‘Ava’ on way to Great White Way

GOOD MORNING: “Ava,” as in Gardner, is coming to Broadway the same way “Tru,” as in Capote, made its bow. Producer David Brown tells me he plans to launch the one-woman show by Edward Epstein in a limited, regional theater engagement as did Robert Morse as Capote in Cambridge, Mass. Brown would like to star Cher or — Faye Dunaway. “Ava” shows the failing Gardner reminiscing about the men in her life — and the setting is Frank Sinatra’s Waldorf Towers suite, which he often loaned her. Also, Brown and Kathy Levin present Cynthia Ozick’s first play , “Blue Light,” a chilling story about two Holocaust survivors, to be directed by Sidney Lumet. It bows Aug. 10 in Sag Harbor with Mercedes Ruehl, Dianne Wiest and D.B. Sweeney co-starring. On the vidfront, Brown’s in negotiations with Laurel Entertainment for a four-hour mini of Dominick Dunne’s “A Season in Purgatory,” also directed by Lumet. Another Brown TV project is with the BBC/HBO , “Women Breaking the Rules,” to be directed by and starring women. On the bigscreen front, Brown’s sked at Par includes Amos Poe’s scary “The Listener,” in addition to the hoped-for Whoopi Goldberg “Pink Vodka Blues” and “The Saint,” producing with Robert Evans. But, as Brown allows about getting a script through development hell, “It’s an art form to get a picture made. One has to be a broken field runner to get it on the screen.” As further proof, David points to Bob Evans’ book, “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” and says, “It’s the most honest book about Hollywood — he doesn’t spare anyone, least of all himself. And I’ve been through thin and thin with him.” Evans, meanwhile, insists, “The book is not kiss and tell, it’s live or die.”

THE “SUNSET BOULEVARD” SET in the Shubert will require two months to carefully dismantle and ship to Toronto. The company’s farewell party at Orso was, one might say, strictly a Close-d affair — cast, crew and staff only. Even the entertainment was “in house.” Members of the show’s chorus, who call themselves White Girls With Soul, a capella’d the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” And Glenn Close was teary when presented a huge Peter Samuels oil of herself as Norma Desmond … Ann Miller told me a sweltering story of her drive this week from L.A. to Phoenix (en route to her home in Sedona). The temperature hit 117 degrees in the shade and her car broke down three times. She continued — but had to keep the air conditioning turned off. She finally made it to Phoenix — to receive their crix lifetime achievement award. She deserved it! … Another hot weather story: Stella Stevens, trying to rescue her pet cat from a fence, was severely bitten. Stevens was taken to Cedars-Sinai for treatment when her hand and arm became enormously swollen. She’s now OK … Tim Matheson, directing his first feature, “Tour of Duty” for USA-MTE (Universal), laughingly says, “I’ll have to get an acting job afterward to pay for it”– his low directing salary, that is! But he’d like to continue directing in the thriller/action genre — except for one project, “The Freeman’s Bureau,” a post-Civil War drama. Matheson also bought rights to Claude Chabrol’s French film “This Man Must Die”… Houston’s Jim McIngvale underwrote the public victory party for the NBA champion Houston Rockets, where $ 100,000 was raised and donated to McIngvale’s pal Chuck Norris’ Kick Drugs Out of America foundation. Norris, now filming “Top Dog” in San Diego, was also named a “Socially Responsible Entrepreneur” for his foundation.

“YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS” and “The Bold and the Beautiful” creator William J. Bell and wife Lee hosted the “Best Buddies” fundraiser at their home, where more than $ 65,000 was raised for the Anthony Kennedy Shriver-launched programfor friendships between college students and people with mental retardation. Among those there, Maria Shriver Schwarzenegger (Arnold was shooting “Junior”), Bobby Shriver, Anthony and Alina Shriver, Melanie Griffith, Herb Ritts, Khrystyne Haje , Christina Thomopoulos, Gabrielle Carteris, Crystal Chappel, Michael Sabatino and Keith Barish, who donated to the auction round-trip tix to the Las Vegas Planet Hollywood preem at Caesars … While celeb hosts Dick Van Patten, Dennis James and Peter Marshall will not be heading to Branson to host Bob Eubanks’ “$ 25,000 Game Show” (shuttered this week), Eubanks tells me, “I decided to do the shows myself. I was losing money on a daily basis.” He hopes to stay in Branson, Mo., “for a long time”… The 100th birthday of Babe Ruth (Feb. 6, 1995) will be celebrated as he is inducted into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame in Citrus Hill, Fla. … Entertainment columnist Ivor Davis, now doubling as (excellent) World Soccer reporter for KNX, is a former player who now coaches and referees.

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