Malibu Seen

Martin Short and Rita Wilson yuk it up with Steve Martin at American Cinematheque.


A-listers turned out in droves at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to salute their favorite wild and crazy guy. Steve Martin was honored by American Cinematheque at the organization’s annual dinner gala.

The 59-year-old actor, comedian, playwright, director, banjo player, art collector and magician has come a long way since his days doing card tricks at Disneyland and delivering one-liners at Knots Berry Farm.

He has become one of Hollywood’s best-loved comedians, with unforgettable performances in flicks like “The Jerk,” “Parenthood,” “¡Three Amigos!,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “L.A. Story,” “Father of the Bride,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Roxanne,” not to mention his iconic wild and crazy guy on “Saturday Night Live.”

In keeping with tradition, the evening started out with a glimpse of early efforts, featuring wide lapels and bad hairdos. The Martin extravaganza opened with his 1977 Academy Award-nominated short “The Absent-Minded Waiter” and went on to showcase Martin’s career highlights. The combo retrospective and roast also included previews of Martin’s upcoming films “Shopgirl” and the remake of “The Pink Panther,” in which Martin takes on the role of bumbling Inspector Jacques Cluseau.

Martin devotees turned out in force, including Claire Danes, Dana Delany, Rita Wilson, Martin Short, Carl Reiner and Robin Williams, who called his long-time pal “The first rock-star comedian.”

Amigo Short testified that Martin’s body of work is remarkable.

“I know that because earlier this evening he turned to me and said, ‘Hey, isn’t my body of work remarkable?'” Looking around the room Martin acknowledged some heavy-hitters in the crowd. “There are so many familiar faces in the audience, people I haven’t worked with in years…why can’t we just wear name tags?”

Ron Howard and Brian Grazer took the podium sporting Martin’s trademark arrow-through-the-heads props to present the star-shaped American Cinematheque trophy. Amid a standing ovation for an outstanding talent, Martin swaggered up to the stage and quipped, “I accept this award on behalf of millionaire comedians everywhere.”

Ever clever Martin clearly knows the ropes in Hollywood, adding, “It was better to accept this award than buy a table.” As for his craft, he said, “Comedy can be unpredictable, surprising, simple or elaborate, but one thing it can never be is finally and forever mastered. Just when you think you know it all, your joke is left reverberating in an unnerving silence. And that quest, that feeling that there is still something left to understand, has kept me going all these years.”

Proceeds from the gala benefit American Cinematheque programs. The Steve Martin tribute will be telecast Jan. 23 on AMC.