Matthau recovering from surgery

GOOD MORNING: Walter Matthau is recuping following a colonoscopy. Results were “benign,” his director-son Charlie told me. Walter is also being treated for ulcers, he reported. Carole Matthau said, “I was worried about his heart — he had his first heart attack back in 1966 — but it’s fine.” She also volunteered that Walter’s love scenes with Sophia Loren in “Grumpier Old men” “are incredibly great!” The surgery, of course, KO’d Matthau from Wednesday p.m.’s tribute by the Writers Guild to Billy Wilder. “And that’s the only thing that upset him,” Carole told me. Hal Kanter quick-subbed for Matthau and when WGA Pres. Brad Radnitz also fell out because he threw out his back, Dan Petrie Jr. pitched in for him. Jack Lemmon also was on hand in the hospital after Matthau’s surgery and told me, “It’s all my fault — it happens every time I work with him” (that’s a joke). He confirmed Matthau’s OK condition, saying, “They brought him right up after the surgery — not even a recovery room!” Lemmon’s suffering a problem with the rotator cuff of his left shoulder — it’ll KO his golfing for a while — but won’t stop him from playing Marcellus for Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet” or Lemmon’s trip to Berlin’s fest to receive their Golden Bear award. In the lobby of the DGA theater last night was a magnificent portrait of Wilder — painted by Alexander (Sasha) Newley, son of Anthony Newley and Joan Collins. Wilder, who has owned paintings from Rembrandt to Renoir, says the young Newley’s painting “is staggering” and he bought it. He sat for it three days, an hour and a half at a stretch … Wilder admitted to me he’d had the same surgery as Matthau eight years ago –“And I’m still here”… Good wishes are out to director Robert Altman, who underwent heart transplant surgery Sunday. Altman had known the surgery was necessary since last March, friends say … Dennis Cole, whose son Joey was murdered four years ago in Venice (Calif.), is leading a candlelight vigil Dec. 19 at the Westwood Federal Building for “Victims of Violent Crime Day.” Among those expected to participate, the Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown families. Also, Deanna Lund this week was accosted in her garage by a would-be thief “waving a gun in my face.” Her screams scared him off. “I decided I wasn’t going to be a victim again.” She now realizes it was a mistake not to part with her watch! Lund tributes (friend) Larry King Dec. 16 at the Sheba Award tribute dinner at the Ritz Carlton in Rancho Mirage.

PRESIDENT CLINTON AGAIN appears before entertainment TV cameras this week. This time it’s the “Christmas in Washington” NBC show, taping Sunday, airing 10 p.m. Wednesday. Michael Stevens produces this show with dad George Jr. as exec, Dwight Hemion directing. The special will be hosted by “Frasier” cast members Kelsey Grammer, Peri Gilpin, John Mahoney, Jane Leeves and David Hyde Pierce. Seg includes performances by Clint Black, Gloria Estefan and Al Green. The president gives his Christmas greeting to the nation on the show from the stage of the National Building Museum and he also joins the cast with Hillary Rodham Clinton in the finale singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” NBC’s Bob Wright hosts the concert. And the first lady designated the evening to benefit the Children’s Hospital of D.C. … Hong Kong’s Chow Yun-Fat, inked by Col for his U.S. bow in “The Replacement Killers,” also is being paged by Hollywood Pictures for “Rush Hour,” in which he’d co-star with American male and female stars. He was partied Tuesday at Planet Hollywood BevHills by director John Woo, Oliver Stone, WMA’s Mike Simpson, Lee Stollman and Arnold Rifkin and guests were shown impressive clips of Chow’s films (see Pix Mix, page 31) … At Premiere mag’s “Women in Hollywood Awards,” Wednesday noon at the Four Seasons, a short –“What Would Hollywood Be Like if Women Ran It”– also was shown in which Mel Gibson noted, “They’d take a contract out on Joe Eszterhas.” Others in the short, Beverly D’Angelo, Fran Drescher and Andy McDowell. Jodie Foster presented the award to Sherry Lansing, Garry Marshall to his “Frankie and Johnnie” star Michelle Pfeiffer and Rita Wilson to her “Sleepless in Seattle” director Nora Ephron.

THE JUVENILE DIABETES FOUNDATION, the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes and American Diabetes Assn. benefited ($120,000) from the “Father of the Bride Part II” preem-party at the DGA. Among those on hand, Lee Minnelli — Vincente directed the original … Joe Sinay was surprise-birthday’d on his 75th birthday at Matteo’s upstairs by wife Ruth. Sinay, past international president of Variety Clubs Intl., has raised hundreds of millions for children’s charities. He was serenaded by his daughter, Elise, and granddaughter Joanna with songs Sinay had written in his early showbiz career: “Pinch Me,” “My Darling , Is This All a Dream” and “Aren’t You Gonna Kiss Me Goodnight.” The cake was a replica of a Daily Variety front page with all his deeds pastried. A showbiz first was the reunion of Red Buttons and Jack Carter.