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A new book, “Scandal: A Manual”, alleged that Gabriele Byrne and pop queen Madonna were more than just friends. Photo by: ABC

Did Gabriel Byrne and Madonna get very friendly as new book alleges?

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A new book, “Scandal: A Manual”, alleged that Gabriele Byrne and pop queen Madonna were more than just friends. Photo by: ABC

The journalists behind the New York Post’s notorious Page Six and the New York Daily News’ “Rush & Molloy” George Rush and Joanna Molloy have survived successful careers as America’s most infamous dispensers of dish.

Having barely survived a few of their brushes with fame, the pair is now ready to share some tales they’ve kept to themselves in “Scandal: A Manual.”

Here they provide IrishCentral readers with some tasty morsels about Irish stars Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson among others:

...Gabriel Byrne was another actor you could joke around with, though one joke got a little out of hand.

The year that Linda Fiorentino picked up the Independent Spirit Award for Best Actress, she announced to the crowd that playing an evil vixen in "The Last Seduction" had been murder on her love life. She said she hadn’t had sex in three months. She added that she’d gladly trade her award “for a date with Gabriel Byrne.”

Fiorentino told me later that day, “I really do have a crush on him. I figured this is my only chance to meet him.” I thought I’d play Cupid. So I asked Byrne, who was at the awards, if he was ready to give Fiorentino some relief from her celibacy. He played along. “I’m flattered,” he said in his brogue.

“Three months, and she picks me? I wouldn’t be a gentleman if I didn’t call her.” Over the next day, I kept running into him and asking, “Have you called her yet?” He’d say, “I’m working up my nerve.” Urging him on was his ex-wife, Ellen Barkin, who came with him to the Oscars. She said, “I told him to go for it!”

I don’t know whether they ever hooked up, but there were always a few ladies after him. At one point, he was talking with Madonna about a project and there were reports of him visiting her house in L.A. a lot. Byrne and I were talking after the premiere of his movie, "Smilla’s Sense of Snow," and I asked him, tongue in cheek, what was the nature of his visits. All he would say was, “Madonna is a lovely woman.”

Then I asked him about an interview in which his "Smilla" costar, Julia Ormond, hinted that they were dating. Again, Byrne would only say, “Julia is a lovely woman.” Pushing my luck, I asked if Julia and Madonna were “lovely” in the same way. That was too much. He gently wrapped his fingers around my throat. I took that as a “no comment” and said, “Okay, I withdraw the question.”

I mentioned our little interaction in the column. The next time I saw him he said, “You got me in trouble with me mum. She saw what you wrote and said, ‘Now why did you go and strangle that poor man?’”

We started out on decent terms with Daniel Day-Lewis. Our Irish friend, Terry George, who wrote "In the Name of the Father" and "The Boxer," had told him we were okay. So Daniel was usually obliging at premieres where we’d try to unravel the incredible screen silk he spun as he molted from one character into another. Still, how could we overlook his private life? A friend of Isabelle Adjani, the ethereal French beauty he’d dropped while she was pregnant with his son, Gabriel, told us he hadn’t sent any support—at least at first. He wasn’t much sweeter to Deya Pichardo, a Dominican-born physical trainer. They’d been living together. Then she opened the paper and found out he’d eloped with writer-director Rebecca Miller, daughter of Arthur Miller.

“He must have been cheating on me,” Pichardo told us. Daniel must have read the item. Soon after, Pichardo said, “He asked me, ‘What are you doing talking to the media?’ I said, ‘How else am I supposed to know you got married? You sure didn’t tell me.’”

We further endeared ourselves to Day-Lewis when we found out that, on the day after Arthur Miller died, Rebecca had evicted his much younger fiancée, Agnes Barley, from the playwright’s Connecticut estate. Our airing of Barley’s story caused Daniel to cancel an interview with the Daily News' respected film writer, Graham Fuller.

Liam Neeson was easier to know. We’d become friendly with Michael Caton-Jones, who’d just directed Liam in "Rob Roy," about the Scottish folk hero. One night over dinner, Joanna asked Caton-Jones about the truth of the legend: not of Rob Roy but of Liam Neeson—whether he was indeed well-endowed.
 
“Put it this way,” the director said. “We were filming the scene where Liam doffs his kilt to bathe in a lake. It was early in the morning. The water was absolutely freezing. When Liam emerged from the water, the crew fell silent for a moment.” It was as if they’d just glimpsed Nessie.

“After Liam was out of earshot,” Caton-Jones went on, “my cameraman said, ‘Aye, that’s a fine bit of rope on that lad. And not a wee bit of shrinkage on him!’”

We talked regularly with Liam about Ireland’s troubles after he’d played freedom fighter Michael Collins. “On one level, the movie is depressing,” he admitted, knowing too well that his northern homeland was still a war zone.

“But there’s a lot of spirituality in [the movie], and a lot of good.”The week that the Oscar nominations came out that year, I ran into Liam and his wife, Natasha Richardson, at a party at Patroon. I told Natasha that I couldn’t believe the Academy hadn’t nominated him for "Michael Collins," especially after he’d been denied the Best Actor prize for playing Oskar Schindler the year before. Natasha admitted she was angry and vented at some length, on the record. A few minutes later, she cornered me and asked if she could take back what she’d said. She feared that her spousal support would hurt Liam. I suddenly caught amnesia.

But the Academy’s snub may have stung Liam. Three years later, he told me he was quitting acting. “It’s not a decision I made overnight,” he said over a cocktail at II Cantinori. “I’ve been thinking about it for the last ten years.”

Even though he was about to star in George Lucas’s latest Star Wars installment, "The Phantom Menace," Liam contended that Hollywood stunted creativity. “I don’t fit in anymore,” he said. Natasha told me he was just having a mood. “I don’t take it too seriously,” she said. A year later, he was involuntarily sidelined when his motorcycle collided with a deer near their upstate farm (and our own weekend place). Liam underwent major surgery.

Four months later, at a benefit for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, Natasha told me, “I just thank God that, by a small piece of luck, Liam isn’t sitting where Chris is tonight—or that he isn’t dead.” Liam’s wit was unscathed. He declared victoriously that the deer “was sliced up into sirloin steaks.”

In 2009, at a party thrown by the French consul general, he and I chatted about his habit of taking roles—"Gangs of New York," "Kingdom of Heaven"—where he’s killed in the first act. “Yes,” he said, “but then they talk about me the rest of the movie!” He said he was about to fly to Canada to film "Chloe," in which he promised he’d stay alive till the credits. Three weeks later, Natasha suffered a catastrophic brain injury while skiing in Canada.

Two days after her fall, her family took the forty-five-year-old actress off life support as Liam and their two young sons stood at her bedside. That Sunday, Joanna and I drove upstate to cover the funeral in Millbrook, where they’d been married. We kept a respectful distance on the roadside when Liam and his children arrived. Snow began to fall as he lifted the coffin of the woman who’d always worried so much about him.

"Scandal: A Manual" is available on Amazon.

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