GOOD MORNING: As Lions Gate preps the release of “The Grey Zone,” the story of Jews helping Nazis in the executions of fellow death-camp prisoners (Daily Variety, Aug. 22), Showtime is readying the Sept. 6 preem at the DGA of “The Believer,” the story of a Yeshiva student who transforms into the leader of a neo-Nazi group of skinheads. When it was shown at Sundance, Daily Variety reviewer Todd McCarthy warned: “Those who see it at fests and in carefully tailored specialized release will be struck by the adroitness with which it addresses touchy issues,” including “the intricate theories of anti-semitism.” Those theories are only too alive today in the headlines of the suicide bombings in Israel. Today’s national edition of the N.Y. Times carries a full-page ad from the Simon Wiesenthal Center warning that the United Nations General Assembly convening Sept. 11 will find no resolution condemning “the escalation of suicide bombings against innocent civilian populations by the terrorist organizations Islamic Jihad and Hamas operating from the territory of the Palestinian Authority.” The Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier noted to me that the U.N. conferees on racism, starting Monday in Durban, South Africa, are being “hijacked into an attack on the state of Israel” … Thursday night, the Vision Awards was launched at the Museum of Tolerance with a screening of “The Testimony of Taliesin Jones” and the short “Echo.” Fest director Marc Marriott says, “Film is such a powerful medium. We want to promote and encourage those films that use this power to uplift and inspire.” He’s directing the Discovery Channel’s new show, “Body Challenge.”
THERE’S NO QUESTION about it — Shaquille O’Neal is indeed superman. We spoke Thursday between his meetings for movies, TV, music, promotions for Ford’s Shaquille SST Ford Expedition — and basketball. He’s talking a feature film production next week with Gene Simmons of KISS. “It would be an action movie,” he promises. “I want to do more of them.” Today, he does his third comedy outing on TV as he guests with Damon Wayans on “My Wife and Kids.” He hopes to do a dramatic guestint with “X-Men” before going back to the Lakers in October. How many more seasons? “Two or three,” he said. He’d also like to produce a TV series, “like ‘Melrose Place’ for kids — and older adults.” As for music, his second album is “Shaquille O’Neal Presents his Superfriends … Vol. One” (TWISM/Trauma Records). He raps on all 14 songs, he told me, along with “friends” Ludacris, Dr. Dre, Angie Stone, George Clinton, Shawn Stockman (from Boyz II Men) and 112 (currently on tour with Janet Jackson). He will be on the red carpet as a special correspondent at the MTV Music Awards Sept. 6 in N.Y. You can bet no one will try to pass him by! Shaq is only starting to develop his endeavors in the world of entertainment. I forgot to ask if he’d ask any courtsiders like Jack Nicholson to appear in one of his endeavors. After all, he’s entertained ’em for years … I also talked with a showbiz veteran-icon-treasure: Sid Caesar who is readying the release of his second “Sid Caesar Collection — The Fan Favorites.” They voted for fave “Show of Shows” segs for his next VHS and DVD from Creative Light Entertainment. He says the digitalized rebirth of these shows “makes them better than new; I couldn’t believe what they did” with the 50-year-old shows. No, they’re not in color: “Color distracts comedy,” he claims. He recalled some of the segs on the four-hours of comedy; they include “the Overture of 1812,” the “Break Your Brains” gameshow, “A Night at the Opera,” etc. We were both laughing as he retold ’em. The shows were done live, sans cue cards or Teleprompters. At a Columbia U. lecture after he described the live shows, he was asked, “How long did it take you to shoot the hour-and-a-half long show?” The writers included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Carl Reiner, Mike Stewart, Mel Tolkin, Woody Allen — need more?
TWO YEARS AFTER its first outing, the James Earl Jones, Lynn Redgrave, Margot Kidder starrer The Annihilation of Fish” will finally hit the nation’s screens. Producer Paul Heller tells me Regent will release it, launching with a preem Oct. 24 and a gala (by Bloomingdale’s and Venice magazine). The Charles Burnett-directed pic is aimed for Oscar nominations. Kidder, who lives in Livingstone, Mont., says, “My life is good.” She credits orthomolecular medicine for her recovery; she has been totally without any other medication for five years. She has been talking it around the country and she’ll be honored Sept. 20 at the Bonaventure hotel by Safe Harbor for her humanitarian work. They’re establishing the annual Margot Kidder award … The “Entertainment Tonight” Emmy party at Barney’s in BevHills will be themed “Old Hollywood” and toasts Mary Hart’s 20th year with the show — which I helped launch with Jack Haley Jr. … Andy Garcia heads to the Deauville fest with “The Unsaid” and to the Toronto Fest with “The Man From Elysian Fields” and to the Vegas preem for “Ocean’s 11” … A memorial service for director Alan Rafkin, who died Aug. 6, will be held Sept. 9 at the DGA … Emmy winner Fyvush Finkel, who hosts Sunday’s Chabad Telethon, will sing “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” on the Jerry Lewis Labor Day weekend telethon. Finkel, costar of David Kelley’s “Boston Public” will be 79, Oct. 9 … .I’m on vacation, returning after Labor Day.