Andrews still practically perfect in every way

This article was corrected on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

GOOD MORNING: The first phone call on my return to the office Monday morning was from Julie Andrews. She was calling as a member of the board of Operation U.S.A. having been a founding member with husband Blake Edwards and Tony Adams since its start as Operation California in 1979. She was appealing for assistance as the org has received a 747 cargo jet from Atlas Aviation. They are prepared to fill it with needed assistance to the stricken areas — but need $100,000 to fuel the jet. Andrews reminded that this org spends only 2% of funds on overhead, “and our little ships go into harbors where big ships can’t go.” Cathay Pacific and United Airlines have also come forward, she noted. Operation U.S.A., headed by Richard Walden, “has come to the aid of 70 countries in 30 years,” Julie reminded. She and Blake became involved with efforts for the Boat People airlift in 1979 when she and Blake chartered a planeload of assistance to Cambodia. She then headed an all-star CBS special “Because We Care” with stars including Frank Sinatra, Jane Fonda, Michael Jackson. She followed with another with Sinatra, Carol Burnett, Robin Williams and Placido Domingo among others. A fund-raising special is not as yet in their works … While working on the humanitarian program, Julie is also readying a trip to Japan for the bow of “Princess Diaries II.” This summer she will also direct the “The Boy Friend” at Goodspeed.

DAVID LETTERMAN (in New York) and comedian Tom Dreesen (in L.A.) reminisced Monday about their Christmas 13-hour visit with our troops in Iraq. “When we were flying out of Kuwait, another plane was coming in — with seven coffins. It reminded us of why we were there,” Dreesen told me. They and Paul Shaffer played camps in Al Tagaddum near Fallujah, Talill near Baghad, and others. At each base a troop member performed “God Bless America.” “The GIs in the audience would jump to their feet and sing loud and proud. Each time it would get to me. There wasn’t a dry eye in the camp,” said Dreesen, who is a 30-year friend of Letterman’s and a regular on his talker. He also served four years in the Navy and Marine Corps. Letterman praises Dreesen’s appearance for the troops with, ” Tom is money in the bank. Any show he’s on, you can always count on him to deliver. He’s a seasoned pro.” Dreesen was opening act for Frank Sinatra for 12 years — and finally, one of his pallbearers. He’s completing a book, ‘Shining Shoes and Sinatra.”

THE 2005 B’WAY season got under way Monday with the first rehearsal for “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” bowing March 3 at the Imperial. Director Jack O’Brien welcomed the troupe at the rehearsal halls telling ’em “this is the time for bring a show to lighten hearts.” During a break from the first rehearsal, John Lithgow confidently told me, “You’re going to love this show, adding, ‘This is my new year’s gift to myself.’ He sings six songs and admits, “My voice gets better with every musical.” One of the tunes by David Yazbek (“The Full Monty”) is “Ruffhousin’ mit Shuffhauden.” “I dance, too,” laughed Lithgow, “but strictly for comic relief. I’d rather be adventurous than cautious.” Two-time Tony-winner Lithgow (“Sweet Smell of Success”) appeared at this Imperial theater in 1977 in “Anna Christie” with Liv Ullman. And he steps into the dressing room formerly occupied by Hugh Jackman in “The Boy From Oz.”

I CAUGHT UP with Shirley Jones and Marty Ingels on their Amtrak train headed out of Chicago en route to L.A. (Marty doesn’t fly) after they were guested in N.Y. over the New Year’s holiday by the Times Square Alliance. She had starred on B’way until last summer in “42nd Street” with son Patrick, who lingered till the closing, Sunday. And he next heads out on the national company of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” — with his wife Melissa and their two sons (9 and 6) also in the cast. And Shirley returns to N.Y. (by plane!) for a one-night, Jan. 14 concert with son David. … Another family affair: Lynn Redgrave, getting Oscar nomination chatter for her supporting role in “Kinsey,” will present her “nephew” and “Kinsey” star Liam Neeson with the Palm Desert Achievement Award at the Palm Springs Film Fest Saturday. Lynn, is, of course, the aunt of Liam’s wife Natasha Richardson.

DALLAS RAINES IS RECUPING following successful prostate cancer surgery, Monday. KABC-Channel 7 has been deluged with warm wishes from fans of the popular weather man … A memorial for Dixie (Mrs. Norman) Jewison will be held Saturday, 11 a.m. at the Malibu Presbyterian Church … Corky Hale opens her Corky’s Jazz Room at Em Bistro Wednesday with a four-night swingin’ stand joined by Tom Fowler and Don Allen … The bow of Disney on Ice’s Disney/Pixar “Monsters, Inc.” show at Staples was welcomed with appearances by Roy Disney, Ray Romano’s family, Christine Estabrook of “Desperate Housewives,” Balthazar Getty, Casper Von Dien and Catherine Oxenberg with Mary Gibbs as femcee on the red carpet. (Show’s also booked at Arrowhead Pond, Long Beach, Sports Arena) … Barbara and Warren Cowan hosted their annual Sun Valley Premiere over the holidays with a screening of Walter Salles’ “The Motorcycle Diaries” at the Magic Lantern Theater. Moviegoers included Jamie Lee Curtis, the Scott Glenns, Bud Yorkin and Cynthia Sykes, the Richard Riordans, Jon Turteltaub. Also up in Sun Valley for the holidays were Barbra Streisand and Jim Brolin, Arnold and Maria you-know-who, the Clint Eastwoods, Saul Turteltaubs, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, John Kerrys and Donna Karan, whose right foot was in a cast after she took a tumble in the snow.