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Hasselhoff trades beach for boards

GOOD MORNING: From “Baywatch” to B’way — the surf’s up for David Hasselhoff to fulfill a lifelong dream. He’ll debut in the B’way musical, “Jekyll & Hyde,” at the Plymouth, Oct.17. “I’m finally hanging up my trunks to do what I want to do,” he sez. And, he assures, “I’m just not a replacement (Sebastian Bach, Jack Wagner and Robert Cuccioli preceded). I’m doing it to also prove a point.” He says he’s talked with Frank Wildhorn (wrote it with Leslie Bricusse) about his interpretation of the role. “I want to do certain things to make it (the role) my own. I want to make it more interactive with the audience.” And he says he’s also spoken with director Robin Phillips about it. There are 14 songs in the show and Hasselhoff has been working with musical coach Joan Zajac — with whom he first studied — 20 years ago. Hasselhoff is obviously not doing it for the money — he has starred in “Baywatch” for ten years and is a hefty owner of the globally syndicated series which is picked up for anther two seasons. “I am doing it for my heart,” he says. “I never wanted to be a star. I’ll be perfectly happy in my little Broadway dressing room.” At seven, he appeared in “Peter Pan.” “And that’s when I realized what I wanted to do. It’s taken me 40 years to do it.” Hasselhoff was asked to star in Pierre Cossette’s “Scarlet Pimpernel,” “Grease,” as well as “Annie,” but each time a TV deal conflicted. He did find time to record — in Austria and Germany, where he became a superstar — won platinum records overseas, but his domestic album didn’t equal ’em … Hasselhoff does not plan to appear in “Baywatch” this year — but may reappear in the initial two-hour show next year. But, as a part owner, he heads over to Hawaii this month “to check on things — and do a little surfing. I hope it continues on. If is doesn’t, I have another series idea which I discussed with Brian Harris (of Pearson TV Intl., owner of the series). And we’d be ready to do that one!” Meanwhile, he also has completed “Shaka Zulu,” a miniseries in which both CBS and ABC are interested, as well as “Lay Over,” an MOW which he compares to “Sex, lies and videotape.” As you can see, Hasselhoff is not waiting for the big wave. He’s already caught it.

AND TALKING ABOUT BROADWAY, the musicalized “Sweet Smell of Success” completed its three-workshop performances at N.Y.’s Duke Theater with John Lithgow in the role of B’way columnist J.J. Hunsecker (portrayed in the 1997 film by Burt Lancaster) and Brian D’Arcy James as Sidney Falco, the Gotham press agent played in the pic by Tony Curtis. It was based on the 1950 novella by Ernie Lehman who also scripted the film with Clifford Odets. Lehman now co-produces the musical with David Brown and SFX Producers Inc. Lehman could barely contain himself after the performance Tuesday and phoned to tell me, “It is incredible!” (as in great). John Guare did the book and the music’s by Marvin Hamlisch and Craig Carnelia with choreography by Christopher Wheeldon. The opening number — a chorus of femme press agents called “Whisperers” — is “Rumors.” Another’s titled, “Dirt.” Got the picture? There’s no intermission in the 90 minute play skedded to go on the road (Boston and Chi) in October, 2001, with a B’way opening planned for Feb. 7, 2002. Another who viewed the workshop presentation told me, “It could run five years just this way!”

L.A.’S “SEX IN THE CITY”: the Gotham-based series heads to L.A. next week to tape two segs with a Hollywood storyline. And you could guess where they’ll shoot one scene — in Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion which they’ve taken over for a full day’s shoot. Of course Hef will be in a scene with Sarah Jessica Parker. He’ll also be in a scene they’ll film at the Sunset Room on the Strip. Hef’s a big fan of the show and has invited all of ’em to also attend his Aug. 5, sleepwear required “Midsummer Night’s Dream” party to get in the mood for their Aug. 9 shoot at the Mansion. Also attending the party is “Survivor” alumna Jenna Lewis, mentioned as a possible future Playmate … True test of a hit movie: no traffic to the rest rooms during a screening. “Space Cowboys” takes those honors — in spades at Tuesday’s Village preem. P.S. it also took honors with hefty applause at the schmaltzy finale — another proof of Clint Eastwood’s cinematic savvy. Clint, in his inimitable fashion lingered long and happily at the Armand Hammer Musuem party which followed. His costars kept coming up to him to repeat their joy at working on the pic — all his costars always comment to me on the pleasure and economy of working in an Eastwood movie. They all want to work with him again. The senior thesps’ classic answer when asked how they’d do the grueling physical scenes? “Acting!” Jim Garner’s grimaces during running scenes, however, were real — following the film he had double knee surgery — totally successful. “And I’m now two inches taller,” he smiled. Astronaut Dr. Yvonne Cagle, who was on hand at the preem, told the Garners she will soon be headed into space. She invited ’em to Houston to see how it’s really prepped. Clint confirmed to me that NASA gave ’em total cooperation (and it shows) despite the fact two of the pic’s characters, played by William Devane and James Cromwell, are not complimentary … Today , on the corner of Sunset and La Cienega, a billboard announces the alliance between the Academy of TV Arts & Sciences and iCast, the official web partner of ATAS.

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