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Will Cates re-up after reaching goal?

GOOD MORNING: “I was hoping we would break the 50 share mark,” said Oscar producer Gil Cates. “We came so close to it last year.” Does this now mean he’ll retire as Oscar producer on this year’s laurels — a 53 share — or will he return next year when the Oscars go back to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion? You can bet the Acad will ask him back and that they’ll also ask David Letterman to return. He and Cates had a talk before David zoomed out (in chartered jet) immediately after the show and the secretive Letterman ducked the Board of Governors Ball. “That’s why I didn’t introduce him,” explained Cates, amid the thanks he gave (at the Ball) to all those responsible for the show. “I feel like a kidnap victim,” Letterman said midway during the show while waiting in the wings to introduce the next seg. So, whether Letterman will want to again tackle Oscar and again take on critical brickbats is another question … During a long (three minutes, 41 seconds) commercial break, David was waiting in the wings when Clint Eastwood walked over to compliment him. Eastwood displayed his own sense of humor backstage when the whirling dog, of the “Stupid Pet Tricks” seg, heard more applause, started to whirl again — and knocked over one of Oscar’s femme assistants. “There’s no stunt pay in that,” Clint said … Letterman winged to N.Y. and is off to London to ready a week of shows there in May. The British will be more familiar with him following his enormous overseas Oscar exposure … Jay Leno, meanwhile, was enjoying the Oscars as a viewer and partygoer, segueing from Morton’s to Chasen’s to Spago. He was reported being everywhere … The capture of the robbery suspect at Chasen’s around 2 ayem was noted by few of the 1,200 guests at the Miramax party, even when a police attack dog cornered the suspect in Chasen’s parking lot, where police handcuffed the robbery suspect as a searchlight-equipped ‘copter hovered overhead. The suspect had made a mad dash through the tent adjoining the banquet room, and was easily spotted in the black tie group — he was wearing a T-shirt. Despite this temporary excitement, the party went on and Ronnie Clint didn’t close Chasen’s doors until 5 ayem.

INTERACTIVE LIVE SHOWS ain’t easy: Ask terrif choreographer Debbie Allen, who told me the “Make ‘Em Laugh” opening number didn’t have ’em laughing as they readied the intricate first-time presentation on an Oscar show, changing the slats for the performers to slide through. Allen and husband Norm Nixon hosted their post-Oscar party at Georgia — Norm’s a co-owner. Among guests, Quincy Jones, for whom Allen will star in his new NBC series “In the House.” Allen is also prepping a B’way musical, “The Legend.” Also at Debbie’s Oscar party, Sharon Stone and Angela Bassett, who danced through the night. Other guests: Samuel L. Jackson, James Ingram, Robert De Niro, Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes, Stevie Wonder, Tim Curry, Kathy Najimy (of the opening “Make ‘Em Laugh” number), etc. … Oscar presenter Steven Seagal told me he was recovering from cooking — for over 400 weekend guests at Eclipse, where he’s an investor. He fed customers including Michael Ovitz, Michael Eisner, Si Newhouse, Marvin Davis , Larry King, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I just told the cooks, ‘Keep the pasta coming,’ ” laughed Seagal … Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway” producer Jean Doumanian was on hand from N.Y., where she has also produced the Off Broadway hit “Death Defying Acts,” which includes a one-act play by Allen … Women in Film’s Foundation Film Finishing Fund donated completion funds to Freida Lee Mock, co-producer of the Oscar-winning feature doc “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision,” and the major donor was — a male, Oscar-winning Stephen Hunter Flick (“Speed” sound effects editing).

LET’S TALK LIMOS — and the interminable wait for ’em after the Shrine activities. It was a nightmare — inexcusably, incompetently handled as many waited over an hour and a half for cars and limos to be brought to the pickup area. Stars and civilians suffered equally. Sure, I was one of ’em — and when it seemed like my car would never arrive, a concerned LAPD officer told me, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you home in a black-and-white”… Despite the large number of stars and cars converging on Morton’s after the Ball, Chuck Pick was able to handle this crowd, as well as those across the street at Eclipse — for which he also parks. At Morton’s, Steve Tisch joined his family out from N.Y., parents Joan and Bob T., brother Jon, sister Laurie. At Drai’s, the Par party went on until 4 ayem, reported Victor D. Goldie Hawn, who nearly lost her dress getting out of her car at Morton’s, was among those (with Kurt Russell) who continued to Drai’s. And Spago found a crowd including Oprah Winfrey making the circuit, also Larry King, Sharon Gless and Barney Rosenzweig, Mike and Maty, Joan Rivers, etc. … Jack Nicholson hosted a post-party at the Monkey Bar … While much was said about NEA support, I noted very few lapel buttons of a double 32 cents stamp signifying that support.

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