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Kanin, Spielberg await graduation

GOOD MORNING: No one could be more pleased about an upcoming writing assignment than Fay Kanin. She will deliver the commencement address Friday to grads of Cal State U. at Long Beach College of Fine Arts. Kanin, as past president of the Motion Picture Academy, an Oscar nominee and Emmy winner, told me she is “particularly proud to have this assignment” because one of the grads will be Steven Spielberg, who will receive his degree in film and electronic arts. Her relationship with Spielberg dates back to the 13th Winter Olympics at Lake Placid where they and Bob Wise were asked by the Olympic Committee to select movies to be shown to athletes at the Olympic Village. The filmmaking trio received Olympic medals for this work. “I often wear my medal,” Kanin told me, “and when people ask me what I got it for, I answer, ‘pole vaulting.’ ” By the way, Kanin does not plan to give Spielberg any mention (special or otherwise) in her commencement remarks. Spielberg, attired in traditional cap and gown, will march up to the presentation stand, present his ID card and receive his diploma along with the other grads, Dean Don Para told me. Spielberg attended Long Beach for three years and had less than a half-year left, the dean told me. Three years ago, he notified the school he wanted to complete the requirements for his degree. He enrolled a year and a half ago. A faculty board of review studied his portfolio to determine the equivalent of his experience to the academic. He met with faculty members and agreed to “write some papers. But,” the dean assured me, “there never was any hesitation on his part to fulfill the requirement asked by the faculty.” He had only one request — he wanted to sit with the other 450 grads. And he will. And there’ll be no special mention of his presence. But Spielberg received plenty of praise Monday, when he received an honorary doctorate of humane letters at Yale — where the Yale band struck up the theme from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” In between these educational appearances, Steven’s busy working on final marketing memos for “Minority Report,” bowing in a couple of weeks, and editing “Catch Me If You Can” for year-end release.

ROBERT EVANS HEADS TO N.Y. next week for Simon & Schuster confabs on the sequel to “The Kid Stays in the Picture.” It’s titled “The Fat Lady Sings” and starts with his “brain attack” on May 6, 1988, when he says he arrived at the hospital as a “D.O.A.” and the last thing he remembered hearing was Ella Fitzgerald singing “It’s a Wonderful World.” Evans deteriorated to total paralysis — he’s now 95% cured, he says. Evans also is repping a Sidney Korshak biopic, “Power.” Korshak was Evans’ attorney for 40 years. But he represented power organizations — 40 companies on the N.Y. Stock Exchange and others whose recognition was secret. “And he never even got a ticket for jaywalking,” reminds Evans … Rodney Dangerfield, who suffered a mild heart attack in December after celebrating his 80th birthday on Jay Leno’s show, has bounced back and completed a film, “Back by Midnight.” He co-wrote with Harry Basil. Joe Merhi is exec producer and director. Appearing in the film are Kirstie Alley, Randy Quaid, Paul Rodriguez, Ed Begley Jr. and Nell Carter. He tells me WB wants this film as well as “Caddyshack 3” and “The Fourth Tenor.” He’ll appear live at the Grove of Anaheim June 7 … The American Heart Assn. will honor Rodney with a special award July 27 at the BevHilton. And he’s signed on to public service announcements for ’em. Dangerfield also is completing his autobiog, “It’s Not Easy Being Me,” for HarperCollins … And the tune he sang (and wrote with Billy Tragesser) and recorded, “I Spent My Birthday in Las Vegas,” will be the official song of the annual Las Vegas Comedy Festival, Sept. 4-8.

LOCAL PRESENTERS IN SWEDEN and Belgium urged viewers not to cast votes for the Israeli entry, Sarit Haddad, in the Eurovision Song Contest. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, is incensed at their actions. Meanwhile, in France, Haddad received 10 out of a maximum 12 from French voters … Pianist Mona Golabek, hostess of the nationally syndicated radio program “The Romantic Hours,” will read from her autobiographical “The Children of Willesden Lane” (Warner Books) Thursday at the American Academy for Dance & Kindred Arts in Santa Monica. The book, co-authored by Lee Cohen, tells the heart-wrenching story of Golabek’s mom and other children who were part of the Kindertransport — Jewish children who were saved from the Nazi war machine by their gallant parents, who sent them off to England — never to see them again. This powerful story is intertwined with the music of Mona’s mother, which helped raise the spirits of the saddened children. And a reminder to always be aware of hatemongers. Golabek will read portions of her book — and also play the piano … John Meroney has received a “significant” six-figure fee from Little, Brown — in an auction with four other publishing houses — for the book about Ronald Reagan’s career as a labor chief-movie star. It’s based on the (lengthy) article “Rehearsals for a Lead Role,” which Meroney wrote last year for the Washington Post. The book begins with Reagan at 26 and ends before his California gubernatorial ascension. It’s a terrif story, and one of the players was — Hugh Hefner.

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