Admitting that he “ain’t a pretty boy no more,” Roger Ebert has announced that he and wife Chaz will appear at the Ninth Annual Overlooked Film Festival (opening tomorow nnight) at the University of Illinois at Urbana. Ebert hasn’t been able to speak for several months due to a tracheostomy (he’s hoping that “another surgery” will remedy this), so he’ll be confining himself to facial and hand gestures, “eye rolling,” written notes and whatnot.

“I have received a lot of advice that I should not attend the festival,” Ebert has written in today’s Chicago Sun Times. “I√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢m told that paparazzi will take unflattering pictures and that] people will be unkind. Frankly, my dear, I don√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢t give a damn. As a journalist I can take it as well as dish it out.

“What happened was, cancer of the salivary gland spread to my right lower jaw. A segment of the mandible was removed. Two operations to replace the missing segment were unsuccessful, both leading to unanticipated bleeding. A tracheostomy was necessary so, for the time being, I cannot speak. The doctors now plan an approach that does not involve the risk of unplanned bleeding. If all goes well, my speech will be restored.

“So when I turn up in Urbana, I will be wearing a gauze bandage around my neck, and my mouth will be seen to droop. So it goes.”

There but for the grace of God….