‘Insider’ frets over negative press

GOOD MORNING: Everybody wants to get into the act! That’s what Jimmy Durante used to say in his act. Well, fast forward to Disney’s “The Insider” with everyone, including yours truly telling the “real inside story.” And everyone yelling foul about everyone else. It’s no wonder “The Insider” hired Pat Kingsley, press agent extraordinaire, to press an Oscar campaign for the pic. And she claims the negative press comments in N.Y. and L.A. (home of most Oscar voters) will have a negative effect. Even so, she bets the pic will be among the five best picture nominees. That, of course, will not please the “60 Minutes” crew whose leader Don Hewitt expressed his feelings liberally here Wednesday. Which immediately brought forth a call from Kingsley and the pic’s producer, director and co-writer Michael Mann on conference call from London. They had already been busy on the phone calling the N.Y. Daily News’ Mitchell Fink who had printed Mike Wallace’s negative comments about the pic and its accuracy. And they will probably also call the N.Y. Observer’s Jim Rutenberg, whose column claimed Michael Eisner was “sorry we ever made the … thing.” Mann tells me “the volume of the (’60 Minutes’) harangue about this film signifies the degree of embarrassment about their actions during the (Jeffrey) Wigand incident.” He further says he and Wigand were “available to argue it out with Hewitt and Wallace on National Public Radio with Michael Krasny. Hewitt and Wallace declined.” I asked Hewitt howcum — he said he’d never been asked to be on the show. Kingsley also had “60 Minutes” alumnus Lowell Bergman contact me saying, “I never asked Mike Wallace to get me a job on ’60 Minutes II.’ Wallace offered, in February, to get my contract extended if I got him an ‘up-to-date’ script and an early screening, I told him that was impossible.” I called Wallace and his version is: “Lowell came to my home in late February or March to, what he said was, ‘bury the hatchet.’ I thought, he’d already buried the hatchet — in my head, but I agreed to talk to him. And he did ask about ‘working for ’60 Minutes II.’ I asked him wouldn’t he be embarrassed to be working 50 yards away from Don (Hewitt) and me? I did tell him if he could get me a copy of the script, and if it’s honest, ‘I’ll be with you 100%.’ ” Wallace says, “I never heard from him again.” All this withstanding, the pic is doing a weak $14.1 million. But Kinsley also predicts the pic will have legs. Of course it will — if PMK helps get it Oscar recognition. Good luck to all of the above.

WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST — the untold story. No, I’m not talking about HBO’s fascinating “RKO 281,” the making of “Citizen Kane,” which bows this weekend. I’m talking to Patte B. Barham whose mentor was Hearst and who is writing this untold story. Barham is the daughter of the late Dr. Frank Barham who was publisher of the L.A. Herald-Express 1911-1951. He was a close of friend of Hearst and the young Patte spent much of her childhood up at the Hearst Castle and later wrote for Hearst papers across the country. She says she knows the true story of the Thomas Ince murder on Hearst’s yacht Oneida — “And he (Hearst) did not do it!” Patte also wrote “Rasputin: The Man Behind the Myth” and “Marilyn: The Last Take” … And talking of Orson Welles, Holly Classics, which specializes in theatrical reissues of major pix, reports that Welles’ “The Third Man” and “Touch of Evil” are also doing very well in reissue. “Third Man” is playing to packed houses in Australia and Europe, and the restored “Touch of Evil” is also getting international successes in Italy, France, UK, Australia, and Mexico.

I AM PLEASED TO REPORT a happy conversation with Walter Matthau, who is finally recuped after a four-month siege with pneumonia. He has looped his lines in “Hanging Up” for/with director Diane Keaton. In the pic, Walter is father to daughters Keaton, Meg Ryan and Lisa Kudrow. Meanwhile, Matthau’s son Charlie is readying to direct Little Creek’s “Home Made,” a romantic comedy by Joan McCormick-Cooper for producer Anita Haeggstrom. I asked Charlie if his dad would be in it? He laughed “I can’t afford him.” … Liza Minnelli will duet with her mom Judy Garland when Liza bows Dec. 1 at the Palace in “Minnelli on Minnelli.” Jack Haley Jr. has completed the clips (from 10 pix) for her “live” show. She duets (a la Natalie and Nat King Cole) with Garland on one song, “Look for the Silver Lining” from “Til the Clouds Roll By,” which boasted an all-star MGM cast — including Frank Sinatra singing, “Old Man River”! … Jerry Seinfeld films his next American Express commercial in N.Y. on Wednesday and Thursday … Robert Klein, who says he’s turned down sitcom series all his life, says he’s now ready for one after the happy experience guesting on the Kevin James “The King of Queens” in which he appears Nov. 29. It’s his second happy outing with producer Michael J. Weithorn. He’ll also do another special for HBO early next year. His first in 1975 was to an audience of 200,000 subscribers — now there are 23 million. “I’d like to feel I was partially responsible,” he laughs. He’ll also be seen on the bigscreen in “Labor Pains” with Kyra Sedgwick and Mary Tyler Moore as his wife … The Air Force Assn. presents its National Distinguished Service Award to Jack Valenti at a black tie toasting tonight at the Bev Hilton