Halmi sees future in online minis, pix

GOOD MORNING: The Internet is the future site for network movies and miniseries. That’s the (outspoken) opinion of the man who is a mainstay of the networks with his big pix and minis, Robert Halmi. Tonight at the restored Egyptian theater on Hollywood Blvd. he appropriately preems “Cleopatra,” his ABC mini that airs May 23-24. In bigscreen feature-like promotion, Halmi brings in lavish props and costumes from his production to the Egyptian. This week, Halmi’s mini “Noah’s Ark” airs on NBC, while upcoming are “Leprechauns” on NBC, “Arabian Nights” on ABC (the flying carpet took six months to complete), “Don Quixote” and “Animal Farm” on TNT. Stars of his works who were on hand to honor him at the L.A. Center Theatre Group Associates’ “Angels’ Night” Gala at the Century Plaza Hotel Saturday included Gregory Peck, Patrick Stewart, Mary Steenburgen, Ted Danson and “Cleopatra’s” Leonor Varella, and Billy Zane (Mark Antony). Varella said her portrayal of Cleopatra is distinctly different from that by Elizabeth Taylor. In a lavish silent auction pre-dinner, Halmi told me he had warned Varella and Zane not to pull an “Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton” while his “Cleopatra” was shooting — he claims they waited till shooting was over. Hmm. I know Varella and Billy Zane were definitely an item during production, and still were at the L.A. gala; they will be together again tonight at the preem, as will be costar Timothy Dalton (Julius Caesar). Varella, 24, is Chilean-born, raised in the U.S., Costa Rica and Germany, and now living in Paris. She is a beauty a la Catherine Zeta-Jones, and as charming and well-spoken as Z-J. Varella is now, understandably, being sought by the major agencies in Hollywood. At the gala’s live auction, she modeled Mikimoto pearls (sold for $20,000).The auctioneer was Chuck Fries and the evening, which raised $750,000, was headed by wife Ava Fries. Halmi was also prominent in the auction, donating his villa in Spain for a seven-night stay! … What is Halmi’s plan for the millennium? “I’m planning for 2004,” he said: “15 projects.” For the Internet? Also honored in the evening were Joan Nicholas, Audrey Skirball-Kenis and Charles Kenis; the award was presented by the CTG’s Gordon Davidson.

SHARE AND I STARTED together 46 years ago; they were performing on stage at Ciro’s on the Sunset Strip, I was at my new typewriter at Daily Variety on Yucca St. At this year’s SHARE Boomtown party on CBS’ giant Stage 37, the SHARE Ladies raised $1.5 million for many deserving charities — for a grand total of $34 million over the 46 years! This year’s show was themed “Babes in Boomtown” and the precision-like professional dance-routined numbers danced by the (civilian) ladies included a “Babes in Toyland” number, a chorus line of Groucho Marx look-alikes (singing in French!) and the finale, “Flamenco Fantasy.” The costumes by Joni Berry and sets by Rene Lagler were, as usual, spectacular and music excellent by Ian Fraser’s orch. (Joanna Carson was music chair). Shera Danese Falk supervised the show, which was directed by Katherine Knapp Campbell, with Randy Doney in charge of the production. Corinna (Mrs. Freddie) Fields is chairperson and Patricia (Mrs. Tom) Bosley is president. Mary Jean Ross was named member of the year. Kevin Nealon m.c’d the show ,which also included the pre-teen Carousel dancers and 12-year-old singer Brooke Adams, Janice Hart, Collin Raye and his band, and starred Red Buttons who claimed, “Dolly Parton, who said to Billy Crystal, ‘Analyze These’ — never belonged to SHARE.” Or, “Mrs. Marcel Marceau, who said to Marcel, ‘Please don’t talk about me when I’m gone’ — never belonged to SHARE!” Red got a standing ovation … Add to last weekend’s fantastic fundraisers: the Women’s Guild Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s fourth annual L.A. Antique Show at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar, where a half million-$ was raised. Barbara and Garry Marshall were the gala’s honorary chairmen. Attendees included Dustin Hoffman, Jacqueline Smith, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Gillian Anderson and Sarah Jessica Parker. Carolyn Roehm gave the keynote speech.

CONGRATS TONY NOMINEES and welcome to L.A.: “Parade” best actress nominee Carolee Carmello started rehearsals in L.A. Monday for the May 12 bow of “Bells Are Ringing,” the first show of the new Reprise! B’way’s Best in Concert season at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse … And Canon Theatricals is celebrating, as “Side Man” and “The Lonesome West,” both best play Tony nominees, boast Canon’s producers Joan Stein and Suzi Dietz. “Side Man” will probably play in L.A. next Spring. (“Lonesome West” just opened at the Lyceum) … Donald Mills, 84, the last remaining member of the Mills Bros., undergoes brain surgery (for a benign tumor) today at Cedars-Sinai. Donald has been working since he was 9 years old and his son John had been working with him since May 23, 1984. They had been playing a long run date in “Palm Springs Follies.” Kay Starr has replaced ’em for the remainder of the season.