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Rivers, Davis in pre-Oscar cat fight

THE BALTIMORE SUN

When it comes to Great Oscar Cat fights in History, Joan Rivers vs. Geena Davis is hardly Joan Crawford vs. Bette Davis.

But with actress Geena Davis set to greet Academy Award hopefuls during ABC's new half-hour Oscar pre-show at 8 p.m. Sunday -- bumping Rivers off the red carpet during the last half-hour of her annual pre-show on cable's E! Entertainment channel -- the rival hosts have been exchanging catty quips worthy of the legendary hissing matches between Crawford and Bette Davis.

Said Rivers about Geena Davis' new chores: "She may turn out to be fabulous -- there may be more to her than dimples and [breasts]." Me-ow!

Davis, for her part, said she was bored with fashion questions -- Rivers' shtick -- and that they "take away from the class of the event." Hiss!

In another interview, Rivers responded that Davis "has no right to [ask fashion questions]. She came looking like a drunken dance-hall girl one year."

Whether actual bad blood or just hype, the supposed feud between Rivers and Davis "has been blown all out of proportion," insists Melissa Rivers, Joan's daughter and Oscar show co-host.

The verbal sparring, she adds, is "totally good-natured. My mother is a comedian. She's known as one of the funniest women ever, and suddenly everyone's taking what she says seriously?"

Before the producers of the Academy Awards show decided this year to shift the telecast from its traditional Monday night berth to Sunday, Joan Rivers was the queen of the pre-show hoopla, having been host of E!'s coverage with her daughter since 1995.

The acid-tongued comic is infamous for poking fun at the fashion faux pas of the rich and famous -- including Davis, who's equally infamous for her bizarre clothing choices on Oscar night.

E!, which has broadcast live outside the Oscars in Los Angeles for the past 12 years, has expanded its pre-show coverage this year to eight hours.

But the cable channel had to relinquish exclusive rights to ABC for the half-hour leading up to the ceremony -- knocking Rivers off the red carpet and off the air.

Though miffed, E! executive producer John Rieber is diplomatic: "We are close friends of the academy, and we gladly abide by whatever ground rules," he says. "We take it as a high compliment they want to capture some of that [pre-show] excitement themselves."

Pub Date: 3/19/99

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