‘V/V’ cast change causes controversy

GOOD MORNING: If it were “The Music Man,” it would be “trouble in River City” — but it’s “Victor/Victoria” and the trouble’s in gay Paree — or rather on the stage of B’way’s Marquis theater. That’s where Raquel Welch is rehearsing, readying to take over when Julie Andrews departs the show. Welch was to bow June 1 but Andrews may stay over until June 8, feeling she “owes” the audiences she’s missed due to throat problems (she returned Friday after being sidelined a week). But word is there have been major confrontations between Welch and Blake Edwards — who is producer, writer, director and major investor ($3 million) of the show. As everyone on B’way knows, those credits make him the ultimate authority and decision-maker. During rehearsals, he’s had to remind Welch of that. … Also, early on in rehearsals with Welch, choreographer Rob Marshall quit. … After B’way, there is talk of taking “V/V” to Houston and Seattle for six-week stands each — with Julie Andrews starring. … Frank Gifford was to m.c. the USC Athletic Hall of Fame dinner March 17, but Marcus Allen took over, saying, “I got a call from Frank — he needed me to help him out.” Allen proceeded to illustrate his savoir faire — off the football field and onstage as well. All agreed, he’s got a big future in showbiz. Early in the evening, Barney Rosenzweig, who was a USC cheerleader, led the black-tied Trojan alumni crowd in an Southern Cal spell-out, complete with gymnastics (sorta). He got a standing ovation. When Allen wound his seg, he noted that Barney and everyone else got an ovation, how about one for him? So, he also led the group in (an abbreviated ) S.C. spellout — to a standing ovation as well. What’s a Bruin alumnus like yours truly diong giving the Trojans all this space?

THE EVIL THAT MEN DO lives after them — the good is often interred with their bones. Sorry, but I’m now talking about television. President Clinton’s acknowledgment of the wrongs done by the government in the 1932 Tuskegee-syphilis experiment, the apology and promises for a healthier future may very well claim “Miss Evers’ Boys” as its catalyst. The HBO version of David Feldshuh’s play was preemed at the Kennedy Center in D.C. and first aired Feb. 22 during Black History Month and was repeated thereafter. Several weeks later, the Black Congressional Caucus press conference was called at Tuskegee with attorneys and survivors where attention was again called to the fact the government had done nothing. “Miss Evers’ ” TV director Joe Sargent reminds, “TV makes rewarding contributions more often than the stuff for which it gets negative attention.” Producer Robert Benedetti allows, “I wouldn’t want to pretend that the TV show was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but — we brought more attention to the fact that the government never did anything about it.” Sargent next directs Showtime’s “The Wall” about the Vietnam War Memorial in D.C. (to shoot in Toronto, natch!). Savion Glover (“Bring in Da Noise”) and Ruby Dee are two so far set, in the white, black, Hispanic cast of three segs in the two-hour show. Meanwhile, Benedetti, who was partnered with Ted Danson in their Anasazi Prods., is now running his banner solo — but readying the Jonas Salk story for Viacom with Danson to star in the title role. Benedetti’s also readying the Aldrich Ames story, “The Last Spy” for Par/Showtime, CBS’ “A Son’s Promise” — and HBO’s “Atomic Mafia” about nuclear smuggling — a true story. … Happy 89th birthday (today) to Jimmy Stewart. He’s joined here by daughter Judy and son Michael for dinner and birthday cake while daughter Kelly’s en route to Princeton where a theater will be named in Stewart’s honor. Jim sounded pretty good on the phone as we chatted briefly. Birthday cards had been arriving from around the world. He was very touched.

THE DESCRIPTION OF Billy Bob Thornton’s character is getting the full treatment — last night on “Hard Copy” from his first wife, tonight, from his current and about-to-be-ex wife Pietra on “Extra.” Meanwhile, Pietra, whom I introduced with Billy Bob as they arrived at the Oscars, tells me, “I’m going to make a name for myself — first as a mother. Being happy is my best revenge.” Her restraining order against Thornton is still in effect, following the filing of her vivid declaration of alleged assaults and threats. She says she’s put her career “on hold.” She’d been studying acting with a coach for 10 years — now, she’s taking boxing lessons. … On the sunnier side of the street: The Cedars-Sinai Women’s Guild raised $500,000-plus at the L.A. Antique Show, bringing to $40 million the total the ladies have contributed from events for the Medical Center over 40 years. Following the gala opening, celebs including Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Tilly and Dustin Hoffman attended over the weekend.

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