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St. Jude’s gets a helping hand from ‘Chicago’ crowd

GOOD MORNING: It was a marriage that could only be made in Hollywood. Disney put up $250,000 to help launch the release of the DVD and video of “Chicago” Tuesday at the second annual Runway For Life benefit for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Even that amount didn’t cover the costs of the remarkable night at the BevHilton — so Rose (Mrs. Gilbert) Chagoury picked up the cost of the dinner for the overflow crowd. Not one cent from the evening’s costs came out of the funds raised for the charity … At the dinner, Carlos Peralta of Mexico, a business partner and close friend of Chagoury, donated $1 million, helping raise the night’s total take to $2 million-plus. It was a remarkable evening with a “live” show of dancers and models duplicating the on-screen scenes from “Chicago.” The runway lineup included pro models and celebs including Jennifer Aniston, Tyson Beckford, Cindy Crawford, Phil Donahue; Debbie Reynolds, daughter Carrie Fisher and granddaughter Billy Lourdes; Calista Flockhart, Deidre Hall, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Rachel Hunter, Allison Janney, Jane Kaczmarek, Lorna Luft, John Ritter, Ray Romano, Ryan Seacrest, Cybill Shepherd, Marlo Thomas, Gabrielle Union, Bradley Whitford and Amber Valletta. The event was, of course, headed by Marlo, Terre and Tony Thomas and Robert Ellis, who worked for months readying the show produced by Dan Kough. Ron Masack conducted a live auction at which Kimberley Carey paid $20,000 for a visit (for six) to Michael Jackson’s NeverLand — which she promptly donated to Elizabeth Labatto (4), a recovering patient of the brittle bone disease who’d been saved at St. Jude. She made it on stage with the help of a walker. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house — then or later, when footage of other St. Jude patients was shown … While the night was a huge success, Marlo reminded me that it takes $350 million a year to run the St. Jude hospital. Her infomercial, which runs during the year, raises $35 million.

LEW WASSERMAN WAS SMART ENOUGH, when he was at MCA as well as at Universal, to back both political parties — but he always remained under the radar of observation by all. I was reminded of Wasserman’s clever modus operandi by one of CAA’s valued clients who was incensed after reading Tuesday’s L.A. Times story headlined “Schwarzenegger is harnessing his talent agents and Hollywood contacts to raise funds and rally the electorate.” Of course, CAA immediately denied being “harnessed” by Arnold after discussion at Wednesday’s staff meeting (see story, page 1). CAA, meanwhile is no stranger to the ins and outs of the political arena; its public relations are managed by Wendy Smith who worked for/with Bill Clinton from New Hampshire through the White House. Clinton’s due in L.A. next week to add more fuel to Gov. Davis’ campaign to remain in office … Candidate Gary Coleman gets play in next week’s TV Guide. Arnold was covered back when he was coy about being a candidate. TV Guide gets its new look with the Sept. 8 Fall Preview edition. Editor in chief Mike Lafavore says the mag will have an expanded movie guide section, “and not so many long pieces, to jibe with the attention span of TV viewers.” TV Guide will take over two adjoining stages on The Lot (former WB Hollywood and Goldwyn Studios) for its Emmy party Sept. 21. It’s all a part of a $20 million effort to help intro the “new” TV Guide … Add a political note: Joe Namath hosts a fundraiser for Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Ben Chandler at the Bel-Air Country Club, Aug. 29.

LORNA LUFT IN “SONGS My Mother Taught Me” is a holdover at the Canon in BevHills through Sept. 21, after which she’s invited with the show to SanFran and London … Among those in to catch Luft were Nancy Reagan and Merv Griffin. Lorna gifted Nancy with a boxed set of mom Judy Garland’s DVD’s including a Garland NBC show that Ronald Reagan hosted in the ’50s … The next big all-celeb show will be the Sept. 6 gala for the Hole-In-The Wall Gang, which Paul Newman annually produces at Ashford, Conn. Wife Joanne Woodward is winding the season at the Westport Country Playhouse, where she’s artistic director. Richard Dreyfuss and Jill Clayburgh wind their stand in “All My Sons” and “The Streets of N.Y.” winds the season. The Playhouse then goes into a $30 million renovation, to reopen in ’05. A substitute venue will be sought for next year. Joanne will join Paul in the filmed “Empire Falls” but she insists “It’s small part — just to keep Paul company”… Robert Evans sez he’s headed to Paris next month when he’ll talk a script with Roman Polanski, who next directs “Hedda Gabler” on stage. “I always like to do some theater before doing a movie,” he laughed. “It’s good therapy for a filmmaker.” He’s completed DVD additions for his first three black-and-white films, “Knife in the Water,” “Repulsion” and “Cul-de-Sac” … Arthur Penn will be honored at the Savannah Film Festival in October with a tribute and retro. Also skedded to be toasted there: Anne & Kirk Douglas and yours truly … Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are not involved in any projects relating to the Robert Blake murder case … John Tracy (79), son of Spencer Tracy, is writing his autobiography. He recalls all from the age of 3 and just attended the reunion of the Tracy family at Boys Town in Omaha on the 65th anni of the film for which Spencer won an Oscar … I’m on vacation next week and will return Sept. 2.