GOOD MORNING: First the good news, then the best news. Late Monday, Merv Griffin made another $100 million. He received word the deal had gone through for the sale of his Resorts in Atlantic City to Sol Kerzner’s Sun Intl. for $300 million. This completes Griffin’s sale of his original Atlantic City Resorts properties — including Paradise Island (also sold to Kerzner) — all of which Merv bought for $925 million. Among those items sold earlier was the Taj Mahal for $330 million, Griffin reminded me. He still remains the second largest shareholder (after Kerzner) in Sun Intl., which will convert Resorts Atlantic City to the Atlantis in a $500 million expansion going all the way down to the ocean itself — “so real sharks can watch the sharks inside,” Griffin joked. And now for the better news: Griffin also told me he just completed radiation treatments for prostate cancer. He had started outpatient treatment in mid-Oct. And although he has a four-six week wait to get final results, he says, “My p.s.a. (prostate tests results) have improved dramatically.” Griffin was thus in extra happy holiday spirits as he hosted the annual Christmas Tree Lane bow at his BevHilton, with celeb-decorated trees up for auction; proceeds go to SHARE’s charities. Griffin brought in Les Brown’s band for the event; Griffin sang, as did Johnny Mathis, with no less a music giant than Van Cliburn on hand, listening. He’d flown out for the (Monday) night doings from his home in Ft. Worth. He’s also a regular at Marge Everett’s Monday musical soirees at her home, where Merv tickles the ivories as well. The most spectacular tree at the Hilton auction coincidentally is SHARE’s, designed by decorator Maxine (Mrs. Gary) Smith. Richard Cohen paid $2,700 for it, and then placed the tree back in auction so that more funds could be raised. During the holidays, Griffin takes off on his yacht with his family -and Yolanda Veloz.
STEVEN SPIELBERG IS NOT THE FIRST industry leader to save an Oscar from investment-hungry habitues at Hollywood memorabilia auctions. In 1991, then-AMPAS president Karl Malden learned Harold Russell was to auction his “Best Years of Our Lives” Oscars and called Russell. “I pleaded with him (three times) to let us (the Academy) buy it,” said Malden, “but he had already committed to the auctioneer. So we said, ‘Let’s see if we can get someone to buy it” for AMPAS. Lew Wasserman came up with $55,000 and returned the Oscar to the Acad … Spielberg will receive the American Jewish Committee’s Sherrill C. Corwin Human Relations Award Jan. 23 at the BevWilshire. Oprah Winfrey, who starred in Spielberg’s “The Color Purple,” will be the guest speaker … Some holiday-heartwarming stories: the cast of “3rd Rock From The Sun” (John Lithgow, Jane Curtin, Kristen Johnston, French Stewart, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) were so moved and inspired by the Eastern High School choir, which performed with them on the “Christmas in Washington” special, the Hollywood group donated its salaries for hosting the special to the choir. The show airs at 10 tonight on NBC … And on Thursday (19) at the Hollywood Athletic Club, a troupe of celebs from the worlds of music, pics and TV gather for a “Rock & Wrap” session to ready gifts for the Second Chance Foundation, which gives people who have survived devastating personal tragedies their ‘”first chance” to pursue a life-long dream … And can you believe someone broke into the Hollenbeck Youth Center (home of the Inner City Games) and stole almost all the toys skedded to be given at Saturday’s (21) holiday party? Paramount, Warner Bros. and Disney have quickly come to their aid, but more toys and gifts are needed. If you or your group can help, please call the ICGF (Inner City Games Foundation) at (310) 314-1492.
THIS IS SHOWBIZ: in Rob Reiner’s “Ghosts of Mississippi” for Castle Rock, Dr. Billy Taylor’s composition, “How I Wish I Knew What It Feels Like To Be Free,” is played over the opening and closing credits. It was originally written by Taylor in 1960. He performed it, along with Ray Charles, Johnny Mathis and the Supremes at a concert in Birmingham during the crisis there. Denied access to concert facilities in Birmingham, the performers entertained outdoors at a football field. The crowd was so tremendous that a hastily erected platform collapsed. Electric power was lost and Martin Luther King asked Taylor to play this composition to calm the audience so that the concert could go on. “Ghosts” opens this weekend for Oscar eligibility … Michael Jackson is writing the tune “Elizabeth,” which he’ll perform on Taylor’s 65th birthday ABC special … Bette Midler and her troupe of 70 are winding down the tour — from Costa Mesa, Seattle, Vancouver, Spokane, Denver, Phoenix on to the U Amphi Monday and Tuesday before she tapes her HBO show, “Diva Las Vegas” Jan. 10-12 at the MGM Grand. Her longtime writer Bruce Vilanch then segues to again write for Billy Crystal and the Academy Awards. And they are anxiously watching the nominees. Can you conjure up possible Crystal quips on movies like “The People Vs. Larry Flynt?”