Fuchs tribute goes on in style

GOOD MORNING: “Simon Wiesenthal is not here tonight because he is trying to track down the people who fired Michael Fuchs — and some of them are here tonight,” said Billy Crystal, m.c. of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Humanitarian Award dinner honoring Fuchs, Sunday night at the Century Plaza Hotel. Crystal got hefty laffs from the jam-packed ballroom, where $1.4 million was raised. When Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance, reached Simon Monday in Vienna and told him Crystal’s joke, Wiesenthal laughed and answered, “I have a record as a Nazi hunter, but never have I tracked down anyone who fired anyone.” Fuchs was named as recipient long before he was fired by Gerry Levin — who was one of the chairmen of the evening, along with Barbara Levin, Jane Fonda and Ted Turner, Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg and Lorraine and Sid Sheinberg. The Levins weren’t there, but neither were the Katzenbergs or Turners. (The hefty souvenir book contained pages of ads bought by all the dinner chairs, except the Levins.) But none of this detracted from the gala evening. WB Music bought three tables at $50,000 per, as did HBO. I sat at a table of HBO exex who had nothing but the highest praise for Fuchs. When I told him of remarks from the HBO’ers, he answered, “I’m not that far away.” He declined to add further to that. Rabbi Hier told me Fuchs had called after his firing and said, “You ought to get a pinch hitter (as honoree).” Hier answered, “We don’t work that way; we didn’t honor you because of your job but because of what you stand for and what you have done.” A film tribute screened later showed Fuchs-inspired films of tolerance, which more than proved the point. Fuchs is also a member of the board of the Wiesenthal Center and a longtime supporter. Crystal set a humorous tone for the evening with remarks like, “Shalom –‘Shalom’ usually means hello, but tonight it means ‘Goodbye.'” He said Fuchs would host a show called “Czar Search.” (Crystal next plays a gravedigger in “Hamlet” for Kenneth Branagh.) Bette Midler, who followed Crystal , called the honoree, “The Fuchs of hazard.” She sang parodies (by Bruce Vilanch) of “People” and “Warners, (Buddy) Can You Spare a Dime?” She and Crystal credited Fuchs with launching their national TV careers, saying he did shows others were afraid to tackle. Midler also sang an emotional “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

THE LIST OF INDUSTRYITES on hand included Ahmet Ertegun, Peter Chernin, Bernie Brillstein, Brad Grey, Jack Valenti, Chris Albrecht, Fred Rosen, Bob Cooper, Mace Neufeld, Jonathan Dolgen, John Frankenheimer, Larry Gelbart, Marty Erlichman, Marty Bregman, Tom Werner, Larry Brezner, Annabelle Weston, Buddy Mora, David Steinberg, Les Binder, Seymour Stein, plus performers Tracey Ullman, Dennis Miller, Garry Shandling, Rita Rudner, Alan Alda, Dennis Hopper and Robert Wuhl. Ullman told me she starts her 10 HBO shows next week; the first episode includes lesbian golfers. “I expect to hear from the WPGA,” she said. Ullman plays many roles in each show, directs some, and loves the freedom HBO gives her. Ullman will accept on her behalf if Meryl Streep wins at the Golden Globes Sunday: Streep broke a kneecap in a ski-chair accident in Connecticut. Barbra Streisand, who concert-ed on HBO, took a page in the ad book, as did Erlichman, who said, “You (Fuchs) always stepped up to the plate first, before it was fashionable”… Gelbart, who did “Barbarians at the Gate” for Fuchs at HBO, is now writing an original, “Weapons of Mass Distraction,” a social comedy. In contrast, Gelbart’s writing the book for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s legit musical “A Star Is Born” (music by Harold Arlen). Gelbart meets with Lloyd Webber in London at month’s end for a reading. On his return to N.Y., Gelbart looks in on the revival preparations for his “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” bowing April 18 at the St. James … Last year’s Wiesenthal humanitarian honoree , Sidney Sheinberg, made the presentation to Fuchs. Sheinberg said, “He (Fuchs) set new standards of excellence in caring about his fellow man.” Following were a moving, screened tribute to Yitzhak Rabin, plus a tribute to Holocaust survivors (including Robert Clary), who then filled the Century Plaza ballroom stage to a prolonged standing ovation. It was a touching night that left the audience with this reminder, “We must never forget — or it will happen again.”

SORRY TO LEARN George Burns is not feeling strong enough to attend a 100th birthday tribute to him by his family later this week; a celeb dinner on his birthday, Saturday at Hillcrest C.C., is also canceled. And it’s highly unlikely he’ll be able to make tonight’s dinner at the Four Seasons announcing the Burns & Allen Research Institute to be established at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center … Bob Stack celebrated his birthday at the Bistro Garden with fellow birthday’ers: yours truly, Shirley (Mrs. Jay) Livingston, Deborah Raffin and Michael Viner and newlyweds Barbara and Warren Cowan. Stack and wife Rosemarie toast their 40th wedding anni Jan. 23.

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