GOOD MORNING: Michael Viner and wife Deborah Raffin have closed their accounts at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. And Viner tells me they hope others will follow their example. Viner explained the reason for their action: “We weren’t comfortable with any company chairman making moral judgment of any past president, regardless of any party affiliation. It is not the reason we chose them (Morgan Stanley Dean Witter) as our brokerage house and we find it demeaning to the office of the president and to any past president.” Viner was referring to the statement by the brokerage house’s chairman Philip J. Purcell who wrote to clients (in an e-mail) that he thought it was a mistake to have invited (for a reported $100,000 fee) former President Bill Clinton to speak at their company’s Global Leveraged Finance Conference in Boca Raton, Fla. “We should have thought twice before the speaking invitation was extended. Our failure to do so was particularly unfortunate in light of Mr. Clinton’s actions in leaving the White House.” Viner noted, “If Mr. Clinton were a Republican I’d feel the same way. That’s not the reason why you hire a broker.” A reminder: former President Clinton will deliver the keynote address at the Feb. 27 media and entertainment conference co-sponsored by Variety and Credit Suisse First Boston. Variety‘s vice president and editor-in-chief Peter Bart says, “We are delighted to have former President Clinton.” The conference, called “The Front Row,” will focus on the global media and entertainment business and will also feature addresses by top industry leaders including Jean-Marie Messier, Rupert Murdoch, Mel Karmazin, Howard Stringer, Barry Diller, Les Moonves and David Hill.
DON’T TELL ME WHAT the story’s about — just tell me where’s the location?” Taking that cue from David Niven, David Brown, again teamed with his “Chocolat-eers” Kit Golden and Miramax, heads to Tuscany to enjoy the food and wines there (as they did in France) when they film “Renato’s Luck” to be scripted by Linda Woolverton (“The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast”). Brown and Golden are also teamed again with Miramax on “AKA Romanoff,” the Mike Romanoff story. And the producing duo are joined by Tom Mangan to film in another glamorous location, the Bahamas on “Framed” for TNT with Dan Petrie Jr. scripting and directing … “Chocolat” had its lavish London preem party at the Berkeley hotel where the pastry chefs had ample opportunity to display their confections for the pic’s Oscar nominees on hand … Producers Irwin Winkler and Rob Cowan winding “Life As A House” and readying a March 19 start of “Enough” are finalizing the deal for Juliette Lewis to join as Jenifer Lopez’s best friend — both toil in the diner and Lewis later helps protect Lopez from her abusive husband as played by Billy Campbell. Michael Apted directs in L.A., SanFran and Seattle … Sam Elliott wings to Fort Bennington for his top role in Mel Gibson’s “We Were Soldiers Once and Young” for Par and Sam hopes to workout his sked to appear in Rod Lurie’s “The Castle” with Robert Redford. Lurie gave Elliott his “The Contender” role. And today, Elliott hosts, for the fourth time, the Children’s Burn Foundation fundraiser at the BevHilton.
THE ARTISTS FOR A NEW SOUTH AFRICA has a staunch ally in HBO. Tuesday, HBO preemed its “Boycott” in high definition at Paramount and on Monday same studio site will screen its Oscar-nominated docu “Long Night’s Journey into Day.” “Boycott” airs Feb. 24 and ” Long Night” debuts on HBO in June. “Boycott” covers the pivotal chapter in the civil rights movement when Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat — the event that catapulted the career of then- 26-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. Jeffrey Wright plays King and got cheers from the audience. Supporters on hand included Samuel L. Jackson, La Toya Richardson, Angela Bassett, Jackson Browne, Tasha Smith, Marla Gibbs, David James Elliott. Howard Hesseman, T.K. Carter and Willie Garson. HBO Films’ president Colin Callender welcomed all … And whatta treat for (good!) music lovers as the Music Center’s Blue Ribbon and Fraternity of Friends presented “The Writer, the Singer, the Song” at the Mark Taper Forum followed by dinner by Patina in the Grand Hall of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Eunice and Hal David chaired with Patty Wilson and Walter Grauman. The songwriters were Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Cy Coleman, Hal David, Mike Stoller and Jimmy Webb. The singers were Helen Reddy, Sally Kellerman, Maureen McGovern, Dionne Warwick, Rosemary Clooney, Larry Gatlin and Paul Williams plus warbling by the songwriters as well. And the musicians completing the evening treat were the incomparable Corky Hale, Mike Asher, Chris Caswell and Joe Kloess … Marlo, Terre and Tony Thomas are carrying on their father Danny’s tradition with top entertainment planned for the 21st annual St. Jude Hollywood Gala at the BevHilton, March 1. Robert Klein is set as this year’s comedy star … ABC tapes the “Wayne Brady Special” March 16, highlighting his many talents in a show that might bring back the variety show to TV. Bernie Brillstein and Don Mischer are exec producers with Mischer also directing. Mischer also reined Wednesday night’s Barbra Streisand “Timeless” special taped last year at the MGM Grand. Thirty-five minutes of the concert had to be edited to fit TV’s two-hour requirements. How about using ’em in a mini special?