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Affils shock ABC, don’t air Ebony spec

GOOD MORNING: Howcum ABC’s Atlanta and Detroit affiliates, WSB and WXYZ respectively, did not air the network’s two-hour Thanksgiving special, “Celebrate the Dream: 50 Years of Ebony Magazine”? ABC Entertainment chairman Ted Harbert admitted to me the web is investigating fully, adding, “I am so upset. I went crazy when I learned about it. It was the local stations’ decisions.” But he can’t imagine why. Two of the sponsors are also maddened: Coca-Cola, which h.q.’s in Atlanta, and Ford, in Detroit. Why any station would fail to air a show of such pride is insulting and baffling. Also awaiting word is John Johnson, publisher, chairman and CEO of Johnson Publications (Ebony). Jeff Margolis, who exec produced the special, told me, “ABC didn’t know about it (the absent affiliates) until the ratings came out (lowest in its network timeslot, with 4.6/9) and the breakdown sheet showed eight (!) stations did not carry it. The show boasted a powerful list of hosts, performers and live sports legends plus a filmpackage (by Doug Stewart, who will ditto on the Oscars for the 15th year) of sports figures including Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, Willie Mays, Arthur Ashe, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Florence Griffith Joyner, Michael Jordan and O.J. Simpson. Margolis admits, “I fought using the O.J. Simpson clip. I didn’t want it in there. I felt strongly to get rid of it. But 65% of my staff was African-American and they felt strongly about it. After all, he was a Heisman winner, and a great African-American athlete. I understood their reasoning. So I used it. But a number of people were offended that he was included.” Margolis next directs Dick Clark’s “American Music Awards” (for the 16th year). Jan. 27 on ABC.

LARRY FLYNT AND REV. JERRY FALWELL will debate on Larry Flynt’s Dec. 20 show from L.A. Flynt, of course is plugging his autobio, “Larry Flynt: An Unseemly Man. A Self-Exposure” (Dove), which has an initial printing of 65,000 copies. And, of course, to also plug the (Milos Forman-directed) movie in which Flynt’s court battles with Falwell were a major seg of his life. Larry King joins the Dove roster next Spring with a children’s book written with daughter Chaia, “Daddy Day; Daughter Day,” with each writing on opposing pages. … Sharon Stone will host the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award to Martin Scorsese, to be held Feb. 20 for later telecast on CBS. Sharon was Oscar-nominated for her performance in Marty’s “Casino,” you recall. Robert De Niro, Winona Ryder and Roseanna Arquette are among those who will toast Scorsese. Michael Stevens produces the show while his dad George Stevens Jr. is exec producer-writer. They team this Sunday on “Christmas in Washington” with President Clinton delivering his Christmas message, which airs Dec. 18 on NBC. The First Lady and Chelsea will be at the President’s side; the evening (at the National Building Museum) benefits the National Children’s Medical Center. Dwight Hemion directs the show, as usual. Hosting are the cast of NBC’s “3rd Rock From The Sun”: John Lithgow, Jane Curtin, Kristen Johnston, French Stewart and Joey Gordon-Levitt. The cast gets a special tour of the White House on Friday, and Saturday they make a special visit to the Holocaust Museum. … Theo Bikel’s remembrance of President Clinton at the Kennedy Center Honors: “I was waiting in (the receiving) line to be greeted by the President and First Lady when the Marine, assigned to announce each person’s name, leaned over to me and whispered, “I enjoyed your record of ‘The Chanukah Story.'”

HAPPY 81ST, FRANK. It’ll be family and a very few friends stopping by for a toast tonight. Korbel champagne hosts a party Jan. 21 at Chasen’s with an auction of celeb-decorated champagne flutes. Proceeds go to Barbara Sinatra’s Children’s Center, at Frank’s request. He’s not expected to attend, however. Korbel had commissioned Sinatra to create a bottle design for its artist series, following Nicole Miller and Tony Bennett’s artworks. The Sinatra limited edition pours on Valentine’s Day. … Among today’s all-day deejay toasts to F.S. is Atlantic City’s Sonny Schwartz, who’ll ask Joni James to sing him “Happy Birthday”‘ from the plane winging her to N.Y. for a Dec. 27 Lincoln Center gig. … “Rosemary Clooney White Christmas” (Concord Jazz), Rosie’s first Christmas album, 42 years after she costarred in ‘White Christmas” with you-know-who will be No. 1 on Billboard’s Jazz Chart next week. Her 22nd album, “Mothers & Daughters,” will be released in time for Mother’s Day, when she’ll be appearing at Rainbow & Stars. … Jay Livingston and Ray Evans entertain at the Motion Picture & TV Country House today for the Screen Smart Set’s Christmas luncheon, where Tom Selleck’s mom Martha is installed for a second year as president. … Vanity Fair includes screen composers in its Oscar issue. Lalo Schifrin, one of those top tuners, is next off to his home city of Buenos Aires to score Carlos Saura’s “Tango.” … Today, Freddie Gershon and Music Theatre Intl. dedicate the Frank Loesser Artists’ Space in their Hit Factory Bldg. on West 54th St. Loesser was one of MTI’s original owners; it’s a place to nurture new musical theater and to introduce young people to it.

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