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Cooke joins ‘Freedom’s Journey’

GOOD MORNING: The Declaration of Independence Inc. has named John F. Cooke — who recently departed SAG after a 10-day stand as CEO-national exec director — as president of its non-profit organization founded by Norman Lear. The org possesses an original copy of the Declaration which Lear purchased. It is now at the Ronald Reagan Library, its arrival from D.C. having been delayed because of — well, you know why. It is part of the exhibition, “Freedom’s Journey: The Declaration of Independence and Beyond.” It is anticipated that 17,000 schoolchildren in the Southern California area will tour the exhibit. Afterwards it goes to the Rotunda in Salt Lake City as part of the “cultural Olympiad” exhibition, and then to tour the country. Cooke told me, “We really want to get this out to the people for civic education, voter education. We have a multi-faceted plan to get people to see the Declaration.” Cooke has had a long-held interest in and passion for U.S. history. He serves on the board of directors of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation; has served on the National Commission for Civic Renewal, and on the U.S. Advisory Council on the National Information Infrastructure; and was co-chair of its mega-project on privacy, security and intellectual property. Showbiz-wise, he was with Walt Disney 15 years and then the brief Screen Actors Guild stint. Back on June 30, Norman Lear commissioned a recording by more than 60 of the country’s top recording artists, who came together in Nashville to record “America the Beautiful” with the launching of the Declaration of Independence Road Trip. It was the Declaration’s 225th anni. In addition to the recording, a video has been created (3 mins., 40 seconds) of the artists plus b.g of America, the beautiful country. It will be played gratis on all outlets and given to all schools. The recording was coordinated by DreamWorks Nashville, and exec produced by James Stroud, Tony Brown and Lear. The vid was directed and edited by Marc Bellwith cinematography by Louis Schwartzberg of Blacklight Films … And Wednesday night at Sony Studios in Culver City, Celine Dion, backed by 100 top recording musicians conducted by David Foster, recorded “God Bless America” for Friday’s multi-net benefit. Everyone waived their fees. The same musicians will record Dion’s Christmas album.

“FALL FROM THE SKY,” which 10 years ago was planned as a Paramount feature, was skedded to start filming for CBS Oct. 8 in Winnipeg, but CBS has not determined whether it’s a go. It’s the story of the crash of a jumbo plane with 400 aboard and the investigation that follows. Nicholas Meyer, who co-scripted with Brian Rehack, tells me, “I know the timing is weird, but when we started we wanted to make a movie about those who investigate a crash and how they do it — and how you prove the evidence.” (Meyer says terrorists are not responsible in the fictional crash.) Forest Whitaker plays the NTSB investigator. But it’s reported that some thesps have bowed out of the picture. Meyer is now working on the script of Philip Roth’s “The Human Stain” … “We’ve postponed it,” Pat Boone said of his annual hostint in Israel. In the past as many as 1,200 winged over to be shepherded by tour master Pat. He allowed, “There are madmen out there and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to any one of us in a bus, for example.” They had recently added an attraction to the tour, “The Miracle of Nazareth,” a $50 million project which he said is half completed … Shades of WWII: “It’s like doing a Jeep show again,” said Mickey Rooney, continuing his tour through Oregon with wife Jan. Rooney will be 81 Sunday — and will be playing a date in the President’s Casino in Biloxi, Miss. … Martha Raye’s last husband, Mark Harris, is heading across country by train passing out copies of his CD, “Defending America.” He says he’ll wind up in N.Y. and continuing to Europe, “resurrecting the spirit of Martha Raye” … Services for Freddie de Cordova will be held today at the Holy Cross Chapel and Cemetery, 5835 West Slauson. Among those scheduled to recall classic moments with Fred are Bob Newhart, Bob Stack, Don Rickles and Joan Benny, daughter of Jack Benny, whose show Freddie produced and directed. Johnny Carson, who does not attend funerals did, however, talk “weepishly” with Janet de Cordova, assuring her, “I’m sure Freddie’s now telling St. Peter how to do his job.”

THE SHOW MUST GO ON: Lily Tomlin got a standing ovation following the bow of her revival of “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” at the Theater on the Square in SanFran, where she’s playing an open-ended date … A special screening at the Skirball Cultural Center will be held tonight in advance of the Monday-Tuesday KCET airing of (Oscar-nominated documaker) Amram Nowak’s “They Came For Good: A History of the Jews in the U.S.” It starts in 1654 … Ray Bradbury’s in St. John’s recuping from a leg infection. He’s writing his “The Illustrated Man,” which became a 1969 feature, as a two-hour Sci-Fi channel movie for producer John Philip Dayton … And “Price is Right” announcer Rod Roddy’s recuping at Century City Hospital after successful tumor surgery and will return to work in three weeks.

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