Merger moves Par into new era

GOOD MORNING: When I started my first job — in the mail room at Paramount — the most important streets were the ones where you found the stars’ dressing rooms and the writers’ building. The only product in those days was movies. Now, with the merger of Paramount and Viacom the talk is about infinitely bigger streets — information highways. And the products being prepped are for an interactive multimedia universe. But maybe the more things change, the more they remain the same … How did people on the Paramount lot react Tuesday to news they were now a Viacompany? Some said they were frankly worried. After all, who was going to pay for the price Paramount commanded — if not its current payroll? Others were more confident. At the cafeteria where secretaries, grips, electricians were lunching, A.C. Lyles, a 57-year Paramount employee said he found the atmosphere positive. “Everyone felt a sigh of relief that it had been settled and that a new era was starting. They were exuberant,” said Lyles, who was tabbed by this department as “Paramount’s Ambassador of Goodwill.” In the “old days,” the motto was,”If it’s a Paramount picture, it’s the best picture in town.” Now, says A.C., the motto will be “If it’s Paramount studio, it’s the best studio in town”… But another studio veteran, Bob Evans, who has been there 28 years, says, “I don’t believe this management will be staying on — although I personally like them.” But, he’d hate to see the Paramount name change, reminding even when Gulf & Western bought Paramount, the name remained — and the stock became “Paramount.” As for Sumner Redstone — who beats him at tennis — Evans reminds, “He’s not coming from some shopping mall, he knows the business from his theaters. He won’t be afraid to make big pictures — he knows they make big money. He’s a winner all his life and winners remain winners.”

ALTHOUGH L.A.’S THROWN in the towel and dropped out of trying to bid for the Demo and GOP presidential conventions, the L.A. Convention & Visitors Bureau is still going ahead with its pitch for tourist biz. As noted here, they’ve made a five-minute video to try and convince the world L.A’s still La-La Land and now, Jay Leno has agreed to host the promo, pointing out the remaining pleasant sights and sounds … Bette Midler is skedded to take the stand Thursday in L.A. Superior Court in the suit Martha Raye’s estate has brought against Midler, Bonnie Bruckheimer, “For the Boys” director Mark Rydell and 20th Fox. Martha, meanwhile very frail, is critically ill in Cedars-Sinai suffering from pneumonia and other circulatory complications, which have already caused one major surgery. The “estate” of Martha Raye is five major charities plus husband Mark Harris, he tells me. Ironically, “For the Boys” airs tonight on HBO … Rapper LL Cool J stars in the title role of “Jimi” which, as noted, is “an historical fantasy inspired by Jimi Hendrix and not the Jimi Hendrix story.” Daniel Rivera directs. LL Cool J appeared in “The Hard Way” and “Toys.” The rapper has four platinum albums and 12 million sales and Playgirl named him one of the “Ten Sexiest Men in Rock”… Everything’s looking loverly for Loni Anderson these days. She wrapped her NBC “Nurses” and will guest in Kenny Rogers’ four-hour mini, “Gambler 5” shooting in Galveston, then returns to star in the two-hour sequel to CBS’ “Country Gold” for Gross-Weston Prods. And she’s steady dating attorney Geoff Brown … Tony Bennett will guest star in a seg of Burt Reynolds’ “Evening Shade”… Barbara Hershey and Tom Berenger star in “Last of the Dog Men” for Savoy, Tab Murphy directs his screenplay … For the opening of her Oscar night special, Barbara Walters taped herself, in a red Donna Karan gown, sweeping down the grand staircase of Norma Desmond’s palatial mansion on the “Sunset Boulevard” set at the Shubert. That’s showbiz.

AUDREY HEPBURN RECEIVED a tribute from Buddy Ebsen Tuesday ayem at a breakfast at Tiffany’s (Beverly Hills, that is) launching Ebsen’s autobiog, “The Other Side of Oz.” Ebsen, you recall, was Doc Golightly to Hepburn’s Holly in the 1961 classic Blake Edwards pic with Henry Mancini music, George Axelrod’s script of Truman Capote’s book and produced by Marty Jurow and Dick Shepherd. Ebsen’s buddies on hand from other pix included Donna Douglas, Max Baer Jr. and Paul Henning of the “Beverly Hillbillies,” Fess Parker, “Davey Crockett”; and Lee Merriwether, “Barnaby Jones”… Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio signed with CAA … Glen Bickel of CAA and wife, thesp Georgia Sattele welcomed their first, son John Lowell B. Feb. 4 at Cedars-Sinai …”Blink” producer David Blocker and his wife, actress Debra Dusay, welcomed daughter Deena Randall Dusay Blocker, Feb. 7 … Manager Laura Lizer is engaged to producer Rob Word.

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