Friday, May 27, 2005

New on DVD - Broken Lance

Broken Lance
* * * 1/2
1954, Fox, unrated, no extras, $15

Cattle baron Spencer Tracy's sons by wife No. 1 aren't crazy about wife No. 2 (an Indian). Nor do they mind seeing the son of that union — easily the best of the bunch — taking a prison rap for the old man's transgressions. Savvy moviegoers will peg this as an obvious open-spaces transplant of 1949's House of Strangers, in which Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed Edward G. Robinson against a Little Italy New York setting.

Back story: A King Lear knockoff as well, this early stereo/CinemaScope color Western incredibly got the Oscar for best original story, which is otherwise no slam on a yarn well told. This was Tracy's first film away from his long MGM contract, during which he had become a superstar. Richard Widmark plays the rotten oldest brother tormenting Robert Wagner; Katy Jurado, as Wagner's mother, got an Oscar nomination.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Qwest for fame

By day, Brian and Dean Ronalds occupy cubicles at Qwest Communications International Inc. in Phoenix.

At night and on weekends, the brothers are on a quest for Hollywood fame and fortune.

The Ronaldses are filmmakers who have their own production company, JuSpan Productions. And they apparently are pretty good at it. They have done seven short films and were recently named 2005 Arizona Filmmakers of the Year by the Phoenix Film Festival.

Last weekend, they filmed their eighth short, Little Victim, in a parking garage along Central Avenue. The stars: Robert Wagner, perhaps best known for the Hart to Hart TV series that ran from 1979 to 1984, and Lori Singer, who played the preacher's daughter in the movie Footloose.

"It took persistence to get them," said Brian, who acts in Little Victim and is the producer. "And we paid them a lot of money."

He said they were lucky to land Wagner because he has had a career resurgence since his role as Number Two in the three Austin Powers movies.

"They don't have to do this," Brian said. "They gave us a break. And they had a great time."

The nine-minute film, to be completed within a month, was directed by Dean Ronalds, written by Bruce Dellis and funded by executive producer Kevin Berman, a Phoenix cardiologist. Brian said it is about two men in a parking garage and something bad in the trunk of a car, "and it is really funny."

The Ronaldses, who are married and have children, next are working on a feature film, but they have no plans to quit their day jobs (Dean is an engineer and Brian is a business-development specialist).

"It's hard to go from being on camera on Sunday to being in your cubicle on Monday," Brian said. "But having families keeps us grounded and very level-headed."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Home opens many doors

Project raising money to help children develop

One house, four days and thousands of kids benefit. It's a mission straight from the heart of Home with a Heart, a charity benefiting the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center and Family YMCA of the Desert.

Family Development donated the land, and Home With a Heart gathered volunteers for labor, supplies and food to feed the construction crews. The four-bedroom, 2�-bath that was built over the weekend is located at Shadow Ranch community in Indio. It took 50 hours over four days to build.

The house will be auctioned and the proceeds will go to the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center and Family YMCA of the Desert, each of which were presented in advance with a $200,000 check on Monday.

"I want to thank the community here. They've been wonderful," said Sinatra. "Home with a Heart has brought the community together."

The closing ceremony and ribbon-cutting Monday also featured the Palm Springs High School band, which played gracefully despite the scorching 110 degree heat.

"Usually a house gets a heart when a family moves in," said Sabby Jonathan of Family YMCA of the Desert. "But this house got its heart a little early," he said, referring to the fact that it was built in less time than expected.

Family Development, headed by two sets of brothers who founded Home with a Heart, selected the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center and the Family YMCA as the beneficiaries of this event because of their focus on families.

The Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, founded by the late Frank Sinatra and his wife, Barbara, is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping sexually, physically and emotionally abused children.

The Family YMCA of the Desert provides a safe, nurturing environment for kids, in which they are able to learn new skills and build self-esteem.

"We're very proud to be a part of this community effort," said Rudy Herrera of Family Development. "In just four days, we're gong to accomplish something truly unique for a very special cause that is close to our hearts."

Robert Wagner, Gerald Ford, Jerry Vale, Joe Mantegna, Mary Bono, Kirk Douglas, Tony Bennett, Yogi Berra, Tony Danza and Cheryl Tiegs have contributed their artistic touches as well, interpreting the "Home with a Heart" logo that was on display during the four days of construction.

"My heart is filled with love, admiration and thanks," said Sinatra. "In my husband's memory, I thank you very much."

