‘Murphy’ to survive, leave air on high note

GOOD MORNING: “Murphy Brown” is a survivor. When the 10-year-old CBS series finales with an hour-long show on May 18 (9-10 p.m.), “Murphy” will have survived her threat of cancer as the show dies out. Murphy’s “survival” was assured by Candice Bergen Sunday night to the BevWilshire audience at the “Unforgettable Evening,” a fundraiser for Cedars-Sinai Research for Women’s Cancer. This week, the final show is being written by Diane English in her rain-threatened Malibu Canyon home, as long as power holds out in her house. The show will be filmed on two successive weeks and the air date is coincidentally English’s 50th birthday. English says there will be “major big names on the last show; a lot of good friends want to participate in this show.” “Murphy” will get a marriage proposal in this farewell seg. “The show will be a spiritual moment,” promises English, “a resurrection — and as many laughs as people are used to on this show.” English believes that “our audience would have bailed out (early) if she was to die. Besides, we feel we have to give people (with cancer) hope. We feel so much progress is being made in cancer research.” Hillary Clinton did a p.s.a. in conjunction with the show’s theme. When asked whether one of the guests in the finale might be President Clinton, English said, “We’d never even ask him.” Newt Gingrich did make an appearance … Rosie O’Donnell, an honoree at the Women’s Cancer Research dinner, donated (“with my sister”) $100,000 to the C-S fund when it was announced $900,000 had already been raised that night … In making the other presentation, to C-S’s Dr. Beth Y. Karlan, Anne (Mrs. Kirk) Douglas reminded, “I am a cancer survivor.” Husband Kirk, survivor of a stroke, introduced Julia Louis-Dreyfus, said he was mad at her, for also going off the air (“Seinfeld”) “and depriving me of 1,000 laughs.” Rita Wilson intro’d O’Donnell as “a woman who makes a difference every day of her life.” O’Donnell, in an emotional speech, said she was only 10 years old when her mother died of cancer. And she accepted the Woman of Courage award in the name of her friend Marjorie Gross, a cancer victim. Rosie intro’d Luther Vandross, who entertained at the gala evening chaired by Marion Laurie and Sandra Krause, with Bonnie Bruckheimer joining Candice Bergen as national spokeswomen. Saks Fifth Ave. underwrote the evening.

CELINE DION, SKEDDED to duet with Barbra Streisand on the Grammys with “I Finally Found Someone,” did the rehearsal with a 60-piece orch, but sans flu-felled Streisand: Barbra’s due to rehearse today in advance of Wednesday night’s show. A 77-piece orch will back Pavarotti, and 30 musicians support Babyface and Stevie Wonder’s duet … Add to the Grammy presenters, Olympic gold medal winner Tara Lipinski … Dion will sing the nominated “My Heart Will Go On” (“Titanic”) on the Oscar show, along with the other vocalists who are ditto’ing from their respective pix: “Journey to the Past” (“Anastasia”) to be sung by Aaliyah; “Go the Distance” (“Hercules”) Michael Bolton; “How Do I Live?” (“Con Air”), by Trisha Yearwood, and “Miss Misery” (“Good Will Hunting”) sung by Elliott Smith … A grandiose pre-Grammy party was given by Denise Rich on two floors of her N.Y. apartment plus a tented rooftop, where George Benson entertained and ice skaters glided by on a terrace iced-over for the party. Rich wrote two of the songs on Patti Labelle’s Grammy-nominated R&B album “Flame.” Rich’s single “Love is on the Way” is on Celine Dion’s newest album. Honorees were Grammy host Kelsey Grammer, Grammy producer Pierre Cossette and NARAS CEO Michael Greene.

JOHN TRAVOLTA SWITCHES from the Navy to the Army in “The Thin Red Line.” Travolta, formerly an admiral in the last sequence to be filmed by Terry Malick, has now been rewritten by Malick to a Brigadier General. The sequence will be filmed next week on one of the last Navy Liberty ships, off San Pedro. Nick Nolte, who has been playing Col. Tall in sequences filmed in Australia, joins Travolta in the George Stevens Jr. film. Stevens noted the recent Federal appeals court ruling against Fred Astaire’s widow Robyn re use of Fred’s film clips in instructional videotape or docu; he recalled that his Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Ginger Rogers had to be re-edited and Tom Selleck’s intro re-taped when Robyn refused to allow Fred’s dancing with Ginger to be aired, except for a hefty fee. Stevens told me he was willing to use the clips as originally taped on stage at the Kennedy Center, but the Kennedy Center didn’t want to be involved in a possible law$uit pre-airing, etc. … While in L.A. for his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award show honoring Robert Wise, Stevens also met up with “Titanic” Oscar nominee Gloria Stuart at the New Yorker’s party. Stuart informed Stevens she had starred for his father in “Laddie,” co-starring John Beal, Virginia Weidler and Donald Crisp — in 1935! … Perino’s restaurant, onetime pride of Wilshire Blvd. in Hollywood’s halcyon days, reopened for the third “Mondo Hollywood,” ’40s-themed party given by Details editor-in-chief Michael Caruso.

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