Oprah’s AIDS spesh draws Clinton, Mandela

GOOD MORNING: Oprah Winfrey leaves for South Africa this week to ready her show for Monday’s World AIDS Day. She will feed back segments from South Africa over the weekend to be on the show. Also included in the special program will be interviews with Bill Clinton, who tells Oprah about his AIDS initiative and he hopes to save lives through his personal foundation. He tells her, “I think it’s just as rewarding as being president was.” Late in the show, Nelson Mandela invites Oprah to Cape Town, South Africa for a star-studded concert benefiting his 46664 AIDS Awareness campaign. 46664 was the number tattooed on his arm when he was imprisoned for 27 years. U2’s Bono will also concert for Oprah’s AIDS program. Three of Oprah’s viewers are being sent on an 11-day trip to South Africa. The trip highlights the setting of the latest Oprah Book Club selection, “Cry, the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton. Oprah has also written the foreword for cinematographer Gordon Clark’s magnificent photo book of Africa, “Transitions” — a far cry from his commercials for AT&T, Coca-Cola, etc. In the book, Winfrey says: “The first time I set foot on African soil, I knew I had returned home. It was a powerful experience coming back to the land of bones. It felt like a return to myself.” She continues, “A lot of African Americans live with the terminal question of ‘Who am I really?’ The answer resounded in my spirit with profound clarity the moment I saw an African child smile” … Sometime “near Christmas,” Oprah will air her “ChristmasKindness” show with footage from her trip to South Africa last year that shows her visits with thousands of children in orphanages, schools, etc The Orpah Winfrey Foundation, established in 1987 continues to expand her global humanitarian efforts. A big thank you to Oprah.

IF YOU WERE UPSET WHEN CBS nixed airing “The Reagans,” were you pleased when a trusted member of its news department said he’s “going to pass on the (Michael) Jackson story”? Bob Schieffer said, “Sorry, but it just makes me sick to my stomach” on Sunday’s “Face the Nation.” “I’m biased,” he admitted. ” I think Michael Jackson is a creep. I don’t want to know anything else about him, about his plastic surgery, about his unhappy childhood, of his friends. I don’t want to know. I don’t need to know anything else about him. Just tell me when the jury find him innocent or guilty.” On Monday, Schieffer admitted to me, “Every once in a while, I have to get something off my chest.” And as for l’affair Jackson, he said, “I don’t have the journalistic responsibility to keep it in the public eye.” He had not as yet received reaction from Jackson’s troops. You can sic ’em on me, Bob — I think he’s a creep, too.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, BRIAN GRAZER, Ron Howard and Jean-Michel Cousteau will be the first honorees at the Oceana Partners dinner Dec. 3 at the Century Plaza Hotel. It’s the first event held after the American Oceans Campaign, founded by Ted Danson in 1987, merged with Oceana. Danson tells me the new org is global with offices already in Chile, Spain and the U.S. It is focusing on the destruction of the ocean floors by the destructive trawling — huge claws that destroy the habitat of fish. “Sophisticated equipment can now go anywhere,” Danson tells me. They are also targeting cruise lines that dump garbage throughout the world. Danson is vehement in the current administration’s anti-regulation policies. “They’re undoing the work of presidents Reagan and Clinton. ” (Bill Clinton will be on hand at the dinner.) Danson and wife Mary Steenburgen are hefty supporters of Gen. Wesley Clark’s presidential campaign. Steenburgen’s mother and Clark’s mother worked in the same bank in Little Rock, Ark., and Steenburgen and Clark were in the same White House Fellowship Committee. The well-versed politically Danson says he has absolutely no political aspirations. “I like acting, and I like making people laugh.” He winds “Becker” (after 5½ years) taping Dec. 23 — and he’d like to do another series. Meanwhile, Mary is having a great time starring in “Joan of Arcadia” — shooting in Culver City.

AN EXUBERANT LORNA LUFT got word on her Ovation award at the Parker Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., where she’s performing in “Songs My Mother Taught Me.” The callers were Mitzie and Ken Welch who wrote the show that bowed at Feinstein’s in Hollywood back in May. Luft’s now talking a London stand. Among those who stopped by to catch her show and add congrats was Hal Prince, whose “Bounce” is in the air. And Barry Manilow also added his applause –his “Harmony” is temporarily off key. Manilow had intro’d Luft in her show’s debut in L.A … .Although “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” closed Sunday at the Belasco after only 30 regular performances, director Arthur Allan Seidelman tells me plans are afoot for other cities in the U.S. and it’s now playing in two cities in Germany with Tel Aviv coming up in January. The film is set to roll next year with Marc Platt and Larry Mark producing, Seidelman directing as he had on B’way and in L.A. The film’s casting is not yet set — but Shirley MacLaine caught it in N.Y. and went backstage to talk the show with Polly Bergen — who had to depart after neuropathy struck her. She is hospitalized in Danbury, Conn., reports Seidelman.

THE LAUGH FACTORY’S JAMIE MASADA again hosts free Thanksgiving Dinners “to struggling comics, actors and entertainers” … Nastassja Kinski received the Second Chance Humanitarian Award and $60,000 was raised at the event held at the home of Paul Coburn. Billy Friedkin, unable to attend, sent $5,000 to bolster the Second Chance charity … Mindy Sterling will act as auctioneer at the “Win A Date With an Angel” fundraiser for the L.A. Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Dec. 5 at the Shack in Santa Monica … “You were my grownup kids before I had kids,” Tom Bosley said to his “Happy Days” family of Erin Moran, Donny Most and Anson Williams at the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters lunch at the Sportsmen’s Lodge … Happy Thanksgiving!