Friday night’s Bebe Buell show at photographer Bob Gruen’s birthday party was one of those things you didn’t want to miss. The party was in a first floor space narrow as the Concorde on West 24th St. The clog of people at the bar couldn’t have been melted by Drano! But that’s where the booze and the Veneiro’s chocolate birthday cake were, so while a Blondie cover band wailed away “One Way or Another” folks from the outside tried to snake their way from the entrance to the stage. They included two formidable women: Ronnie Spector, and Suzanne Vega. (They were in separate groups.) Ronnie told me she has a new album coming next month, one that she’s been working on for so long that Joey Ramone produced three of the tracks. Suzanne Vega is busy re-recording a lot of her catalog acoustically, for release in February. Meanwhile, the cake was passed, “Happy Birthday” was heard being sung in various corners, and Buell went over so well she had to play four extra songs…

…Saturday night: Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” stars Laurie Metcalf, known to the world as Rosenanne Barr’s TV sister, Jackie. She’s also, ahem, one of the foremost alums of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater. She steps into the role originated by Linda Lavin twenty years ago. Jessica Hecht plays her sister. You know her from “Friends” maybe. The show also features Dennis Boutsikaris, Santino Fontana, Alexandra Socha and Noah Robbins in the Matthew Broderick role of Eugene Jerome.’ The themes of “Brighton Beach” are timeless, and maybe all the more pungent now since the family is bursting its house at the seams and trying to make ends meet. All the actors are terrific, and many of them (hopefully) will overlap when “Broadway Bound” starts playing in tandem with “BBM” in November. Metcalf is a gem. No one gives a comic dead stare like she does. Don’t miss her…

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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