GOOD MORNING: “While you were waiting in line — ” Rosie O’Donnell told the audience at the taping of her show Thursday, “there was another shooting at a school.” Rosie had received many calls commenting on how she courageously took on Tom Selleck and his NRA stand during his guestint with her Wednesday. She explained her emotional stand by showing the audience an NRA ad (in Time magazine) in which she quoted Selleck as saying, “Shooting teaches young people good things.” And Selleck’s last sentence, “I am the NRA.” Rosie said her intent had been “To have a calm discussion about the NRA. It didn’t end up calm.” After enumerating why she objects to the NRA, Rosie admitted, “Of course, my heart starts beating very fast and I get very passionate about the subject. I do not think that Tom Selleck was prepared for me to be as opinionated and as passionate as I was yesterday and for that I think he was very surprised.” Rosie says he knew they’d discuss the NRA (and his new pic, “The Love Letter”), but that he wasn’t aware of her passion about the issue. “And, for him feeling embarrassed and humiliated by me, I strongly do apologize to him personally but I do not apologize for my feelings about this issue because the NRA is the strongest lobby, many people say, in Washington and they are also, according to my studies, a minority. And the people who feel strongly against what the NRA stands for in their lobbying effort need to be heard as well. And many people are afraid to take a stand against them because they are so powerful. So, that’s what happened yesterday.” Rosie went on to say about Selleck, “I never meant to imply that he was a bad man. We have very differing beliefs on the issue of gun control.” As do the parents of the children killed every day by someone with a gun. Following the latest school shooting, outside Atlanta Thursday, President Clinton declared, “This incident (Atlanta) again should underscore how profoundly important it is that all Americans come together in the face of these events to protect all of our children from violence.” From violence? Isn’t it spelled G-U-N-S … .I was talking with Warren Beatty — who 30 years ago toured 10 states on behalf of gun control. He repeats today “The problem of violence is so elementary — guns.”

THE FIRST FEATURE for Merv Griffin Entertainment, “Barnes” will boast Bruce Beresford as its director. The pic, coproduced by Ernie Chambers is about the relationship between James Michener and Dr. Albert C. Barnes, a wealthy, eccentric art collector who stalked the author for many years, hounded him with obscene letters and disruptive appearances at Michener’s speeches. Michener wrote about Barnes in his memoirs and Chambers interviewed Michener — on tape — at his home for authentic background on the movie which Griffin says will be a Paramount Classics feature scripted by Jordan Roberts and begins filming in Toronto this Fall … NBC launches a follow-up to its “Today” show with “Later Today,” starting at 9 ayem. Among those so far set to star are Florence Henderson and Jody Applegate. The show would also emanate from Rockefeller Center and will bow after Labor Day … Don’t miss “Collected Stories” at the Geffen Playhouse. It’s another feather in the cap of the Geffen’s Producing Director, Gil Cates. “Collected Stories” by Donald Margulies is the first play here also directed by Cates. And, remarkably, the first time on L.A. boards for B’way’s Tony-winner Linda Lavin. She and Samantha Mathis received a deserved and prolonged standing ovation. Among those applauding were AMPAS Pres. Bob Rehme, past presidents Karl Malden and Arthur Hiller. Cates, Secy.-Treas.(and past Pres.) of the DGA had to miss the Guild’s Membership meeting the same night as the play’s opening.

LAST CHANCE TO OWN A PIECE of TV history: “Melrose Place” airs its final seg Monday– after seven torrid years. Amazon.com Auctions is presenting hundreds of pieces of merchandise, including wardrobe, props and furnishings from the show to benefit the American Cancer Society and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America. It is accessible at http://www.amazon.com. … The Calif. Jr. Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates its 62nd anniversary spectacular, as always, under the baton of the ageless Dr. Ernst Kartz. The event, June 2 at the Shrine, will be m.c’d by Connie Stevens, Pat Boone is guest soloist and yours truly as host of the annual Celebrity of the Batons. Ken Minyard will narrate a musical retrospective and Gary Greene is concertmaster. Lori Gordon is coordinator of the event presented gratis by the Al Malaikah Shrine, Gene F. Moore is 101st Illustrious Potentate … Randy Newman is making a rare appearance in L.A., May 26, 27 and 29 at the House of Blues. He was a sellout at the Lobero in Santa Barbara on the 19th. His first album on DreamWorks Records, “Bad Love,” is out June 1. In mid-month he returns to work on “Toy Story II.” South Coast Rep. has also commissioned a dramatic play “The Education of Randy Newman” for the Spring 2000 … Archbishop Desmond Tutu is keynote speaker at Artists for a New South Africa Monday at the Wiltern. Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson and Morgan Freeman cochair. Denzel and Pauletta Washington and Alfre Woodard and Roderick Spencer host “Jabulani! Freedom Rising” with Joan Baez, Stevie Wonder, Lebo M, Hugh Masekela and Bebe Winans.

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