Friday, December 21, 2007

A heartfelt role for Robert Wagner

Aspenite warms up role of coldhearted producer in ‘Man in the Chair’

ASPEN — Robert Wagner likes to delve below the surface of things.

In “Man in the Chair,” which opens Friday at the Wheeler Opera House, Wagner plays the smug Hollywood producer Taylor Moss. When we first see Moss, at his Hollywood mansion, we also see in the background the second (or possibly third or fourth) Mrs. Moss — hot, young and bikini-clad. It would be easy to see Taylor as the caricatured coldhearted, materialistic movie mogul — a perfect part for Wagner, who has a reputation for warmth, to play against type.

But what Wagner enjoyed was the layer of complexity writer-director Michael Schroeder built into the role. In a confrontation with his old nemesis Flash Madden, the subject of the former Mrs. Moss comes up. Flash notes that the old Mrs. Moss had also been Mrs. Madden, and Flash, a predictable curmudgeon regarding all other matters, shows his soft spot, reflecting that his ex-wife, stolen by Taylor, was the finest person in the world.

Taylor could simply harrumph, shunning the idea that there is anyone in the world worth such praise. Instead, Wagner gives Moss a sentimental twinkle in the eye as he agrees, yes, the late Mrs. Moss was, indeed, a special human being. The coldblooded producer does have a heart.

“I like that he was involved with Flash on that basis of the ex-wife,” said Wagner. “That was an interesting dynamic. He came in on another level. The character was well-defined.”

Wagner casts a similar eye on the town he calls home: Aspen. A ski junkie who first came here in 1949, lived in Aspen intermittently for more than 20 years, and been a full-time resident for a decade, the 77-year-old has seen enormous changes in the town. But he shrugs off the outsider’s notion of Aspen as a shallow playground for the rich. To him, the heart of Aspen is in such institutions as the Aspen Institute and the local residents he has come to know.

“There are all sides of Aspen,” said Wagner by phone, as he drove around town. “I think the fact that it’s such a desirable place to come to, and that the skiing is the best in the world, and you’re an upscale resort, it’s very easy to get criticized. But we all know that’s a balance that gets exceeded a lot.”

Wagner, best-known for starring roles in three successful TV series — “It Takes a Thief” in the ’60s, “Switch” in the ’70s, and “Hart to Hart” in the ’80s — was first lured to Aspen by the skiing. “I love the mountain, and Colorado, Aspen, was the place,” he said. “I came here and fell in love with all the benefits that are here. I fish the rivers, ski the mountains.”

His wife, actress Jill St. John, already had a home here for 16 years when the two were married in 1991. “She introduced me to an Aspen I didn’t know,” he said. “I was really able to meet some people who were the basic foundation here.”

Wagner keeps a second home in Los Angeles, to be close to his four children, and to maintain his acting career. He appears as the recurring character Teddy in the current sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” and recently filmed a pilot, “Pretty Handsome,” which co-stars Joseph Fiennes and Carrie-Anne Moss. Wagner played Mr. Wilson in the direct-to-DVD project “A Dennis the Menace Christmas.” And he has appeared in all three “Austin Powers” films.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

With a Song in My Heart

With a Song in My Heart available on DVD

Monday, October 29, 2007

Robert Wagner on Two and a Half Men Twice in November

Monday, Nov. 5 (9:00-9:30 PM, ET/PT) TWO AND A HALF MEN - Charlie (Charlie Sheen) and Alan (Jon Cryer) butt heads over Alan's place in the house, prompting Alan and Jake to move in with Evelyn (Holland Taylor). Robert Wagner guest stars as Evelyn's boyfriend, Teddy.

Monday, Nov. 19 (9:00-9:30 PM, ET/PT) TWO AND A HALF MEN - Charlie (Charlie Sheen) tries to resist his attraction to his soon-to-be stepsister. Jenny McCarthy ("Scary Movie 3") guest stars as the daughter of Evelyn's fiance, Teddy (guest Robert Wagner).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Large Pic from the Furr Ball - 10/20/07

Click here to download a large pic from last Saturday's Furr Ball.

Thank you, Rex Welton of the Forsyth Humane Society located in Winston-Salem, NC.

The 4th Annual "Furr" Ball was held at the historic Graylyn Manor House on Saturday, October 20th, 2007. This elegant, black tie celebration was a spectacular combination of delicious food, drink, shopping, music and dancing. It was a time for animal lovers to come together and make a real difference.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers in Winston-Salem, NC 10/20/07

Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers are going to be in Winston-Salem, NC this Saturday.

FURR BALL: 6:30 p.m., Graylyn International Conference Center, 1900 Reynolda Road. Celebrity guests Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, live entertainment, cocktails, silent auction and dancing. Proceeds benefit the Forsyth Humane Society. Reservations required. Tickets are $75 a couple, or $50 a person. Call 336-721-1303, ext. 102, or send e-mail to Rex Welton at

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mother Goose Parade is calling on Hollywood for some sparkle

Celebrity sightings are about as rare in El Cajon as a cool breeze in July.

Yet come Nov. 18, this East County city will be teeming with teen sensations and television stars.

The 61-year-old Mother Goose Parade, known more for its storybook character floats and beauty queens than Hollywood glitz and glamour, is getting an extreme makeover.

Among the bevy of young stars scheduled to perform or appear are Corbin Bleu of “High School Musical”; singer Jesse McCartney; “American Idol” runner-up Katharine McPhee; and Mario Lopez from “Dancing with the Stars.”

Don't recognize those names? There's also Erik Estrada; bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman; and one-time matinee idol Robert Wagner. John Schneider can claim cross-appeal as the blond Duke of Hazzard and recent “Smallville” star.

“People are going to lose their minds,” said Steven Gerard, a Los Angeles talent broker who has been working for months to lock in celebrities for the event.

So what's El Cajon's sudden draw after years of only attracting the occasional boldface name?

Thank Jillian Hanson-Cox, an El Cajon councilwoman and former actress. Hanson-Cox said she wanted to bring back the excitement she remembers feeling as a kid at the parade.

“I know what I liked as a little girl and I stopped seeing that,” Hanson-Cox said. “It just lost its pizazz. It was no fault of the board of directors. The community just got disinterested.”

When Hanson-Cox asked her nieces and nephews what they wanted at the parade, the No. 1 response was “more celebrities.” So she called in a few favors with friends in the entertainment industry.

El Cajon might not be a hub for the Hollywood crowd, but it's only a couple of hours from Los Angeles and celebrities have movies, CDs and TV shows to promote, Gerard said. And frankly, who doesn't love a parade?

“Greg Grunberg from 'Heroes' is bringing his wife and three kids,” Gerard said. “How cool is that? Your kids are riding in a parade with you.”

The famous names caught the attention of students leaving El Cajon Valley High School yesterday. Shown a flier, senior Jean Glaude perked up at the photos of young stars Emily Osment, Drake Bell and Ricky Ullman.

“I always pictured Mother Goose as this little thing parents bring their 3-year-old kid to,” Glaude, 17, said. “I'm impressed. I'm definitely impressed.”

Celebrities won't receive a dime from the nonprofit parade association or the city, Hanson-Cox said, but El Cajon has contributed $10,000 to help subsidize the parade. Gerard is lining up sponsors to pick up costs and fees related to celebrity appearances.

The event's faithful can rest assured that the parade will continue to feature the staples: clowns, giant balloons, horses, marching bands.

And while Mother Goose is in her golden years, she's trying to stay current. This year, the parade has a presence on MySpace and Facebook, and the parade association has launched a sister event – San Diego's Mega Star – to build buzz.

The “American Idol”-style competition was open only to San Diego County residents and the winner, to be announced Oct. 20, will be part of the parade.

