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Thompson secures rights to Bakley story

GOOD MORNING: From rape to murder. From Andrew Luster to Bonny Lee Bakley. Producer Larry Thompson has secured the exclusive rights to the story of Bakley, the murdered wife of actor Robert Blake, from Margerry Bakley, her sister. The film, to be written by Christopher Canaan (who also penned Thompson’s Lifetime telepic, “A Date With Darkness: The Trial and Capture of Andrew Luster”), opens with Blake walking Bakley to his car, saying he has to go back to the restaurant. Blake is awaiting trial in February. Thompson says the result of the trial “could be added to the crawl” of the film. Others who will be portrayed in the film, include Christian Brando, Jerry Lee Lewis and one of Bakley’s ex-husbands, Paul Gowron. Another pic planned on the subject, based on Dennis McDougal’s book, “To Live and Die in L.A.” was noted in Daily Variety, May 22, 2002. It is a project whose exec producers include Mark Bennet, Alan Jacobs, Mark Hayman and Storyline Entertainment’s Craig Zadan and Neal Meron … Meanwhile the Luster case goes on, the first rape victim having won a $19 million judgment days after the Luster telepic aired. A second victim’s civil action started trail Monday and a third is upcoming.

AND ALL THAT JAZZ: The Henry Mancini Institute’s Mancini Musicale, honoring Clint Eastwood with the “Hank” award, raised $225,000-plus from its extraordinary Saturday night at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Eastwood, the former mayor of Carmel, politely dodged political talk — altho a good friend of Arnold’s — but spoke at great lengths (for him) about jazz “as the true American art form” and the need to keep it alive. He spoke of his long friendship with Mancini and their early days at Universal. And his own admiration for movie music and composers such as Franz Waxman, Max Steiner, etc. “I never get tired of listening to their scores.” Lennie Niehaus arranged and conducted the Mancini Institute orch in music from Eastwood pics, a tribute to his taste and musical savvy. The evening also noted the unveiling of the upcoming (April 13) Henry Mancini stamp as intro’d by Postmaster General John E. Potter — to the background music of the theme from “The Pink Panther.” Generous artists who performed included Diana Krall, Arturo Sandoval, Alex Acuna, HMI artistic director Patrick Williams, Carolyn Jansch, James Carter, Pete Christlieb, James Moody, and in a rocking theme from “Peter Gunn,” bassist Abe Laboriel Sr.–who was in the original recording session. The music wound with “Moon River.” Ginny Mancini made a moving speech to get music education back in the schools and she “enlisted” Quincy Jones, Clint Eastwood, all the performers — and the audience to carry on this fight. She also said the evening launched a “Mancini Year.” It includes “A Merry Mancini Christmas” concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Dec. 23 with the L.A. Philharmonic, Debbie Allen dancers, chorale and the first public performance of “Santa’s Last Ride” by Mancini and Leslie Bricusse. And the HMI big band concert Oct. 25, also at Walt Disney Hall, as well as many other nationwide events to come. The Saturday night event was produced by Gail Purse, written by Buz Kohan with set designed by Rene Lagler.

IT’S A LAST CHANCE to catch John Pizzarelli and family in their inimitable show — winding this week at Feinstein’s at the Cinegrill. He told me the group next heads to Brazil and he then starts prepping his bow starring in the Frank Sinatra spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and, Pizzarelli believes, a following stand in London. Meanwhile, the Pizzarelli family — John, father Bucky, brother, Martin, wife Jessica Molasky — plus Ray Kennedy on piano is a must-see here at Feinstein’s. Hurry … Johnny Grant and four fellow USO travelers reminisce at Hollywood’s Entertainment Museum, Saturday (2 p.m.) about their joint tours to entertain troops. Piper Laurie, Terry Moore and Kurtwood Smith join him … Jane Seymour and James Keach will perform readings at a kickoff for Laguna’s Festival of the Arts’ new event Sunday along with Books Live! director and thesp Karin de la Pena, Caitlin Ferrara and Rasha ElAmn. A four-month reading series hosted by the Festival of the Arts starts Nov. 8 … A contingent of stars from Hollywood to Minneapolis Saturday helped raise $2 million for the “So the World May Hear” Awards Gala. The funds for the Starkey Hearing Foundation headed by Bill Austin and his Hearing Foundation goes about 150 missions annually “to fix the broken ears” of the world, particularly children. Austin has pledged never to turn away anyone in need of hearing aids because they can’t pay for them. Among those who appeared, m.c. Norm Crosby, Lou Ferrigno, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Culp, the 1995 Miss America Heather Whiteston McCallum, Pat Boone, Chubby Checker, Red Buttons, Davis Gaines, Sam Moore, Nita Whitaker … The Improv’s Budd Friedman will be roasted and toasted Sept. 19 at the BevHills Hotel with an all-comedy evening to benefit the Kayne-Eras Center in Culver City … Fran Drescher receives the Humanitarian Torch of Learning Award from the American Friends of the Hebrew University Nov.11 at the Four Seasons in BevHills … And the L.A. Entertainment Council’s Jewish Image Awards in Film and TV go to Darren Star and Wendy Wasserstein. Jeffrey Tambor hosts.