Tartikoff makes quick return to showbiz

GOOD MORNING: Brandon Tartikoff is back in showbiz. And in radio. He guest-hosts New Orleans’ WWL’s 8-10 p.m. talkshow tonight, Thursday and Friday. It’s heard in 42 states, the fourth-largest radio net in the country. “And if you’re on Mulholland Drive (in L.A.) and not making out, you can hear it on 870 AM,” Brandon advises. Tonight’s subject is “The Late Night Wars” with guests Rush Limbaugh, Lorne Michaels and Tom Shales. What’s Tartikoff’s opinion on the Leno-Letterman “war”? “It’s too big a landmine,” he allowed. “It wouldn’t have happened if I was there choreographing it. But–it’s not my problem.” On Thursday, Tartikoff tackles “The Best & Worst of TV in ’92” with salutes to guests Jim Burrows and Dick Ebersol (for the Summer Olympics) and comedy contributions from Dennis Miller. And on Friday, with apologies to Art Buchwald, Brandon says, “Something can happen to get me in depositions”–because his show is titled “Pitches.” And viewers can call in series (and movie) “pitches” to Tartikoff. What about his actual return to the biz? “Nothing formal until spring.” Meanwhile, he has “attached” himself to several TV projects and spec scripts for movies that can be done close to New Orleans, where daughter Calla is making excellent progress and wife Lilly is preparing the Volvo celeb-pro tennis tourney to benefit the Women’s Cancer UCLA research program. Brandon will be at NATPE in SanFran for the keynote address Jan. 26 … We sat booth-to-booth at Matteo’s with a bearded Joe Pesci, who said the look is for his homeless-man role, living on a college campus in WB’s “Without Honors,” co-starring Brendan Fraser (“School Ties”) and Moira Kelly (“Chaplin”). Pesci told me he’s already been pitched to return for “Home Alone 3”–and is still recovering from some of the fun and games of “HA2.”

HOW TO CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY–when you’re 80: Loretta Young, who celebrates tomorrow, heads to Palm Springs to be toasted by her family and longtime friend Jean Louis. She told me, “I’ve enjoyed this year as much as any in my life. I feel I can pick and choose without feeling guilty.” But would she “pick” (a role) again? “If it was something divine. Physically, I feel wonderful.” And she looks fabulous. She has three children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren … And another beauty, Anna Lee, celebrated her 80th birthday Jan. 2 filming a feature from 8 ayem to 7:30 p.m., 240 minutes of film. Titled “What Can I Do,” it’s a tour de force for Lee by Wheeler Dixon, chairman of the film studies program of the U. of Nebraska. Lee was partied on the set. And, she beamed, “‘General Hospital’ renewed me for another two years!” Thursday , she receives her star on Hollywood Blvd. and Highland–next to Elvis Presley and her friend Kirsten Flagstad … Proud papa dept.: Gil Cates’ son Gil Jr. bows in “Doogie Howser, M.D.” tomorrow as Vinnie’s (Max Casella’s) gay roommate. And may become a regular on the show. Cates Jr. worked for his director-father in “Last Married Couple in America”–when he (Jr.) was 10 years old … Chuck Norris, just returned from three months filming “Cold to the Touch” for Cannon in Israel, has a Feb. 1 date to start his CBSeries with 13 guaranteed segs. He owns 50%. The show will be filmed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Norris will live there–he owns a 615-acre ranch in Houston. The “Touch” troupe ran into an area in Israel where their truck was stoned by Arabs. And one of the locations was five minutes from a site where an Israeli soldier had been kidnapped and murdered. They were happy to be home in time for the holidays in the U.S.

ANGELA LANSBURY WASN’T KIDDING about the unique experience of waving your arm for over two hours–in the Rose Parade. I had that pleasure riding aboard the Bank of America float, “Awards Night,” a photo of which you saw here yesterday. Happy to say, we won the Governor’s Trophy. In case you didn’t know it, parade participants go through the 6:30 ayem reporting routine two mornings in a row, the first a complete dress rehearsal, like a network spectacular, for float judging. The “rehearsal” is held in the Festival Artists Floatmasters yard in Azusa, where the flowers were newly picked and deliciously scenting the clean dawn air. I’d been a couch potato for 40 previous years of Parade watching. This “live” experience was one I wouldn’t have missed for anything and I congratulate the army of people responsible for the precision, beauty and showmanship. And the million “live” viewers along the parade route who appreciated everything–even those of us shivering, wearing tuxedos–or far less … Whatta way to start the new year … Yeah, we also went out New Year’s Eve. First, to help the new Tatou restaurant-disco on Beverly Drive celebrate its upcoming Jan. 8 official opening. While Bob Evans was in our group downstairs, his son Joshua and Natasha Wagner and the “90210” crowd and Chad McQueen were at the upstairs disco … Patrick Terraill, who brought showmanship to L.A.’s eateries with his Ma Maison, showed off his own culinary talents at his home over the holidays.

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