GOOD MORNING: There was plenty of unwritten action on two sets Wednesday. First, out at WB, “The Drew Carey Show” was closed to its usual taping audience in the afternoon when — as promised here — Drew and co-stars Diedrich Bader, Ryan Stiles, Craig Ferguson and Ian Gomez danced (to “Free Ride”) in the buff, a la “The Full Monty.” Watching ’em and trying to contain their laughter were the actors of Fox Searchlight’s “Full Monty”: Mark Addy, Steve Huison, Hugo Speer and Paul Barber, who had danced in the pic to Tom Jones’ version of Randy Newman’s “Leave Your Hat On.” The “Monty” actors are here also doing added p.a.’s for their pic and attended the DGA preem of Fox Searchlight’s “The Ice Storm.” The (fully clothed) remainder of the Drew Carey seg was filmed before an audience Wednesday night. … At the same time Wednesday out at the Malibu Creek ranch location of “Swiss Family Robinson,” a panther bit Sylvia Rodriguez of the animal trainers and she was medivac’d out with an ankle injury. The panther was later to chase James Keach in a water sequence. Earlier, Keach told me the panther was docile, “like a dog” working with him in an earlier scene. News of the accident spread like wildfire in Malibu. Keach’s wife Jane Seymour, who had completed her role in the pic and was working nearby in a scene for “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” was frantically trying to learn if her husband was also injured when she called to ask what I’d heard of the accident. You recall Jane had been downed with dengue-like fever on the Puerto Rico location and snakes also make filming less appetizing. “Now, with this (panther incident),” Jane said, “it has not been a very lucky picture.” But husband James said, “I love this movie; we went through the real Swiss Family odyssey” and, he said, the almost-completed Total Film Group pic directed by Stuart Raffil looked great in a screening Tuesday night. Keach has two more scenes with the panther and doesn’t know the resolution. After this acting stint, Keach will return to directing with a Johnny Cash biopic for Edgar Scherick. Cash is a close friend of Jane and James. One twin son John is named for him (the other, Chris, is named for Christopher Reeve). The twins (23 months) are the new Gerber (commercials) babies.
GARY MORTON SAYS THE PROGNOSIS is “very favorable.” He is undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer and follows with radiation at Eisenhower Hospital in Palm Springs. Gary told me he had gotten a second opinion at UCLA confirming surgery was not needed. “It’s localized,” he said. Morton was a heavy smoker, as was his wife of 27 years, Lucille Ball … Many longtime friends here were saddened by the news of the death of director Hy Averback, Wednesday from cardiac arrest while in recuperation following heart surgery at Cedars-Sinai. Among those saddened was Jack Paar, who served in the Navy with Averback in Guadalcanal. “Next to my wife and daughter, he was the most important person in my life,” Paar told me. He had wanted to wing here when Averback was first stricken, but medics wouldn’t allow it since Paar recently received a pacemaker and is recuping from pneumonia. Others in the biz who were close to Averback include Jackie Cooper (who served with him in the Navy in New Caledonia in 1945) and Larry Gelbart (who worked with Averback on the Paar TV summer replacement show for Jack Benny) … The voice of the Phantom is now the voice of “Masada.” Davis Gaines, who performed the title role in “The Phantom of the Opera” more than any other actor — 1,937 performances — was signed by producer-composer Shuki Levy for the album of the new musical “Masada,” backed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. The concert’s preem closes the 50th anni celebration of the founding of the state of Israel in Oct. 1998. A full-scale B’way musical version will follow.
FROM “JURASSIC PARK” TO “MERLIN”: Sam Neill, who played Dr. Alan Grant in the bigscreen epic, will play the title role in NBC’s TV epic, which producer Robert Halmi promises “will be bigger than (his) ‘Odyssey’ and (his) ‘Gulliver’s Travels.’ ” The Henson magic factory is creating a dragon for “Merlin” and the Frame Store will do the computer-generated images. Halmi wings in from the Wales locations of “Merlin” for the Nov. 9 B’way preem of “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” which he (Hallmark Entertainment) produces with Pierre Cossette and Bill Haber. Halmi adds that Hallmark hopes to do an annual B’way legiter with Cossette and Haber … Tom Selleck and wife Jillie Mack join Barbara Sinatra as co-hosts for the Oct. 21 evening to benefit the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center Games at Duet supper club in Westwood Village. Wolfgang Puck and wife Barbara Lazaroff are this year’s honorees for the “Star of Tomorrow” gala benefiting the Fulfillment Fund Nov. 8 at the BevWilshire. Hosts for the event are Barbara and Marvin Davis, Lori and Sandy Climan, Kelly and Ron Meyer, Margie and Jerry Perenchio.