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Mouse sinks teeth into Chinese market

GOOD MORNING: Now upcoming in China — the Year of the Mouse. The Disney Co. and China USA Entertainment (headed by Dr. Donald Altfeld) are partnered to present Disney programming on China National Radio, opening the vast Chinese radio market to Disney characters and stories. Disney launches with “It’s a Small World.” Altfeld adds, “It will bring the world’s premier entertainment company in front of the world’s largest radio audience.” He’s been associated with China radio for more than 10 years, and these new shows will be advertiser-supported. I asked Altfeld about royalties; he said they will now be a reality. What about past usages: back royalties? In his opinion, that will not come to pass. But he reminded that great strides have been made in recent trade talks to stop piracy in movies, tapes, etc. Altfeld, who speak Mandarin, says his friends in the government are “absolutely trustworthy” in protecting future rights. He knows about royalties only too well — while still in high school he discovered Jan & Dean and wrote over 100 songs for ’em, including “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena.” Royalties from his hits put him through college and med school at USC! He began his association with China, bringing over musicians starting with Jan & Dean in concert with “Surf’s Up in Shanghai.” As for movies, China allows 12 U.S. pics a year; the most recent is “Toy Story.” He looks for “explosive growth” in showbiz in China, including music and TV. He will expand into TV production; one project is “Shanghai Nights,” set in the ’30s. To date, he says, NBA basketball has been the biggest TV attraction from the U.S. Among his upcoming radio shows will be “The New American Music Hour”– from Boyz II Men to Neil Diamond, Kenny G to Whitney Houston. The expected radio audience on China National Radio for Disney’s “It’s a Small World”– 400 million listeners.

CHEVY CHASE DISAPPEARED during a scene of “Vegas Vacation” being filmed during Siegfried & Roy’s spectacular show onstage at the Mirage. Even producer Jerry Weintraub was speechless when Chase reappeared in the next scene — surrounded by a stageful of giant cats. “One 800-pound white tiger,” Weintraub said breathlessly, “was staring, nose-to-nose, at Chevy — and making a face that looked like he was thinking what a nice meal Chevy would make. Chevy was making the same face back at him!” Weintraub asked Steve Winn to cameo, but the Mirage topper begged off. The producer instead invited Rod Steiger to cameo — as a crapshooter named Jilly. (Please note, Frank). Sid Caesar’s also been invited to join, as a Keno player. Weintraub says Winn closed off portions of the casino for filming. It doesn’t hurt business, he says, because “The movie attracts thousands to come in and watch them shoot. And once they come in the doors –” well, you know what happens … Weintraub is also busy prepping these WB features: “The Avengers,” “Soldier,” “In Contempt” and “33 Liberty Street.” And thinking up more “Vacation” franchises for Chevy, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid and director Stephen Kessler … Michael Jackson, who will make a court appearance as defendant in the suit brought by Gary Smith, could show as early as Tuesday. Three lawsuits are due to be tried simultaneously in re the “Jackson Family Honors” broadcast debacle, which cost producer Smith millions … Now that Doug Cramer’s completing his 21st Danielle Steel NBC vidpic, plus the Charlie Bronson two-hour “Full Circle” for CBS and the “Sleeping Together” feature, Cramer’s getting back to writing: the play about Joyce Haber, “The Last Great Dish” and a murder mystery, “Lust for Murder.” He’s also prepping Sue Cameron’s “Love, Sex and Murder” (Warner Books). Cameron dedicated the book to her “hero and friend” Helen Kushnick. Latter has been in Lennox Hill hospital and could use a cheery note.

BUT THEY’LL BE BACK. “Bermuda Ave. Triangle” partied at Georgia on Melrose Sunday night after closing eight SRO months. They reopen in Jan. at the Canon — but, as of now, Bea Arthur is not expected to rejoin Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna. The show’s heading to N.Y. in April when (Emmy-nominated) Taylor goes on hiatus again from “The Nanny.” The Bolognas spend the rest of this summer in Vermont writing “a romantic comedy” for the bigscreen … There’s no biz like: A year ago, comedienne Judy Gold made a target of Comedy Store patrons John Bautista and Kari Miller, there on their first date. Thursday the duo returned, and this time Gold invited Bautista onstage — where he promptly proposed to Kari, fell to his knees, offered her the ring. P.S. She said “Yes.” When not matchmaking at the Comedy Store, Gold’s also doubling in “Arli$$” and “Caroline in the City”… Wednesday at the Improv, Norm Crosby will intro the lineup of comedians skedded for the Jerry Lewis Labor day MDA telethon. It’s Norm’s 20th year … After 30 years in L.A., Lloyd Leipzig, publicist-marketing consultant, moves back to N.Y., where he’ll assemble tapes his father narrated of his life in the Lower East Side starting at the turn of the century — for a film, book or — ?