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Morning Report

Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press.

September 27, 1996|SHAUNA SNOW

POP/ROCK

Jackson Family Mistrial: An 81-year-old Los Angeles judge declared a mistrial in the "Jackson Family Honors" court case on Thursday, saying that "the logistical problems" involved were "greater than perhaps any I've had in any other case." Jurors last week had reached conflicting verdicts in the case--which stemmed from production company Smith-Hemion's bid to have the Jacksons pay for losses from the 1994 charity TV show--which was panned by critics and included only a cursory appearance, and no performance, from the family's most famous member, Michael Jackson. Smith-Hemion claimed that Jermaine Jackson had promised brother Michael would perform, and the jury initially awarded the producers $2.6 million. But jurors also declined to hold any of the Jacksons personally responsible, meaning the plaintiffs couldn't collect. Later, after jurors resumed deliberations, two sent U.S. Judge Laughlin Waters notes that threw the case into further turmoil. One juror said she just went along to end deliberations, but didn't really side with Smith-Hemion.

TELEVISION

Sweet 65: Remember when Elizabeth Taylor was a teenager in "National Velvet" (1946), a temptress in "Cleopatra" (1963), or a violet-eyed leading lady in any number of roles? Well, time flies, and Taylor has survived a tumultuous personal odyssey to face her 65th birthday on Feb. 27. And the ever-spunky actress will make the most of it: a two-hour, star-studded ABC prime-time special that will benefit what has become her passion--the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. Taping is Feb. 16 at Hollywood's Pantages Theatre for showing later in February. Meanwhile, Taylor will be at Santa Monica Airport's Barker Hanger today at 6 p.m. to chair--with fellow AIDS activist Magic Johnson--the Macy's Passport '96 fashion show, which aims to raise more than $1 million for AIDS charities.

Winfrey Sparks Books Sales: Oprah Winfrey may be one of the world's richest women, but she's also done her share to help others, and this time she's padding the pocket of publishers, book store owners and authors. Winfrey announced last week that she would start an on-air reading group, beginning with Jacquelyn Mitchard's "The Deep End of the Ocean." Since Winfrey's announcement, sales of the novel about a missing child have soared, causing book stores to order more than half a million copies before Winfrey's show devoted to the book even airs. "We touched a chord we didn't know was there," said Winfrey, who in the initial announcement urged her audience to take up reading because, "I think books are important." Meanwhile, Winfrey gives her show's spotlight to guest Tom Hanks today when he plays the guitar and sings for the first time on television, performing a song he wrote for his directorial debut, "That Thing You Do."

More Traffic: Cirque du Soleil isn't the only event planned for the Santa Monica pier this weekend. Celebrities including Tim Allen, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, LL Cool J, Melissa Joan Hart and Coolio will be at Pacific Park on Sunday for the Nickelodeon cable channel's third annual "Big Help-a-thon," a live 9 a.m.-5 p.m. TV special aimed at getting kids nationwide to volunteer in their communities. In 1995, the event garnered 5 million calls from youngsters pledging more than 54 million hours of volunteer work.

MOVIES

'Star Wars' Plans: Special effects master George Lucas, who has actually directed only three films ("American Graffiti," "Star Wars," "THX-1138"), has decided to take on a fourth helming stint--for the first installment of his three "Star Wars" prequels. The film--documenting the background of major "Star Wars" characters--starts production in London next year, for an expected 1999 release. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox has set big-screen premiere dates for the "Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition," digitally remastered and restored 20th anniversary versions of the originals. They are Jan. 31 for "Star Wars," Feb. 21 for "The Empire Strikes Back" and March 7 for "Return of the Jedi."

STAGE

'Whistle' Casting: Davis Gaines, Broadway's current "Phantom of the Opera," will play a mysterious stranger in Andrew Lloyd Webber's much anticipated new musical, "Whistle Down the Wind," which opens in Washington in December before moving to Broadway. Other leads for the production--about a young girl who finds an interloper in her father's barn--are Timothy Nolen, who was the first American to play the "Phantom" on Broadway, and a 17-year-old newcomer named Irene Molloy.

QUICK TAKES

Rocker Neil Young has lined up Pearl Jam, David Bowie, Patti Smith, the Cowboy Junkies and Hayden to join him in performing at his 10th annual Bridge School acoustic benefit concert Oct. 19 at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, near Palo Alto. . . . "Bruce Springsteen: Blood Brothers," the documentary of recording sessions for Springsteen's 1995 greatest hits CD--including his first reunion with the E Street Band since 1984--will be released on laser disc Sept. 29, with a VHS version to follow later this year. . . . 20th Century Fox apparently thinks that Macaulay Culkin, 16, is now old enough to stay home alone. The studio will conduct a nationwide hunt for a new child star for "Home Alone III," which starts filming in Chicago Dec. 2. . . . "Big," the Broadway musical based on the Tom Hanks movie, will close Oct. 13 after 193 performances and 23 previews, and a loss of its entire $10.3 million investment.

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