GOOD MORNING: A scary moment on the set of “Mother May I Sleep With Danger?” when Tori Spelling, in a fainting scene, cracked her head open. An ambulance was called, she was rushed to the hospital — but in the old showbiz tradition, she returned to the set. Spelling, the target of snide supermarket rag snipers, spent her day off visiting terminally ill kids in a Vancouver hospice near the location of the NBC-TriStar vidpic. By the way, “Mother” is not an Aaron Spelling project; Preston Fischer and Diane Sokolow exec produce for the Sokolow Co., with Jorge Montesi directing … Berry Gordy is back in the recording studio, but he forewarns me, “It does not mean I’m back in the record business.” He sounds as enthusiastic as ever, and he and longtime pal Smokey Robinson are making beautiful music together again. “He (Smokey) is inspired!” said Gordy. Besides writing and recording new material, they’re experimenting with new interpretations of their hits. Gordy says, “Things are happening in the technology of music and the delivery systems of communication.” He also asserts that his music publishing company, Jobete, “is more valuable than ever; there are so many differentiations now”… Shirley MacLaine will do a two-three day role in Rysher’s “A Smile Like Yours,” to be directed by Rysher CEO Keith Sample. Jack Nicholson did a three-day role (with Shirley) in the company’s “Evening Star.” “Smile” toplines Greg Kinnear, Joan Cusack, Lauren Holly and Jay Thomas. Meanwhile, Rysher’s winding its “The Eighteenth Angel” in Rome with final scenes of a “murder” involving 50 black cats (there are plenty of ’em around Rome!) plus a runaway team of stallions “strangling” young star Rachel Leigh Cook. Exec VP Jim Burke tells me they are so hot on this movie, they will not have the “traditional” company deal with a domestic distributor — but instead “a full partner.”
“ONCE YOU SEE HIM ON THE BIGSCREEN with the entire audience laughing with you, you realize you can’t compare it to seeing it in your living room and getting up to get a Diet Coke.” It was Danny Kaye’s daughter Dena reporting from the N.Y. opening of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Danny Kaye festival (through Aug. 17). She says kids, discovering Kaye for the first time, “were hysterical laughing” at the initial film, the 1956 “The Court Jester” with Angela Lansbury, on behalf of UNICEF on its 50th anni. Remember, Danny was the first celeb special ambassador for UNICEF, and he spent 34 years traveling for the United Nations’ children’s organization … Add meaningful nostalgia: “Loving Lucy,” the first annual convention of Lucille Ball fans, will be held July 19-21 at the Burbank Airport Hilton with alumni of the shows on hand and an auction of Lucy items donated by Lucie Arnaz, with proceeds going to a Lucy/Desi Museum in Jamestown, N.Y. The closing banquet will feature the amazing Lucy look-alike Suzanne LaRusch (she bowled over showbiz-wise staffers here at Daily Variety when she waltzed in) and Adrian Israel as Ricky … Benny Carter (88), Buddy Collette (75) and Gerald Wilson (78) perform newly commissioned works this week in D.C.’s Lincoln Theater under the aegis of the Library of Congress. The trio of jazz greats are all Angelenos. L.A.’s Oscar-winning (3) songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evans perform Saturday in Miami for a Cocoanut Grove Playhouse benefit, with Nancy Reed Kanter singing two of their tunes … Ray Charles is on his 1996 tour, this weekend at Caesars before he and the orch and the Raeletts leave for an extended European tour. Joining the orch is trombonist Sarah Morrow, the first female to ever play with the Charles orch. “We are equal opportunity employers,” smiles Ray. “All you have to be is good.”
“WOLFGANG AMADEUS PUCK wrote this piece,” said Gene Barry as he took the baton to lead the Jr. Philharmonic orchestra of California in its 59th anniversary gala concert. Barry won “The Golden Baton” celebrity “battle of the batons,” even though Victoria Rowell (“The Young and the Restless” and “Diagnosis Murder”) conducted her number while ballet-ing across the stage and Dennis Haskins (Mr. Belding of “Saved By the Bell”) baton’d a hoedown stomping while barefoot. My enthusiastic leading of Irving Berlin’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business” brought polite applause. Terry Murphy, who m.c.’d, is a past Golden Baton winner — she did a striptease to her downbeats! The evening’s serious music was led by ever-young Ernst Katz. The program also boasted Emmy winner Ed Asner reading the “Camelot” suite, backed by the orch to thunderous applause; concertmaster Gary S. Greene received a similar reaction. The amazing orch will celebrate its diamond jubilee with past celeb “winners” to appear; it promises to be star-studded. Dr. Katz has led the orch since he started it with this motto: “Give Youth a Chance”– and what better way than with music? Thanks for the invitation to be a contributor.