Coffee drought hits sets

GOOD MORNING: Dick Van Dyke is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore. The always-affable actor was on the phone to me Wednesday from the Van Nuys City Studios set of his series, “Diagnosis Murder.” “Can you believe it!” he said. “We’re not allowed to have any coffee (machines) on the set anymore. Did you ever hear of anything so ludicrous? It’s the dumbest thing I ever heard. Are we supposed to send out for a cup of coffee from Starbucks?” Craft services, a “lifeline” on all movie and TV sets, have been ordered to cease supplying, displaying, offering (gratis) almost all of their wares — and that includes coffee! The order, from the County of L.A. Health Dept., has officially taken effect this week and all studio labor reps were informed by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers about the California Uniform Retail Food & Facilities Laws and restrictions. The studios were informed that failure to comply would be a felony and could mean a $1,000-a-day fine. On the set Wednesday, Van Dyke and the “Diagnosis Murder” troupe were informed by Paramount (Viacom) attorney Lou Shore of the consequences of failure to obey the law. The series’ Craft services supervisor Mike McAteer noted, “We’re the only business in the country where you can’t get a cup of coffee. Every barber shop, auto sales room — has a coffee machine.” “Do you have one over at Variety?” Van Dyke asked me. Yup. “Then I’ll come over there for one. I’m already having withdrawal pains. This must be the first act by the Bush administration.” The series has four more segs to complete its eighth season. One way to assure his return for a ninth — rescind the coffee KO.

THERE WAS, HOWEVER, COFFEE — and Danish — at the White House Wednesday ayem as Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a blue (not new) suit greeted old friends in the East Wing prior to being sworn in at the Capitol building as a senator from N.Y. Showbiz obviously was missing among the coffee klatch — only Kathie Berlin and Ken Sunshine were on hand. You can bet the president’s future is not in showbiz! President Clinton even refrained from coming down from the White House upper quarters to join the two morning coffee groups. And, of course, as president, he was not allowed on the Senate floor for the ceremony; he observed — from the gallery — the very emotional swearing in by Vice President Al Gore. Later, at the Dirksen building, the president joined a radiant Hillary, her mother, brothers Tony and Hugh (Rodham) and daughter Chelsea. The president made it clear this was her day and that he was — a spouse. But you could see the pride in his eyes … Among those on hand, Jesse Jackson, who had also met with the Congressional Black Caucus, continued on to N.Y. to host, with Local 1199’s Dennis Rivera, a screening of “Chocolat” at the MGM screening room. Producer David Brown greeted the group, and Juliette Binoche stopped by between the matinee and evening performances of “Betrayal” on Broadway. Jackson’s next stop — Oklahoma, where nine inmates are on death row … Today, Ford unveils its 2001 “Bullitt” Mustang GT to the media (to the public Saturday) at the Greater L.A. Auto Show at the Convention Center. The limited edition (abut 2,000) is modeled after the Mustang Steve McQueen drove in the 1968 hit directed by Peter Yates with a classic SanFran car chase. The contemporary custom model comes in the original green, plus black and dark blue — with custom-machined 18-inch wheels. Roger Richman’s licensing agency made the licensing arrangement with Ford for the McQueen estate and McQueen’s son Chad and granddaughter Molly will be on hand for the “Bullitt’s” unveiling.

THE FEB. 21 GRAMMYS will mark the beginning of the fourth decade of the awards for exec producer Pierre Cossette. Walter C. Miller will produce and direct, and Ken Ehrlich also produces and scripts. John Cossette is exec in charge of the production from the Staples Center, where Cossette says all the bugs have been worked out following last year’s show from the site, followed successfully (and technically terrific) by the Latin Grammys. Asked whether he prefers L.A. or N.Y. for the Grammys, Cossette said, “It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.” The next Latin Grammys may emanate from Miami in September. Next, Walter C. exec produces Sunday’s People’s Choice Awards on CBS … Next week, Oscar show producer Gil Cates establishes offices in Century City for the March 25 ABC’er … Remember those great Coors commercials in which scenes from John Wayne classix were reinvented to sell suds? The pics included “Cast a Giant Shadow,” “Rio Lobo,” “Rio Bravo” and “Trouble Along the Way.” Their unique success was matched by sales — and another pact is in the works to brew “The Quiet Man” for Coors. If the script works out, the blurb will air in April. Nine scripts were tried and it’s now down to four … Jennifer Connelly joins Russell Crowe and Ed Harris in Imagine Entertainment’s “A Beautiful Mind.” Ron Howard directs again with producer Brian Grazer. And the pic launches next month with locations at Princeton U. Howard says this pic is “180 degrees different from ‘The Grinch’ ” and he’s put together a new team, headed by production designer Winn Thomas and cinematographer Roger Deakins. …Leonardo DiCaprio, who spent Christmas and New Year’s in L.A., returns to Rome next week to resume Martin Scorsese’s epic “Gangs of New York.”

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