• U.S.

People, May 17, 1976

6 minute read

“Gladiators were the supreme fighters,” says Joe Frazier, trying his mightiest to explain why he and fellow Heavyweight George Foreman were suited up like Roman combatants to hype interest in their June 15 bout. The idea for the gladiator getup came from Fight Promoter Jerry Perenchio, who borrowed two outfits that had been used in MGM’s 1959 film Ben Hur. Perenchio’s costuming may be entirely apt, but his choice of battleground is far from Rome. Foreman and Frazier will square off at the Coliseum all right—the one in Nassau County, N. Y.

She agreed to star in the Soviet-American film The Blue Bird, recalled Elizabeth Taylor, 44, because “I wanted to help build the relationship between Russia and the United States.” Maybe, but when Liz went to Washington, D.C., for the movie’s premiere last week, she seemed far more interested in improving her relationship with Iranian Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi, 48. Taylor, who first met the bachelor ambassador at one of his lavish capital parties last month, arrived this time as a guest in his sumptuous embassy residence. Hand in hand, the pair took a tour of dinner parties and luncheons, and one evening they passed up a Blue Bird cast party for a trip to Rosecroft Raceway, a nearby harness track. There Liz found occasion to sit in Zahedi’s lap, snuggle under his cape as they awaited the moment to make a trophy presentation, and demurely decline the chance to pose in a sulky when he suggested it might be dangerous for her. (The thought must have amused horse fancier Taylor, who rode to fame aboard National Velvet in 1944.) By week’s end, friends of Zahedi were suggesting the ambassador was genuinely smitten and that Liz was the bluebird of happiness.

As the pigtailed, problem-prone housewife on TV’s Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Actress Louise Lasser, 37, has coped with a mass murderer, a philandering husband and romantic overtures from her sister’s fiance. But few of her on-screen acts would match one off-screen performance last week. The woe began when she set out to buy a birthday gift for the daughter of a friend, and a Beverly Hills boutique, The Rainbow, told her it could not handle her credit card. Lasser persisted and police were called. They took Mary Mary quite contrary to the station house when a routine check showed she had failed to pay two traffic fines—negligence that is frowned on in California. Next, a search of her purse and the not-so-routine discovery of a tiny vial of cocaine. Lasser, who returned to work after posting $1,631 bail, faces penalties ranging from probation to ten years in prison if convicted of drug possession. –

When he was charged last December with extorting a $25,000 contribution, West Virginia Governor Arch A. Moore Jr., charged in turn that John A. Field III, the Federal prosecutor pressing the case, was conducting “a vicious political vendetta” in order “to feed his personal ambitions.” Last week the Republican Governor stood vindicated after a jury in Charleston, W. Va., found him innocent. Said a tearful, defiant Moore: “An apology is due the citizens of this state.”

Nobody fainted, and nobody threw jelly beans the way they did in the old days of Beatlemania. Still, when ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, 33, Wife Linda and his band Wings tuned up at Fort Worth, the opening stop of a seven-week tour of the States, the reception was raucous rock ‘n’ roll. For his first U.S. performance in a decade, McCartney offered a few golden oldies from his songwriting days with John Lennon, and more than two-dozen works that he has recorded with Wings since the Beatles disbanded six years ago. It was McCartney, as much as his music, that the 14,000 Fort Worth fans had come to hear, and they delivered a 15-minute standing ovation before a note had been played. “I used to get more nervous with the Beatles,” allowed Paul calmly after his triumphant opening night. “I was younger, I guess.”

A Broadway musical based on 100 years of White House history seemed like a Yankee Doodle dandy idea. And 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would have the services of Leonard (West Side Story) Bernstein, Alan Jay (My Fair Lady) Lerner, a Bicentennial theme and almost $1 million in backing from the Coca-Cola Co. Alas, a pre-Broadway tour met with disastrous reviews. Despite considerable reworking, when the show opened last week in New York City it was plain that Coke had bought fizzle, not fizz. Observed TIME Theater Critic Ted Kalem: “The British burned the White House in 1812, and Lerner and Bernstein are running the fire sale.” After seven performances, Producer Roger Stevens shuttered 1600. Not even Leading Man Ken Howard, who was praised for his portrayal of ten different Presidents, seemed saddened by the closing. “It was the most painful and torturous experience I’ve had in the theater,” he reflected. “There was a rewrite every day, and we were doing new material every night. There was just no room for any creative effort.” –

“He was formerly Vice President of the United States,” says the dust jacket on The Canfield Decision, offering the most succinct description possible of the novel’s author. And he was formerly the nattering nemesis of network television as well. Now neither, Spiro Agnew has been all but inescapable in TV studios lately as he tapes interviews with Dinah Shore, Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas —not as an erstwhile politician, but as a self-promoter of his book about a liberal-leaning Vice President with eyes for the top job. “The real driving need to write The Canfield Decision was making a living,” Spiro told Merv, claiming that he was left “totally penniless” after his 1973 legal problems and subsequent disbarment. In fact, had it not been for his old buddy Frank Sinatra, he said, “I don’t think I could have survived that time.” Sinatra made Agnew a “substantial” loan, and “at the height of my troubles, he called me on the phone every day just to say, ‘How are things? Anything I can do for you?’ You don’t find many friends like that.” Well, how about his old boss, former President Nixon? “I haven’t seen him,” said Agnew. “And I have no desire to see him.”

“George Jessel is a very sexy man,” coos Edy Williams, 33, breathy-voiced, barely talented star of soft-porn cinema (Vixen) and former wife of X-Rated Moviemaker Russ Meyer. Edy, who last flung her affections at ex-Mobster Mickey Cohen (TIME, Sept. 1), is now making the rounds at Hollywood parties with the Toastmaster General, 78. “He treats me like a lady. He’s a living legend, and he’s still living it,” insists Williams, who serves Jessel seven vitamins each day to combat his arthritic aches and pains. Jessel, thriving on such fare, is taking Edy on a Mexican vacation. “I suppose she did sex pictures because she needed money to eat,” he says of his new companion. “She’s very ambitious.”

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