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ABC can’t slow Oscar show

GOOD MORNING: ABC wanted to put a seven-second delay on the very live Oscarcast because of recent vocal experiences on awards shows like the Grammys. CBS had even placed the delay — unnecessarily — on the “People’s Choice Awards.” But Oscar producer Gil Cates said “no” and, as of now, there’ll be no stopping the Oscars’ airing to be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. As for political references expected (hoped for) by Goldberg, Cates reminds that previous Oscar hosts Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, even Bob Hope, always made political observations … And talking about Crystal, he says he’ll be watching the Oscars this year — at home … Paul Newman, who receives the Jean Hersholt award Monday, dines at the White House tonight with the guest of honor, Ireland’s prime minister Albert Reynolds. Newman is establishing a Hole in the Wall Gang camp for terminally ill kids in Ireland. Newman will be accompanied by daughter Nell at the Oscars. She’s partnered with her dad in Newman’s Own Organics — The Second Generation — along with Peter Meehan. Their initial product — pretzels from Nell’s recipes. And this food division continues the Newman charity policy — which has to date given away $ 56 million … It’s not a sitcom, say “South Central’s” exec producers Ralph Farquhar and Michael J. Weithorn, whose first show tapes for Fox on Friday. The pilot, made for CBS, launches the series April 5. When CBS told the duo, “We’re on the fence,” they requested its release and went to Fox, which picked up the tab. The show looks into the life of a black family in South Central L.A., and they say it’s “a poignant rendering of family life — and funny, we hope.” They have support from the AME Church, Locke High School, single mothers and parents groups, Headstart, etc. The subject matter is serious — like a boy bringing his mother’s gun to school. When I asked howcum the mother had a gun, the producers answered, “To protect her family. But we’re not advocating one choice over the other — this is what it’s like there.” What about possible reference to Louis Farrakhan in a seg? “There’s a place for that in ‘South Central,’ ” the place — and the series.

BURT REYNOLDS WAS MUGGED by two men as he walked out of a Valley book store. One of ’em knocked Burt down. He got up and, his hand in a cast with two broken fingers from an “Evening Shade” pratfall, he retaliated, knocking down his assailant. The other, recognizing Reynolds, fled, followed by his partner. “I guess, with my divorce from Loni,” laughed Burt, “they realized I had no money!”… Money is pouring in from around the world from fans of the late Melina Mercouri for the foundation she established to build a museum at the foot of the Acropolis to house the Elgin Marbles when they are returned to Greece — the campaign continues in her name … Ike Jones and Peter Werner have the rights to film the Amy Biehl story for Hill/Fields Entertainment. Biehl is the Fulbright scholar from Stanford who was tragically murdered by those she was trying to help in South Africa. Jones met with her family in Santa Fe. They voted on who would get the rights … Richard Moll segues from Amblin’s “The Flintstones” to Full Moon Entertainment’s “Beanstalk” to another kids pic, P.M. Entertainment’s “Storybook,” playing Woody the Woodsman along with his father-in-law, Milton Berle, who plays a Merlin-like magician. Moll and wife Susan will make Milton and wife Lorna grandparents again next month with the arrival of a daughter to be named Chloe Camille … Infomercial/video star Tony Little, whose company made $ 100 million, signed a six-figure deal with Warner Books for an exercise/inspirational tome … Margot Kidder’s writing her book, “Calamities.” She joins Patty Duke in NBC Prods.’ pilot “One Woman’s Courage.”

BETTE MIDLER, WHOOPI GOLDBERG and Lily Tomlin toasted Bruce Vilanch — who has written countless laughs for ’em — at the Shanti AIDS Foundation fundraiser at the Scottish Rites honoring him and Howard Ashman. About $ 300,000 was raised at the event, which also boasted Jenifer Lewis, Melissa Manchester, Tim Curry, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Patrick Swayze, Alan Menken, Raven-Symone, Mehmet Sander Dance Company and Julia Migenes … And Wednesday at the BevHilton, Fritz Coleman received the Friend of the Children award from ERAS at its “Best of Beverly Hills” lunch/fashion show featuring fancy threads from Fred Hayman, Carroll & Co., Armani, Avant Garde, among others on the boulevard. Celeb models included Faith Ford, Michelle Phillips, France Nuyen, Anne Jeffreys, Corbin Bernsen and Connie Towers Gavin. Janet Leigh narrated … Fyvush Finkel and wife Trudi celebrated their 47th wedding anni at the U. of Judaism, where he appeared with sons Ian and Elliot in a musical titled, of course, “Finkel, Finkel and Finkel.”

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