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Claire Danes, who plays Meryl Streep’s daughter in "The Hours," is thrilled to be working with the acting legend, who could be heading for a 13th Oscar for her beautiful performance in the new movie. "Meryl has been my idol since I knew...

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Claire Danes, who plays Meryl Streep’s daughter in "The Hours," is thrilled to be working with the acting legend, who could be heading for a 13th Oscar for her beautiful performance in the new movie.

"Meryl has been my idol since I knew what acting was," says Claire. "So I was so nervous to meet her, but she could not have made me feel more comfortable. At first I thought she would be really intellectual, but I found her to be sassy, funny and so authentic. And she has the best laugh in the business." Thanks, Claire, for satisfying what inquiring minds need to know.

This inquiring mind has known how authentic Meryl is since —brand new to show biz years ago — she cartwheeled across the stage playing the relatively minor role of Dunyasha in Andre Seaban’s production of "The Cherry Orchard." She practically gave off sparks. When I mentioned her star quality to the great late director Josh Logan, who had never heard of her, he said, "Fine, but she’ll have to change that funny name." No, she didn’t have to.

Nicole Kidman, going against advice by masking her beauty with prosthetics — they hung a big false nose on her — and playing an older woman, also in "The Hours," says she was intimidated playing the role of Virginia Woolf. "It’s rare you get to play a part of someone older, and people advised me against it repeatedly. I like when people say you shouldn’t do something. It entices me to go after it even more. If it’s in my gut, I have to do it." Is that anything like sticking in your craw?



The ballroom of The Plaza was bedecked in yellow and gold for the Spanish Institute Gold Medal Gala, the lighting was flattering and the women were muy chic. That’s half the battle. The other half is the guests and "the" guest at this ball was the Spanish Duchess of Badajoz, the Infanta Dona Pilar, who flew from Madrid for the party with her three handsome sons, all Gomez-Acebos, Gomez-Acebo being one of the great names of Spain. Dona Pilar is the King of Spain’s sister and she looked like a king’s sister should — magnificent in royal blue. Her speech was short and sweet and to the point. She quoted her late husband, the Duke of Badajoz, who said in 1987 when he and she received the Gold Medal, "The Spanish Institute is a silver bridge between Spain and the United States." That tells it all.
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