Bad is better

GOOD MORNING: How much does an Oscar win mean — or even a nomination? We’ve been hearing Virginia Madsen tell how her professional – and personal — life has rebounded since her “Sideways” nod. So, when I was talking with Alan Alda (he said he gets his “West Wing” script today to learn about his political future as GOP presidential candidate) I asked, “Will the Oscar nomination (for ‘The Aviator’) help your chances of being a winner on the TV series?” He laughed and observed “It will be strictly an artistic decision.” But Alda noted the correlation between his two senatorial roles –he’s a senator in the pocket of Pan-Am who tries to destroy Howard Hughes in “The Aviator”; in “West Wing,” he’s tough, but “I am not corrupt.” “I’m in a position noting situations in two different periods of American history — and it’s so much fun playing the bad guy.” He segues from the “West Wing” season finale to a limited run on B’way in “Glengarry Glen Ross” then and back to this TV’er well as his “Scientific America” PBS series and a book tour for his (Random House) autobio, “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed.” Meanwhile, having turned 69 on Jan. 28, he says, “I’m as excited as Roberto Benigni was!”

AND TALKING ABOUT dogs, I arrived on “The Shaggy Dog” stage at Hollywood Center Studios and walked in with Tim Allen, who just had makeup applied to his arm indicating he’d been bitten by a bearded collie, Shaggy. The arm “bite” is minimum makeup for Tim, who had spent as much as four hours in previous outings as Santa Claus. Now, the magic of Stan Winston and post-production special CGI by Phil Tippett Studios take over to transform him into a dog. Allen let us know that he transforms into a dog when he and Robert Downey Jr. start barking (literally) at each other in a court scene. And when Tim’s in the men’s room, he lifts his leg like a dog — at the urinal … Allen was searching the dog pound set for the pooch that bit him. Amazingly, the 20 dogs in the pound scene responded perfectly to their cues, silent when told to be quiet and acted up otherwise … Allen, told me “The original ‘Shaggy’ in 1959 was one of my most memorable movies and I wrote this like ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ except Anthony Hopkins is played by a sheep dog.” Disney’s Nina Jacobson read Allen’s script and put it on the fast track … The spirit of a Disney film was evident on the set and director Brian Robbins was wearing a retro Mickey Mouse T-shirt given him by Michael Eisner. Robbins said this is the first film (ratings-wise) he has directed that his children will be able to see. Meanwhile, while Robbins is working with all these pooches, he can’t have one of his own — his children are allergic to dogs! … Producer David Hoberman, partner and exec producer Todd Lieberman (they start “Antarctica’ for Disney then “Swiss Family Robinson”), and exec producer William Fay were on the set observing the interplay between man (Allen) and beasts. Allen’s next film is “Zoom’s Academy” at Revolution. And they tell me the final scene of this “Shaggy Dog” “gives ’em an out for a sequel.

ROBERT WAGNER WAS with wife Jill St. John Wednesday afternoon as she was being moved from the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit back to her room. She’d undergone extensive surgery Tuesday on the multiple fractures of her pelvis and right hip, the results of a skiing accident last weekend in Aspen. He said everyone (at the hospital) was wonderful to her. Wagner was to have been partied by Jill Friday at Jimmy’s (he’ll be 75) … Philanthropist Bill Austin, who is no stranger to showbiz and who has brought hearing into the lives of thousands of underprivileged children around world, receives his star on the Palm Springs Walk of Fame, adjacent to the historic Plaza Theater, Feb. 25 with a reception to follow at Spencer’s … Daphna (Mrs. Richard ) Ziman, who has been the subject of many television interviews because of her philanthropic work, is now the host of “Inner Views” bowing Feb. 22 on cable in several Calif. Cities. She says her shows will bring “the truth about issues directly to the public without any political or corporate influence” … Agent Frank Rio (80), who had represented, at some time, Bob Hope, Sarah Vaughn, Johnny Mathis, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, died Feb. 3. Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at St. Cyril’s in Encino … Ann Sheridan’s 90th birthday will be celebrated as her ashes are deposited (38 years after her death) in a niche dedication at Hollywood Forever Cemetery Feb. 21, 2 p.m. Biographer Karen McHale spearheaded bringing Sheridan’s last wishes to fruition … And biographer Lisa Burks reminds that Oscar day, Feb. 27, is also the 100th birthday of Franchot Tone who was a nominee for “Mutiny on the Bounty” … The Women’s Cancer Fund’s Unforgettable Evening March 1 at the BevWilshire honors Lance Armstrong. Ellen DeGeneres hosts and Sheryl Crow will perform. Honorary chairs are Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks and Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg … The Entertainment Industries Council will present a congressional briefing in D.C. next week covering issues that affect the entertainment industry. Hosted by EIC president and CEO Brian Dyak, topics to be covered include copyright infringement, piracy and how the industry “gives back” through content. Titled “The Art of Making a Difference,” briefing will be hosted by Congresswoman Diane Watson and Congressman Mark Foley … Ruda Dauphin is in L.A. to set the 2005 honorees for the American Film Festival in Deauville, Sept. 2-11 … Norby Walters again hosts the Night of 100 Stars gala Oscar-viewing party at the BevHills Hotel, sponsored this year by Hollywood Poker Club and underwritten by Future Media Productions.

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