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AFI, stars toast Spielberg

GOOD MORNING: The toast was to Steven Spielberg — and glasses were raised to him, to the AFI and to its film preservation program by the House of Seagram’s Absolut Vodka, which not only picked up the dinner tab, but also donated $100, 000 to match an NEA preservation grant. And — Absolut poured again at a (not-so) private party in the Hilton’s Versailles Room, where tiers of caviar were coupled with the vodka and delicacies, including chocolates in the shape of movie scene clappers … Half the audience had already left the ballroom by the time (11:30) gracious, humorous, white-tie’d m.c. Tom Hanks returned on stage — after honoree Spielberg’s speech (!) to introduce Bernadette Peters heartily singing “When You Wish Upon a Star” backed on piano by composer of Spielberg pix , John Williams … George Stevens Jr., son Michael and director Lou Horvitz will have plenty of time to edit the show since it will not air (NBC) until May 27. However, the full evening will get total viewing, several times, on A&E … David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg were there, of course, as was Tony Thomopoulos despite the fact he’s leaving Amblin for MTM. Spielberg told me, “We just weren’t able to find an opportunity at DreamWorks for Tony and this opportunity that came along was met with our enthusiastic blessings and encouragement.”… Among those getting a great reception for remarks to Spielberg were Whoopi Goldberg (“The Color Purple”) and Ben Kingsley (“Schindler’s List”). Kingsley left Friday ayem for Rome en route to Morocco to play Moses for TNT. He said the script’s great. (Tough to beat the 10 Commandments!) Whoopi said she’ll only do a day in Neil Simon’s TV’d (CBS, 93 mins.) “Sunshine Boys.” But she’s tickled to do it. (Sarah Jessica Parker plays the Dick Benjamin nephew-now-niece role). Whoopi also stars in (the script by) Simon’s daughter Ellen’s movie, “Moonlight and Valentino”… Spielberg descended from his table to embrace Whoopi and Kingsley for their words to him. Spielberg in turn was embraced by all, including ex-wife Amy Irving (his wife Kate Capshaw, of course at his side). Dan Aykroyd was another big hit with his humor — and accuracy, calling Spielberg “an industrialist-artist”… William Atherton couldn’t join Goldie Hawn in reminiscences of “Sugarland Express”– he was working in ABC’s “Virus,” which he calls “the video (sweeps) ripoff of ‘Outbreak.'”

THERE’S NO BIZ LIKE — Congrats to Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair and its “Hollywood: The Power and Glamour” April issue, toasting movies’ 100 years, the mag’s largest in editorial and ad content. The photos are of album quality — and you may get a laugh out of pix of a couple of your friends here at Daily Variety. Portraits of movie greats are a tribute to the ingenuity of the photogs. And groups of (dozens of) legends assembled for a bow is a tribute to the mag’s staff. Eight Oscar-winning femmes were also gathered for one glamorous shot: Marlee Matlin, Ellen Burstyn, Kathy Bates, Marisa Tomei, Whoopi Goldberg, Liza Minnelli, Sophia Loren and Holly Hunter, plus super-legends in artistic solo photos by Annie Leibovitz and Herb Ritts. There’s also prose about Hollywood, then and now, the biz of the biz, and of course an article on O.J. by Dominick Dunne. Plus startling photos of the cast of “Batman Forever”… Peter Viertel, in town from Switzerland with his new novel, “Loser Deals” (Donald I. Fine), co-hosted, with Buzz mag, a library salon at the Four Seasons. Longtime pals welcoming him included Roddy McDowall, Freddie and Janet DeCordova, Walter Hill, David Giler, Wendy Stark, Barbara and David Niven, Jr. Viertel (“‘Black Hunter, White Heart”) acknowledged the importance of John Huston in his life — he supplied the best material for Viertel’s book.

STARS, STARS, STARS: Gil Cates gets his Boulevard Star Thursday, Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly get a pair of stars March 29 and David Copperfield arrives magically (natch) at the Galaxy (with Claudia Schiffer) to get his star April 25 … Ann-Margret rejoins Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in WB’s sequel, “Grumpier Old Men,” to start in July … Minnesota’s genial Gov. Arne Carlson arrives Wednesday to boost his state’s new pix program, Minnesota Blockbuster Film Fund. Blockbuster Video of Minnesota has committed $ 250,000 … Joe Stabile, Jerry Lewis’ longtime manager, is OK and home following stomach cancer surgery at Houston’s Methodist Hospital. He’ll miss Jerry’s Broadway bow Sunday in “Damn Yankees,” but hopes to wing into N.Y. next month … William Morris agents Debbie and Michael Gruber welcomed daughter Morgan Elizabeth at Cedars-Sinai on Thursday … Producer Paul Freeman delivered the answer print of “Halloween 6” to Miramax on Friday and checks into William Douglas Lansford’s Eldorado Pictures today to prep “Pershing and Villa,” budgeted at $ 35 million … On “Burke’s Law’s” return, Marty Ingels guests March 21, wife Shirley Jones follows with guestints the next two weeks.

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