‘Scout’ finds Bennett on top of his game

GOOD MORNING: “I’m old-fashioned. I’ll sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ the way the composer wrote it,” said Tony Bennett. He’ll sing the national anthem in a scene for 20th’s “The Scout” at Yankee Stadium in April. Tuesday, I met up with Bennett at the Cocoanut Grove, doubling for N.Y.’s Waldorf Astoria Empire Room. L.A.’s shuttered Ambassador Hotel is still a favorite movie and TV location site. The door outside the hotel’s grand portico, where limos once arrived, still says “Welcome” but inside, the arcade halls are dark, cold, the stores are long vacated, the grand lobby totally empty and eerie, the long check-in desks are outstretched for no one arriving. I thought I heard sounds of Freddy Martin’s band wafting through the doors of the Grove but it was Bennett’s trio, led by his longtime (30 years) ace 88’er, Ralph Sharon. Inside, 200 black-tied extras were seated in the re-created New York club and as soon as Tony Bennett walked on stage — before director Michael Ritchie called “Action!”– the crowd applauded Bennett. Monday night he had been toasted on “Day One.” Tony, 67, is booked solidly through next year — and he is most pleased MTV is giving him an hour special — he’s happiest that his music has helped bridge kids and their parents … He had only sung 12 bars of “I Wanna Be Around — to Pick up the Pieces –” in the scene’s rehearsal but the atmosphere players applauded wildly. Albert Brooks, who stars in (as) “The Scout,” whispered to me, “It’s like watching Nolan Ryan pitch a no-hitter!” Yes, Bennett will sing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in the movie — but he’ll be joined, rather interrupted by, young co-star Brendan Fraser , who plays the pitching-batting sensation of the Yankees in this comedy about relationships. The great-looking Fraser’s hot on screen as well with two pix coming out and several to start … Between takes, Bennett laughingly recalled to me how he was fired from his first date at the Grove when noisy conventioneers wouldn’t stop talking during his act — so he took out his cigarette lighter and set fire to the tassel on the fez of a ringsiding celebrant. P.S. The Grove begged Bennett to return after “San Francisco” was a hitune. Since that city has its signature song, ditto Chicago and N.Y. (2), I asked Tony, how about one for ailing Los Angeles? “We tried with ‘City of Angels,’ ” he noted. But nothing happened. We could sure use one now! Talking of music, director Ritchie said, despite the problem Jim Brooks had musicalizing his “I’ll Do Anything,” he (Ritchie) is determined to do a musical as his next movie. Albert Brooks, who also stars in “Anything,” said he’s certain the general public won’t give a second thought to the fact that “I’ll Do Anything” was originally plotted as a musical. Why should they — he’s hysterically funny. In “The Scout,” Albert B. is playing the role originally skedded for Peter Falk 15 years ago, then for Rodney Dangerfield.

KIRK DOUGLAS RECEIVES NATO/ShoWest’s Lifetime Achievement Award March 10. Douglas adds another achievement, comedy, with his latest pic, “Greedy,” which Universal sneaks Feb. 25-26. Coincidentally, I watched Douglas, Michael J. Fox and Olivia d’Abo film sequences for this movie on location last year — in the Ambassador Hotel as well … Bill Cosby joins the cast of ESPN’s American Sports Awards, the ESPYs, hosted by Dennis Miller, Bill Murray, Bob Costas and Rosie Perez Feb. 28 from the Paramount at Madison Square Garden … Robert Blake is out of the CBS John Gotti biopic, and sez, “I made a mistake. I got involved in a project I thought I could change (the script).” He also admits, “I got some phone calls (from some ‘guys’). I went to meet them (in a parking lot). They said, ‘What are you doing this script for’?” Blake said, ‘I’d only do something that’s right,” adds “My heart’s broken.” Better’n his legs … Nicky Blair’s reopens tonight. It’s been closed this week to be a location for Sean Penn’s “The Crossing Guard” scenes with Jack Nicholson, accompanied by Priscilla Barnes , Jennifer Warren, Kellita Smith, Gene Kirkwood — and Nicky Blair, of course, playing himself … And Angela Lansbury’s locationing her “Murder, She Wrote” in the shuttered Bullock’s Wilshire — where she got her first job, wrapping gifts for $ 16 a week, when she first arrived in L.A.

OSCAR WINNERS Olympia Dukakis and Teresa Wright head the cast of TBS Prods.’ “A Century of Women,” a three-part docu narrated by another Oscar winner, Jane Fonda … It was a busy week in L.A. for Art Buchwald. He was toasted at the Bistro Garden by Deborah Raffin and Michael Viner (their Dove Audio taped his “Leaving Home: A Memoir”). Then, Buchwald made an appearance at the book bash for Shirley Lord and her “My Sister’s Keeper” (Crown) at Rizzoli’s where the Deutsches and Wendy and Len Goldberg hosted a gathering.

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