GOOD MORNING: “Now I know why ‘Waterworld’ took so long,” “The Phantom” co-star Kristy Swanson told me from the Paramount epic’s Thailand location, where they say the rains are the worst in recorded history. Of course, it was supposed to be the dry season — but that’s always the way when a movie company arrives on a well-studied site. Earlier in the film, producer Alan Ladd slipped off a camera truck, with a spike going deep into his leg. Nevertheless, he went on to the jungle location, but had to return when fear of infection set in. Now Laddie’s back in the jungle and continues on to shoot interiors on stages of Australia. He says director Simon Wincer has been a wizard, weaving scenes between the rains with the pic’s star, Billy Zane, and heroine Swanson battling the heavies — and elements. Swanson says her “Phantom” pact calls for options for two more sequels. “That would be nice,” she admits … With so many in the biz heading off (together!) to Christmas-carol in Hawaii — Sid and Nancy Ganis are really getting away from it (them) all — to an expedition in Antarctica. However, Ganis could do the trek from his Internet computer screen at home — via “Virtual Antarctica”! Agent Steve Marks (Major Clients Agency) departs Sunday for the South Pole, etc., connected here via the Internet and Mountain Travel/Sobek for all to follow him “live.” He can correspond with anyone, anyplace — including his clients and those execs in Hawaii via his Internet type (I have the number) and they can see exactly what Steve is seeing, like penguins and polar bears auditioning for commercials, etc. It is sponsored by Microsoft (natch) and Apple, with cooperation on a “spy” satellite to bring it all in, “live,” from 10,000 miles away. Marks takes 1,000 pounds of gear on his expedition while Ganis, who leaves on the 20th, says he’s only been told to take — knee-high rubber boots.

“BUILDING ON 60 YEARS of Experience,” Tuesday’s tribute to Lew Wasserman on the “Phantom” Stage (28) at Universal, will be a “family (MCA-Universal) affair.” The dinner dance hosted by Edgar Bronfman Jr. will include brief moments offered by Angela Lansbury, Charlton Heston, Peter Falk, John Forsyth, Jamie Lee Curtis, Steven Spielberg and Fay Wray, plus performances by John Williams and Trisha Yearwood. And a toast by Bronfman. Gary Smith produces the presentation, which will also include a video of remarks by many of the behind-the-scenes studio people who have worked for Wasserman over the years. Thursday, Wasserman met with members of the Hollywood Canteen Foundation Board to determine which industry and civic groups will participate in the $200,000 disbursement. When the Canteen closed after WWII, Dr. Jules Stein invested its $400,000 (profits from the “Hollywood Canteen” movie) and it grew to $2 million, a portion of which is donated annually. Other members at Thursday’s board meeting with Wasserman: Sherman Jones, Jerry Oppenheimer and Herb Steinberg. Among topics also discussed — the possibility of needing to reopen a Hollywood Canteen again in view of the upcoming Bosnian U.S. troop involvements … Gary Smith, just back from Nashville, where he and Fred Rappoport produced CBS’ “70th Grand Ole Opry Anniversary,” returns to Nashville, this time with Dwight Hemion for an ABC Neil Diamond special, taping Feb. 12 … George Burns has often been saluted as “You doll!,” but now there’ll be a George Burns Doll — retailing at $99 (not $ 100?) with a copy of “The Sunshine Boys.” The MPTV Country Hospital gets $10 of each sale. And the Cooperstown Bears also introduces the George Burns 100th Year Teddy — complete with cigar … Charm McCardle’s annual Teddy Bear Hug Boutique will be held at the MPTV Country House Lounge Dec. 14, with all proceeds going to purchase gifts for the patients and residents at the Home at Christmas. The motto here, as always, “We take care of our own”… Saturday at Universal, from 10 ayem to 8:30 p.m. six major films will be screened for the visually challenged, thanks to Helen Harris’ RP Intl.’s “TheatreVision.” The pix , “Apollo 13,” “Pocahontas,” ‘Little Women,” “Braveheart,” “Forrest Gump” and “Home for the Holidays,” are vocally described by celebs including Katharine Hepburn, William Shatner, Janet Leigh, Cynthia Stevenson, Irene Bedard, Vin Scully and others via headphones in the theaters. For info, call 1-800-FIGHT RP.

CANDICE BERGEN RETURNS from her sad journey to Paris, where she buried husband Louis Malle, and resumes work on “Murphy Brown” Monday … Acad prez Arthur Hiller, honorary doctor’d by the U. of Toronto, winged to Taiwan as honored guest at their fest. Oscar show producer Quincy Jones, meanwhile, is in Japan — both he and Hiller return to work on the awards next week … United Talent Agency’s John Lesher and his wife, screenwriter Christine Liao, welcomed daughter Emma Rose Dec. 2 at Cedars-Sinai … Publicist Andrew Lipschultz and his wife, actress Caroline Williams, welcomed son Joseph Aaron at St. John’s Nov. 24. Grandfather is “Chicago Hope” propmaster Art Lipschultz.

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