Living the Part Back in 1959 Gore Vidal was helping to cast his play about a presidential convention, The Best Man. An agent suggested Ronald Reagan for the role of the President. "We all had a good laugh," remembers Vidal, whom Reagan might call a bleeding heart. "Reagan is by no means a bad actor, but he would hardly be convincing, I said, as a presidential candidate. So I cast Melvyn Douglas, who could have made a splendid President in real life had his career not been rejuvenated by the play's success. If I had cast Reagan in the role, it would have sated his appetite for the Presidency, and we'd be much better off."
Different Strokes "I paint all the time now. I stay up all night painting. I gave up television." Such statements are common in Manhattan's arty circles but it still comes as a surprise to hear it from singer Joni Mitchell, who made a rare public appearance at a group art show that included three of her bright-colored paintings. Known best for writing such folk standards as The Circle Game and Both Sides Now, Joni actually studied art before becoming a songwriter and kept her palette primed as a second profession ever since. (She paints many of her own album covers and will do so for her new LP this fall.) Still, that doesn't mean she plans to sign up with a gallery just yet. "The art world is a whole other neurotic scene I would like to avoid," she says with a laugh. "All I need is another agent."
Loss Cause The best way to lose weight, author John Bear maintains, is to create unbearable consequences for staying fat. While writing The Blackmail Diet, to be published next month, Bear tested the lose-or-else method on himself. Setting a goal of shedding 70 pounds, the 255-pound author put $5,000 in escrow and arranged to donate it to the American Nazi Party if he didn't punt the poundage in a year. Bear must really abhor Nazis: He lost 76 pounds. Now he's signed a special deal with his publishers. If his weight creeps over 179 pounds, all Bear's royalty checks from The Blackmail Diet will go directly to the Ku Klux Klan.
Swing Shift Philadelphia Phillies Mike Schmidt, Garry Maddox and Al Holland exchanged their red pinstripes for blue collars to make their acting debuts on ABC's One Life to Live. The trio, with combined baseball salaries totaling more than $2½ million, took drastic pay cuts to portray hard hats on a demolition crew in the August 1 episode. (Union scale is a meager $97 per day for extras.) Longtime soap fan Maddox tolerated the minor-league moolah because he got to gawk at One Life's stars. Schmidt cited different reasons for liking the job. As he put it, "The hours are better in baseball, but we don't get to do it over when we screw up."
As Miyagi in The Karate Kid, Pat Morita offers plenty of wise words to his disciple Daniel, played by teen heartthrob Ralph Macchio. In Beverly Hills' chichi Polo Lounge the other day, Morita offered different advice after kissing the hand of a female admirer. "The secret of a kiss," he opined, "is to make the whole body fit into one inch."