Cates ‘convinces’ Crystal to m.c. Oscars again

GOOD MORNING and congrats Oscar nominees: Billy Crystal was among those anxiously awaiting this ayem’s results — for two reasons; first, possible nods for “Mr. Saturday Night,” secondly to get inspirations for his m.c. chores March 29. Crystal admitted he finally agreed to reprise his (masterful) m.c’ing following delivery of a horse’s head (fake, natch) in a large box. It was the finale of Gil Cates’ campaign. “He (Gil) had previously sent me a funeral wreath saying, ‘The Show Is Dead Without You.’ ” In truth, Cates started asking Crystal to m.c. again after last year’s second commercial break — following the Jack Palance calisthenics. “He (Cates) kept sending me funny messages. But after the horse’s head — I laughed for five minutes.” But Crystal admitted to me, “I really enjoy doing it.” What’s the plan of humor attack this year? “I may just be myself,” he said. “And start off with ‘Good evening.’ ” But after studying this ayem’s cast of characters, we can expect another creative opening, we’re sure. Among “Saturday Night” nominations he hoped for was a “supporting” for David Paymer who played Billy’s older brother … Just back from successful London press screenings of “Saturday Night,” Crystal’s now busy with scripters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel on “City Slickers II.” They hope to reteam Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby and Patricia Wettig. Not Jack Palance, you recall — his dramatic demise won him an Oscar last year.

IT’S THE BEST COMPANY I’ve seen since I bought Panavision,” admits Sy Weintraub of his return to the world of showbiz — via scientific development. The former chairman of the executive committee and office of the president, Columbia Pictures Industries Inc., prez of National General TV, producer of “Tarzan” movies and TV series, is now chairman of AuraSound Systems’ advisory board. He says, “It’s the technology of the 21st century.” And one of its programs is the electronic projection of film in theaters from a central point sans prints. Plus new sound systems. Apart from showbiz, the company also has developed a compressor to convert natural gas into auto fuel. “I go where there’s a challenge,” Weintraub explained of his new involvement … Sean Penn’s set to join Al Pacino in Universal’s “Carlito’s Way.” He’ll play a shrewd lawyer and potentially dangerous friend to Carlito (Pacino) — who wants to go straight after departing prison following a career of organized crime. A March 8 start is set with Brian de Palma directing David Koepp’s script for producers Martin Bregman, Michael Bregman and Willi Baer. Louis Stroller exec produces … Sally Fields is Robin Williams’ ex-wife in Twentieth’s “Mrs. Doubtfire” in which Robin masquerades as a (femme) housekeeper in order to see his three children. Robin and wife Marsha produce for their Blue Wolf Prods. with Chris Columbus directing … John Kassir, the voice of the “Crypt”-keeper, plays his one-man show “Confessions of a TV Junkie” at the Hudson Theater where, tomorrow, following Kassir’s show, Denny Dillon of HBO’s “Dream On” bows her “Saints & Survival: An Evening of Stand-Up Confessions” en route to NYC during her “Dream On” hiatus.

IT’S A “CAREER SWITCH” for Jackie Mason who is entering politics — but not as an NYC mayoral candidate. His latest political fundraising stand was in Boca Raton last p.m. … Rosemary Clooney’s feeling fine and winding two final weeks at N.Y.’s Rainbow & Stars, having missed one performance after suffering a dizzy spell that found her emergency-treated (seven hours). She sounded terrific on the phone yesterday. Clooney’s readying two Singers’ Salute to the Songwriters here. The first, April 20 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, will honor Irving Berlin, Leslie Bricusse, Edward Eliscu and Neil Sedaka. The second, May 12, same site, salutes country singers, and will honor Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran and Roger Miller. Both nights benefit the Betty Clooney Foundation for Persons With Brain Injury … Last night at Universal Studios, SHARE kicked off its Boomtown ’93 (May 8) with the presentation of funds raised from last year’s event. SHARE president Pam (Mrs. Tom) Korman officiated as $ 885,000 in checks was presented to 31 beneficiaries. They included ARC, Caring for Babies with AIDS, Center for the Partially Sighted, ERAS Center, L.A. Goal, So. Calif. Counseling Center, etc. … More than $ 1.3 million was raised via Nancy Davis’ “Race to Erase Multiple Sclerosis” in Aspen over the weekend. Hammer held sway in almost every event including auctioneering at the Little Nell. He also donated the $ 30,000 he won to the charity. And was also race announcer of the Pro-Celeb Ski races. He didn’t race. “I tried to bring my skis but they refused to come,” he explained. Jimmy Connors and George Hamilton auctioneered the live event and David Foster, Dennis Miller, Kenny G and Michael Bolton were among the entertainers for Davis’ successful event … Add sports note: Julian Myers celebrates his 75th birthday Monday, running 18 miles prepping for his 11th marathon race, competing for the fifth time in the L.A. Marathon, March 7.