GOOD MORNING: Ben Affleck talking: “The movie (‘Gigli’) didn’t work. You work just as hard on a good movie as on a bad one. We tried to fix it. But it was like putting a fish’s tail and a donkey’s head.” As for “fireworks” between director Martin Brest and Joe Roth, Affleck laughed, “Listen I’ve seen more fireworks from Harvey Weinstein in 10 minutes than on this picture. And I’ve made seven films with Harvey. And I’ll make more films with Martin and Revolution. I believe in Martin Brest. As for the reviews and the reviewers, he laughs, “I feel like we were caught in the eye of a storm — an earthquake that starts out at sea and by the time it reaches the shore it’s !!!” As for working together again, he says “It all depends on the story — always. But,” he laughed, “we probably won’t be getting many offers.” Want to bet! … Rick Sands, Miramax’ chief operating officer, had this to say about “Jersey Girl” which stars Affleck and Lopez. “We are completely supporting the movie — it is fantastic. We’ve had several research screenings and it’s received critical approval. (It) made the audiences laugh and cry — in the right places.” Lopez dies in childbirth — early in the film — and Affleck raises their baby daughter. Liv Tyler becomes the romantic interest, but I’ll leave the rest unsaid. Miramax picked a March 19 release date for “Jersey Girl” while “Gigli” was in production. Since that time, Affleck has completed “Paycheck,” co-starring Uma Thurman as his love interest. It will get a Paramount-DreamWorks release at Christmas. Producer John Davis gives Affleck a rave in this one as well. He plays an electronics expert whose memory is blacked out by his employer. Also out at Christmas will be J-Lo’s “Shall We Dance’” costarring Richard Gere. She’s also completed “An Unfinished Life” with Robert Redford … Affleck and Lopez are expected to be on hand Monday for the preem of Miramax’s feature “The Battle of Shaker Heights,” a product of Project Greenlight launched by Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Moore, HBO and Bob and Harvey Weinstein. On Sunday, HBO will air the final (10th) seg on the docu of the making of “Shaker Heights,” the feature. And attendees, including Affleck and Lopez, will be lensed for future use in the Project Greenlight HBO TV series. It looks like there’s life ahead for the duo — on and off screen.

IT’S BACK TO B’WAY for Polly Bergen and Mark Hamill who will costar in playwright Richard Alfieri’s “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” with Arthur Allan Seidelman directing. He had launched the delightful play at the Geffen with David Hyde Pierce and Uta Hagen. “Dance Lessons” bows Oct. 29 at N.Y’s. Belasco. Seidleman will also direct the film version, which Alfieri’s scripting, Marc Platt and Larry Mark producing. The play will dance its way from B’way to Dusseldorf with Elke Summer starring. In Tel Aviv, Miriam Zohar stars at the Beit Lessin theater. Comanies follow in Scandinavia, Holland, Japan and Spain … Seidelman’s now in post-production on “The Puerto Vallarta Squeeze” starring Scott Glenn and Harvey Keitel with script by Alfieri … So, I thought I’d catch up with Neil Simon who has been undergoing dialysis for the past eight months. He sounded strong and was cheery as he informed he continues working throughout the four-hour medical sessions, three times a week. He’s re-written his Geffen-debuted play “Rose and Walsh” as “Rose’s Dilemma” for an October bow with the Manhattan Theater Club. He’s also revised his “Sweet Charity” to launch in SanFran next summer en route to a B’way revival. He’s writing a new play, “Four Can Tango,” a comedy set in South America. And Richard Benjamin’s completed directing Simon’s 1977 hit “The Goodbye Girl” for TNT. It co-starred Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfuss, who won the actor Oscar for the pic. The vid version stars Patricia Heaton and Jeff Daniels and Simon says the new cast “makes it more of a love story than (a) broad comedy.”

GLORIA ESTEFAN MAKES HER FIRST live appearance in close to seven years when she bows at Caesars Palace Oct. 10-19. Bernie Yuman’s Box Entertainment presents Estefan, who is releasing her new album “Unwrapped”(Sony’s Epic label) that week. Box will also have an event Dec. 6 in Miami Beach at the site where Muhammad Ali won the Heavyweight Championship from Sonny Liston in 1964. Ali will intro his book, “GOAT” (Greatest Of All Time”). Published by Tascchen, it weighs 75 pounds and is in limited edition at $3,000 per copy. The busy Ali was in L.A. last week to film a commercial for IBM … Deborah Raffin makes her directorial debut this week on a “7th Heaven” seg titled “The Kid is Out of the Picture.” Raffin does not appear in this seg. The last actress to make her directorial debut on an Aaron Spelling show was Joanne Woodward, who directed Henry Fonda in a “Family ” seg, Nov. 20, 1979 … I asked Les Moonves, “Are they coming back?” It was the Smothers Brothers’ (two night) appearance last week at the Comedy Club (ne Ciro’s) to benefit the Children of the Night. Moonves said they would indeed be back — on the network’s 75th anniversary show. The brothers were as fresh and timeless as ever giving their all in a two-hour show that appropriately wound with “The Impossible Dream”. The music and mirth program, of course, also included Tommy as “Mr. Yo-Yo Man.” The audience, which gave the Smothers standing ovations, included Moonves, HBO’s Chris Albrecht, Alan Zweibel, who is writing a series for ‘em, Steve Martin, a writer on the original “Smother Brothers Hour,” Bonnie Hunt, who wants to talk a show with ‘em, Gil Cates, Don Mischer, Lou Horvitz, Michele Lee, “Star Search” winner Jake Simpson, Hugh Hefner, Penny Marshall, Jason Priestley, Bobby Slayton, Paul Reiser, David Steinberg, etc. Dr. Lois Lee, president and founder of the Children of the Night, which saves street kids from prostitution and drugs, revealed that one of its most generous supporters is Johnny Carson — over $1 million! … Seven hundred friends attended a “celebration” of Lynn Weaver’s life. She was the wife of the Dennis Weaver’s son Rob and was one of the victims of the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market disaster … Edna Cantor McHugh, one of the five daughters of Eddie Cantor, died July 24. She leaves a daughter, Judy McHugh, and a grandson, Lee Newman Kafafian. Two sisters survive, Marilyn and Janet … Jessica Corbin, Pat Boone’s granddaughter, will be one of the guest hosts on ABC’s “The View.” She’s skedded to tape her show today. She’s currently a host on the Tech TV network … Cliff Robertson returned from the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio, where he reeived an award for his past humanitarian efforts in Biafra and elsewhere … Martina Navratilova will make a second appearance — as herself — in “Will and Grace” next season. She wings here in mid-September from the U.S. Open where she’ll be playing doubles.

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