Crystal opaque on Oscar return

GOOD MORNING: Crystal balling with Billy Crystal yesterday on the set of “City Slickers II,” I surmised he would be emceeing the Oscars on March 21. “It would be the fifth time,” he said. He didn’t say no — but he didn’t say yes. But I’m betting he will. His movie will be released Memorial Day and a plug (again) on the Oscars couldn’t hurt. Acad prez Arthur Hiller told me yesterday he’d already put in a call to Gil Cates to produce the show. In the past Gil answered, “I will — if Billy will.” One thing Crystal’s sure of –“The (Oscar) show’s too long. There are just too many awards.” But, we agreed, it’s impossible to jettison any branch without incurring the wrath of its members. And after all, Oscar is — whether you agree or not — an awards show first, and entertainment second … Crystal is starring, producing and has co-written the “Slickers” sequel. Paul Weiland is directing. But Billy admits he can’t wait to return to directing. Even though his initial outing, “Mr. Saturday Night” did not fare well. “But I got so many wonderful letters from creative people in the business,” he said. They included Kirk Douglas. “But that (‘Saturday Night’) door is closed now,” he smiled, “and when I came to work at 7 this morning, I remembered when I was doing it (‘Saturday Night’), I had already been in the studio five hours!”… The “Slickers” sequel is budgeted at $ 40 million, he said, compared to the $ 24 million on the first, which has already topped the $ 120 million mark domestically … This second Castle Rock’er for Columbia will have scenes in which Crystal’s chased by 300 wild horses (120 have already been assembled) on a Moab, Utah, location, which will also find him at the precipice site of the finale of “Thelma and Louise.” And he also will be seen on a horse on the solitary mesa used in many car commercials. The movie also has the cast in Vegas with Siegfried and Roy and on the streets of N.Y., where his character’s now the radio station manager … Crystal is enthusiastic about the Turner-Castle Rock deal. “I’ll just have to learn how to do the Atlanta Braves’ ‘chop’ (cheer),” said Yankee fan Crystal. His banner, FACE Prods., has a new two-year, non-exclusive deal with Castle Rock … Director Paul Weiland, whose previous credit was the unfortunate “Leonard Part VI,” was chosen for the “Slickers” assignment because of his creativity in commercials. And Crystal said he viewed an anti-child abuse p.s.a. that Weiland had done. His sensitivity exhibited in the ad added to the commercial’s appeal, said producer Crystal and “showed that he could give this movie a new spin”… Crystal’s daughter Lindsay (16) again plays his daughter in the movie. And daughter Jenny (20) guestars this week in a “Beverly Hills, 90210″… Sammy Davis Jr’s. daughter Tracey visited the set yesterday with husband Guy Garner — and presented Crystal with one of Sammy’s white dinner jackets. Crystal and Davis were close pals — Billy opened for Sammy at Harrah’s and imitated Davis often on “Saturday Night Live,” you recall. We all recalled moments with the inimitable Sammy. It was a warm way to start the day.

A SEVEN-FIGURE DEAL was set with Random House for the book by Gen. Colin E. Powell, soon-to-be-former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, by Marvin Josephson, chairman of ICM Holdings. Powell retires Sept.30 — and starts the book Oct. 1. There was intense interest in the publishing community and Random House bought book and hardcover world rights … It’ll be Tony Bennett duetting with Frank Sinatra on “New York, New York” on the latter’s Capitol album of duets … And Lou Rawls, readying his Capitol platter “Lou Rawls and His Lady Loves,” told me he’ll be duetting with Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Kahn, Anita Baker, etc. The busy Rawls broke ground in Chi for his “L.R. Cultural Exchange”– for senior and youthful citizens … Lou Rawls II formed Kids for Kids with second-generation youngsters. Their party at the Palladium, Sept. 2, following the MTV Video Music Awards, will benefit Caring for Babies with AIDS … Lloyd Bridges wound working with son Beau in the “Harts of the West” series, and segues to Boston to join son Jeff in “Blown Away.”

CLINT EASTWOOD AND FRANCES FISHER and their newborn daughter, Francesca Ruth (named for Clint’s mom), are at his Northern California ranch. Eastwood’s due to be honored at the Golden Boot Awards at the Century Plaza Saturday … Rick Schroder had time off the “Lonesome Dove II” location to be on hand when wife Andrea welcomed their second son Aug. 14 at Grand Junction, Col. The busy Schroder next stars in NBC’s “Single Dad”… Agent Dan Pasternack and non-pro Amy Edy will wed Sept. 11 with writer Stanley Ralph Ross performing the ceremony. Olan Soule is best man … Luc Robitaille and other celeb hockey players take to the ice at the Forum tonight to benefit leukemia, cancer and AIDS research for kids … Olympic medal winner Oscar de la Hoya takes on Angelo Nunez in a night of five bouts at the BevWilshire Aug. 27 to benefit diabetes orgs. Chairmen include Ricardo Mestres, Jeff Wald, Steve Sauer and Ed. Weinberger.

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