GOOD MORNING: “Is Mickey Grumpy?” asked Tuesday’s Daily Variety headline. I got the answer from Michael Eisner and Joe Roth: “Mickey is Happy.” Roth reeled off the upcoming Disney releases for the rest of the year to point up the mirth at the Mouse Factory: “Holy Man,” starring Eddie Murphy, “Beloved” with Oprah Winfrey, “Waterboy” with Adam Sandler, “Enemy of the State” with Will Smith, “A Bug’s Life” (computerized animation, a la “Toy Story”), “Mighty Joe Young” and “Civil Action” starring John Travolta. And Oct. 27 they release what is anticipated to be a blockbuster video, “Simba’s Pride.” So Roth and Eisner are telling stockholders, “Not to worry.” I was talking to the Disney duo Monday at the Century Plaza, where Roth was honoree of the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Dinner of Champions chaired by longtime friend, 20th’s Tom Sherak. Despite their close friendship, Roth allowed he was not able to lure Sherak away from 20th with him to Disney … The proof of their camaraderie was apparent throughout the very emotional evening, when MS and the hoped-for cure inspired a record-breaking night (the $2,522,670 figure is increasing since Monday!). First was an emotional opening speech as Sherak’s wife Madeleine introduced their daughter Melissa, who has MS (and was suffering with an eye problem that night). Then, during the evening, hefty contributor Steve Hilton revealed that his mother Marilyn has suffered from MS for many years, and the very chic co-chair Britta Schramm admitted this was the first MS event she attended without the assistance of a cane. Emotions reached a pitch when Annette Funicello, limited to a wheelchair because of MS, was intro’d by her longtime close friend and evening cohost Frankie Avalon. Funicello, looking as beautiful as ever, received a standing ovation. But when Avalon told her she had the prayers of everyone, she admitted, “Prayer isn’t working.” Avalon encouraged her with, “God’s delay isn’t God’s denial.” It was a scene none of their (or anyone else’s) movies could match for emotion. While Funicello was not able to speak at any length to the audience, she and Avalon reminisced backstage and laughed about their last feature together, “Back to the Beach” (1987). Since their first meeting, Funicello and Avalon have remained close friends; on July 25, she attended the wedding of Kay and Frank A.’s youngest daughter Carla, aged 24. (The Avalons have eight children; two of their sons played in the band backing Avalon at the Century Plaza, with Tony on guitar, Frank on drums). Avalon, who next plays Caesars in Vegas, is also readying a one-hour series, “Let’s Do it Again” with Bobby and Ridge Connlan … Byron Allen in his (expected) routine about Clinton gave this advice for the President to avoid impeachment: “Have a black Vice President!”
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS HAS NOT DULLED or dampened the humor of Richard Pryor, who was diagnosed with MS in 1986. He will receive the Kennedy Center’s first Mark Twain Prize and the initial Celebration of American Humor, Oct. 20 at the Kennedy Center. “I feel great about accepting this prize,” Pryor said. “I’d feel better if they were giving me a woman. In fact, the best award I’ve never gotten is the woman of my dreams. Seriously though, two things people throughout history have had in common are hatred and humor. I am proud, like Mark Twain, that I have been able to use humor to lessen hatred.” Jennifer Lee, Pryor’s former wife and his always-family — as well as producer of his ventures — says Pryor has immersed himself in Twain. Kennedy Center president Lawrence J. Wilker has been one of those at the forefront to give the prize to Pryor. Mark Krantz, who produces with John Schreiber and Bob and Peter Kaminsky for a Comedy Central special as well, tells me they have collected Pryor clips from “The Ed Sullivan Show” to his last tour, three years ago. There’ll be no host per se on the show but there will be appearances by Whoopi Goldberg, Morgan Freeman (doing Pryor’s “Mudbone” character), Chevy Chase, Damon Wayans, Danny Glover, Robin Williams and Gene Wilder (by tape from the London location of “Alice in Wonderland”) and Tim Allen will shoot a seg Friday from the set of his series. President Clinton will be invited to attend the gala. Last week, Pryor taped an appearance as a Superman in the “Three From the Soul” video homage to “Car Wash.” Ice Cube is readying the feature remake. Pryor and Lee are also developing a feature based on his “Mudbone” character. Thom Mount, longtime Pryor friend and multi-feature producer, is readying a docu on Pryor’s life.
ANGELA LANSBURY RECEIVES the Mary Pickford Achievement Award by the Screen Smart Set benefiting the Motion Picture & TV Fund, at its 30th annual celeb auction and fashion show Oct. 14 at the BevWilshire … George Clooney presents the Society of Singers’ Ella award to Rosemary Clooney, his aunt, Oct. 5 at the BevHilton … Frankie Laine and Danny Welton headline at Las Vegas’ Orlean tonight to benefit the American Federation of Musicians’ Vegas local … Julia Ormond joins the jury of the 25th Flanders Film Festival in Ghent, Belgium, Oct. 8. Honorees at the fest include Oscar winners Robert Wise and Elmer Bernstein.