‘Ryan’ awakens vets’ memories

GOOD MORNING: I never print “blind” items. But this story is so indicative of what is happening as a result of WWII D-Day veterans’ reactions to “Saving Private Ryan,” I have decided to relate the conversation I had with a well-known Hollywood publicist. He had never spoken about his WWII record in all the years I have known him since we both returned from different branches of the service. He was a Tech Sergeant commanding 60 men in the First Division, Infantry, 18th Regiment, 3rd Battalion, B Company — the Big Red One. He was on the left flank on Omaha Beach landing in a Higgins boat and was on line thereafter for 161 days straight through the Battle of the Bulge. He was one of only four men in his original platoon who returned — there was a 207 % replacement of men in the First Division. He saw “Saving Private Ryan” last Saturday at a theater in L.A. Afterward, he stopped at a bar and had two beers — it took an hour. He never took an hour over two beers. He didn’t sleep much Saturday night. On Sunday, he went to church. After the service, he remained seated in the pew for a half-hour. Did he approve of “Saving Private Ryan”? “It was right on the money,” he said positively … Reaction has been unanimous and beyond Steven Spielberg’s hopes. Monday’s N.Y. Times op-ed page lauded him for bringing forth the story that men, like my friend above, would not, could not ever tell. “Nightline” devoted its Monday night’s show to confirm veterans’ approving reaction to “Private Ryan.” USA Today established an e-mail box (life@usatoday.com) for others to relate their experiences. America Online set up a site (keyword: Private Ryan) for comments on the film. It is being flooded. And the Veterans’ Administration has set up an 800 line — (800) 827-1000 — for those vets who, having seen their lives re-enacted in the film, are now seeking counseling. I called to check the number and found a reassuring voice stating that VA offices around the country are conducting this service … Steven Spielberg made the world remember the WWII horrors of the Holocaust with his “Schindler’s List” and think about man’s inhumanity to man. He has again reminded the world that the heroic men of D-Day and those who followed in their bloodied path, made it possible for us to be here under flags of freedom today.

UNLIKE THE RECEPTION for “Private Ryan” that preceded the premiere at Mann’s Village last week, Monday’s “Halloween H20” preemgoers paraded to the Geffen in the usual sequence — following the pic. On hand were scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis, mom Janet Leigh (who plays her mother in the pic), father Tony Curtis, director Steve Miner and cast members Adam Arkin, LL Cool J, Michelle Williams, etc. I had asked Leigh whether she would cameo in the “Psycho” being re-made at Universal (and now starting to film in “that” house). The answer — no. But producer Brian Grazer has some surprises to toast Alfred Hitchcock in his ’98 version … Earlier Monday night, Rosemary Clooney was toasted at the Sky Bar by the Society of Singers, which will honor her Oct. 5 at the BevHilton. SOS’ Ginny Mancini told the group that Clooney will receive the group’s Ella award after being serenaded by Barry Manilow, Linda Ronstadt, Michael Feinstein and others. Clooney’s new CD “70” (70 minutes of music celebrating her 70th birthday) is on the jazz charts and Rosie just returned from Skywalker Sound in Nicasio (Marin County), where she recorded her next CD with the Count Basie orch … Meanwhile, Rosie O’Donnell will be honored Aug. 21 at the BevHilton by Vistas for Blind Children and the Institute for Families of Blind Children. The benefit is to raise money to establish a clinical treatment and research center to help fight retinoblastoma, a life-threatening form of eye cancer that can strike infants. The celeb guest list to be on hand includes Sharon Stone, Michael Douglas, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.

THE PLAYBOY MANSION and Hugh Hefner will get plenty of air time this Fall: in “Party of Five,” it appears as an exclusive East Coast private School (the scenes were shot there Monday). And next week CBS’ “Buddy Faro” takes over the mansion for a seg in which Hefner himself makes an appearance. In December, MTV features the casts of “Road Rules” and “The Real World” taped during a “sleepover” at the Mansion. Hef makes an appearance too … Jack Nicholson, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Dolgen, Mark Canton, Mike Figgis and Bob Cooper were among those at the Planet Hollywood screening of HBO’s “Poodle Springs” hosted by Jake Bloom and Jim Berkus with co-star Jimmy Caan and director Bob Rafelson taking bows … Motion Picture Academy exec director Bruce Davis hosts the annual U. of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Intern Program at the Acad Thursday p.m. Twelve students are working for various studios, companies for the summer … All in the family: Director Jerry Kupcinet took a break from “Judge Judy” for daughter-actress Kari’s wedding to investor Brad Kriser at Chi’s Drake. The bride’s happy grandpa, Irv Kupcinet, celebrates his 86th birthday Friday — and still goes to work seven days a week!

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