Fire convinces group to dine elsewhere

GOOD MORNING: The show must go on — even when a fire interrupts. Cyd Charisse, her agent Budd Moss, director Arthur Allan Seidelman, casting director Bruce Newberg and choreographer Kay Cole were discussing “Follies” at about-to-be-lunch in the Polo Lounge Thursday when fire alarms sounded. They tried to continue the conversation but the hotel was soon evacuated. Moss continued the discussion with Seidelman in his (two-seat) car in the parking lot. When the “all clear” was sounded after a half-hour, they returned to the hotel — but no lunch, the kitchen had been shuttered. The cause: wind-whipped smoke in a vent. Confabs will now be conducted elsewhere to see if Charisse wants to join the “Follies” production bowing June 16 in the Reprise! production at the Wadsworth Theater. Already set are: Vikki Carr, Hal Linden, Carole Cook and Harry Groener. Charisse would play Vanessa and would have a bolero number.

I LOVE DOING TELEVISION, movies and theater — but not all at once!” That’s John Ritter’s happy problem as he readies to bow Sunday at the Court Theater in Jenny Sullivan’s semi-autobiographical drama, “J for J,” about her late father, actor Barry Sullivan, and his son, Jenny’s mentally challenged brother John — as played by Ritter. Ritter is skedded to start a dramatic feature, “Manhood,” March 30 and on April 8, he starts his ABC/Touchstone sitcom pilot, “8 Simple Rules” … There’s mucho drama behind “J for J.” Ritter and Sullivan have been lifelong friends, and Ritter has known her brother these many years and has spent much time with him. “I want to do an authentic representation, not a superficial one of a retarded adult,” Ritter tells me. John saw the play during its first run at the Rubicon Theater in Ventura. “He repeated the dialogue — like a delayed echo,” Ritter admitted. He has more reason to care about this portrayal — his brother has cerebral palsy. Both Ritter and Sullivan have not seen “I Am Sam” in which Sean Penn delivers a remarkable performance of a mentally challenged adult. They will wait to see Penn after their legit run. And, yes, they want to do a feature version of “J for J.” It is a remarkable story — based on Jenny’s life and the letters her father had written to John. The letters were discovered by Jenny a year after her father’s death. Jeff Kober co-stars and Jeff Fuqua directs. Jenny also directs three new actresses every three weeks for “The Vagina Monologues” at the Coronet.

THE SEASON FINALE of “Everybody Loves Raymond” will be something special for the “live” audience. They’ll have to pay to watch the filming on Stage 5 at WB, but the money goes to AmFAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research. And exec producer Phil Rosenthal says Thursday’s audience will also be invited to a party and dinner with the entire cast following the filming — plus an auction with a “guestint” to be one of the prizes. The final show to air will be a one-hour special with guests including Bob Newhart, Mary Tyler Moore, Jon Voight, Billy Bob Thornton, and Norman Lear telling anecdotes of their families — plus clips from six years of “Raymond” corresponding to the celebs’ lives. Rosenthal, who recently won a WGA Excellence in TV Writing Award, says, “Sitting with the writers on this show every week — is the joy of my life. We are truly a family show.” Y’know it is based on much of Rosenthal’s own family foibles. He next readies a CBS/Par series, “Julie Lydecker,” exec producing along with Jen Crittenden, a “Raymond” writer as well. “Julie” is a corporate exec with a down-to-earth mom. Rosenthal will help Les Moonves in the creation of the net’s Carnegie Hall presentation of the new season, May 15.

INCLUDE THEM IN — to paraphrase Samuel Goldwyn. Alan King was toasted by an SRO house of pals for his “Goldwyn” bow at the Promenade and later at the Friars Club — from A-Alda to Z-Zarem. And Goldwyn alum — Farley Granger, who also got a bow. NBC’s 75th anni show, a three-hour “live” special May 5 will, of course, include the “Cheers” cast on hand. Meanwhile, four of “Cheers” cast reunioned this week to tape a seg of “Frasier” with Kelsey Grammer. The “guests” are John Ratzenberger, George Wendt and Rhea Perlman — Cliff, Norm and Carla of “Cheers.” The ruse — the latter trio are in Boston for Cliff’s retirement party from the Postal Service. They accidentally run into Frasier Crane — who isn’t in Boston for the party but for a shrink’s convention. Take it from there. Ratzenberger says of the reunion, working with Kelsey and the others, “Was like flying with the Blue Angels.”

MAJORITY LEADER TOM DASCHLE is guest narrator of Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” this Sunday with the National Symphony Orch’s opening concert of its American Residency in Rapid City, S.D. … Kirk Douglas, a recipient of President Bush’s first National Medal of Arts, is his second presidential citation, the other, the Medal of Freedom, came from Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1981 … Jack Valenti hosts a lunch Monday at the Peninsula Hotel in BevHills for King Abdullah II of Jordan who wanted to meet some industry toppers. Jack will introduce him to 20 of ’em. But the king’s no stranger to Hollywood — when still a prince, he visited Paramount Studios and A.C. Lyles arranged for him to don a uniform and guest in a “Star Trek” seg. They loved it in Jordan — where the show is a favorite. So’s the prince, excuse me, the king.

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