No special rules for Hillary’s Letterman seg

GOOD MORNING: In case you wondered about the reverential questions posed to Hillary Clinton by David Letterman, the show’s exec producer Rob Burnett assured me that no restrictions were asked for/placed by the First Lady. Furthermore, Burnett said, “We’d never book anyone who would ask for any.” Hillary was told Letterman would give her a “quiz” on facts about New York state about 15 minutes before the show began — but she certainly was already familiar with the subject matter, as a potential Senatorial candidate from the state of New York. The interview revealed the well-informed First Lady as warm, strong and humorous. Her own “Top 10” list was a collaborative comedic creation by the Letterman writing staff and her campaigners. In the Green Room before the show, the First Lady had a lengthy visit with Walter Cronkite, who readily accepted Letterman’s invite to open the show by warning David, “Don’t make a jackass of yourself.” While Letterman had done his share of president-White House jokes during the Clinton tenure, Dave always declared remarks about Chelsea were strictly off limits … Hillary left the Letterman studio immediately after her guestint and did not meet up with Letterman after he wound the (complete) show. However, he plans to ask her to return. This outing was Letterman’s idea — “the whole kit and kaboodle,” said Burnett. And the show will deliver the riding lawnmower gift to the Clinton’s Chappaqua home … When asked whether Clinton’s likely opponent, NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, would get equal Letterman time, Burnett reminded me Hizzoner had been a surprise walk-on New Year’s Eve and has been on previously as well. “We’re fans of his,” said Burnett.

THE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL of America’s first black president — as written by Irving Wallace in his novel “The Man” in 1963 — is now re-released by ibooks, with portions also on the Internet. It was originally on the NYTimes bestseller list 32 weeks, selling more than 2 million copies. The film, starring James Earl Jones, was scripted by Rod Serling and directed by Joe Sargent. Jones has written an introduction to the new edition, reminding “the book about a presidential impeachment was written 35 years before that of William Jefferson Clinton.” Wallace had accepted an invite from then President John F. Kennedy to spend several days observing life in the White House, from the Oval Office to the Cabinet Room to the private family quarters. Jones also writes that the film “gave me the chance to play a black man who was not a stereotype of a militant.” “The Man” was to have been originally aired as an ABC Circle (Lee Rich) film but was switched to bigscreen, with much of the book’s impeachment accusations — including that of raping his social secretary — deleted from the movie script. Jones says, “If we were going to do justice to the story about the first black president of the U.S., as Wallace did in his novel, we had to produce a far more powerful drama (on screen). Wallace’s novel had been pared down to fit TV.” Sargent agrees, and says if the book were to be made today it would be able to have those powerful scenes included. Also in the new softcover reprint is a revealing afterword by the Wallaces’ son David Wallechinsky. He says his father received death threats after the initial publication, He, too, says “A serious cinematic version of ‘The Man” remains to be made. David W. interviewed Gen. Colin Powell (for Parade magazine) several years ago and David felt Powell’s family was concerned about dangers to a black man running for president. But Wallechinsky says, “I still think he (Powell) would make a great president.” “The Man” is the first of six Wallace books to go the ibook and Internet reprint life — the others include “The Prize,” “The Word” and “The Chapman Report.”

FORE! THE ACADEMY of TV Arts & Science Foundation’s first Celeb Golf Classic tees off March 27 at the Riviera Country Club, report ATAS prez Jim Chabin and ATAS Foundation prexy Tom Sarnoff. It’s sponsored by Microsoft Web-TV, which has already contributed $100,000 to the Acad’s archival program (which just completed a four-hour tape on Ted Turner). The list of celeb golfers is filling up the 25 teams. And a gala will be held that night … “Frank Capra would have liked it a lot,” Ben Gazzara says of “Blue Moon,” a Palm Springs fest entry screening Sunday. He costars with multi-award winner Rita Moreno in the John Gallagher-directed and scripted pic. Gallagher, meanwhile is a fan of classic director Bill Wellman and has written a bio (Greenwood) on Wellman for Fall 2000 … Lewis Colick, honored (Humanitas and BFC) scripter of the early-released “October Sky,” is doing a rewrite on Par’s “Along Came a Spider,” plus an original thriller for the same studio. Meanwhile Universal is re-releasing “October” starting today for Acad voters to view on the bigscreen … Joe Bologna will be on hand at the Slamdance Fest next week with “Blink of an Eye,” in which he costars in Van Fischer’s directorial debut … Ruth Friedman, mother of Rogers & Cowan exec VP Sandy Friedman and widow of MCAgent Harry Friedman, died Tuesday.

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