'Kid Notorious:' Evans Stays In Picture

By CATHERINE SEIPP  |  Oct. 17, 2003 at 5:19 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Producer Robert Evans has always walked the line between glamour and cheesiness. Now that he's a cartoon - on Comedy Central's "Kid Notorious," a new show fancifully based on Evans's life and misadventures that premieres Oct. 22 - he's taking a definite walk on the cheesey side.

But at this point, he's earned it.

As Evans put it at the Comedy Central news conference, "Name it and I'm afraid I've done it. It's not easy going from royalty to infamy. In 1979 I was worth $11 million in cash; in 1989 I was worth $37. That's a big drop pal, but I'm back."

Evans's downfall began in 1980, when he was arrested for cocaine possesion. In 1998 he was totally paralyzed by a stroke.

"It took me a year to be able to pick up a fork," Evans recalled. "I had to learn to walk again: heel-toe, heel-toe. I had speech therapy, orthopedic surgery and physical therapy for three years ... the most painful three years."

"But you know, I fooled them doctors," added Evans, who at 73 looks pretty good, all things considered. "I'm still Kid Notorious and I love it."

"I have enough stories to tell," he added, about providing material for the new series. "I could be on as long as 'Bonanza.' "

Those who saw last year's documentary about Evans's life, "The Kid Stays In the Picture" (based on his 1994 autobiography) may remember the details:

Evans, a former child actor, was by age 21 running a successful New York garment business. But he got back into acting when Norma Shearer spotted him one day by the Beverly Hills Hotel pool and chose him to play her late husband, boy studio mogul Irving Thalberg, in "Man of a Thousand Faces."

Evans never made it as a movie star, but like Thalberg, he had a talent for making movies. In 1966 he became head of production at Paramount and revived the studio with hits like "Rosemary's Baby," "Love Story," "The Godfather" and "Chinatown."

"By the way, all the stories are truthful," Evans added about his new animated series. By which he means, apparently, that all of them have at least a grain of truth.

Evans did lose Woodland, his beloved Beverly Hills estate (since regained), to French investors when he was broke. But the buyer wasn't French president Jacques Chirac, and it's doubtful - as "Kid Notorious" imagines in an upcoming episode - that Chirac has harbored an unrequited lust for Evans these past 20 years.

And while Evans and Francis Ford Coppola famously fought during the making of "The Godfather," I doubt that they ever got into a brawl (depicted in another episode) over whether Coppola's marinara sauce needed another pinch of salt or not.

But as Evans likes to point out, "there are three sides to every story: my side, your side and the truth."

"Kid Notorious," like its inspiration, is very vulgar but also sometimes very funny.

"What did I ever do to you?" cartoon Evans demands of a studio head who's giving him a hard time.

"You slept with my wife!"

"It was a threesome," Evans shrugs. "Nobody slept."

Cartoon Evans looks decades younger than the real-life version, but shares the actual cheesey old macher's trademark unflappability.

He treats imagined annoyances like Sharon Stone putting on a "Vagina Monologues" -- like theater piece called "Sharon Stone's Vagina" with typical world-weariness.

"Sharon Stone's Vagina?" animated Evans says dismissively. "We've all seen it."

For convoluted reasons he ends up at one point in jail, where he overhears some black gangbangers talking about Sonny Corleone and snaps, "What do YOU know about "The Godfather?"

Informed that their new cellmate produced "Godfathers" 1 and 2, one of the hoods responds, "Yo! You better not have produced 3!"

But everyone ends up friends, with Evans at one point describing the young toughs as "from the hard-scrabble streets of Beverly Hills-adjacent."

I asked Evans at the news conference if he'd wanted to be a cartoon so he could look impossibly younger onscreen, and detected a little she's-so-mean buzz from my colleagues. But isn't it an obvious question?

And Evans didn't mind, because as everyone knows he'll talk about anything, and in fact opened the session with an extremely dirty (and no doubt untrue) story about his nurse when he was in the hospital.

For the record, Evans said he made the artist ADD wrinkles to his cartoon alter-ego.

"I don't understand it," he added. "I live a life of sin, I get younger looking. Something's peculiar there."

Also for the record, his suggested title for the cartoon was "Pussy Power."

"I've made Hollywood history," he added. "You name me another man in the history of Hollywood who started back in Adolf Zucker days running a studio and ended up an animated cartoon. You can't!"

That evening Evans gave a party celebrating his new cartoon incarnation at Woodland, his Beverly Hills estate off Coldwater Canyon. The grounds were decorated with zillions of twinkle lights, and the soundtrack from "The Great Gatsby" (another of Evans's '70s movies) was piped in.

The house has a little vestibule decorated from top to bottom with pictures of Evans and his friends in the '70s, including a weirdly mesmerizing one of Roman Polanski in hot pants, and a heartbreakingly glamorous shot of Evans dancing with his then wife Ali MacGraw.

He's not the Great Gatsby, of course; he never was. All this is just Hollywood fiction. But to quote a Gatsby-era line, isn't it pretty to think so?

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