GOOD MORNING, a terrific morning in fact. A visit to the brilliant National Jewish Center for Immunology & Respiratory Medicine in Denver has confirmed that my wife Selma has completely recovered, almost miraculously, from an unusual illness. We both thank you for your good wishes, which have meant so much … Although Barbara and Marvin Davis have left Denver, they have left part of their hearts there — as evident by the Davis’ Diabetes Hospital at Denver’s University Hospital complex, which we admired while in the neighborhood. And as long as I was in Denver, I checked in on the ABC vidpic, “Dying to Be Perfect: The Ellen Pena Story” filming there. Crystal Bernard stars as the wife of Federico Pena (played by Esai Morales), the Secretary of Transportation and former mayor of Denver. The Penas were recently in Denver to see their story filmed. President Clinton was making a Denver stop during the difficult days (ValuJet and TWA Flight 800) for the transportation secretary. Ellen, a marathon runner who jogged with Clinton twice in D.C., ran with him during the Mile-High City visit. She also did a running scene in the pic with Bernard, and viewed an emotional scene in the mayor’s office in which Pena (Bernard) admits her bulimia. Ellen said she was in tears reliving the scene … It is a particularly emotional story, in which her bulimia costs her a running bid in the Olympics. She told me she was bulimic 10 years, from a senior at Harvard to midway through her first pregnancy. She said the vidpic is being made “with integrity throughout.” Citadel’s exec producer Mark Sennet got the property (from a People mag story), launched it at ABC during Bernard’s hiatus from NBC’s ‘Wings,” and got an OK from the White House for the story. It’s hoped a preem screening will be held at the White House before the Nov. sweeps airing … Bernard trained to be the marathon-running Pena while also cutting her first album and musicvideo in Nashville. The initial tune’s “Have You Forgotten What Love Is?”, written with Billy Dean … Bernard said she’s dropped seven pounds during the recording-filming-running and returns to “Wings” “a size 2 instead of a 4.” Bernard and Sennet are planning more pix — one hopefully is “The Ann-Margret Story.” In addition to Sennet, Citadel prez David Ginsburg is another exec producer of the vidpic; Judy Ranan is supervising producer, Karen Shapiro producer, Jan Egleson director and Susan Arnout Smith scripted … More on Colorado showbiz soon.
SAM DONALDSON WAS SHOCKED, as were we, at the Italian court’s ruling that declared former SS captain Erich Priebke a free man. On April 9, 1994, we reported Donaldson’s uncovering of Priebke in Bariloche, Argentina (after a tip from the Wiesenthal Center), in one of “ABC Primetime’s” hardest-hitting stories ever. Donaldson got Priebke to admit (on camera) he “was just following orders” in the SS murder of 350 innocent Italians. “This was a piece that matters,” Donaldson told me at the time. Now, with the Italian verdict, he said, “The victims cry out for justice.” He wants “Primetime” to do an expanded report on the court and the followup, if any. It’s hoped Italy will extradite Priebke (now being held in civilian prison in Rome) to Germany, where he could be tried for crimes against humanity rather than for war crimes. There is no time limit on prosecution for crimes against humanity, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Wiesenthal Center reminded me. Donaldson added, “Priebke went on to work for Eichmann and was responsible for the deaths of 6,000-7000 Jews in camps. Files in London and Israel confirm this. This (Rome trial) is a slap in the face of the Nuremberg trials, and for everyone who died.” Donaldson plans to pursue with the same ardor he gave the case initially … Claudette Colbert will be cremated in N.Y.; the funeral is Saturday. Her ashes will be returned to Barbados on Monday, when she will be buried alongside her mother and husband Dr. Joel Pressman near the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows. Colbert’s friend of 30 years, Helen O’Hagan, who was at Colbert’s bedside when she died, said a memorial will be planned. Among the many who sent condolence messages: longtime friend Frank Sinatra, who was married to Mia Farrow at Colbert’s Barbados home, and Jean-Pierre Aumont, who co-starred with Colbert on B’way in “A Talent for Murder.”
ROBERT DUVALL PUTS HIS MONEY where his script is: he’s long planned to film his “The Apostle,” and now his Butchers Run Films banner will finance. He directs, and stars with Farrah Fawcett, Miranda Richardson, Wilford Brimley, Billy Bob Thornton, Arliss Howard and June Carter Cash in the story of a Pentecostal preacher in Louisiana. Rob Carliner produces. William Morris packaged the pic, as well as Duvall’s next, the Merle Haggard biopic via Butchers Run and Byline Films for UA. Thornton and Tom Epperson are scripting … Richard and Georgiana Thomas welcomed son Montana James on Sunday at their L.A. home. In the “Walton Family Easter Special,” John Boy (Thomas) becomes a proud papa.