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Pirated DVDs in an Alley near you

GOOD MORNING: You don’t have to go to Hong Kong or Singapore to pick up pirated copies of still-in-theater or yet-to-be-released features. I found plenty of ’em for sale right here in L.A. — and when I contacted the studio toppers on Monday, they took immediate action. On a busy and blistering Sunday (the thermometer was topping 97) the famous “Alley” between Santee Street and Maple Aveue, in the heart of L.A.’s fashion district, was body-to-body with shoppers. Bargains are the byword here and $5 is the going rate for a DVD. I’d been tipped by a civilian friend, Sylvia Gordon, who’d told me she and Helen Kuhn bought “Seabiscuit” there last week. I thought it was impossible, but decided to see for myself. I located a young entrepreneur standing outside one of the hundreds of multi-merchandise stores. Yes, he had a DVD of “Seabiscuit.” “Anything else?” I asked. He pulled out a black bag containing a fistful of DVDs, including “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”; “And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself” (which debuts Sept. 7 on HBO); “Daddy Day Care,” “Legally Blonde 2” and “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.” … On Monday I began contacting some of those who might be affected by these piracies: Disney’s Michael Eisner (“Pirates”), Universal’s Ron Meyer (“Seabiscuit”), HBO’s Colin Callender and Larry Gelbart (“Pancho Villa”). Gelbart was furious. Meyer said he would call the studio’s officer in charge of piracy. Disney’s Joe Woodall said the LAPD and MPAA would be notified and said he was familiar with the Alley, where “sweeps” for contraband items were/will be held. He said New York’s Canal Street is another site where piracy of showbiz chefs d’oeuvre is a way of life — but this street is under surveillance for sweeps by local and industry police … Woodall reported my findings to the MPAA’s Mikhail Reider-Gordon, supervisor of the org’s anti-piracy operation. She said a sweep comprised of the MPAA staff, LAPD and a vendor task force hit that same area later Sunday and recovered about 1,500 DVDs! The vendors were served with cease-and-desist notices. But no arrests. Reider-Gordon said most of those selling “are illegal immigrants” … When I asked the Santee Street salesman about the quality of the DVDs, he assured me they were top quality — and produced a portable DVD player on the spot to allay any fears. My civilian friends who had told me of this illegal “treasure trove” were more trusting when they purchased “Seabiscuit”: When they arrived home to play their bright and shiny new discs, they found them to be blanks. But my friends did find some real bargains in other stores on Santee Street — honest-to-goodness ones.

JULIE ANDREWS’ DIRECTORIAL DEBUT, Sandy Wilson’s musical comedy “The Boy Friend,” which bowed last week at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, is already attracting B’way attention. That’s the show that brought a 19-year-old Andrews from London in 1954 (!) to make her debut in the lead role of Polly Browne. She won the Donaldson for most promising newcomer. Julie now is taking similar bows for the show — but this time as director. Polly is played by Meredith Patterson, with a cast including Byron Jennings, Tony Roberts, Sean Palmer, Delphi Harrington, Veanne Cox and Nancy Hess, with sets by Tony Walton and costumes by Walton and Rachel Gruer. Julie tells me, “I’m in love with my phenomenal company and so grateful for Target, which underwrote the entire production.” Julie’s daughter and son-in-law, Emma Walton and Steve Hamilton, along with Sybil Christopher, are partnered in the Bay Theater. Julie and Emma next complete their novel “Dragon,” based on a medieval French legend … Among the first-nighters for Andrews’ “Boy Friend” were Rob Marshall, who choreographed her legit “Victor/Victoria”; Nathan Lane, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, Roy Scheider and Betty Comden … I asked “Westworld” producer Jerry Weintraub how Arnold Schwarzenegger’s political plans affect the film’s future — Arnold’s to star, as well as produce. Jerry said he doesn’t know: “I haven’t heard from him yet.” But first for Weintraub is “Ocean’s Twelve,” with a return of the entire cast and director Steven Soderbergh. George Clooney returns this week from his lengthy vacation in his new Lake Como villa, where he was visited by Jerry. No, it won’t be one of the locations. They are N.Y., Amsterdam, Paris and Rome … Comedian Dat Phan, who bowed on Jay Leno’s show the same night Arnold bowed as gubernatorial candidate, not only won a standing ovation, but got a meeting with NBC to talk a TV series as well as a pact from Budd Friedman to play four nights at the Improv in Vegas. Two months ago, Phan was answering phones at the Improv in Hollywood … Shelley Morrison tearfully recalled Gregory Hines, who guested with her on “Will and Grace.” “When I couldn’t get an appointment with the best orthopedic surgeon in town, Gregory arranged for me to get in to see him. ‘As soon as you’re better,’ Gregory told me, ‘we’ll dance.’ We always have a band on the set and when I returned he said, ‘May I have this dance, my lady?’ and he whirled me about the set. He was a dear, dear man and we will all miss him.”