Daly awaits Dodgers’ opening day

GOOD MORNING: Bob Daly was smiling for two reasons Monday. He had just returned to his office at Dodger Stadium having watched the first winter training of the team at USC. (They are currently unable to work out in Dodger Stadium as it is getting its glamorous new look — and new sod). Daly was impressed with the team’s newcomers and the returning players and says he’s looking forward to opening day in the stadium April 14. He was also smiling because of the AOL/Time Warner merger news. Daly said, “It’s a great deal, great for all concerned. And — I’m a major stockholder. The smartest thing I ever did was to hold onto the (Time Warner) stock.” He says he and former WB partner Terry Semel retained their shares. “We believed in the company, then and now.” At the time of the announcement of the Daly-Terry Semel retirements, their stock options were valued at more than $100 million. At that time, TW stock closed at $76.31. Monday, it closed at $90.06. When I asked Daly if he’d now want to be involved in the new inter-tainment giant, he smiled, “I’m a Dodger now. I’m working here.” … President Clinton’s chief of staff John Podesta got a birthday gift Monday from the cast of NBC-TV’s “West Wing.” It was a gag reel with greetings written by the show’s creator Aaron Sorkin and acted out by John Spencer, who plays the White House chief of staff in the series, plus regulars Rob Lowe, Bradley Whitford and Dule Hill. Rob tells me Podesta watches the TV show regularly and is a fan.

VERSATILE — THAT’S UNQUESTIONABLY the word for Ben Kingsley He’s in L.A. briefly to: loop lines as the planet leader in Mike Nichols’ “What Planet are You From”; to shoot an added scene as the American Ambassador to Yemen for Dick Zanuck and Billy Friedkin in “Rules of Engagement”; and to talk his next film as “Napoleon,” which he produces with Eileen Kahn. Written by Jesse Graham, it covers Bonaparte’s final years on St. Helena, where he died in 1821. Kingsley said he was also in L.A. to show his latest indie-financed film to hefty bidders: “Spooky House.” In it, the Oscar-winning Kingsley (“Gandhi”) plays “the great Zamboni,” a world famous magician who is always accompanied by his pet, a 320-pound black jaguar on a leash. Kingsley tells me that big cat “took a liking to me! And like cats do, he liked to rub up against me. It felt like being hit by a small truck!” Kingsley showed the film to a group, including his 3-year-old godson, Sunday at WB. He says “the film is for children, from 6-96.” In the story, Zamboni is befriended by an 8-year-old orphan (played by Matt Weinberg). The pic also utilizes computerized sequences to help solve a secret disappearance. “Spooky House” would be released theatrically in the summer, with the video out at Halloween. Interest by majors is intensified because of the pic’s possibilities for food franchising opportunities. That’s a big item these days … “Third Watch” star Eddie Cibrian and model Brandi Glanville are engaged. He proposed to her seconds before midnight New Year’s Eve. They haven’t set the wedding date yet … Raymond Katz and his longtime lady (17 years) Barbara Darnell decided to get married Sunday — so they did, Jan. 9 at his residence in West Hollywood. The quickly invited small wedding party included Suzanne Pleshette (even though she’d broken her shoulder), Monica Lang, Joan (Mrs. Herman) Rush and Barbara’s sister Sandra Brown … The split of the Ike Turners was mended in a couple of days, and wife Jeanette is back from St. Louis to rejoin him at their Palm Springs home … George Foreman was surprise birthday-partied with longtime friend and lawyer Henry Holmes and Barney Oldfield on hand. Holmes just completed a deal with producer Ross Greenburg to make a film about Foreman’s life.

GARRY MARSHALL OPENLY ADMITS the enormous success of the Julia Roberts starrer “Runaway Bride” allows him to do plays. And he’s been doing so at his Falcon Theater in the Valley. Now, Marshall has his eye on B’way again and it’s for the legit version of Bob Klane’s 1970 movie, “Where’s Poppa?” Klane has also written the legit version and Joan Worth, widow of the pic’s producer Marvin W., would produce. She is currently producing the Eddie Izzard-starring “Lenny” in London, which Marshall saw, whetting his appetite to do” “Poppa.” It was directed on screen by Carl Reiner and starred George Segal, Ruth Gordon, Ron Liebman and Trish VanDevere, with small roles played by Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner. Marshall and Worth are seriously going after talent for B’way. The casting possibilities are terrific; Daily Variety described the pic as “An insane movie!” … Tony Bennett, nominated (again) for a Grammy, for pop vocal, is honored Feb. 6 by the Society of Singers with its annual Ella Award. Fellow Grammy nominee Lenny Kravitz, up for male rock vocal perf, will also perform, as will past Grammy winners, nominees and heirs Jack Jones, Monica Mancini, Andy Williams, Merv Griffin, Cleo Laine & John Dankworth, Manhattan Transfer, Sergio Mendez, Tony Danza, Regina Carter, Neil Sedaka and Rosemary Clooney, last year’s recipient … Shirley Bassey plays Vegas for the first time in 10 years, when she bows at the MGM Grand Feb. 3-9, with plans to do a long run in Vegas this year. All the Vegas Strip performers are planning to attend the party welcoming Bassey back.

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