updated 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

TOOTH OR CONSEQUENCES: During the writer's strike, Phylicia Rashad, Bill Cosby's television wife, has found a creative haven on Broadway playing the Witch in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. But, she says, she learned that in live theater, one is never out of the woods when it comes to embarrassing moments. "Very early on, when I was still sorting through things in the musical, there's a very quick change where I transform from being a witch into a very glamorous woman," says Phylicia. "Well, there's a blackened tooth that I forgot to un-blacken. So I went out onstage after this transformation takes place, with this great big smile on my face, and noticed the audience laughing really hard. I didn't discover the tooth until I went backstage. When I looked in the mirror, I almost passed out."

FOR PETE'S SAKE: In his new autobiography, Say Hey, baseball legend Willie Mays recounts the huge respect he had for umpires when he played ball as a gentle Giant. But how does he feel about the 30-day suspension Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose received from National League president A. Bartlett Giamatti for shoving an umpire? "I think the length of the suspension was too long," says Willie. "I'm not knocking the president himself, but I think there should be a way of using 30 days some other way that wouldn't take Pete from his
team that long. I think you should have rules to go by, but the rules shouldn't be as strict as they were this time." How would the Say Hey Kid have handled being accidentally poked in the face the way Rose says he was before he, in turn, shoved the umpire? "I wouldn't have gotten that close," says Mays.

BOX OFFICE POISON IVEY: It seems every female star in Hollywood past 35 is being talked about for the lead in the planned film adaptation of Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer-prizewinning play, Driving Miss Daisy. The list includes Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley MacLaine and, yes, Meryl Streep. No one, however, has mentioned Dana (The Color Purple) Ivey, the character actress who originated the role of the crusty Southern widow off-Broadway. Hollywood doesn't see her as a box office draw. Even so, says Ivey, "I could do the part better than anyone else. A lot of the people being mentioned are not suitable for the role. It's PR hype. Naturally, I'd love the chance to do the film, and until somebody is cast, I'll keep hoping."

DIDN'T DUET ON PURPOSE: Continental crooner Julio Iglesias has recorded more than 80 solo albums in his 20-year career, but it wasn't until a string of duets with Willie Nelson, Diana Ross and, more recently, with Stevie Wonder on his new album Non Stop that Julio became a star with American audiences. Does it bother him that people may think of him only as a duet singer? "Not at all," says the Spanish vocalist. "When I came to the United States, I had to learn how to sing American music, so those three duets were great lessons for me." Which of the three was the hardest to sing with? "By far, Willie," says a now fluent Julio. "I couldn't speak a word of English when we recorded To All the Girls I've Loved Before and didn't understand a word from Willie's lips. It took six months just to learn the word 'girl.' "

LIVE AND LET LIE: Announcing plans for the 50th-anniversary party for Hollywood Park, a racetrack, business whiz and former TV talk show host Merv Griffin said of Walter Matthau, who was sitting across from him, "He never told the truth on my show. He once told me his father was a defrocked priest." Proving Merv's assertion, Matthau introduced himself by declaring, "My name is Jack Lemmon. I get tributes every three or four days. I was paid tribute last week by the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith, and next week it's the Palestine Liberation Organization. I want you to know I'm not playing favorites."

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