Oscars eyeing Crystal glow

GOOD MORNING: Goodbye Emmy, Hello Oscar. And you can be sure of one thing about the 76th Academy Awards: They’ll have but one emcee. “Absolutely,” Oscar show producer Joe Roth assured me. “You’ve got to have a point of view.” And he’s talking to Billy Crystal to point up the humor in Oscar for his eighth time. Roth didn’t comment on the Emmys — he didn’t see them. He was winging back to L.A. from N.Y., where he’d shown Revolution’s upcoming fall and winter product: “Radio,” “The Missing” and “Mona Lisa’s Smile”… And lest you forget, the Oscars are early this season — Feb. 29, 2004 … Two-time Oscar-winning Moriah Films (docus “Genocide” and “Long Way Home”), will show the Simon Wiesenthal Center Film Division’s next contender, “Unlikely Heroes,” at the Hollywood Film Fest on Oct. 19. It’s been 2½ years in the making. … Meanwhile, Rabbi Marvin Hier tells me he’s been trying to get Mel Gibson to show him his “Passion.” In a letter to Gibson (and Paul Lauer), sent Aug. 13, Hier wrote: “My purpose in writing is to try to find a way to resolve the controversry surrounding ‘The Passion.’ For 20 centuries the false charges of deicide and collective guilt have been the core reasons for anti-Semitism, causing the death and persecution of millions of Jews. After learning that Mary of Agreda and Catherine Emmerich, whose works contain many anti-Semitic and blood-libel references, were important sources to your film, I decided to express my concerns publicly. Since then, the controversy has generated many calls and letters, again accusing us of being ‘Christ Killers.’ ” Hier has yet to get an invite to see the film, which has been seen by several religiosos chosen by Gibson. The latest was the Vatican’s Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, whose thumbs-up endorsement was reported Sept. 19 in Daily Variety … The Jewish High Holy Days services commence this Friday evening . At Hollywood’s Temple Shalom for the Arts, Rabbi David Baron has set as guest speakers Gerald Posner, author of the explosive bestseller “Why America Slept: The Full Story of 9/11” and former 20/20 co-anchor John Miller, now chief of counterterrorism for the LAPD. Highlights of the temple’s Yom Kippur DVD, featuring celeb readings, air on Hallmark TV’s Faith and Values Network on Oct. 5, the start of Yom Kippur.

THE HILLS (BEVERLY, THAT IS) were alive with the sounds of — comics last weekend. First, at the BevHills Hotel, the Improv’s Budd Friedman was roasted by the third annual Kayne-Era Celebrity Roast, hosted by Tom Arnold. A panel of younger comics managed to use a largely four-letter vocabulary to get laughs. It remained for the 84 years young Red Buttons to show ’em how not to do it: “Don’t mention my name,” he said, “I was not here — I was in the Century Plaza hotel — in the toilet.” To Norm Crosby, one of the veteran comics in the audience, Buttons said, “You’re lucky you’re deaf!” Other senior comedians seated but not performing included Jack Carter and Jan Murray. Those who did perform: Vinnie Favorito, Dom Irrera, Jimmy Pardo, Fritz Coleman, Bob Saget and Earthquake. Also an appearance (among the tables) by Bob Zmuda as “Tony Clifton” of Andy Kaufman fame. He managed to insult guests at table after table a la Clifton. Not funny. Earlier in the evening Arnold and Steve Tisch led an auction that helped raise $320,000. On Saturday, Friedman was at the Friars Club, where he introduced Monty Hall as his picture was set on the club’s Wall of Fame. The Friars also honored Norm Crosby that night, naming him “The Friars’ Official Permanent Toastmaster” following the example of Georgie Jessel and Milton Berle. The club’s Card Room was converted to the “Red Buttons/Sid Caesar Celebrity Room,” and a Tony Martin-Frank Sinatra Voice Room was also dedicated. Martin will be toasted at the club on his 90th birthday, Dec. 7 (his real birthday is Dec. 24). And Norm Crosby hosts the Branson, Mo., Arts Academy kudos Oct.27 in its Remington Theater.

BEN AFFLECK AND JENNIFER LOPEZ continue to baffle the naysayers as they showed up together the past three days in Savannah, Ga., where he (they) have a large home…The Playboy Mansion’s the site for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy’s 50th anni celebration Oct.4. A huge celeb crowd is expected — many to perform, others just to beautify — for a special to be taped for airing on A&E on Dec.7. Kevin Burns produces…The Larry Gelbert/Cy Coleman/Alan and Marilyn Bergman “Like Jazz” bows at the Taper on Dec.4. The “new kind of musical boasts five singers, one non-singer.” Gelbart’s “Sly Fox” revival, bowing on B’way, now boasts Elizabeth Berkley and Bob Dishy joining Richard Dreyfuss … Larry and Pat Gelbart became great-grandparents for the second time Sept. 11 when Sasha and Suzanne Gelbart welcomed son Balthazar Ulysees — just call him “Bodhi” … Richard Chamberlain, in Hawaii, tells me he’s “looking forward” to taking part in a discussion on “The Making of ‘Shogun'” following its screening Sept. 24 at the DGA. Jerry London, director of the 1980 12-hour NBC’er, reminds me the mini averaged a 60(!) share. He recalled that Orson Welles got a $50,000 fee — plus cigars — to narrate the original … Diane Schuur will join Steve March Torme at Saddleback College on Sept. 26 to sing Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” — she dittoes with him on it on his “The Essence of Love” CD … Cliff Robertson, who was called back for “Spider-Man 2” following his demise in the original, has also been called back for a third guestint on NBC’s “Lyon’s Den.” He says his role’s similar to the one he played opposite Robert Redford in “Three Days of the Condor” … Brian Dennehy, a former Marine, will narrate “American Valor,” a 90-minute doc for PBS about the history of the Medal of Honor. It airs Nov.11, Veterans’ Day. Norman Powell directs, Lionel Cheywynd scripted and both exec produced. Also on Veterans’ Day, Artisan Books releases “Medal of Honor. Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty.” Among those profiled in both the film and book is Medal of Honor recipient Col. Leo K. Thorsness, USAF-retired, with whom I spoke during a set visit on “The Hanoi Hilton” for which he served as technical advisor. He also served as technical advisor on “American Valor.”