GOOD MORNING: James Cameron admits he has “mixed feelings” about the Titanic salvage operation that brought up a 10-ton piece of the ship Thursday from its graveyard in the North Atlantic. Cameron, a producer and director of the “Titanic” Fox and Par epic is no stranger to the resting place of the ship having made 12 dives down to the depths 12,280 feet (2 miles) in the Russian-built sub with special lens attachments by the filmmakers. “We put in more time at sea than the Titanic,” noted Cameron. “And sometimes we’d come up to 10-foot-high waves in the seas due east of Halifax.” Talking of Halifax, I asked him about the mysterious poisoning of the cast and crew. He was one of those hospitalized as well as co-star Bill Paxton. “Only by the grace of God, Gloria Stuart (87) was not a victim. She chose to skip the late night clambake, instead dining in the hotel.” Cameron says there was no reason to suspect anyone on the crew of foul play. The remaining sea scenes will be done at Rosarito Beach, as reported here, where a giant tank and sets to match have been/are being built. Eighty percent of the Titanic’s length, 750 feet, will be constructed and at the finale the fan tail will be 110 feet in the air with 1,500 passengers to drown. Cam-eron says his Digital Domain is creating scenes of the ship under way and at sea and the finale sinking with the audience taken aboard as the Titanic goes down. “Every technology I’ve ever photographed will be used plus some new ones. Instead of creating the future, our special effects this time will create history.” With some fictitious characters like those played by Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and Billy Zane. “My ‘Titanic’ is more like ‘Gone With the Wind’ was to the Civil War” Meanwhile, up in Vancouver the two-hour CBS mini, also based on the Titanic disaster, winds shooting Tuesday “on schedule,” adds director Rob Lieberman. Their finale’s at the dock in N.Y. with the Carpathia bringing home 700 survivors and a few fictionalized characters with an emotional climax, ‘natch. Next up for the Titanic the musical.
ELIZABETH TAYLOR REMAINS DISTRAUGHT over the death of her longtime friend and press agent Chen Sam and concerned over the heartless rumors circulating about Chen’s passing. The facts are she died at Taylor’s home early Monday morning, having suffered from cancer for two years. Sam kept her illness quiet from the press because she didn’t want her ailing 85-year-old mother to know. Sam spent her last three weeks at the home of Taylor, who provided for her care and comfort, instead of going to a hospital to die. … Mel Torme, somewhat improved, remains hospitalized in intensive care where he re-ceived sad news: his father, William Torme, 98, died Wednesday, here in L.A. … Johnny Carson sent a check for $25,000 to benefit the family of late comic Ray Combs at a benefit held Wednesday at the Com-edy Store, where live fundraising entertainers included Rodney Dangerfield, Howie Mandel, Kevin Pollak, Larry Miller and Harlan Williams. … On a happier note, Edgar Scherick, recently hospitalized with a mild stroke, is back at his desk adding to his long list of productions and sounding great again. … “Friends’ ” Matt LeBlanc will be working with his left arm in a sling for three weeks following his exuberant dive into a couch for a scene last week. He modestly told me, “The producers were gracious enough not to kick me off and wrote it (the injured shoulder) into the show.” LeBlanc will also be a part of In Style’s “What’s Sexy Now?” fundraiser benefiting Planet Hope, Thursday at Smash Box. Celebs auction off items they consider sexy. “I consider speed sexy,” he said “but I can’t very well donate my car (a Pantera). So he’ll donate something involved with the series. “After all, it’s kind of a sexy show,” he says.
OLD CHINA HANDS over 1,000 from 30 countries convene starting Sept. 4 at the MGM Grand. Exec producer of the conclave, Mario Machado, Shanghai-born, who came to the U.S. 28 years ago under the refugee act, says, “The story of Jewish survival in China is finally surfacing big.” … An injunc-tion preventing new owners of the Canon Drive site of the old Bistro from using the Bistro name was won in court Thursday by Kurt and Christopher Niklas. … Irwin Webb, who played piano at the Bistro Garden for 12 years, now 88’s nightly at the new Cristal eatery in the Sofitel. … Gary Coleman, (28) sounding great, wings to Australia this weekend for drama and talkshow stints, returns to talk with author Tom Steinbeck on his “Salvation Street,” which Coleman and manager Dion Mial plan to feature film. … After golfing and before winging to Europe, Mark Canton dined at SanFran’s Rubicon eatery (owned by Robert De Niro and Robin Williams) with Ralph Durant and Joe Vitrano when Vitrano suddenly started to choke. Durant repeatedly applied the Heimlich maneuver with Canton assisting and they finally dislodged the particle choking Vitrano. Durant was talking two projects with Canton one titled, “Everything’s Not What It Seems.” How prophetic Chasen’s will be cooking chili again at this weekend’s chili cookoff in Malibu and Thursday for the post-preem party of “American Buffalo” and again Sept. 20 for the feed following the preem of “Two Days in the Valley.” … At Morton’s, Carol Channing greeted Dolly Parton with “Hello, “Dolly,” and Parton ditto’d Jack Carter, guesting in “Coach” on Stage 43 at Universal, ambled next door to stage 41 to the “Something So Rare” stage where he was spotted and signed to guest there as well.