Sills snubs Bush invite

AT THE BIG party for Mike Wallace last week: Beverly Sills was saying that she had declined an invitation to attend the Bush evening honoring the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities. She indicates she is less than thrilled with what they have NOT done for the arts … Everybody was trying to charm Gladys and Robert Nederlander into giving up tickets for their big hit “The Odd Couple” (the show, though a sell-out, has taken some big critical hits.). Party hosts Nancy Elison and Bill Rollnick talked about the Georgia O’Keefe painting they donated to the Clinton White House. Still, Rollnick declared himself the only “conservative” in the room, and damn proud of it, too. Barry Landau received congrats on his big deal with HarperCollins. He’ll write three books on his White House collection — former presidents and First Ladies will contribute forewords. Walter Cronkite reminisced over his days as a D.C. cub reporter in the 1940s. When he drove around in his “ragtop” and it started to rain, he just pulled into the South portico of the White House and waited it out. Sir Harry Evans is working on two books at the same time. His wife, Tina Brown, wasn’t on hand because she was on deadline–actually, most of the room was on deadline. I had a great seat at this party just across from Joy and Regis Philbin, Charles Grodin, as well as Katie Couric and Barbara Walters. I was between Jack Valenti and F.Y.I. writer Christopher Buckley. Jack is finishing his memoir for Random House to be titled ‘Whatta Life!” Katie excused herself a little early, but behind her back, honoree Mike Wallace was finger-pointing to me that I should encourage a romance between Katie and young Buckley.

SITTING IN MICHAEL’S restaurant near the garden in back, I wondered how Diane Keaton had fared through the years with fans associating her more often than not with her wacky character in “Annie Hall.” “I did OK,” said Diane. “When something works for you, I say use it, but I did do some challenging, serious roles. (‘Looking for Mr. Goodbar,’ ‘Reds,’ ‘The Godfather’.) This mother of two arrived all in black with a lot of fabulous silver bracelets and beautiful spectacles. She is an energetic fount of enthusiasm. “I am just knocking myself out being in New York because it’s so exciting and I seldom get here, seeing as how I hate to fly. Everything here is great.” Keaton has been on quite a roll since making her Academy Award-nominated “comeback” role in “Something’s Gotta Give” with Jack Nicholson. She laughs at the comeback idea. “I haven’t been away. I always keep on working, staying busy. I really have never in my life considered quitting. Where else can you find the satisfactions of acting?” I had just attended a private screening of the star’s latest movie “The Family Stone,” co-starring Sarah Jessica Parker. Nowadays the foremost fact of Keaton’s life continues to be her daughter, 10, and her son, 4½. Said Diane, “Everything changes when you have children. They become paramount. They have had such an important effect on my life. I find myself up at five, going to my daughter’s swimming class. It’s amazing.”

DONNA KARAN has rounded up Portia de Rossi, Mandy Moore, Julianna Margulies and James Denton to host her benefit for UNICEF on Nov. 8 at the Madison Ave. DKNY store. Stars such as Whoopi Goldberg and Susan Sarandon will work up special inspirational messages. These will be sold to help UNICEF’s cause. … Mandy Moore is still in charity mode on Nov. 9 when she co-hosts Lucky magazine’s Lucky Shops kick-off party benefiting Free Arts NYC, dedicated to bringing the arts to neglected and abused children. Call (866) 458-2598 … Lesley Gore is honored on Nov.14 at the annual Legends of the Village gala. This event, put on by Village Care of New York, provides care and services for seniors. It happens at Strata on 21st & Broadway. Call (212) 337-5750 … Many top chefs, restaurateurs and hotel moguls will be at the Guggenheim Museum on Wednesday to celebrate the release of the Michelin Guide to New York. Call (212) 957-3005, ext 203 … Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean receives Statesman of the Decade from the LD Access Foundation on Nov. 7 at the Harmonie Club. Founded 10 years ago by Anne and Howard Schneider, LD Access advocates for adults with learning disabilities, and invests in research. Kean himself struggled with dyslexia as a child. ABC’s Cynthia McFadden hosts. Call (212) 935-1840

IF IT ALL ENDED tomorrow, I’d say, ‘Goodnight, and thank you. I’ve been very happy.” That’s Catherine Zeta-Jones, soon to be heaving her bodice as Elena in “The Legend of Zorro” with Antonio Banderas. Zeta-Jones took a year off to spend with her kids at what she calls a “pivotal time,” saying, “You’d be surprised how quickly I adapted to not having anybody telling me when I had to get up or when to be on the set.” Catherine, who radiates lush, old-style va-va-va-voom, is friends with Daniel Craig, the next 007. “James Bond has a license to kill and Daniel has that kind on intensity. I think he’s a great choice.” Well, I think Zeta-Jones would be a great Bond girl — pardon, Bond woman! On Wednesday, she n will be in New York City accepting applause at Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year Awards. Also being honored at Avery Fisher Hall are Hurricane Katrina female heroes, Thelma Golden, the deputy director of New York’s Studio Museum in Harlem, and Mukhtaran Bibi, a Pakistani woman who survived a brutal gang rape (she was expected to commit suicide from this “disgrace.”) Instead she put her attackers in jail and started schools in her village — the first ever in this region. Brooke Shields, Claire Danes and Queen Latifah are the presenters. Call (917) 531-7169.

E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com

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