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Developer gives nonprofits a hand

Through the generosity of a local developer, two nonprofit agencies will soon receive a significant financial boost to their community service efforts.

Family Development is going to build an upscale home at Shadow Ranch in Indio - in the course of only four days - and will donate the proceeds from the sale of the new home to the Family YMCA and The Barbara Sinatra Children's Center. Each organization is expected to receive a check in excess of $100,000.

Family Development's "Home with a Heart" program - which began yesterday and will conclude on Monday - will also include a series of events to spark the public's interest in the project. The public is invited to watch the construction of the home from the ground up. Although construction has already begun, you still have a couple more days to watch hammers and paint brushes fly.

Attendees also have the opportunity to peruse - and purchase - celebrity art. Celebrities such as Mary Bono, Gerald Ford, Kirk Douglas, Robert Wagner and Yogi Berra were sent a line drawing of the Home with a Heart logo along with a box of crayons - and added their personal touches.

Lutherville woman collects mothers' wisdom

There came a time when Lutherville resident Marie True Evans found herself quoting her late mother from time to time. "As my mother used to say, ... " peppered her conversations.

They were simple but helpful truths her mother handed down to her six children - "orchids for the soul," as her mother's mother would have called them.

Evans found them comforting even as she repeated them, as if her mother were still speaking to her.

That led her to start writing down the things her mother used to say and to collecting the things that other mothers used to say.

Evans added her own pearls of wisdom to the necklace and pearls of wisdom provided by friends and friends of friends - from Meryl Streep to Barbara Bush, Betty Ford, Phyllis Diller and Natalie Wood - Robert Wagner wrote her a personal note.

The result was a book, "String of Pearls ... A Mother's Wisdom." Published this year by Graphics Management Press, it is available on www.gmbooks.com or at the Ivy Bookshop in Lake Falls Village for $17.95.

Evans dedicated the book "to all the mothers whose words of wisdom have offered us comfort and guidance through the days of our lives."

Most of the profits from book sales will benefit breast cancer research, she says.

Neither she or nor her mother suffered from it, but breast cancer has touched the lives of so many mothers and daughters and it is one of the biggest fears that women have.

"I used to ask my mother to come with me when I went for a mammogram," she says.

Evans and her husband, John, a retired real estate executive, are home grown - both are Towson High School alumni. But they have residences on both coasts to be able to spend time with their three grown children.

Her mother, Mary True, has been dead six years now. She had been a popular concert pianist when she was younger and charmed audiences at the Hunt Valley Inn and the John Eager Howard Room in the Belvedere Hotel well into her seventies.

"Mother, you've got to get a day job," Evans told her. So her mother charmed audiences by playing at Nordstrom in Towson Town Center when she was nearly 80.

But it wasn't her mother's musical legacy that struck a chord with Evans, a former Miss Maryland and professional dancer and actress who made a career as a fashion consultant.

Her mother may have been a fabulous pianist, Evans writes in the book, "but it is her wonderful words of wisdom that I hear in my mind. I find myself quoting her almost daily."

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Developer to donate proceeds of new home's sale

You probably know the drill: the video speeds up on "Trading Spaces," to compress two days worth of renovation and redecorating in a recap running less than minute.

Then there's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," where an eyesore becomes a showpiece in seven days.

Combine the two and you'll get a sense of "Home with a Heart," where an upscale home will go up in the Coachella Valley in the course of only four days.

"It's like a dream come true for a non-profit," says Alison Elsner, Public Relations Director for the Family YMCA of the Desert.

Proceeds from the sale of the new home in Indio will be donated to the Family YMCA and The Barbara Sinatra Children's Center. Each organization is expected to receive a check in excess of $100,000.

"It's like something we would have never imagined in our wildest dreams," says Elsner of the home builders' generosity.

Family Development, whose projects include Generations and Bella Vida in Shadow Hills, first considered giving away a home as a way of giving back to the community. Then it occurred to them they could help more people and cover more ground with the current concept.

"We want to create enough excitement and interest in people to come out. Hopefully, they'll be inspired to see what can happen … create awareness for the good in people and what we can all do if we work together," says Family Development partner Vince Barbato.

The public is encouraged to check out the construction at Shadow Ranch from start to finish. Bleachers will allow you to see the action in spectator-sport fashion, from carpentry to landscaping and tile to granite installation, beginning at 6 a.m. tomorrow at through the ribbon cutting at 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

Barbato estimates over 500 workers will be on hand to complete a task that typically takes four months.

"It's a fascinating project," says Susan Reynolds, executive director of the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center. "It's interesting and educational and rewarding at the same time, which you don't always get in fundraising events."

