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Don’t knock the Rock

GOOD MORNING: Everybody and his brother has been naming winners and nominees for their best of 2004, so I asked Oscar show producer Gil Cates what’s happening with the Acad’s Feb.27 date at the Kodak. First, has he talked about the show with host-to-be Chris Rock? “Three times — and never a four-letter word,” Cates volunteered, reminding that Rock’s HBO shows contained network-scissoring vocabulary. It’s not anticipated ABC will have even a tape delay on guard for any questionable ad libs. The prepared script is, of course, sanitized in advance by ABC … Cates promises Rock will do interviews pre-show, reminding that Steve Martin nixed pre-show interviews because “They will always want to know how I would be different from Billy Crystal.” Cates says he chose Rock “because his humor is intelligent and timely. He wants to be funny — and brief.” The Acad’s Frank Pierson and Bruce Davis were delighted with Cates’ choice. And Rock has already completed an advance photo shoot for the Oscar show plus an electronic press kit … As for how different this Oscar show will be, Cates reminds, “Disappointment is a function of expectation. Thus, the more you expect, the more you will be disappointed. But the show will, of course, be different than before” — because the films are different. As for the physical look of the show, Cates says Roy Christopher has created a new design for the set. And for the viewers at home (and viewing screens in the Kodak), director Louis J. Horvitz will shoot with high-definition cameras. Dennis Doty will produce the Oscar pre-show (5-5:30 p.m.) with ABC’s Roger Goodman directing the outdoor show. Last year, you (and I certainly!) recall predicted rain was a tragedy-in-the-making — which cleared that morning. But that Feb. 27 date is always a rain possibility. “We hope the rain god will smile on us,” Doty said … Cates, who directed “Paint Your Wagon” for the Geffen at the Brentwood, is talking with the producers to take it on tour and on to a B’way revival.

AN EXUBERANT STAN LEE called to tell me of his newest creation–headed to the bigscreen. It’s “Hooked,” the true story of Jay J. Armes, described as “the world’s most successful and colorful crime fighter.” The project was brought to Lee’s POW! Entertainment by Faye Schwab and Steven Bratter, Jay’s producing partners. Stan says, “I couldn’t believe that a real live person could have the incredible powers that he possesses” — even though he lost both his hands in an accident at age 12. (He functions with claws that have the power to cut through steel — or to perform delicate surgery.) Jay lives on an estate with tigers, chimps — and his beautiful wife and family … Among those noting the ramifications of the Elvis Presley estate sale and plans to mark what would have been Elvis’ 70th birthday (Jan. 8, 2005) are Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber. While the songwriting duo own 100% of the U.S. publishing rights of their tunes warbled by Elvis, the world rights are shared with Lisa Marie Presley, who sold estate rights to Robert Sillerman’s new CKX media/entertainment company. Toller says the Presley royalty market has — over these 28 years — increased annually. The 2005 planned Presley B’way tuner “All Shook Up” features three Leiber & Stoller songs, including “Hound Dog,” and “Jailhouse Rock.” Mike’s wife, Corky Hale, bows her jazz club, Corky’s (natch), New Year’s Eve. It adjoins her EM Bistro eatery on Beverly and Sweetzer and will boast the best jazz pianists in the biz Wednesday-Saturday nights. She and her trio inaugurate the club New Year’s Eve and the boite begins regularly Jan. 5 … Corky and Mike were among those hefty John Kerry supporters at a cocktail reception given by Ron Burkle for Kerry last week. (During the campaign, Burkle’s home was the site for the biggest fundraiser in Dem history.) Others present were Jim Gianopulos, Jamie and Chris McGurk, Rob Reiner, Bonnie Bruckheimer, Mark Canton and Arianna Huffington, who later hostessed a dinner for Kerry, who heads to Iraq Jan. 2. Huffington reports the group is “optimistic to rebrand” the Democratic party. Although she admitted she’ll never run again for office, she plans to remain active in the new Demo teams … Judi and Gordon Davidson dined a small group of friends — including his successor, Michael Ritchie — at their home before departing over the weekend for London, where they’ll catch “Mary Poppins” (for the Ahmanson?) plus meetings with Trevor Nunn.

ASCAP PAYS TRIBUTE to Cy Coleman Jan. 10 (12-2 p.m.) at the Majestic theater. Among those to appear: Ann Reinking, Donna McKechnie, Chita Rivera, Tony Bennett, Michele Lee, Lillias White, Jim Dale, Bea Arthur and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Speaking will be Marilyn Bergman, A.E. Hotchner, Wendy Wasserstein and Neil Simon … The Hollywood Legacy Awards raised $357,000 for the Hollywood Entertainment Museum’s Film & Television Tech Training Center for Youth. The event, held in a private home in the Beverly Ridge Estates, was underwritten by Esquire magazine, whose VP/publisher Kevin O’Malley welcomed the group, He was followed by Stanislas de Quercize, prez-CEO of Cartier, the title sponsor of the evening. Phyllis Caskey of the Hollywood Entertainment Museum intro’d femcee Anne Archer and the Legacy awardees were intro’d by students benefiting from the museum’s remarkable program. The awardees: Sherry Lansing and William Friedkin, the Huston family (accepted by Danny Huston), Dean and Davis Factor (accepted by Davis), and Earl Lestz … Friedkin, with two operas headed for Israel and Germany, will film his next feature, “Bug,” in New Orleans — where they offer a production tax break that California should copy, he says … Also in this holiday season, the Peninsula’s award-winning G.M. Ali Kasikci (recently named Hotelier of the World by Hotel Management) and wife Donanne hosted a spectacular Asian-themed dinner created by the hotel’s Belvedere Room chef Bill Bracken, winner of the Mobil Five-Star Award and AAA Five Diamond award. Guests included the Mike Stollers, Fred Haymans, Bram Goldsmiths and Jerry Magnins. … Wednesday’s “Home for the Holidays”(its sixth) on CBS reminds there are 50,000 children in foster care in LA. alone. Thousands nationally have found homes thanks to the show.

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