Space, the Final Frontier.
No. "Space," the TV mini-series.
That's how actress Blair Brown happened to sit next to newsman Walter Cronkite and how actor Beau Bridges wound up sitting next to novelist James Michener.
They were in the dark together -- the theater at the National Air and Space Museum -- for a specially edited preview last night of the 13-hour series scheduled to air on CBS over five nights starting April 14.
Bridges plays an astronaut in the show, which is based on Michener's novel. "I was glad he didn't lean over and pinch my arm or anything," said Bridges of Michener.
Although 19 of Michener's 32 books in print have been adapted to movies or TV, this is his first for CBS. Said CBS executive Thomas Leahy of Michener, by way of introduction, "If it weren't for our next guest, we'd all be at home watching the president on TV."
Michener's story chronicles the space race, starting from the postwar years through the exploration of the moon in the early 1970s. The screening for about 500 people last night was a condensed, 90-minute version.
"It can only whet the appetite," said Michael York, who plays a German rocket expert. "It's like judging the week by Monday."
With her messy blond hair, Susan Anspach came looking like a punk Princess Leia -- all in white, including white lace bobby socks and trendy white sunglasses.
She and Blair Brown stood outside the theater, under the hanging aircraft, where waiters dressed in spacesuits (white) passed hors d'oeuvres. Other waiters served roast beef and green tortellini. Anspach kept the shades on.
Bruce Dern also came to watch himself. This is his first TV role in 14 years. In "Space" he plays a NASA administrator. He said he signed on because of the role. "And the fact that these underdog people deserved a thank-you."
York, Brown and Michener met at Michener's table, causing more than a dozen photographers to knock people and chairs out of the way to take what had to have been a roll of pictures each.
"Michael!" yelled out Michener to York as he approached the table. Michener held up his two hands clasped together in a sign of victory. "You never looked better!"
After the greetings subsided, Blair Brown asked Michener about the differences between the script and the book.
"The changes they made were changes they had to," said Michener. "That problem never concerns me. I write so broadly. I always encourage them to use their own imagination."
And then Walter Cronkite walked up.
"I really liked it," said Cronkite to Michener. "I'm not just saying that because I'm with CBS. I really liked it."
One of the few nonwriter, non-CBS higher-up and non-Hollywood types in the crowd agreed. Astronaut Gene Cernan thought it was terrific.
"I'd love to be able to relive that one part of my life that went almost too fast to remember it."
"Why? What was it really like up there?" one guest asked.
"Let me lay this one on you," said Cernan. "You stand on the moon at daylight and you look at the Earth and it is surrounded by blackness. Three-dimensional blackness."
Cernan, who landed on the moon in 1972, later bumped into Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah), who will be the first member of Congress to go into space. "You're going to have a great trip," said Cernan.
"It's the highlight of my life," said Garn. "I said I do not want to go and sit . . . I'm perfectly happy about the medical experiments. And I've got a perfect head for all the electrodes."
Beau Bridges had to think about whether he'd go to the moon if he could. "I haven't seen all the states in the U.S. I mean, the moon's great, but it isn't Palm Springs. You can't get ESPN or anything."
Bridges said he tried to get in a line about the moon being made of cheese -- Roquefort or maybe Parmesan, he said. But it wasn't allowed. "Italians would probably object. You'd have to say something herbal. You've have to pick a middle-of-the road cheese," Bridges laughed. "Swiss!"
Cronkite was more eager. "I'm just hoping to get up there before old age overtakes me."