In the spirit of an old-fashioned barn raising, the project will not be all work and no play.

Clowns and coloring contests are scheduled, DJ's and bands will perform, hot dogs and snow cones are for sale, and one-of-a-kind artwork will be on display.

Reynolds says celebrities were sent a line drawing of the Home with a Heart logo, along with a box of crayons.

You'll have a chance to see how, among others, Kirk Douglas, Tony Bennett, Cheryl Tiegs, Joe Mantegna and Robert Wagner added their personal touches. At the concluding ceremony on Monday, look for giveaways of a Frank Sinatra gift basket and CD collection, as well as a pair of Dodger tickets.

The ultimate winners, though, are the kids in the desert who will benefit from the generosity of the developers and the dozens of sponsors and volunteers participating. "What they're doing helps shape the community," says Elsner.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Fallen Ones

Robert Wagner has a role in "The Fallen Ones." The telefilm premieres Saturday, May 14, 2005 at 9 P.M. EST on the Sci-Fi Channel.

The last of the Ethiopian emperors

Thirty years ago, Haile Selassie, Ethiopia's last emperor died after a rule of 45 years. Daniel Dickinson travels to Addis Ababa to visit the emperor's former palace and meets one of his servants.

Seventy-eight-year-old Mamo Haile is a man with stories to tell about British royalty, international diplomacy, famine, film stars and a coup d'etat.

He used to be one of Emperor Haile Selassie's personal servants, a man who was once too scared even to look the emperor in the eye, but who was later trusted with serving Queen Elizabeth II orange juice.

You will find him shuffling around the first floor of Ethiopia's Ethnographic Museum, Emperor Salassie's one-time palace.

He keeps dust from settling on his former employer's regal but not so king-size double bed.

'Trusted servant'

He shows tourists into the once off-limits dressing room and royal marbled bathroom, complete with light blue Italian porcelain bath and his-and-hers washbasin.

These days, the grey-haired Mr Mamo cuts a solitary and serious figure in his threadbare jumper and white porter's coat, but it was not always like that.

His life as one of Haile Selassie's most trusted servants began when he was 17 after the emperor was helped back into Ethiopia by British forces, who had driven away the Italian colonisers.

"I was a poor soldier from the countryside and following the emperor's triumphant return to Addis, he picked me out of a parade to serve him," Mr Mamo told me.

"The emperor told me I was handsome and would work in his palace, but I was very scared of working for him and couldn't even look at him."

Foreign dignitaries

Mr Mamo soon graduated from messenger boy to bed maker, and finally became the man responsible for serving drinks to foreign dignitaries, a position he held for many of the 30 years he spent working at the palace.

And there were plenty of foreign dignitaries.

The fading black and white photographs now lining the halls of the museum reveal a ruler who saw himself at the centre of international politics.

They show him as a man who, during the Cold War, was willing to court both East and West.

Haile Selassie with Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, with Nikita Khrushchev of the then Soviet Union, with Richard Nixon, the former US president.

There are also pictures of a young Queen Elizabeth II on a visit to Addis Ababa as well as one of the American film star Robert Wagner, of whom the emperor was apparently a big fan.

"My job was to keep these foreign guests happy by serving them whatever drink they wanted," Mr Mamo said.

"I remember Queen Elizabeth, who came with her husband. She wanted orange juice. Marshal Tito wanted hard liquor, whisky I think."

Mr Mamo cannot remember what Nikita Khrushchev ordered, but does say he was a friendly man.

Famine

Mr Mamo talks proudly about just how popular Haile Selassie was, not just with the visitors from overseas, but also his own people, many of whom lived in extreme poverty.

That popularity did not last.

In 1973, an estimated 200,000 Ethiopians died in Wollo province as a result of a famine, a famine which was famously brought to the world's attention by the BBC's Jonathan Dimbleby.

According to his faithful servant, Haile Selassie at first knew nothing of the famine.

"The emperor was shocked and deeply saddened. I went with him to Wollo. He had no idea his people were suffering like this," he said.

It is difficult to imagine Mr Mamo voicing any criticism of Haile Selassie, perhaps that is not surprising given his length of service.

It is also difficult to imagine just how he felt when a group of army officers with a Marxist agenda, calling themselves the Derg, overthrew Haile Selassie in a military coup. It was 1974.

"The emperor took it calmly and as his servant I did the same. It was my duty," Mr Mamo said.

