GOOD MORNING: “Our founding fathers would turn over in their graves,” Don Hewitt will tell Talk magazine’s conclave this week at Bacara in Santa Barbara. He’ll express his “shock” that the same media that has barred cigarettes has failed to ban political commercials. He adds, “If the First Amendment does not give you the right to holler ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, why does it give you the right to holler ‘Money’ in a Buddhist temple?” Hewitt is one of Talk mag’s “Innovators, Navigators and Risk Takers” who will be speaking during the next three days. Others include Barry Diller, Harvey Weinstein, Lord Rothemere, Jack Welch, Rudy Giuliani, etc. Hewitt, “60 Minutes” topper, also told me he’s “convinced if we get the NRA out of the way, responsible people will find a way to respect the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms) and keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.” Hewitt expands on these subjects and more in his autobio, “Tell Me a Story” (Public Affairs) on the stalls this week … CBS’ Bob Schieffer, on “Face the Nation” Sunday, a week after the Santee high school shooting, also took the media to task: “All of us missed the big story last week when we failed to notice what did not happen after the latest school shooting. Remember the outcry after that earlier shooting at Columbine High School? Members of Congress lined up to express shock. Senators were so outraged they passed new gun laws. The gun lobby also went to work and the Senate’s effort was quickly undone. But compare that to what happened last week. There was no outcry. This time, Congress did not bark, there was hardly a peep out of Washington and that’s the story we missed. The fight is over, and the gun lobby has won. You could see it coming during the last campaign when the lobby turned up the heat, from the presidential race right down to races for the state legislatures. Guns became the subject no one, no candidate, wanted to talk about.” Earlier in the program, Schieffer interviewed Education Secretary Roderick Paige about the recent school shootings and what the Bush Administration plans to do about them. He asked Paige if he thought there is any connection between easy access to guns “and this violence we see increasingly in the schools.” Paige said: “I think more probably the bigger problem we have is the amount of alienation and rage in our young people. I think guns turn out to be this instrument that is used, but that’s probably not the cause. We need to look to the cause of the situation.” Schieffer told Paige, “I’m thinking if this young fellow (in Santee) had been armed with a baseball bat, those kids probably wouldn’t be dead” … I thought I’d see what columnist-NRA prez Charlton Heston was writing about in his monthly Guns & Ammo column. Unfortunately, in the March issue, Chuck was only reprinting his speech before Oxford U. telling Britons “to face the failure of their anti-gun laws.” He asks, “Who will stand up and demand if Tony Blair can have his bodyguards and the police are allowed to defend themselves; then so, too, should the people.” I can’t wait to read President Heston’s next column. Oh yes, the March issue of Guns & Ammo also includes a 32-page ad supplement from Smith & Wesson: “Handguns and more … ” How much more?
BALLOTS, NOT BULLETS: At Monday’s Oscar nominees luncheon, Acad president Bob Rehme was at the entrance to the International Ballroom of the BevHilton, greeting everyone arriving at the SRO house. He asked to take a picture with the nominees, allowing to me, “This is my last year.” It’s also the last year for the awards as an itinerant: The new, permanent home on Hollywood and Highland is skedded to be ready for next year. I asked Rehme how he feels about SAG and BAFTA upping their ceremonies to precede Oscar. Rehme said, “Frankly I don’t like it.” But he readily admitted it doesn’t detract from Oscar. I also asked Oscar show producer Gil Cates what he thought of the award shows preceding Oscar. “I love it,” he said. Would the Directors Guild’s choice of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s” Ang Lee, or SAG’s “Traffic” topper or the Producers Guild choice of “Gladiator” affect Oscar’s final tally? “I think not,” said Cates. “I just look at my own ballot and make my own decision, which I think everyone does.” Stay tuned to March 25. It looks like more viewers than ever will tune in, judging by the number of crews covering just the lunch for the nominees! … It was a busy day for the BevHilton. No sooner had the Academy lunch bunch departed the ballroom when the hotel started setting up Monday night’s BevHills Chamber of Commerce “Ball 2001” honoring Eva Marie Saint, Bram Goldsmith — and Merv Griffin, BevHills’ No. 1 showman … Michael Douglas and wife Catherine Zeta-Jones are honorees for the Unforgettable Evening, March 27 at the BevWilshire when Saks Fifth Ave. and Cedars-Sinai Research for Women’s Cancer holds its fifth fundraiser, with Sting headlining … Producer-writer-creator Sam Denoff will be the Lifetime Achievement honoree of the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters, Friday at the Sportsmen’s Lodge … Once a cowboy — 84-years-young Ernie Borgnine’s back on a horse for the first time since “The Wild Bunch” (1969) for producer Paul Tinder’s “The Long Ride Home,” directed by Rob Marcarelli. Borgnine’s first oater was “Stranger Wore a Gun,” with Randolph Scott for director Ande de Toth — 50 years ago.