‘Band Played On’ bow a poignant experience

GOOD MORNING: The Samuel Goldwyn Theater of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has been the scene of many emotional evenings, but it would be tough to top Tuesday p.m.’s preem of HBO’s “And the Band Played On.” The overflow crowd spilled into the Acad’s small theater plus the WGA on Doheny. Bob Cooper, senior VP of HBO Pictures, segued between the theaters to introduce the movie — and those responsible. A standing ovation was given to frail author Randy Shilts, himself battling AIDS. And in the audience was former HBO exec Donald March, who two weeks ago asked me to announce –“so there’s no gossip, no whispers — I have been diagnosed with AIDS.” It was July 23, 1985, when I wrote , “The whispering campaign on Rock Hudson can — and should stop. He has flown to Paris for further help. The Pasteur Institute has been very active in research on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. He left for France and possible aid from scientists there over the weekend. Doctors warn that the dread disease (AIDS) is going to reach catastrophic proportions in all communities if a cure is not soon found”…”And the Band Played On” visually, dramatically tells this story of the first decade of the epidemic. In opening remarks, HBO’s Cooper recalled, “Four years ago, Aaron Spelling called me with an unusual proposal. He wanted to know if I would buy something that no one else would buy, that was virtually unsellable, that was based on a sprawling 1,400-page manuscript and that everyone said could only be made into a documentary. So, Aaron said, ‘Let’s make this an HBO movie.’ I agreed.” What Cooper did NOT say is that Spelling took no money for the $ 8 million “Band” (Rock Hudson starred for Aaron, you recall, in “Dynasty.”) The cast of “Band” worked for nothing or below their usual wages … Spelling was on hand for the preem along with wife Candy and son Randy; daughter Tori arrived from the “90210” set with Nick Savalas … HBO’s Cooper intro’d the cast members led by Matthew Modine and Lily Tomlin, whose real-life counterpart, Dr. Selma Dritz, was also there … Cooper, in the speech, told of the public that turned its back on the disease, and “a media which was dismissive”– not here. He called AIDS “the first disease in this country’s history to have become politicized.”… There were representatives there from 19 L.A.-based organizations leading the battle against AIDS. And after the screening, volunteers from the orgs led a candlelight procession up Wilshire to the corner of Doheny, where a dirt parking lot was transformed (by Along Came Mary) into a park-like setting … And when the sober and somber guests departed, they were given a list of the AIDS orgs to which contributions can be made — and a “bulb of remembrance” to be planted as a “living tribute to those whose lives have been taken by AIDS and as a sign of hope for a future free from the disease.” I will plant mine in the name of Richard Rothenstein, the kind, gentle and always-enthusiastic HBO publicist who worked so hard on “And the Band Played On”… It preems at the Montreal fest tonight, at the Kennedy Center Sept. 8 at an APLA/The Center Fundraiser at the DGA here Sept. 9 and starts its seven air dates on HBO Sept. 11.

HEADING FOR A WEDDING: Daryl Hannah and a goatee’d John Kennedy Jr. returned Wednesday from Singapore via Japan. In the Tokyo airport hourlong layover, the happy couple, who playfully hand-wrestled, weren’t bothered by knowing fellow travelers … Bill Roedy, CEO of MTV Europe, here for tonight’s awards (which open with Madonna), reports that 50% of the talent on MTV Europe is now European , up from 15% a coupla years ago. (Yes, Madonna and Michael are still big). … Testifying for the defense in the Menendez freres trial Friday will be Mamie Van Doren and Skip E. Lowe, who were seated at the same dinner party table with the Menendez family (four) in ’89 when an incident arose … Jack Valenti was birthday-partied (72) at Count Giovanni Volpi’s Venetian villa by Bobby Short and Peter Duchin. Jack gets another toasting on his real birthday (Sept. 5) at the Deauville fest …”Grease” producers Barry and Fran Weisler’s Sandy in the Tommy Tuner is Susan Wood. She and already-set Rosie O’Donnell, Ricky Paull Goldin, Sam Harris and Billy Porter perform excerpts from the musical at the “Miss America Pageant” Sept. 18 … Red Buttons’ bow on B’way at the Helen Hayes is set for April ’94. Red’s hoping his stand there will be as successful as the present occupant’s, Lynn Redgrave, whose six-week run in “Shakespeare For My Father” has now passed the six-month mark and no end in sight … Alain Levy, prez/CEO of Polygram, receives the City of Hope Spirit of Life Award from the Entertainment Industry Chapter Sept. 30 at the Beverly Park Estates. Entertainment includes: Vanessa Williams, John Mellencamp, Amy Grant, Herbie Hancock, Kathy Mattea, Billy Ray Cyrus and Brian McKnight … Roddy McDowall again donates royalties to the MPTV Fund from his “Double Exposure — Take 4” (William Morrow), another spectacular collection of photos and essay-tributes to/from celeb greats.

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