01/28/1980 at 01:00 AM EST
Worried because you can't get Bette Midler to come to your party? Your son—or worse, your husband—wants Dolly Parton for his birthday and you don't know what to do? Relax. For about $75, an L.A. company called Star Wires will rent you a celebrity lookalike who will appear where requested and perform a brief musical or comedy routine. Among the 30-odd ringers are Ted Kennedy (at right, really Pat O'Brien), John Travolta, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Liza Minnelli, Mae West, Sly Stallone, Cher and Richard Nixon. Their fortunes often parallel those of their real-life counterparts. "Right now Groucho Marx is probably the least popular," says Star Wires co-owner Nancy Fuller, "and since The Rose came out, Bette Midler is one of the most in demand." So who's the No. 1 personality? "Micky Mouse," who spells his name that way to avoid legal action by ol' Big Ears.
Doubleday's new book Errol Flynn: The Untold Story isn't due out until April, but already people are aghast. Author Charles Higham charges—after reading 2,000 pages of recently released government documents-that Flynn was an Axis spy during the war, hid known Nazi agents on his yacht Sirocco and sent pictures of the San Diego Naval Air Station to Japan. Even more shocking to a generation who grew up admiring Flynn's virile exploits in Robin Hood and Captain Blood are Higham's allegations about the actor's bi-sexuality. Tyrone Power has already been leaked as one of Flynn's male lovers. Now comes another name, and it's a stunner: Howard Hughes.
Although he bragged he would become "the greatest" as an actor, the pans of his TV movie Freedom Road have left Muhammad Ali uncharacteristically subdued. "What I have learned from this disagreeable experience is that movie acting isn't as easy as you think," Ali confesses. "It's not my field. I'm no actor. I'm an ex-fighter and an exactor. All my life I've been acting—that's true. But in my own way, not the Hollywood way." The result, says Ali, is that although "right here on my desk are five film scripts, I won't do any of them. I'm a big attraction, but not a big actor. I'm a perfectionist. My boxing was right. My acting wasn't."
In Chicago, when syndicated columnist Ann Landers spotted fellow columnist Mike Royko in a taxi stopped in traffic, she jumped in, kissed him a Happy New Year and jumped back out again. Sputtered the cab driver, who recognized her but not him, "That was Ann Landers—but why did she kiss you?" Answered Royko, "I don't know. Maybe she's building readership."
Forcing the Issue
Sir Alec Guinness agreed to reprise his role as Obi-wan Kenobi in the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back only with great reluctance. "When I got the script for Star Wars II, I thought it was worse than the first, and I really did not want to do it," explains Guinness, 65. "I agreed out of courtesy." There were a few strings. He says he demanded no credit for the role, no mention of his name in advertising and—incredibly—no money. "If I don't get paid, I can't be beholden." Not to worry: Guinness earned more than $2 million for the original.
If Lee Majors was lonely in Toronto—where he was filming The Last Chase—it wasn't just a yen for Farrah. Apparently captivated by Canadian ballerina Karen Kain, Majors attended a performance of The Sleeping Beauty and arranged to be introduced backstage. But his request for a date was politely declined. "Why should I go out with him?" asked a puzzled Kain. "I don't even know him." Lee walked out, alone, into the subarctic chill.
• Producer William Frye notes that at $32 million his upcoming film Raise the Titanic "will cost three times as much as it did to build the ship in 1912." With any luck, it will have a longer run than the original, too.
• Director Steven Spialberg angrily denies reports that his critically bombed 1941 cost $40 million. He insists it was only $27 million. "It's not enough that you fall from the 27th floor here. They want to put you up on the 40th before they push you off."