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The final countdown

GOOD MORNINGS Before Oscar night: “(Sidney Lumet) doesn’t know it. I haven’t told him yet,” Acad president Frank Pierson admitted to me. He hosted Wednesday night’s Acad tribute to honorary Oscar winner Lumet at the Plaza Athenee where Pierson would tell him he (Pierson) next writes/directs a Hollywood-set remake of “Death Trap,” originally directed by Lumet in 1982 with Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve. Pierson, who won an Oscar for his screenplay of the Lumet-directed “Dog Day Afternoon,” said “Sidney conducted the cast like he had the greatest orchestra and the cast sang my screenplay like it was a great score.” Pierson winged to N.Y. Tuesday (and back Thursday) to toast Lumet. ” This was my chance to reciprocate,” said the Acad’s prez. … As the days (and nights) dwindle down, Chris Rock has been rocking comedy clubs around L.A. honing routines. And while producer Gil Cates tells me, “Chris is working his ass off,” Rock himself is not pleased being joke-tailed at every venue and sees his choice material on Web sites as well as in print the next mornings … And talking choice material: Two minutes of the best of Johnny Carson’s Oscar appearances will air as a part of the show hosted by Rock.

FORMER ACTRESS Dolores Hart who became Mother Dolores at the Abbey Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn., after her final film, “Come Fly With Me” in 1963, is returning to the screen — as spokeswoman for research and treatment of neuropathy. She tells me of her own frustration in trying to find medical help, having been given such advice as “go see a shrink” when in pain. Many celebs have also been similarly afflicted, she revealed. She has also gotten an OK to shoot the film at the Abbey. Mother Dolores has retained her Acad membership (thanks to Bob Rehme), received the screeners and voted again this year … I spoke with Tony Danza Wednesday, shortly after his therapy session aimed at hastening the recovery of a severed triceps muscle in his right arm. He said he’ll have the valves on his trumpet extended for his March 4-5 stand at the Sands in Atlantic City as he cannot raise his arm high enough because of the injury … He’s thrilled about the renewal of his Buena Vista pact and the fact he’ll be switched from a 2 ayem L.A. airing time to 9 ayem. While delighted with his new career, Danza does admits, “I miss acting — if you can call it that. But I’m concentrating on this job and I love N.Y.” … John Travolta, who will present at the Oscars with his “Be Cool” costar Uma Thurman, says he may not make the pre-show appearance on the red carpet. Following the preems of “Be Cool,” he told me, “I’m talked out on the red carpet.” Travolta has done four films in a row and has “Lonely Hearts” upcoming. He says he’d also be happy if Elmore Leonard, writer of “Get Shorty” and “Be Cool,” would cast Travolta in the sports worlds. Norby Walters’ “Night of 100 Stars” Oscar party at the BevHills Hotel — has grown to “200 Stars”… In Newmarket Press’ “Sideways: The Shooting Script,” first time novelist Rex Pickett’s details the saga of how his novel was saved from the “bottom of a stack of unread material.” It’s the kind of success story every writer dreams about — and tries to write … At the June 5 Tony Awards party at L.A.’s Skirball Center, Stockard Channing will receive the Julie Harris Award at the party preceding the live feed from N.Y.

TWO SEGS of the first season of “Fat Actress” preemed Wednesday p.m. at the Cinerama Dome and Kirstie Alley is now down 17 pounds from the series’ start — and on the way to a hoped-for minus 60. And she’s already telling me ideas for the second TV season plus her ambition to do a bigscreen theatrical “Christmas movie” … Freda Payne, with Michael Viner at Spago, told me of her plans to bring “Ella Fitzgerald — First Lady of Song” forward from its bow at the Crossroads Theater Co. in New Brunswick, N.J. Columbia Artists are looking to produce its legit future and Viner, the album. Wednesday night at the Disney Hall, Payne sang in the Burt Bacharach-Hal David and Ray Charles tribute … Louis Blau, on his 90th birthday, was partied with an all-male lunch party at the BevHills Hotel. Guests included Terry Semel, Bob Daly, Richard Fox, Roger Mayer, Frank Rosenfelt, Warren Lieberfarb, James Harris , Jerry Offsay, Jay Kanter. Blau’s son Jimmy Wood (AKA Andrew Blau) delivered a heartfelt address as Blau received civic honors as well. Blau, who had legally represented superstars including Alex Haley, Danielle Steel, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Larry Gelbart, remains as a consultant to many and continues to be heavily involved with longtime client Stanley Kubrick’s globe-circling museum … Comedian and director David Steinberg married producer Robyn Todd Feb.14 at the home of Janice and Ross Bagdasarian … Robert Graham bowed his exhibition of 40 years of his artistry Wednesday at the Ace Gallery in BevHills. Collectors of his works include Norman Lear, Terry Semel, Steven Bochco. Meanwhile, wife Anjelica Huston is in post-production on the Hallmark-CBS “Riding the Bus With My Sister” which she directed for exec producer Rosie O’Donnell. Huston says of directing, “It’s amazing when you get into a third eye, you forget how good actors are. And I’ll return to acting as soon as I can.” … The Chinese New Year of the Rooster was celebrated at the Peninsula Hotel in BevHills with a gala party hosted by Donanne and Ali Kasikci featuring Chinese delicacies by exec chef Sean Hardy … Gelson’s Century City Market adds a Wolfgang Puck Express … Sterling Vineyards created a Red Carpet Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon for the Oscar Ball — and pre-show cocktailer … Les Monves will present the Abe Burrows Entertainment Award to “Without A Trace” for their Alzheimer seg at the Alzheimer Assn.’s “A Night at Sardi’s: “Side by Side by Sondheim” gala at the BevHilton — sure to be a smash hit again … Monty and Marilyn Hall receive the Scopus Laureate Award from the American Friends of the Hebrew U. March 15 at the Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage … Bruce Ramer receives the American Jewish Committee’s Learned Hand Award from Clint Eastwood March 10 at the BevHills Hotel … Attorney Neil Papiano’s Play Park is dedicated at the L.A. Zoo March 3 … Services will be held today at Hillside Memorial Park for personal manager Diane Barnett-Shapiro, wife of George Shapiro. She lost a battle with breast cancer … Jack Rourke’s colorful, kind and philanthropic life will be celebrated April 9 at Lakeside Golf Club and in the 27th anni issue of Seasons with story contributions welcomed … Helen Harris, president and founder of the Vision Awards, is now on the coalition for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stem cell research force. This year’s Vision Awards in tribute to the showbiz and scientific leaders will be held June 12 at the BevHilton.

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