El Cajon resident Ruby Morad likes that Wagner and “CSI: Miami” star Eva La Rue are coming to town, but she's more into the animated guest stars: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird.

“We all love our cartoons,” Morad, 42, said. “Too bad they don't have Snagglepuss.”


Mother Goose Parade

When: Nov. 18. Celebrity arrivals 10:30 a.m., parade 12:30 p.m.

Where: Parade begins at Main Street and Magnolia Avenue in El Cajon.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Buy R.J. Stuff

MCOF kicks off Friday

Panel discussions include national film critic Leonard Maltin and Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan.

It's been scaled down in length and number of screenings, but the Malibu Celebration of Film is still promising a unique display of entertainment and education as it returns for the sophomore edition of the "Best of the Best" film festival.

The celebration takes place Friday through Sunday with screenings at Pepperdine University's Elkins Auditorium, Smothers Theatre, Raitt Recital Hall and Alumni Park, as well as outdoor screenings at Bluffs Park and Calamigos Ranch. The movies featured have all won awards from previous festivals this past year. Additionally, on Saturday there will be a silent film accompanied by the Malibu Coast Chamber Orchestra and Orson Welles' final film, "F is for Fake" will be shown.

The program begins at 10 a.m. on Friday at Smothers Theatre with the FILMS'COOL' contest. Six short films made by high school and college students will be shown, and a winner in each category will be selected by a panel of judges, which include FILMS'COOL' co-Chair Amy Magidan, actor Daniel Stern, Malibu Youth Services Librarian Lora Cokalat and Miss Malibu Pageant founder Kristen Bradford. The winners of the competition will receive internships at a production company or studio and $1,000.

The celebration continues at Calamigos Ranch on Friday with the opening night film and party. The evening kicks off at 6 p.m. with cocktails and a silent auction benefiting FILMS'COOL.' Following dinner, "an intimate conversation" will take place with three members of the Motion Picture & Television Fund: actress Valerie Allen, cinematographer Ralph Woolsey and director Charles Jarrot. The fund assists people in the entertainment industry who have fallen on hard times. This will be followed by the screening of "Man in the Chair," the tale of a rebellious young filmmaker who enters a student competition in hopes of winning a scholarship to a prestigious Hollywood film school. He receives help from a person living at a Motion Picture & Television Fund home.

Director Michael Schroeder and producer Randy Turrow will attend the screening with cast members Michael Angarano and Robert Wagner. They are expected to participate in a question and answer session following the movie.

The festivities continue on Saturday with screenings at various locations beginning at 12 p.m. Among the highlights are "Hearts of the Hills," a silent film made in 1919 that will be shown at Smothers Theatre with the Malibu Coast Chamber Orchestra doing a live performance of the score.

A screenwriter panel discussion will take place at Raitt Recital Hall at 2 p.m. Moderated by movie producer Trevor Albert, the panel will include Peter Dunne, who has written for television and authored a book on screenwriting. Catherine Ann Jones, who has written for film and also penned a book on screenwriting, and John Logan, a playwright and screenwriter, will also be on the panel

"This event will try to generate discussion amongst the panelists to show a breadth of knowledge and a breadth of experience," said John Evans, co-owner of Diesel, A Bookstore, which organized the discussion. "It's sort of a workshop that can go in any direction."

Diesel is hosting another panel discussion on Sunday at 2 p.m., also at Raitt Recital Hall. National film critic Leonard Maltin will converse with Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan. A similar discussion took place last year with Turan and critic David Thompson, with a moderator. But Evans said it was evident a moderator was not needed this year.

"They were so good at talking, and film critics in particular don't really need a moderator," Evans said. "It's really up to them what way to go, and people in the audience will be there to quiz them."

More screening will take place on Sunday, and the event will conclude at Bluffs Park at 7 p.m. with the documentary, "Sharkwater." Writer/director Rob Stewart will be in attendance to discuss the movie, which deals with the threat to the shark population in the marine reserves of Cocos Island, Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands. His talk will be followed by a festival-closing party at Malibu Inn.

Last year, Robert Altman was given the Courage Award on the final day of the celebration. This year, the festival will not be recognizing anyone.

"We couldn't find an appropriate person to honor that could follow in the footsteps [of Robert Altman]," said Kim Jackson, the festival's executive director. "So we decided just to have a quiet year, and we'll bring it back next year."

Tickets can be purchased for individual events at the festival's Web site, The cost is $10 for most events, with the opening festivities costing $100 and the closing night party costing $75. Three-day program passes are also available for $100 to $750. A schedule for the screenings and other events can also be found on the Web site.

Video from April 2007

Robert Wagner accepts award on behalf of Christopher Plummer - the Methodfest Life Achievement Award. Plummer was doing a play on Broadway at the time (Inherit the Wind, for which he received his seventh Tony nomination). Unfortunately, the clip does not include the taped acceptance speech that Plummer provided, but does include Wagner's comments.

(You have to listen to a commercial first, then scroll to find the clips.)
There's second clip with a short interview with Wagner and director Michael Schroeder.

Three mix it up in FX transsexual pilot

LOS ANGELES - Joseph Fiennes, Blythe Danner and Robert Wagner have been cast in U.S. cable channel FX's transsexual drama pilot.

The untitled project, formerly known as "4 oz.", centres on a family man named Bob (Fiennes) who decides to get a sex change. Danner and Wagner will play Bob's parents, Bunny and Scotch. The roles of Bob's wife and kids have yet to be cast.

The pilot comes from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, respectively the creator and a writer/producer on FX's "Nip/Tuck". Production will begin at the end of October, with Murphy directing.

Fiennes recently appeared on the big screen in "Running With Scissors". Danner won two Emmys for her role on Showtime's "Huff". Wagner recently guest-starred on CBS' "Two and a Half Men" and AMC's "Hustle".

Monday, September 24, 2007

R.J. Update

He is in Los Angeles this week and next week filming episodes of Two and a Half Men.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Katie Wagner Married

I just found out that Katie Wagner got married (at the end of July, I think). She got married at her father's house (before he sold it)!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Riley is One

R.J.'s grandson, Riley, is one-year-old today.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Dennis The Menace Christmas Premiering on DVD November 6th

One of the most recognizable comic strip characters ever created returns in live action form for the third time

BURBANK, Calif.--Just when you thought it was safe to celebrate the holidays, the Menace returns to jingle your bells and deck your halls in A Dennis The Menace Christmas. The DVD is set for release by Warner Premiere on November 6th. This holiday season, naughty or nice, Dennis The Menace Mitchell is going to deliver Mr. Wilson the Christmas spirit whether he likes it or not. A Dennis The Menace Christmas will be available on DVD for $19.97 SRP.

Continuing on with the success of the franchise, A Dennis The Menace Christmas combines A Christmas Carol with the live action version of one of Americas most widely recognizable, chaos wreaking comic strip characters. Taking the reigns of a reimagined Mr. Wilson, film and television star Robert Wagner (Hart To Hart, It Takes A Thief, and the Austin Powers films) picks up where previous Mr. Wilsons (Walter Matthau and Don Rickles) left off. Rounding out the all-star cast is Academy Award winner Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest) as Mrs. Wilson and newcomer Maxwell Perry Cotton (Brothers and Sisters) as the newly defined Menace.

This Christmas Dennis will face his greatest challenge to deliver Mr. Wilson the Holiday Spirit and secure Santas delivery of his ultimate present the Raleigh Mite-Y-Max bike. Along the way, hell ruin his schools Thanksgiving pageant, take on the neighborhood bully, and, as always, make life miserable for poor Mr. Wilson. However, all is not as it seems, and for the first time Mr. Wilson will come away from the holidays with a newfound understanding of himself and his next-door Menace, thanks in part to Bob The Christmas Angel, played by comedian Godfrey (Phat Girlz, Zoolander).

