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‘Kennedy Center Honors’ brings laughter, tears

GOOD MORNING: Neither of Monday’s court K.O. blows to Vice President Gore will affect remarks made by President Clinton — or any other participant — Sunday at the “Kennedy Center Honors,” when the two-hour show airs Dec. 27 on CBS. But, the President has yet to tape (next Sunday) “Christmas in Washington,” a one-hour TNT special to air Dec. 17. And on Saturday, President Clinton and wife, Senator-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton, will pretape a tour of the White House with the TNT show’s host Sarah Michelle Gellar (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and her boyfriend Freddie Prinze. Chuck Berry, one of the Kennedy Center honorees — and a favorite of Clinton’s — will sing (“Merry Christmas, Baby”) on the “Christmas in Washington” show plus performances by Jessica Simpson, Marc Anthony and Brian McKnight. Michael Stevens produces the latter show; his dad, George Stevens Jr., is exec producer — and produced the “Kennedy Center Honors” with Don Mischer; Louis J. Horvitz directed and Ian Fraser was musical director. Glen Weiss directs the TNT’er … Although Vice President Gore was absent from last weekend’s D.C. doings, Demo Vice Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman was on hand. At the finale of the “Honors” program, Secret Service men exited him from his fourth-row seat up to the stage and behind the curtains. The stage had been filled with the grand finale tribute to President Clinton, featuring a five-minute clip of his past attendances at the “Honors” during his Presidency. It included his (teary) reaction to Jessye Norman’s rendition of “Amazing Grace” to honoree Sidney Poitier, laughter at Steve Martin (who admitted his presence at the Honors is “just to suck up to the President”), and his emotional response to Bruce Springsteen singing “The Times They Are A-Changing.” How prophetic. The audience joined the stageful of performers in singing “Auld Lang Syne,” with many then adding “Four More Years!” This, too, will not be edited from the CBS special, nor will Clinton’s “Kennedy Center Honors” closer, “Let me say to you: This night, and every night before, has been a profound honor for Hillary and me. You may find people who do this night better in the future; you will never find anybody who loves it as much.” Today the Clintons will tape further scenes in the White House with producer Bruce Nash for the Dec. 15 Fox one-hour special, “The First Family’s Holiday Gift to America: A Personal Tour of the White House.” There’ll be plenty of tears on their White House departure.

THREAT OF A STRIKE is not stopping a March 1 start of Jim Carrey’s next, “Bijou” for Castle Rock/WB. Director Frank Darabont assures me the film will shoot in L.A. plus the Northern Calif. city of Ferndale. Carrey plays a Commie-accused, “unfriendly” screenwriter who suffers amnesia after a car crash. (Darabont assures us Carrey’s appearance will not be changed at all. “He’ll be the usual, handsome fellow that he is.”) It will be another $20 million fee for Carrey in the pic, whose $68 million budget will approximate Darabont’s last, “The Green Mile.” There will not be as much digital magic — except for some 1951 L.A. scenes, like Grauman’s Chinese, whose marquee will advertise “The African Queen” — and a film scripted by Jim Carrey’s screenwriter character. (Michael Sloane is the pic’s scripter). Darabont is high on his banner’s “Salton Sea,” directed by D.J. Caruso and starring Val Kilmer, which has been receiving “great” test screenings. Eric Gold, Carrey’s manager (along with Jim Miller), is celebrating a billion-$ world box office for four films of their clients: “Me, Myself and Irene,” “Scary Movie,” “Meet the Parents” and “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The Keenen, Shawn and Marlon Wayans “Scary Movie II” starts filming in Feb.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE, that is the question. The answer: not before summer. Monday, Mel Gibson, doing the press tour for “What Women Want” at the Four Seasons in L.A., took time out to lunch with friend Robert Downey Jr. They talked a teaming on a “live” “Hamlet” — but not before summer. Assuming, of course, that both are free … Cyd Charisse receives the first Nijinsky Award from Princess Caroline in Monaco, Dec. 15. This honor follows Charisse’s European trip, which will see her made an honorary member of the La Scala Corps, the Ballet in Milan, after being saluted on the Paulo Limiti TV show for her contributions to the world of dance … Olivia Newton-John, environmental ambassador to the U.N. and part of the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, receives the Environmental Media’s Award, Wednesday at Barker Hangar. Ermenegildo Zegna Jr. makes the presentation to Olivia … The Children of the World Choir and concert pianist Marrina Waks celebrate the bow of L.A. Music Week, Dec. 10 at the Wilshire United Methodist Church … Add children’s note: Lyrick Studios (home of “Barney”) last year intro’d Australia’s children’s entertainment group The Wiggles to the U.S. They’ve now topped the Amazon.com top video chart — with a 498% sales increase after a Nov. 27 appearance on NBC’s “Today” … Gary Owens’ son Dane Owens is teaming with Robert Marcarelli (who produced and directed the second-highest-grossing indie film, “The Omega Code” in 1999) for “Gabriel’s Gift.” Owens, winning producer of “Border to Border,” will produce, Marcarelli directs. Susan A. Simons at Irv Schecter brokered the deal.

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