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Helmer crosses continent to deliver film

GOOD MORNING: It’s a long way from “surviving” with natives in Catemaco, 100 miles south of Vera Cruz, to partying with New York swells in East Hampton this Saturday (13). Today, John Frankenheimer completes post-production on “The Burning Season”– HBO’s epic story of Chico Mendes, murdered in the Amazon Rain Forest, which he filmed in equally steamy Mexico — and delivers it for HBO topper Michael Fuchs’ annual Hampton event. The screening’s at the East Hampton Cinema, the bash at Nick and Toni’s. Frankenheimer, producer David Puttnam and cast members including Raul Julia, Sonia Braga, Edward James Olmos and Esai Morales will be joined by guests including Yasmin Aga Khan, David Geffen, Sandy Gallin, James Earl Jones, Dick Cavett, Ron Perelman and Patricia Duff Medavoy, Howard Stringer, Mort Janklow, Rosie Perez, Norman Lear, etc. The show airs Sept. 17 after a preem here at the Bruin and party at the Armand Hammer Museum Sept. 12. It’s the day after the Emmys; Frankenheimer’s nominated for HBO’s “Against The Wall.” He was last a winner 34 years ago for “Turn of the Screw.” His next is “Andersonville” for Turner and a replica of the prison will be built on a nine-acre set near the original — now a national monument. This TV’er is budgeted at $ 12 million. Remember when that was the budget for a giant big screen’er? … Guess who’s going dramatic (again): Leslie Nielsen. The son of a Mountie, Nielsen has never portrayed one until now, when he guests on CBS’ fall starter, “Due South,” as a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman stalked by a killer he’d earlier jailed … Burt Reynolds gets in the eatery biz this fall when his B.R. Bar BQ Villas makes its worldwide debut at Harrod’s, London. If successful, they’ll be syndicated through Europe by the Fayed family, then bow in the U.S., in Florida, natch.

“BEING ON STAGE WILL PUMP ME UP,” laughs Ed Harris as he readies for his return to the theater again with Sam Shepard, this time in ‘Simpatico” at the Public Theater. He was amazed it didn’t get off the ground when first announced a year ago. It would seem Harris hardly needs “pumping up” as he’s now readying to play Gene Kranz in Mission Control of “Apollo 13,” after having wound “Just Cause” as a serial killer with Sean Connery and Blair Underwood (“We had a really good time in Florida”), plus his romantic comedy lead with Melanie Griffith in “Milk Money.” And he’s looking forward to the Jackson Pollock biopic with Jennifer Jason Leigh and Mare Winningham for producer James Trezza. “Barbara Turner did a great script,” sez Harris. “We’ve made no studio deal yet — we want to keep it as independent as possible — the movie will be as challenging as his painting”… Sara Gilbert, back at work in Hollywood in “Roseanne” between Yale college semesters, sez she plans to stay in the biz after graduation. She got straight A’s in her campus start and will next study: child psychotherapy, anthropology, philosophy and photography. Her aim’s to get “a well-rounded education.” And before reporting to the series, she spent time in the Dominican Republic “interacting with the people.” She’s having “boy problems” with Johnny Galecki — only in the script, that is, of “Roseanne”… Beverly Hills High School playground is transformed into a N.Y. street Sept. 24 by the N.Y. High School Alumni Assn., which honors Gene Barry. He’s a New Utrecht grad … The Jivin’ Jacks and Jills from Universal’s ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s celebrate the birthdays of Donald O’Connor and Peggy Ryan on their 65th year in the biz, Aug. 28 at the Universal commissary … Joe Torry, the new host of HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam,” stars in the Spike Lee “Tales From The ‘Hood” for Savoy … Robby Sutton makes his big screen debut in”Mr. Payback” for Culver Studios Prods. His older brother Michael played “Stone” on “General Hospital.”

LIZA MINNELLI IS “MS. WONDERFUL” for the Thalians’ Oct. 8 “Come to the Cabaret” at the Century Plaza. Jack Haley Jr., Liza’s former husband, co-produces the show with Jerold Franks. Yup, Liza will warble … John Burnham, co-head of Wm. Morris’ Coast movie dept., and wife Andrea welcomed their third daughter, Kate, Monday … Katherine and Robert Altman celebrated their 35th wedding anni at Elaine’s. He’s editing “Pret A Porter” in N.Y. … Buddy Rogers celebrates his 90th birthday Sunday at landmark “Belvedere,” currently the home of Countess and Captain Edwinn Hayek … Frankie Laine, who celebrated his 81st birthday by SRO’ing at the Academy Playhouse in North Hollywood, is paged to return at Thanksgiving … A sensaysh, all-star lineup of comedians will perform Thursday (11) at the Improv to lend a helping hand to ailing fellow comic Adam Keefe … Donny Osmond, who bowed in “Joseph And the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in June ’92, has signed for an added 20 months.