The DVD also comes with a stocking's worth of bonus features including, a Making of featurette, bloopers, outtakes, deleted scene, an audio commentary with Robert Wagner and director Ron Oliver, and a video commentary of key moments of the film - featuring Maxwell Perry Cotton (aka Dennis the Menace).

Originally created as a comic strip by the late Hank Ketcham in 1951, the Dennis The Menace comic strip appears in over 1,000 newspapers in 48 countries and 19 languages. Throughout the years the character has evolved into an animated series, two feature films, as well as the face of the Dairy Queen Franchise.

Email requests for materials to or fax to 323-939-1566.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Fall TV Preview: Two and a Half Men

When you think about it, it’s easy to see why Two and a Half Men is the highest rated sitcom on TV. We spend so much time during the week trying to keep up with complex, serialized dramas like Lost and 24 that it’s comforting to spend half an hour every Monday night with two brothers who we know will never change. Charlie (Charlie Sheen) will always be a shallow, materialistic skirt chaser. Alan (Jon Cryer) will always be a neurotic single father who can’t quite get over his (recently remarried) ex-wife. The only characters who we may see changes in this season are the guys’ mother Evelyn (Holland Taylor), who will continue her romance with Teddy (Robert Wagner) and Alan’s son Jake (Angus T. Jones), who is just hitting puberty. Pretty soon they’ll need to change the title to Two and 3/4 Men.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Robert Wagner on Sirius Satellite Radio

Robert Wagner was a guest on Sirius Satellite Radio's Animal Intuition
with host Sonya Fitzpatrick on Aug 28. The show aired live 11 am - 1 pm ET on Sirius Stars channel 102.

Mr. Wagner and Ms. Fitzpatrick are friends and share a love for animals which they discussed on the program.

Click here to download the interview in .wma format.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Robert Wagner Selling House

According to the Los Angeles Times Real Estate Section today, "R.J., as actor Robert Wagner is known, and his wife, actress Jill St. John, spend much of their free time at an out-of-state mountain resort. So, Wagner, 77, decided to sell his home in Brentwood's Mandeville Canyon, designed by Cliff May, for close to $15 million, including an adjacent parcel. The combined 2 acre property is about ready to close escrow."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Larry Passed On

I'm sad to report that R.J.'s beloved dog, Larry, had to be put down. I'm sure this was very difficult for Mr. Wagner.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

USPS Honors Jimmy Stewart with New Postage Stamp

James Stewart, Hollywood's quintessential everyman, is being honored by the U.S. Postal Service with his own postage stamp. The stamp will be the 13th in the "Legends of Hollywood" series, which also includes Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Alfred Hitchcock, Lucille Ball and John Wayne. Ceremonies will be held on Friday, August 17th at Universal Studios in Hollywood, as well as the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, Pennsylvania.

Stewart starred in some of the most loved and respected films in Hollywood history, including:

It's a Wonderful Life
Rear Window
The Philadelphia Story
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Anatomy of a Murder

... among many others.

Here's the official press release from the USPS:

Washington, DC — Tomorrow, the U.S. Postal Service salutes a World War II veteran who rose from the rank of private to retire as a brigadier general — one of the highest ranks ever achieved by a Hollywood actor. During World War II, as a B-24 combat pilot and commander, James Stewart flew 20 missions over Germany including one over Berlin. His first movie after the war was It's a Wonderful Life.

As the 13th stamp in the “Legends of Hollywood” series, the 41-cent First-Class James Stewart commemorative stamp honors James Stewart, whose naturalistic acting style made the characters he played seem “real.” The sheet of 20 stamps are available nationwide Friday, August 17, and will be dedicated at 10:30 a.m. PT at Universal Studios Hollywood at The Globe Theatre inside the theme park in Universal City, CA. Similar ceremonies will take place at the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Stewart's hometown of Indiana, PA, and in the Marquette, MI, courthouse where Stewart was filmed during the making of Anatomy of a Murder (1959).

“It's our privilege to pay tribute to James Stewart, a fantastic actor, a great gentleman, a brave soldier, and an inspirational human being who truly led a wonderful life,” said Vice Chairman, U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors Alan C. Kessler, who will dedicate the stamp in Universal City. “Jimmy Stewart knew how to touch us. Now it's time for our Nation to show how we feel.”

Joining Kessler in dedicating the stamp will be Stewart's children, Kelly Stewart Harcourt, Judy Stewart and Michael McLean.

“Our family is so honored by this stamp,” said Kelley Stewart Harcourt. “I'm sure my father would be humbled as well. He received many awards throughout his life and I'm sure he would view this as one of the most cherished.”

Also participating will be actor Robert Wagner, a longtime friend of Stewart, who will speak to his philanthropic endeavors.

“Jimmy Stewart gave so much to this country through his dedicated military service, to his craft as an actor, and to his family as a loving husband and devoted father,” said Wagner. “He also gave back to the community. For a quarter of a century, the Jimmy Stewart Annual Relay Marathon benefited the St. John's Child and Family Development Center, as well as other programs and services at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica. From 1982 to 2006, the event raised more than $9 million.”

Stewart's role as a World War II decorated bomber pilot will be highlighted by a former intelligence officer who served with Stewart during the war.

“Jimmy Stewart was famous in another world and volunteered for wartime duty directly from civilian life,” said Starr Smith, who introduced Stewart to Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite during the war and recently authored a book on Stewart. “He was a man who trained hard and served well — a man who, from the beginning, wanted desperately to join the hunt in the cause of freedom. He was a man who led and inspired his fellow airmen in battle, won the admiration and respect of his superiors, and, in the end, was like many others — a good man who fought the good fight.”

President and CEO of Heartland Truly Moving Pictures, Jeffrey Sparks, will speak about Stewart's film accomplishments.

“On turning 80, Stewart was asked how he wanted to be remembered; he replied, ‘As someone who believed in hard work and love of country, love of family and love of community.’ Jimmy Stewart succeeded in living his life as he wished to be remembered — a lesson warranting emulation by all of us. Clarence the wingless angel spoke to George Bailey about how each of our lives touches so many others — and, when we are no longer around, we leave an awful hole. I would contend that Jimmy Stewart left no such hole. He filled the hearts of a nation — leaving behind far more than he took.”

Art director Phil Jordan of Falls Church, VA, designed the stamp using a portrait of Stewart by Drew Struzan of Pasadena, CA. Struzan based his work on a photograph taken during the filming of The Stratton Story. The painting on the selvage, also by Struzan, shows Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the 1939 film for which he received his first Academy Award nomination for “best actor.”

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hart to Hart in OK

Oklahoma's The Cox Channel is expanding. The station also has added syndicated programming, including "Gunsmoke,” "Hart to Hart,” "Bewitched” and "Designing Women.”

