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An Actor at the Crossroads

July 22, 1996|Times staff writers and contributors

When Robert Downey Jr. appears in Malibu Municipal Court Friday regarding his recent drug-related arrests, he's going to have a lot of explaining to do to the judge. On Saturday, the 31-year-old actor walked away from a drug treatment center where he'd been ordered after his second arrest last week. Downey was arrested, again, when he returned to the rehab center later on Saturday and is scheduled to be released from jail today. The string of incidents began last month when Downey was arrested on suspicion of possessing heroin and cocaine--both felonies--after police stopped him for speeding. He was also charged with two misdemeanor counts, carrying a concealed weapon (unloaded) and driving under the influence. Last Tuesday night, he was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance after he stumbled into a house a few blocks away from his Malibu home. Before Downey's most recent arrest, Deputy Dist. Atty. Ellen Aragon said that charges in the first two incidents may be consolidated on Friday. She added that Downey, who has no prior record, is eligible for a diversion program if he seeks treatment and avoids similar incidents for two years.

How Many RSVPs Will Come Back?

The July 12 overdose death of Smashing Pumpkins sideman Jonathan Melvoin may attract more participants into a controversial campaign against drug abuse in the music industry. Michael Greene, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, which is organizing the campaign, today is sending out invitations to "hundreds" of music figures, asking them to come on board. Greene says that several key music executives "remain in denial" by refusing to join the industrywide effort. Among the companies that have not officially signed on: Elektra, Columbia, Mercury and Geffen, whose spokeswoman, Bryn Bridenthal, explained that the label prefers to handle drug matters internally. Greene, though, insists that it will take a united movement, with guidance from experienced drug abuse counselors, to have any overall impact. "Record people aren't equipped to deal with this," he says. "They're not psychologists and neither am I.

This Way to the Shark Tank

New ABC Entertainment President Jamie Tarses gets to take her first look outward from inside one of television's most-watched fish bowls at her first session with television critics Friday. Of course, Tarses will share the podium with ABC Entertainment Chairman Ted Harbert, and she's only been at ABC a few weeks, hardly enough time to put any kind of stamp on the network's prime-time lineup. However, because Tarses is the first woman to hold that position at one of the major networks and, at 32, is one of the youngest people to occupy the entertainment hot seat, critics will doubtless clamor to hear her overall programming philosophy. Oh, and they'll also want insights into the coffee-sipping "Friends" generation, which she helped develop while at NBC. (So, we have her to thank for that.)

Can't Tell Them Apart Without a Scorecard

Although the $2.5-billion acquisition of New World Communications Group by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. isn't expected to close until January, employees of New World Entertainment are already said to be checking out options elsewhere. That's because New World's production and distribution operations will likely be absorbed by News' Fox units, making most personnel seemingly expendable. Although New World Chairman Brandon Tartikoff resigned shortly after the deal was announced, some executives could segue to Fox, and studio officials are enthusiastic about New World's arrangement with Stephen J. Cannell, producer of "The A-Team" and "Wiseguy." Approval of the merger also means that Fox would assume New World's interest in the entertainment-news show "Access Hollywood," which premieres in September. The syndicated program will air on several key NBC stations, making Fox a partner with NBC on the program leading into its prime-time lineup in many top markets. Then again, the TV industry has many strange bedfellows these days. NBC, for example, televises the sitcoms "NewsRadio" and "Caroline in the City," which are partly owned by ABC and CBS, respectively.

You Can't Just Paint in the Studio Anymore

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