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‘Furious’ Eddie Murphy quits as Oscar host

Eddie Murphy (left) was angry thhis friend Brett Ratner (center with Paul Haggis) couldn't stay as producer Oscars. | DIMITRIOS

Eddie Murphy (left) was angry that his friend Brett Ratner (center, with Paul Haggis) couldn't stay on as producer of the Oscars. | DIMITRIOS KAMBOURIS~GETTY IMAGES

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Updated: December 13, 2011 8:32AM

The day after Brett Ratner quit as the Oscar show producer — just before he would have been fired for making a homophobic remark — his close pal and “Tower Heist” star Eddie Murphy bowed out of hosting the Academy Awards in February.

The Motion Picture Academy issued a statement quoting its president, Tom Sherak, as understanding “how Eddie feels about losing his creative partner, Brett Ratner.”

A source close to Murphy said Wednesday that the actor was “furious” about Ratner being pushed out — thinking academy honchos “overreacted to that ‘rehearsals are for fags’ comment — especially since Brett made such a strong and sincere apology.”

† Movie mogul Brian Grazer quickly was signed to replace Ratner. As for that all-important hosting gig, it’s thought Billy Crystal’s name tops the list of possible Murphy replacements — especially since he made it clear he wanted to return as host this year.

Also mentioned Wednesday by academy insiders were Whoopi Goldberg, Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Martin and Neil Patrick Harris — though the “How I Met Your Mother” star has said the idea of hosting the Oscars scares him, despite his earlier success in that role for the Tonys and the Emmys.

TWEETS NOT SWEET: Though George Clooney is quoted in the new Rolling Stone as not minding new girlfriend Stacy Keibler’s frequent tweets indicating how happy she is in her relationship with the ageless Hollywood hunk, I’m hearing Clooney is actually not too keen on those Twitter messages.

Justin Bieber’s team reportedly is trying to get him to stop tweeting about the baby he allegedly fathered. While the pop prince’s tweets trash the story as a lie, I’m hearing his PR team rightfully realizes that every time he tweets, it keeps the story alive in the minds of the Bieb’s 14 million Twitter followers.

The music phenom continues to break records on Billboard’s charts, with his “Under the Mistletoe” holiday albut debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — selling 210,000 copies its first week. It’s the first Christmas release by a male artist to debut at No. 1 in the 55-year history of the chart. “Mistletoe” is also the 17-year-old’s third album — making him the first solo act to earn three No. 1 releases before turning 18.

CHRISTO CAPER: Given the artist Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude spent 20 years working on “Over the River” — their public art project suspending silvery fabric over 42 miles of the Arkansas River in Southern Colorado — its approval by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar represented “a combination of perserverance, great teamwork, a few dollars and lots of luck,” Christo’s longtime Chicago-based attorney Scott Hodes said Wednesday.

The project is expected to be a huge boon to the Colorado economy — employing thousands of workers, adding an estimated $100 million to the local economy and attracting a minimum of 350,000 visitors to the free art experience during its planned two-week installation in August 2014.

† By the way, is there any truth to the rumor a Chicago Christo exhibit is in the works? Methinks that would be one terrific idea.

TV TALK: While no permanent replacement for Regis Philbin is set (despite rumors Dana Carvey is a front-runner), Kelly Ripa has just signed a new five-year contract. After Regis departs, the show will temporarily be titled “Live with Kelly!” — and there will be a group of guest hosts filling in, beginning with Jerry Seinfeld Nov. 21-23.

NO SURPRISE: As reported here in Monday’s column, Kim Kardashian’s quick trip to Minnesota to meet with estranged hubby Kris Humphries wasn’t so much about reconciling but tying up loose ends. The reality queen is now proceeding with her divorce, having persuaded Humphries to promise the couple’s 72-day marriage will end with no additional drama.

GAIN FOR ‘LOVE, LOSS’: Mary Ann is heading our way! Dawn Wells, best known for her iconic role on “Gilligan’s Island,” is joining the cast of Nora and Delia Ephron’s “Love, Loss and What I Wore” at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. Her arrival Dec. 6 is part of the latest extension of the show, now running through New Year’s Day.

SEEN ON THE SCENE: Oscar winner Jane Fonda — in town to tape an appearance on Rosie O’Donnell’s OWN chatfest — was spied checking into the Paramount Suite at the Wit Hotel.

Entertainment columnist Bill Zwecker reports regularly on “Good Day Chicago” and “Fox Chicago News at 9” on WFLD-Channel 32.

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