Naked, was released in 1988), Heads keyboardist and guitarist JERRY HARRISON is concentrating on working with his other band. “I’d say we’re [Talking Heads] officially in hibernation. It’s been a long winter,” says Harrison, 41, whose band Casual Gods recently released its third album, Walk on Water. Harrison is touring this summer on a double bill with the Tom Tom Club, a band led by fellow Talking Heads vets, drummer CHRIS FRANTZ and bass player TINA WEYMOUTH. “I was hoping [Talking Heads] would do an album this year, but I didn’t get my way….

We’re not through as a band, but we’re not doing anything this year, which is one reason Chris and Tina and I are touring together this summer.” The remaining Heads member, group leader DAVID BYRNE, recently finished a concert tour of his own.

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