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Allen: Only time will tell if Letterman succeeds

GOOD MORNING: How will David Letterman fare as he bows in the battle of the night owls? To get an opinion, I asked the father of “The Tonight show,” Steve Allen, who intro’d the genre in 1953. What should a latenight talkshow host be like in 1993? “Johnny Carson, Jack Paar, Merv Griffin and I had something in common — we were graduates of radio,” said Allen. “Now, the (hosts) are out of comedy clubs. We talked the way regular people talk. Now the young guys shout. I guess you had to shout to keep people awake in those clubs. You don’t need talent to be a talkshow host. That’s not a criticism,” he added.”Some of the most talented people didn’t make it as talkshow hosts — people like Jerry Lewis , Sammy Davis Jr., Whoopi Goldberg.” What about the upcoming Chevy Chase show? “He, too, has a great deal of talent,” allowed Allen. Meanwhile, he believes Letterman “in his first few days will have great ratings — three weeks later — it will count. I wish them all well.” Would Steverino want to do it again? “I wouldn’t want to work five nights a week. If I could tape three shows in a day — I’d consider it.” I don’t know where he’d find the time — his 42nd book, “Make ‘Em Laugh’ (Prometheus), is on the stalls and he’s readying two more, plus a dozen projects in all media …”The Pink Panther’s” Inspector Clouseau is returning — but in an animated TV series. The character makes six appearances in the 40 new “Pink Panther” animated series bowing Sept. 13 (KCOP here) in 85% of the markets via Claster TV. David DePatie tells me Clouseau spins off into a new series next year. The character will sound like Peter Sellers and be voiced by Brian George. DePatie viewed the new “Son of the Pink Panther” and complimented Italian Roberto Benigni as the “Son”… Partnered in the animated show are MGM/UA, the Mirisch Co., Blake Edwards’ Geoffrey Films and DePatie-Friz Freling. David credits Walter Mirisch with giving ’em the guidance on stories for the half-hour series. The animation’s done in Taiwan, directed from MGM in Santa Monica. They feel the “Panther” will have legs like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. The character’s been used in 175 commercials, led by Owens-Corning (pink) insulation … On hand for the Avco Westwood preem of UA/MGM’s bigscreen “Son of the Pink Panther” were cast members Herbert Lom, Jennifer Edwards, Robert Davi, Natasha Pavlova and producer Tony Adams, but Adams’ estranged wife, co-star Debrah Farentino, was not on hand, nor was director-writer Blake Edwards, who has gone fishing with wife Julie Andrews.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Vincent Van Patten produces and stars with wife Betsy Russell in “The Break” for his Autumn Winds banner, with brother James as VP. And papa Dick Van Patten cameos as a washed-out tennis groupie called “Mr. Tennis.” Of course the entire family’s high strung on tennis, with Vince having made the circuit and beaten John McEnroe twice. But this movie is described as “the ‘Bull Durham’ of the tennis circuit.” He tells the story of the “bush leagues,” where they often play for $ 12-$ 15 a round, live in cheap motels in the heat of the summer, wash their own tennis clothes, etc. “Thank God I broke through,” said Vinnie from Orlando, where they’re shooting. Lee Katzin directs the movie, for which they raised $ 5 million. Martin Sheen, Valerie Perrine and Ben Jorgensen co-star … Shades of “The Fugitive”? From Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon “Raven Hawk” location, producer Ron Samuels excitedly reported a spectacular scene never before done on film, he claims. Rachel McLish was perched atop a narrow bridge while stuntman Bobby Brown took a 700-foot jump as helicopter blades whirred only 15 feet from them. Albert Pyun directed ’em — in 130-degree heat, yet … While Gerald McRaney decides which TV series to next tackle, he’s guestarring in the “Burke’s Law” pilot — playing the heavy.

L.A. WANTS YOU to know what’s going on in your city — and they’ve hired press agent David Kramer to publicize their upgraded L.A. CityView Channel 35 — which appears on everycable system in the city … Former publicist Julia Van Hees bows as an actress in TLC’s “Secret Adventures” directed by Peter Baldwin. Julia’s next assignment — knee surgery at Centinela Hospital … Keeping up with the times: Marty Farrell, winner of movie and TV writing awards, is penning a comprehensive book of laserdiscs, titled “The Wonderful W-I-D-E World of Laserdiscs”… Allen Funt, hospitalized here with a stroke since April, is now moving to live on his ranch in Northern California … Ray Stark named a horse for Janet Garrison, his assistant of 20 years — and she (the horse, that is) won her maiden race at Del Mar — paying $ 7.80 … Dale Robertson has returned via multiple appearances on Kushner-Locke’s CBSeries “Harts of the West,” playing Lloyd Bridges’ brother … Tina Louise is back in town for “West From North Go South.” She’s also spokeswoman for Imideen, a beauty product in pill form, “an interior way of moisturizing the skin,” she informs … Rosemary DeCamp will be honored on her 60th anni in the biz at the 10th Jivin’ Jacks and Jills Reunion of contractees from the ’30s-’50s at Universal, Oct. 3.

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