CAA thinking survival, succession

GOOD MORNING: “Our competitors must be licking their chops,” one of Creative Artists Agency’s stalwarts admitted to me early Monday morning. “But we shall survive,” he quickly added. The second-best-kept secret at CAA, which was revealed to staffers starting at 8 ayem, then followed by the 10 ayem meeting, brought applause from the agency members for Michael Ovitz. The “group of authority” or “line of succession” discussions started immediately, with each department taking matters under the most serious consideration. Ironically, Bill Haber, who had often spoken of retirement, was away at his chateau in the Loire Valley. Rick Nicita and Fred Specktor also were among the senior agents out of town when Ovitz’s announcement was made. Nicita had only last week signed Anthony Hopkins to CAA — where Tony joined his talented friends including Jonathan Demme, Francis Coppola, Merchant Ivory, etc. Hopkins is winding his stay in L.A. looping “Nixon” before heading on a brief vacation, then starts “Surviving Picasso” in the south of France and Paris … And talking about absentees — CAA alum, now MCA topper, Ron Meyer, also was away, on a cruise before heading to N.Y. MCA meets. He was not available for quotes about Michael Ovitz’s move. But, then again, we know what he’d say … Today, Disney employees will receive an address by — Eartha Kitt at 6 p.m. Last week, it was Denzel Washington who spoke to them.

ANNABELLE BEGELMAN, trying to recover from the shockwaves from husband David’s demise, is busy with her partner Marcy Gross in readying another TV movie: “Spree,” for Showtime via their Gross/Weston banner and MGM TV. It’s about a lady cat burglar. The duo just wound “Have You Seen My Son?” for ABC, MGM TV and Bob Finkel Prods. The ladies also have several other projects perking, which could help keep Annabelle’s mind from the tragedy. Rabbi David Baron of Temple Shalom, who had married David and Annabelle, presided over a gathering of close friends at the Begelman house Friday, where humorous and generous tales of his past outshadowed revelations of the last few years of David’s unbelievable personal and financial self-destruction. As the stories unwound, all agreed Annabelle proved to be a true heroine … The story of another self-destructive talent, Mario Lanza, is en route to becoming a major biopic. It’s in the works by Lanza’s daughter Ellisa Lanza (Mrs. Bob) Bregman and producer-director Buddy Bregman. The latter completed a screenplay, “Be My Love — The Mario Lanza Story,” based on the book “Mario Lanza, His Tragic Life” (Prentice Hall) by Terry Robinson and Raymond Strait. Robinson was first hired by Louis B. Mayer in 1948 to get Mario in shape for movies and he remained his close pal until 1959, when Lanza died. And when Mario’s wife Betty died, Robinson was court-appointed guardian of the four Lanza children, he reminds. The movie will be “family” made, says Robinson, who at 79 is a manager at the Sports Club L.A. He says the time is right for the pic since the Three Tenors regularly have talked of their inspiration from Lanza — just as Mario had been influenced by Caruso! … Robert Vaughn, who has played four U.S. presidents, is an alcoholic, cross-dressing U.S. Senator in “Joe’s Apartment.” Vaughn’s also updating his “Only Victims” (Putnam) book about the blacklist — it’s for Limelight Editions next year.

SHOOTING AT SEA is no picnic, as we all know from you-know-what. And now Sid Sheinberg’s “Flipper” troupe in Nassau suffered the rough seas created first by Hurricane Erin, then by Felix. Cinematographer Bill Butler is celebrating the 20 th anniversary of working with Sheinberg on another big “fish” pic –“Jaws” with Steven Spielberg. Alan Shapiro directs “Flipper.” Butler’s 7-year-old daughter Genevive (Gena) is making her movie bow working with the dolphin … Marla Maples Trump is in town for a coupla weeks for a role in Joel Silver’s “Executive Decision.” She made her bow, you recall, in “Will Rogers Follies” then “retired” for the arrival of daughter Tiffany. Last week in N.Y., Tiffany did a commercial for Minolta with momma Marla … Producer Peter Facer departed E! Entertainment to produce for Elton John, as his Rocket Records gears up for a massive world tour … The American Ireland Fund 1995 Heritage Award dinner honors Liam Neeson Nov. 2 at the BevWilshire. It’s always a grand night … Planet Hollywood bows its 28th location — in BevHills — Sept. 18, when Rodeo Drive is closed down for a big bash with its celeb partners on the eve of the eatery’s official opening on Wilshire Boulevard and Camden Drive. The Paris Planet opens Sept. 3, Helsinki Sept. 4 … Horror author-writer-director Clive Barker preemed his “Lord of Illusions” at a benefit for the Laguna Art Museum at Edwards South Coast Plaza Theater, followed by an exhibition of his art at the South Coast Plaza annex of the museum. Future pic versions of his novels include the animated “The Thief of Always,” as well as Showtime’s mini “Weaveworld.”

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