GOOD MORNING: “Broadcasting news has seen better days. It’s too entertainment oriented,” Ted Koppel will tell the Radio and Television News Directors Assn. when he receives the Paul White Award from them Monday in Las Vegas with Jon Stewart making the presentation (on tape) per Koppel’s request. He continues on to L.A. from Vegas on Tuesday to guest as the Hollywood Radio and Television Society honoree at the BevHilton with Disney’s Bob Iger making this intro. Koppel told me, “I found that Ed Mur-row had given that same warning — about entertainment-oriented news — to the same group (HRTS) back in 1958.” But Koppel also allows there is an “extraordinary amount of good work also being done” in the field. He can certainly take a bow for being one of those few doing those “good works.” Koppel, who has reported on Iraq first-hand from the invasion as well as the occupation, tells me he has no plans to return –at least “not in the near future.” As for the current situation in Iraq, he says, “We’re stuck with it and there’s no alternative. We cannot pull out.” On the domestic political scene, he says of the upcoming Demo and GOP conventions, “I’m not sure I’ll be there.” Of course the network (ABC) will cover, but he says fuller coverage “would be a waste of money” — also reminding that ABC did indeed once pull out from a GOP convention.
“BUSH IN 30 SECONDS, PHASE 2” commercials are lining up showbiz Demos to participate in the upcoming tapings. Rob Reiner is set to appear in one written by Aaron Sorkin. Al Franken’s writing one, as is Margaret Cho and Rick Linklater, who will also direct as will Woody Harrelson. Laura Dawn’s directing the project under the MoveOn.Org PAC banner … Reiner’s also returning to the half-hour sitcom world with a pilot of “Every Day Life,” an all-improvised show for NBC. Mercedes Ruehl plays his wife in a household of psychiatrists. When I told Reiner I was surprised he was returning to sitcoms, he laughingly answered, “So am I!” … Similarly, when I asked John Goodman, fresh from working in Berlin playing Steve Blauner in Kevin Spacey’s “Beyond the Sea,” the Bobby Darin biopic, and “Father of the Pride” animated DreamWorks series, howcum he was returning to half-hour sitcoms in “Center of the Universe,” he (also laughingly) answered “boredom.” About his role as Darin’s manager Blauner, the heavy-maned Goodman says he offered to shave his head (a la Blauner’s pate) but Spacey, “a genius director,” nixed it.
KEN KRAGEN HAS PUT UP HIS own money to finance the feature “12 Dogs of Christmas.” Now shooting in Bethel, Maine, starring 12-year-old Jordan Claire Green as Emma, the Kragens’ daughter who wrote the original story –when she was only seven. It sold 350,000 copies! Now 14, she’s shooting a docu on the making of the film in which mom Kathy Worthington has a cameo as well. Kieth Merrill directs his screenplay. Mindy Sterling (Frau Farbissina in the “Austin Powers” pix), who co-stars as the nasty school principal (“a perfect role for me”), also stars in VH1’s “30 Days Until I’m Famous,” airing May 1 … A.C. Lyles, who produced many low-budget Westerns for Par in the halcyon days, returns as “consulting producer” on HBO’s “Deadwood” when it starts its second season in July. Lyles, who knew DeMille, Wyler, Wilder, Capra, Sturges, etc. says “Deadwood’s” David Milch “is a genius.” Today Lyles is named an Honorary Goodwill Ambassador in Houston where he’ll dine with longtime friends Barbara and George Bush.
A MILLION-$ WAS RAISED for the Henry Mancini Institute from the magnificent tribute to him Tuesday night at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, wife Ginny told me after the truly moving toast to the gentle gentleman of note (see review p. 6). There was repeated hefty applause, shouts of joy and yes, often muffled sighs of sadness when loving footage of Hank screened above the terrif Mancini Institute Alumni Orchestra conducted perfectly by Patrick Williams. I recalled another all-star tribute to Mancini, April 19, 1994 when he was toasted on his 70th birthday at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. (He would have been 80 Thursday). Everyone at the earlier event knew that Hank was under treatment for (terminal) cancer). I wrote “Julie Andrews held tightly to husband Blake Edwards. And there were a few cracked voices as the evening’s cast sang “Happy Birthday” to him. Julie and Blake were on hand again this week, Julie cohosting beautifully with Sen. John Glenn who told of taking a recording of “Moon River” with him — into space. Julie said the cast of the Disney Hall evening was as enthralled as the audience. “We all stood together backstage throughout ‘chumming’.” The ever-busy Julie next tapes her “Mary Poppins” DVD added footage, then heads out on tour for her (and daughter Emma’s) book, “Dragon.” Also upcoming on Andrews’ Harper Collins imprint is the first of Brittney Ryan’s trilogy of “The Legend of Holly Claus.” … Among the showbiz friends of Henry Mancini on hand and applauding generously was Liza Minnelli, who looks terrific and sounded happy as she said she’s heading to France to record an album — in French …. “My father and I have Legion d’Honneur medals,” she reminded me of the unique father-daughter honor. Liza will star at a gala benefiting the Motion Picture and Television Fund, May 1 at the “Michael Douglas and Friends” (presented by Lexus) two-day sports-showbiz spectacular May 1-2 at Caesars Palace. It airs July 18, following the British Open … At ASCAP’s 90h anni bash April 21 at the BevHilton, the Henry Mancini Award will be presented to Howard Shore for his lifetime achievement in film scoring. Clint Eastwood, who will attend, receives the Opus Award for his “singular contribution to music in film.” Clint has always demonstrated that love for music in his films.
LIONEL CHETWYND ADDRESSES HARVARD U’s Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Wednesday … He’ll talk about dramatizing political events for the screen, something he’s done with great frequency, the latest being “Ike: Countdown to D-Day” for A&E airing May 31 and starring Tom Selleck as Dwight Eisenhower … Robert Rosen, dean Of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, is in Shanghai meeting with leadership of Chinese film schools and film exex to explore joint educational ventures … Jim Calio who wrote “A Day in the Life of the United States Military” (Harper Collins) last year, is now working on the 40th anni book for KCET’s Sept. 28 celebration that Angel City Press will publish. Calio’s also readying, with Judy Barrett Liftoff, a book on the life of Virginia d’Albert Lake, the only American woman to have fought with the French Resistance during WWII. No one knew of her heroics until now … The opening of the Air Force Thunderbirds show at March Air Base, April 24, will include a narration by Native American thesp Billy Daydodge (“Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”) narrating the legend of — the Thunderbirds. His narration will be heard with Thunderbird shows worldwide, an audience estimated by the Air Force at 45 million fans.