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Luft dances around Oscar auction inquiries

GOOD MORNING: The plot thickens. This would make for a mini-series, or mebbe an entire season’s dramatic series, titled “Who REALLY Has Judy Garland’s Oscar?” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences apparently didn’t believe Sid Luft when he told me (June 6) “I am innocent — I do not have Judy Garland’s Oscar — the original or the replacement.” (The latter’s in Lorna Luft’s bank vault where she says it will remain). So the Acad’s law firm rep (a private eye) plus an appraiser met with Sid Luft in person at the Bank of America in Century City to identify people involved in the sale of the Oscar, namely Luft and memorabilia dealer Marcia Tysseling of Star Wares. The Acad says Luft was there because he thought he had a buyer to pay more than $1 million for the statuette. The Acad’s attorney Joel Thvedt says the appraiser verified the Oscar and Luft and Tysseling were served with temporary restraining orders to prevent the sale … The only problem is that Luft says he didn’t bring any Oscar to the meeting — he didn’t know of Tysseling until that meeting and that he didn’t have any Oscar. So what did you bring, Sid? “I can’t tell you — but I will when the time is ripe.” So why were you there, Sid? “I was told I was to meet a heavy profile director and heavy producer.” In the bank? And what did you bring with you? “I will tell at the next court hearing.” But Thvedt, of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, in support of its order to show cause of preliminary injunction against Luft (and Nate Saunders of Nate’s Autographs) filed a declaration from Jerome Adamo, the private investigator at the Thursday meeting in the Bank of America. It states in part that Luft, there with an associate, “John,” showed him and an appraiser, Richard Ruskin, a half-sized “Oscar” statuette awarded to Judy Garland. “Also offered for sale were 1948 and 1949 high school yearbooks signed by James Dean, a full suit of clothing worn by James Stewart in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,’ an ‘Oscar’ statuette presented for the movie ‘Dodsworth,’ and a prototype of the hat worn by the Wicked Witch of the West in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ ” The declaration further states that the (certified) appraiser “examined the Garland ‘Oscar’ for approximately three to four minutes. After he examined the ‘Oscar’ he stated that it to the best of his knowledge it was genuine.” Following this “act,” investigator Adamo said, ” ‘I am here under false pretenses.’ I said I was there on behalf of the Academy and I handed to Luft, in an envelope, a temporary restraining order and order to show cause.” He ditto’d to Tysseling. Adamo also states “Luft demanded to know who I was. … When I identified myself as an employee of 7-W Investigations and Diamond Management and a private investigator, Luft told me to ‘shove the papers up my ass.’ ” All parties will have it out Sept. 13 in Dept. 85, Superior Court, when Luft may say what else he had in that bag. And, oh yes, Luft says he may sue the Academy for “abusive process.” I don’t think we’ll see this story on “The Practice.” Or will we, David E. Kelley?

IT’S RARE THAT BILLY WILDER will comment — positively — on any of his films, but maybe he’s mellowing — at the age of 94. Frank Darabont arranged for a screening Friday for Wilder of his “Sunset Boulevard ” on its 50th anni. Paramount struck a new print and the Egyptian donated the theater for the screening. Billy told me he thought it was very good — “for 50 years ago.” But I started reciting some of his choice lines — and he quickly picked up with Gloria Swanson’s classic: “I AM big, it’s the pictures that got small! We didn’t need dialogue, we had faces.” “Stalag 17″ used to be Darabont’s favorite Wilder pic, but after seeing ‘Sunset Blvd.” again, he admits, “I may have to revise that now!” Wilder doesn’t get out much these days, but will accept Cameron Crowe’s invite to see his autobiographical pic “Almost Famous.” Crowe, you recall, also authored “Conversations With Wilder” … “I owe a lot to you,” docu producer Ron Frank flatteringly informed me. It seems, back on April 29, 1999, I noted here that Hollywood Bowl Orchestra principal conductor John Mauceri would world premiere Kurt Weill’s “Eternal Road,” about the coming of the Holocaust in Chemnitz, Germany, when he discovered that city had its own Krystalnacht, Nov. 9, 1938, the same night as in Berlin. There were 3,000 Jews living there before the war, 30 after — and no synagogue. His concert would raise funds for a new temple. Producer Frank’s family had escaped from Chemnitz — and were among those invited back by the city’s mayor for the memorable Weill concert by Mauceri. Frank decided to film a docu showing not only the premiere, but the story of those survivors who returned to see it and the city they had left behind more than 60 years earlier. He found home movies of those early days in an attic. Docu is a combined story of their return and that of Weill, also an exile. The docu, “The Eternal Road: Encounter With the Past” airs on PBS, debuting Oct. 5 on WNET New York. But first, a special screening Sept. 25 at the German Information Center, across from the U.N. … On another note, Jerry Vale will grand marshal the traditional Feast of St. Gennaro Procession Sept. 19 in N.Y.’s Little Italy. Vale’s real name is Genaro Vitaliano. And you can find out more about Vale’s 50 years in showbiz in his book, “Jerry Vale, A Singer’s Life.”

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