Thomason gets presidential surprise

GOOD MORNING: Harry Thomason thought President-elect Bill Clinton was getting an award from the National Educational Assn. Saturday night at the Pasadena Ritz-Carlton. Clinton insisted that the Thomasons be on hand. Harry groused about going to another black-tie dinner because he had a slight sore throat, but he and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason of course went and, boy, was he surprised. When he walked in the door, 83 Arkansas friends and relatives were lined up to greet him and wish him happy birthday (50). Linda and Hillary Clinton had been working on the secret surprise party for months. Linda, as she had for the president-elect at the convention, had prepared a half-hour biographical film with Jeff Tuchman entitled “The Man From Hampton”–Arkansas, that is. Dionne Warwick, a longtime supporter of Clinton, entertained and was asked by the president-elect to perform at the inaugural gala. Another performer in the saxophone section of the Bob Gail orchestra was you-know-who–Clinton, who tooted for 30 minutes with the group. Cast members of the Thomasons’ shows–“Hearts Afire,””Designing Women,””Evening Shade”–were on hand. Burt Reynolds had earlier in the year promised to take the “Shade” troupe to Jupiter, Fla., as his Thanksgiving present to them. CBS’ Jeff Sagansky was also there, as well as Bob Wagner, and Jill St. John from the ill-fated “Lime Street” show. Dancing went on until the wee hours and the Secret Service was happy to see everyone safely return to Summerland early yesterday morning … A staunch Clinton supporter, John Lithgow, says he’s playing a complete, prejudiced redneck in Showtime’s sexy comedy “Wrong Man,” filming in Mexico with helmer Jim McBride. “It’s a bit of a stretch,” laughs Lithgow, who co-stars with Rosanna Arquette, Kevin Anderson and Mexican star Ernesto LaGuardia. Lithgow’s role calls for him to be a foul-mouthed racist who calls the locals “El Spicos.” What’s the reaction of the Mexicans in the troupe on the location site? “They think it’s hilarious,” says Lithgow … Latest presenters at next Sunday’s Kennedy Center Honors include the Nicholas Brothers, who’ll be among those honoring Lionel Hampton … And in the two-hour Civil War CBS pilot/series “Shenandoah,” Robert Foxworth says he plays a Virginia landowner who sympathizes with the North–while his two sons are in the Confederate Army. And further, Foxworth’s character fathers a child by the beautiful slave, played by Laura Carrington. Foxworth was to have been on B’way nowin GBS’ “The Apple Cart” but four days from the start of rehearsals, funding fell through. He’d turned down a “Murder, She Wrote” because of the play–when the new (his fourth) series offer, “Shenandoah,” came through … The heart of showbiz: ABC’s “The Parsley Garden” shuttered in Fresno when Tom Bosley underwent angioplasty there. He recuped in L.A. and the crew volunteered to film the finale here on Sunday sans premium pay. “Garden” is directed/written by Hank Saroyan, produced by Faye Nuell Mayo and Adam Bleibtreu.

“WHENEVER YOUNG PEOPLE ASK ME how to succeed in this business,” said Garson Kanin, “I tell them–‘Get a brother like Michael (Kanin).’ ” It was at the finale of the Academy’s tribute to the Kanins, Michael, Garson, Fay and Ruth Gordon. It was also Garson’s 80th birthday and he was appropriately caked after the program m.c.’d by Gil Cates. Sadly, Michael (82) was not there, he was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai … Garson confirmed, as was noted here when we visited the set of the 1992 version of his “Born Yesterday,” that 80% of his original script is being used in the update … Jack Lemmon admitted he was a B’way snob and credited Garson with bringing him out to Hollywood … Ben Starr, who scripted “How to Commit Marriage” with Michael Kanin, told how it took a year for Bob Hope to commit to the film–with Jackie Gleason, Jane Wyman and Leslie Nielsen … Marian Seldes (Mrs. Garson Kanin) just completed a guestint as Candy Bergen’s aunt in “Murphy Brown.” The seg airs Dec. 14 … Arthur Hiller recalled how Fay Kanin turned down his request for a rewrite on “The Verdict”–so he turned down the pic as well. (Sidney Lumet then directed the David Mamet script.) Shelley Winters, among those making intros as promised here last week, told how she was doomed to death scenes since her 1947 role in “A Double Life”… Alan Bergman said he and wife Marilyn head to D.C. for Barbara Boxer’s office-taking Jan. 4, then linger for the inaugural doings. Will they write special material for Barbra Streisand as they had when she sang their parodied “It Has to Be You” at the gala Clinton fundraiser at Ted Field’s? … Also there, Doris and Hal Kanter. He’s one of the cleverest writers in this clever town and he’s readying his memoirs, “A Barrel of Monkeys”–as in, “More fun than …”… Tomorrow’s Hugh O’Brian Youth Foundation Albert Schweitzer Leadership Awards at the BevHilton will boast a celeb Christmas chorale conducted by Ray Charles, plus Roger Williams in a special performance. Jimmy Stewart m.c.’s. Winners include Betty and Gerald Ford, Barbara and Malcolm R. Currie, and Reva and George L. Graziadlo. This year, O’Brian’s Foundation will have 14,000 high schools in 91 locations participating–at no cost to the schools, parents or students.

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