‘West Wing’ suffers convention letdown

GOOD MORNING: Four months of “West Wing” planning went out the window. I reported Aug. 11 that the WB series for NBC was scheduled to move into the Staples Center to shoot a sequence with Martin Sheen immediately after the Demos departed. Thursday, I called producer Llewellyn Wells to ask how the convention went. “We were gravely disappointed,” he sadly told me. “We weren’t able to overcome logistical problems, after four months of planning with the DNC.” He said the 20-plus media outlets in the luxury suites could not exit in time. “It wasn’t the DNC’s fault,” Wells insisted; the media had separate deals with the Staples Center. It presented a problem for the series, as the convention story was set for the first two segs, airing Oct. 4-11. Now Aaron Sorkin’s busily writing a new setting — mebbe in Washington at a CGI-created inauguration or — ? … Meanwhile, the Demo-themed series has added a Republican to the cast. She’s played by Emily Procter whom the president (Martin Sheen) adds to his counsel’s office. In the script, the president sees the GOPartisan’d Procter debate — and defeat — Rob Lowe on a Sunday morning TV show and adds her to his team, to voice a different input. Procter’s credits include New Line’s “Body Shots,” in which she reveals “a nighttime passion for being a dominatrix” and HBO’s “Breast Men,” as well as “Guinevere” and “Family Plan.”

HILLARY CLINTON WILL BE BIRTHDAY-PARTIED (on her 53rd) with a gala concert and dinner at the Warner Theater in D.C. Oct. 11. It’s her final birthday as first lady; the party is also planning to benefit her “New York Senate 2000” campaign (as did “Hollywood’s Salute to President William Jefferson Clinton,” Aug. 12 at Ken Roberts’ ranch in Brentwood). The salute to the first lady will also have an impressive list of celebs and performers. Of course, the president will be there … A salute to West Point’s 200th birthday is taking shape. Thursday, former West Point commandant, Gen. Joe Franklin, who is spearheading the celebration, met in N.Y. with producer Gary Smith, Ivan Kronnenfeld, Carl Koerner, CBS News’ Andrew Hayward and Stanley Moger to plan the Memorial Day 2002 two-day event and TV’er … Maj. Gen. Nels Running, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), is heading a committee to gain visibility and recognition for veterans of the Korean War whose 50th anniversary was noted June 25 — but Congress has established the commemorative period to run through Nov. 11, 2003. Gen. Running tells me, “Our fervent hope is that someone, with the talent and skill to produce a first-class movie or TV show, episode or series, might take interest in a production that would bring recognition to Korean War veterans. And to inform the American public about the Korean War and its importance to our history.” He adds, “I am reminded of the magnificent impact that ‘Saving Private Ryan’ had on the average citizen’s appreciation for the service of our veterans.” Let’s do it! … Meanwhile our troops are still serving around the world and the USO continues to work to bring ’em some joy. Famed rock group Little Feat is the latest heading a USO tour, starting Sunday with stops in the U.K., Macedonia, Germany and Kosovo. Previously the group performed for service members in the Persian Gulf in November 1999.

“MY FATHER’S DAUGHTER” is the title of Tina Sinatra’s book due from Simon & Schuster by year’s end. This could be the book to end (and correct) all the speculative books on Frank Sinatra … Saving cinema gems: tonight at UCLA, the Bruins’ Film & Archives department’s restored print of the 1956 “Seven Men From Now” will screen, thanks to a donation to the Film Foundation by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. Curtis Hanson, who chairs the UCLA Film & TV Archive department, received a $100,000 check from Michael Douglas Thursday at the HFPA’s annual presentation of donations at the BevWilshire. On hand for tonight’s screening will be “Seven Men” director Budd Boetticher and Burt Kennedy, who scripted. The film was the first of seven pix on which Boetticher and star Randolph Scott teamed. The cast in this solid oater included Gail Russell, Lee Marvin, Walter Reed, John Larch and Donald Barry. Of course, Hanson and Douglas teamed on “Wonder Boys,” Par’s terrif pic which didn’t get its just reception ($) when released early this year. Par backs its pride in the pic with a November re-release and has held back the video and DVD. Meanwhile, USA Films releases the Douglas starrer “Traffic” in December, also, of course for Oscar consideration. Thus, Douglas could be considered for supporting actor in “Traffic” and for lead actor in “Wonder Boys.” Hanson reminds that Robert Downey Jr. also is “great” in “Wonder Boys” and says, “during the months we made the picture, Downey was wonderful. I’d love nothing more than to find another one for him — and, of course, for Michael!” … Diana Ross presented a $200,000 check to Gil N. Schwartzberg, president and CEO of the City of Hope, following her tour of the Cancer Center’s Pediatric Dept. She met with physicians who head the research and treatment options for children suffering from cancer and Diana hoped that her donation will help further research and treatment programs there.

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