Nominees’ lunch draws much interest

GOOD MORNING and bon appetit, Oscar nominees, as you sit down to lunch at the BevHilton today and receive your Acad certificates. While some nominees will be missing, and familiar names in the minority, the interest in the race looks higher, judging by the record number (450) of requests to lunch. Among those not attending today: Barbra Streisand, who’s on vacation with you-know-who. She’s also not expected to be on hand for the March 24 presentation. Natalie Cole is now set to sing Barbra’s nominated song, “I Finally Found Someone,” also written with Bryan Adams (who sang with Streisand), Marvin Hamlisch and Robert “Mutt” Lange. … Oscar host Billy Crystal is not expected to be on hand for the feed; he’s shooting added scenes with Robin Williams on their feature, “Father’s Day.” Crystal and his writers have the task of making comedy out of the nominated movies, whose themes range from adultery and murder — to agenting. And names that could remind us of David Letterman’s “Uma-Oprah” gag a couple of years back. … Non-nominated Debbie Reynolds, who will present the Oscar in the category of achievement in music (original musical or comedy), will have her script written by daughter Carrie Fisher. It’s Fisher’s first time writing for the Oscars and she joins veteran scripter Hal Kanter in creating presenters’ bon mots. Kanter says, “It’s the best collaboration I’ve had since working with Preston Sturges.” Carrie says she was responsible for getting Albert Brooks to see Debbie for his “Mother.” Fisher and a Hollywood contingent wing to SanFran Sat. for Brooks’ wedding to Kimblery Shlain, new media artist who created the web site for “Mother.” Herb Nanas and Paul Slansky are best men. Brooks has a new Par pact to script-direct-star again for producers Nanas and Scott Rudin. While in SanFran, Carrie meets with George Lucas, who is prepping the prequels to “Star Wars.” “I get to punch up the dialog,” said Carrie. A 14-year-old will play Princess Leia’s mother in the first prequel, and 24-year-old mom in the second. Lucas told me he is pulling out all (technical) stops in the upcoming “Wars”. … Among Crystal’s Oscarcast writers is Marc Shaiman, who is also a nominee for his score of “First Wives’ Club.” He won an Emmy as one of the writers of the last Crystal-emceed Oscarcast. Shaiman also scored (the non-nominated) “Mother” and admitted to me, “I would have loved Debbie to have gotten an Oscar nomination rather than me.” Shaiman’s now scoring “In and Out,” in which Debbie co-stars. Shaiman’s also musicking “George of the Jungle”. … Producer Gil Cates had an extra busy week: his son, film editor John Cates, and wife Elena welcomed son Harrison, March 4 at UCLA-Santa Monica hospital.

WHERE DOES THIS STUFF COME FROM? And why do people believe it? That’s what Aaron Spelling’s wondering, and he’s mad as hell. Print and TV entertainment “reporters” have him offering Fergie $3.5 million to join “Melrose Place.” Agents repping his “Melrose” cast called Spelling indignantly to say, “Show us the money!” Spelling’s answer: “I wouldn’t pay her $3!” The show doesn’t need any hype: Fox picked it up for 34 segs next year and it beat out the nets in last week’s ratings. April 9, Spelling’s “Pacific Palisades” follows “Melrose” on the Fox net. And NBC has greenlighted a pilot, “Odd Jobs,” upping the pilot from one to two hours. It’s scripted by Roger Avary (“Pulp Fiction”). As for knowing any British Royalty, Candy and Aaron once opened up their home to Prince Charles for a charity. They’d never do that again. … Rapper Notorious B.I.G., murdered Sunday, was set to star in an action feature titled “Final Conflict” for Brooklyn-based Bedford Entertainment. His character was to have been shot down in a hail of bullets — but B.I.G. had reservations about it and a meeting was upcoming to modify the scene.

FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS of “Chicago’s” route back to B’way, “Promises, Promises” bows March 20 for a week at the City Center with this terrif cast: Martin Short, Christine Baranski, Eugene Levy, Terrence Mann, Kerry O’Mally, Jenifer Lewis and Samuel E. Wright. Hal David and Burt Bacharach have added a new tune for the book by Neil Simon. … Touchstone TV and ABC last week filmed an airport scene for “Ellen,” in which she confesses she is a lesbian. Working as extras were DeGeneres’ mother Betty, manager Arthur Imparato and director Gil Junger. After the first take, the emotionally relieved Ellen was embraced by guestar (and friend-in-real-life) Laura Dern, well as the show’s staff and well-wishers This year’s St. Jude gala raised $1.1 million, while an additional $3.75 million was donated by Target stores and Dayton Hudson. Marlo Thomas then flew to D.C. for Arts Advocacy Day; the committee lunches with Ted Kennedy. Thomas returns Wednesday to present the David Susskind Lifetime Achievement in TV Award from the Producers Guild to Edgar Scherick, who “discovered” Marlo and put her in “That Girl,” when no one wanted to do a show about a single girl living alone Thomas M. Pryor, former editor of Daily Variety, is recuping from surgery and a minor stroke at Encino-Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana. … Esther Roberts (Mrs. Red) Hershon would welcome cheering cards at the MPTV Country Nursing Home.

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