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"I think drugs gave the illusion of intensity but actually took away the substance. But there is something wrong with me not having a better memory of it. That's the old thing: If you remember the '70s, you weren't there."

So says Dustin Hoffman in a candid, moving, wide-ranging interview in December's GQ. The writer is Michael Hainey, who had to dodge Tom Ford last month.

Hoffman, who'll be seen over the holidays with Barbra Streisand in "Meet the Fockers," talks with real candor about his life as an actor and as an evolving person. The seduction of stardom, the curse of narcissism, why "Ishtar" bombed, working with Laurence Olivier, therapy, regrets and why playing Ratso Rizzo in "Midnight Cowboy" affected him so: "He's me. Crippled. Deceitful. A hustler. Survivor."

This is the magazine's Men of the Year issue. Tom Cruise is the cover man, looking intense with his shirt open to reveal a nice amount of collarbone and chest.

Inside, Cruise talks quite a bit about Scientology, the philosophy that has been so controversial in his life, and a subject which he rarely addresses. When the actor concludes his upbeat rap on Scientology and his dis on therapy, he says, "I'm not looking for approval from anyone. Because I know when my head hits the pillow, I'm doing everything I can to make the world a better place."

I'm sure he is. But read side-by-side, somehow I prefer Dustin's thoughtful, uncertain angst.

Uma Thurman should be Oscar-nominated for her performance in "Kill Bill: Vol. 2." But it is unlikely. The star thinks the academy simply misses the point of director Quentin Tarantino's stylized and violent tale of a vengeful bride. But Uma doesn't brood. (Thank goodness, we know what she can do with a sword!) Instead she's busy shooting a new ad campaign for Marc Jacobs. The fashion giant's last celeb model was Jennifer Lopez.

Her Oscar chances are pretty slim, too.

Sodden notes from the Clinton Presidential Library opening last week: The deluge from the skies tried to take out the hardy souls who had the misfortune to be in the choir, as well as the folklorico dance group, soloists, poetry readers and speakers at the invocation. But they went bravely on, as if there was no monsoon.

The choir singing the "Negro National Anthem" had the hardest job. Every time they opened their mouths, their throats would fill with rain while reaching for the high notes.

The audience of 30,000 sat in plastic parkas and gratis umbrellas, but it was hard to see over the open umbrellas down in front. Some people left the crowd and went to the building next to where the ceremony was being held and sat in Bill Clinton's office watching TV. This included the Ted Kennedys, and Eunice Shriver and half a dozen congressmen.

The Rev. Floyd Flake thanked God for a president who balanced the budget, wiped out the deficit, maintained eight years of peace, created jobs, educated children, protected the air and water, and brought people together. President George W. Bush and his group had to endure this continuing rainy supplication, an ode to Clinton.

There was a sense of the ominous in the reports on Elizabeth Taylor's interview in W, in which she graphically describes the ruins of her health and body ("a little old lady, bent all sideways!") Her statement that she is "ready for death" seemed especially grim. But this is ET's way. She's not ready to die right now, just not fearful of what comes to all -- she has been near enough times not to fear it. And, this was the star of stars declaration -- I am ill, I am basically housebound. My public life is essentially over.

Just as she scribbled a dramatic note to the world when she and Richard Burton broke up, just as she risked her career to champion the AIDS fight and just as she celebrated "the child in me" at her 60th birthday party in Disneyland, Elizabeth is the mistress of her own iconic, mythic-yet-mortal status.

Singer Moby will be honored Monday at the Jazz at Lincoln Center's Allen Room. It happens during this year's Music Has Power Awards, and Moby's efforts for the Institute for Neurologic Function are being recognized. Rufus Wainwright, Marvin Hamlisch, Kris Kristofferson, Willem Dafoe, Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes, and Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider of the B-52's are among the guests.

Tribune Media Services

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