Army & Oscar

I was flattered by Steve Pond’s “Oscar Beat” story on the L.A. Times’ Web site in which he quotes some of my reminiscences m.c.’ing Oscar arrivals on the red carpet for 43 years. And I was touched by the complimentary quotes from the Acad’s Exec Director Bruce Davis on my departure from that post.

Last August, I told Davis that I would not be returning to that post. He sent me a magnanimous invitation to attend the Oscars in grand style — “to have a seat way up front with the nominees, instead of one where a guy sits who may have to run off at any minute to grab a quote or file a story.”

After I saw the L.A. Times’ Web site story about me, I called Davis to ask who will be replacing me on the carpet? “We’re a little stumped,” he said. “Not everyone can do it — yours are big shoes to fill and it’s an important part of the evening.”  Thank you.

Gil Cates and the Oscars’ m.c., Jon Stewart met face-to-face for the first time last weekend in New York. Cates was thoroughly impressed. “He’s thoughtful, intelligent, well-read and well-written and, of course, has a great sense of humor.” They discussed the show’s basics, as well as possible nominees — plus other films which have not, as yet, gotten voters’ (all branches) nods but were highly visible to the public. Stewart will tape Oscar promos Friday in N.Y.

Cates also saw Billy Crystal’s “700 Sundays” at the Wilshire Theater in L.A. and called to congratulate him. Sure they discussed Oscar host Jon Stewart and Billy told Cates that Stewart’s “a good choice — a smart choice.” This Sunday, Cates attends the Producers’ Guild awards as a nominee — as producer of last year’s Oscar show.

Richard Attenborough returns to directing movies with “Closing The Ring” to start March 27 in Canada. Shirley MacLaine, Chris Plummer and Brenda Fricker are among those so far set to star in the  pic produced by Jo Gilbert. Oscar-winner Attenborough (“Gandhi” — best picture, director, actor) was in L.A. a week ago meeting with his longtime CAAgent and friend Martin Baum and film financers. “The Ring” has been in the works three years. Attenborough’s last film was 1999’s “Grey Owl” starring Pierce Brosnan.

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