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Acad to break in Oscar’s new home

GOOD MORNING: Although Oscar doesn’t move into its new home (theater) on Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue until 2002, the Academy will put on a “a gala musical show celebrating the history of the Academy and Hollywood” in that theater, probably in fall 2001. It will be the first show ever to emanate from that site and will be televised — it’s a safe bet that ABC will be invited to air ($$$) in advance of the following year’s Oscars. That’s the plan Academy president Bob Rehme unveiled to me Monday at the lunch for this year’s nominees. He’s checked out the progress — from the top of the El Capitan building across the street –of the new building, owned by TriZecHawn, and says construction is on sked. The Acad leases the theater, just as it has done with the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Shrine. Oscar also emanates from the Shrine next year. While the Acad utilizes 5,000 of the Shrine’s seats, the new theater will have a capacity of 3,400, but no seats will be taken up for cameras, sound or lighting equipment; they are all in the construction plans, walls, ceilings, floors, etc. … Bruce Vilanch, head writer on this year’s awards, was at Monday’s lunch and sporting one of his unique T-shirts, this one emblazoned with a response to presenters when they send him their (creative?) revisions to his script: “Is THAT your final answer?”

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is family,” said nominee Tom Cruise, who has been graciously prominent at the award shows, commuting among ’em to Australia where wife Nicole Kidman works in “Moulin Rouge.” (She’s OK; her fractured ribs are healed). She will wing here to be at Tom’s side March 26 at the Oscars. Cruise is also busy, when not in a plane, on post-production on “Mission: Impossible 2” … Kevin Spacey, winner of Sunday night’s SAG Award and another pleasantly outgoing and appreciative Oscar nominee, told me he still hopes to play Bobby Darin, and to sing in his style. Spacey would take off six months and devote it strictly to vocal training a la Darin. He wouldn’t do the film unless he did the singing, he specified. Spacey said he’d like to meet Darin’s son Dodd. But when I’ve spoken with Dodd and Bobby’s longtime manager, friend, producer Steve Blauner, they have insisted they will eventually make the film and they would never allow anyone to imitate Bobby. Stay tuned … Although nominee Michael Clarke Duncan rushed in late to the luncheon due to lost house keys, he spent the early morning with Excite co-founder Joe Krause announcing Excite@Home’s@2000 — the new broadband service providing consumers with faster Internet access. Duncan and Krause hosted a media satellite tour explaining the high-speed connection … Elton John’s AIDS Foundation party will be available online on EltonJohn.com, where viewers will be invited to bid on some of his personal belongings to benefit the EJAF. More than 100 celebs reserved tix for Elton’s fourth party with InStyle Magazine … Nominee John Irving (“Cider House Rules”) admitted to me he hasn’t written the final chapter of his new novel — and is waiting until after the Oscars to do so! Nominee Alan Ball’s “American Beauty” shooting script (Esther Margolis’ Newmarket Press) is named the main selection of the Doubleday Stage & Screen Book Club and has just gone into its eighth printing. Ball autographs copies March 23 at the Virgin Megastore on the Sunset Strip… The Pat Longo orch will again perform at the Governors’ Ball at the Shrine after the awards … It was bound to happen: at Sunday’s Professional Dancers Society 14th annual Gypsy Awards, honoring Fred Astaire, Buddy Ebsen and Marge Champion at the BevHilton, a loud chorus of “boo’s” protested the elimination of dance numbers from the Oscar show this year. (Protest was brought up by chair Joni Berry and advisory board chair Bob Sidney). The theme was picked up by presenters Dick Van Dyke, Donald O’Connor, Carol Channing and Betty Garrett through the presentation which (of course) included film scenes of dance number classics. Fayard Nicholas’ two granddaughters (aged 12 and 14) danced in front of the screen to the same steps as their famed forbears on the screen in a classic MGM dance short … While Steven Spielberg was receiving the DGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and Sam Mendes was winning for “American Beauty,” at the Century Plaza, DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg was awarded with TVCares Ribbon of Hope at the TV Academy for his support of AIDS efforts. Fran Drescher presented to Katzenberg who then went on to enjoy the “Beauty” DGA win and a later DreamWorks celebration … For the SAG Awards’ post-party, Along Came Mary decked the halls, bars, buffets, ceiling of the Shrine — all in blue.

JACK VALENTI’S WIFE Mary Margaret suffered a heart attack Thursday and underwent angioplasty Monday at Washington Hospital Center. Jack tells me she is “doing fine” and is expected home Wednesday. The Valentis have been married 37 years and have three children. Doctors credit her speedy recovery to the fact she walks four miles every day and is in excellent physical condition … Walter Matthau is feeling much stronger; he and Carole dined at Ago’s with the Roberto Benignis Friday night. Matthau and Benigni teamed in an Italian film, “Il Piccolo Diavolo” (The Little Devil) in 1988.

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