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‘Producers’ thesps honor Tony winners

GOOD MORNING: Best kept secret of the Tonys: following Thursday night’s performance of “The Producers” at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, Jason Alexander and Martin Short pre-taped four versions of the winner of the best musical category. “And not only a winner,” laughed Alexander, “but we also taped a possible tie.” The nominees were “Hairspray,” “Movin’ Out,” “A Year With Frog and Toad,” and “Amour.” (The possible tie, it was thought, could have been between “Hairspray” and “Movin’ Out”). And, of course, “Hairspray” won. Brooks and Tonys producer Gary Smith cooked up the idea for the current leads of last year’s record-breaking Tony-winning show to make the long-distance (?) presentation. The audience at the Pantages cooperated fully to make the presentation seem “live.” Alexander admitted, “it was fun” … While leading actor winner Brian Dennehy was complimenting fellow category nominees, one of ’em, Paul Newman (“Our Town”), was winning his race at Lime Rock, Conn. – in the rain. He raced a GT One in the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) 40-minute Sprint race. While admittedly not owning a tux any more, Newman still has his racing duds. His next events are his annual visits to his Hole in the Wall Camps where this year he’ll welcome the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s founder William Austin who will fit kids who lose their hearing ( a common effect of chemotherapy) with the latest digital hearing aids. Austin’s “So the World May Hear” Award on Aug. 16 in Minneapolis will honor Marlee Matlin, Larry King and Arnold Palmer, benefiting the underprivileged with hearing aids.

HILLARY CLINTON HAS BEEN PLUGGING Harry Thomason’s upcoming feature, “The Hunting of the President” which bows at the Toronto Film Festival. She referred to “the hunting of the president” on her interview with Barbara Walters Sunday night, and in her “Living History” book. Bill and Hillary C. watched the Walters interview from their home at Chappaqua, N.Y. … Richard Gere, a Buddhist, is back from a visit to Israel on what the Jerusalem Post called “an exploratory trip to see how he can help advance peace in the region.” They also noted he arrived with the same El Al pilot who brought his mentor, the Dalai Lama, to Israel three years ago. Sept. 17-21, Gere’s Initiative Foundation is a sponsor of the Dalai Lama’s visit to New York which includes a talk in Central Park where 200,000 are expected, teachings at the Beacon Theater and an appearance at the Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Gere will be present, having completed filming ‘Shall We Dance,” three days earlier … At Wednesday’s AFI Conservatory commencement exercises, honorary degrees will be given to Ken Burns, Sherry Lansing and Richard Schickel. Barbara Kopple presents to Burns, Billy Friedkin to Lansing and Robert Towne to Schickel. It’s a busy week for the AFI with Thursday’s 31st Life Achievement Award night honoring Robert De Niro at the Kodak Theater. Add these participants to the already star-studded program: Sandra Bernhard, James Franco, Sean Penn, Meryl Streep, Robin Williams and James Woods.

TODAY IS THE 81ST ANNIVERSARY of Judy Garland’s birth. Her 50-year-old daughter Lorna Luft is readying her “Songs My Mother Taught Me” to bring to the Canon Theater in BevHills, bowing July 13. She’s enlarging the show that won her rave reviews at Feinstein’s in Hollywood. En route home from a weekend sold-out date at the Sun Coast in Las Vegas, Lorna told me the show’s producer, Susan Dietz, asked her to tell more stories “about me” and she’ll add one more song (with film clips) which will now also include an intermission. Dietz wants to take the show to N.Y. … Luft also continues to develop a TV feature based on “Candy Darling,” the beautiful Kim Novak-looking drag queen, made famous by Andy Warhol, who died at 26. “Darling’s” teaming Luft again with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron who produced her Emmy-winning “Life With Judy Garland: Me And My Shadows.” Zadan and Meron are readying to start taping the pilot starring Tony winner Harvey Fierstein as what they describe as “a blue collar mom.” No he won’t play it in drag a la “Hairspray” … And Judy Garland, A Portrait in Art & Anecdote” (Bullfinch Press/AOL Time Warner Book Group) ($50) hits the stalls in October — with a forward by Luft … Ralph Edwards celebrates his 90th birthday Friday. His fame includes “Truth Or Consequences,” “This is Your Life” “Name That Tune” and “The People’s Court.” … Chris McGurk, vice chairman and CEO of MGM, receives the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Syracuse U’s alumni club of So. Cal. Saturday. Previous recipients: Gil Cates, Jim Miller, Fred Silverman, Aaron Sorkin and Irma Kalish … Recipients of the Vision Awards 30th anni, Hollywood Cures Blindness gala June 28 at the BevHilton include Tom Hanks, Gregory Peck, Martin Scorsese, Chris McGurk, Avi Arad, Burt Bacharach, Gary LeMel, David Renzer, Howard Shore, Bob Costas, Caryn Mandabach, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. Yours truly again hosts.

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