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Goldberg returns to host Oscars

GOOD MORNING: Whoopi Goldberg will host the 74th Academy Awards — her fourth hostint in a decade. Producer Laura Ziskin told me she is beyond happy that Whoopi has agreed to take on the tough job. Especially this year. “Whoopi has such warmth and humanity,” Ziskin reminded, illustrating with Goldberg’s recent stint at the Mark Twain Awards in D.C. Whoopi is not expected to don examples of the nominated costumes, as on a previous Oscar outing. But one never does know, does one? … The family that plays together stays together. Director Steven Soderbergh segued from WB’s “Ocean’s Eleven” to the (much) lower-budgeted Miramax “Full Frontal.” But Julia Roberts followed her “Ocean’s” role with an appearance in his short-skedded “Full.” Further, Soderbergh’s producer on “Ocean’s,” Jerry Weintraub, makes an appearance in “Full,” playing a magazine owner who fires David Hyde-Pierce. In addition, with “Ocean’s” star George Clooney taking directing reins on “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” (based on the life of “The Gong Show’s” Chuck Barris), Weintraub again dons makeup to play a role for Clooney. He plays the head of the ABC network. Weintraub should feel at home in the pic; he reminds, “Barris was a buddy of mine” … Liza Minnelli has asked Esther Williams to be matron of honor at her wedding March 16 at the Marble Collegiate Church in N.Y. When Williams expressed her joy at having been asked, I reminded her that Elizabeth Taylor had already been asked to be matron of honor. It didn’t deter Esther; she told me the five-month cast on her fractured ankle is due to be removed Friday. “And I’m going to wear silk shoes when I march her (Liza) down the aisle.” Williams will be prominent in an upcoming “History of Synchronized Swimming” video. One seg shows her teaching the Yale (male) team “how to swim pretty.” The 1958 seg was part of an “Omnibus” show, and is as glamorous as any of her MGM aquatics.

PICKFAIR ONCE AGAIN has Pia Zadora living in the main house–and her ex, Meshulam Riklis, is living in the guest house. Riklis says Pia has separated from husband Jonathan Kaufer and she has moved into the showplace house of Hollywood history, in which she and Riklis have an ownership agreement. She moved into the house “for better security,” says Riklis … Add Hollywood history: Kaurie MacMurray, daughter of June Haver and the late Fred MacMurray, married industry marketing exec Marc Gerver Dec. 28 at the Bel-Air Hotel. Bob Ahmanson walked the bride down the aisle; attendees included Ann Rutherford, Rhonda Fleming and Anne Jeffreys … Over at the Peninsula Hotel, Mildred and Sherwood Schwartz celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with a gala dinner party. Sherwood and his son, producer Lloyd, also were celebrating the completing of their “The Brady Bunch in the White House” for the Fox Network. They have another script ready for another telefeature. This one’s titled “The Brady Bunch Faces the Mob.” And Sherwood’s “Gilligan’s Island” is making its way to the feature world with both Universal and Jersey setting sail for the nonstop “Gilligan.” Sherwood started his showbiz career writing for Bob Hope’s radio show.

AMONG MY REMEMBRANCES from the past holiday season was one I won’t soon forget: Sean Connery doing a no-holds-barred dance backed by a rock choir group, part of the holiday entertainment David Foster had arranged at the home of Barbara and Marvin Davis. Connery voluntarily performed when it was announced Michael Bolton wasn’t able to make it. Connery was applauded by performers including Kenny G., Peter Connelly and Natalie Cole and a line of Rockettes in the grand hall of the Davis home. Guests included Barbra Streisand (who declined Foster’s invitation to sing), Quincy Jones, Zubin Mehta, Leslie Moonves, Sidney Poitier, Don Rickles, Bob Newhart, Anjelica Huston and Robert Graham, Sherry Lansing and Billy Friedkin, Brooke Shields, Candy Spelling, Richard Riordan, Mavis and Jay Leno, Suzanne Pleshette and Tom Poston, the Ed McMahons and the Kelsey Grammers. David Foster and wife Linda Thompson have written “Light the Fire,” which will be sung at the Olympics opening ceremonies. Foster and Carole Bayer Sager’s “The Prayer” will be sung at the closing ceremonies by Charlotte Church (15) and Josh Groban (20) … Ann-Margret, Grammy-nominated for her “God Is Love: The Gospel Sessions,” is extending her 20-month “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” tour … And George Hamilton is extending his B’way bow, as Billy Flynn in “Chicago” at N.Y.’s Shubert, and will play through Feb. 17. He has two films going into release: Woody Allen’s “The Hollywood Ending” and “Offkey” with Danny Aiello and Joe Mantegna … Salomon Smith Barney has agreed to host the Junior Philharmonic Orchestra’s 65th-anniversary concert spectacular May 1 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Dr. Ernst Katz is celebrating his 65th year at the podium … Don Taffner, chairman of DLT Entertainment, receives his OBE (Order of the British Empire) Jan. 17 at the British Embassy in D.C. for his contributions to British film and TV in the U.S.

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