‘Maid’ for the role

GOOD MORNING: First it was Whoopi Goldberg playing a 1950s housekeeper in “Corrina, Corrina,” and now Natalie Cole will play a 1950s New York housekeeper — to a young (white) boy in Universal TV/USA Cable’s “Lily in Winter.” Producer Walter Mirisch caught Cole in a seg of “I’ll Fly Away” and thought she’d be perfect for this dramatic coming-of-age vidpic. No, Natalie doesn’t sing a note. The youngster, played by Brian Bonsall, is taken on a trip down South pre-civil rights progress by Lily (Cole). Oscar-winning producer Mirisch’s TV’er is directed by Oscar-winner Delbert Mann, who also has a long record of sensitive and heartwarming subjects. The “Winter” tale’s to air at Christmas — and thesps will be toiling in the Valley’s torrid temperatures in appropriate New York winter wardrobe! … Agent Charles Stern set George C. Scott to play Cus D’Amato, Mike Tyson’s mentor and early trainer, in HBO’s “Mike Tyson Story.” Michael J. White plays Tyson, Paul Winfield (with appropriate coiffure) plays Don King. Exec producer Edgar Scherick says the film, based on Jose Torres’ book, “Fire and Fear,” will have little of the rape trial and nothing more than the hotel room door opening and closing pre-trial. “It’s more about the young man and his beginnings with Cus”… TV/radio commentator Bill Press, who is also chairman of the California Democratic Party, had been targeted twice by the GOP; first to the FCC, and most recently to the Federal Election Commission. The first was dismissed earlier and now the second complaint is deemed unwarranted by the commission which states, “After considering the circumstances of this matter, the Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion to take no action against you.” They closed its file in the matter on Aug. 1 … E! Entertainment’s “Gossip Show” host Nely Galan departs next week to broaden her bilingual and production talents.

“KILL HIM! KILL HIM!,” on-edge audience members at the Beverly Center yelled to Meryl Streep, facing off against Kevin Bacon on screen at the preview of U’s “The River Wild,” following an hour of white-knuckle’d tension in the white water rapids. Director Curtis Hanson (“The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”) and producers David Fosterand Larry Turman, who had lived through 10-12 hours a day shooting in the rapids location, were cheered by applause at the film’s credits. Afterwards, all agreed Streep’s amazing physical performance matches the dramatic talents we expect of the two-time Oscar winner. Next week, Turman/Foster deliver Gary DeVore’s “Spare Parts” script to Par, where Tim Foster’s partnered … Also at Par is T/F’s family pic, “Me and My Shadow,” about a boy and his shadow. Look for hefty computer doings here. Em Green’s partnered on this one … We are all saddened by the sudden death of Julie (Mrs. John) Forsythe Monday night at their new ranch home in Santa Ynez. John sadly told me his wife of 50 years had no previous illness. She died peacefully in her sleep. His wife, the former Julie Warren, had been a B’way singing star, then a pactee at RKO. She gave up her career after the birth of their second daughter, Brooke. My wife and I sat at dinner with Julie and John at Doug Cramer’s Los Olivos birthday party a week ago and she was, as always, a charming, delightful and beautiful dinner companion. She was always cheering John, whether for an acting performance or at any of his many celeb/charity tennis matches. She will be missed by all of us.

WHAT’S NEW IN BASEBALL? Well. Tommy Lasorda and wife Jo are readying to toast Dodgers Eric Karros and Mike Piazza, Sept. 18. It’s the second annual Tommy Lasorda Jr. Foundation Grand Slam at the Hyatt Regency benefiting a sports complex dedicated to the memory of the Lasordas’ son. Natch, Vin Scully emcees … Arthur Canton’s en route to Caen to be medal’d Thursday for his courage in the liberation of Normandy in 1944. A B-17 first lieutenant, Canton was shot down after many Normandy missions and imprisoned a year in Germany’s Stalag 1. Canton family members wing over for the medal presentation … Gerald McRaney takes a day off filming a two-hour “Simon & Simon” for CBS in Seattle to receive the Veterans of Foreign Wars Americanism Award at the Vegas convention, next Tuesday … Tonight, singer-songwriter Steve March is joined on Tatou’s stage for one song with his dad, Mel Torme. They’ll duet on “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” a Nat King Cole hit. Torme’s next album is a tribute to Bing Crosby, “Paramount Sings.” On the 26th and 27th, Torme plays his 18th consecutive year at the Hollywood Bowl. He’s played ditto years at Carnegie Hall … Among the backers of the new Hollywood Hot Dog chain of eateries, Steve Tisch and Peter Tilden. Celebs are putting on the dog at their BevHills Little Santa Monica shoppe and Santa Monica’s Third St. Promenade is next.

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