GOOD MORNING: Aaron Tonken is skedded to start a 63-month jail sentence Wednesday on federal charges of fraud. Today he is slated to be interviewed by Brian Ross for a Nov. 19 airing with John Stossel on ABC’s ’20/20.'” A seg on “GMA” airs next day. Tonken’s book, “King of Cons,” hits the book stalls Nov. 18 from Thomas Nelson Publishers. I met Monday with Tonken, publisher David W. Dunham, and one of Tonken’s attorneys, Philip D. Dapeer, while also talking on the phone with another of his lawyers, George Bird. They are taking fees based on sales of the book whose first printing is 90,000 copies. And the film and TV rights have been bought by Michael Shane (exec producer “Catch Me If You Can”) … Tonken is involved in California, federal and local lawsuits ranging from the fraud charges to Chapter 7, plus a countersuit vs. David Schwimmer who has sued Tonken for defamation. Tonken’s book names a long list of celebs who took fees — and demanded more — for so-called charitable appearances. The extent of some of the celeb demands, Tonken says are beyond imagination. The Federal Election Commission has also demanded information from Tonken on a fundraising event for Hillary Clinton’s senatorial campaign he headed. (It was sponsored by New York Senate 2000). Tonken’s association with the Clintons was remarkable in view of his minor status in the establishment. How did this comparative newcomer gain the confidences of so many in the showbiz and political community? All in the name of charity. He claims he took none of the funds for himself. The book unravels an incredible rollout of cash and goods to the celeb participants in the charity events. Dunham told me the book is set for windows nationwide at Barnes and Noble, Borders, etc. … Next month, Thomas Nelson publishes “Cooking Made Easy” by Wolfgang Puck.
MERYL STREEP WAS on another, smaller stage Saturday night in Ashford, Conn., before winging to the Emmys — as a member of the all-star cast of “My Fair Laddie” , playing the role of Professor Higgins and singing, ‘Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman?” The unflappable Streep was part of an a celeb ensemble at the Hole in the Wall Camp 15th annual Camp Fundraiser Gala where A.E. Hotchner announced $1 million was raised for the camps program. Others in the cast: Christine Baranski played Col. Pickering, Bruce Willis was the male Eliza Doolittle and Paul Newman played Eliza’s father, Alfred Doolittle, dressed in a turn-of-the century driver’s outfit. Newman’s big number was “Get Me to the Race On Time.” Earlier in the day at a giant auction, Newman rode in on his bike from “Butch Cassidy” as part of the auction. Starkey Hearing Foundation’s Bill Austin, who has fitted everyone (including Newman) with hearing aids, was one of the event’s underwriters and he bid on just about every item at the auction. Joanne Woodward femceed the event.
JAMES SPADER, surprise Emmy winner for his lead role in “The Practice,” was at work Monday in his new series “Boston Legal,” which bows (on ABC) Oct. 3. When I asked what number seg he was working in, Spader laughed, “Three different episodes. David (E. Kelley) tweaks them, adding characters, weaving them in since the first one was shot.” F’rinstance, he was working in a scene with Monica Potter who was added to the cast after the series started. Another addition is Rene Auberjonois. When I last spoke to Spader about his continuing role from the finale of “The Practice,” he assured me it would continue to be “conflictive” in scenes with (fellow Emmy winner) William Shatner, “I’m Denny Craine.” Spader was also delighted that Sharon Stone won for her “Practice” guestint, although he wished “Practice” guest nominee Betty White could have shared the win with Stone. Spader’s on board for the full season, having admitted he thought “I didn’t think I’d last five or six shows on ‘The Practice’.”
WE WERE AMONG those standing in line outside the Music Hall theater in BevHills Saturday night waiting to see “Gloomy Sunday” and, afterwards, to catch up with its star, Erika Marozsan. She conducted Q&As with the civilian audience after screenings all weekend. The charming young, multi-talented Hungarian actress-dancer-singer spoke warmly and easily about herself, the film, the Holocaust and her hoped-for career in the U.S. First up is a movie with Armin Mueller Stahl to film in Germany in December. Meanwhile, “Gloomy Sunday” continues its amazing record — 46 weeks in the Laemmle theater in BevHills and going wide next week, reports Neil A. Friedman whose Menemsha Films picked up U.S. and Canada rights for $10,000 last year. It has passed the $1.5 million mark. He’ll withhold video and DVD for two years as theater biz continues. Among executives who have requested to see prints: Terry Semel, James Robinson, Stacy Snider (whose parents said she should see it), Arnold Kopelson, etc. Side notes on “Gloomy Sunday” — it was originally to be titled “The Piano Player” and it has played the Academy theater in Christ’s Church New Zealand for 3½ years.
I’M NOT USED TO being spoken to in that manner, Mr. Warner, so I’ll have to hang up now.” And so did Olivia de Havilland back in the ’40s when she had her contract beef with Jack L. De Havilland was back on the WB lot last week to help launch the DVD of “Gone With the Wind” on Warner Home Video of the MGM classic . She toured the lot in a golf cart, which pulled up to the Steve Ross Theater where execs put up a special marquee, “Welcome Home Olivia de Havilland.” The theater had on display gowns from five of her WB pix. She was last on the lot in 1986 when she starred in the miniseries, “North And South.”