GOOD MORNING: Well, let’s see, there was: Doug and Mary, Clark and Carole, George and Gracie, Lucy and Desi, Bogie and Betty, then Bruce and Demi, Tom and Nicole, Warren and Annette and now — Antonio and Melanie. Banderas and Griffith certainly looked like the darling duo of the decade as they were foto’d and followed, queried and quoted ad infinitum at Monday’s Westwood Mann National preem of Columbia’s “Desperado.” And Tuesday the togetherness continued at Disneyland with Melanie and her son Alexander (whose father is Steven Bauer) celebrating his 10th birthday, accompanied by Banderas. Griffith is divorced (from Don Johnson) and Banderas is in the process of divorcing his (Spanish) wife. They teamed on screen in Disney’s “Two Much,” which bows in December in Spain in advance of its U.S. opening next year. I asked Melanie when she and Banderas will duo onscreen again? “I have to book him for 1998,” she laughed. She’s almost right. He is beyond a doubt Hollywood’s hottest new adult male star. In “Two Much” he poses as twins, playing the con artist for Melanie and Daryl Hannah. Banderas, a film buff, tells me the pic is “Billy Wilder-esque.” In a few weeks, he heads to London to record “Evita” with Madonna, and filming starts in January. Next follows “Zorro” with Steven Spielberg producing. And the offers are piling up to follow. Meanwhile, Melanie heads to North Carolina today to start “Lolita.” She plays the teen’s mother and has dyed her hair red for the role. Ver-ry interesting …”Desperado,” although violently bloody, tips off its comedic overtone from the outset — so take it any way you want! Columbia toppers Alan Levine, Mark Canton, Sid Ganis, Lisa Henson, Barry Josephson and Dennis Miller took it as a hit as the audience applauded scene after scene. They also were happy they had signed Banderas for three pix, and Salma Hayek will certainly find more pix awaiting her at Columbia as well, they said. Meanwhile, she’s paged for the “Selena” biopic. Her agent, John Fogelman of William Morris, has been queried on the project by Esparza/Katz. The beautiful Hayek can also sing. She’s already completed “From Dusk Til Dawn,” again directed by “Desperado’s” Robert Rodriguez, with Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino, who scripted. Next for her is a non-Latina role in “Breaking Up” with Russell Crowe for director Robert Greenwald from Michael Cristofer’s script … The filmmakers and preem-goers paraded from the theater through Westwood to Marilyn and Harry Lewis’ Gardens where music by mariachis and appropriate Mexican fare filled the first-nighters. The party was hosted by Hugo Boss — with goodie boxes containing a miniature bottle of Tequila, shot glass, lime and, of course, a pinch of salt. Oh, and two tabs of Alka-Seltzer. Salud, “Desperado.”
LIZA MINNELLI’S IN TOKYO performing three concert dates for NHK — to become a two-hour special over there and probably air here on the Disney Channel. The show’s being produced by Tony Adams for his and Blake Edwards’ banner — Adams had to wing over from the Chicago stand of “Victor/Victoria” for Liza who, he said, is in sensaysh shape, voice and hip … Betty Thomas, directing HBO’s “The Late Shift,” returns to the bigscreen for Paramount, where she has a commitment — but it will not be the sequel to “The Brady Bunch,” she says. “But it will be something quirky.” Thomas is now directing “Late Shift” scenes involving Michael Ovitz (Treat Williams) signing David Letterman (played by John Michael Higgins) as a client. Thomas says she was able to talk to Jay Leno “to get some questions about reality.” As for Letterman, she says, “I was a guest on his show — so I know about him.” She says Daniel Roebuck, who plays Leno, and Higgins are excellent for the roles — they come respectively from L.A. and N.Y. as well. And Thomas says Kathy Bates is sensaysh as Helen Kushnick, the ousted producer of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”
EMOTIONAL NIGHT UPCOMING Sept. 14 at the Cinegrill, where Rock and Roll Hall of Famer LaVern Baker resumes her career two months after amputation of her second leg due to diabetes complications. She’s also recorded the late Harry Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire” for Music Masters … Monty Hall holds his 23rd annual Diabetes Tennis Tourney Sept. 15-17 benefiting Cedars-Sinai’s Alfred Jay Firestein Diabetes Center. Hall sank his first hole-in-one at New Hampshire’s North Conway Country Club … Playwright James Prideaux wings to Woodstock, N.Y. to speak at the memorial service Aug. 26 for his longtime friend, screenwriter Howard Koch (NOT producer/exec Howard W. Koch), at the Bearville Theater. Next day, Prideaux attends a performance of his play “Lyndon” starring Laurence Luckinbill at the Westport, N.Y., Theater … David Slay’s celebrating the sixth anni of his popular La Veranda eatery on South Beverly Drive … Dana Carvey’s honing his HBO special at Igby’s. Dennis Miller was on hand to applaud his pal.