LaBelle, Cole serenade Clinton

GOOD MORNING: President Clinton hugged and kissed Patti LaBelle and Natalie Cole Monday after they sang an impromptu, a capella “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to him. The occasion was Denise Rich’s lunch (100 at $50,000 per couple) benefiting the Democratic National Committee. The luncheon, at Rich’s apartment at 60th and 5th, marked the start of the day’s Demo Unity ’98 drive, and the unrehearsed duet served as an upbeat start of the drive for the President and Hillary Clinton and Tipper & Al Gore. The four continued to the fundraiser evening performance of “The Lion King.” (Jason Raize, who plays Simba, was also on hand at the lunch.) LaBelle had teamed with Rich on her CD “Flame” with two tunes: “Love Is Just a Whisper Away” and “Addicted to You.” Clinton is also set to appear at Rich’s G&P Foundation cancer research dinner Oct. 12 honoring Les Moonves (who was also at Monday’s lunch) and Milton Berle on his 90th birthday. Demos who spoke Monday included Sen. Bob Kerry (Neb.), Sen. Bob Toricelli (N.J.), there with Pat Duff, Sen. Thomas Daschle (S.D.), and Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.) … The First Lady of Egypt, Suzanne Mubarak, has arranged for Shirley Bassey to concert at the Great Pyramids at Gaza, Oct. 8. It’s a benefit to provide free training and computer access for all Egyptian children. Bassey, hugely popular in Egypt, will sing with the Pyramids over her right shoulder and the Sphinx on her left; both monuments will be specially lit for the charity occasion. The concert is underwritten and produced by IIME an affiliate of Phoenix Intl., the largest theatrical company in the Middle East. Egypt’s First Lady believes that every Egyptian child must be fully computer-literate to be ready for the coming century. She has made the fate of her nation’s children the single greatest priority of her office.

ROBERT TOWNE AND MASSACHUSETTS’ movie enthusiast Gov. Paul Cellucci met Monday at the Mass. State House after Towne presented the fifth annual Mass. Film Office Screenwriting Competition Grand Prize to Nicole Galland (“The Winter Population”) of Vineyard Haven, Mass. Towne is at Boston’s Film Fest, of course, with his critically acclaimed (directed-screenplayed) “Without Limits.” Towne, who knows whereof he writes, told the group, “If you haven’t tried it, you may not know how truly difficult it is to write a script” … Warren Beatty had to return from Venice to N.Y. for filming of “Town & Country.” But he left an emotional message for his “Bulworth” d.p. Vittorio Storaro to deliver to the festgoers and jury who awarded him a Golden Lion for lifetime creative contributions: “The Venice Festival is a spiritual oasis in the increasingly arid commercial film world, and for me to be given so great an honor at a moment when some fear an American cultural hegemony in movie gives me the opportunity to say: Thank you, Vittorio, Milena, Ennio and thank you Luchino, Federico, Michelangelo, Francisco, Franco, Gilo, Mario, Pietro, Lina, Bernardo. I may be a Hollywood boy, but in movies, I like to think you’ve made me as Italian as you are.”

JOHNNY CARSON WAS OFFERED the opportunity to present the last awards at the 50th Emmys at the Shrine Sunday night; he once again reiterated that he’d retired. His latest enjoyment is taking (small) trips on his boat. He did watch the show — but didn’t comment on it … Garry Shandling has not retired “Larry Sanders.” He is feverishly trying to complete writing “The Larry Sanders Autobiography,” hopefully for publication this holiday season. He was obviously happy about finally getting an Emmy, but is now concentrating on learning to become a better bigscreen actor working with the likes of Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Andie MacDowell in “Town & Country.” Shandling’s bigscreen acting is obviously OK in “Hurlyburly,” in which he plays a producer and “puts plenty of snap and humor in his dialogue” says Daily Variety critic David Rooney. Shandling also continues to pursue his feature writing career with “What Planet Are You From?” long in development at Columbia … Among the hundred-or-so stars I introduced and interviewed at they arrived on the Shrine’s red carpet, many related TV’s momentous events in their lives. The subjects ranged from political moments by Walter Cronkite to sports moments with Hank Aaron, and of course, the nominees’ own showbiz inspirations … Brandy told me she and Diana Ross are aiming to play a mother-and-daughter pair in a musical. Whitney Houston wants to do another musical classic a la “Cinderella.” Mary Tyler Moore wants to return with Valerie Harper, but only when their show can equal their predecessors — not easy … Milton Berle (90) and Sid Caesar (76) who’ve received countless standing ovations, admitted the one received with Bob Hope, 95, on Sunday was the greatest — and it certainly was the longest I’ve ever seen at any awards show. Berle and Caesar say they feel great. Berle goes out on a 12-city tour in January, to be followed (after a month’s vacation) with a 10-city jaunt. Caesar laughingly says, “I’ve worked hard enough — I’m retired.” But, he too will go out on (briefer) gigs … Jimmy Murphy has informed the many customers of his terrif Jimmy’s eatery that he’s closing rather than renovating as previously announced, but he’s told me he’s entering the world of showbiz with involvement in the musical, “In the Limelight” — about Charlie Chaplin.

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