‘Nightline’ caught in ‘Traffic’

GOOD MORNING: Ted Koppel went to see “Traffic” twice — and now ABC’s “Nightline” will air five segments on the pic, starting March 19, “examining the issues behind this Academy Award-nominated film.” Koppel said. “We (‘Nightline’) have done over 5,000 shows and I don’t think a movie has ever prompted us to do ONE show. But I went to see ‘Traffic’ twice and was so impressed by it and the honesty with which they showed it.” Koppel was accompanied, on his first viewing of “Traffic,” by son Andrew who is a legal aide, “and most of his clients are related to drugs.” Koppel said his wife was afraid to see it. But she did on his second viewing — and she, too, loved it. Koppel reminded us that “Nightline” segs on crime and punishment revealed that seven out of 10 women in prisons are there because of drug-related crimes … “Nightline” executive producer Leroy Sievers admitted, “We’ve all covered drug stories for years, but we saw this movie and thought it terrific and we read your column.” On Feb. 28, I wrote: “Is life imitating art or — ? Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Traffic’ has gone where politicians fear to tread.” I went on to write about the effect the pic had begun to generate in D.C., Colombia, Mexico, editorial pages of the N.Y. Times, two forums by the New Republic, etc. … Koppel said, “We made contact with Steven Soderbergh who couldn’t have been more pleased.” The TV troupe duplicated the scene at the U.S.-Mexico border where drug czar Michael Douglas was shown the ropes by the U.S. Border Patrol’s Rudy Camacho — with Koppel acting exactly as Douglas did. Koppel was told that, for the movie’s scene, Camacho was told by director Soderbergh to “ad lib it.” He and Douglas did — and it played perfectly. Koppel allowed of his appearance with Camacho, “We matched it (the movie) pretty well!” … Producer Sievers said they were also shown (Mexican) rooftop sites from which drug dealers “spot” cars being checked by the patrols, then re-route their drug-carrying vehicles … The TV reality continues with an interview between Koppel and Mexico’s President Vicente Fox. The consensus of those on the show is that the cartel won’t go after the president but cabinet members may not be so lucky. A Mexico newspaperman who was targeted now wears a bullet-proof vest to work … Soderbergh gave his OK for use of some film clips — but “Nightline” has footage of (other) real people — including a Mexican general and a tortured suspect … What’s in the future for “Nightline,” the pride of ABC? “Down the road,” Koppel said: “The first 100 days of the Bush administration.” And a series on gays in America.” Koppel said, “I don’t think television has taken a good look at the nature of being gay in America — for whose who live it. And for those who lived it 20-30-40 years ago.” Stay tuned — to “Nightline.”

PATRICIA HEARST RETURNS to Hollywood next week — “live” when she will be the “date,” as she puts it, of John Waters, who will be m.c. of the Independent Spirit Awards. Of course, Hearst’s husband, Bernard Shaw will also be attending, and Patricia laughingly adds, “He will be the date of photographer Greg Corman. We’ve decided to confuse the media.” Hearst is no stranger to filmmaker Waters, having appeared in five films for him including “Cry Baby” with Johnny Depp and “Cecil B. Demented” with Melanie Griffith. Waters has told her to be ready for a role in his next, about a “blue collar sex addict in Baltimore.” She’ll also be seen in a seg of Howard Stern’s “Son Of A Beach” playing, “a crack whore whose son is a serial killer,” she laughed. She’ll probably be back on Sterns’ radio/TV show to promote her appearance. On her first guestint with Stern, he opened the interview saying to her, “Definitely — a C-cup.” Hearst, signed with the Gersh Agency, shows off her classy looks, easy style and warm voice as the host of the Travel Channel’s “Secrets of San Simeon,” which preems Monday. She produced, hosted and narrates. I’ve seen it and it’s terrif. So is she. “I really wanted to do a great job,” she says, “because other shows didn’t give it enough time — for both the period and what it took to accomplish.” The vintage footage of Hollywood’s greats, is also priceless. No movie company can film there. Only one was allowed, she said — “Spartacus” for a scene at the Neptune pool. The state now owns San Simeon. She hosted a press junket there last week with a screening in the visitors’ center and another in Hearst’s private projection room … It brought back memories again. In 1996, she co-wrote “Murder at San Simeon” a novel about the 1924 death of producer Thomas Ince after a wild party aboard the Hearst yacht where revelers included Louella O. Parsons. Today, Patricia told me, newspapermen constantly come up to her to say they worked for Hearst at one time during their careers. I told her, so did I, for the L.A. Herald Express, King Features Syndicate and the American Weekly magazine … And when I was at the Herald working with Harrison Carroll, he would have me bring items to Marion Davies’ home on Beverly Drive. William Randolph Hearst died in the bedroom of that house. Patricia is understandably thrilled to have finally gotten a pardon (on President Clinton’s last day in office). As for being subpoenaed to testify in the (L.A.) trial of Sara Jane Olson, under her former name of Kathleen Soliah, Patricia tells me, “We’ll see what happens. It’s not my problem — it’s hers.” … Congrats to Jerry Lewis who celebrates his 75th birthday in San Diego aboard his yacht … And a toast to Tony Orlando who celebrates his 40th anni in showbiz March 23 when he’s inducted into the Tropicana Hotel’s Legends Hall of Fame.

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