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Morning Report

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

May 02, 1997|SHAUNA SNOW

TELEVISION

Ratings Bill Moving On: Reflecting dissatisfaction with existing TV ratings, the Senate Commerce Committee voted 19-1 Thursday to send on to the full Senate legislation to either require stronger TV ratings or ban violent shows altogether when children are likely to be watching. The move turns up the pressure on the TV industry to voluntarily strengthen its age-based ratings system, which began at the first of the year. However, broadcasters--some of whom argue that the bill would ban even praiseworthy programming like the Oscar-winning movie "Schindler's List"-- have said they think the proposal is unconstitutional and may sue if it is passed.

More 'Frugal Gourmet' Suits: Six more men have sued "Frugal Gourmet" TV chef Jeff Smith over allegations that he sexually assaulted them as teenagers in the 1970s. Smith, 58, who already faces similar lawsuits by two other men, denied the allegations through his lawyer. A spokesman for PBS, which airs Smith's show, said the network was "monitoring" the course of the court actions and "will take appropriate action if warranted." No criminal charges have been filed against Smith, and the statute of limitations has run out in all of the alleged cases.

JAZZ & BLUES

Jazz Masters: Drummer Billy Higgins, vocalist Anita O'Day and trombonist-composer Melba Liston will be honored by Mayor Richard Riordan on May 13, in a noon ceremony at the Water Court at downtown L.A.'s California Plaza. The three Los Angeles residents have been awarded American Jazz Masters Fellowships by the National Endowment for the Arts. The fellowships carry a $20,000 prize and are generally considered among the highest honors granted to jazz artists. Of the 49 fellowships granted by the NEA since 1982, 14 have been awarded to Los Angeles residents. The May 13 ceremony is open to the public, and will include a free performance by the Harold Land/Billy Higgins Quartet, which also includes Oscar Brashear (trumpet), Bill Henderson (piano) and Richard Reed (bass).

Handy Men: Luther Allison and the late William Clarke were the big winners Thursday night as the Blues Foundation presented its 18th annual W.C. Handy Awards at a ceremony in Memphis. Allison was honored as best entertainer and best male contemporary blues artist and, with the James Solberg Band, shared the best band award. Clarke, who was 45 when he died last Nov. 2 in Fresno of a bleeding ulcer, won for best harmonica player, best contemporary blues album ("The Hard Way") and best song ("Fishing Blues").

DANCE

L.A. Ballet Suit: In the latest blow to the Los Angeles Ballet, the American Guild of Musical Artists has sued the company, claiming it owes about $1.2 million in back wages to ballet employees. Last June, the union secured an arbitration ruling that the Ballet's owner and founder, John Clifford, owed 45 dancers $1.2 million as per a union contract in which he promised to pay them for 40 weeks. The arbitrator also found that Clifford owed nearly $125,000 in pension and health funds. The guild's L.A. Superior Court suit contends, however, that "to date, Clifford has failed to comply with any of the monetary provisions of the [arbitration decision]." Clifford, who could not be reached for comment on the suit, had said after the arbitration hearing that he had planned to pay the dancers for the nine weeks they had actually rehearsed before the company fell apart in October 1995.

MOVIES

Aspiring Screenwriter Alert: Talk about getting a foot in the door. High-level executives from several top studios, including Warner Bros., Universal, Paramount, New Line, Fox/Searchlight and MGM have committed to take unsolicited meetings with budding filmmakers during the upcoming Cannes Film Festival. It's a new feature of the American Pavilion, called the Kodak Pitch Room. Any aspiring filmmaker will be able to pitch ideas, show off scripts and treatments or screen videos for the executives during 10-minute meetings. The sessions will be on a first-come, first-served basis, and open to anyone attending the May 7-19 Cannes Festival.

QUICK TAKES

Propelled by his record-setting performance at the Masters--which also drew record ratings for a golf tournament--CBS Video will release "Tiger Woods: Son, Hero & Champion" on June 3. The video, which includes footage from the Masters as well as from the Woods family's personal archives, is described as "the first in-depth look" at the champion golfer. . . . Scholastic Productions ("Goosebumps," "The Magic School Bus") will produce "Animorphs," a new half-hour Nickelodeon series based on the best-selling book series by K.A. Applegate. The action drama about five teenagers trying to save the world from an alien invasion is scheduled to premiere in the fall of 1998. . . . "Homicide: Life on the Street" star Yaphet Kotto will hold an online chat today from 6-7 p.m. It precedes tonight's 10 p.m. episode of NBC's "Homicide," which Kotto wrote.

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