Happy Birthday, George: George Burns, who turns 99 years old today, was to celebrate the event with a quiet dinner Thursday night with his longtime friend Barry Mirkin and a couple of his bridge-playing pals from Hillcrest Country Club. Burns is back to daily bridge sessions at the club, having made great progress since a near-fatal bathtub tumble last fall caused an accumulation of blood and fluid on his brain, temporarily affecting his speech and reflexes. "He still does the three martinis a day," Mirkin says, "but he's cut down from a dozen or more cigars a day to about three." Burns' longtime manager, Irving Fein, says: "George is amazingly strong, always has been. He had to be to survive that surgery after the accident. As a matter of fact, how many men play good bridge at 99? Believe me, George is going to make his 100th birthday party at Caesars Palace in 1996." More immediately, Burns is scheduled to record songs from a forthcoming Broadway show by Cy Coleman for a sort of precast album. He will also accept the Screen Actors Guild's lifetime achievement award (as part of festivities outlined below).
SAG Nominees: "Forrest Gump" received four nods while "Pulp Fiction" got three nominations for the first-ever Screen Actors Guild Awards, announced Thursday. Tapped for best actor were Tom Hanks ("Gump"), John Travolta ("Pulp"), Paul Newman ("Nobody's Fool"), and Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins (both for "The Shawshank Redemption"). Best actress choices are Jodie Foster ("Nell"), Jessica Lange ("Blue Sky"), Meg Ryan ("When a Man Loves a Woman"), Susan Sarandon ("The Client") and Meryl Streep ("The River Wild"). In the television category, two "Chicago Hope" stars, Hector Elizondo and Mandy Patinkin, were nominated for best actor in a drama, along with Dennis Franz ("NYPD Blue"), Tom Skerritt ("Picket Fences") and Patrick Stewart ("Star Trek: The Next Generation"). In the female drama category, nominees were Kathy Baker ("Picket Fences"), Swoosie Kurtz ("Sisters"), Angela Lansbury ("Murder, She Wrote"), Jane Seymour ("Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman") and Cicely Tyson ("Sweet Justice"). Nods for outstanding ensemble performances went to the dramas "Chicago Hope," "ER," "Law & Order," "NYPD Blue" and "Picket Fences," and to the comedies "Frasier," "Mad About You," "Murphy Brown," "Northern Exposure" and "Seinfeld." The awards, statuettes called the Actor, will be presented in 12 acting categories in a prime-time TV special Feb. 25 on NBC.
R&B; Pioneers: Antoine (Fats) Domino will receive the Ray Charles Lifetime Achievement Award at the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's 1995 Pioneer Awards on March 2 at the Hollywood Palladium. Part of Grammy Week, the program will also bestow a total of $220,000 on 12 Pioneer Award recipients, including Sweet Inspirations founder Cissy Houston, singer Darlene Love, ballad crooner Arthur Prysock, boogie queen Mabel Scott, and the Moonglows. Other Pioneer awardees include Inez & Charlie Foxx, Illinois Jacquet, the Marvelettes, Lloyd Price, Booker T & the M.G.'s, Junior Walker and Justine (Baby) Washington.
Academy Honors: Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, 82, will receive an honorary award as part of the March 27 Academy Awards. Antonioni, a 1966 Oscar nominee for writing and directing "Blow Up," was hailed Thursday by academy President Arthur Hiller as "one of the greatest artists of our time." . . . In other Oscar news, actor-director Clint Eastwood, whose company, Malpaso, has produced more than 30 films in 25 years, will receive the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award honoring "creative producers whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality." The last Thalberg honoree was George Lucas in 1991.
Snyder Starts in Second: Unlike David Letterman, who captured the late-night ratings crown in his very first week on CBS, Tom Snyder fell short of the NBC competition in his debut outings last week. Ratings released Thursday showed that Snyder, in his first week following Letterman on CBS in the "Late Late Show," had an average audience of 1.4 million homes, compared to 1.8 million for NBC's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien."
Kids' Fare: United Paramount Network, which debuted on KCOP Channel 13 this week with the new "Star Trek: Voyager," has announced plans for an hourlong Sunday morning block of children's programming set to begin in September. UPN will produce the shows in a co-venture with Saban Children's Entertainment Group, which developed the popular "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" as well as the animated show "X-Men."
Ticketmaster's New Competition: Cable's VH1 tonight will offer 16,000 tickets to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' upcoming U.S. concert tour. The tickets--the first to be sold live on television before becoming available to the general public--will be peddled at 6 p.m. via an 800 number with a maximum of four tickets per caller. Moon Zappa will be among celebs who will take some calls. Four hundred choice seats will be offered for each of 40 cities. Petty's upcoming tour will include stops at the Blockbuster Pavilion in Devore in April and at the Hollywood Bowl in June.