‘Midnight’ producer eyes Dunne’s ‘City’

GOOD MORNING: “If we could make (John Berendt’s) ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ into a movie, we can make a feature out of Dominick Dunne’s ‘Another City, Not My Own,’ ” says producer Arnold Stiefel – who, with his sister Anita Zuckerman (she exec produced the film) bought pic rights to Berendt’s book. Dunne’s tome is a novelized mirror of his life and times in Hollywood during the O.J. trial, and Stiefel sees the feature version as ” ‘Sunset Blvd.’ Meets ‘All the President’s Men.'” Stiefel adds he was Dunne’s early literary agent, “when he was first leaving Hollywood to become a writer.” – The Lady Chablis was one of the first to note the error in the final film credits of “Midnight,” which referred to Berendt’s book as a “novel.” At the screening, Chablis shouted, “If that’s a novel, I don’t exist! What am I, Tinker Bell?” Chablis’ autobio, “Hiding My Candy,” was also bought by Stiefel-Zuckerman. It was originally to be a movie about a little black boy who became a successful drag queen. “Now,” said Stiefel, “it’s going to be the movie about a little black boy who became a movie star!” Berendt’s “Midnight” continues in the top 10 bestseller list, in its third year… Nate ‘n Al’s deli on Beverly Blvd. shut its doors suddenly Monday at 5 p.m. to “voluntarily” correct items the L.A. Board of Health had noted in its report. When I called the shuttered deli, usually humming with discerning patrons, it was buzzing with “90 people” sprucing up the place due to reopen Saturday. I was told items being corrected included none of the horrors in eateries described on KCBS’ excellent news series airing this week – “just some peeling paint” and some kitchen utensil corrections. I’ll be among the longtime customers happily returning.

IRAQ TOOK PRIORITY over a “Welcome to Sarajevo” screening at the White House Wednesday night. President Clinton’s viewing of the pic with friends was interrupted regularly as he took calls from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on progress of Persian Gulf confabs… Producer Peter Shiao returns to Beijing Saturday to continue post-production on “Restless,” a Chinese-American co-production financed by U.S. and Chinese fund$. The Taiwan-born, UCLA-educated Shiao, once director to the Calif. Senate Committee on the Pacific Rim and Senate Committee on the Entertainment Industry, heads his Celestial Pictures; films in progress include “The Mercado Family Debut.” His $3 million “Restless” is about contemporary China – it’s 80% English, 20% Chinese-speaking and stars Catherine Kellner and David Wu (video jockey on Rupert Murdoch’s Channel V). Murdoch visited Shiao in Beijing, has a five-minute presentation reel of the movie. Also stopping by the set were reps from Col TriStar and Buena Vista. “This movie has a chance to test the viability of the Chinese market,” which is potentially enormous. As a co-production, it will get distribution without limitations in China because of its revenue-sharing basis. Only 10 foreign films are approved for distribution there. Shiao admits, however, that he has to show “Restless” to Chinese authorities. “And we push the envelope,” he admits. There is some language, nudity and subtle political comments. “I anticipate we’ll have a long dialog process” about it, he said. But he’s gotten no negative comments like those originally received for Richard Gere’s “Red Corner” or Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun.”

WHEN A DINER SUFFERED a heart attack at the Cordial Cafe in Encino, “Something So Right” star Jere Burns, sitting nearby with Kathleen Kinmont, series director James Widdoes and wife Brooks, quickly administered CPR and saved the man’s life. An ambulance later arrived… “The Truth About Sex” co-producer Dale Rosenbloom and wife Kathleen welcomed daughter Olivia Nov. 18 at Cedars-Sinai. (“Truth” is about sex researcher Alfred Kinsey)… Jack Carter plays a mafioso boss in the “Diagnosis Murder” seg filming this week; Carter spends four days as a corpse, two in ‘live’ action. He last worked with Dick Van Dyke on the latter’s series in the ’60s. “I told you I’d have you back,” Van Dyke welcomed Carter… Princess Stephanie of Monaco guests live from home on “Good Morning America,” Monday as Gary Pudney’s “Champions of Magic” (Stephanie co-hosts with Bronson Pinchot) airs that night on ABC. And, on Wednesday Pudney’s “World’s Greatest Magic” airs on NBC… Reprise! B’way’s Best in Concert (at the Freud at UCLA) had such a successful first season, artistic director Marcia Seligson said, “We are doubling the number of performances for each show next season.” Closing show this year is the current “Wonderful Town” with wonderful reaction from first-niter Edie Adams, who starred in the original as Eileen… Dixie Carter gives a rare L.A. show Dec. 5 for GLASS (Gay & Lesbian Adolescent Social Service) at Ken Frank’s Fenix restaurant in the Argyle Hotel… Mary Lou Loper turned in her resignation Monday to the L.A. Times, where she’s been society columnist and writer for 38 years.

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