GOOD MORNING: King Solomon’s mines are very much alive –again — in the second TNT “The Librarian.” Bob Newhart tells me, “Capetown came as a complete surprise” and describes the telepic as “a sendup of all the ‘Indiana Jones’ pix as we know ’em.” He heads to Africa next month to rejoin co-star Noah Wyle in the TNT’er. They filmed in Mexico City last year and now also head to Kenya. Bob and Ginny Newhart will segue to Kruger National Park on their own. And he returns here to resume in “Desperate Housewives” a role he describes as “one which I think Arnold Schwarzenegger would have given up the governorship if they offered it to him!” Newhart also picks up standup dates in Fort Worth, Chicago, New York, Toronto, Reno and the Kennedy Center and Indian casinos. “They (Indians) are taking the country back,” he quipped. Newhart (75), who had his first standup gig 45 years ago in Houston, says, “I just can’t imagine not doing standup. Why would you get tired of making people laugh? It’s kind of selfish of me. I enjoy it, just as Jack Benny and George Burns did –although I don’t think I’ll be going at 100, like George.” PBS’ “American Masters” tributes Newhart with a show airing Wednesday. He’s working (with Josh Young) on his autobiog for Hyperion, tentatively titled “I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This” or “The Fat Lady in the Red Dress Would Like a White Wine.”
“THE WEST WING” could do “10 years based on what’s been happening in the White House this year.” It’s Sen. Arnold Vinick, aka Alan Alda, talking about his return to the series as soon as he winds his runs on B’way in “Glengarry Glen Ross” Aug. 28. Alda’s often asked if it’s difficult for him to convincingly play a conservative Republican. He answers, “Why? I’ve played a homicidal maniac as well” … He explains he hasn’t taken an active role in real politics “since the Equal Rights Amendment 20 years ago. Now I concentrate on what I do best — acting.” In Santa Paula, Calif., referred to as Vinick’s hometown, an Internet campaign has begun to “Vote for Vinick” for president of the U.S. — with appropriate buttons, T-shirts and bumper stickers for sale. Web address is www.santapaulaforvinick.com … Add political note: I asked Renny Harlin his opinion of Fred Thompson, actor and former Tennessee senator, President Bush’s choice to cue his Supreme Court nominee. Harlin had cast Thompson in the role of the head of air traffic control in his “Die Hard 2.” “I guess he could play that role,” Harlin said. “He is very authoritative — and also has a great sense of humor. And his acting skills must have also helped him in politics.”
EIGHT HUNDRED FRIENDS and admirers were on hand Tuesday for the funeral services of writer-publisher Byron Preiss at N.Y.’s Sutton Place Synagogue. Among them, Billy Crystal, Suzanne Somers, Jane Pauley, Suze Orman, Pulitzer Prize winner Sharon Wohlmuth, etc. and several publishing house heads. Preiss died in a traffic accident Saturday. The well-loved Preiss’ celebrity authors included Jane Goodall, Jerry Seinfeld, LeAnne Rimes and Jay Leno. His wife is publicist Sandi Mendelson, who is partnered with Judy Hilsinger … It was bittersweet as family, friends and fans gathered at Par’s Sherry Lansing Theater Tuesday night for the screening (digital) of the DVD of John Wayne’s 1954 “The High and the Mighty.” Gretchen Wayne, widow of Michael W., has taken over the reins guiding the Paramount Home Entertainment DVD releases of Wayne-Batjac projects including “Island in the Sky,” “Hondo” “Track of the Cat,” “Plunder in the Sun” and “Ring of Fear.” Eleven Wayne family members were on hand. And director William “Wild Bill” Wellman’s family was repped by 18 members. Also there: Rosemary Stack, who started dating Bob during the pic’s filming. They had been married 47 years when he died three years ago. She said Wayne had originally cast Bob Cummings for the role. It was not easy for Rosemary to hold back the tears during the close-ups of the handsome Stack. We miss our friend, too.