By Kim Cunningham
January 29, 1996 12:00 PM

HOUSTON, I HAVE A PROBLEM

Angela Bassett took a few deep breaths while filming Waiting to Exhale, director Forest Whitaker’s bittersweet comedy about four women in search of soulmates. “Basically the four of us were sitting around talking about men, and I was concentrating on my [character’s] plight,” says Bassett, 37, who plays a housewife ditched by her husband. “Tears are welling. Then someone said, ‘Cut,’ and the other women are staring at me. Whitney [Houston] looked at my teary face and told the director, ‘Angela is scaring me.’ ” Explains Bassett, who earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Tina Turner in 1993’s What’s Love Got to Do with It: “I tend to stay in character the whole time I do a movie, and that’s draining. I need to calm down. I don’t want to give myself a heart attack.”

HELL FROM THE CHIEF

A day after New York Times columnist William Safire wrote that Hillary Rodham Clinton had shown herself to be “a congenital liar,” White House spokesman Mike McCurry said that if Bill Clinton were not the President, he “would…deliver a forceful response to the bridge of Mr. Satire’s nose.” This isn’t the first time a President has threatened to punch a newspaper scribe for criticizing a loved one. Clinton later told reporters that he kept on his wall a copy of the handwritten letter Harry Truman sent in 1950 to Washington Post music critic Paul Hume, who dissed his daughter Margaret’s singing recital: “I have just read your lousy review,” wrote Truman. “If I [ever meet you], you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes and perhaps a supporter below.” The letter, which Hume sold to a collector for $350 a few months later, now hangs in the Forbes Magazine Galleries in New York City (owned by the family of Republican presidential hopeful Steve Forbes) and is worth upwards of $100,000. “The President has every right to get mad,” says Hume, now 80, “and to show it any [way] he wants. I wrote a review President Truman hated, and he wrote to say so. It wasn’t considered presidential, but I loved him for having written it.”

DON’T CALL HIM IN THE MORNING

ER’s George Clooney isn’t a doctor, but since he plays one on TV, he says, “people come up to me all the time thinking that I am one. Even my friends will say, ‘You know, I got this lump in my arm.’ ” Clooney, 34, hates discussing his personal life (“Then it’s not personal,” he explains), but does admit that he loves watching The Operation, a cable offering on the Learning Channel that shows up-close surgical procedures. “You can see someone getting their knee cut off—it’s carpentry, it’s art.” Now, in the new vampire flick From Dusk Till Dawn, he gets to violate his Hippocratic oath and kill a few people as a criminal on the lam. The role, he admits, caused him a bit of cognitive dissonance. “When they bled,” he says, “I had to remember that I wasn’t a doctor and I shouldn’t save them.”

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