GOOD MORNING: As thrilled as Ron Howard was to receive the Directors Guild Award for his masterful direction of “Apollo 13,” he admitted to me, “It doesn’t diminish the disappointment of not getting the Oscar nomination. As controversial as they (the Oscars) are, they are still the greatest Hollywood tradition.” Remember, “Apollo” received nine nominations including best picture, but none for the director. Producer Brian Grazer told me, “‘Apollo 13′ is Ron Howard’s movie”… Ron shrugs, “It’s just one of those things.” Meanwhile, he says of winning the DGAward, “I hadn’t had that feeling since weightlessness in ‘Apollo 13.’ It was the first time I’d heard my name read as winner of anything! Not to be corny, but it’s really a tribute to, and acknowledgement of, the space program and the men who lived the event.” He received a call of congrats Sunday from Jim Lovell. Lovell, too, said he was disappointed Ron did not receive the Oscar nomination but was thrilled about the DGA win … Howard is now directing “Ransom” in N.Y. with “Braveheart’s” (10 Oscar noms) Mel Gibson starring. Howard is racing the clock to wind “Ransom” in time for late-summer release. “It’s the tightest post-production schedule I’ve ever had.” N.Y. weather is not helping at all — another snowstorm is predicted for Thursday. He will be shooting Saturday and Sunday on Madison Avenue with N.Y. City clearance to film. The sequences include car crashes. Howard admits, “The action portion of the movie has grown. But there are no fires or splashdowns,” he laughed. “It is a nail-biting, intense dramatic story of a kidnapping. The FBI is helping a lot.” Rene Russo plays the mother to kidnap victim Brawley Nolte, Nick’s son (9). Ron says, “Nick (Nolte) visits the set — and is a very nervous dad!” Howard’s kids also want to follow in their dad’s acting footsteps, but he’s adamant they get their schooling completed. As for Howard’s future — he’s done three pix in 3 1/2 years and says he “plans to take a break.” But he’s developing “Ed-TV” for the Grazer-Howard banner. Pals Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel are writing.

MORE FRIGHTENING SIGNS of the times: Sharon Gless and Barney Rosenzweig were caught in a bomb scare in Piccadilly. What was more frightening, he reports, “As if by agreement, nothing was in the papers at all the next day, while one of the world’s busiest streets (Piccadilly) looked like one of those films about the end of the world.” Sharon and Barney met for lunch at Fortnam & Mason’s, where they were “asked to evacuate to the basement and sat on the floor for 45 minutes.” Sharon’s in London starring with Tom Conti in “Chapter Two” with very good-to-excellent reviews. After the show’s late June finale, Gless has her eye on B’way … Leslie Nielsen bought the rights to David Rintels’ “Darrow” and plans to tour it again — he did the one man show several years ago. Canada-based Bernie Fiedler is producing the U.S./Canada tour for the Fall. Nielsen’s at NATO/ShoWest with Hollywood Pictures’ “Spy Hard,” then guests in his second seg of “Due South” and next starts the TVersion of “Harvey”… When Glenn Ford failed to make the telephone interview call from his house to son Peter’s KIEV show last week, Peter quick-checked, ambulanced his dad to the hospital. Glenn’s OK and home now, reports Peter, who will have his dad call in on his Monday-Tuesday midnight show soon … Kelsey Grammer’s fiancee Tammi Alexander posed for Playboy several years back, but the pix weren’t printed. Now , they’ve made it to the April issue of the magazine. Kelsey’s no stranger to Playboy — he’s hosted the American Jazz Philharmonic (65 pieces) at Hefner’s mansion. And Tammi was there with Kelsey for the event. Meanwhile, Hefner’s culture contributions continue with a $1.5 million donation for a chair at USCinema-TV school. Add Playboy education notes: tonight, Playboy holds a “Cyber Party” with the “Women of the Internet” of the April issue. They’ll be clothed, but digitalized images from their pix in the magazine will be visible and chats with the models will be audible.

FRANK SINATRA VISITED longtime Hoboken pal Matty Jordan at the latter’s house , where they reminisced for a coupla hours. Meanwhile, over at Jordan’s eatery, Matteo’s, Sunday, lotsa laughs with Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser, Larry Miller and Mark Schiff pasta’ing at one booth and Red Buttons nearby. Also there, Suzanne Pleshette and husband Tommy Gallagher talking TV times with Dick Van Dyke and Michele Triola … Victor Drai’s Cafe, his upcoming BevHills bistro, is being designed by the creative team of Steve Tomar and Stuart Lampert, who have added class to many Hollywood celebs’ mansions. Added to the artistic features in their plans is a feature lacking in too many eateries: soundproofing, so diners can hear one another talk, for a change … Chef David Slay, one of the top 12 chefs in the U.S. by “Best of the Best,” has sold his La Veranda eatery on South Beverly Drive and, with wife Gale, has now launched his “boutique”-style catering company.

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