Clintons to return for Kennedy Ctr. Gala

GOOD MORNING: President and Mrs. Clinton, off on the European trip, have promised to return to the White House Sunday in time to host the traditional reception for the Kennedy Center honorees and VIP guests from the worlds of showbiz and politix. (He had to skip the receiving line last year to hop to Europe for more international diplomacy.) The honorees this year are Jacques d’Amboise, Marilyn Horne, B.B. King, Sidney Poitier and Neil Simon. At the Kennedy Center show, the Clintons have invited Vice President and Mrs. Gore and Ellen and James Wolfensohn, outgoing Kennedy Center chairman, to join them in the presidential box. It was feared Walter Cronkite’s knee surgery would cause him to bow out as (regular) host, but George Stevens Jr. convinced him with Tommy Lasorda-like exhortations: “If we get you out to the mound, will you pitch?” Cronkite said he will. Gen. Colin Powell will be (a guest) at the White House — his wife, Alma, is a trustee of the Kennedy Center. And Westinghouse chairman Michael Jordan makes his first appearance at one of these showbiz-D.C. galas, as well as CBS Broadcasting Group chairman Peter Lund — the “Honors” air on CBS, Dec. 27, 9-11 p.m. George Stevens also reports these stars attending: past winners Paul Newman, Leontyne Price, Aretha Franklin, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, plus Harrison Ford and Melissa Mathison, Steve Martin — and Kennedys Ted and Ethel … George Stevens Jr.’s banner’s three-pic pact with Mike Medavoy, reported here over the past year, is being “wrapped up”– now that Medavoy and Arnold Messer’s Phoenix has risen at Sony … Elizabeth Taylor had been planning to attend an AIDS conference at the White House next week — but that D.C. date is now off. Elizabeth is recuped from her second hip surgery and is now walking without the help of canes and is ready to return to work (acting) and to tour with her Black Pearls fragrance next year.

JACKSON FAMILY VALUES — Memories of Madness” (Dove) by Margaret Maldonado Jackson, Jermaine Jackson’s common-law wife and the mother of their two children, Jeremy and Jourdynn, hits the stalls Dec. 18. Written with Richard Hack, the book pulls no punches about any members of the family. However, the author tells me of kindnesses to her children by one Jackson — Michael. She says, “I can tell the story of the Jackson family. My story. The true story.” It is not pretty. She says she will do limited interviews –“I am more interested in positioning my life”– she is working at Dove and has a project in development with Suzanne de Passe, her “role model”… What a difference a day makes: Monday night, Music Center workers were striking the set of Mozart’s opera “Abduction From the Seraglio” from the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and Tuesday evening, the stage was converted to a setting for QVC’s live telecast of three hours of the 49th (and next to last) “Quest for America’s Best’ — QVC’s 50-in 50 Tour” selling 20 California products, following a day of auditions in the theater of hundreds of hopefuls to become hosts on the web, which sold $11.6 million on Sunday! As you recall, QVC is Barry Diller’s shopping alma mater and Kathy Levine, the warm, humorous, glib “diva” of shopping who introduced Diller to the wilds of QVC, told me she’s ready to do sitcoms with Barry when/if he introduces entertainment to his new Home Shopping stamping grounds. She could do comedy! (But she has 14 months to go on her pact with QVC.) Levine and fellow QVC star host Judy Crowell were the stars on this Pavilion stage production. Also to be noted, Diller’s longtime friend, Diane von Furstenburg, is one of QVC’s top-selling stars. Will she now segue to HSN? And while Diller has big plans for HSN, QVC, the leading shopping channel and the nation’s eighth-largest retailer, is planning an announcement of a gigantic computerized expansion of its own — to combine TV with viewers’ home computers. Ah, this is the new showbiz, folks … Vera and Doug Fairbanks Jr. wing in Dec. 10 to co-host, with Sharon Gless, a 90th birthday party for drama coach George Sdhanoff at the Argyle Hotel’s Fenix Room … J.J. Cohn, one of the founders of MGM (along with Louis B.Mayer, Irving Thalberg, Eddie Mannix and Benny Thau), and the only living, original member of the Academy, celebrates his 100th birthday Sunday. Happy birthday, J.J.

MAKING THEIR FIRST AUSPICIOUS appearance in a showbiz community event, Clarissa and Edgar Bronfman Jr. chair the Human Rights Watch Annual Celebration Dec. 13 at the BevWilshire. Mike Farrell, who co-chairs, tells me Sid Sheinberg, a major supporter for the Human Rights Watch, was largely responsible for getting the Bronfmans to heartily assist. The Lew Wassermans, Norman Lears and Jerry Mosses also are co-hosting the evening, which will honor eight human rights monitors from Rwanda, Colombia, Morocco, Burma, Vietnam, Turkey and Uzbekistan who daily risk their lives to promote respect for human rights. Their dramatic stories will be told and Maya Angelou will read some of her poetry.

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