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Broadway Audiences Adore Bette Midler!

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"Screw 'em if they can't take a joke," goes the famous Bette Midler line. I've always considered this the perfect retort to -- just about anything!

• On the day the Drama Desk announced a nomination for Bette Midler's one-person show about the Hollywood super-agent, Sue Mengers, the audience at the Wednesday matinee last week exploded into applause and laughter again and again. This was my second time seeing I'll Eat
You Last
and I enjoyed Bette's joie de vivre and her heartfelt sadness alternating with the character. She "becomes" Sue Mengers, dishing Hollywood to the last vivid drop.

The matinee audience was great -- lots of women, a good number of men and a few children kept interrupting the play with more and more applause. Bette almost wasn't able to close the show. The audience applauded over the last lines.

I have decided why Bette didn't get a Tony nomination. They opened the play too close to the end of Tony-voting time and a lot of voters had already made choices. It was just timing, not taking anything out on Bette who is Broadway's and the world's darling.

This thing is a sell-out, and you don't have to have known Sue Mengers to love it. If you like "dish" about the capital of dishing, this play, plus its great star, is your cup of bitter, hysterical tea.

• Neil Patrick Harris will host the Tony Awards for the fourth time, this year. He is the greatest. So funny and charming and totally with-it. He can sing and dance and make fun of himself and the proceedings. Let's just have him become the Bob Hope of the Tonys and allow him to head the event every year. It's not gonna get any better than Neil.

• One of the brightest and best writers of our times lives down in New Orleans. She is Julia Reed, who Vogue magazine let slip away in an odd quarrel over Hillary Clinton and a dress. (One can barely remember the details of things like that. They turn out to be so silly.)

Anyway, Julia is happily married to a master of the oil universe, and they bought a big house to renovate on Bourbon Street and Julia concentrated on writing about food and entertaining. This Southern-bred girl is famous partly because her mother is described as "the best cook-chef in all of Mississippi."

Now, Julia has a new book out titled But Mama Always Put Vodka in her Sangria, and it is so much fun, it will -- as they say in Mississippi -- "make you hit your grandma!"

I know this phrase to be high praise because my own ladylike-precious grandmother, Sally Ball McCall, often used this absurd expression as the highest praise.

• "Line up, you tramps!" That was the marvelous character actress Hope Emerson, as a sadistic prison matron getting her "girls" ready for the day, in the movie, Caged.

Caged remains the most harrowing, heartbreaking, women's prison movie ever. (The supporting cast, which includes Agnes Moorehead, Ellen Corby, Lee Patrick, Betty Garde, Gertrude Hoffman and Jan Sterling is also stellar -- every bitter, crazy, suggestive one liner, brilliantly uttered.) The star of that 1950 classic was Eleanor Parker. And how great that Turner Classic Movies is honoring Miss Parker as its "Star of the Month" for June.

Parker was one of Hollywood's most lustrous beauties and a fine, varied actress. Perhaps too varied. She never quite found a niche, an identifiable image. She always seemed about to explode into major stardom, but somehow remained second tier, despite three Oscar nominations. The year she was nominated for Caged, her competition was Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in All About Eve, Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard and Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday. (Miss Holliday won, much to Bette Davis' disapproval.)

So in June, we'll get to see all of Eleanor's most popular films, including Detective Story, Scaramouche, Interrupted Melody and the movie that she is perhaps, oddly, most remembered for -- The Sound of Music, in which she provided some much-needed acidity to the syrup. (She doesn't slap Julie Andrews, but you'd like her to!)

However, for heaven's sake, don't miss Caged. You'll be stunned at just how daring a film made in 1950 could be.

"His voice was like a Stradivarius violin: one of the greatest instruments ever made." That's Merle Haggard in Rolling Stone, writing about the passing and legacy of country legend George Jones.

And if you don't know George Jones or his music, download "He Stopped Loving Her Today." It will stop your heart.