The Universal shuffle begins

GOOD MORNING: The big shift starts today at Universal. The movie department moves out of the Tower into a new building at the north end of the lot with space equal to two football fields. Others will be moving out of — and into — the Tower. The entire top floor reportedly will be occupied solely by the offices of Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Lew Wasserman … Jerry Weintraub produces, Richard Benjamin directs WB’s “Bye Bye” original drama by Ron Bass about a widower and his young daughter. Benjamin’s last WB outing was “Made in America,” which topped the $100 million mark globally. He’s now in post on TriStar’s $19 million “Mrs. Winterbourne,” Ricki Lake’s first starring pic — with Shirley MacLaine, Brendan Fraser and Loren Dean. One train scene’s left to lense in Toronto. Benjamin completed a Grand Central sequence with 750 extras. “I haven’t been in that station since I started in summer stock,” Benjamin recalled. He’s now working in the Myrna Loy building at Sony and reminisces about working with Loy cross-country in “Barefoot in the Park.””Boy, did I love her!”… While readying three two-hour “Commish” shows for ABC this season, Michael Chiklis also is talking a CBS sitcom to launch in the fall ’96 season … Bruce Davison joins Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, Joan Allen and Paul Scofield in “The Crucible” at Fox with Arthur Miller scripting his play. Robert A. Miller and David Picker produce, Nicholas Hytner directs … Marilyn and Alan Bergman and James Newton Howard tuned the “George and Alana Show” theme: “You Know Me Too Well.” The Bergmans receive honorary doctorates in music at the Berklee School of Music Sept. 8. Rare for lyricists to get that nod … Hughes’ Playa del Rey giant buildings are now housing hefty scenery for Fox’s $ 70 million “Independence Day,” which features mucho computerized sequences. The other night at LAX, Robert Loggia, as a four-star Marine Corps general, and Bill Pullman, as the President of the U.S., were lensed leaving a chopper and boarding Air Force One — while the chopper was real, Air Force One will be inserted later via computer. Loggia tells me in this pic “L.A., D.C., N.Y. are all destroyed. This is one way to wipe out street crime!”

A CONFESSION AND A PLEA: “It’s been four years, but I’m still getting a bad reputation,” Joe Penny called to admit. “I said things I shouldn’t have said and did things I shouldn’t have done.” It was during the last of “Jake and the Fatman” when William Conrad was tragically ill. “It was the most difficult experience of my life — seeing a guy dying,” said Penny. “I’ve taken a bad rap as a ‘bad boy.’ But it was emotionally overwhelming. I became angry not at him (Conrad) — but at his illness. I did wrong. I never asked for more money. I was thankful for that. But I should have quit and gone to work in a paper mill.” Penny hated working in Hawaii and admits, “My personal life got blown away. I should have gotten off my soap box.” Yes, he fell victim to drugs. But he stopped — totally. And hasn’t been near ’em for more than two years. His manager Herb Nanas swore, “He is totally clean. This is a very quiet, dedicated guy who just likes acting.” Fred Silverman’s talking a series project for Penny. And Tina Sinatra, for whom Penny played Olympia Dukakis’ son Michael in CBS’ telepic “Young at Heart,” told me, “He (Penny) was nothing but totally professional. I’ve never known a more responsible actor. I’d have him work in any project of mine any time”… Tina, in her endless quest to quash bootleg Frank Sinatra records, tells me she was recently in Tower Records and discovered “19 bootleg (Frank Sinatra) CDs.” She reminds, “If they’re not Capitol/EMI, Sony/Columbia, Reprise/WB or RCA/BMG, don’t buy them! It’s highway robbery.”

LIVER TRANSPLANT RECIPIENT Mia Montanez (14) will ride with Lorenzo Lamas on his Harley Sunday when he leads his third annual Ride Sober for Life, benefiting the Children’s Transplant Fund. A very enthusiastic Lamas foned me from his trailer on a San Diego location of his “Renegades” series, which starts its fourth season and is both on USA nightly as well as in firstrun syndication. He’s completed 71 shows, says, “I never felt better. I’ve bought a home down here and — I’ve found the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with.” She’s Shauna Sand, a beautiful model-actress. Next for Lorenzo, action on the bigscreen … Milton Berle, Emmy-nominated for his Alzheimer’s patient in “Beverly Hills, 90210,” guests on a seg of “The Nanny” this fall. He next launches his “Low Impact, High Comedy Workout for Seniors.” And the ever-active Uncle Miltie (87) plays a one-man show at the Riverside in Laughlin, Nov. 15-18. He’ll also Roastmaster the N.Y. Friars’ skewering of Steven Seagal Oct. 6 … Mark Rydell signed with ICM’s Guy McElwaine … Ray Stark, Aaron Spelling, Alan Ladd Jr., Sumner Redstone and Herb Ross were among diners at Bernard Erpicum’s Eclipse … Joni James makes her first L.A. appearance in 35 years, Sept. 17 at the TV Acad’s Plaza Theater.

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Voices News from Variety