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

TV Land Canada Announces Its Fall 2007 Schedule

On TV Land Canada, everything old is new again! New to the TV Land Canada schedule this September is Fantasy Island; Hart to Hart; Love, American Style; and It's Garry Shandling's Show.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Season Finale of Two and 1/2 Men

SEASON FINALE at a Special Time

Monday, May 14, 8:30pm et/pt

Prostitutes and Gelato

Charlie and Alan must confront their "daddy issues" when Evelyn's new boyfriend invites them to Vegas on his private jet. Robert Wagner and Mike Connors guest star. TV14-DL

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Wagner still punching in ‘Hustle’

Robert Wagner shows up on BBC1 tonight in the first episode of the fourth series of the popular con artist show “Hustle” (below left, with Jaime Murray, Robert Vaughn and Marc Warren). He plays a wealthy collector of movie memorabilia who is conned into thinking he can buy the Hollywood Sign. The episode is the first in the series to be shot in the United States where it is carried by AMC. Wagner, however, did make a TV series in the United Kingdom a long time ago for the BBC and Universal Pictures titled “Colditz.” It was a prisoner of war drama set during World War II costarring Jack Hedley, Richard Heffer and Edward Hardwicke, shown standing behind Wagner and David McCallum below. The series ran for 24 episodes in 1972-74 but the American actor appeared in just 14 of them. This is what he told me about it:

I liked the opening, the first year, but then we had a very difficult time. It started out as a kind of documentary but in the end they had the prisoners out sitting on deck chairs and they’d be singing away. The guys in Colditz never sang; they were starving to death. I said, ‘What is this, a bloody musical?’ I turned my back on the camera and walked out because they took something that could really have been great and put it in the toilet. The reason I reacted so strongly was because I really loved doing it, and I hated to see it wasted.”

The Detroit-born actor started in movies in Hollywood in 1950 and appeared in some decent films along the way such as “The War Lover,” “The Pink Panther” and “The Towering Inferno.” His biggest successes were on TV, however, playing a reformed cat burglar in “It Takes a Thief” (left) which ran for three seasons from 1968, and the suave Jonathan Hart opposite Stephanie Powers in “Hart to Hart,” which ran for five seasons from 1979. He also played Brick opposite his wife Natalie Wood and Laurence Olivier in a TV version of Tennessee Williams’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

He showed up this year in a pretty good picture about filmmaking titled “Man in the Chair,” starring Christopher Plummer, but he is probably best known to young moviegoers as No. 2 in the Austin Powers pictures. I’ve interviewed Wagner several times and found him to be a classy gent, the kind who would write a note to your editor if he liked something you’d written. Promoting a 1987 TV movie titled “Love Among Thieves,” he introduced me to his leading lady, Audrey Hepburn, which was a treat. The actor had a clear idea of his abilities when he spoke about his career, and that is always endearing in a Hollywood star. Here are some comments from an interview I did with him in 1983:

I always knew that this was what I wanted to do but I never knew if I would make it. I had a lot of people stroking me over the years — a lot of good people like Spencer Tracy and Elia Kazan who boosted me. I could have gone down. I had a lot of enthusiasm but I don’t think I was really so talented. I don’t think I’ve had all that talent within me that was bursting loose, that couldn’t wait to be seen and captured on the screen. I think I was really fortunate.

I know what that sounds like but it’s the truth. It’s the truth. I mean, you look back at some of those pictures and you say, ‘Whew!’ But I kept going and in some of the stuff I was good, you know? Some of the stuff, I was O.K. I look back, and some of it wasn’t so bad for the time.

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. It’s not been particularly a case of not getting the parts that you want but of not working at all. When I came back from Europe in the early ’60s, I had a soft spot for a while. I was out of work for a long time.

The guy who pulled me out of it was Paul Newman in ‘Harper.’ I think I loosened up a little bit in that film too. I’ve been really fortunate to have worked with people who have encouraged me, who’ve said, ‘Come on, you know it’s not gonna be that bad. Do it.’

I was sitting around the other day with a guy who started out in the picture business the same time I did and, I don’t know, it’s a real phenomenon: if you’re there and you keep going, if you just keep punching at it, somehow you stick around.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Robert Wagner looking to get back in weekly TV series game

Robert Wagner, a TV mainstay through three decades with his "It Takes a Thief," "Switch" and "Hart to Hart" shows, is looking to get back into the weekly series game. This time, in a comedy. "I love the form," he says, "absolutely love it."

He guest stars in the May 14-airing season finale of "Two and a Half Men," and just finished shooting an ABC comedy pilot in which he plays the head of a law firm surrounded by rival up-and-coming legal eagles including Scott Wolf, Ayda Field, Amanda Detmer and Ben Savage.

"It was such a fun experience. I've done guestings, but I've never been involved in a pilot like this from the ground up, and with all these young actors. It was like an opening night," Wagner says of the prospective show from Jeff Judah and Gabe Sachs ("What About Brian," "October Road," "Just Shoot Me!").

The "Two and a Half Men" episode pits him and former "Mannix" star Mike Connors against each other as rivals for the affections of Holland Taylor. Wagner's character is wealthy and dashing but has a Viagra problem.

"You always wonder what it's going to be like, coming into such a tight group of people on an established show, but they couldn't have been nicer to me," Wagner recalls. "When I drove onto the lot, Jon Cryer happened to be outside, and said, 'Oh, we're so happy to have you! Park right there around the corner' -- such a nice welcome. It was terrific working with him, Charlie (Sheen) and Holland, and the character was so well written for me, I slipped into it and felt very comfortable with the chemistry."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Two and a Half Men

Two and a Half Men

May 14

What's happening: In the fourth-season finale, the Harper brothers jet off to Las Vegas with Mom's wealthy new boyfriend. Forever-dapper Robert Wagner guest stars as Evelyn's beau, while Mannix himself, Mike Connors, turns up.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Characters more important than perks to Wagner

PASADENA, Calif. — Robert Wagner perfected a suave persona on popular TV series such as "It Takes a Thief" (1968-'70) and "Hart to Hart" (1979-'84). He returns to familiar territory at 9 tonight as a bigger-than-life Texan on the fourth season premiere of AMC's clever caper drama "Hustle."
Wagner plays a collector of Hollywood memorabilia who can't wait to score possession of the Hollywood sign and transplant it to his Texas property. That makes him a mark for Robert Vaughn's team of London con artists, who are on the prowl in the U.S.

With half a century of film and TV work, from his 20th Century Fox contract player days in the 1950s in films like "Broken Lance" to recent projects like the "Austin Powers" movies, Wagner, who just turned 77, has learned it's well-written scripts and memorable characters that appeal to him, not the size of dressing rooms and other perks.

"I've really been mostly concerned about the work and who is there and what's — how it's going to happen," he said during a news conference to promote the series. "I had seen 'Hustle,' several of them. I admired the cast very much, and I liked this character a great deal, and it was very well written — all the things that an actor enjoys."

The Los Angeles location filming of "Hustle" was a reunion of sorts for Wagner and Vaughn, who starred in disaster king Irwin Allen's 1974 blockbuster "The Towering Inferno."

"We didn't have any scenes together," Wagner says. "I was at the top of the building trying to get it on with the young lady (Susan Flannery), and where were you?"

"I was hanging out with Bill Holden downstairs," Vaughn says.

While this episode of "Hustle" was shot in Hollywood, its base is London, the site of one of Wagner's most memorable working experiences.

"I've really been very fortunate to have worked with some wonderful people," he said. "One of the highs was doing 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' (a 1976 NBC movie) with Laurence Olivier and my late wife, Natalie Wood. We did that in England and had a five- or six-week rehearsal. Tennessee Williams was there. It was a highly charged, emotional time for all of us. Very exciting. I've had a lot of highlights, but that kind of stands out right now."

After the news conference, Wagner talked about a couple of things he hasn't enjoyed, including ABC's three-hour Natalie Wood biopic in 2004. The legendary actress' tragic drowning death off Catalina Island, Calif., on Thanksgiving weekend 1981 was a major part of the plot.

"I chose not to watch; I didn't want to," Wagner said, adding with a bit of a condescending tone: "I heard Peter (Bogdanovich, the director) needed the work."

And he sounds a bit miffed that bootleg copies of "It Takes a Thief" are circulating on the Internet while the series' owner, Universal, sits on the original negatives.

"I'm having meetings at Universal to see what their plans are for releasing 'It Takes a Thief' on DVD," he said. "I think it would sell well.

