SAG aims kudo show at thesps, not TV aud

GOOD MORNING and good luck SAG Award nominees: Winners during the Guild’s fifth award ceremony Sunday night won’t have to worry about being “played off” during their acceptance speeches, promises exec producer Jeff Margolis. “This is an evening for the actors rather than a TV show.” (But TV cameras will be roaming throughout Sunday’s telecast on TNT, 8-10 p.m.) Kathy Bates will open the show in a piece entitled, “I am an actor!” … On the two-hour awards show, commercials will not be shown to the Shrine audience during breaks; instead, the program continues in the hall with a narrator looking back on past awards, etc. … 95,000 actor-members of SAG received ballots for these awards. (By comparison, 5,557 ballots were sent to Academy members for the 71st Oscars, March 21) … SAG presenters are teamed according to professional or personal past/present teamings. Participants in the tribute to Kirk Douglas on his Life Achievement Award: Tom Hanks, Karl Malden, Lauren Bacall (who costarred with him in “Man With a Horn” and recently again in “Diamonds”), Janet Leigh, Dan Aykroyd plus Douglas’ family members … Following the awards, People mag, the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) and Excite Inc. team cosponsor the post-awards show at the Shrine. They will also donate a $60,000 grant to the SAG Foundation to benefit children … The Elton John/InStyle Oscar party to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation moves to Pagani this year, with Merv Griffin Prods. transforming the eatery. Elton John, who hosts (for the seventh time), will arrive from his tour, which includes the March 12 opening of the new Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando at Universal Studios City Walk, a benefit for his AIDS Foundation and Give Kids the World.

DREAMWORKS AND DEMOS: Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen are co-chairing a May 15 gala honoring Bill Clinton, Sen. Tom Daschle and Congressman Dick Gephardt to benefit Majority 2000, the Demo committee to recapture the House and Senate in 2000. Last weekend, the Clintons (Bill, Hillary and Chelsea) houseguested with the Katzenbergs at the latter’s Deer Valley, Utah, ski resort house … Before heading to the snow, Clinton took in a round of golf in L.A. at the Riviera Country Club, with pals including Les Moonves, Bud Yorkin, Casey Wasserman, Bruce Karatz and Rudy Doran. Screenwriter-producer Doran is talking with another golfer, Jack Nicholson, and Jerry Weintraub and WB on his drama feature, “The County,” in which Nicholson would play a sheriff a la Orson Welles in “Touch of Evil” … Spielberg will be honored by the USO Tuesday, when he receives their Merit Award at Pentagon City. It’s, of course, for his “Saving Private Ryan.” Top brass from all branches of the service as well as civilian officers will be on hand to honor Spielberg. Also attending will be D-Day medal of honor winners … Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley joins Gwyneth Paltrow and “Shakespeare in Love” director John Madden in launching the Shakespeare in the Classroom teachers’ kit program. Miramax and Universal also join the Dept.’s Education Partnership for Family Involvement in Education program to support educational excellence … Stephen Warbeck, Oscar-nominated for his “Shakespeare in Love” music score, was appointed head of music and associate artist for the Royal Shakespeare Company. He next records his music for Hallmark’s production of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” … Michael Langham, one of the greatest directors of classical theater in the last half-century, is in residence at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and TV, where he and his wife, actress Helen Burns are directing a workshop series of scenes from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” and Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.”

NO ONE IS MORE DESERVING of this honor than Bill Hertz, who will put his hand and footprints in the forecourt of Mann’s Chinese Theater on March 18 at 11:30 ayem. Jeff Lewine, prexy and CEO of West Star Cinema, is bestowing the honor on Hertz who has been with the theater chain for 53 years — from days when the Chinese was part of Fox West Coast to National Theaters, National General, Ted Mann, Paramount/WB and now West Star. Hertz has also overseen cemented stars in the forecourt since 1965 … “Karloff and Lugosi: A Haunting Collaboration” written by Gregory William Mank in 1990, will be feature-filmed by Jeff Lewis and Jim Westman’s Woodlake Entertainment and scripted by Mank. Lewis, a master in the design and creation of makeup and special effects, makes his producing bow with the pic. Westman boasts producer credits on the small and feature screen including “Robinson Crusoe,” “Tour of Duty,” “Heart of Darkness,” etc. The Karloff-Lugosi pic will show their rivalry and tortured screen collaborations as well as their tempestuous public and private relationships, including Lugosi’s descent into drugs and alcohol while Karloff retained his gentlemanly professionalism while alternately drawing acclaim and ridicule in both challenging and demeaning roles. Their story is seen through the eyes of a fictional character: a powerful gossip columnist extending from the ’20s to the ’60s.

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