"He wanted to avoid bloodshed, so he gave up power for the good of his people and without fighting."

Preservation

The last emperor of Ethiopia died a few months later from natural causes, according to the Derg who had had him under house arrest ever since he was overthrown.

No-one it seems, including Mr Mamo, knows the real story.

The emperor's loyal servant now wanders the rooms of the palace-cum-museum, surrounded by mementoes of a royal past.

He has worked here for the last 14 years on a meagre salary, remembering better days.

He insists on showing me the life-size tapestry of Haile Selassie as well as his military uniform and collection of medals.

He points proudly to the bed, saying he saved it from being destroyed by the Derg.

As I left the palace, I asked Mr Mamo how Ethiopia would be now if the emperor was back on his throne.

It was the only time he broke into a smile during our meeting.

"I would be more than happy to see him back in his palace," was what he told me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Jill St. John back to the stage

offBeat with PHILIP POTEMPA

On her feet

My mother, Peggy, who returned home over the weekend after four months of hospitals and rehab following a Jan. 3 car accident, received some special words of encouragement for Mother's Day. Actress Jill St. John and her star husband Robert Wagner performed one show of the hit play "Love Letters" at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet last weekend. The Saturday show marked the first time St. John, 64, has been back on her feet performing since a terrible ski accident at her Aspen home in January. She had multiple fractures to her pelvis and required extensive surgery and the use of a walker for seven weeks and then four more weeks on crutches. The couple gave me notes of encouragement and autographed photos for my mother's homecoming.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

El Padrino filmmaker has the stars, but not the advertising

Damian Chapa has taken his new movie, El Padrino, on the road — literally. The gritty gangster flick, which stars Jennifer Tilly, Stacy Keach, Faye Dunaway, Gary Busey, Robert Wagner and Brad Dourif, as well as the filmmaker himself, is opening across the state without a major studio behind it.

Since there's no money for splashy billboards and TV ads, creative marketing has been a necessity. Chapa has been doing local radio spots, making appearances at nightclubs and distributing fliers at gas stations.

And don't forget the Padrino-mobile, a white van plastered with movie posters and equipped with loudspeakers to announce the opening date and credits as it travels up and down Houston streets.

"We had offers from big distributors, like Warner Independent. I'm a bit of a renegade, and I wanted to protect my investors. I wanted to see the value of the hard work. We're very excited. We're getting out there and working hard," says Chapa, chatting over enchiladas at La Mexicana in Montrose.

He's accompanied by his tireless promotion crew, which includes his charismatic father; a pair of cousins; and Pierre Chemaly, director of photography on El Padrino and Chapa's right-hand man.

Chapa chose to unveil El Padrino in this state because of his ties here. The 42-year-old actor, director and screenwriter spent part of his youth in Robstown, a small town just outside Corpus Christi. His father, grandmother and a few aunts still live there.

Chapa currently resides in Marina del Rey, Calif., but he has been in Texas for the past month promoting El Padrino. The movie has opened in McAllen, Laredo, Victoria and Corpus Christi. Oscar winner Dunaway even showed up for the El Paso premiere.

This weekend's opening at local Cinemark theaters marks the film's biggest rollout to date, and it's just the latest in a long line of challenges for Chapa, who wrote and directed the film.

"We're sort of out here without a paddle. We're fighting the hurricane," Chapa says. "It's hard enough being probably one of the few Latin films out there. It's been one city at a time. The grass-roots effort is the only way to do it."

Chapa portrayed Lyle Menendez in the CBS miniseries Menendez: A Killing in Beverly Hills, and he's been in big-screen movies Under Siege, Street Fighter and Money Talks. He has two sons, ages 15 and 5, and was once married to actress and model Natasha Henstridge (Species).

But he's probably best known for playing the lead in Taylor Hackford's Blood In, Blood Out (also known as Bound by Honor), a violent and controversial Latino epic about three brothers growing up in East Los Angeles. The 1993 film also featured Benjamin Bratt, Billy Bob Thornton, Ving Rhames and Delroy Lindo.

"He was the g├╝ero with the blue eyes," says an excited cashier at the Mexican restaurant, referencing Chapa's claim to fame. The film is a cult favorite among Latino audiences.

Soon enough, waiters, cooks and customers are clamoring for an autograph and a photo with "Miklo," Chapa's character in Blood In, Blood Out.

In El Padrino, which delves into the world of drug trafficking, Chapa plays Kilo, who has followed his father into the world of gangs but wants to leave it for a normal family life. Chapa says the issues raised are part of a larger spectrum that Latinos — and all minority groups — can identify with.

