updated 01/05/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/05/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

IT WASN'T SUCH A FUNNY LINE, AFTER ALL: Joan Rivers may have let her fingers do a little too much walking the night she had Dallas' Ken Kercheval on her talk show and decided to telephone his co-star Victoria Principal. Getting a busy signal, she tried phoning between each guest. When that failed, she called the operator, announced that she was a doctor and asked to be put through. In the process Rivers did the unthinkable: She laughingly repeated Principal's home phone number loud enough for her TV audience to hear. According to Principal's spokesman, calls poured into Victoria's home. Joan had cracked that Principal must have taken her phone off the hook, but it seems there were so many calls that the circuits were jammed. The phone company changed Principal's number that night. Concerning the matter, Rivers has taken her phone off the hook, so to speak. As for Principal, her spokesman says, "Any comment is being directed to Victoria's attorney."

IT WAS AN OPEN AND SHUT CASE: Knots Landing's Michelle Lee says some of her biggest fans are kids, and it's no surprise. In a recent episode, cool-hand Karen walked into her son's room to find him in bed with her husband's supposed illegitimate daughter, then quickly turned and tiptoed out. Does Lee think she would handle a real life situation as calmly? "Oh, yes," she says. "It is a very private and embarrassing moment. I don't believe in making scenes, so I would be very careful. It doesn't mean the parties wouldn't be talked to or yelled at later, but I would leave the room. Maybe that's why kids love me."

DRESSING DOWN: When David Rappaport, the diminutive star of TV's The Wizard, shops for clothes for his 10-year-old son, Joe, he proceeds with unusual interest. "I'm very careful with what I buy for Joe," explains the 3'11" actor, "because in six months I'll be wearing them. I'm probably the first Hollywood actor to get hand-me-downs from his son."

DIRECT MAILER: "If it goes bad, I will go back to being a writer," Norman Mailer, 63, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, referring to Tough Guys Don't Dance, which the author is directing in Provincetown, Mass. "If it goes well," he said, "I will marry films. There are at least three or four others I would like to direct." Mailer, who previously directed three failed movies—anybody remember Maidstone?—is delighted and a little surprised that the Cannon Group, Inc. decided to back Tough Guys. "It's a miracle they gave me two big-name stars like Ryan O'Neal and Isabella Rossellini," said Mailer, adding "I get on fine directing stars from Hollywood. O'Neal is an actor who lets you mold him, and the women—the women just have to be beautiful. I'll take care of the rest."

OR MAKE A VERY LARGE OMELET: On hand to decorate Christmas trees at a benefit for the New York Special Olympics, tell-all Shelley Winters arrived in a tattered fur and bowler hat carrying a shopping bag full of revealing ornaments. At the top of her tree she put a steamy photo of herself from South Sea Sinner, a film she made in the '50s. "This was me then," she said. At the bottom of the tree she wrapped a Merry Widow corset that she wore in S.O.B., exclaiming "And this is me now!" Among the other decorations were a dozen or so eggs made of everything from granite to plastic. "I collected them from every lover I ever had," said Winters. Picking up a wooden one, she recalled, "This one was from a real cheapo, but he was good in the hay. It was Albert Finney." Then, becoming a bit melancholy, Winters said, "I really don't want to get rid of these eggs, but I don't have sex anymore. I may as well put all my eggs in one basket."

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