Wives of famous actors are usually found in the shadows of fame, discreetly lingering in the background as the spotlight glows on their spouse at movie premieres and Hollywood galas.
But don’t include Micheline Connery among the ranks of celebrity arm pieces and living props. Sean Connery’s wife of 30 years had no trouble stealing the scene from her husband last Thursday night at a double-header evening celebrating her success as both a painter and theater producer.
No minor accomplishment for a woman hitched to an Oscar-winning movie icon once dubbed the sexiest man alive by People magazine.
First stop: the National Museum of Women in the Arts, where Mrs. Connery took special pride in showing off 14 of her paintings at a glitzy benefit attended by Secretary of Defense William Cohen and his wife, Janet Langhart, Sens. John Warner and Ted Stevens and numerous neighbors from Lyford Cay in Nassau rounded up by Washingtonians Joy Safer and Kim Brady Cutler (who also have winter homes there).
“I’ve had such a hectic life with Sean that until now I’ve had no time to show or sell any of my work,” Mrs. Connery said, pointing to a wall containing sumptuous nudes, a vibrant New York street scene and inevitably a picture of her husband in his dressing gown, sitting half-asleep with a Siamese cat resting on his arm.
“She’s a heck of a good painter, and I’m pleased the museum agrees with me,” said sculptor John Safer, who took time to describe their unique qualities to his friend, former Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady.
Among the couple’s four children (all by previous marriages) flying in for the event was Mr. Connery’s disarmingly charming son, Jason, who seemed resigned to the inclusion of a 1985 portrait of himself in sunglasses, with two lolling lasses on chaises longues reflected in the lenses.
“The babes weren’t mine but they were nice,” the star of television’s Robin Hood said, his bemused actress wife, Mia Sara, taking it all in stride.
The next stop was the Kennedy Center for the opening of “Art,” the award-winning play that was purchased by the Connerys after Mrs. Connery saw it on the French stage.
“I fell in love with it immediately and insisted Sean buy the English rights,” she said after the show, noting that the storyline about three friends who fall out over the meaning of an all-white piece of art hit home because she had once been asked for an opinion of a similar canvas belonging to Mike Ovitz, her husband’s agent.
“I told him exactly what I thought of his white painting. … and that [pejorative expression] was the same line they used in the play.”
The rest, as they say, was theater history. The New York run ended after 600 performances (and a profit that tripled the initial $1.5 million investment). The London production is still playing after four years along with American and Canadian touring companies.
According to Sean Connery, the play has been as popular with its stars (including Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Buck Henry and George Segal) as its financial backers.
“There has always been harmony among the three men who play the roles,” he said, noting that various actors have “returned to play different parts. … which is most unusual in the theater.”
The Connery family opted out of the cast party at the Kennedy Center (attended largely by Golden Circle contributors) to be in smaller company at the home of Brazilian Ambassador Rubens Barbosa and his wife, Maria Ignez, old friends from London.
Princess Ira von Furstenburg, Lucky Roosevelt, Ann Nitze, Gale Hayman and Dr. William Haseltine, Emily Lodge, and Mallory and Diana Walker joined late-arriving cast members Judd Hirsh, Cotter Smith and Jack Willis for champagne and a spectacular buffet in the Barbosa’s elegant floral and Rigaud candle-scented salons that continued past midnight even though the senior Connerys had to depart in time to make a 10:45 p.m. private flight to Toronto, where Mr. Connery had an early morning call on the set of his next film.
There was time to talk about “Finding Forrester” (in which he plays a reclusive writer who develops a relationship with a 16-year-old black basketball player), but not, apparently, about his most famous role.
“I don’t think any of your successors has ever been able to measure up to the role of James Bond that you created,” one guest opined to the legendary actor just as he was midway through his salad and pate.
Mr. Connery, who said earlier that he didn’t think writer Ian Fleming was particularly adept at one-liners, had one of his own at the ready.
“If you can’t think of anyone,” the terse Scotsman replied, “I certainly can’t.”