GOOD MORNING and congrats Oscar winners: The audience in the Kodak Theatre was looking for something to cheer about in these worrisome days. They found it at the 75th Academy Awards. They stood repeatedly to show their appreciation of the show, starting practically at the outset by standing to show Steve Martin their appreciation that he was doing the Oscars. The ovations ran through the show; for Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julie Andrews, Michael Moore — but those cheers soon switched to jeers. Ovations continued for Adrien Brody, Peter O’Toole, Nicole Kidman, Olivia de Havilland, and of course for the 59 past Oscar winners on plain view onstage. Closing standing ovations were for the absent Roman Polanski and the final winner Chicago… Gil Cates told me just before showtime “I don’t mind if there are some utterances. It gives a picture of that year of the Oscars.” He obviously meant it, as he did not cut short some of the acceptance speeches that contained the emotions of the day. He particularly gave free rein to winner Adrien Brody for his touching remarks about “The Pianist” and its relation to the current horrors of war.… What the audience did not know is that there was an emergency phone in row L at the seat of ABC network president Alex Wallau. If that phone rang during the show it would had indicated some catastrophic news occurrence and he would have gotten up and decided the future of the program. Cates said they (ABC) decided to not run any news in the theater prior to the show or during commercial breaks. The feeling seemed to be everyone was pleased with the decision to proceed with 75th Oscars as scripted. However I did learn that the musical numbers had been taped during dress rehearsals just in case the show had to be interrupted. But, you saw it live. In all I think everyone was relieved that the show went well. And it was indeed well received by the live audience at the Kodak Theatre Sunday night.
“WHO KNOWS?” OSCAR PRODUCER GIL CATES SAID to me hours before showtime Sunday, as he worked in his office offstage in the bowels of the Kodak theater. A few yards away, in another office, the show’s writing staff was ready for any change to be sent up to the teleprompter in the theater. Cates credited Acad president Frank Pierson with being “a standup guy” during this week of final show decisions. And, Cates admitted, “When he (Pierson) was president of the Writers Guild and I was president of the Directors Guild, there was not much affection between us.”
THE NIGHT BEFORE PARTY Saturday night at the Beverly Hills Hotel was a huge success, netting $2.5 million for the Motion Picture Television Fund. This was the first pre-Oscar party for the fund, and it will become an annual affair. The celeb turnout was hefty — and included some stars who admittedly were not attending the awards but were at this party because it was a benefit.
“CHICAGO” PRODUCER MARTY RICHARDS had his final cancer treatment in N.Y. before leaving for L.A. and the start of rounds of Oscar parties. He is in fine spirits and said he is now OK. Richards is excited about the many films he’d like to tackle, including “Bullets Over Broadway” as a musical and a new version of “Into the Woods.” And, of course, he wants to again team with his “Chicago” director Rob Marshall. The latter modestly told me he has a “stack of scripts” waiting to be read. He said he’d wait until after Oscar.
RICHARDS AND MARSHALL were among the celebs at Ed Limato’s annual pre-Oscar party Friday. Guests included Harvey Weinstein, Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr., Ron Meyer, Jonathan Dolgen, Sherry Lansing, John Calley, Bob Daly, James Woods, Lillian Ross escorted by Mace Neufeld, Scott Berg (readying his Woodrow Wilson bio for 2009!), Bernie Brillstein, Brad Grey, Cyd Charisse, Steve Martin, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Hanks, Antwone Fisher, Anjelica Huston and Robert Graham, Mimi Webber, Victor Drai, Freddie Fields, Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Elton John and Doris Roberts. Along Came Mary provided the lavish feast … Richards also was toasted at a pre-opening party by Michael Feinstein at the latter’s glamorous club in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Michael previewed his show, which officially opens Wednesday. Michael has produced a sight-and-sound show to delight everyone who has applauded films from the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals to today’s “Chicago.” Film clips he’s assembled to back his singing and unique pianistics are classic and the entire show has you humming tunes — and wanting to return.