Nation watches as L.A. burns

It’s not a GOOD MORNING: No matter where nor to whom we spoke yesterday, the questions were all the same: “What’s happening in L.A.?” “Is everything all right where you are?” From Milan, producer Pier Quinto Cariaggi, readying the June 19 Merit of Achievement Awards at Lake Como’s Villa d’Este, reported the story of L.A.’s shame was all over the Italian front pages and airwaves Pierce Brosnan, in London, put in a call to inquire of the situation here before continuing on to Yugoslavia and the USA Network’s “Death Train.” He was happy he had taken his two sons along with him. And his daughter’s at RADA. … Lee Grant phoned from her N.Y. apartment, where she was in bed watching TV coverage of L.A. on fire. She had just left L.A. after completing a Disney-NBC pilot with Richard Lewis–“He’s the reason I did it.” It has the same feeling as “Plaza Suite,” she said. We told her Par’s planning a remake of “Detective Story,” for which Grant received an Oscar nomination in ’51. And she laughingly reminded that ABC will air (May 14) the first “Columbo,” “Ransom for a Dead Man,” in which she co-starred (with Pete Falk, natch) on March 1, 1971. Grant was Emmy-nominated for it–and the same year she was also nominated for “Neon Ceiling”–and won the Emmy for the latter. Grant will feature-direct “Rasputin” and “Medicine Woman” next. … From Santa Barbara, Jane Seymour was hopeful to depart LAX for Scottsdale to start “Sunstroke” for USA network–for whom she did the ratings winner “Are You Lonesome Tonight”–with James Keach as producer-director.

Seymour’s exec producer on the new project, which she describes as “hot–not as hot as ‘Basic Instinct,’ but hot, even for cable TV.” Steven Meadows co-stars, and Don Ameche, Steve Railsback and Ray Wise join. After this adult-themed show, Seymour’s off to Europe and “Heidi”! And then the series, “Medicine Woman”–not the same story as the earlier-mentioned Lee Grant feature. … En route to the downtown L.A. “Payback” location at Manchester and Alameda, Stephen Furst says he was targeted by rock-throwing gangs–but got through unscathed. But a soundman on the crew was hit. They were going to cancel filming–but continued until 4:30 ayem, and Furst was police-escorted home through fires-explosions. And yesterday, Furst, studying to be a psychologist, lectured on theater arts to the inmates at Camp Scott in Saugus. No one was allowed to discuss the riots.

SHOOTING–FILMING, THAT IS–was canceled yesterday on Robert Townsend’s “Meteor Man” for Beverly Johnson, who was due to report to the South Hope St. medical building location where she worked Wednesday. They wrapped at 8 p.m. when noise from the ‘copters and sirens complicated their shoot. Johnson got the job from a test she made herself (hopefully) for a “Queen” role. … Davis Gaines was to have been partied last night on his one-year anni as star of “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Ahmanson as the show was canceled, along with the party for 150 at nearby Stepps restaurant. “Phantom” fans–and they are true–had also planned a stage door celebration. And Davis’ parents had flown in from Florida. … What a difference a day makes–earlier in the week, L.A.’s proud Music Center and the environs had been alive, celebrating with happy music at the Taper and Pavilion for the Ira Gershwin and Johnny Mercer tributes. I wonder how we would have gotten through that section of town had the events been a day or two later? Bill Cosby departed L.A. for N.Y. for yesterday’s final airing of his show. And wife Camille was still here when we called to get impressions on Cos’ last series day. She said, philosophically, “Everything has to end sometime. He has made his impact–sent out a positive message. He’ll never compromise. He never has and never will–with himself or his audiences.” Camille receives her doctorate in education May 23 at the U. of Mass. Then she returns to work on the Winnie Mandela story, to start filming next year.

“DEVASTATING” WAS THE REACTION of Mario Van Peebles (on location in Puerto Vallarta on “Gunmen”) when Robert Lawrence told him of the verdict in the Rodney King case. Van Peebles and Lawrence are readying “Black and Blue,” about a black teenager beaten to death by police officers. They began working on the project the day after the Rodney King beating. Lawrence told me yesterday that he received two more financing offers yesterday. The pic will be an indie (Lawrence has a non-exclusive deal with 20th). And they feel they will get the rest of the money at Cannes. “We are certain the subject will be of interest to the public at large,” said Lawrence.”It was validated by the impact of the jury’s decision.” … When we spoke to Sidney Poitier yesterday afternoon, he too was devastated by the previous 24 hours’ events. He had just come from his offices at Sony (Columbia), where he’d set Andy Wolke to direct his film “Free of Eden,” in which Sidney will star and produce. “It’s about education in America,” and Poitier plays the teacher who makes “the difference.” Coincidentally, he’ll be filming on the same site (then MGM) where he made “The Blackboard Jungle,” we reminded. A 17-year-old black actress will co-star with Poitier in the screenplay by Yule Caise. Since education is a favorite subject of Poitier’s pal , Bill Cosby, we wondered if Cos would be in the movie. “He’s too expensive,” laughed Sidney.

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