Monday was Michael Douglas’s night as the recipient of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 37th Chaplin Award. But it was his longtime friend, Solitary Man co-star, and reliable life of the party Danny DeVito who nearly stole the show. After heartfelt tributes from Tobey Maguire and Frank Langella, DeVito danced onstage and broke into an a cappella rendition of “Give My Regards to Broadway,” explaining that “the best part of coming here to honor Michael is that I get a chance to sing that song in front of a hoity-toity audience at Lincoln Center.” Actually, the best part was the story DeVito told about Douglas getting bitten by a poisonous snake while shooting The Jewel of the Nile in Mexico. The only medical option was a doctor behind a “dirty white sheet,” so DeVito stepped up to suck the venom out of his friend’s arm. “I want to just say, from the bottom of my heart, Michael,” said DeVito. “You’d be a dead man now if that snake bit you in the balls.” With that, the hoity-toity crowd erupted in laughter.
Douglas evened the score and garnered even bigger laughs in his thank-you speech, acknowledging “Danny D,” his former New York roommate and “oldest friend in the business”: “It’s great seeing you here tonight, standing, after twelve limoncellos.” Douglas also said he had fond memories of when he and DeVito would come to film retrospectives at Lincoln Center when they roomed together on West 89th Street in 1968. What other sorts of things did they do together back then? “Let’s just say, it was the sixties,” Douglas told us at the after-party.
The evening’s other highlights included an introduction from Douglas’s 93-year-old father, Kirk, and a teary tribute from his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones. At the party, Douglas credited Zeta-Jones for his slowing down: Getting married ten years ago “probably made me do a lot less work,” he said, turning to his wife. “So it’s all your fault, darling.” To which she replied: “I’m so sorry that your career’s been ruined by me.”
Still recovering from heart surgery, Barbara Walters sent a video message calling her longtime pal “one of the sexiest men I’ve ever known.” And Jimmy Buffett revealed Douglas may have been responsible for a tequila boom; when Seagram bought Universal, MCA, and PolyGram in the nineties, Douglas reminded them that they now owned the song “Margaritaville,” so they should probably start making tequila. “There are a lot of agave farmers in Mexico who consider that a humanitarian achievement,” Buffett said, strumming the opening chords to his signature song. “But don’t expect a check.”