Elton John rocks benefit concert

GOOD MORNING: It was music of the heart — no, not the movie, but the very “live” concert by Elton John at Cedars-Sinai Research for Women’s Cancers benefit, at the Beverly Wilshire Tuesday. The “Unforgettable Evening” (and it was), underwritten by Saks Fifth Ave, raised $1.4 million. It was not just one of those two or three song stints by a star at a benefit. Elton gave his all in a remarkable one-hour concert. When asked by Rita Wilson to perform, there was no hesitation in his reply — plus a promise to return for ’em whenever they call again. In his repertoire, he included a special tribute to honoree Hillary Rodham Clinton. The BevWilshire hotel should bronze the Yamaha grand piano following Elton’s performance: his pianistics Tuesday night ranked with the best of the all-time best 88’ers. And his vocalizing had the faithful, including Wilson, mouthing his lyrics along with him … Whatta week it has been for Elton, starting with the bow of “Aida” in N.Y., which he again told me he thoroughly enjoyed in its current form. Then, his birthday bash in L.A. followed by his AIDS benefit Oscar party, which he told me raised more than $500,000 for his foundation. Then, Tuesday’s fundraiser, followed by Wednesday night’s preem of DreamWorks’ “El Dorado,” for which he and Tim Rice again teamed … As if Elton wasn’t enough of a showbiz treat at the Cedars-Sinai benefit, Robin Williams graciously agreed to m.c. the evening when Rosie O’Donnell dropped out. While Williams always seems fearless on stage, he softly admitted to me, “I’m not used to doing this (m.c’ing).” Believe me, he’s got this other calling as well. He opened noting that “On the ballot (for N.Y. senator), she’s listed as Hillary Rodham Clinton, or, ‘the artist formerly known as the First Lady.’ ” While obviously Demo-favored, Williams kidded both presidential candidates, George W. Bush and Al Gore. As for Steven Spielberg, Williams said, “He is so powerful, he had final cut on his own circumcision” … The First Lady, in a high-fashion, sheer, four-tiered black evening gown, was seated at dinner between Spielberg and Tom Hanks. She overnighted Tuesday at Kate (Capshaw) and Steven Spielberg’s house. (Well, they’ve overnighted at the White House.) Hanks, even thinner and his beard even longer, told me he heads to Fiji next month to complete “Castaway,” when he’ll eventually cast away that longhaired look. Wife Wilson said if he kept it he could play Abraham Lincoln. There is a definite resemblance! … Hanks and Spielberg brought onstage the First Lady with reminders of all her works to educate the public about health. They called her a “Woman of Courage,” the name of her award. She thanked all for the evening’s honors — and entertainment. And told of their (hers and the President’s) hopes to bring medical attention to everyone, not only to those who can afford it … The evening was opened by remarks from Marion Laurie, Sandra Krause, Anne Douglas, Candice Bergen, Wilson, Capshaw and Natalie Cole, who intro’d the tribute to the late Liz Tilberis. Cedars-Sinai’s Dr. Lawrence Platt told of the clinical research progress on women’s cancers. Saks Fifth Avenue promised further contributions to the program in addition to underwriting the evening. The AME Church Choir also entertained the SRO BevWilshire ballroom crowd … It was a whirlwind visit to L.A. for the First Lady who Monday night was guest of honor at a fundraiser ($200,000) at the home of Michele and Rob Reiner (where Mrs. Clinton had appeared to campaign for his Prop 10 battle). She was cocktailed, lunched and breakfasted in other fundraisers during her 48-hour Western trek. The Reiners hold another Demo fundraiser, April 18 — this one for Ted Kennedy … Another fundraiser for Hillary C. today, in N.Y. at Denise Rich’s home.

JOHN WAYNE’S ON SCREEN AGAIN, in another (his fourth) Coors commercial. The clever digitalized resuscitation of Wayne in TV commercials will be extracted from the 1953 “Trouble Along the Way,” in which he played the football coach of a small Catholic school. Coors had planned to air it during the coming football season but it’s so good, it’ll first be seen in one of the top TV shows’ season-finale cliffhanger — or in one of the top show’s swan song. Previous Wayne films from which he was extracted to sell suds, were “Cast a Giant Shadow,” “Comancheros” and “El Dorado.” Coors makes a generous contribution to the John Wayne Cancer Institute at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica; Wayne’s Batjac also contributes from its licensing fee. On Saturday, the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary will present its prestigious Special Service Duke Award to Peter Coors, vice chairman-CEO of the Coors Brewing Co. at the auxiliary’s annual Odyssey Ball at the Beverly Hilton … It will be mothers galore on “Hollywood Squares” during Mother’s Day Week: Whoopi Goldberg’s mom will be in a square, as well as Bruce Vilanch’s; Jason Alexander and his mom will also square away, ditto Carol Burnett and daughter Carrie Hamilton and Holly Robinson and her mom, Dolores. Also Doris Roberts and her “Everybody Loves Raymond” son Brad Garrett … Helen Reddy, no slouch at dramatics, as well as singing, guestars in the “Diagnosis Murder” seg “Swan Song,” in which she plays a famous pianist who is diagnosed by old beau Dick Van Dyke as having Alzheimer’s disease. Joel Steiger scripted … Congrats to Albert Brooks and wife Kimberly who welcomed daughter Claire Elizabeth Monday at Cedars-Sinai. They also have a year-old son, Jacob. Albert just wound starring in the Christine Lahti-directed “My First Mister.”

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