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Wednesday Wrap-Up: Charlize and Sean -- What's the Attraction?

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"PASSIONATE LOVE, I take it, rarely lasts long and is very troublesome while it does last. Mutual esteem is much more valuable," said Anthony Trollope.

For a man with a name like Trollope, he was certainly a killjoy!

•USUALLY I let my gifted associate Denis Ferrara do all the details and "heavy lifting" when we write about actress Charlize Theron, one of the only true stars left to us who is still breathing, glam, gorgeous and can act, too. Denis does better than I can at deciphering his acquaintance with the Oscar-winning actress. I usually just listen like the movie fan I am.

I know her so slightly and Denis has actually sat down to a memorable meal with this gifted and glamourous (when she wants to be) star and came away from that feeling he "knows" her pretty well.

We were treated yesterday to fabulous photos of Charlize as she walked, talked and exited hand-in-hand pair with Sean Penn at the Christian Dior haute couture show at the Rodin Museum in Paris. (She looked like a billion bucks in a short gold Dior dress that just covered her thighs and she was said to be the talk of all of France that can still parley-vous, though I understand that now, if one speaks French in France, they may lose all cachet.)

•So everyone present in my office was asking about the hand in hand pair, the "in love" Sean Penn and Charlize. This and that. And one person asked rhetorically what Charlize sees in Sean , whom a lot of people don't like? There was a silence and suddenly a voice popped up with the answer:

"There is one very good -- very BIG reason....ask Madonna!"

Silence reigned. Laughter then burst out. It was like that moment in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" when Lorelei Lee says of a girl being pretty: "But, my goodness, doesn't it help?!"

I guess you had to be there. Or you have to know that Madonna was first married famously to Sean Penn.

•"ACTUALLY, IT'S been pretty fabulous!" said singer Nona Hendryx of her life and career the other night at a packed-to-the-rafters Joe's Pub downtown. Nona's one-night-only stint was like a revival meeting, or an old Judy Garland concert, with continued shouts of "we love you, Nona!" and demands for additional numbers. "The set's long enough!" she joked. To screams, she took a cell-phone call from Patti LaBelle and then she launched into a brilliant set. What a voice! Nona will never see 50 again, but she has the pipes of a 25-year-old, with all the feeling and resonance that comes with maturity. I knew few of her numbers--this was a personal evening--but she sang as if she'd composed them on the spot, free and spontaneous, sexy and aching with emotion.

She is backed by a troupe of incredibly supportive and talented musicians and singers. She let everyone shine, going octave to octave with singers 30 years her junior. I've rarely seen such a connection between an artist with who, she shares the stage. Here they are--Kiki..Asa..Keith..Jeffrey Smith...Daniel DeJesus...Shelley Nicole...Adam Facon...Liza Jesse Peterson...and Women of the World. It was a night to remember!

•WE NOTICED yesterday that the online news feed and trending for Melissa McCarthy, contained quite a few stories about how the time has come to change her image! I'd love to take credit for that, but as the other stories appeared the same day ours did, we have to take satisfaction in, if not always being ahead of the news, at least keeping up!

•WE GET MAIL! "IT IS a shame how many biographies are just made up. Or they put a real life person into a fictitious situation, then it's made into a film, and then people believe it!" That's our constant reader "Robert." He clued us in to the Jessica Lange/Marlene Dietrich story we ran the other day.

Robert continues: "One author in particular, keeps releasing books on big name stars she has supposedly interviewed. One recently was on Dietrich. But Marlene's assistant insists the author never met Dietrich. Still, the book is released as fact. The same goes for Marilyn. More rubbish is written about MM than any other star. Just her name sells the book. Or her picture on the cover."

All true. But I'd venture that if Marilyn knew that 51 years after her death, she is as contemporary a figure in the culture as she was at the height of her career, she'd be thrilled, amused and touched.

Maybe somewhere she is!

•FILM FANS. Are you into the infuriating mysteries and delights of the French New Wave cinema? Well, you will swoon over The Criterion Collection's release of six of director Jacques Demy's most famous films. These include the acclaimed "Lola" and "Bay of Angels," starring Anouk Aimee and Jeanne Moreau respectively, and the lighter, but perhaps more famous "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" and "The Young Girls of Rochefort" (Catherine Deneuve and her sister, Francois Dorleac.) It's an impressive box set and all the films are admirably re-mastered. Criterion is almost single-handedly keeping great foreign films, great American films and even some not-so-great but highly regarded cult entries alive for the ages.

•IN A RECENT photo here, Gloria Vanderbilt is seen wearing the famous "Four Leaf Clover Dress by Charles James. She had only borrowed it for the event but later commented that the dress was so well made, so well balanced, that it was incredibly easy to wear.

She kept it and thereby helped the career and reputation of the late Charles James whom the Met is now extolling.