GOOD MORNING: There was a detour from the tributes to Ronald Reagan in Washington before the return to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley and the final act. Charles Wick, longtime friend of the Reagans (he was an honorary pallbearer), and director of the U.S. Information Agency during the Reagan presidency, made a visit to Congress to talk to some of those still in office. The purpose: to pursue a mission for Nancy Reagan, as well as for himself — additional government funding for stem cell research. (It is getting only limited support from the George W. Bush administration). I caught up with Wick at the private interment ceremony for Ronnie Friday. We were among the 500-or-so Nancy had invited. It was a chapter in my Hollywood history I will not forget. … Among those in the dignitaries’ rooms were many singers who had performed at the White House. Wayne Newton, f’rinstance, told me he’d canceled his performance at the Stardust to attend the service. Another of the Reagans’ favorites there: Johnny Mathis. And a quartet of Sinatras: Frank Jr., Nancy Sr. and Jr. and Tina, who said she’d just returned from Paramus, N.J., for a sneak of “The Manchurian Candidate.” Wendy Stark, also there, said she’d just returned from another funeral — that of Helmut Newton in Germany. Also, Fred (and Betty) Hayman — he’d helped Nancy choose gowns at his Giorgio’s in those halcyon days. Also, Patricia Barry, who costarred with Reagan in his last GE Theater, and Frank Bowling of the Peninsula hotel and formerly the Bel-Air where Nancy has lunched with friends like Merv Griffin during the difficult final year … Also on hand, Tom Selleck, who had worked with Nancy on her anti-drug program — and continues. Selleck was being congratted on his portrayal of another president — Eisenhower, a recent ratings winner. Next for him is a return to the West, in Louis L’Amour’s “Empty Land.” It was a story L’Amour had always wanted Selleck to film. … Norman Lear, one of the (few) Democrats there, a longtime friend of Reagan, told me of the correspondence between ’em when Lear was trying to arrange a TV’d debate with RR and Walter Mondale. Reagan agreed — Mondale didn’t. … When I spoke to Merv Griffin Monday, he was resting at his Carmel Valley home following last week’s Reagan farewells. He is still stunned by the turnout of across the nation. He has spoken to Nancy who is still “stunned and thrilled” by the affection displayed across the country (and world). “It will take me a long while to get over it,” Griffin said. He’ll head to Ireland July 3 after a meeting at WB June 21 to talk the start of his feature, “Barnes,” from a short story by James Michener — the script by Jordan Roberts to be printed in Vanity Fair.

SUMMER MUST BE COMING — another opening, another show. If you don’t believe me, take a look at today’s V-Page. We were at Universal’s bash launching Jean-Jacques Annaud’s amazing “Two Brothers” at Universal CityWalk. With him was producer Jake Eberts who was instrumental in getting the film made by Universal. Eberts also introduced me to Louis Schwartzberg, director of “Heart & Soul.” Ironically, while Disney nixed releasing Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” they are going all out to sell the pro-American everyman “Heart & Soul.” Eberts reminds he also exec produces this one. Annaud regaled the preemgoers with remarkable tales of working with tigers — who are as much prima donnas as some two-legged thesps. He also praised them for “making their marks flawlessly.” Hero of “Two Brothers,” a very affable Guy Pearce was engulfed by kids asking questions about the tigers. He told me, “I love cats.” He next segues to Australia for a heavy human drama, “The Project,” in which he has to hunt down a killer who’s out to kill his brother. … In addition to the preem of “De-Lovely,” Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Peter Asher hosted a screening for Irwin Winkler’s pic. Party-goers heaped praise on Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd, and Steven Endelman, who scored the pic, also commended Kline’s pianistics … The Bergmans optioned Paul Gallico’s “The Man Who Was Magic” to musicalize with Rupert Holmes doing the book … Louis J. Horvitz and Bob Gazzale have to deliver the “AFI Tribute to Meryl Streep” to USA Network on Wednesday to air in a two-hour show June Monday. There was (more than) enough footage from the show at the Kodak to fill a mini-series. And while Streep admitted embarrassment by the flow of superlatives, she graciously appeared at the AFI’s Board of Governors after-show celebration to thank them all. Whatta lady.

DAVID GEST IS BACK in showbiz. Although he’s taken up permanent residence in Hawaii, he’s in town setting up projects, saying “I’ve had a rough year but I’m ready to go back to work and create.” He’s readying a special “For the Soldiers,” an all-star special with proceeds, he says, to go to families of soldiers who died in Iraq. As for Liza Minnelli, the court suits (vs. each other) are still on. But, he admits, “I still love her. She’s a great talent, but she needs long-term treatment. I don’t wish her ill will, but she’s got to grow up.”

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