December 12, 1977 12:00 PM

Out of the Closet

Lest anyone fret that she was pining away for her old playmate, Hugh Hefner, Barbi Benton, 27, of ABC’s Sugar Time, has a new sweetie, actor Andrew (Grizzly) Prine, 42. For a year in fact, says Prine. “But we just ain’t said much to anybody about it.” Barbi’s feelings? “She once told me,” reveals Andrew, “that she only knows two things about herself: ‘I’m the happiest person in the world, and I have the best wardrobe of any woman in the world.’ ” Even her inamorato Prine admits: “It was so off-the-wall I had to stop and write it down.”

No More Mr. Nice Guy

“He keeps saying he wants to change his nice-guy image. Well, he’s on his way.” The Pensacola, Fla. matron was muttering about dimpled crooner John Davidson, who was playing the Junior Woman’s Club annual charity concert staged at a local college. Davidson hunkered down in the bleachers while his road manager told reporters, “No interview. Absolutely no interview. Look, we get paid the same whether there’s a story or not.” When an unsmiling Davidson finally emerged, he complained in rehearsal about the spotlights, the mike, the unsophisticated audience and Florida’s weather. He rolled his eyes at the sound system and griped, “Jeez, where did we get this orchestra? It’s impossible.” The charm reappeared when the curtain rose, however. And before picking up his $12,500 fee, Davidson beamed at the audience, “Isn’t it a great orchestra? Give them a hand.”

The Barks of Broadway

“I will not!” stamped an angered Fred Astaire when a photographer on the set innocently asked him to put his head closer to Helen Hayes, his co-star in NBC’s upcoming A Family Upside Down. What was the problem? “You don’t have to hang all over someone you love,” exclaimed the fastidious hoofer. “I’ve always hated those photos. I think it’s phony.” In the TV movie Astaire, 78, and Hayes, 77, play an elderly couple who must separate when he is hospitalized. “These are two people who love each other deeply and have been married a long time, but they don’t always display it,” declared Astaire. “I don’t like to see overt displays of affection, even among young people. It’s in bad taste.”

You’re So Vain

It was a clear case of medal fatigue. After all, an endless list—including Benny Goodman, Beverly Sills, Sidney Poi-tier, Charlie Chaplin, Leopold Stokowski, Louis Armstrong and Bobby Sarnoff—already had received the Handel Medallion, New York City’s highest cultural award, but somehow Leonard Bernstein, 59, the laureate conductor of the New York Philharmonic, had been bypassed. Lately rectifying the oversight, a city commissioner noted during the ceremony it was “unbelievable” that Bernstein hadn’t been honored previously. As Mayor Abe Beame reached on tiptoe to hang the medallion about his neck, Lennie accepted, flushed, teary-eyed and humble as ever. “I am touched and moved by this presentation,” he declared, “belated though it may be.”

Peter Principle

Ann Landers’ slip was showing at an annual Arthritis Foundation chapter meeting. Introducing guest of honor Henry Fonda, Landers, 59, praised his contributions to film and hailed him as “one of those rare and beautiful people who just wants to do some good in the world.” She even fessed up that he had been her “secret passion” for the last 35 years, and then grandly climaxed: “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Peter Fonda…”

Furthermore

•After five years as house wit on Chicago newspapers, Bruce Vilanch finally decided to go for the dough as a writer for TV’s pristine Donny & Marie show. So what’s it like in Osmond-land? Responds Vilanch: “It’s like falling into a vat of stewardesses—they keep smiling and asking if you need a pillow.”

•Marveled Julie Andrews, whose range is more than three octaves, “This is the first time I’ve ever sung a duet with a man whose voice was higher than mine.” The partner in question during the London taping of a CBS Easter special was popster Leo (You Make Me Feel Like Dancing) Sayer.

•The practice of Kung Fu may have helped David Carradine get his head together, but it’s playing hob with his face. Currently filming The Silent Flute on location in Israel, a chopsocky feature akin to the martial arts TV series that brought him fame, Carradine got his proboscis busted twice in three weeks.

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