NBC’s ‘Will’ takes cue from ‘Ellen’

GOOD MORNING: The “Ellen” show has been a “good caveat” for NBC’s upcoming gay-straight series, “Will & Grace,” say the creators and exec producers David Kohan and Max Mutchnick. In their series, male Will (played by Eric McCormack) is gay, and femme Grace (Debra Messing) is straight. Kohan elaborates: “We have no intention of making the same mistake” made by “Ellen”; they claim their show is about sensibilities, “more like ‘Mad About You.’ ” There are two other main characters played by Sean P. Hayes (as gay) and Megan Mullally (as straight). The show airs at 9:30 p.m. Mondays … Although the restored Orson Welles “Touch of Evil” was not shown at Cannes when fears arose of a suit by Welles’ granddaughter, co-star Janet Leigh — who allows she got unexpected added press when the pic did not screen — says she’d seen the new print at Universal pre-fest: “I really cried. It brought back the essence of the way Orson wanted it to be.” Welles’ instructions on editing were discovered and, Leigh says, the movie was “meticulously restored his way.” Asked about the remake of another of her classic films, “Psycho,” Leigh expressed wonder it is being redone (with Anne Heche in her role), particularly since everyone knows “that” scene, “so there’s no longer the element of surprise. Where’s the shock value?” she asks. “And now — to do it in color? I get mail from all ages, 7 up, so there’s no age group that doesn’t know what’s coming.” Leigh (who’s not in the remake) did a cameo in “H20,” (“Halloween 2”) in a scene with daughter Jamie Lee Curtis, who stars.

THERE ARE SO MANY MISTAKES in the reportage of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, reports Joey Bishop, who is now considering writing his book, “I Was a Mouse in the Rat Pack.” Bishop (80) is also unhappy no one from HBO called him about the making of “Rat Pack” (which starts airing at the end of August). Bobby Slayton plays Bishop in the movie. Bishop sent Slayton a picture autographed: “Please become a big star so maybe some day I can play you.” Ray Liotta is Sinatra … Tony Bennett, Sinatra’s favorite singer, will not be able to participate in the Sinatra golf tourney gala show Saturday at the MGM Grand. Bennett is in the middle of a recording session for his new family-oriented album (Col), tentatively titled “Playground,” in which he duets with Kermit the Frog and Elmo. Those who will be on the Sinatra tribute show benefiting the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center: Gregory Peck, Roy Firestone, Wayne Newton and Tevin Campbell, plus Angie Dickinson intro’s Steve and Eydie, Bob Stack intro’s Diane Schurr, Jack Lemmon intro’s Vic Damone, Tom Dressen intro’s Danny Gans, Smokey Robinson intro’s James Ingram, Don Johnson intro’s Patti Austin and Robert DeNiro intro’s Paul Anka (“My Way”). Quincy Jones and Debbie Allen produce the show, Buz Kohan scripts. The entire cast is skedded to sing the finale, a parodied “My Kinda Town, Las Vegas Is” … A tribute to Paul Robeson will be held Monday at the Actor’s Gang Theatre to celebrate the 100th birthday of Robeson’s birth and his contribution to the theater. Danny Glover and Bennet Guillory, co-founders of the Robey Theater Co., host the event, and participating in the program are Sidney Poitier, Alfre Woodard, Brock Peters and John Randolph … Jane Seymour continues her battle (with CBS) to keep “Dr. Quinn” alive while she’s on location in Winnipeg for CBS’ “A Marriage of Convenience,” in which she is directed by husband James Keach and co-stars with Jim Brolin. The latter starts his new season of “Pensacola, Wings of Gold” July 8. “My Brother’s War,” the feature Brolin directed — and in which he also stars — screens at the San Diego fest June 8.

ONE DOOR CLOSES AND ANOTHER OPENS: When the start of the feature “Red Letter Day” in Australia was delayed, Lynn Redgrave was able to join “Rude Awakening,” the Col TriStar, Mandalay and Showtime series set for 13 segs. She plays (alcoholic) Sherilyn Fenn’s (sometimes alcoholic) mom and Mark Lonow’s wife. Co-starring are Claudia Lonow, Rain Pryor (Richard’s daughter) and Richard Lewis. Redgrave’s also talking the bigscreen “The Last of the Blonde Bombshells” with producer Otto Plaschkes, for whom she starred in “Georgy Girl” (1966). The multi-talented Redgrave will also costar on the Hollywood Bowl stage Sept. 4-5 with Patrick Stewart, duetting B’way tunes … Edie and Lew Wasserman host a $10,000-per-couple dinner at their home June 13, honoring President Clinton and benefiting the Demo National Committee. The President and Hillary Clinton will be honorary chairpersons for this year’s 20th Carousel of Hope charity fundraiser Oct. 23 at the BevHilton, benefiting junior diabetes foundations. The committee for this year’s event (last year’s raised $6 million) include former President and Mrs. Gerald Ford, and former President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan as co-chairpersons.

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