Burns cancels birthday shows in Vegas

GOOD MORNING: George Burns’ 100th birthday bash at Caesars Palace Jan. 17-21 is canceled. (His birthday’s Jan. 20). The shows were sold out, the hotel’s initiating refunds. … I caught up with Burns at his office at the Hollywood Center Studios where he arrives for work every weekday morning at about 10:30. Although seated in a wheelchair, Burns was his usual dapper self, in a smartly tailored suit, shirt and tie and soft, velvet loafers. Behind his desk was a photo — Gracie, of course. Burns smiled, greeted me warmly — we’ve known each other all of the 50 years (next month) I’ve been covering showbiz. … He pulled out a cigar, held it in his left hand. “My right hand doesn’t work so good,” he volunteered. He fell in the bathtub of his Beverly Hills home last summer and this is one of the after-effects. He has not been able to perform onstage since then. That’s why he canceled the birthday date, as well as the CBS special. He doesn’t feel he’s strong enough to do the kind of show his audiences have enjoyed, and expect. But, that doesn’t mean he isn’t still working. On Oct. 16, he’ll tape a commercial with a bevy of dancing girls, they’ll do the dancing for the Australian Football League’s 1996 season. He rehearsed some of the lines: “A game that’s lasted longer than me? I’d like to see that,” he laughed. … Burns has also completed an Almaden wine print campaign. Who better for great vintage? … His manager of 22 years, and friend for even longer, Irving Fein listened as Burns and I discussed retirement. His. Burns puffed away on the cigar, his third of the morning, sipped tea from a cup marked “God,” and munched on a cookie. “Have one,” he offered. “Retire? Why would anyone retire?” he said. “What do you do when you retire? You play with yourself. I tried it once or twice. It’s not fun. What would I do if I retired, exactly what I’m doing now, smoking a cigar.” … Burns talked a few matters of business with Irving and the office staff, Jack Langdon, his personal assistant of 36 years, and Conrad De Michiel, who has been handling the hefty fan mail, etc. for 10 years. Burns no longer holds daily meetings with writers on his nitery material and books. There are no more books. No more nightclubs.

… When Burns’ office visits wind down each day, he’s driven on to Hillcrest for lunch with pal Barry Mirkin and a game of bridge. … Next, home for a nap in the afternoon and perhaps dinner with longtime friend Jerry Zeitman. … As I was readying to leave his office, Burns said to me, “Kid, when you are ready to retire, come up here and I’ll retire with you.” I’m not ready, George, so hold off awhile.

REMEMBER WHEN LAS VEGAS was trying to promote the city as a great family vacation town? Amusement parks, places to park the kiddies, etc.? Well, “Showgirls,” if it does anything, paints the slimiest possible picture of the city. You wonder why the Stardust Hotel or the film commission cooperated. The Stardust reminds me that the movie was not shot on its stages where their “Enter the Night,” with “very limited” topless showgirls in its cast of 70, has been a successful extravaganza for four years. Only the hotel’s exteriors (and signs, of course) were used. … The movie’s “stage” was created on interiors built at Lake Tahoe. And Bob Hirsch of the Motion Picture Division of the State of Nevada reminds, “We are not state censors.” … The pic was greenlighted for the usual local and civic assistance and the company shot seven-eight weeks thus contributing to the $83 million total movie biz brought into the state in the past year. … “Casino” contributed handily with its 102 production days in Vegas as well, said Hirsch. How anxious was Vegas to see the completed “Showgirls” movie? It started showing at 12:01 Friday ayem in three hardtops and two drive-ins. … The “wrong-turn” murder in L.A.’s Cypress Park district has reminded many of Larry Kasdan’s similarly themed “Grand Canyon.” He admits that people tell him this was one of his most memorable films. He, like all of us, is “disturbed about the whole situation” in L.A. … Kasdan is now taking another turn — his first legit directing, at the Geffen Playhouse on John Patrick Shanley’s “Four Dogs and a Bone.” Kasdan hasn’t directed a play since the U. of Michigan 25 years ago. “The cast has more theater experience than I,” he admits. They are Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Perkins, Parker Posey and Martin Short. … The play bows Oct. 19. Afterward, Kasdan says he wants to return to writing a movie.

MOTHER TERESA MAKES A RARE L.A. appearance Oct. 20 as she’s honored by the Noel Foundation/Unifem awards, hosted by Merv Griffin at the BevHilton. Danny Glover makes a presentation to two members of the South African Parliament.

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