"Also, I've got some ideas on how to revive it, to bring it forward to 2007, but in a limited series form."

Wagner and his wife, actress Jill St. John, celebrate their 17th anniversary next month. One of their professional highlights as a couple was starring in A.R. Gurney's popular play "Love Letters."

Wagner became a grandfather in September when his daughter, TV personality Katie Wagner, had her first child, a boy named Riley. His other children are daughters Courtney and Natasha Gregson Wagner, an actress.

Ten years after his friend James Stewart's death, Wagner continues to host and promote the annual Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon, which has raised more than $8 million since 1982 for St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica.

Wagner's civic-mindedness was noted on April 5 in Los Angeles when he was honored — along with former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, fitness guru Jack LaLanne and a few others — as Treasures of L.A. at a luncheon where Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised his philanthropy.

Filmgoers will soon be treated to the spectacle of Wagner playing a vampirish U.S. President James Garfield in "Netherbeast Incorporated."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Two and a Half Men

Robert Wagner to appear on Two and a Half Men on May 14, 2007.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The View

Robert Wagner will be appearing on The View April 17 to promote his appearance on Hustle.

Robert Wagner on AMC's "Hustle" April 18

TV Guide Pic 1

TV Guide Pic 2

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Symphony's 2007-08 main lineup has new sponsor, name, theme

Changes are afoot for Seattle Symphony subscribers with today's announcement of the orchestra's 105th season in 2007-08.

The symphony has done away with such series designations as Masterpiece, Encore and Bravo for its 10th season in Benaroya Hall. Instead, the orchestra's main concert lineup of 21 programs, 13 of them led by music director Gerard Schwarz, will be called the UBS Masterworks Season. For the first time, there is a season sponsor (UBS Wealth Management US) and a season-long theme: a celebration of the work of immigrant composers.

In the lineup of more than 200 concerts, orchestra fans are likely to be most excited about an artist roster that includes an Opening Night Gala with stellar cellist Yo-Yo Ma on Sept. 15, and recitals featuring piano legends Lang Lang and Murray Perahia and violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.

Among the other stars to appear next season: violinists Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Gil Shaham, Jaime Laredo, James Ehnes and Kyoko Takezawa; pianists Garrick Ohlsson, Yefim Bronfman and Awadagin Pratt; cellist Lynn Harrell; and soprano Jane Eaglen. Schwarz's son Julian, a cellist, will appear with the orchestra's principal cellist Joshua Roman in a Vivaldi double concerto.

The conducting roster will include Stéphane Denève, Rossen Milanov, Ingo Metzmacher, Jun MÃÆ'¤rkl, Jaime Laredo, Gunther Herbig, Christopher Seaman, Bernard Labadie, Douglas Boyd, Michael Stern and Xian Zhang.

The Visiting Orchestras series will present the return of the St. Petersburg Orchestra (with conductor Yuri Temirkanov and pianist Nelson Freire), the Russian National Orchestra (with conductor Vladimir Jurowski) and pianist/conductor Barry Douglas with his Camerata Ireland.

A spring festival in May and June 2008 will feature the "Genesis Suite" (co-written by seven composers, including Schoenberg and Stravinsky), with visuals by Dale Chihuly, and narration by actors Jill St. John and Robert Wagner.

Already announced is another big event, in May 2008: a collaboration with the Seattle Theatre Group and the Mark Morris Dance Group, presenting Morris' famous work "L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato" (with music by Handel) in the Paramount Theatre, with Schwarz conducting.

As in the past, the symphony will present several other series, including Musically Speaking, Mainly Mozart, Basically Baroque, Popular Classics, Distinguished Artists and other recital series devoted to the organ and the guitar.

The Seattle Symphony Pops concerts will span sci-fi, holiday, musical theater and Hollywood themes, with guest artists Jack Everly, Jeff Tyzik, Marvin Hamlisch and Robert Moody.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sidney Sheldon, 89; master of flashy, trashy bestsellers

Sidney Sheldon, a writer whose keen grasp of popular tastes fueled a string of feverishly romantic and suspenseful books that made him a perennial bestseller with millions of copies in print around the world, died Tuesday. He was 89. Sheldon died of pneumonia at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, according to his friend and publicist Warren Cowan.

A multifaceted writer, Sheldon won a screenwriting Oscar and a Tony award and had created popular television sitcoms before starting his first novel at the age of 52. But it was through the novels that he gained his overriding fame.

His books usually revolved around characters of great wealth, beauty, brilliance and bedroom prowess — none of which protected them from infidelity, betrayal and indiscretion. Sheldon's protagonists were usually women and his plots were so artfully constructed that his books are the very definition of a page-turner.

He was one of the world's most translated authors, selling more than 300 million books in 180 countries. They were printed in 51 languages, including Urdu, which is spoken in Pakistan and India, and Swahili.

With his second novel, "The Other Side of Midnight" (1974), Sheldon broke into the blockbuster ranks; the book remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 53 weeks — a record at the time.

About half of his 18 novels — with such titles as "Rage of Angels" (1980) and "Memories of Midnight" (1990) — were turned into television movies or miniseries. Demand for his stories was so great that CBS executives reportedly paid Sheldon $1 million for the rights to make a miniseries of 1985's "If Tomorrow Comes" before they had even read it.

Some critics said his dialogue was banal and his plots were unbelievable, but many grudgingly acknowledged the author's unusual talent at producing what the Washington Post once called "good junk reading time after time."

After Sheldon's 1987 novel "Windmills of the Gods" debuted at No. 1 on bestseller lists, Charles Champlin, then The Times' arts editor, wrote that Sheldon had found "a statistically wider audience each time, evidently satisfying everyone except most literary critics, who regard popularity and quality as incompatible."

Fans admired plotlines that were amazingly complex yet easy to follow — and the colorful characters who could never be counted on to do the expected.

"Sidney's longevity secret is that he is a great storyteller, a master of the narrative tale," his literary agent, Mort Janklow, told The Times in 2004. "Readers care about his characters, many of whom are women under threat. He has an instinctive ability to read women's emotions."

For his part, Sheldon said: "I don't write for critics. I write for readers."

From the early 1940s until almost 1970, he had written mainly for viewers.

Wins Oscar in 1948

His wry and witty script for "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" (1947) won him a 1948 Academy Award for original screenplay. The farce, which starred Cary Grant and Shirley Temple, was "uncloyed with cuteness," the New York Times review said at the time.

Sheldon was also a screenwriter for the Judy Garland-Fred Astaire musical "Easter Parade" (1948) and the Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical "The Barkleys of Broadway" (1949). After he helped adapt the Irving Berlin hit "Annie Get Your Gun" to the big screen, the 1950 Betty Hutton-Howard Keel vehicle received generally favorable reviews.

He wrote half a dozen plays for Broadway. His biggest hit was the musical "Redhead," starring Gwen Verdon, which ran for a little more than a year from 1959 to 1960 and brought him a Tony for co-writing the book.

After working on about two dozen films, he turned toward television, writing scores of episodes for two hit sitcoms he created — "The Patty Duke Show" (ABC, 1963-66) and "I Dream of Jeannie" (NBC, 1965-70), according to Sheldon's memoir "The Other Side of Me" (2005).

Creating a show for Duke was a challenge because "she was so extraordinarily talented I did not want to waste her abilities," Sheldon wrote. He decided she should play twin sisters but changed it to look-alike cousins to explain why the characters had grown up without knowing each other.

"Jeannie," which starred Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman, opened to mixed reviews but had a loyal fan base, Sheldon wrote. One episode, "Bigger Than a Bread Box and Better Than a Genie," featured Sheldon's wife, Jorja, as a fortuneteller and his mother as a character in a seance scene.

