GOOD MORNING and congrats Sid Ganis. I was sure he would be the next president of the Academy. His record of service on the board (since 1973) speaks for itself, and his constant enthusiasm for the Academy’s activities has always been contagious. When I spoke to him Wednesday ayem, he admitted he was “knocked out” by his election and talked positively of the many programs in which the Academy is involved, including the museum. Ganis acknowledged the Academy is in great “fiscal shape.” He realizes there have been discussions about potential changes in Oscar categories because of technical additions in the biz. “Don’t worry about the categories,” he said positively, “we’ll figure it out. But,” he reminded, “it’s still about making movies.” And who should know better than experienced moviemaker Ganis, who just wound a lower-budget ($6 million) film, “Akeelah and the Bee,” starring Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett and Keke Palmer, who turned 12 Wednesday. Ganis said he’d not yet set the cast for his next film, “I Dream of Jeannie,” at his alma mater — and current base — Columbia-Sony… Of course we talked Oscar night itself — March 5 — and the always present threat of rain. The board investigated building a permanent, weather-protective covering at the Kodak — but it was deemed too expensive. Ganis said, “I pray we don’t have rain.” Me too.
DURING THESE 52 YEARS of writing the column, I’ve covered countless celebrity-supported and -attended fund-raisers, all for worthwhile causes. But never have I witnessed one as spectacularly successful as last weekend’s So the World May Hear gala, where Bill Austin’s Starkey Hearing Aid Foundation raised $4.1 million before a black-tied, celeb-sprinkled audience of 2,000 in the River Center in St. Paul, Minn. It was the kind of night where one of the honorees, Garth Brooks, donated $250,000 for a South Africa mission by Austin and troupe to provide hearing aids to several hundred youngsters. Despite announcing his retirement until his daughter graduates from high school in 2015, Brooks told me he will perform some special concerts … Austin visited the Motion Picture & Television Country House & Hospital last year and provided hearing aids to needy residents; he told me he will continue that generous MPTV service in the future as well. In the coming months Austin takes missions to children in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil, in addition to donating free hearing aids to needy children all over the U.S. Participating and performing in the gala program produced by Steven Sawalich were Norm Crosby, Donny Osmond (“about to become a grandfather”) and the Osmond Family, Marlee Matlin, Michael Bolton and Paul Williams, “The Sopranos’ ” Lorraine Bracco — who believes she’s David Chase’s “alter ego” in the series. Other showbiz attendees and participants in the weekend of events, hosted by Bill and Tani Austin, included the Bob Culps (he’s readying a feature of “Terry and the Pirates” to shoot in China), Marion Ross, Lou Ferrigno, Leslie Nielsen, Trisha Yearwood, Jan and Mickey Rooney, Dennis Gilbert. Another honoree, Good Guys owner Richard Schulze, bought Bill Austin’s vintage Rolls for $500,000 to further fill the missions’ needs.
ON THE BOOK BEAT, which I will hopefully soon be joining: Jack Klugman’s written “Tony and Me, A Story of Friendship” and he’s published it himself, “So I can say what I want — and it’s what I learned from him (Tony Randall)” — in their 51-year friendship … Emmy-nominated (“ER”) Red Buttons has hand-written an 1,150-page memoir — from Bronx beginnings to his “Sayonara” (1957) Oscar win. But he says it’s only for “my kids” and his own enjoyment … Ed Feldman who segued from publicist to producer has written, “Tell Me How You Loved the Picture” (St. Martin’s Press) — hilarious accounts of his movies, like “Witness,” “101 Dalmatians,” “The Jungle Book,” etc. … Carl Reiner will record his “MMMMMM” for Random House. Simon & Schuster publishes his hardcover novel within a novel… Dorothy and Bob Mitchum’s daughter Petrine Day Mitchum’s unique book, “Hollywood Hoofbeats: Trails Blazed Across the Silver Screen” with Audrey Pavia (Bowtie Press), is a delightful history of movie horses — and the men who rode ’em, like papa Bob, whose first starring role, was “Nevada” (1944) in which he rode Steele — and every major star rode Steele after Bob, including John Wayne, Clark Gable and Gregory Peck … Jayne Meadows (Mrs. Steve Allen) enthused to me about “Inventing Late Night, Steve Allen and the Original ‘Tonight Show'” (Prometheus Books), written 100% by Ben Alba, who interviewed 30 legends for the book. Meadows allows, “I contributed zero — except the photos — and it is simply a marvelous history of the golden age of television” … Ed McMahon’s “Here’s Johnny” (Rutledge Hill Press), out Oct. 18, is already going into its second printing.
TERI HATCHER hosts the Festival of the Arts Pageant of the Masters benefit show “On the Road” in Laguna Beach Saturday. The pageant is — as always — a sellout … Sidney Lumet receives a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Savannah Film Festival’s Oct. 29 opening night. The terrif fest (I know, I’m a past honoree!) is sponsored by the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) and runs through Nov. 5… Tributes at the Deauville Film Fest this year include Robert Towne, Ron Howard, James Toback and Forest Whitaker. Roman Polanski’s expected to give Towne his award … Jacqueline Bisset attends the screening of “The Physical Education of Girls” at the Venice fest Aug. 31 with John Irvin … A memorial for Pat McCormick will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 7 at the Writers Guild Theater. Remembrances will be welcomed … The dedication of the River Phoenix Memorial Garden, given by Iris Burton at the Methodist Hospital in Arcadia, will be held at 11 a.m. Sept. 24 … A docu on Norman Lloyd, 90, is being readied to chronicle his 72-year career. He’s next in 20th’s “In His Shoes,” in which he plays a blind professor of literature … Scott Glenn in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in Millenium Films’ “The End of the Night,” had to sign a clause in his insurance pact stating he would not engage in any deadly sports during the shoot. Let’s hope none are in the script.