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Just Jack

GOOD MORNING: Jack Nicholson will be at his usual seat courtside at the Staples Center tonight for the Lakers game vs. the Milwaukee Bucks. He tells me he was also at the Laker game 27 years ago vs. the Houston Rockets at the Forum when Rudy Tomjanovich of the Rockets was struck so hard by the Lakers’ Kermit Washington that he (Rudy) was out of action more than a year and doctors said he could have died from the blow. Until Friday night’s brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan between the Pacers and Pistons, that was the most infamous fight in NBA history. Jack reflected on both brawls and called those involved “just plain stupid.” He, like the rest of America (foreign, too?) has been watching repeat TV showings of the mayhem as the lead item on every newscast. It preceded news on Iraq casualties, Iran atomic preparations, President Bush’s whirlwind South American jaunt and Condaleeza Rice’s surgery. Sure, he admits he’s been excited over a play or a call — “but I stay in my seat,” he claimed. Well, “near” his seat would be more accurate — but that’s the biggest rise I’ve seen of any of his displeasures. Besides, he usually brings one of his children to the game with him. He is also educating his children about good movies and, with TiVo in his home, he shows them classic films by classy filmmakers and stars of yesteryear. He admits he didn’t plan to stay beyond the introductions for the 30th anniversary screening of “Chinatown” Thursday at the Academy, “but it looked so good to me, I decided to stay. And I looked pretty good, too,” he laughed … His next film? “I’ve got to figure out something different — something different now, not what was different 20 years ago.” The next time he’ll be on camera is at the Kennedy Center Honors. He’ll be on hand to honor pal Warren Beatty with whose family he’ll also be spending Thanksgiving. As for his late friend and next door neighbor Marlon Brando, Nicholson’s advisers are in touch with the Brando executors. He reminded me, “I’ve always been friendly with Marlon’s family.”

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE took top billing with the weekend’s top-grossing “National Treasure” in which it’s the subject of the heist. So I asked Norman Lear the future of his treasure — the only privately owned copy of the Declaration. It wound its tour with the “Declare Yourself” campaign. It had been the center of attraction at the Democracy Plaza in Rockefeller Center and he loaned it to the Pasadena preem of “National Treasure,” which he also attended. The next stop for his copy is yet to be set, but Lear said “I didn’t buy it to hang on my wall.” The Declare Yourself campaign will continue. Contrary to an earlier report, the 18-29 youth group — which was newly registered — voted in unprecedented numbers, the highest youth turnout in three decades. Among facts learned: the Internet will be the information system of choice for politics in 2008 and was essential to one fourth of the youth vote in 2004. Mid-term elections are only two years away and in the fall, political campaigns will again be in full swing. Meanwhile, he reminds, the People For the American Way has more than 700,000 members — with backing … And with “National Treasure” taking No. 1 spot on the bigscreen and “CSI” numero uno on television, it’s no wonder the producer of both, Jerry Bruckheimer, flashes an especially broad smile this week.

LIKE “JAZZ,” THE MUSICAL that bowed at the Mark Taper Forum in L.A., is getting the backing of TransAmerica and will definitely bow on B’way in the fall. The music’s by Cy Coleman, who died Thursday, the lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and the book by Larry Gelbart. At Sunday’s services for Coleman at Frank E. Campbell’s Funeral Home on Madison and 80th St., a letter was read from Gelbart (“City of Angels”) who hoped that “someday you can hear the love songs that Cy composed for a show that he and David (Zippel) and I were working on — about the short tempestuous relationship between the emperor Napoleon and his Josephine. His melodies for that score are unlike any Cy had ever created before.” Among those who spoke: Cy’s widow Shelby, Michael Blakemore, David Zippel, Roger Berlind, James Naughton and A.E. Hotchner, who was working with Cy on a musical based on the book about Elaine Kaufman of Elaine’s (Lainie Kazan was to star). Also there, Lauren Bacall, Tony Bennett, Phyllis Newman, Betty Comden, Fran and Barry Weisler, who are producing the upcoming revival of “Sweet Charity,” and Brian Stokes Mitchell who sang “Here’s to Us” at the services’ end.

LYNN REDGRAVE on the longhorn from Shanghai where she’d just wound filming Merchant-Ivory’s “The White Countess” with sister Vanessa and niece Natasha Richardson — whose roles are not family-related. “It was a wonderful experience.” Ralph Fiennes is the male star. The film’s set in 1936 and Lynn said it was a shocking revelation to step from one of the super-modern skyscrapers that fill the skyline of Shanghai to go around a corner to film a scene with turnip-filled pushcarts. The film’s directed by James Ivory with script by Kazuo Ishiguro. Lynn Redgrave is en route to London then N.Y., SanFran (a reception by Francis Coppola) and L.A. for appearance with “Kinsey” for which she is receiving critical praise and talk of a supporting Oscar nomination. She said it was a joy working with Bill Condon again — they’d teamed on “Gods and Monsters.” As for her role in “Kinsey,” she says it made her think about a distant (femme) relative who had a lady friend about whom “I didn’t think about — until I was doing the film. ‘Kinsey’ makes us realize there is no such thing as ‘normal’.”

CATHY RIGBY FLEW — from the Pantages on Hollywood Blvd. to Sunset Blvd. movie complex after the final curtain on “Peter Pan” to catch the film, “Finding Neverland.” She said, “Johnny Depp seems to embody the spirit of Sir James Barrie. Watching him (Depp) reminds us just how fragile and brave and creative and forgiving children can be.” She brought a dozen of the legiter’s cast members with her to see the movie. “I loved learning more about Sir James Barrie. I loved Johnny Depp and the Davies children.” She reminds, “Peter Pan still lives inside each of us.” Cathy continues on the “Peter Pan” tour well into July — and then into a B’way return. … Donald Trump presented the Children of Chernobyl award to Michael Douglas Monday night at Pier 60. Cliff and Leslie Gilbert-Lurie receive the 2004 National Champion for Children Award from the Alliance for Children’s Rights, Dec. 9 at the BevHilton … “Children Will Listen,” airing on PBS Thanksgiving night (KCET in Los Angeles), is a family treat by the AFI’s Jean Picker Firstenberg and brother David Picker who helped make it possible … Tommy Chong joins “The Marijuana-Logues” at N.Y.’s Actors Playhouse Dec. 7-19 … Corbin Bernsen directs his first feature, “Carpool Guy” with a cast that includes soapstars Lauralee Bell (“Young & Restless”), Tony Geary (“General Hospital”), Kristoff S.t. John(“Y&R”), Rick Hearst (“GH”) … “Deadwood” art department coordinator Linda Redman and the series’ Emmy-nominated makeup artist Adam Brandy are engaged to wed.

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