GOOD MORNING: This is my last column — for this century. I will return Jan. 3. Unlike New Year’s Eve 1938, when I was swept up by the crowd in Times Square, this year I will be watching the festivities on television. Back in ’38, I was an usher at the then Loew’s Criterion theater in Times Square and when I went from the lobby out to the box office, I was engulfed by the seething crowd and swept toward the giant, glass Bond windows — luckily they were armored with hefty wooden crossboards. The theater’s doorman — they were all well over six feet in those days — spotted me. I was 16 and a strapping 135 pounds! I was extricated from the sea of humanity and hauled back into the womb of the theater. I tell you all this as I talk to those showbiz souls now readying a New Year’s 25-hour celebration in that same setting. I won’t be there, but an army (excuse it) will be on hand to cover the event live and for all media as the year 2000 approaches. This year the added tensions are mounting. As for the Y2K concern, I am assured that ABC, for example, has “so many backups at the ready for auxiliary power and controls.” And producer Gary Smith reminds they have 60 locales around the world involved in pickups in case there’s a hitch at 44th and Times Square where Peter Jennings can look out — at Dick Clark. One of those locales is in South Africa where Stevie Wonder, Harry Belafonte and Nelson Mandela will be part of the ABC worldwide consortium in Robin Island where Mandela was held prisoner … Of course there will be commercials during the day-long telecast. For $2 million, clients get a package which may contain as many as 100 units including TV, radio, the Internet and local stations, says Marvin Goldsmith, president of ABC Sales and Marketing. Sponsors of the ABC show are also being offered trips to N.Y., ducats to the Dec. 31 matinee of “Lion King” (also Disney), Saturday night dinner at the Russian Tea Room and Sunday dinner at the Tavern on the Green. Of course every sponsor wants to air close to the stroke of midnight — but Goldsmith reminds there are 33 time zones and so the spots will be rotated. Howcum 33 and not 24? Some sites have chosen their own time zone for this occasion! Goldsmith admits ABC is even more excited about its televised show — “because research has shown that so many people have chosen to stay home this New Year’s!”
THIS IS THE BUSIEST TIME OF MY LIFE,” Dick Clark admitted as he tapes today two “Winning Lines” gameshows for Fox — to first air Jan. 8. He is host-only of this show, but produces CBS’ “Greed,” hosted by Chuck Woolery. Clark’s banner is also readying the Golden Globes for NBC. But on Dec. 27, he heads to N.Y. for his 28th year counting down midnight. Clark, 70, goes on the air at 11:20 p.m. with a seg following by Peter Jennings, then Billy Joel doing a number from Madison Square Garden. President Clinton will appear on all three networks as Clark then goes into the countdown. He’s hoping there’s no computer glitch here — “When we did it with a Mickey Mouse watch for years, there was no problem — then we went to a computer and we were three seconds late!” Precautions are being taken to avoid a re-occurrence. Asked howcum he’s taken on so much simultaneously, Clark laughed, “You’ve never known me to turn down a job, have you?” But, he admits hosting “Winning Lines” “is a challenge. I’ve never had to remember so many cues. This is highly computerized — a most complicated game show with 49 ‘live’ contestants vying for the million-$ prize.” With B’way shuttered for New Year’s Eve, many are doing two shows New Year’s Day and Christmas Day as well. Lauren Bacall, a hit in Noel Coward’s “Waiting in the Wings,” says she’ll spend Christmas Eve with her family and New Year’s Eve at the Hal Princes. They attended her show’s opening. Bacall laughingly allows she’s hot again — now also on screen with Kirk Douglas and Dan Aykroyd in Miramax’s “Diamonds.” “But I love to be on stage,” she says, and will stay with the show contractually six months — and no longer … Debbie Reynolds caught Liza in “Minnelli on Minnelli” at the Palace where Liza intro’d Debbie in the audience. Reynolds used to babysit Liza — and she lived next to Judy, Liza and Vincente in BevHills. Debbie raved about Liza’s show. Reynolds spends Christmas Eve at daughter Carrie Fisher’s with eight family members “in a slumber party waiting up for Santa,” she laughs. New Year’s Eve, Reynolds works the Riverside in Laughlin. In 2000, Reynolds hopes to see plans for the long-hoped-for Hollywood museum — she met Monday with 20th-Fox’s executive archivist Alan Adler and she’s talking to WB’s curator Leif Adams. Reynolds doesn’t want her name on a Hollywood museum — just a proper place where the glories of movies can be appreciated “by those who buy the (movie) tickets.” Her collection is priceless — everything from everybody — in a warehouse she built. More to follow on industry efforts to finally achieve a proper Hollywood museum … George Kirgo and Del Reisman, former WGA West presidents, will exec produce the 52nd Writers Guild Awards show March 5 simultaneously at the BevHilton and at the N.Y. Plaza. … The preem of “Man on the Moon” at Mann’s Chinese and the Hollywood Palladium raised $135,000 for Comic Relief and the Artists Foundation, Bob Zmuda announced. Also greeting preemgoers were Danny DeVito and director Milos Forman who said the pic was “a labor of love.” The pic idea was born five years ago at a party at Michael Douglas’ house. Jim Carrey, who stars as Kaufman, arrived with his heretofore hidden lady friend, Renee Zellweger. P.S., They also costarred in “Me, Myself and Irene.” … See you Jan. 3, 2000.