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July 30, 1993|SHAUNA SNOW | Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press

Can We Watch?: Talk-show host Joan Rivers and her daughter, actress Melissa Rivers, will play themselves in an autobiographical TV movie tracing their own rocky mother-daughter relationship. John Davis ("The Firm," "Shattered") will executive produce the NBC project. The story begins in 1987, following the suicide of Joan's husband and Melissa's father, Edgar Rosenberg.

*Ellerbee's Story: Linda Ellerbee will write and anchor a Sept. 14 ABC News prime-time special on breast cancer. Ellerbee, who went public about her own bout with breast cancer in 1992, said, "Regrettably, today breast cancer is every woman's issue. Women need hope and facts. This program will try to give them both." Called "The Other Epidemic: What Every Woman Needs to Know About Breast Cancer," the special will present the stories of several women and their experiences with breast cancer.


Multiple Defendants: Billy Milligan, who wrote an autobiographical book about his multiple personalities, has sued producer-director James Cameron, his Lightstorm Productions company and two other production companies, alleging they broke a contract to make a movie of his life story, using Milligan as a consultant. The $9-million Superior Court lawsuit claims the defendants induced him to move to Los Angeles and agreed to do the movie within a year. The suit alleges that the picture was fraudulently delayed to free Cameron to work on "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" and other projects. It seeks to bar Cameron from working on the upcoming film "True Lies" until the film about Milligan is made.

*Stay Away: A Nashville judge has ordered a Philadelphia woman to quit harassing singer Janis Ian. The temporary restraining order was issued Wednesday against 41-year-old Mary Gabriel Lewis, who joined the singer's fan club in the mid-1970s. According to a complaint, Ian "is fearful for her life and safety" since Lewis threatened to kill Ian and sent her pornographic love letters, shredded photos and packages containing dog and human feces. A hearing in the case is set for Aug. 13.

*Libel Damages: Bianca Jagger, ex-wife of rock star Mick Jagger, won undisclosed libel damages Thursday from Simon & Schuster Ltd., publishers of "The Andy Warhol Diaries," which chronicles New York society in the decade before Warhol's 1987 death. Jagger had said that comments about her party-girl lifestyle in the 1989 book were damaging and defamatory. The references were deleted from the British paperback that came out last year.


Restored Funding: The Senate Appropriations Committee voted Wednesday to restore $4.3 million to the National Endowment for the Arts budget, giving the agency back half the funds it lost two weeks ago when the House of Representatives cut its annual budget by 5%. The Senate committee budget gives the NEA $170.2 million for fiscal 1994, which is equal only to the agency's 1989 amount, and still $4.3 million less than recommended by President Clinton. Additional committee approvals Wednesday included $342.1 million for the Smithsonian Institution ($2.7 million more than recommended) and $54.7 million for the National Gallery of Art ($900,000 more than recommended). The allocations now go to the Senate floor and the Senate-House conference committee.

*Dwindling Grants Pool: The Cultural Affairs Department's grants pool, funded by the heralded L.A. Endowment for the Arts, dipped below the $3-million mark for the first time this year due to citywide budget cuts. In the latest batch of annual grants, 252 awards totaling $2.5 million went to 147 arts groups, 84 individual artists and 21 community groups. An additional $211,341 was set aside for technical assistance, although no money was reserved for appeals. Among the top recipients: the Los Angeles Philharmonic, $100,440; the L.A. Music Center Opera and Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, $94,860 each; CalArts $79,000, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, $60,450.

*Stage Datebook: It looks as if those "Forever Plaid" guys are leaving the Canon Theatre for real on Sept. 12, because another show, "Ruthless!," a campy spoof about a would-be child star, opens in the same Beverly Hills theater Oct. 19. . . . Two more titles have been added to South Coast Repertory's upcoming season. "Ecstatic Air," about the TV quiz show scandal of the '50s, was commissioned by South Coast from Richard Greenberg ("Eastern Standard") and will play the Mainstage Feb. 25-April 3. Frank McGuinness' "Someone Who'll Watch Over Me," a recent Tony nominee about three political prisoners in the Middle East, will play the Second Stage, April 26-May 29.


Actor James Garner, who rose to fame in the 1950s as TV's "Maverick," will star opposite Mel Gibson in a Warner Bros. film of the same name. . . . Today's Madonna stir is in Thailand, where the country's education minister opposes letting her perform at Bangkok's National Stadium for fear that the Blonde One might strip on stage. . . . St. Martin's Press says that a sealed lawsuit filed against the publisher by romance novelist Danielle Steel seeks to stop an unauthorized biography by the same writers who told People magazine about the novelist's steamy marriages to two ex-convicts. Steele's lawyer, denies the suit concerns the book, but declined to discuss it further.

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