Jewish World Review March 3, 2004 / 10 Adar, 5764

Lloyd Grove

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Oscars memorialize Hitler's fave filmmaker; baubles, bangles and Kelly Osbourne; moonwalking through cyberspace; more | There she was on the Oscar night honor roll of recently departed movie folk — Adolf Hitler's favorite filmmaker being officially mourned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

> When the late Leni Riefenstahl's name scrolled down the giant "In Memoriam" screen at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, there was muffled applause and scattered boos.

A few miles away at Morton's in Beverly Hills, some of Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter's dinner guests loudly hissed.

And in Abraham Foxman's Manhattan apartment, where the Anti-Defamation League honcho watched the broadcast with his wife, there was utter disbelief.

"I said to my wife, 'Oh, G-d! What is she doing up there?'" Foxman told me Monday. "Are we now giving equal time to Hitler? I don't know what could have been in the mind of the Academy to include her as one of our greatest filmmakers. There are a lot of other dead bigots who don't get honored by putting them on such a list."

Hollywood producer Sid Ganis, an Academy vice president, said there's a very simple reason for honoring Riefenstahl, who died last September at her home near Munich at the ripe age of 101.

"She was there because she was an artist and she's gone," Ganis told me. "She had a greatness to her and she had amazing longevity. There was no special debate whatsoever in the decision to include her on the list, and I personally agree with it."

Riefenstahl was perhaps the Third Reich's most effective propagandist. Her classic documentaries, "Triumph of the Will," capturing the drama and grandeur of a 1934 Nazi rally in Nuremberg, and her two-part epic "Olympia," about the 1936 Olympics in Munich, cemented her reputation as a brilliant and imaginative filmmaker who eagerly put her talent at the service of evil.

After World War II, she never apologized for her close association with Hitler, though she later claimed, along with millions of other Germans, that she was ignorant of the Nazi atrocities and mass murders.

From my post-Oscar soundings of the Hollywood elite — who have been riveted in recent weeks on "The Passion" of Mel Gibson — it seems that Riefenstahl has been largely forgiven for sins of the distant past.

"Yes, Hitler was evil, but I think it was proper to have her name there," Elton John told me at his AIDS charity party up the street the Morton's. "She was a great filmmaker, and as an artist myself, I think she deserved to be there."

At the Vanity Fair party, megaproducer Jerry Bruckheimer told me: "I don't have a problem with it. She was a genius, and her movies were innovative and still copied today. . . . When I was making commercials years ago, I remember one where the director stole directly from 'Triumph of the Will.'"

Academy board member Tom Hanks — who said "my role is to crack wise at the meetings and make people laugh" — declined either to boo or cheer for the decision to memorialize Riefenstahl.

But Hanks quipped : "Maybe people were applauding because they're glad she's dead."

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Say what you will about those wacky Osbournes, they're very serious about their bling bling.

"I can't believe I just won $25,000 worth of jewelry!" Kelly Osbourne crowed at Elton John/In Style Oscar party benefiting the pop star's AIDS foundation, where everyone from Rebecca Romijn-Stamos to Donald Trump basked in the sparkle of their reflected glitter.

"I just won a Cartier watch and some Chopard stuff," Kelly told me. "It was a $500 raffle ticket, and I just thought, what the h-ll, it all goes to charity."

Mom Sharon Osbourne confided that she'll want to borrow the wristwatch in the near future. Sharon famously got into an ugly feud with Hollywood agent Renee Tab over an allegedly purloined diamond necklace — resulting in a scratch-and-spit fest last year when they chanced upon each other in a Hollywood restaurant — so I'd advise Kelly to give it up.


SOUNDS LIKE LOVE: Musical newlyweds Elvis Costello and Diana Krall held tight to each other as they moved through the throng at the Vanity Fair party. In the upcoming W magazine, the acclaimed jazz singer explains her attachment to the aging rocker, who received a Best Original Song nomination for his tune in "Cold Mountain": "I love being married to him. I know. It's syrupy. Get out the pancakes! I never thought I would get married — I sort of accepted that I probably wouldn't. I was sad about it, that's for sure. I was lonely. It's almost like as soon as my mom died, Elvis came into my life. It's amazing how one person can leave and this huge other force comes in."

MOONWALKING THROUGH CYBERSPACE: Accused child molester Michael Jackson Monday launched his long-promised personal Web site, explaining on "The theme of this Web site is called, 'A New Beginning.' For months, I have listened to reports that are inaccurate because they have been based on hearsay, not fact . . . I will use this site as one of the mediums for speaking out on my own behalf." Maybe he can explain why he was wearing that suspicious-looking ski-mask at the Wal Mart in Aspen, Colo., the other day. Oh, never mind. NEW YORK

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© 2003, Creators Syndicate