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Angie Dickinson talks TV

So, try to guess who my old friend, Angie Dickinson is talking about here: "He was so tender. Adorable. He was the sweetest person, to everybody. He was a gentleman and a gentle man. He had an aggressive image, but in real life he was not aggressive at all. He was easy on the eyes and easy on the ears."

Go to the head of the class if you said John Wayne. Miss Dickinson got to know The Duke when she was chosen to be the female lead in the classic Western movie, "Rio Bravo." Like almost all Wayne's co-stars, Angie adored him, and was struck by the soft core of the legendary tough guy.

I spoke with Angie over the phone the other day. This great woman is coming into Manhattan on Sunday, along with Stefanie Powers, Linda Evans and Nichelle Nichols, the sexy Lt. Uhura of "Star Trek" fame. (Nichelle made TV history as the first African-American woman to kiss a white man -- William Shatner -- on American TV.) The women will appear at the 92nd Street Y to talk about their careers on the small screen. This will promote the four-part PBS special, "Pioneers of Television." The first part airs on Tuesday.

I asked Angie how she feels about being called a "pioneer." The self-deprecating star of "Police Woman" laughed: "Well, why not? Who knew at the time? I was glad to have the job." Angie sounds great, full of vitality.

We spoke about the changes in television and in TV-watching. She said: "You know, watching TV used to be a kind of special event. And it was something you did with friends or family. People gathered to watch certain series or sitcoms or special events. You knew you'd have to wait months for the reruns. If there was some kind of concert or rare appearance by a star, well, you might never see it again. So, you made plans!

"Video machines changed it all, and DVDs and now YouTube. It's a new world of TV watching. And no sense complaining, either. An entire generation has grown up with very little sense of anticipation. They are instantly gratified, and that's that. I'm with Walt Disney, though. He put a ban on his films after their first run. They couldn't be seen again for the next seven years."

Angie and I then laughed over the now-antique concept of "first and second runs" in movie theaters. "I wouldn't even bother trying to explain that to a kid.

"Television and moviegoing has become more and more of an isolated experience. But there is nothing as wonderful as sitting with people watching something great -- or even not so great -- on TV. Or going to a packed movie house, and absorbing the audience reaction. I went to see 'The Social Network' at a regular theater and it was amazing. I mean, it's a great movie, but the way the audience reacted; it carries you along, it's part of the experience." Angie paused. "I just don't understand watching a movie on your computer, all alone."

Angie Dickinson is one of the best actresses around, though her sexy good looks often got in the way, early on. And she has an immensely likable, vulnerable quality, even when she's playing a bad woman, as she did in the 1993 Oliver Stone-produced miniseries "Wild Palms." ("Liz, I still don't know what the hell I was doing in that, or what it was about! But it was fun," said Angie.)

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