Cohn’s legacy remembered

GOOD MORNING: I had lunch in Harry Cohn’s Columbia studio offices. It’s now called “The Sunset Gower Studios–Building On A Legacy.” The legacy: “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “From Here to Eternity,” “On The Waterfront,” “The Caine Mutiny,” “Picnic,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “Funny Girl,” etc. I remember Cohn — and his funeral, Feb. 27, 1958, on the studio’s stages 12-14. The overflow turnout was explained by Red Skelton: “It just proves give the public what it wants and they’ll turn out for it” … The lot is now owned by the G.I. Partners which paid $110 million (to the estates of Saul Pick and Nick Vanoff — the duo bought the lot in 1976 for $6.2 million). Longtime award-winning film and TV producing partners Bob Papazian and Jim Hersch also own a percentage of the studio which will undergo an expansion program that includes a new five-story building topped by a theater, a new Joachim Splichal restaurant replacing the now-shuttered Pinot Hollywood, state-of-the art communication and computer systems for editing, production and post-production sites. Papazian, CEO of the studio, and partner Hersch will also continue their production company while running the studio. (One of their upcoming features, “Gone to Wichita” will star Bob Wagner.) In his newly restyled offices, Papazian showed me a secret exit from Cohn’s sanctum sanctorum leading to a private apartment. He also pointed out his office windows where Cohn could look across a courtyard to the contract writers’ offices. Cohn would shout, “I don’t hear you bastards typing!” I asked Papazian what incentives will be offered to producers of features and TV to work on the lot? “We want to put the show back in show biz,” he said. “This will be a place where you can be independent as well as entrepreneurial.” The main street gets an art deco redo with one building boasting a marquee announcing the lot’s who’s who and their goings-on. When I told Papazian about George Lucas’ Letterman Digital Arts Center, which is totally state-of-the-art and has no sign of stars’ trailers, Papazian, who once considered the Presidio site, said, do not edit tag”We’ve got plenty of room for stars — and their trailers at our studio. And they’re welcome.”

THE FRIARS’ CLUB in BevHills was SRO Tuesday to toast Norm Crosby on his 40th anni in the biz and the Coast launch of his Big Vision Entertainment five-disc DVD of the armada of comics who appeared on Norm’s TV show. In his remarks, Crosby’s lopsided language proved again that humor doesn’t have to be four-lettered to be four star. Pal Red Buttons, who intro’d Crosby, observed, “Paris Hilton has had more late check-outs than THE Paris Hilton” … Before heading to the Paris Air Show, Lois and Buzz Aldrin cocktailed friends in L.A. on the publication of his children’s book, “Reaching For the Moon” (Harper Collins). In talking with Aldrin he was positive that it’s not a question of “if” we’ll be getting a man to Mars, but “when.” … Sydney Pollack, in Paris, plays a role in director Danielle Thompson’s “Fauteuils d’Orchestre” … Jacqueline Bisset heads to Scotland to star in Rosamunde Pilcher’s “Summer Solstice” directed by Giles Foster … Dennis Weaver returns to series TV in ABC Family’s “Wildfire” Monday, exactly 10 years since his last series and 55 years since his B’way bow in “Come Back Little Sheba” … Oscar winners Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in to see “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at the Circle in the Square … A memorial to David Tebet will be held 1 p.m. June 29 at Hillside and a gathering at 2 p.m. at the Museum of TV and Radio in BevHills … Oprah Winfrey purchased another seven acres (flat and green) in Montecito, bringing her property to 50 acres.

THERE’S A NEW TELEVISION channel — MPTV. It’s at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills. Mel Shavelson has funded the channel with a significant six-figure gift. The veteran award-winning producer says the station “is for the benefit of all those in film and television who have managed to survive to a ripe old age, an honor usually reserved for cheese. Its purpose is to provide an opportunity for the residents, many of whom are pioneers in the industry, to continue to be a part of it and also celebrate their past.” (Shavelson is honored by the Writers Guild Foundation which dedicates its new Library Saturday)…end column here…and save the remainder . The MPTV Network will feed all of the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital via cable using the residents themselves to provide all of its service, in addition to volunteers from Hollywood. Its programming will include news, information and entertainment as well as live events at the facility and biographies of the 400 residents. The MPTVF’s Ken Scherer tells me they are looking for industry volunteers to work with the residents in production and editing. How about you? … The MPTVFund will also benefit from the Golden Boot Awards, Aug. 13 at the BevHilton. Awardees are Wilfred Brimley, Ben Cooper, James Caan, Martha Crawford, Mark Harmon, Debbie Reynolds and Phil Spangenberger. Plus Kids of the West awards to the following who got their start as kids in Westerns: Lee Aaker, Michael Chapin, Johnny Crawford, Gary Gray, Eileen Janssen and Mickey Kuhn.

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