GOOD MORNING after: Ratings, shmatings — who cares? There was nothing but joy at Academy headquarters Monday ayem. When I called Oscar show producer Laura Ziskin to ask if she’d do the show again, she begged off momentarily while she took a call “from my boss,” the Academy’s Bruce Davis. So I phoned Davis to inquire if he did (would?) ask Laura to produce the 75th anniversary show next year. “She did a helluva job,” he hemmed; “we are very pleased. There’s been nothing but joy around here; the (Acad) staff is floating, and complimentary calls have been coming in from all over.” But will you ask her to do the next show? “We probably will,” he finally said. Will she accept? “I’m waiting to be asked,” said Ziskin, “but right now, I want to savor the moment; the Oscar gods smiled on me.” She expects to be working on the sequel to “Spider-Man” at year’s end as she was this time out with the first “Spidey” on which she was busy finalizing some music cues Monday … What about a return next year to the Kodak Theatre and the Governors Ball in the Hollywood & Highland complex? There was criticism about the escalator arrival at the Grand Ballroom, where Wolfgang Puck presented the post-show banquet. A crush at the top of the escalator prevented many partygoers from being able to exit the escalator. At the evening’s finale, escalators again had to be utilized by guests as they walked down a final stairway for a (long) wait outdoors in the cold for limos paged from their parking area at the Hollywood Bowl. After all, this is a principally a mall with a once-a-year visit from Oscar … A first-hand account of the problems of manipulating the area come from the show’s director, Louis J. Horvitz, who chose to remain within the confines of his control truck (behind the Kodak) rather than take a chance on not being able to get back into the H&H compound, due to the hassles of maneuvering. He’s directed many of the past Oscars and said the Shrine stage was the “most conducive” to do the show. “The Kodak is like a European opera house,” he observed; “it goes straight up, making it difficult to photograph. And if you were on the extreme right or left sides of the theater it made it difficult for you to see all the camera angles I want to achieve.” But, he said the same conditions make it difficult to shoot the Kennedy Center Honors — for which he has been honored as well as for the Oscars … He will return to the Kodak to direct the AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Awards honoring Tom Hanks, June 12. Horvitz sez the Kodak’s orchestra seats will be converted to (covered by) tables on a stage level for the show, which this year will air on USA. It’s exec produced by Gary Smith, produced by Doug Netter and Bob Gazzale … It has not yet been determined whether to close down Hollywood Blvd. for the AFI show. And will the mall’s stores be shuttered again? The after-party of the AFI awards will be held on the fourth floor of the Hollywood & Highland complex in the Highlands (nitery). Escalators going up again, folks; ladies, watch your step and your gowns, pliz … Horvitz then moves across Hollywood Blvd. to the El Capitan theater June 16 to direct the ABC one-hour special for the preem of Disney’s “Lilo and Stitch.” It’s not expected to close down Hollywood Blvd. The area’s tourist merchandisers can celebrate … The Academy starts celebrations noting its 75th anniversary with a party May 11 in a giant tent on the grounds next to the Academy’s Library & Center for Motion Picture Studies on La Cienega Blvd. On May 13 and each succeeding Monday (except on holidays), an Oscar-winning film will be shown at the Acad. First to be screened is “Broadway Melody” while the first winner, “Wings,” will get a special bash May 16, 2003.

RECALLING THE BIG BUILDUP to this year’s Oscars: First was Ed Limato’s annual dinner “and celebration” of the Academy Awards on Friday. Little did Ed know what a true celebration it would be: longtime client and friend Denzel Washington was among those on hand. Limato’s invitation specified “Dress: casual chic” and no one more personified it than Limato — as always, barefoot. Among the “chic-est” of the glamour brigade was Donatella Versace. A palatial tent on Limato’s grounds was the setting for dinner (Along Came Mary), which followed the de rigueur schmoozing in the main house. Tom Hanks was talking to his former collaborators Brian Grazer and Ron Howard to whom he would, the following night, present the best picture award. Grazer had been busy working on the DVD of “A Beautiful Mind” well as “Splash,” in which Hanks starred back in 1984. Howard said he had no picture definitely set to star/direct, but he continues to aim for “The Alamo” Limato exuded the same enthusiasm for the biz like a kid starting out in the mail room of ICM — as he made his way around the room full of friends-associates including Alan Ladd Jr., Joel Silver, Mace Neufeld, Arnold Kopelson, Bernie Brillstein, Anjelica Huston and Robert Graham, Harvey Weinstein, etc. … John Frankenheimer, enthusing about his recently completed HBO’er “Paths To War,” was telling me about his next, the prequel to “The Exorcist” in which Liam Neeson will play a young Max Von Sydow. There’ll very little f/x … Sidney Poitier was getting congrats. His “In the Heat of the Night” director Norman Jewison was reminiscing with Poitier, who told me he’s working on his “final” book. But it will take 3½ years to complete … Among nominees at Limato’s was Sissy Spacek, who was telling friends she’d been having such a good time pre-Oscars, “I don’t have to win.” Also on hand was Don Rickles, with a rare night off, who reminded Frankenheimer of his dramatic credits … Miramax shifted its pre-Oscar party from the usual Beverly Wilshire stage to the Mondrian this year and I must say that the Sunset Strip on a Saturday night is not exactly the place to hold an intimate party for a few hundred pals … The Bob Shayes’ aerie in Beverly Hills was the site for a party cohosted with Michael Lynne as they gave tributes to the talent of “The Lord of the Rings” as well as “I Am Sam.” Adults like Ted Turner were joined by “Sam’s” remarkable youngster Dakota Fanning, who had recently savored the fame as an SAG nominee … Then down to the Flats of Beverly Hills and its most famous foodery, Spago, where Universal-DreamWorks and USA’s party was so huge, a long line of partygoers had to wait outside for Fire Dept. clearance. Wolfgang Puck personally supervised the lavish spreads at both the Shayes’ party and at Spago. That work was followed by his hands-on presiding at the Governors Ball Sunday night at Hollywood & Highland. He is a most remarkable man … And deserving credit for getting the guests to/from the Hollywood parties was Chuck Pick and his parking armada winding cars through the hills of Beverly. A great job … Now on to the really emotional celebrations: Passover, starting Wednesday night, and Good Friday, then Easter Sunday.

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