‘Dennis’ goes to B’way

GOOD MORNING: Although a memorial service is being held today for Hank Ketchum in Monterey, Calif., “Dennis the Musical” is alive and eventually heading to B’way. Ernie Chambers, who had known Ketchum for 20 years, has exclusive rights to the legiter from the cartoonist. The show, with since-KO’d music, played Minneapolis in 1987 with Tom Poston starring; it also played D.C. and K.C. (Kansas City). Now Chambers, wife Veronica and Ted Rollins are rolling out Dennis with new music; Chambers did the book and lyrics. He allows, with the “market so hot now, thanks to ‘The Producers’ and all family entertainment , it is a good time to bring “Dennis” to Broadway.” Who to play the leads? Gavin MacLeod and Marion Ross are two names mentioned by Chambers, who also wrote the “Dennis the Menace” TV movie, and exec produced the two WB features (one starring Walter Matthau, the other, Don Rickles) … And talking about “The Producers” (and talk about it will never stop!), Mel Brooks’ answer to those who criticized his Hitlerian “moustache”(a comb) in his Tony acceptance speech: “You’ve got to keep ridiculing those guys to death; you can’t rhetoric them.” As for reports that Martin Short would be a replacement for Matthew Broderick when he takes six weeks off to play “The Music Man” as previously contracted, Short says no one has contacted him. And he doesn’t want to be apart from his wife and three children for any stretch of time. He’s got 10 shows he’s producing and in which he’s starring for Comedy Central. But — make him an offer and then we’ll see.

“OUTDOORS AND DAYLIGHT — they’re the enemies of comedy,” says Jerry Seinfeld’s manager George Shapiro. They’re the reasons Jerry’s turned down giant summer offer$ to play in huge arenas. He prefers beautiful theaters with great sound and acoustics. Sure, he played the Javitz Center last week, but it was for charity — the Robin Hood Foundation. But it’s the 2-3,000-seat houses from now on: Madison, June 8, then time off to celebrate Father’s Day, returning to work June 27 in Philly; Allentown, June 30; Toronto, July 6; Norfolk, July 12. etc. While he’s played Carnegie Hall and the Broadhurst on B’way, he’s avoiding N.Y. for the present. And L.A. to be closer to home — in N.Y … And along touring, Bill Cosby’s TV daughter, T’Keyah Crystal Leymah, launches a 19-city national variety show tour Sept. 6 in L.A.’s Globe Playhouse, heading to a N.Y. date Oct. 6-7 at the Miller Theater. She also has a CD, “Jazz Spirit” — and she’ll be releasing her book, “Natural Woman/Natural Hair” … For the USO Handshake tour to Korea July 1-7, Johnny Grant is seeking a replacement for “JAG” star Catherine Bell, who had to bow out because of a previous commitment that will run longer than expected. Call Johnny at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce … And talking variety shows, on July 28, Wayne Brady starts taping a half-hour ABC variety show (Wednesdays 8:30 ) to bow Aug. 8 … The AFI honored its Second Decade Council who’ve been members 20 years or more, Tuesday night at the Chayas Brasserie. Chair Sherry Lansing plaqued the SDC members, who joned the original group in 1976 and Jean Picker Firstenberg presented certificates to other longtime members … The Southern California Multiple Sclerosis Society’s 2001 Dinner of Champions, Sept. 10 at the Century Plaza Hotel, will honor Jim N. Gianopulos, chairman Fox Filmed Entertainment. Last year’s dinner honoring Amy Pascal raised $3.4 million.

WILLIE NELSON WILL ENTERTAIN at the Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance’s 2001 National Tribute Dinner honoring Michael Douglas with its Humanitarian Award, June 25 at the BevHilton … Natalie Cole dedicated “Unforgettable” to George Schlatter at the close of Monday night’s Larry King Cardiac Foundation benefit honoring Schlatter and Sumner Redstone at the BevWilshire. Natalie had known George since she was a little girl and her father Nat King Cole was singing at Ciro’s where George held forth. A glamorous Goldie Hawn intro’d Schlatter. The night also saw the Guidant Corp. donate a million-$ for a 2-1/2-year period of medical technology. “Judge Judy” Sheindlin intro’d Jonathan Dolgen, who in turn brought on Redstone. He was preceded by an impressive biofilm that revealed to many his Harvard accomplishment, well as his having helped break the Japanese code during WWII. Redstone’s close friend Aaron Spelling narrated the film. Entertainment also included comedians Rodney Dangerfield and Lewis Black, Kenny Loggins and troupe. As promised by Schlatter, who also produced the evening, the event wound in time to catch the 11 o’clock news. Sherry Lansing and Mel Karmazin cochaired. Shawn and Larry King co-emceed. We were seated next to Robert Evans and Christine Peters. We talked current movies and she said she’d taken her 9- and 12-year-old daughters to see “Pearl Harbor” so they’d have an inkling of that period of our history. Her children also know their grandmother (Christine’s mom) and her grandfather were imprisoned separately by the Japanese in Jakarta. They were horror camps; Christine’s grandfather never came out. Also at the fundraiser was Mayor Richard Riordan, on the eve of the election noting his imminent departure. When I asked if he was looking to a different job, like governor, he pointed to wife Nancy and said, “Ask her.” I asked her. She said, “Ask him.” Stay tuned.

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