By People Staff
February 21, 1977 12:00 PM

Talent Pool

Entertainment Central in Detroit lately was the mansion of Motown boss Berry Gordy Jr. The 1,000 long-stemmed red roses that his superstar, Diana Ross, had ordered for her mother’s remarriage there were still fresh three nights later when more than 100 guests steamed up the poolhouse to celebrate Diana’s first paid hometown gig since leaving the Supremes in 1970. Mayor Coleman Young, who had declared it Diana Ross Day, was among them when Ross arrived, calmly shucked her leather boots, dove in, swam a length in rust-colored pants and cowled sweater, waved goodnight to the guests, and strutted dripping to bed.

A Face Off

He played a snarling Hamlet, a frantic Uncle Vanya and most recently a be-drugged Sherlock Holmes in The Seven-Percent Solution, but tempestuous British actor Nicol Williamson, 40, now finds his most difficult role is real. His five-year marriage to actress Jill Townsend totaled last summer (a court order enjoins him from ever telephoning her), and his 4-year-old son, Luke, remains in London with Mummy. So Nicol’s hibernating in temporary and mournful tax exile in Los Angeles, where he says he has no friends. “Each morning when I get up, I get dressed, and the last thing I put on before I go out is a rubber face, so I won’t show what I’m feeling inside and be able to get through the day.”

Whatever Lola Wants

They met in California while he was working as an oil driller and she as a bank teller. He moved to New York and called from a pay phone to propose. She refused. He persisted, writing a formal letter to her father. “He seemed a pleasant enough young man,” the father now recounts. “In the letter he wrote: ‘Your daughter will not have to go without life’s necessities.’ He even outlined at that early stage his future—he would become an art director.” The suitor half delivered. The chap who married Lola, the daughter of retired Provo, Utah businessman Frank Van Wagenen, nearly starved as a commercial artist but eventually provided life’s necessities as an actor. He was Robert Redford.

Beat the Devil

Mercedes McCambridge says she now regrets having publicly testified to her alcoholism before a Senate committee eight years ago. “Conservatively,” she claims, “I’ve lost a million dollars in employment.” But at least it’s enabled her to take her antibooze crusade into the schools (“Even sixth-graders,” she finds, “are falling out of their chairs, drunk”). If they’ll hear out her warning, Mercedes promises her student audiences she’ll give a rendition of the devil’s voice that she provided for Linda Blair in The Exorcist. In any case, McCambridge is not really feeling sorry for herself. “If you can live through the physical and mental hell of alcoholism, you have a chance of finding out who you are,” she’s discovered. “Most people never know.”


•Though there may be a new casualness in the White House, the relocation has caused a loss of freedom for Blueberry, the parakeet of Jeff and Annette Carter. Allowed to fly through the house down home, Blueberry is kept caged in Washington. An exemplary concern for the White House’s irreplaceable furnishings? Possibly, but the original fear was that Blueberry might become a midnight snack for Misty Malarky Ying Yang, Amy’s cat.

•His seven ex-wives have sluiced away more than $1 million, so Mickey Rooney’s not exactly ready to retire at 56. Presently he’s starring at Vegas’ Tropicana in a two-act farce that previously played the dinner-theater circuit as Three Goats and a Blanket. With Rooney typecast in the lead role (a TV producer overextended by the demands of his ex-wife), the title has been simplified to Alimony.