GOOD MORNING: “Nancy Reagan is the patron saint for all those children who feel Washington isn’t listening to them,” said producer Doug Wick, calling from the set of the Robin Williams starrer “R.V.,” filming in Vancouver. Wick said Nancy has been calling (Republican) congressmen to pass legislation funding the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. He said her zeal helped the House passage (238 to 194). One of the key backers of the stem cell amendment, Rep. David Drier (R-Calif.), in his remarks on the floor of the House, urged passage Tuesday thus (in the Congressional Record): “In 1999 young Tessa Wick (the daughter of Doug Wick and wife Lucy Fisher) was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. She began the laborious process which changed her life and she dedicated herself to doing everything that she possibly could to ensure that no one would have to suffer as she has. During that period of time, she has worked to raise large sums of money. She has testified before the United States Senate and last Friday her father told me that she said to him not a lot has been accomplished yet. We have not yet found a cure. And her father said to me we need to do everything that we possibly can to ensure that we do find a cure. We are all supportive of umbilical cord research, but I believe that it is proper for us to pursue embryonic stem cell research. In a week and a half we mark the first anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s passing. Everyone knows how passionately Nancy Reagan feels about the need for us to pursue this research. I believe it is the appropriate thing to do.” Wick told me, “Nancy Reagan is one of the heroes in this struggle.” Wick and Tessa (14) fly back to D.C. again next month to testify before a Senate subcommittee … Also urging support for passage of the bill Tuesday, Christopher Reeve’s name and legacy was voiced by Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). Dana Reeve helps launch the Christopher Reeve Foundation’s Dog Tag ($5) on Wednesday. WB OK’d the “Superman” logo imprint and Christopher’s motto, “Go forward.”
I REACHED Sherry Lansing by phone a half-hour before she and Billy Friedkin boarded their plane Wednesday for Tel Aviv, where he’ll direct the opera “Samson and Delilah.” Sherry continues the fight to assure the $3 billion voted for stem cell research by the state of California is activated. She says she’s honored to have been appointed to the state’s oversight committee to assure that $300 million a year (for 10 years) is utilized in California research. “Nothing is more important than seeing that the state doesn’t get stopped,” she told me, adding she’ll also work for passage of federal funding legislation. “I’ll do everything I can to help override a (presidential) veto,” she told me … We are saddened by the death of Ismail Merchant, who exuded enthusiasm for fine films in every conversation we ever had with him over the years. Two years ago, he enthused how the mayor of Paris allowed him to film “Le Divorce” all over Paris and a major chase scene atop the Eiffel Tower — only from 6-9 ayem. But when Japanese tourists arrived early, Ismail included them in the sequence. I remember in 1993 at the premiere of the Merchant-Ivory movie “The Remains of the Day,” at N.Y.’s Paris Theater, he thanked everyone for attending and reminded that he and Jim Ivory started their film career together 30 years earlier with “Householder” in that same theater. His classy contributions to international goodwill and good filmmaking will be sorely missed.
THE AMERICAN INDIAN Performers for Youth Sobriety tour heads out to six reservations in August with American Indian performers including Jonelle Romero, Elizabeth Sage, Michael Spears, Tim Sampson and others dedicated to bringing hope and inspiration to the next generation through targeted programs. The tour was skedded for next year, but the tragedy on the Red Lake Reservation urged earlier action. Of course, the program needs funding and Jonelle regretfully tells me that of the 100 Indian casinos pitched to support this program, very few responded — and with very little … And despite little support from the casinos, she reports the first Southern California American Indian Film Festival was a huge success … There’ll always be a press agent — and Lee Solters, from the old school of flacks, had the press eating out of his hand — literally, at the 60th anni party for Nate ‘n’ Al’s deli in BevHills. This was one for the memory book — Suzanne Pleshette took orders from husband Tom Poston, Jon Voight and yours truly and served ’em to a T, to the delight of an armada of cameramen equaling a movie preem corps. Coincidentally, Solters also handled the opening of Marvin Davis’ deli (the Coast version of N.Y.’s Carnegie Deli). It took chutzpah to open a deli two blocks away from Nate ‘n’ Al’s. The Coast Carnegie folded five years later. And although Marvin has also left us, his office gets “takeout” from Nate ‘n’ Al’s every day … Duke Vincent, vice chairman of Aaron Spelling Prods., who has written and produced dozens of TV series segs, has written his first novel — “Mafia Summer” (Bloomsbury), the story of a group of 18-year-olds and the Mob in N.Y. in the ’50s. Yeah, it’s semi-autobiographical: His father had “connections.” Book’s characters include Vito Genovese, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, etc., and while the history is accurate, the finale is — well, you’ve got to read it. CAA’s Bob Bookman is repping for a theatrical feature and Roger Birnbaum will produce for Spyglass. Aaron Spelling hasn’t gotten his autographed copy yet, says Duke. It’s not aimed for the small screen.