Thomasons aid Clintons’ home state

GOOD MORNING: President Clinton has asked Harry Thomason to head a task force to help rebuild his favorite city, Arkadelphia, Ark., which was demolished in the recent tornadoes. Over 400 were injured and there’s hundreds of million$ in damages: 72 blocks were destroyed. Thomason has already asked for/received promises of assistance from Michael Eisner to help rebuild Main Street (Disney has considerable experience building Main Streets). The Thomasons, friends of the Clintons dating back to their Arkansas days, had hosted the President several times on the set of their “Hearts Afire,” on which Billy Bob Thornton was a regular. Thornton also had worked on the road crew in Arkansas when Clinton was governor. It was on that road crew that Thornton used a “sling blade” to clear grass. Thornton next plays the James Carville-type character in “Primary Colors”; he won’t mimic him, even after meeting Carville last week. The Thomasons got a print of “Sling Blade” and expressed it to the White House for the Clintons to see at Thanksgiving, but the print got lost en route. A second print was sent the day after the inauguration, but they were all so exhausted, they fell asleep and didn’t see it! They finally did see it and, since Thornton’s Oscar nominations for screenplay and actor, the President has been calling “to check on how Billy Bob’s campaign is going,” laughed the Thomasons. The President, we all know, is a movie fan and has seen many of the nominees; he liked many, and loved “The English Patient”. … The Thomasons produced Clinton’s “Man From Hope” docu for the 1992 convention, and “A Place Called America” for the second (the President liked this one better) and have spent many nights at the White House. The night after Clinton’s first election, the Thomasons slept in the Lincoln bedroom and found a note on the bed. It was left by Rush Limbaugh and said, “Ha-ha, I was here first.” Limbaugh had been the last guest to sleep there during the Bush tenancy. The Thomasons have since slept there often; one morning in the Queens Room they drew the blinds — to find a tour going by. “They applauded us,” laughed Linda. The Thomasons have taken a vacation from writing for a year, but she is readying a “personal” feature. DreamWorks-CBS has first call on their works.

“HE’S AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT’S WRONG with the ’90s,” said Larry King, who will feature Howard Stern for a full hour on his March 18 show from N.Y. On his own show, Stern has left no secret of his opinion of King. “He’s just jealous of me,” said King; “he’s never made it on TV.” Who asked who to be on the King show? “My producers,” said Larry. “He’s news. And I never turned down a guest (whom they suggested). Besides, I’ve known him (Stern) for 17 years. He thinks he’s Lenny Bruce — the difference between Stern and Bruce is night and day.” Larry says the N.Y. press is lining up to cover this event. They probably will line up again in two weeks, when King guests Dennis Rodman. … Mary Tyler Moore is A-OK after suffering “one of those consequences of longterm diabetes” last week: bleeding in her eye. She’s winging here next week to do two more segs (season’s finale) of “The Naked Truth,” in which she loves working with Tea Leoni. “They keep it down to a minimum for me,” she said, allowing Moore to return to her home(s) in N.Y. to be with her horses, goats, flowers — and her lecture series, “Unique Lives and Experiences.” Among her fellow talkers are Lauren Bacall, Maya Angelou and the Duchess of York. Bacall missed Tuesday’s Oscar nominee lunch at the BevHilton because she was between Winnipeg and Minneapolis dates on the lecture circuit. The marks for most travel to the Oscar lunch went to “The English Patient” producer Saul Zaentz and director Anthony Minghella, who winged from Saturday’s DGA awards in L.A. to the pic’s preem in Paris on Sunday and back here Tuesday. Likewise for Kristin Scott Thomas, who also did the Paris roundtrip in two days.

“CRIME & PUNISHMENT,” Feodor Dostoyevsky’s chef d’oeuvre, will be NBC’s next classic to go the four-hour mini route, following “The Odyssey” and earlier “Gulliver’s Travels.” Lindy DeKoven, exec VP of movies for TV, is shepherding this one. … “Coach” completed its 200th (and final) seg with a teary farewell party on Stage 43 at Universal. The site, which was the series’ home for nine years, is now dedicated to the cast and creator Barry Kemp as the official “Coach” stage. The finale airs in May (on ABC). … Jerry Seinfeld wasn’t counting calories (or residuals) as he dined at Drai’s and bought a tin of Victor’s special cookies, which he was happily handing out as we waited for our cars The Screen Smart Set luncheon today at the Bel Age benefits the MPTV facility. Gordon Currie will caricature portraits of 10 lucky door-prize winners. Tom Selleck’s mom, Martha, is president. … Coup for press agent Michael Levine: he set Willie Williams, before he was fired, as guest of honor for the L.A. Media/Roundtable, April 1 at Campanile.

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