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Pols vie for spots on ‘Murphy Brown’

GOOD MORNING: With John F. Kennedy Jr. guesting on “Murphy Brown’s” first show Monday, Candice Bergen told me after her Emmy win Sunday night that politicians are pitching to make their subtle pitches via guestints on her D.C.-set comedy show. “And it’s from both (political) sides!,” she exclaimed. Although this is the final year on Bergen’s pact, the show’s success and her Acad recognition (again) may change her mind about departing the series. It’s a very personal decision … And talking about Kennedy, the second issue of his George mag is set for Nov. 28 and exec publisher Michael Berman tells me, “We are getting great response from people in Hollywood — better than that from Washington”… Christine Lahti, who takes over Emmy winner Mandy Patinkin’s surgical post in “Chicago Hope” eight segs into the new season, says she’ll gradually become head of the cardiac unit — a rare post for a woman. “It’s a real male-dominated world.” In preparation for this role she observed open heart surgery, “one and a half feet from a beating heart.” And even though her father was a surgeon, Lahti says she wasn’t quite prepared for this experience. She nearly fainted. She’s returned from Telluride, which seemed like a Christine Lahti fest with her features “Pie in the Sky” and “Housekeeping” plus the 35-minute short she directed, “Lieberman in Love,” in which she stars with Danny Aiello and Nancy Travis. Natch, it whetted Lahti’s appetite to direct again … With news “McHale’s Navy” is returning — to the bigscreen — I asked the series’ Lt. Comdr. Quinton McHale, Ernie Borgnine, his sentiments. He sez he’s a happy man because his new series, NBC’s “Single Guy,” in which he’s a doorman, bowing Sept. 21, is slotted between “Friends” and “Seinfeld.” How much happier can you be? … Sheldon Leonard, who returned from a monthlong European cruise to learn his “I Spy” was bought by Cinergi for $500,000 against $1.75 million, has only one bit of advice to the bigscreen spies: “Maintain the element that was part of the series — the proper blending of action, melodrama and humor.” His show was the first to pair a white (Bob Culp) and black (Bill Cosby) as partners, he reminds. Although it is generally known Bob Culp was not Sheldon Leonard’s favorite, Cosby remains “my son” to Leonard — who is 88 years young. As for his feelings about the new “I Spy” feature, Culp admits, “I’m heartbroken I won’t have the chance to work with Bill (Cosby) again. He’s my father, my brother, my son. I’ll love him till I die.” Among those rumored to co-star in the movie version: David Caruso.

“I’M WAITING FOR A SWELL IDEA for a series,” admits Linda Lavin, who has a continuing development deal with CBS. Lavin, alumna of the long-running “Alice” who segued to dramatic telepics, Broadway and Off Broadway, is back again on the small screen, playing Annette Funicello’s mother Virginia in CBS’ “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” In the pic, Lavin ages 50 years. She says this is “the most profoundly moving experience for me.” Annette F. and her parents have been on the set. Now suffering from multiple sclerosis, Funicello does opening and closing scenes of the movie. Among those close to her career and making appearances are Frankie Avalon and Dick Clark. The show is being rushed to air Oct. 2. Lavin is selling her Malibu home and moving to Wilmington, N.C. She fell in love with the area and the lifestyle there when producing and co-starring with Mary Tyler Moore, Shirley Knight and Paul Winfield in the Family Channel’s “The Rose Garden.”

FIRST DAY’S BOX OFFICE — A RECORD $ 20,000 — at the newly named Geffen Playhouse for John Patrick Shanley’s “Four Dogs and a Bone” bowing Oct. 19, previews start Oct. 10 … As the mercury hits the century mark here, Neiman Marcus sent out its 1995 Christmas Book catalog! The most expensive item is a $ 900,000, 185.5 carats diamond necklace. But if you’d like something different (!), your name in four-feet high letters on a United 777 is only $ 100,000, with bids over that amount going to N-M’s charity AmeriCares … Sorry to report award-winning costume designer Ron Talsky died of a cerebral hemorrhage Friday while driving to work. He had been houseguesting at pal Jack Haley Jr.’s … Another tragedy in the household of personal manager/producer Howard Hinderstein , whose wife Beverly died last Saturday as she was readying to go to the cemetery with Howard to visit the grave sites of their daughter and granddaughter. Services are this morning, 11 ayem at Mt. Sinai, Forest Lawn, Burbank … There will be a celebration for the late Harry Guardino at 7 p.m. Sept. 26 at the DGA. Guardino’s longtime manager and friend Mimi Weber is organizing … On the happy side of the news: Director Allison Anders is adopting the 5-year-old boy who has been living with her family as a foster child since the death of his young mother three years ago. She was an actress in Anders’ movie “Mi Vida Loca.” And now her son, Ruben Goodbear Anders, joins Anders’ two daughters as one of the family.

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