GOOD MORNING: Bill Gates puts his money where his heart (also) is — the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Foundation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is donating $500,000 to the MPTF’s Capitol Campaign, which has a goal of $115 million. Another recent contribution of $500,000 is from the Thomas and Ruth Nagel Jones Trust, in memory of legendary actor Conrad Nagel, an entertainment industry pioneer who provided great leadership in the development of the MPTF’s Country House & Hospital. Peter Jones, Conrad Nagel’s grandson and a TV biographer par excellence, recalls, “As a founding father of the original Motion Picture Fund, my grandfather took pride in being a part of an industry that cared for its own. His family will continue to honor his legacy by actively supporting a cause he furthered and cherished.” Jeffrey Katzenberg, chairman of the MPTF Foundation, says, “The Jones family gift is a wonderful example of the legacy of support that MPTF has built upon for nearly 80 years. I am confident that we will achieve our goal ($115 million) because of MPTF’s incredible mission that is attracting generous support not only from the entertainment community itself, but also from individuals and corporations around the globe who value Hollywood’s creative process and the people who are the heart and soul of this industry.” A seven-year waiting list for retirement care is among the issues to be addressed with this campaign.

CAROL MATTHAU’S GRIEF over the death of Walter (Monday would have been their 41st wedding anniversary) is so great, she says, that she wants to move back to N.Y. She has already sold their Malibu beach home: It was on the market one day! Carol has lifelong N.Y. friends like Gloria Vanderbilt and Lauren Bacall. Carol asked Bacall to read her message at Sunday’s tribute to Walter at the DGA: “Because it’s so brave to love and the valor of trusting gives even that final aloneness an echo of a heart once filled — that final whisper of pleasure haunts us with sweet secrets from all those many years ago. We know that we lived.” She confided to me, “I had made him (Walter) promise that I would go first. That was the only promise he ever broke” … Monday morning, Roberto Benigni phoned Carol from Italy. He and wife Nicoletta became close friends of the Matthaus when Walter was costarring with Roberto in Italy in “Piccola Diablo,” a film that was never released in the U.S. Benigni sent a message to be read at the tribute but that didn’t arrive in time. He said, “He was a magnificent creature, I loved him very much. He has a face that the first time I saw it in the movies, made me think: ‘My God! What beautiful things have we done to deserve the gift of such a face?’ He naturally belonged to the world of the arts, he was born in it, he was supposed to be in it, like an ice cream in the refrigerator; outside he would have melted” … Son Charlie Matthau did a touching, often humorous emceeing of the event, whose speakers included Lenny Hirshan, Diane Keaton, Neil Simon, Red Buttons, Dr. Neil Parker, Rabbi Jerry Cutler, Larry King and Jack Lemmon (in tears). Film clips were by Chuck Workman. The program advised contributions could be sent to “the Walter Matthau Memorial Fund for a life-sized bronze sculpture of Walter — to be installed in a public area in L.A.” Hollywood Blvd. — or Hollywood Park? The final page of the program was Walter’s last contribution: his “Pre-Season line for Conference Championship and Super Bowl XXXV.” I have a copy of those odds, in case you want to wager along with Walter; wherever he is, you know there’s a bookie.

WRITERS WILL LOVE THIS: Usually, when a writer is portrayed in a movie, he is shown at a typewriter, tearing out sheets of paper, throwing them repeatedly into a wastebasket. Not so by writer Sherwood Schwartz who just sold his 1978(!) book, “Inside Gilligan’s Island” to ABC as a two-hour telepic. Sherwood is the creator of “Gilligan’s,” which has not been off the air for a day since 1963! He will exec produce the vidpic; son Lloyd is writing with Randy Miller who will also direct. The movie’s about Sherwood and his wife Mildred during all the years he did the series. It shows their personal, well as professional lives from the first meeting on the series. “A writer is also a person,” Schwartz would have us believe … The Demos nixed it but the friends of the American Jazz Philharmonic loved it — the Playboy Mansion where Sunday night $200,000 was raised for their 20th annual Garden Musical benefiting the Henry Mancini Institute’s summer educational program founded by the AJP music director Jack Elliott. Music lover Hugh Hefner, who co-sponsored the event, was on hand … Corky Hale & Friends’ “From Tin Pan Alley to Beverly Hills,” a tribute to songwriting with Jeff Barry, Leiber & Stoller, Livingston & Evans, Johnny Mandel, Barry Mann, David Raskin, Brenda Russell and Paul Williams, drew over 900 to the BevHills Summer Arts Festival 2000 in the Civic Center Plaza where Mayor Vicki Reynolds intro’d the multi-talented Hale.

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