He also created the glamorous "Hart to Hart" series, starring Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, that aired on ABC from 1979 to 1984.

He was born Sidney Schechtel on Feb. 11, 1917, in Chicago, the son of Otto, a salesman, and Natalie, a homemaker. Unable to pay the rent, the family kept moving and Sheldon attended about a dozen schools.

Sheldon later remarked that his career as a writer was rather improbable considering his background.

Becoming a writer

"Both my parents were third-grade dropouts," he said. "My father never read a book in his life and I was the only one in my family to complete high school."

Sheldon won a scholarship to Northwestern University. Although he was forced to drop out halfway through his freshman year because of the financial pressures of the Depression, he recalled having an epiphany of sorts as he walked on campus one day.

"I saw all these well-dressed students, and I thought that years from now, no one will ever know they existed," he wrote years later. "I wanted to leave a mark, I wanted people to know I was here."

He made up the last name of Sheldon in the mid-1930s when he entered an amateur radio contest as an announcer.

At first, he worked in Chicago as a theater usher, shoe salesman and attendant in a nightclub checkroom. After the club's bandleader, Phil Levant, played a song Sheldon wrote, Sheldon left for New York City to try to make it as a songwriter. While there, he saw a lot of movies and turned his thoughts toward Hollywood.

Soon, he was in Los Angeles — he wanted to be a screenwriter but had promised his parents he would return to Chicago if he didn't have a job within three weeks.

Repeatedly, he was turned away from movie studio gates. As time was running out, he learned that producers hired readers to help analyze scripts. Since he had just read John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," Sheldon sent synopses of the classic to every studio and was soon working at Universal for $17 a week, he told The Times in 1992.

At his boarding house, Sheldon met a young writer named Ben Roberts and they began collaborating on "B" movies like "South of Panama," "Gambling Daughters" and "Borrowed Hero," all released in 1941.

"I can't even call them 'B' pictures," Sheldon once said. "They were 'Z' pictures. But we got paid and we got screen credits. We were professionals."

At the start of World War II, Sheldon enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces but within months he was discharged for medical reasons. He began collaborating with Roberts on a revival of the musical "The Merry Widow," which ran for nine months beginning in 1943.

Two other musicals they wrote, the comedy "Jackpot" and the fantasy "Dream With Music," had brief Broadway runs about the same time.

Back in Hollywood, Sheldon won an Oscar for "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" but couldn't wait to leave Shrine Auditorium.

"On what should have been the happiest night of my life, I was suicidal," Sheldon wrote in his autobiography of the paralyzing mood swings he experienced. A psychiatrist soon diagnosed him as manic-depressive, Sheldon wrote in his memoir.

In midlife, he turned to writing novels, a career change that came about almost accidentally, he often told interviewers:

"I had an idea for something complicated, that delved into people's minds and motives to a greater extent than I could put in any film or TV script. Trying to put it into novel form was the only answer."

"The Naked Face," published in 1970, did not sell well, but readers loved his second novel, "The Other Side of Midnight," the so-bad-it's-good guilty pleasure set in World War II. It centers on a beautiful French woman named Noelle Page who is spurned by a dashing American pilot and spends the rest of her life obsessed with him.

Almost all of Sheldon's books hit the bestseller lists after that.

In his fourth novel, "Bloodline," a beautiful heiress becomes the target of the man who murdered her father. In his sixth, "Master of the Game," the Blackwell family rises to riches in the diamond mines of South Africa. In 1991's "The Doomsday Conspiracy," a naval intelligence officer must find witnesses to the crash of a weather balloon that could actually be a UFO.

His 18th novel, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?," which was published when he was 87, was a New York Times bestseller shortly after its release in 2004.

In his personal life, Sheldon was the opposite of the love 'em and leave 'em cads who populate so many of his works.

A family man

After a brief first marriage, he was married to his second wife, Jorja Curtright, for 33 years; she died in 1985 of a heart attack. In 1989, he married Alexandra Kostoff. Besides his wife, he is survived by a daughter from his second marriage, Mary, who is a novelist; two grandchildren; and his brother Richard.

During most of his writing years, Sheldon and his family traveled the world together, researching and taking photos of the locations where he planned to set his next novel.

"If you read the description of a hotel, or of a restaurant meal, you can bet we actually stayed at that hotel or ate that exact meal…. That's what makes my books so realistic," he told an interviewer.

He wrote every day, first "ad-libbing" an initial and very long draft, which was transcribed by a secretary, and then rewriting and editing what he had written.

Over the years, he also wrote popular children's books. He owned a string of luxurious homes, finally settling in Beverly Hills and in a five-house compound in Palm Springs.

He told the Times in 2000 that he thought the profession of author suited him best.

"In a book, your imagination has no limits," Sheldon said. "There is no budget to worry about, you can have as many characters as you want, you can give them all yachts…. It's remarkable to write a novel, because the author is the star."

Services will be private.

The family suggests that memorial donations be made to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, 4650 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles 90027. A celebration of Sheldon's life will be held later.

Profitable page-turners:

The novels of Sidney Sheldon

• "The Naked Face"

• "The Other Side of Midnight"

• "A Stranger in the Mirror"

• "Bloodline"

• "Rage of Angels"

• "Master of the Game"

• "If Tomorrow Comes"

• "Windmills of the Gods"

• "The Sands of Time"

• "Memories of Midnight"

• "The Doomsday Conspiracy"

• "The Stars Shine Down"

• "Nothing Lasts Forever"

• "Morning, Noon & Night"

• "The Best Laid Plans"

• "Tell Me Your Dreams"

• "The Sky Is Falling"

• "Are You Afraid of the Dark?"

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Send Robert Wagner a Birthday Message

Robert Wagner's 77th birthday is February 10. The "Birthday Fax" will be sent to him again this year - for the uninitiated, this is a fax which contains birthday wishes from any fans who wish to participate. If you want to send a birthday greeting to him, go to his official Web site:

and on the front page at the top, there's the info you need.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

TV Notes: Vaughn, Wagner play con game

In the 1960s, they were the sauve and debonair private eyes and spies who drew millions to TVs for weekly tongue-in-cheek adventures. Now, Robert Vaughn ("The Man From U.N.C.L.E.") and Robert Wagner ("It Takes a Thief") have reunited for a single episode of AMC's "Hustle," an "Ocean's Eleven"-type con series, in which the still-charming actors, both in their 70s, will match wits and tailors to charm a new generation of viewers.

Vaughn stars in the ensemble British series, co-produced by AMC and BBC, as the only American member of an elite group of con artists specializing in the "long con" -- an elaborate sting whose marks always deserve it. In this episode, shot in Hollywood and airing in April to launch the show's fourth season, the group travels to California to trick Wagner, a shady millionaire, into thinking he can buy the Hollywood sign from them.

Wagner said he was drawn to the show because of "the whole idea. It's a tongue to cheek, and it's played so well." What's more, its structure was written so solidly, he said, "it's like you're walking into a kind of Rolls-Royce."

Wagner, 76, rose to television stardom in "It Takes a Thief" as playboy spy Alexander Mundy and also starred as the rich and witty sleuth Jonathan Hart in the 1980s series "Hart to Hart." He was introduced to a new generation in later years by Mike Myers, who worked with him on "Saturday Night Live" and cast him as Number Two in the "Austin Powers" movies.

He said he rarely guests on television shows, but his appearance in the finale of "Boston Legal" last year, where he played Denny Crane's counterpart in the Los Angeles law offices of Crane, Poole & Schmidt, led some to hope he would return in his own spinoff.

It was "Hustle" that revived Vaughn's career, still highlighted by his portrayal of spy Napoleon Solo in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."

