Haber writes from the heart

GOOD MORNING: It is unlike anything you read in the papers. It is Bill Haber’s experience in West Darfur, the Sudan, East Africa, as he experienced. He describes it painfully in his latest Save the Children Newsletter. Haber, a founding member of CAA and now a B’way producer, writes of the indignities of man that must be dealt with. Get a copy of Haber’s letter — and do something … Between his treks for the Save the Children fund, Haber’s readying “Democracy” which opens on B’way Nov. 18 and “Monty Python’s Spamalot” which bows in Chi Dec. 21 and B’way at the Shubert, March 17 … Mark Schoenfeld who wrote the book, music and lyrics of the upcoming “Brooklyn” musical (at the Plymouth, Oct. 21), was homeless when spotted by Jeff Calhoun — in front of the monkey compound at the Central Park Zoo. Director Caldwell tells me Schoenfeld described his musical’s idea and, on the spot, gave him money and signed him. Caldwell says Barri McPherson took in Schoenfeld, where he slept on a couch. They teamed to complete the play and Caldwell decided to produce as well — and invested part of the $6.75 million budget of the show. “It took me 28 years to add another credit to my resume,” says Caldwell. His “Big River” is now touring in Japan and a second unit is being readied. It will return to L.A. Jan. 1-23, this time at the Ahmanson. It played the Music Center’s Mark Taper Forum after its bow at the Deaf West Theater.

THE MEALS ON WHEELS Program of L.A. benefits to the tune of $900,000 from a three-day event, winding Sunday night at Spago. Wolfgang Puck, joined by chefs Lee Hefter, Nobu Matsuhisa, Daniel Boulud, Mario Batali, Rick Tramonto, Florian Bellanger and Sherry Yard cooked up a spectacular menu. It was followed by an auction handled by Robin Leach in which Puck and Matsuhisa agreed to team to create a dinner for 20 — the bid went to $34,500 and with two bidding, the duo agreed to cook it up twice. Barbara Lazarus and Wolfgang Puck’s Foundation originated the American Wine and Food Festival for Meals on Wheels five years ago … And over in West Hollywood, Dan Tana celebrated the 40th anniversary of his eatery, with all proceeds going to the Motion Picture and Television Fund. Casey and Laura Wasserman (they expect their second child in March), seated in the booth so often occupied by Lew and Edie Wasserman, were regaled by Tana, who recalled how he started the place with $30,000 and offered a half interest to Sidney Beckerman. He turned it down. Tana to Beckerman (standing nearby): “You lost $15 million!” He also asked Joe DiMaggio to partner, but Joe said, “I’ve already got one in San Francisco.” When debating what kind of eatery to open, Tana said he debated whether to open a Chinese or Italian restaurant. He certainly chose well. Among guests: Kathy and Rick Hilton — she was exuberant about having completed taping (in N.Y.) of “The Good Life” hourlong series to bow on NBC. Also on hand were Tana’s long-time friend (and fellow Yugoslavian) Karl Malden, Mace Neufeld (he and Diane Conn are talking the wedding), Jerry Weintraub talking “Ocean’s 12” (– and another?), Jerry Buss talking the new season, and regulars including Jack Carter, Jimmy Woods, the Frank Mancusos and Ed Begley Jr. Tana’s maitre d’, Craig Susser, came to the party from work that day as an actor — on “The Bold and The Beautiful.”

DREAMWORKS ANIMATION and BAFTA teamed for a special “Shark Tale” family screening Saturday at Harmony Gold where guests included children from a homeless shelter in South L.A. The outing post screening (and screams of joy!) included a “fishified” demonstration with Vicky Jenson, one of the pic’s directors who told of the five-year process in getting the film to screen. And Patrick Mate, one of the character designers, showed his skills in drawing “fishy” characters from three young models in the audience. Katherine Haber of BAFTA’s board of directors moderated the Q&A session in which youngsters demonstrated their knowledge and keen appreciation of the making of pic — a tribute to all involved in its creation … Last week it was the Academy in BevHills where George Stevens’ centennial was celebrated and tonight at the Lighthouse the N.Y., the Acad pays tribute to David Brown’s “In Pursuit of the Great Story.” Those on hand to give tributes to Stevens were: Warren Beatty, Sidney Poitier, David Mamet, Steven Spielberg (who intro’d a clip from “Diary of Anne Frank”), Michael Mann, Larry Gelbart and George Stevens Jr. Diane Baker and Millie Perkins, who were in “Anne Frank,” were on hand as was Jane Withers who was in “Giant,” and Pat Boone who was in “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” Larry Gelbart who never met Stevens, revealed he was influenced by his comedies and dramas, “his unfailing sense of humanity being the common thread that linked such widely diverse styles as ‘Talk of the Town’ with Cary Grant, Jean Arthur and Ronald Coleman and ‘A Place in the Sun’ with Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift and Shelley Winters” … And among those who toast David Brown tonight: Morgan Freeman, Ron Howard, Peter Benchley, Robert Benton, Arthur Penn and Helen Gurley Brown. David promises that Helen, his wife of 45 years, “will destroy me — because she knows everything about me.” David insists “I’m too young to have a tribute.” He’s 88 and readying a program of features, and, for B’way, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” extended to Nov. 7 in San Diego and coming to B’way March 3 … Eric Braseden who stars as Victor Newman on “The Young and the Restless,” for 24 years, dined at the Viceroy in Santa Monica with Olympians Bart Conner and wife Nadia Comaneci who both happen to be huge Y&R” fans. We will miss Janet Leigh as will all in the biz. Always cheery and upbeat, she was a positive influence on and off screen and a longtime supporter of the Motion Picture and Television Fund. In lieu of flowers the family has requested donations be made to the fund.