August 06, 1979 12:00 PM

El Cordobés returns

Muhammad AM himself never made as dramatic a comeback as Manuel Benítez, 43, who after eight years in retirement came back to put away six heavyweights in an afternoon. Benítez, better known as matador El Cordobés, celebrated by collecting five ears and one tail from his opponents. Then jubilant fans carried him through the streets of Benidorm on Spain’s tourist-packed Valencian coast. A peasant’s son, Benítez became the world’s best-known bullfighter—and a multimillionaire—with unclassical frog jumps, stunt-like swordsmanship and fierce courage. Now he’s planning 80 comeback bouts in Spain and Latin America—none in first-class rings, but nevertheless at $75,000 a shot, er, stab.

Bancroft vs. Brooks

If that’s egg on Mel Brooks’ face, it wasn’t from the banquet but from the pro-celeb tennis tournament that followed. Playing for UNICEF in Venice with the likes of Gene Hackman, Dyan Cannon and the Reiners (Carl, Rob and Penny), Brooks was a runner-up while wife Anne Bancroft won in her mixed doubles division. The disparity provided no high anxiety for Mel, nor was it a turning point for Anne. Said pro Alex Olmedo, who partnered both: “They may not watch their ground strokes, but they sure have a lot of fun.”

McCartney goofs

Even Bob Hope has trouble finding troops to entertain these days, but that didn’t stop Paul and Linda McCartney from dressing up like a USO act to promote Wings’ latest album, Back to the Egg. See, there’s a cut called Baby’s Request, a ’40s-style ballad, and the McCartneys decided to pretend this is World War II, and they’re out in Rommel country playing for the boys. So they dressed appropriately and looked for a desert backdrop. They had to settle for a beach though, and overlooked one detail: The bass is straight out of the ’50s. It says “Bill” because it once belonged to Bill Black, who performed with Presley and used it in the original recording of Heartbreak Hotel. At the time that would have been called a snafu.

Tanya’s menagerie

Traveling country rocker Tanya Tucker, 20, who counts, she says, on “a couple of dogs, about 30 horses, a bird, two goldfish and a cat” for companionship, thought she’d found a more anthropoid companion “to hold onto through those long and lonely nights.” Alas, the simian Floridian that she “fell in love with,” 10-month-old Chiquita the chimp, had to stay in Tampa when the songstress flew home to Beverly Hills (stopping in Nashville to pick up some songs for album No. 9). Tanya’s working to protect whales, seals and dolphins, but she still pines for a chimp. “It’s incredible,” she giggles, “how they remind me of so many people I know.”

Lena keeps Count

On a London gig, Count Basie, 74, gave ear to co-star Lena Home even between numbers. But one member of the Grosvenor House audience, soap opera actor Glyn Owen, gave Basie a less welcome earful opening night, bellowing boozy appreciations, often with mood-shattering timing. Even the heckling failed to take the zing out of Basie’s swing or dent the poise of the ageless beauty. At 62, Lena says her unlined visage and svelte figure are just “genetic.” But, she confesses, “I’m worried that one of these days the screw is going to fall out.”

Hello, Phyllis

Before leaving for London, where she’ll star in Hello, Dolly! for the umpteenth time, Carol Channing caught chum Phyllis Newman in The Madwoman of Central Park West, her autobiographical one-woman Broadway blast. “I hope it runs as long as Dolly!” gushed Newman, adding that even if it didn’t, “we have lots in common.” It’s inconsequential that Carol resides on the east side of Central Park, explained Phyllis. “We’re both madwomen.”

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