GOOD MORNING: A Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner was returned to the Royal Appliance Manufacturing Co. by — Ava Astaire (Mrs. Richard McKenzie). As you might have imagined, Fred Astaire’s daughter, Ava, says she is “saddened that after his (Fred’s) wonderful career he was sold to the devil.” The “devil” in this case is the Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner. Fred is appearing in commercials in which his dancing props (a mop from “Easter Parade” and a coat rack in “Royal Wedding”) have been computerized and substituted with vacuum cleaners. The blurbs have already appeared in (very costly) spots on the Super Bowl and more are to come, stated Mike Merriman, president of Royal. Ava wrote him, “I am aware that the blame for using my father’s image in commercials is not entirely yours, but the idea must have originated within your company before you made an approach for the rights. By now, you must realize that decision has also been regarded as a disgrace by the general press. I am grateful to them.” She goes on to write, “Yes, he did dance with a mop but he wasn’t selling that mop and it was his own idea. Above all my father was a consummate artist and would not have tolerated for a minute anything interfering with the grace and line of movement which he worked so hard to perfect. He was very careful that the few commercials in which he did participate during his lifetime would in no way tarnish his image and I am saddened that nowsomething over which he has no control has attempted to do so. Your paltry, unconscionable commercials are the antithesis of everything my lovely, gentle father represented.” (It was Astaire’s widow Robyn who had agreed to this commercial deal). And add this bit of irony: Ava returned her vacuum cleaner to the Royal company, noting “I had purchased our Dirt Devil several months before your advertising campaign was launched and quite by chance, our housekeeper discovered that it had stopped working just a few days prior to Super Bowl Sunday. It is still under warranty. My first inclination was to put it out with the rubbish, but I don’t want to be responsible for those pieces of plastic remaining forever on some landfill. I certainly do not want it back. I feel that my father was telling me something.” And I think Ava is telling the Devil something — for many of us, too.

A LAST-MINUTE GRAMMY-GOER reportedly will be nominee Hillary Clinton. … The Madison Square Garden music makers will be fashionably in tune judging by the list of those wearing either Giorgio Armani or Emporio Armani threads — including Natalie Cole and Me’Shell Ndegeocello as well as Eric Clapton and the Fugees. … Closing night of the L.A. Indie Film Fest will unspool “Off the Menu — The Last Days of Chasen’s” April 7 at the DGA. Diandra Douglas and Alicia Sams produced, Robert Pulcini directed the feature docu. … At the AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Awards gala a tribute was given to William Buffum, the Portland, Ore., projectionist who saved the 1912 “Richard III” feature — but what was not announced was that producer Joe Kanter paid to have the master restored and had the nitrate copy sent to the Library of Congress. Kanter also paid for the musical score by Robert Israel and picked up the tab for the pic’s preem at the L.A. County Museum of Art. P.S. he didn’t do it for publicity — but as a contribution to the industry. … Elizabeth Taylor’s 65th birthday special on ABC won the night — even beating out another of exec producer Gary Pudney’s specials, “Lance Burton, Master Magician — The Encounter.” Anthony Eaton, who produced the Taylor special, next exec produces the “ShoWest Awards,” live from Las Vegas March 6 on TNT, then reteams with Pudney on the “World Music Awards” April 17 in Monte Carlo — with Michael Jackson again appearing. … Proud papa department: Irving Fein’s daughter Tisha co-produced the Elizabeth Taylor show, dittoes the Grammys tonight and the Walt Disney World 25th anni party on the 28th and next week, the Ford’s Theater special .

AN ADDED CONTRIBUTION from “Schindler’s List” airing on NBC was the audio airing and description of the Spielberg classic on Cable Radio Network by TheaterVision’s Helen Harris (of RP International), Leopold Page (who brought the story to Spielberg) and Mario Machado. Blind listeners in over 135 cities were able to “see” the movie as described to them over radio. It aired from the dramatic setting of the Global Situation Room in the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Harris is hoping to ditto describe the Academy Awards for the blind. … Vic Damone, suffering a sore throat, had to cancel Tuesday’s performance at Rainbow and Stars. He also picked up the cover charge of an SRO room Sunday when, after a valiant 50 minutes, decided he wasn’t up to his standards. … Drew Barrymore’s 22nd birthday bash on the 22nd at Lola’s went on into the 23rd at 4 ayem with pals including Courteney Cox, Neve Campbell, Leonardo DiCaprio, Rosie Perez and Marisa Tomei on hand. … To date, $650,000 has been raised via the March 4 Purnell Center for the Arts at Carnegie Mellon. … U’s gala at the BevHilton to honor alums Holly Hunter, John Wells and Bud Yorkin. Fellow grads will entertain.

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