Carson adds input on latenite battles

GOOD MORNING: Now that almost all the latenight talkshows have checked in (the last of ’em, Conan O’Brien, bows Monday on NBC), it was time to check in with Johnny Carson again. He is feeling fine, thank you, and looks and sounds great. “And I’m in no hurry (to do anything on TV).” What kind of show is he looking for? “I have no idea,” he laughed. What’s his opinion of the latenight entrees so far? “I saw David Letterman and I thought he did very well. I think NBC is very sorry they lost him.” As for Chevy Chase, Carson hadn’t caught Chevy’s initiation. But Carson reminded, “It’s a tough thing to do — it is not easy.” What is on Johnny’s agenda is a return trek to Tanzania with wife Alex, and he is again busy studying Swahili — and rattled off a few phrases to prove it (I think) … He is enthusiastically looking forward to his Kennedy Center honor (first revealed here) and the White House reception with the Clintons. “He (the president) played the saxophone on my show when he was governor — long before Arsenio Hall. Who knew then?”… Carson is the only representative from Hollywood on the list of honorees this year. None from movies. Howcum, I asked George Stevens Jr., who produces with Don Mischer. “He (Carson) represents ‘popular entertainment,’ ” Stevens said, while also pointing out that there is no one from the jazz or blues world, either. “It is not an omission.” Stevens added, “This being the Clintons’ first year should add new life (to the arts event).” The other honorees selected by the (40) members of the Kennedy Center’s board of trustees are: Arthur Mitchell, founder of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, conductor Georg Solti, composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim and gospel singer Marion Williams. Walter Cronkite hosts the 16th awards on Dec. 5, to be aired later by CBS. Lou Horvitz directs … On the eve of the TV show, Secretary of State Warren Christopher hosts a dinner at the State Dept. where the honorees actually receive their medals in an always moving ceremony … Jane Alexander will also attend and at that time will be chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts … Tonight in the East Room of the White House, the Clintons host the major contributors to the Kennedy Center at a concert by Mstislav Rostropovich, one of last year’s honorees, who is retiring as conductor of the National Symphony orch.

“THERE WAS NO SHOW seven weeks ago,” admitted Tommy Tune following his triumphant return to L.A. with “Tommy Tune Tonite!” at the Wilshire. When he fractured his foot in a fall during an earthquake, it seemed impossible he’d make any L.A. date after canceling his Pantages stand. But there was no sign of lingering injury in the bow of his very abbreviated stand (closes Sunday). He was sensaysh Tuesday and received standing ovations and prolonged, repeated applause. Pierre Cossette plans to bring Tune back to B’way for a long stay after Tune’s direction of the 25th-anni “Grease” has gotten on its way. Cossette heads to Nashville Tuesday to talk with writer Bill Kirby and locals on his next B’way musical, the Hank Williams story. And Pierre takes time out to be a judge at the Miss America contest in Atlantic City … Tommy Tune’s B’way plans continue with a fall ’94 opening of “Busker Alley” with book by A.J. Carothers and music/lyrics by Richard and Robert Sherman. They were all on hand. The Shermans are also writing the theme, “Wonder World,” for “Beverly Hills Cop III.” It’s played several times in the pic. The song has a “Disneylike” sound, said Bob S. — the freres have tuned 27 Disney movies! … When Tommy arrived at the post-party at Asylum, Peter Matz (who arranged 80% of the orchestrations in the show) played Gershwin tunes to “dance” him in. Congratting Tune were Cyd Charisse and Tony Martin and Lee Minnelli with Cesar Romero (who started as a hoofer, you recall) … Carol Channing, at the show with husband Charles Lowe and Jerry Herman and Betty White, said she’s been invited by the Chinese government to star there in –“Hello, Dolly!”

A TIME CAPSULE to be opened in 2012 on the 100th anni of the BevHills Hotel will be buried on the hotel grounds today as groundbreaking starts on the $100 million renovation. Included in the capsule is a copy of today’s Daily Variety. The hotel’s reopening’s skedded for April 1995 … Richard Gere and Sen. Dianne Feinstein co-chair a fundraising dinner honoring the Dalai Lama of Tibet Sept. 17 at the BevWilshire and benefiting the American Himalayan Foundation … Susan and Burt Lancaster celebrate their third wedding anni (they’ve been together 10 years) Friday. Susan tells me the stroke-stricken Lancaster’s “doing great”… Cubby Broccoli had taped a special tribute to Roger Moore to be shown at the Montreal fest — but the tape got lost somewhere en route … Darrah Meeley, en route to her new post as exec director of the Nashville Film Office, will continue to produce the Montreal Film Fest tributes.

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