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McDonough celebrates healthy body, career

GOOD MORNING: “I feel my life is back — it’s been a battle,” Mary McDonough says with a sigh of relief. Audiences saw signs of her recovery last Sunday on “A Walton Easter,” but there’s more to come. McDonough, who has lupus, will be seen on the May 1 “ER” seg as a lupus-afflicted patient who receives a kidney transplant from her brother (played by Gabriel Mick). “I was glad to play someone who has lupus,” she told me. “Fortunately, I have non-organ affected lupus.” McDonough believes she became afflicted by the disease as a result of having breast implants 10 years ago. She admits having them “for vanity; it was totally my fault.” She became ill and kept working “but it (lupus) took its toll on my health.” She had the implants taken out three years ago and has been on a campaign to educate women nationwide about the dangers and risks, etc. “I now look and feel much better. But it took a toll on my life — my marriage (she was divorced) — and my 4-year-old daughter could have some of the second-generation symptoms, but not necessarily lupus.” Sadly, she says, “There’s not a lot of empathy for women who did it. ‘Oh, you’re vain’ is the comment.” She’s also completed an indie film, “One of Those Nights,” which she says is the “most risque, sexiest role I’ve ever played — and I never got that kind of role offer when I had big boobs!” But, she notes, director Lina Shanklin “told me she didn’t hire me for my boobs, but for my talent.” The movie, which co-stars Jared Seide and Orson Bean, “sneaks” April 30. … McDonough, who started on “The Waltons” when she was 10 (and 20 when it wound), says she and co-star John Warmsley are now hoping to produce a “Waltons” special as a tribute to Earl Hamner. “All of us want to do more (‘Waltons’),” Mary says. They have all remained close friends through the years, especially McDonough and Richard Thomas.

A LITTLE CROSS-POLLINATION here by Diane English: for the finale of “Ink,” which stars Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, English will write in guestar Candice Bergen as “Murphy Brown.” “Ink” has three segs left to film for the season, and as Danson notes, “Here I am 49 years old, sitting with my fingers crossed” — of course waiting for word on renewal from CBS in May. No matter what happens, Danson takes the summer off to spend it with the children. Well, most of the summer: he has a couple of cameos in pix for pals, Tom Hanks (DreamWorks’ “Saving Private Ryan”) and Saul Rubinek (directing “Tom and Jerry” with Joan Mantegna, Charles Durning and William Macy). These cameos won’t take Danson away too long from vacationing at Martha’s Vineyard, where he can look out at the ocean that he helps keep alive. First, at the BevWilshire on April 9, the American Oceans Campaign (which Danson launched) will present its Partners Awards to Woody Harrelson, Castle Rock’s Alan Horn and environmentalist Cindy Harrell-Horn. Sting has agreed to entertain, as has Bill Maher, who will m.c. The public is invited to attend (and contribute, of course) to help this cause, which Danson tells me is making progress, with 30 bills pending in Sacramento and D.C. “I’m most excited,” Danson admits, “about the reaching out by several big businesses,” which are supporting ways to help the environment. … The Anti-Defamation League honors the late Fred Zinnemann with the ADL/Fred Zinnemann Human Relations Film Award, to be given annually “in recognition of a feature or documentary dealing with a human-relations theme”. … Past honoree Oprah Winfrey presents Camille and Bill Cosby with an Essence Award April 4 at the Theater in Madison Square Garden. Stevie Wonder will sing an original song to the Cosbys.

NEIL SIMON ADMITS HE HAD 37 pages of “The Odd Couple 2” “sitting in the drawer” for 10 years. Jack Lemmon, on the “12 Angry Men” set, first revealed to me Feb. 27 that plans were off for him and Walter Matthau to reteam in the third “Grumpy Old Men” “until the budget can be trimmed” for the Italy-set sequel. Then “Odd Couple 2” came to life, as reported in Daily Variety Monday. Howard W. Koch, producer of the first “Couple,” had been trying unsuccessfully to get Paramount to OK that sequel, despite the initial’s tremendous success — and knowing that Simon would again script! It was Koch’s constant desire to get the sequel made and he discussed it often. Simon says Bob Cort and Dave Madden will produce. What about Koch? “That’s Paramount’s decision,” Simon said. “I feel terrible for him.” Matthau says he told Sherry Lansing to get Koch; “She told me she’d look into it,” said Walter. Koch didn’t know about the decision or the pic’s new life until he read it in these pages. He was philosophical and gentlemanly: he has two years to go on his record, successful Par pact. Incidentally, for the original “Odd Couple,” Matthau says he received $300,000, Lemmon, $1 million — and 10% of the gross. Both were represented by the William Morris Agency at the time. They’ll get a lot more today.

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