Sunday, May 25, 2003

Mia Farrow

More than a tabloid mega-mom


I'm ashamed to say I was expecting her to be a little flaky. Certainly irrelevant. One step, surely, from a guest spot on Hollywood Squares.

Maria de Lourdes Villiers Farrow. Mia Farrow.

First there was Peyton Place. Then she became Frank's baby and starred in Rosemary's Baby. After Sinatra, she married Andre Previn, and the babies began in earnest. Along came Woody Allen and the babies - some of them - wound up in court. I was thinking Mia Farrow would probably show up in a gauzy Earth Mother dress, wearing sandals and a dazed expression.

Blue lipstick

Some of the people who peered at her from the nosebleed section of the Aronoff Center must have wondered if her 58-year-old self looked youthful up close. She bounded - almost skipped - onto the stage in closely fitting black pants and shirt. Her luminous, unlined skin is a testament to sun block; her long, curly golden hair is only vaguely threaded with silver. Her cheekbones manage to arc dramatically without crowding her wide, pale eyes.

If she wore makeup, I could not see it.

At one time, she outlined her mouth in the brightest color she could find. Pink, at first. Then red. Then, well, blue. One of her sons had been diagnosed as autistic. Farrow's mother, actress Maureen O'Sullivan, came to visit. "He looked at her," Farrow says. And in the world of autism, this is very big.

She couldn't sleep that night, replaying the scene in her head, trying to decode the message of that tiny connection. "My mother wore bright pink lipstick, and I thought maybe that was it." So she smeared her mouth with bright pink. And worked to maintain the fragile link. Talking. Talking. When he seemed to tire of that, she changed colors. Now, this son teaches children who are autistic.

Of course, this was after many years and many more complicated remedies. And many more children, a total of 14. And now three grandchildren.

A genius child skipped junior high and went straight to college. Another, Isaiah, 11, traveled with her to Cincinnati, possibly to take our political temperature. He intends to be president of the United States. A son with cerebral palsy learned to play the piano. This family lives in Bridgewater, Cojn., where, she says, if somebody is Asian or black or in a wheelchair, "you know it's one of us." If somebody stares, "I tell the children, they're looking at me because I'm famous."

Well, she is famous. Charming and candid, she told a 2,000-plus audience at the Enquirer's Smart Talk Lecture Series about Ol' Blue Eyes - "very bossy" - and Woody Allen - "capable of horrible, horrible things." Hollywood leading men: Robert Redford is a "very good kisser." This she will do with the grin of a good sport, accommodating our curiosity.

But real life is about children. Not just her own brood, but the ones she meets traveling to war zones, raising money for UNICEF, chasing around the world to defeat polio. Hungry children, hurting children, sick children, homeless children.

Everything else is irrelevant.

E-mail or phone 768-8393.

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