03/23/1992 at 01:00 AM EST
WARREN BEATTY KNOWS THE CARDINAL rule about traveling light: Bring one good jacket. For his recent 10-day European tour to promote Bugsy, Beatty took his favorite James Dean—meets—Fred Hayman black leather—and hardly ever took it off. Perhaps it was a statement about '90s frugality. Perhaps it was a tactic to bore the relentless paparazzi. Or maybe this ex—swinging single just needed more space for the newly acquired accoutrements of his more settled middle age—namely, his ladylove Annette Bening, their 2-month-old daughter, Kathlyn, nanny Ellen Moore and several bodyguards (not to mention his personal lighting and makeup men).
Luckily the minimalist haberdashery was offset by Beatty's colorful, if evasive, personality. When a Q&A session with students at Oxford University in England, loftily described by one organizer as a discussion of "the intellectual underpinning" of Beatty's work, took a turn for the lowbrow, the actor smartly batted off inquiries about "the reality" of being in Madonna
's bed ("You would have to define reality"), the difference between having sex and making love ("Uh, uh...making love is better"), who would win if he and Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for U.S. President ("Me") and whether it's true that Carly Simon's tweaking tune "You're So Vain" is aimed at him ("I don't know that song").
When a young woman in a baggy sweater sitting in the back of the hall asked about his sexual fetishes, Beatty replied, "I like women in big, baggy sweaters who sit in the back of halls." Despite this brazen flirting, Bening—obviously not the jealous type—told the BBC the next day that, as a kisser, Beatty rated a 12 out of 10.
In Hamburg, Warren was crankier. He kept German stars like Armin (Avalon) Mueller-Stahl waiting for several hours at Bugsy's German premiere, and when he finally showed, says Hamburg-based fashion designer Joop, "the door opened, we saw one hand waving, and then he disappeared." Apparently Beatty was peeved because a German TV interviewer had asked earlier whether he used condoms. ("Do you?" he replied.) When she then asked if he was once a womanizer, Beatty threw up his hands and asked, "Do you have relationships with lots of men?"
Beatty regained his good humor in Paris, where the government named him a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters (his sister Shirley MacLaine and comedian Jerry Lewis hold the same rank; Sylvester Stallone, an Officer, ranks one level lower). Asked again about his previous lovers, he said, "I have only one, Annette. I don't remember the others."
Meanwhile, the Great Evader stoked rumors that he and Bening had secretly married. While sources close to both denied it, Beatty, en route to Madrid and Rome, told a reporter, "I'm a married man," then backpedaled and said, "You seem to be under the impression that we are formally married. You know that's not necessarily true." As Carly Simon might amend—Warren, you're so coy.
JEANNIE PARK, with bureau reports