Recently, the 74-year-old actor had been seen in several guest spots on "Law & Order" and in a string of commercials for law firms when he was tapped to play hustler emeritus Albert Stroller in the series.

"The BBC wanted to have it all British people, and the production team wanted me," Vaughn said.

By the time he was cast, shooting had begun, he said. "Suddenly I got a call from my British agent saying, 'You have to leave for London tonight.' I took the next flight and I was working the next morning."

"This is the first chance we've had to work together, but we've known each other for a very long time," Wagner said.

"A very long time," Vaughn emphasized. (In 1974, Wagner and Vaughn worked on "The Towering Inferno" but never shared any scenes.)

Marc Warren, whose character became the gang's leader after actor Adrien Lester left, said he learned much about acting and professionalism from Vaughn and Wagner.

Warren said he'll never forget watching the sunset from the Hollywood sign with Wagner and Vaughn and afterward driving with them in a convertible down Hollywood Boulevard. "That was amazing."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

They know what it takes

Robert Wagner, once of 'It Takes a Thief,' and Robert Vaughn, of 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,' pull off a 'Hustle.'

In the 1960s, they were the sauve and debonair private eyes and spies who drew millions to TVs for weekly tongue-in-cheek adventures. Now, Robert Vaughn ("The Man From U.N.C.L.E.") and Robert Wagner ("It Takes a Thief") have reunited for a single episode of AMC's "Hustle," a slick "Ocean's Eleven"-type con series, in which the still-charming actors, both in their 70s, will match wits and tailors to charm a new generation of viewers.

Vaughn stars in the ensemble British series, co-produced by AMC and BBC, as the only American member of an elite group of con artists specializing in the "long con" — an elaborate sting whose marks always deserve it. In this episode, shot in Hollywood and airing in April to launch the show's fourth season, the group travels to California to trick Wagner, a shady millionaire, into thinking he can buy the Hollywood sign from them.

"They set me up beautifully. I pay 5 million bucks," said Wagner, dressed to perfection in aviator glasses and mustache, between takes on the Beverly Hills location last month.

Wagner said he was drawn to the show because of "the whole idea. It's a tongue to cheek, and it's played so well." What's more, its intricate structure was written so solidly, he said, "it's like you're walking into a kind of Rolls-Royce." Wagner exuded an old-fashioned graciousness that, heightened by his signature smooth voice and humor, had clearly won over cast and crew, some of whom took pictures to show their parents.

Wagner, 76, rose to television stardom in "It Takes a Thief" as playboy spy Alexander Mundy and also starred as the rich and witty sleuth Jonathan Hart in the popular 1980s series "Hart to Hart." He was introduced to a new generation in later years by Mike Myers, who worked with him on "Saturday Night Live" and cast him as Number Two in the "Austin Powers" movies.

He said he rarely guests on television shows, but his appearance in the finale of "Boston Legal" last year, where he played Denny Crane's counterpart in the Los Angeles law offices of Crane, Poole & Schmidt, led some to hope he would return in his own spinoff.

It was "Hustle" that revived Vaughn's career, still highlighted by his portrayal of spy Napoleon Solo in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." Recently, the 74-year-old actor had been seen in several guest spots on "Law & Order" and in a string of commercials for law firms when he was tapped to play hustler emeritus Albert Stroller in the series.

"The BBC wanted to have it all British people, and the production team wanted me," Vaughn said. By the time he was cast, shooting had already begun, he said. "Suddenly I got a call from my British agent saying, 'You have to leave for London tonight.' I took the next flight and I was working the next morning."

Having the work is great for a few reasons, said Vaughn, looking dapper in a three-piece suit and speaking in his own trademark speech, a posh mid-Atlantic accent. One reason is that the crew is the most social he's ever worked with. ("We've all been together all the time. They're wonderfully funny.") The other is that "any time you're on television every week for an extended period of time, everybody else says, 'Oh, he's alive and working. He's not dead.' That's always good."

Vaughn said he hadn't been to Los Angeles since 1997, when his star was installed on Hollywood Boulevard. Taking the British cast around to his old haunts proved disappointing, though. "Everything had disappeared, gone, everybody had died. The only person remaining alive is this person here," he said, waving at Wagner, who was passing by his trailer.

A 'Towering' partnership

IN 1974, Wagner and Vaughn worked on "The Towering Inferno" but never shared any scenes.

"This is the first chance we've had to work together, but we've known each other for a very long time," Wagner said. "A very long time," Vaughn emphasized.

Vaughn said he hasn't played a hustler before and has become knowledgeable about how it works. "First of all, you can never con an honest man, because the man is actually knowingly participating in the con. The interesting thing about a con is that people who are conned are usually wealthy to begin with. They can afford to lose some money. But even when they lose the money, they're so embarrassed, being a well-known person, they never tell the law."

His crew never robs the poor, he said. "We steal from the rich and keep it all. That's our theory."Because there are only a limited number of variations on a con and a limited number of moneyed venues to exploit in England, the producers decided to travel to the States, said actor Robert Glenister, who plays one of the hustlers. Fortunately, as it turned out, since Vaughn's character has an American back story, there could be a reasonable explanation why the gang would go to Hollywood and Las Vegas.

Whether they will return to the States, or whether Wagner will reappear in the cast, or whether there will be another season all have yet to be decided.

Working with Wagner was a "great thrill," Glenister said. "Not just for me, but for all of us. He's wonderful and such a nice man; he's almost part of the gang. We feel as if we've adopted him really."

Marc Warren, whose character became the gang's leader after actor Adrien Lester left, said he learned much about acting and professionalism from Vaughn and Wagner.

Warren said he'll never forget watching the sunset from the Hollywood sign with Wagner and Vaughn and afterward driving with them in a convertible down Hollywood Boulevard. "That was amazing."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lively — and revealing — 'Legends'

BEVERLY HILLS — Joan Collins showed off more than her talents at Tuesday night's opening performance of her traveling stage play, Legends, when the zipper on the back of her dress slid down, exposing the 73-year-old's lingerie-covered backside to a theater packed with '80s TV legends.

Among those who were treated to the moon: Hart to Hart's Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers; Knots Landing's Michele Lee; Falcon Crest's Lorenzo Lamas; and Dynasty's Pamela Sue Martin, Al Corley, Gordon Thomson and Pamela Bellwood.

On stage, Collins' co-star and Dynasty rival, Linda Evans, 64, struggled in vain to zip Collins up. "I tried, but it just didn't want to stay," Evans sighed at the after-party.

So Collins momentarily broke the fourth wall, vocally acknowledging her "wardrobe malfunction" and inspiring Evans to ad-lib "nice (butt)." Collins, who also was battling the flu, spent the rest of the show delicately sidestepping her way across the stage, occasionally clasping her hands over her posterior.

"That poor thing; what a trouper," Powers said. "I once had a set fall down on me."

At the after-party, Collins shared a booth with sister Jackie, who just finished her latest racy novel, Drop Dead Beautiful, about the continuing antics of heroine Lucky Santangelo

"How embarrassing," Joan said of the mishap. "But I had to make it fun, because if you're not having fun, neither is your audience."

Joan's husband, Percy Gibson, is a producer on the show, which casts Evans and Collins as aging actress rivals. After its two-week engagement in Los Angeles, the show will continue to Phoenix, Denver, Chicago and Boston before concluding in New Haven, Conn., on May 13.

It also was a night to remember those who could not attend. The most missed face was Dynasty patriarch John Forsythe, who had colon cancer surgery in September and was released from the hospital three weeks ago.

Forsythe's wife, Nicole, said her husband, who turns 89 Jan. 29, is cancer-free but is now fighting a leg hematoma. "He thinks he can get up and walk, because he's not getting any pain to his brain," Nicole said.

