GOOD MORNING:“I’ll never be prouder of an introduction for the rest of my life,” an emotional Bill Clinton said after he was brought on to the Century Plaza Hotel’s stage by 18-year-old surfer Charlie McDowell. The youngster, son of Mary Steenburgen and first husband Malcolm McDowell, followed Ted Danson’s daughters, Kate and Katrina, to the podium where the former president was honored by the American Oceans Campaign, founded by Danson. Clinton’s speech Tuesday night was one for the books. Without any script or notes, Clinton informed, enthralled and challenged the packed ballroom for 45 minutes. First he asked: “If on Sept. 10, you were asked, what would you characterize as the dominant characteristics of this millennium? Characteristics like the global economy, explosion of technology, (from 50 to 350 MILLION Web sites), the explosion of democracies around the world, the advances in science –?” He continued by describing the present and future world we live in, warning that Osama bin Laden is “a worthy adversary.” The former president referred to “the senator from N.Y. as my designated worrier.” He went on to assure the audience: “This country is going to be fine. Terror has not and will not persevere. They cannot win unless we give them permission.” Clinton received an ovation like the ones he got when running for president. And when told, “We miss you as president,” he replied, “I miss it, too.” Clinton told me he is hard at work on his book. Talking of autobios, he said he had Quincy Jones’ in galleys. The former president will be seen in PBS’ “American Masters’ Tribute to Q,” which preems Nov. 18. “There have been lots of moments over the last several years when he has offered me support that was more than political.” Clinton called Jones “an anchor” during “his most troubling times.” … The American Oceans Campaign evening raised $600,000. The evening was underwritten by Ermenegildo Zegna and Richard Cohen, president of Zegna USA. The company said that it will adopt a family devastated by the tragedy of Sept. 11. Danson crisscrossed the ballroom throughout, thanking all for coming. Keith Addis chaired the evening.
LES MOONVES WINGED OUT FOR N.Y.immediately after the AOC evening. He and wife Nancy co-chaired with Ted Turner. But Moonves assured he’d be back for the Emmys on Sunday. Meanwhile, the show remains “in limbo.” The bottom line is — stay loose, everything can change tomorrow. The usually three-hour run-through Wednesday was over in an hour … At my table at the AOC event, “West Wing” regulars Dule Hill and Janel Moloney assured me they’d be at the Emmys. Their show received 18 noms and has already won four technicals. Following Wednesday night’s show, which was quickly completed earlier this week and focuses on a security shutdown in the White House, the regular storylines continue next week. Danson and Steenburgen, however, said they won’t be at the Emmys: It’s their sixth wedding anni, which they plan to celebrate on the water — a lake in Yellowstone. After all, they met on a canoe! … Also at the AOC dinner, Sylvester Stallone, with expectant wife Jennifer, said he’s sorry he didn’t get involved in TV production years ago. In addition to “The Priest” project at CBS and his NASCAR project at NBC, he’ll meet next week with ABC on a show tentatively titled “Closed Cases” … Also Tuesday night, at CAA, Tom Hanks hosted a private industry screening of “We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company,” the companion docu for the HBO series “Band of Brothers.” Hanks exec produced and Mark Cowen directed the film, which airs Nov. 11 immediately following the final episode of “Brothers.” It contains interviews with the surviving (and inspirational) vets of Easy Company. At the finale, Hanks led the ovation for Cowen and the docu team.
THE HEARTBREAKING STORIES of the WTC disaster are never-ending: One of those who perished was an engineer for PBS who was repairing the antenna atop one of the towers … The town was saddened by the death of Briant Wells, 35, actor-producer son of Luane and (the late) Frank Wells. Services were held Tuesday at the Church of the Hills at Forest Lawn in Burbank. Among those paying respects were Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Bob Daly, Saul Turteltaub and Garry Marshall. The Troubadours, with whom Briant often performed at the Falcon Theater, sang a song in tribute … Tom Selleck decided to drive back to L.A. from N.Y. as “A Thousand Clowns” closed. He rented a motorhome for the trek … … On a happier note, Elissa Spivak and Scott Marshall will wed Sunday at the Casa del Mar in Santa Monica. The bride was assistant music supervisor on “The Princess Diaries,” the groom, a second unit director on the pic, which was directed by Garry Marshall. The bride’s dad owns the Grill in BevHills. And talking of “The Princess Diaries,” Garry is working with Disney on the sequel and also reading the legit “Happy Days, The Musical” … Ray Romano will host the Oct. 8 Children Affected by AIDS Foundation Celeb Golf Classic at the Lost Canyons Golf Club in Simi Valley. Players include Kevin James, Richard Kind, Richard Karn, Christopher Guest, Patrick Warburton, Brad Garrett, Dweezil Zappa and Meatloaf … and Mavis Leno and Ed Begley Jr. co-chair the L.A. Commission on Assaults Against Women Oct. 5 at the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica. Eve Ensler, author-producer of “The Vagina Monologues,” will be honored.