GOOD MORNING: With the possibility of a SAG strike shadowing Hollywood, CBS on Wednesday ordered four hours of “Cagney & Lacey”– two back-to-back shows to start April 25. Barney Rosenzweig will shoot “C&G III” and “IV” in Toronto with Sharon Gless, Tyne Daly and John Karlen, expecting to wind by June 26. The first show isn’t skedded to air until November, the second (“IV”) in May ’96. Meanwhile, “Cagney & Lacey, Together Again” airs during May sweeps. Toronto is doubling for N.Y. — it’s a helluva lot cheaper than doubling Gotham in L.A. where the other segs filmed …”Everybody’s doing it as a labor of love,” said “Waiting to Exhale’s” Deborah Schindler, who produces the 20th-Fox feature with Ezra Swerdlow in Phoenix. The pic’s budgeted at $ 14 million –“And we have an embarrassment of riches,” added Schindler. The cast, in the yarn about four African-American women’s search for what’s real in life, is led by Whitney Houston — who could have had her choice of any movie (and at any price) following “The Bodyguard.” Also, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon. Plus other cast members Mykelti Williamson (“Forrest Gump”), Leon, Kelly Preston, Gregory Hines — and director Forest Whitaker. Howcum a male director for the femme-driven story? “It wasn’t a case of gender,” said Schindler, “but who had the best vision of novelist Terry McMillan’s story.” That’s what also attracted Houston. The Schindler-Swerdlow team also have “Prince of Darkness” at Fox, “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” to be directed by Jan De Bont with a new script by Joan Didion and John Dunne, and “Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend” with script by Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump” Oscar nominee). Also “Mystery Ride” and “Disappearing Acts,” back from MGM turnaround … If Shirley MacLaine can get out of her European concertour dates, she’ll play Ricki Lake’s wealthy matriarch mother-in-law in “Mrs. Winterbourne,” directed by Richard Benjamin.
A LEGEND DIES AND A LEGEND LIVES AGAIN. I toured the Beverly Hills Hotel on Wednesday — in hard hat — with Kerman Beriker, CEO and general manager. The $ 100 million redo is on sked and the hotel will reopen June 3, Beriker assured me as we made our way past heavy equipment redoing the crescent driveway, which will remain the same, as will the porte cochere and exterior of the pink palace, which was built in 1912, with the crescent wing addition in 1949. Newly created underground parking will accommodate 700 cars. As you enter the new lobby a tea lounge is on the left with gentle music to welcome guests. Further to the left, a grand staircase winds down (past elevators) to the magnificent totally new Crystal Ballroom, past huge windows looking out to a new citrus garden. The rest rooms are marble-designed with gold-lined sinks. The tennis courts have been moved up the street but the pool and cabanas remain the same — renewed of course, during this 2 1/2-year job that has 300 people working seven days a week. The number of guest rooms is reduced from 252 to 194 enlarged quarters. I saw one of ’em ($ 325) and it is cheery, delightfully Earth-toned with all technical conveniences (including a permanent private phone line for hotel regulars) plus a few more luxuries. The hallways are lined in the traditional banana-leaf paper. Of course the Polo Lounge is there — and exactly the same. But when the mural behind the bar was removed for renovating, another, older, polo-playing mural was discovered underneath. It’s now on top. A Polo Grill restaurant (seats 78) adjoins with private and public entrances. The June 3 gala opening ($ 1,000 per person) benefits the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Foundation’s endowment for the Center for Motion Picture Study — no, the Sultan of Brunei is not expected to attend. He has yet to see his hotel.
HOLLYWOOD STYLE: Judith Leiber, who is on the arms of the creme de la creme of Hollywood and international royalty with her jeweled artwork handbags, was welcomed to town by Neiman-Marcus’ vice president, general manager John Martens and wife, Bridget, on Tuesday night at L’Orangerie with guests including Ava and Chuck Fries, Eunice and Hal David — and Judith’s husband, artist Gus Leiber — the ladies are longtime Leiber fans and collectors. While famed for her jeweled creations, Leiber wore a simple leather purse she’d designed 32 years ago — for Jackie Kennedy. Her story would make a great MOW — born in Budapest, she came to the U.S. as a GI bride of husband Gus, and built the legend … Wednesday at lunch in the Par commissary, Steve Garvey led a meeting of support for TheatreVision (for the blind), which got its sendoff by Par’s “Forrest Gump.” Barry London will be honored June 16 by the group at the BevHilton. Andrew Solt, on hand, said he’ll put his CBS Ed Sullivan spex on TheatreVision. And now the Wednesday performance of “Beauty and the Beast” at the Shubert will be TheatreVision’d to 500 seats for the blind. So far Retinitis Pigmentosa can only afford to equip 150 seats — donors are needed. Solt bought 20 when he learned of it!