Opening ceremony hopes to avoid snow day

GOOD MORNING: Let the Olympic Games begin — and let’s keep an eye on the weather. Snow is predicted for Salt Lake City. “One foot of snow would put us out of business,” admitted Don Mischer who is exec producing Friday’s opening show festivities for NBC with an estimated 4.5 billion expected to watch worldwide. One-hour pre-show starts at 7:30 Pacific time, 8 p.m. Eastern. The official show is skedded to run 135 minutes, sez Mischer. That includes the march of the nations’ competing athletes — 77 countries are represented. Greece, home of the first Olympics, leads the parade; the U.S., as host nation, is the finale. Neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan is competing. Nor is Iraq or Libya. The Islamic Republic of Iran is … The largest marching contingent is from the Russian Federation (175), second is Germany (169). Tonight’s dress rehearsal will play to an audience of 60,000 (!) — they are the volunteers who are (have been) working on the Olympics. On Monday night, 20,000 viewed a rehearsal — they are the parents and families of the volunteers. Performers in the show range from 6 years old to 82, the latter the elder of the Ute tribe of Native Americans … An example of the security was experienced by Mischer who, despite a badge that reads “Executive Producer of Opening Ceremonies,” needed an hour and 15 minutes to get from his apartment to the venue. He lives 10 minutes away … The opening show by Mischer, David Goldberg, Geoff Bennett, Kenny Ortega (directing) and ice skating choreographer Sarah Kawahara is now set with the Dixie Chicks, LeAnn Rimes, Sting and Robbie Robertson. The president is due to appear two-thirds into the evening’s proceedings. A remembrance of Sept. 11 is “still being formed.” And it will be seen only in the pre-show, not in the global show that follows. The Olympics show is for a global audience, Mischer reminds, unlike the all-American Super Bowl halftime show, which presented a tear-provoking tribute to those killed in the terrorist attacks. “What will be represented on that field, filled with all nations,” he says, “will have a lot more meaning because of 9-11.”

THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS’ inspiration to win the Super Bowl — a movie? At Monday’s victory parade, head coach Bill Belichick said “The Endurance” had been the team’s inspiration all season. The docu by George Butler, “The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition,” tells what’s considered the greatest tale of survival, courage and leadership. The pic has become the year’s top-grossing non-sports, non-music docu with a theatrical release. Guess the Rams didn’t see it … Bo Derek, who supported George W. Bush in his presidential race, was appointed by him as a member of the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and tells me she’s already attended five board meetings in D.C. She returns to D.C. Feb. 21 — this time as a guest at the home of the ambassador of Ecuador, Ivonne A. Baki, where Derek will have a book signing for her autobiog, “Riding Lessons.” I asked if any in Hollywood should worry about their portrayal in her book? “I’m not that kind of girl,” she reminded me. She says she wants to be vitally involved with the Kennedy Center’s arts education program — “It’s a national program.” What about Bo Derek and showbiz? “As soon as I get an offer,” she laughed.

A SECOND LUNCH BETWEEN LEW WASSERMAN and Barry Diller took place at the Universal commissary. When I asked Lew what the subject was, he would only respond (politely), “No comment.” Edie Wasserman is doing fine after cataract surgery Monday at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA … You’re never too old: Oscar-winning screenwriter Ernest Lehman (86) proudly tells me he and wife Laurie (35) welcomed son Jonathan Maxwell, Jan. 31 at Cedars-Sinai. Mother, son — and father are doing well, thank you. And he is also celebrating the fact that “Sweet Smell of Success,” the musical, starring John Lithgow, grossed $4.9 million in its Chicago run en route to B’way’s Martin Beck. The musical is based on Lehman’s novella and the (Burt Lancaster-Tony Curtis starring) movie, which he co-scripted … Alan Young (82), the star of the TV series “Mr. Ed,” stars in director Jim Langlois’ “Em & Me,” bowing tonight at the N.Y. Intl. Independent Film & Video Festival. Connie Hines, who played Young’s wife on “Mr. Ed,” has a cameo in the feature. It’s Langlois’ first directorial stint — having been an editor on pix including “The War of the Roses,” “Clueless” and “See Jane Run” … Today is Zsa Zsa Gabor’s birthday. “I hate birthdays,” she exclaimed. I promised I wouldn’t print her age. Zshe zsounded as young as ever … The USO is celebrating its 61st birthday with the appointment of Edward A. Orwell, former deputy secretary of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, as its president and CEO. In the past year, the USO gained five new world partners — Coca-Cola, the Walt Disney Co., ESPN, VFW and Wal-Mart … The Actors’ Fund of America’s Retirement and Assisted Living Facility in Englewood, N.J., has received a 97% approval rating from the N.J. Dept. of Health, the highest rating the board has given for any health care facility in the state. The fund takes care of all professionals in the entertainment industry.

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