"All immigrant groups went through this thing of gangs, drugs, mafia. We all need to look at this more closely, because even though it's the minority of our people, it's the majority of the expression. We need to deal with it, and we need to show the young people that this kind of a life is not what you think it is," Chapa says. "We need to be able to have the freedom to express the diversity of our culture without being politically correct. This film doesn't sweep anything under the carpet."

"Damian is doing in the movie business what we are doing in the record business. He's doing his own thing and not letting anything stand in his way," says La Mafia keyboardist and producer Armando Lichtenberger Jr. The Tejano group is helping Chapa promote El Padrino and is in talks to collaborate on the soundtrack to a sequel.

"Doing independent releases is not easy," Lichtenberger adds. "You've got to have the drive to make something a success."

Lied Center - Lincoln, Nebraska

The Lied, which announced its 2005-06 season Friday in Ground Zero, will feature legendary folk artist Arlo Guthrie, Mel Brooks' "The Producers," the Nebraska premiere of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and actors Robert Wagner and Jill St. John in "Love Letters."

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

More 'Letters'

Last month's performance of "Love Letters" by actress Betsy Palmer at Munster High School attracted both praise and applause. If you missed the show and you're a fan of the play, here's an idea for this Mother's Day weekend. Actor Robert Wagner, 75, and his wife Jill St. John, 65, will perform "Love Letters" for one dinner show at 6 p.m. Saturday at The Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet. Tickets range from $32.50 to $65.50 and are available by calling (815) 726-6600. Other famous celebrity couples who also have performed "Love Letters" in the past include Charlton and Lydia Heston, Jayne Meadows and Steve Allen, John Rubinstein and Kathleen Turner, and Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Hotel Opening Is a Big Wynner

May 2, 2005 -- LAS VEGAS — This past weekend, Steve Wynn's $2.7 billion hotel the Wynn opened. So many private planes that they had to fly into the nearby airport of Hendersonville.

May 7, with a hip Brett Ratner party, the younger crowd tests out the place. This weekend was the older money. Not the tattooed navels set. The Tiffany jewels set. Like the Steve Roths. He owns Vornado realty. The Sidney Poitiers. He owns Oscars. The Donald Trumps. You know what he owns.

The Leonard Lauders. He was shop shopping. Checking out the hotel's Dior, Chanel, Brioni, Vuitton, Cartier, Graff stores. She'd gone antiquing. In a town where money goes as fast as marriages in L.A., antique shops and hock shops are a great bet.

It was Elizabeth Taylor in a wheelchair. Steve Lawrence, but Edie Gorme I didn't see. Leslie Moonves and Julie Chen, who said: "I went to work 4 a.m. to do the morning show. I finished 6 a.m., so I'm here to enjoy." Connie Chung and Maury Povich, who said: "It's the last opening where you'll ever see me." I don't know what that means but I wrote it down anyway. Dominick Dunne, trolling for Vanity Fair gossip, was to dine with a couple in the Steakhouse but couldn't remember who, and is probably still standing at the maitre d's desk. Robert Wagner and Jill St. John. She'd suffered a fall skiing in Aspen, had surgery, now has a cane and said: "My healing present, all I want is for my husband to take me for a visit to New York."

Faces like George Hamilton with ex-wife and best pal Alana; Burt Bacharach, who personally escorted his wife to the loo; Barbara Sinatra; Carl Icahn; Barbara Walters, with the Oscar de la Rentas. Charlie Rose who interviewed Steve Wynn. Names like Bud Yorkin, health nut Kirk Kerkorian, who's nearly 90, looks 60 and never had a facelift. Paul Anka who opens mid-August on a four-year deal with Atlantic City's Borgata. Food critic Gael Greene schlepping around the different restaurants. Remember Siegfried and Roy's horrific tiger mauling experience? Hospitalized Roy unable to talk for months and months? Both came, Roy in a wheelchair and speaking to friends.

Shaking all hands, papa President George Bush without Barbara but with Secret Service. On one side of the casino that breaks even on $2 mil a day — Lee Iacocca. Near the baccarat dealers imported from Foxwoods — Tommy Mottola. Chefs Daniel Boulud and Sirio Maccioni. Manolo Blahnik, who, when Mrs. Barry Slotnick asked: "Why aren't your shoes made wider?" blew her off with: "Ask my managers." And two great-looking broads side by side. I don't know about bewitched, bothered and bewildered. About be-furred and be-diamonded Natalie Cole and Patti LaBelle, I know. Sing and bling. Or as Patti put it: "Girl, only Jews and blacks really get it together."

