Designer Riva plans something special for Oscar’s debut

GOOD MORNING: The new Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland will have an even newer look on March 24, and but set designer Mike Riva tells me he also plans an elaborate redesign to cover the outside of the building for that night — and for all Oscar nights to come. He says the expense will be well worth it: “The Academy would have it (the Oscar night exteriors) forever.” As for critics of the new home for the Oscars, Riva says he promises to bring in chandeliers to give the house and lobby more grandeur. As for the stage, he wants it to have a “massive curtain,” which, when parting, will give the stage a classic look. He and Oscarcast producer Laura Ziskin are determined to make the show “less pompous” and to “acknowledge the magic of movies — and to make it a fun thing and honor tradition.” And he’d like to hear/see a giant organ, a la Radio City Music Hall’s playing. As for sets within the show, you can count on one: the castle from “Harry Potter,” a cinch to be among the nominees. Riva, who was Oscar-nominated for the production design of “The Color Purple,” next tackles “Charlie’s Angels 2” … Brother David Riva directed and produced TCM’s Dec. 27 bio of their grandmother “Marlene Dietrich: Her Own Song.” Riva’s mother Maria wrote the pic and book “Marlene Dietrich: Her Photographs and Memories” (Knopf) commemorating Marlene’s 100th birthdate. Jamie Lee Curtis narrates and Karin Kearns wrote and coproduces with the Rivas. David and John-Paul Riva John-Peter also highlight her birthday with a tribute Dec. 27 at Merv Griffin’s hotel in Palm Springs with a show featuring songs made famous by Marlene: “See What The Boys in the Back Room Will Have,” “Lola,” “Falling In Love Again,” etc. David tells me he was 32 when his grandmother died. He had spent much time with her: “She taught me how to walk — and pretty much everything else,” he laughed. The boys’ mom Maria is writing another family book, about her mother-in-law, Jane Riva.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE the power of TV: NBC’s “Providence” star Mike Farrell’s character Jim Hansen suffered brain injury at the close of last season (he was shot) and he’s been playing the part with (simulated) acquired brain impairment ever since. Farrell, who admits a role like this is usually given to a guestar, researched the malady with medics as well as with patients. Reps from the Acquired Brain Injury Foundation and the Traumatic Brain Injury Technical Assistance Center have congratulated Farrell on what he’s doing for the 1.5 million Americans who sustain brain injury each year. Yes, Farrell’s character will recover sufficiently to return to his job in the veterinary clinic in Jan. Meanwhile, Farrell continues to speak around the country on the abolition of the death penalty … Producer Dave Gerber on the theme of his A&E WWII pic, “The Lost Battalion”: “Whether a good war, bad war, police action war, a ‘what the hell are we doing here war,’ our soldiers’ belief in our country, whether they believe in its realities, or their dreams or hopes of the future vision of this country can always be counted on to defend our nation. They will always be there for us. That’s why our leaders, when they put our men in harm’s way, do so with a strong support and a strong cause.” “Lost Battalion’s” 77th division is a N.Y. National Guard outfit. The pic airs Dec. 2 … Bill Haber is readying to head to Pakistan for his No. 1 project, Save the Children … Luis Reyes is kickoff speaker at the Dec. 2 Pearl Harbor 60th anni confab. Reyes is co-author with Ed Rampell of “Pearl Harbor in The Movies.”

DOWN MEMORY LANE: as longtime comedy writer Buddy Arnold departs these shores to live in Vero Beach, fellow Friars saluted him Wednesday night. Among ’em: Norm Crosby, who was proposed for membership in the club 35 years ago by Arnold and Milton Berle, who was also on hand. Hal Kanter said “The Friars’ loss — is Florida’s loss.” Larry Gelbart, who wrote with Arnold for Berle, asked, “What can I say original abut Buddy Arnold that Milton won’t say that he originally said?” … Red Buttons sang a song Buddy wrote for his show in 1953, “Santa Claus Was There.” Buttons is now guestarring in a “Philly” seg as jeweler “Murray Klopman” … 20th’s blueprint for “Moulin Rouge’s” reissue, DVD and Oscar campaign got an intimate boost with a Wednesday cocktailer by Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos with those attending including Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. Those gladhanding ’em included Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry and Eric Benet, Winona Ryder, Katie Holmes, Erika Christensen, Diane Lane, Andy Garcia, Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen … More than 500 are expected to attend the Hollywood Entertainment Labor Council’s ” Hollywood Labor Helps” Dec. 3. The Sportsmen’s Lodge benefit is for union workers and families victimized by the Sept. 11 murder … Rod Steiger’s honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the N.Y. Intl. Indie Film Fest at the screening of Suzanne DeLaurentiis’ “A Month of Sundays,” in which he stars with Chazz Palmenteri who makes the presentation … Daily Variety‘s glamorous receptionist Mary Sargent, “the new folk-singing sensation,” returns to rock the Sunset Strip’s Crooked Bar (Downstairs), Dec. 9.

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