Eastwood not one for an early exit

GOOD MORNING: If you invite Clint Eastwood to a party, be prepared to stay until closing. That’s when he leaves. When Clint won his (first) Oscar, he was the last to leave the party at Nicky Blair’s on the Strip. When WB preemed his “Bridges of Madison County” at the then-new Steve Ross theater, Clint stayed till the last, graciously taking congrats. And after formal festivities Thursday night at the BevHilton Intl. Ballroom where he received the AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Clint segued to the party in the Versailles Room, renamed “Clint’s Club”– where he closed the joint. He got such a kick out of the decor, he asked if he could have the neon signs “Clint’s Club” and “Eastwood Blues” for his ranch. Eastwood was overwhelmed by the (lengthy) toasting, admitting he had difficulty getting his own breath to speak. Of the future — he’s readying to produce, direct and star in “Absolute Power” for Castle Rock, locationing the murder mystery in L.A. and D.C. And then he’s off to Savannah for the highly anticipated “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” which he assures he’ll only direct … The AFI tribute will be aired as a one-hourspec on ABC (no date set). It will be a tough job for exec producer George Stevens Jr., producer Michael Stevens and director Louis J. Horvitz to edit the long evening down to an hour. However, a full version will be seen on A&E, Worldvision and videocassette … The evening opened and closed with scenes from “Bridges” to sustained applause — it was evident Meryl Streep picked up Oscar votes from this crowd. Too bad she couldn’t have been there. This audience also felt Eastwood deserved a director Oscar nomination for “Bridges.” But which nominated director would he have replaced?

IT’S A “NEW AFI,” chairman Fred Pierce repeatedly noted in his opening remarks at the Eastwood evening — which raised $ 1.25 million (includes the TV fee) for the “new AFI”… Jim Carrey, a new kind of m.c. for this type of evening, proved delightfully adept, sprinkling his unique talents through the de rigueur intros. And Rene Russo also was a decidedly refreshing (all right, sexy) co-host. Carrey noted, “Clint was a better mayor (of Carmel) than Sonny Bono (of Palm Springs) ever was. Right now, Clint could be the Republican nominee for president!” Don Rickles, who went dramatic in 1970 with Eastwood in “Kelly’s Heroes” (he does again in “Casino,” you recall), reverted to his lovable (?) self, saying, “After ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ I never heard from Clint again!” adding, “Clint’s idea of a great night is sitting in his pickup truck and listening to his dog bark.” Rickles revved up the evening constantly for us — we were at the same table with him & wife Barbara, the Fred Pierces, Barbara & Marvin Davis, the Cuba Goodings Jr. and Gary Busey & fiancee Tiani Warden, who will co-star with Busey in “Plato’s Run”… Also getting mucho attention at the post-AFI party was Pierce Brosnan, there with Keely Shaye Smith. While receiving congrats from industryites on his “Goldeneye” bow as James Bond, Brosnan told me his current “Mars Attacks” for Tim Burton at WB is — even bigger! Brosnan’s also high on his recently completed comedy turn with Barbra Streisand in “The Mirror Has Two Faces.” Brosnan obviously has many facets to his talents. He’s recorded, will film a PSA for Earth Communications Office’s program to protect endangered dolphins, the important message produced by Keely, who is an environmental reporter for the “Today” show in addition to her duties on “Unsolved Mysteries,” which will go a ninth year … Eastwood’s mom, son Kyle (who plays a great bass) , actress-daughter Alison and fiancee Dena Ruiz were at his side. (See page 50 for details of the dinner).

A FIRST STARRING ROLE for Dennis Farina, who’ll play Bette Midler’s ex-husband in “That Old Feeling” for the Bubble Factory and Universal. Farina plays a columnist and Midler’s an actress. Carl Reiner directs and Bonny Bruckheimer produces with Leslie Dixon, who scripted as well. Farina was excellent in “Get Shorty,” in which Midler and Reiner cameo’d. Farina’s next seen co-starring with Whoopi Goldberg in Buena Vista’s “Eddie,” out in May … The cover of Vanity Fair’s second salute to “Hollywood: The Power and Glamour” features 10 young male thesps — fully clothed — this year: Tim Roth, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Rapaport, Stephen Dorff, Jonathan Schaech , David Arquette, Will Smith and Skeet Ulrich. Inside the mag, Mickey Rooney and Jackie Cooper pose dressed like the kid stars they once were, Jackie clutching a teddy bear. For the mag’s Oscar party, Morton’s is installing booths and banquettes — which will remain as permanent, welcome additions to the eatery … The Fast Forward to Hunger receipts collected from the Video Software Dealers Assn., plus public contributions at stores, add up to a $100,000 check to be presented at the Blockbuster awards Wednesday. Andy Garcia accepts for Jeff Bridges (on location in N.Y.), creator and co-chair of the End Hunger Network.

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