Clinton friends report on ex-Prez’s recovery

GOOD MORNING: While Bill Clinton’s doctors have told him no visitors or phone calls while he recupes at home in Chappaqua, he and Hillary spoke to their longtime friends Harry and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason Sunday night — on the phone. And the Thomasons will probably visit with the Clintons later this week. Harry reports that Clinton is “in good spirits, saying it only hurts when I cough, breathe — or laugh.” The Thomasons are in N.Y. as she starts the tour for her book, “Liberating Paris” (Harper, Collins). Next stop is Washington, D.C., then heading south to cities including Little Rock. “I’m just her gofer,” Harry says modestly. They teamed to raise the money to film “Southern Comfort” in January. They’ve already tested makeup on Demi Moore, Sissy Spacek and Melissa Etheridge who play men; Henry Thomas and Alan Cumming play women in the transgender story also starring Mary Kay Place. The Thomasons put the star package together with the help of CAA, Harry sez. The story, set in Georgia, is based on Kate Davis’ docu, a Sundance winner.

MICHAEL MOORE IS awaiting an OK from Sony to air his “Fahrenheit 9/11” just once (Nov. 1, election eve). Sony bought the DVD rights with the stipulation it would not be aired for 45 days from the video release, Oct. 5. Moore is anxious for any airing — including pay-per-view — to get the word out on the final campaign day. While missing the deadline for Oscar docu entry, Moore says “Harvey intends to submit it in other categories — picture, editing, music, etc.” And Moore tells me “there are so many good docus out there I am happy having won it once.” Meanwhile he (and Harvey Weinstein) are “booking basketball and football arenas” to get the word out on “Fahrenheit” which he says Lions Gate will continue in theaters. Moore says 4.5 million orders have already been received for the DVD ($18 on and he predicts the total take from the pic will reach $500 million worldwide. “And that’s from the $6 million that Michael Eisner struck a match to,” Moore reminds. Next month, Simon & Schuster publishes Moore’s “Will They Ever Trust Us Again — Letters from the War Zone.” He sez he has received thousands (via email) from soldiers in Iraq. (They have free email access in PX sites on bases). “They present a perspective not seen on nightly TV news. There’s no commentary from me.” Moore continues to maintain he’s never met nor spoken to John Kerry. “I made the picture independent of him. When he’s elected I’ll have my cameras trained on him. It would have been difficult if I had been riding on his bus.” Next topic on Moore’s docu filming sked is health care.

I’VE HEARD APPLAUSE in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion — but rarely any more enthusiastic than that from Sunday night’s SRO audience to hear and see the remarkable transformation of Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos” as staged by director Billy Friedkin. Here was the happy marriage of opera, operetta, B’way musical and movie magic. And the opera made its way to the theater only after a previously set “Tanhauser” fell victim to problems with a work agreement for the chorus, according to Friedkin. He’ll do “Tanhauser” in 2006. Several of the principals who had been set for “Tanhauser” had never sung “Ariadne.” They were all magnificent. The stage, designed by Frank Gehry’s Edwin Chan, also featured the magic puppetry of Michael Curry, his work applauded previously in Julie Taymor B’way productions including “The Lion King.” Friedkin’s enthusiasm for the project is unbounded. He tells me of working with this cast, “It’s a pleasure to go in every day. It’s like when MGM did ‘Grand Hotel’.” You can catch it — six more performances. L.A. Opera chairman and CEO Marc Stern intro’d general director Placido Domingo at a reception following the opening. The amazing Domingo winged out to N.Y. Monday ayem to rehearse his next Met appearance, and returns tonight to sing Mozart’s “Idomeneo” with which he opened the season Wednesday. It’s a coup for L.A. to have Domingo heading L.A.’s opera, and bringing the combination of Hollywood talents like Friedkin and supporters like his wife Sherry Lansing, an enthusiastic activist on the Opera’s board. And Domingo and Friedkin insist to me they still plan a film bio on Puccini.

WITH MAJOR LEAGUE baseball’s finale heating up, another game was taking place over the weekend at Pepperdine — a softball game among the principals of the “Happy Days” cast. The game will air as part of ABC’s “Happy Days’ 30-Year Reunion” special. Henry Winkler and partner Michael Levitt produced and they team again for a “Dallas” reunion special to tape in Oct. at South Fork with all of its principals also skedded to reunion. Winkler comes off having starred in three indie features — “The Kids and I,” as the Hollywood agent of Tom Arnold, “Berkeley” as the father of a young man swept up in the anti-war movement of the 1960s, and “Unbeatable Harold” as an overbearing Reno, Nev., steakhouse owner. Wednesday, Winkler starts his seventh guestint in “Arrested Development.” Winkler, who starred for 11 years on “Happy Days” and has exec produced TV shows for 19 years, admits to me, “If my dream came true, I’d be on a series for the next seven years.”

THE SUNDAY NIGHT REGULARS at Matteo’s stood to cheer Sharon Stone as she arrived with her Emmy — for her guestints on “The Practice.” Among those on hand: “MASH” veteran Harry Morgan … Among the gifts Emmy presenters (and VIPs) will receive next Sunday — Small Luxury Hotels of the World gives ’em a choice of five, six-day packages that span the globe. Among the lucky recipients will be Sarah Jessica Parker, Matt LeBlanc. The choices range from a mountain resort in Colorado to a Buckinghamshire, England, estate … At Temple Shalom for the Arts Kol Nidre service, Sept. 24, speaker Barry Scheck, author of “Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution and Other Dispatches From the Wrongly Accused,” will appear with Herman Atkins, one of those he rescued from an eight-year jail sentence. And PAX-TV will air the Yom Kippur service, 11-11:30 a.m. on Yom Kippur, Sept. 25, presented by the U.J.C. … Tony Thomas accepts for his father Danny Thomas Wednesday when the Library of American Broadcasting honors 17 radio and radio pioneers at its second annual Giants of Broadcasting event at N.Y.’s Grand Hyatt. Marlo Thomas will accept for herself. Both Thomases this week are also filming PSA’s for the St. Jude Hospital in Memphis. … Dick Van Dyke and Sally Kellerman will launch Saturday the new season of the Gregory Peck Reading Series in the Mark Taper Auditorium of L.A. Central Public Library. They’ll read from “Death of a Salesman,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” as well as solo readings.

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