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Remembering the Oscars

GOOD MORNING after: At 11:45 a.m. Monday, from 250 miles in space and traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, the space station Alpha was on the phone to Gil Cates in L.A. — I kid you not. They wanted to know how their opening seg on the Oscars went over! Of course, Cates gave ’em a rave, which they deserved. Oscar’s producer chatted with ship’s captain Uri Usechev, as well as Jim Voss and Susan Helms — who of course wanted to know how her hair looked! NASA’s Dan Goldin and Courtney Staad were at the Shrine, so they can also give the astronauts a thumbs-up for their performances. Further, the next shuttle heading up to the space station will bring a DVD copy of the Oscar show so they can see it for themselves. The phoner was arranged through Houston to L.A., and the phone conversation — which required a four-second interruption between q’s and a’s, because of the space/pace differential — is one Cates won’t soon forget … Remembering the Oscar show: Tom Cruise’s appearance as best-director presenter was kept such a surprise that even members of the production staff were ignorant of his planned appearance. He didn’t come to any rehearsals and the script was written so that another star could be called in should Cruise not show. He arrived tie-less and on time and made as fast a departure, not having to discuss anything personal with the enormous press corps. He had completed “Vanilla Sky” only last week. Cameron Crowe, who directed, and won the Oscar for “Almost Famous,” says he’ll now take pen in hand again rather than take a directing assignment … And while Julia Roberts, Oscar in hand, segues from “America’s Sweethearts” to start “Ocean’s Eleven” in Vegas today, Benjamin Bratt will be apart from her as he starts “Abandon” in Canada for Oscar-winning “Traffic” scripter Stephen Gaghan who will now direct. Bratt told me he’ll play an alcoholic detective … “Traffic’s” Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh, helming “Ocean’s Eleven,” winged to Las Vegas midnight Sunday to start work at 6 ayem Monday with some of the pic’s male principals, George Clooney, Carl Reiner and Elliott Gould.

DREAMWORKS DID INDEED have an Oscar party, although “a party” was not formally planned to follow its pre-Oscar celebration Saturday night at Spago. But the DreamWorks team was alerted that, should there be wins (“Gladiator,” natch), a “toasting” would be held at Dominick’s. Jeffrey Katzenberg had reminded me that when “Saving Private Ryan” was expected to be a winner, a large party was prepped, but “Shakespeare in Love” won out. This year, as we all found out at the finale, it turned out to be a cause for celebration. DreamWorks party cohosts were Steven Spielberg (who watched the Oscars at home), David Geffen and Katzenberg. Steven was dressed informally, and Geffen in white T-shirt. Russell Crowe was on hand with his mother, Ridley Scott and his “good luck charm,” the gorgeous Giannina Facio (who is in his “Black Hawk Down”), “Gladiator” producers Douglas Wick (and his wife Lucy Fisher) and David Franzoni, Djimon Hounsou, well as other “Gladiator” winners, Janty Yates (costume) and her husband Tony Dixon, and John Nelson (visual effects); also Jeff Bridges (DreamWorks’ “Contender” supporting actor nominee), Cameron Crowe “(Almost Famous”) and wife Nancy Wilson, and DreamWorks’ Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. The small party grew to over 100 … Some added notes from talks on the Red Carpet: Kate Hudson and her mom Goldie Hawn, independent of one another, told me they had no thoughts of doing a film together — “Not for now” … Tatum O’Neal, back on the Hollywood scene, said she’s definitely resuming her career … And Yo-Yo Ma, carrying his cello and case on his back, told me, “This way, I’ll never leave it in a taxi again.” By the way, he calls his cello, “Petunia.”

OSCAR REMINISCENCES at the funeral of Ann Sothern, Friday at Our Lady of the Snows Church in Ketchum: Sothern, who had been a resident since 1984 and a regular at Sun Valley in the ’40s with regulars like Claudette Colbert, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper. Sothern was Oscar-nominated for “The Whales of August” (1987). “Whales” producer Mike Kaplan eulogized her at the service. He’s planning to complete his Sothern docu, “The Sharpest Girl in Town,” this year. Sothern sang and danced Oscar-winning numbers; in 1941 she introduced best-song winner “The Last Time I Saw Paris” and danced with Maurice Chevalier in “Follies Bergere” … Tonight, Cameron Diaz presents Tom Rothman with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the 17th Israel Film Festival — at the Egyptian theater! Arnon Milchan chairs. Cameron starred in the hit “There’s Something About Mary,” which Tom oversaw when he headed 20th production. (He’s now chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment along with Jim Gianopulos.) Ephraim Kishon will receive the fest’s Lifetime Visionary nod; he was nominated for an Oscar in 1963 for “Sallah” as foreign-language film … Also tonight, Tom Hayden holds a fundraiser at the Sportsmen’s Lodge for his campaign (candidate for L.A.’s City Council Fifth District), at which he claims to have a platform to keep industry here. Could be a conflict of interest, he says; his wife, actress Barbara Williams, is Canadian. Among those attending, says Hayden, will be old campaigning pals Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand and Jim Brolin, etc.

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