She planned to make the two-hour drive back to their Santa Ynez Valley ranch the same night so she would not worry her husband, who "saw me getting all dolled up."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

RJ on Hustle

Veteran TV actor discusses what it's like to be in on the con

Robert Wagner recently sat down with television critics to discuss and promote the new season of the AMC original series Hustle which stars Robert Vaughn. Mr. Wagner appears in the premier episode of the season and his character is instrumental in bringing the London-based characters/actors to Hollywood for a magnificent caper.

Can you talk about coming into an established ensemble and what you thought about it, and how did you get involved with the show?

Robert Wagner: I had seen Hustle, several [episodes]. I liked the writing very much, and I was very flattered that they asked me to come... And I admired the cast very much, and I liked this character a great deal, and it was very well written - all the things that an actor enjoys.

Have you ever worked with Robert Vaughn before?

Robert Wagner: Yes, we worked together in Towering Inferno, but we didn't have any scenes together.

Was this a great chance for you to work together?

Robert Wagner: I enjoyed it very much, and Robert's so wonderful in this character and is the glue that keeps it all together, and I enjoy working with him very much. We've known each other for a long time. We both started around the same time.

What was the biggest thing you pulled off as Alexander Mundy on It Takes a Thief?

Robert Wagner: I think the biggest thing we pulled off was to have Fred Astaire come on the show. That was a big help. And -- the way we introduced him on the show was we sucked all the money out of the casino in Venice through the vacuum. You know, they put them in the wall. Did you ever see that show?

No, I did not.

Robert Wagner: It was terrific. We sucked all the money out. Fred Astaire went dancing away with all the money, and it was terrific. We had some very good cons on that. But this show is so well written, and it does have so many different aspects to it. And it's subtle, you know. I think it has a subtlety about it that is very ingratiating and the humor that's there is, I think, really wonderful...

How much are you still sort of defined by your past roles in the public eye? Can you still not walk down the street without somebody remembering you from Hart to Hart or has that waned over the years?

Robert Wagner: It's just amazing. Television is just amazing - how many people see it and how many people recognize you, and I think once you've had the opportunity and have been in front of the public for the amount of time that Robert [Vaughn] and I have been there, it's very flattering to have people come up and say hello to you. It's a tremendous industry. I've been in places where people come out of the woodwork. And you would never think -- small towns in France or traveling through Europe - and [there are] so many of those people there that recognize you, you know, and you've been in their homes. I find it to be a very flattering thing.

Are you only in the first episode of this show?

Robert Wagner: (Nodding 'yes'.)

And you did a guest stint on Boston Legal. Is that the sort of work you want to do now, just recurring guest appearances?

Robert Wagner: It depends on the character. If it's well-written, you know -- on Boston Legal I loved that character. David Kelley and Bill D'Elia wrote that, and it was a really interesting guy to play. This [Hustle] is a very well-written show, as I said before. That's what really attracts me.

Are there any plans to do another Boston Legal episode?

Robert Wagner: I would -- I don't know. If they come to the West Coast.

What are your favorite roles or movies you cherish the most in which you have appeared?

Robert Wagner: I've really been very fortunate, you know, to have worked with some wonderful, wonderful people. One of the big highs was doing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Lawrence Olivier and my late wife, Natalie Wood. And we did that in England, and we had, like, a five or six-week rehearsal. Tennessee Williams was there. I watched them rewrite part of the third act of that. It was a very highly charged, emotional time for all of us. Very exciting. That was a highlight. I've had a lot of them, but that kind of stands out right now.

The new season of Hustle will premier later this spring on AMC.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

C.A. Rejects Robert Wagner’s Bid for Share of ‘Charlie’s Angel’s’ Profits

An agreement between actor/producer Robert Wagner and the late Aaron Spelling’s production company, which led to the creation of the “Charlie’s Angel’s” television series, does not entitle Wagner to share in the profits of the two Charlie’s Angels films, the Court of Appeal for this district.

Ruling in what it called an “unusually complex case” that required multiple briefs and two oral argument sessions, Div. Seven agreed with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Conrad Aragon that the unambiguous language of the contract supported Columbia Pictures’ argument that Wagner had no rights in the films.

Columbia purchased all of the assets of Spelling-Goldberg Productions, Inc. in 1982. Those assets included rights under a contract that Wagner and his wife, Natalie Wood, who died in 1981, had signed with Spelling-Goldberg years earlier.

The primary purpose of the agreement was to secure the couple’s services for a television movie that Spelling-Goldberg was preparing to produce. The contract, however, also included a provision under which Wagner and Wood would join Spelling-Goldberg in submitting ideas to ABC for a television series for the 1974-75 season.

If ABC agreed to produce a series pilot based on one of those ideas, Wagner and Wood were to receive one-half the net profits derived from the “exploitation of all ancillary, music and subsidiary connection with” the “right to exhibit photoplays of the series.”

One of the concepts was for a series called “Harry’s Angels,” later renamed “Charlie’s Angels.” The series ran for five years.

During the mid-1990’s, Columbia made a deal with the heirs of the show’s writers to obtain the rights to make one or more films based on the series. The films were released in 2000 and 2003.

After Columbia rejected Wagner’s claim that he and his family trusts, which had succeeded to Wood’s rights after her death, were entitled to half the company’s profits under the “subsidiary rights” provision of the old agreement, Wagner sued, but Aragon ruled that no triable issue existed and granted summary adjudication on the plaintiff’s breach of contract claim.

The parties then stipulated that the rejection of that claim effectively resolved Wagner’s claims for declaratory relief and an accounting, and judgment was entered for Columbia.

Justice Earl Johnson Jr., writing for the appellate court, explained that under copyright law, the pilot script was a “work[ ] made for hire,” giving Spelling-Goldberg absolute rights to exploit it in other media, except as otherwise provided by contract.

A provision of the writers’ contract with Spelling-Goldberg, however, incorporated a collective bargaining agreement between the producers and the Writer’s Guild. Under the “separated rights” provision of that agreement, Johnson explained, the writers retained the right to exploit the material for certain purposes, including making a motion picture.

That right was subject to a qualification, the justice added. If the writers had offered the film rights for sale within five years, the producer would have had a right of first refusal.

Had that occurred, Johnson explained, Wagner would have had a possible claim based on the “subsidiary rights” language. But because Columbia’s predecessor’s contract with the writers was completely independent of the company’s negotiations with their heirs—who could have sold the film rights to anyone—more than a decade later, the film rights were not ancillary to the television series, the justice wrote.

Attorneys on appeal were Samuel R. Pryor, Sally S. Liu and Matthew R. Belloni of Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan for Wagner and Martin D. Katz, Lisa N. Stutz and Jean-Paul Jassy of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton for Columbia.

The case is Wagner v. Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., B184523.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Robert Wagner loses bid for 'Charlie's Angels' millions

LOS ANGELES -- Veteran actor Robert Wagner's claim for millions of dollars in profits from the "Charlie's Angels" movies was on Monday rejected by a Los Angeles appeals court.

Wagner had claimed he was entitled to a share of the proceeds from 2000's "Charlie's Angels" and 2003's "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" on the grounds he had helped develop the 1970s television show on which they were based.

But in a written ruling released Monday, a three-justice panel of the Los Angeles Court of Appeal upheld the decision of a lower court in 2005 which had dismissed the actor's multi-million-dollar claim.

The "Charlie's Angels" remakes, starring Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore, grossed more than $500 million worldwide.

Wagner's lawsuit had argued that he was eligible for a share of the profits because the films were exploitations of the television series he and his late-wife Natalie Wood had helped to develop.

The hit television show ran from 1976-81.