The man (with Hefner) back in 2004. (photo: Carol Kaelson ABC)
It was a crush of crepey cleavage and vintage Hollywood royalty Thursday night at George Hamilton’s book party at Il Cielo in Beverly Hills. We nibbled on porcini ravioli and tiny lambchops from hand-grown, organically fed micro sheep. We swilled house Chianti and watched as vintage 1980s television superstars paraded, air-kissed and lined up for photo ops.
There was leonine Loni Anderson, newly remarried and glowing behind her majestic cheekbones. She spooned chicly shagged and laid-back Stephanie Powers, who cocked a knee beside Linda Gray, still radiant nearly 20 years post-“Dallas.” Plumped lips curled into super-pro camera smiles all around. New York publishing lackeys watched in awe; this is why it’s good to hold Book Expo America in L.A.: star power, baby.
Suddenly the crowd parted and there was Hamilton himself, radiant in a bespoke suit and his signature 500-watt smile. His hair was shellacked to perfection, his teeth adazzle, skin burnished to the sheen of a fine, old wallet. The man, on the brink of 70, is still a total chick magnet. Women of all ages flocked to him, pulling wee cameras from tiny evening bags and jockeying for a photo, letting their hands linger in his as he smiled down at them.
It was an anticipatory party for his October book, “Don’t Mind If I Do,” an intimate look at behind-the-scenes Hollywood, and if his ghostwriter (William Stadiem) did his job right, it should be a pip. Hamilton was at the "Cleopatra" wrap party where Richard Burton declared his love for Elizabeth Taylor in front of Eddie Fisher; he witnessed one of Judy Garland’s suicide attempts and, apparently, skinny-dipped with JFK (giving new meaning to the phrase “I knew John F. Kennedy and you’re no John F. Kennedy").
“I came on the scene in the '50s, and I didn’t want to be stuck in that plastic era,” Hamilton told me as I tried to stay focused on his words and not be hypnotized by his animal magnetism. “I wanted to write about what really happened.” He was inspired by David Niven’s books “The Moon’s a Balloon” and “Bring on the Empty Horses,” which brought the insider Hollywood memoir to a giddy new level in the 1970s.
There’s hope for similar fun from "Don't Mind If I Do" because Hamilton clearly knows everyone -- and is in on the joke about himself. The promotional goody bag was an assemblage of personalized M&Ms, sunglasses and exotic tanning products. The book's cover photo has him posed in a leopard-skin chair, in ascot, nonchalantly gesturing toward the camera. He has a reality show in the works, also called “Don’t Mind if I Do,” in which he freeloads his way around the world on his charm and good looks without ever having to touch money.
In this new age of the stubbled, rude and tattooed, Hamilton is old guard Hollywood. Back in the 1950s, Hamilton told me, his idols were Rudolph Valentino and the Duke of Windsor. “I was 30 years out of date back then!”