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Coolidge honors humble Streep

Despite the 13 Academy Award nominations -- and two statuettes -- Meryl Streep still shrugs at celebrity. Indeed, it can be an uncomfortable experience just watching her accept a compliment. Take yesterday: Asked how it feels to receive an award from the Coolidge Corner Theatre and be feted by a few of her eminent amigos, the actress famous for her accents was the antithesis of uptight, smiling sweetly before completely sidestepping the question. ''This is a small, independent art theater," Streep said. ''And that's a creature that has to be preserved." (The truth is Streep's good friend and ''Orchid Thief" author Susan Orlean is on the Coolidge board and prevailed on her press-shy pal to show up.) It just so happens that the actress has a new movie to promote, and it's good. Directed by Robert Altman, ''A Prairie Home Companion" is a faithful film version of Garrison Keillor's long-running radio show with a stellar ensemble cast that includes Keillor, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly, Lily Tomlin, Tommy Lee Jones, and, playing Streep's dispirited daughter, Lindsay Lohan. Altman, Reilly, and Kevin Kline are among the VIPs in town to celebrate Streep, and yesterday they sat down to talk about the movie. Shot in front of a live audience in St. Paul, Minn., the movie is a mix of songs and stories, and as usual Altman encouraged the actors to improvise. ''There'd be long, meandering takes, and all I could think was, 'Surely he'll say ''Cut!" ' " said Streep. ''It's bravado directing." The fair-haired actress, who warbled a bit in ''Ironweed," also sings here, and displays impressive pipes. ''My character's supposed to be half-assed, so if there are mistakes, that's OK," she said. ''That's how I rationalize it." Likewise, Lohan shows she's capable of carrying a melody, even if she's better known for her wardrobe malfunctions. ''It's very hard to be her off-screen," Streep said of the overexposed teen, ''but it's very wonderful to be her onscreen. . . . She's the real deal."

Streep, who'll next play a fashionista inspired by Vogue vixen Anna Wintour in ''The Devil Wears Prada," was officially presented with the Coolidge Award last night at a red-carpet reception that attracted even more boldfaced names. (''Adaptation" screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and former New York Times critic Janet Maslin are in town to take part in a panel discussion today.) For his part, Altman, who just turned 81, said it was a treat to work with such a talented cast, and Keillor, who wrote the screenplay, proved to be a great partner. ''It's like a first date," the director said, grinning. ''I had to decide how far I wanted to go."

The joke’s not on Romney

Don't let their austere demeanor and buttoned-down look fool you. The State Police troopers who look out for Governor Mitt Romney aren't all party poopers. The Associated Press is reporting that last weekend, when Romney visited Palm Beach, Fla., amid consideration of a campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, one of the troopers decided to short-sheet the governor's bed as an April Fool's joke. The trooper, Kevin Connolly, folded back the sheets beneath the comforter in Romney's room in the Ritz-Carlton, where the governor had been the keynote speaker at a gala. But the plan was foiled when Romney entered the room and flipped back the bedding, a habit he's developed for loosening tightly tucked hotel sheets, the AP reported, quoting an aide who requested anonymity because of the personal nature of the story.

What price Matt Damon?
How much would you pay to have lunch with Matt Damon on the set of ''Ocean's 13" and spend two nights in Hollywood? The bidding started yesterday for lunch on the set, with proceeds benefiting Worcester's Seven Hills Foundation and a golf tournament named in honor of Damon's friend Jake Scileppi. The lunch will be up for auction through Cambridge-based cMarket, an online auction firm that works with nonprofits, through April 21. The Jake Golf Tournament was started in 1981 by John Scileppi of Newton, vice president of national philanthropy at Seven Hills, and is named for Scileppi's son, Jake, 27, who is living with cerebral palsy at a managed-care facility in Andover. . . . The Union Oyster House played host to two well-known TV types yesterday. Bryan Cranston, the dad on ''Malcolm in the Middle," had lunch there. Separately, Kathy Baker, the mom on ''Picket Fences" and the creepy mom on ''Boston Public," also dined at the historic eatery.

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