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Producer keeps lively Tonys moving

GOOD MORNING: Moving out and moving in — that’s the action at Radio City Music Hall for Walter C. Miller, who exec produced the terrif Tonys Sunday and who is now readying the three-hour Comic Relief-HBO extravaganza for this Sunday. The logistics for the (multi-million-$) Tonys were the greatest ever, with sets and cast for the elaborate production numbers (led by “The Lion King”) moved in and out of the Hall and on/off stage during brief commercials. It was a tribute to Miller and company to have given the show a newfound dimension, such as the brief synopses of dramas. Miller also credits Rosie O’Donnell for her femceeing and for keeping the show moving and humorous (although on occasion in questionable taste). As with Oscar shows, producers have warned multiple winners to keep acceptances brief, and with a single representative. “Art” playwright Yasmina Reza continued on, although she was cued off repeatedly — meaning Sean Connery, a producer of the play, was cut off as he prepared to make his thank you. Connery was going to thank his wife for bringing the play to his attention to produce. … Miller says “Comic Relief” this year should also be something extra to look forward to, “since Robin Williams (who co-hosts with Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal) is now an Oscar winner!” The live feed of the Tonys on the West Coast at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica was a sellout and benefited the Actors Fund of America and Aid for AIDS, by over $100,000 from ticket sales and the live auction. Gwen Verdon, accepting the Julie Harris Award, said the museum was the perfect place because “It is full of antique airplanes and I’m so old.” Betty White, who presented the award to Verdon, said she was sorry she’d never worked with her — but she’d worked with Gwen’s father, who had been a lighting man at one of the studios. Femcee Lucie Arnaz touched everyone’s heart when she said Gwen used her many talents to make people “laugh or cry. I knew another lady who could do that — and she had red hair too!” A silent tribute to Lucy followed.

FOUR-TIME TONY-WINNING playwright Peter Stone was presented the Oscar Hammerstein Award Monday night by the Off B’way York Theatre Company, for a lifetime achievement in musical theater. Lauren Bacall, who starred in his “Woman of the Year,” made the presentation. Tony Roberts was host, with entertainment by Betty Buckley, Larry Gatlin, Charles Nelson Reilly, Rogers Rees, Dee Hoty and cast members of “Titanic” and “1776” (the books for both were written by Stone). … Former Tony winner Barry Bostwick had to bow out as a Tony presenter when paged to L.A. for Fox Family Channel’s two-hour “Men in White,” in which he plays a U.S. President. Bostwick’s no stranger to the presidency, having played George Washington in a miniseries. … When I reported here to Ernie Borgnine about Nicky Silver’s play “My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine,” playing at San Diego’s Sledgehammer Theater, he was incensed and promptly called his lawyers. They promptly notified the author and theater of their “invasion of privacy” and “defamatory statements” for “the purpose of soliciting business,” etc. As of June 6, the play is now called “My Marriage to Marisa Tomei.” Hello, Marisa? There’s a play down in San Diego called — Meanwhile, Borgnine’s busier than ever on screen, now in Texas in “Abilene,” he’s also wound “Small Soldiers” (with Phil Hartman), “Hoover,” “BASEketball” and in two weeks starts “The Last Great Ride,” followed in August by “Mel.”

WALTER MATTHAU & CAROL BURNETT will team again: this time on TV, in CBS’ “The Marriage Fool.” Walter’s son Charlie directs the tale, in which Walter’s a widower who falls for Burnett, but his kids disapprove. Matthau called Carol to ask her to costar, saying they’d make any changes she wanted. She said she’d do anything (again) with Walter. They teamed in “Pete ‘n’ Tillie” in 1972 for director Marty Ritt, and in 1974 for Billy Wilder in “The Front Page” remake, costarring Jack Lemmon. … Amy Ephron’s novella, “A Cup of Tea,” for which Ephron has also written the screenplay, has been optioned by Linda and Jerry Bruckheimer. Ballantine has gone back for a third (paperback) printing of “Tea.” Ephron’s hardcover publisher Wm. Morrow bought rights to her new novel, “White Rose/Una Rosa Blanca,” based on the true story of a 1987 jailed femme Cuban revolutionary who was rescued by a Hearst reporter. … And the William Morris office is repping the life story of Holocaust Righteous Christian Irene Gut Opdyke. She was made to work as housekeeper for a Nazi major in Poland in whose house she hid about a dozen Jews; she was discovered and forced to become his mistress. She was recently reunited (in Israel) with one of those she’d saved; the reunion airs Wednesday on ABC’s “PrimeTime Live.” The Morris office’s Aaron Kaplan reps the story for a feature. … Ronald Reagan, from president of SAG to President of the USA; Charlton Heston, from president of SAG to president of the NRA. There goes the pride.

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