GOOD MORNING: Jack Lemmon as a woman, Juliet Mills as a man. That’s the new version of “Avanti” being readied by producer Walter Mirisch at MGM. Mirisch had once asked the original film’s producer-director Billy Wilder about doing the role switch on his 1972 film, but Billy put him off with, “Don’t bother me about it , now.” Well Mirisch is now seeking a writer and director for the new version of the play by Samuel Taylor. Mirisch produced Monday night’s star-studded Music Center tribute to CTG departing director Gordon Davidson where $1.1 million was raised for the Gordon Davidson Endowment Fund for Artistic Excellence — which included a $250,000 contribution from Harold and Mimi Steinberg … The tribute show, reported here Tuesday and also today on the V Page, was to have included an appearance by Kirk Douglas, but laryngitis KO’d him. He gave me the remarks he would have made to Gordon: “You have played an important role in making L.A. one of the cultural centers of the world. Gordon makes you think anybody could do it, but they can’t. Gordon, you must allow yourself to think of all that you have done and give yourself a pat on the back. I want to thank you for one of your many accomplishments — making the Kirk Douglas Theater a reality”

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T succeed: producer Al Ruddy reminds that “Million Dollar Baby,” which now goes out distributed domestically by WB, foreign by Lakeshore, was originally turned down at WB. “They’d rather have another ‘Dirty Harry’,” Ruddy said. The pic then made its way unsuccessfully through Paramount, Universal and New Line. Clint Eastwood, in his own remarkable way of shooting (and delaying his remuneration) brought the film in for $30 million. He’d originally said he’d never star and direct, but loved the project. And now Ruddy’s trying to talk Clint into another boxing pic, “Pound For Pound” written by Jerry Boyd … Ruddy has another longtime pal, Burt Reynolds, set to follow “The Longest Yard” with “Cloud Nine.” Reynolds also has “The Dukes of Hazzard” on his sked, costarring Lynda Carter, Willie Nelson and Jessica Simpson … Faye Dunaway, starring in the Jamie Kennedy-produced reality series “The Starlet” for the WB, tells me she’s impressed with the new showbiz genre, saying “Donald Trump has made something we have to reckon with.” And from this show, she asks, “Who will be the next Julia Roberts or Nicole Kidman?” Dunaway, an Oscar-winner (“Network”) says “It’s fascinating working on the show. I’m able to use all I know” — taking wannabes through the Hollywood jungles. This week she’s taken ‘em through a dramatic scene and they’ve done comedy as well. She says the Kennedy group “is a good team” … Thirty-three years ago, Dennis Weaver starred in Steven Spielberg’s career-making film for ABC, “Duel.” Now Weaver stars another for ABC Family, “Wildfire.

THIS YEAR’S KENNEDY Center Honors (airing Dec. 21, CBS, 9-11) brought in $3 million from its show Dec. 5. To buy a ticket to the gala, you also had to be a contributor to the Kennedy Center — and thus sustain its program for the arts year-round. The show now being edited by George Stevens Jr. in L.A. will retain the personal remarks by the presenters, including those by Robert Downey Jr., who allowed that Elton John had saved his life. “You have shown me a new way to walk down the winding road that is life.” While it was the president, first lady and the vice president and his wife in the boxes of honor, cutaways of John Kerry in the auditorium were also caught on camera … My mail this week also brought an envelope with the Ronald Reagan imprint. Inside, was this notice: We regret to announce that the office of Ronald Reagan (in Century City) will close Dec. 31, 2004 — future correspondence, etc. to the Presidential Library in Simi Valley … Robin Williams is in Iraq entertaining troops and is due back Sunday.

ERIC BRAEDEN CELEBRATES 25 years as Victor Newman on CBS’ “The Young And The Restless” with a tribute Feb.1 — at CBS TV City on Fairfax. Among the guests will be Jesse Ventura who played himself on the show. I spoke with Braeden Wednesday as he was working on the soap’s Stage 43. He had just wound a scene with his arch-nemesis Jack Abbott (Peter Bergman). Emmy-winner Braeden admits he thought the job would only last three months when he started — but he’s outlasted four wives and countless adversaries over the years. One of his favorite shows was the sequence with George Kennedy as the father who left him in an orphanage. Now, Braeden wants Kennedy to star as the patriarch in a film he’s preparing, “The Man Who Came Back” — it’s revenge-themed. Braeden, born in Kiel, Germany, in 1941, became a U.S. citizen and was a staunch Kerry supporter in the last campaign. His son, Christian Gudegast, is a screenwriter — who was 10 when Eric started the soaper.

SAY GOODNIGHT, Gracie,” the Tony-nominated one-man show starring Frank Gorshin will be brought to L.A.’s Brentwood Playhouse in October, producer Larry Spellman tells me. Gorshin rejoins the show on tour Jan. 3. Spellman, a co-producer of “Paint Your Wagon” at the Geffen, directed by Gil Cates, says he plans to put it on tour and on to B’way (in 2006) and has spoken to David Hasslehoff to star … Mike Nichols is OK and was up and directing “Spamalot” rehearsals at the Shubert in Chi after only two days of micro back surgery. The play bows Jan. 9; in N.Y. March 17 … On the red carpet at the Ziegfeld at the preem of “Phantom of the Opera,” star Emmy Rossum met cousin Rick Friedberg and his wife Francine LeFrak — for the first time! Andrew Lloyd Webber told the happy family that Emmy “was made to order for the part — and without her we couldn’t have made the movie.” Darrah Meeley preems her “Edgar Cayce, the Beautiful Dreamer: The Man who Cured People in his Sleep” tonight at the Bodhi Tree in West Hollywood, with cast members, one reenacting Cayce in a trance. Sound entrancing? … Lee Grant received the N.Y. Women in Film Muse Award Wednesday for Outstanding Vision and Achievement … Mike Farrell received the Donald Wright Award for “significant contributions to the criminal justice system” from the Calif. Attorneys for Criminal Justice … Doris Roberts received awards from the L.A. Film Teachers Assn. and the State Department for her work in depressed areas speaking to youth about hope … “Desperate Housewives'” Nicolette Sheridan, toasting her Golden Globe nomination with Andy Hewitt at Il Sole on the Sunset Strip. Also there, Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake.

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