Donna Karan fresh from Bali: "My late husband Steve's sculptures are in front of the hotel. How could I not be here?" Atlantis owner Sol Kerzner sniffing out the competition. Everyone whispering how great Don Johnson looks, and him whispering: "I'm happy to be here. It's our anniversary. My wife and I are married six years."

Paramount movie chief Sherry Lansing and husband Billy Friedkin, off to Israel for five weeks. Said Sherry: "I'm excited. I hear there's a Banana Republic and Gap in Tel Aviv." Steven Spielberg and Kate the missus. He got onstage when Hugh Jackman introduced him, and when he got off-stage he told me: "It was unrehearsed. I didn't know he'd call me, and I was worried I'd trip going up the stairs." Lordy, those amateurs are all the same.

Had anything happened in that ballroom, America's entire entertainment industry would have gone splat. It was songwriter Carole Bayer Sager, moneymaker Barry Diller, record king Clive Davis, Grammy-winning musicman David Foster, George Schlatter, who every four years organizes our Inaugurals.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

'Love Letters' starring couple is far from stationary

Rialto performance: Famous husband and wife take stage

Traditionally, it's good luck to tell an actor to break a leg before a live performance.

But Jill St. John wants everyone to know she's recovering well from the February skiing accident that resulted in a fractured hip.

"She's a very lucky lady," said her husband, Robert Wagner, during a recent phone interview.

"Of course," he mused, "being married to her, I'm a very lucky man."

St. John said she was moved by the number of cards and letters she received after her accident.

"I was overwhelmed by all the good wishes," she said. "(Written communication) is very special, so I wrote many letters thanking people for their thoughts."

Letters are what tell the story of a relationship spanning 50 years in A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters," which the couple will appear in May 7 at the Rialto Square Theatre.

The play chronicles, solely through correspondence, the lifelong relationship between a man and woman. The writings follow the characters from their meeting in second grade to middle age.

"It's a beautifully written story," Wagner said. "Good writing is an actor's dream. There are challenges. There's happiness and sadness. There's humor, but there are also missed opportunities. Like the best stories, it's a lot like real life."

In real life, there seem to be few opportunities that Wagner has missed.

His career includes more than 50 years of starring roles in movies and television. He's known for classic television series — such as "Hart To Hart" and "It Takes A Thief" — as well as recent roles in the "Austin Powers" film series and TV's "Hope And Faith."

St. John has appeared in many television shows and more than 30 movies, appearing with Frank Sinatra in "Tony Rome" and Sean Connery's James Bond in "Diamonds Are Forever." She also hosted "Good Morning America's" cooking segment for three years.

Both screen veterans said they enjoy the challenge of performing in front of a live audience.

"It's a privilege to be on the stage," Wagner said. "Whatever you do lasts for just a moment between you and the audience. Once it's in the air, it's gone and you'll never repeat it exactly the same way. Each time is different."

St. John said she found the needed physicality to be the biggest difference.

"If you have a quiet moment on film, they bring everything close to you. On stage you have to project your voice to be heard without losing the emotion of the scene," she said.

Both feel their off-stage relationship helps their performance and vice-versa.

"It's great to work with someone you can trust when you're out there," Wagner said.

"And it's easier off-stage knowing that you're working toward the same goals," St. John said.

In addition to performing, St. John is writing a series of three new cookbooks.

Wagner will be seen in "The Fallen Ones," which premieres on the Sci-Fi Channel on May 14. He's also producing a few upcoming movies.

"We're the quintessential show-biz family," Wagner said. "Our bags and makeup are always packed and ready to go."

For this production, St. John hopes audiences will be able to relate to the characters.

"It's a very personal story, but it shows the human condition," she said. "People of any age, from any level of society will be able to appreciate both the problems and the happiness that they see in the play."

"And," Wagner said, "I hope they fall more in love."

"Love Letters" will be at the Rialto Square Theatre for a dinner theater engagement at 6 p.m. May 7. A limited number of seats are available. Show-only tickets, for the 8 p.m. curtain time, will be sold too.

Tickets are $65.50 for the dinner theater or $42.50 for the show only. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the Rialto box office, at 102 N. Chicago St. in Joliet; by calling (815) 726-6600 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays or 9 a.m. and noon Saturdays; or by going to www.rialtosquare.com. Tickets also may be purchased through all Ticketmaster outlets; call (312) 902-1500 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.