‘Subjective’ judging soils Olympics

GOOD MORNING: It wasn’t snow or wind fouling the air at Salt Lake City — but the heat was still rising Wednesday from reaction to Monday’s award of gold to Russian figure skaters over the Canadians. As showbiz performers were already in the arena prepping the Feb. 24 closing extravaganza, the cries of foul were still being heard loud and clear throughout the town. Los Angeles attorney Neil Papiano, who represents Elizabeth Taylor among others in the biz and who owns a home up there, said there’s talk there that the award was “part of a conspiracy between the French and the Russians” … Don Mischer told me, “This is one of the moments (of these Olympics) that will be remembered for a long time.” He is no stranger to Olympics and reminded “That kind of judging is very subjective” … I told him Mischer that his Opening Ceremonies will also be remembered. I spoke also with his fellow producer-choreographer Kenny Ortega, and it sounds like the grand finale on Feb. 24 is shaping up to be another spectacular tribute to athletes and showbiz. The athletes are always invited to “sit in” on the final show with 3,000 cast members — and their presence is being anticipated during the closing numbers, titled “An American Musical.” Ortega reminded, “Athletes have much in common with music.” In the number, Russian gold medal winning skater (Nagano) Ilia Kulik will be on the ice as Gloria Estefan and Harry Connick Jr. perform an original arrangement of “America” by Connick. He will be preceded onstage with skater Dorothy Hamill on “Over the Rainbow.” Diane Reeves will perform “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” with Canadian skater Kurt Browning, often called “the Gene Kelly on ice.” Earth Wind & Fire will do three r&b numbers, joined by crews of hip-hop dancers. All of them will perform with special light f/x. The show will run two hours on NBC. As always, the next Winter Games host presents an invitation to be on hand in 2006. It is Turin and Italian fashions will be part of its welcoming note.

SHOWBIZ AND THE OLYMPICS also team for ECO (Earth Communications Office) next week as Jean-Michel Cousteau returns to Salt Lake City Monday for environmental conferences. Cousteau — one of those honored to bring in the Olympic flag, representing the environment (“a humbling experience”) — will debut two PSA’s specially designed for the Games and narrated by him (in French) and Gillian Anderson (in English). And new print PSAs will featuring Olympic gold medalist Picabo Street and Eric Bergoust. Joining Cousteau at the environmental conference will be ECO board members Esai Morales, Mimi Rogers, Sharon Lawrence and Michael T. Weiss. Also being shown via jumbotron monitors throughout the Olympics are PSAs narrated by Morgan Freeman, Pierce Brosnan, Patrick Stewart, etc. Cousteau is preparing to relaunch an around-the-world expedition that ABC will air; it will consist of four to six hours a year for three years. He will explore waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indian Ocean at depths as far down as 4,000 feet. The Cousteau legacy continues with him, his son, nephew and niece working with him, “making their own waves,” he smiled …… Noting the many comments on the Oscar nominations of three black actors (Halle Berry, Denzel Washington and Will Smith), it’s worth remembering the first black to win an Oscar: Hattie McDaniel (who, of course, played Mammy in 1939’s “Gone With the Wind”). Her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was in the initial group, Feb. 8, 1960. I am proud to note that my star on the Walk is next to hers.

WHEN THE CIA CALLED WRITER Danny Biederman, he was understandably worried. Then, they came to his house and for three days examined and chronicled his collection of movie and TV spy memorabilia. From August 2000-January 2001, they put all his material (4,000 pieces) on exhibit at CIA h.q. in Langley, Va., as the Spy-Fi exhib — open only to government officials. “The Ronald Reagan Library people heard about it,” Beiderman tells me –and his collection will be on exhibit at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, starting Feb. 17, along with the CIA’s authentic items. He has been a fan of spy pics and James Bond movies “since I was a kid.” He’s been hired by Bond film producers in legal cases. He’s now writing and producing a Discovery Channel special on spy gadgets … Madeleine Albright, speaking on behalf of Ms magazine and Gloria Steinem, told a group of the mag’s supporters at the home of Deborah Raffin and Michael Viner that the Clinton Administration was so aware of terrorism the White House had weekly meetings on the subject. She claimed that from January 2001 to Sept. 11 (in the new Bush administration) there were no such meetings … Warren Beatty is skedded to be a speaker Feb. 16 honoring Senate President Pro Tem John Burton at the California Democratic Party State Convention at the Westin Bonaventure hotel. … Dame Cleo Laine and husband John Dankworth are winging from their home in Sonoma, Calif., to London to attend the private funeral of Princess Margaret on Friday. The Dankworths return Sunday for a concert with the U.S. Air Force Band at Constitution Hall in D.C. … Bill Haber has underwritten ($100,000) the formation of a high school outreach program at the Museum of TV & Radio, of which Haber’s a trustee.

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