Gelbart gives blessing for ‘MASH’ unit

GOOD MORNING: “MASH” fanatics will be happy to hear that CBS is sitting on a proposed special, “MASHback.” The scribe is Gary Markowitz, who has called Larry Gelbart “dad” — “since I was 6 years old.” The show tells the story from Gelbart’s script for the pilot and continues on to the death of McLean Stevenson’s character Lt. Col. Henry Blake. This special would be unlike any homage to past vidclassics. It would be cast with new actors in the classic “MASH” roles. (Five of the episodes were written by Markowitz.) Gelbart has not written any of “MASHback,” but Markowitz, who has interviewed his “father”at great lengths to make this special truly special, allows that it has Gelbart’s “imprimatur” and he’s given CBS an OK to portray him. The project was initiated by Myra Model, then at CBS. And if it goes forward as a movie, Markowitz says she will be attached as a producer with him … Meanwhile, Gelbart is busy with the final days of previews at the Mark Taper Forum of “Like Jazz.” And while it doesn’t bow until Thursday, celebs including Tony Bennett and Robert Altman have already caught — and praised — it. And Gelbart’s “Sly Fox” is getting a revival next year on B’way with Richard Dreyfuss starring. He’s politicking in Geneva while his wife, Janelle Lacey Dreyfuss, and partner Tabitha Kinney are readying to open their L.A. Food Works cooking school in a house on Nemo Street in West Hollywood. It’s aimed for would-be culinary artists in a gourmet kitchen. And if their dishes don’t turn out, they can always go next door — to Dan Tana’s.

AND TALKING ABOUT restaurants, Roger Moore, in from Europe, was lunching Monday at the newly redesigned Le Dome on the Sunset Strip. He was telling me about Wednesday’s gala toasting the 50th anni of celebrities helping children. It all started 50 years ago when Danny Kaye was on a plane with Warren Cowan and seated near them was UNICEF topper Maurice Tate. Warren recalled how Tate described the plight of children around the world. Kaye called Ed Murrow and the two began taping the children’s sadness to the world. Kaye became the first UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and continued his travels for UNICEF for 35 years. Moore has been an ambassador for 13 years and continues his travels on behalf of UNICEF. Wednesday, Katie Couric receives the Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award. New showbiz ambassadors are: Angela Basset, Alyssa Milano, Isabella Rossellini, Liv Tyler, Courtney B. Vance and Jessica Lange, just back from the Congo. Whoopi Goldberg, who hosts the event at the BevHilton, is also a new ambassador. In addition to Moore, honors will be given to current ambassadors Harry Belafonte and Nana Mouskouri. U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan, Billy Preston and Ravi Shankar pay tribute to George Harrison; Sean Ferrer and Robert Wolders offer tributes to Audrey Hepburn. NBC’s “ER” is honored for its segs depicting the Congo crisis. Halle Berry is the event’s honorary chairperson.

DANNY DEVITO, BACK FROM the Sacramento inaugural of “Twins” co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger, laughingly tells me, “I’m his right hand man — I’ll be a goodwill ambassador for him.” I asked about a “Twins” sequel, but he reminded me, “that can’t be for another three years.” Meanwhile, he’s off to N.Y. for Thursday’s preem of “Big Fish” in which he plays the circus owner in Tim Burton’s all-starrer headed by Albert Finney and Jessica Lange. Next, DeVito’s off to Sundance for his Jersey Films’ “Garden State.” It’s Danny’s third with Tim Burton and their best, he promises … Jerry Lewis in physical rehab in Las Vegas has already lost 37 pounds and promised Yanou Collart he’ll be back at work in March at Orleans in Vegas. Yanou, in L.A. between stops in Vegas and Puerto Vallarta, was lunched at the Peninsula hotel in BevHills by Frank Bolling. As for Lewis’ strange appearance as a beat-up prize fighter on Larry King’s birthday show, his manager Claudia Stabile tells me it was Jerry’s idea of a joke — and no one could talk him out of it.

IT’S A REUNION IN BERMUDA for Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas as she wound Steven Spielberg’s “The Terminal,” which filmed giant exteriors in Palmdale. Steven now heads to Montreal to film two weeks of the “Terminal’s” interiors with Tom Hanks. Montreal’s no stranger for both men — Montreal was also the site for Spielberg’s interiors on “Catch Me If You Can” … Michael Crichton tells me his next “Prey” at 20th will be a “more contained” film than his past epics, including his current “Timeline” for Dick Donner. Crichton has moved back to L.A., says he couldn’t “stand living in New York, New York.” Dick Donner missed the L.A. doings for the bow of the pic as he winged to London to pay respects to Michael Kamen with whom he had worked on five films. Donner tells me he’s planning a tribute to him in L.A … Well-loved press agent Lilly Lipton died Saturday at Providence St. Joseph’s Hospital … Services are today at 1 p.m. at Eden Memorial Park Mission Hills … Frank Price receives an honorary doctorate of Humanities from Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday. He attended one year, segued to Yale, Columbia and — CBS … Actor-author-singer-comedian Dick Gautier and Tess Hightower will wed Sunday at the Woodland Hills Hilton … In the December Ladies’ Home Journal “Something’s Gotta Give” costar Diane Keaton has this to say about preparing for a naked love scene: “The movie’s nudity was in the service of a joke on me, so, though it wasn’t fun, I couldn’t take it too seriously. I probably should have dieted or gotten a trainer or something for it, but I just didn’t care that much. Spend so much time when you’re young looking in the mirror — it’s just not productive, and I won’t let myself do it any more.”

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