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It's Not Always as Simple as ABC

June 02, 1997|Times Staff Writers and Contributors

Can it get any worse for ABC? The network's prime-time ratings dropped to a historic low during the just-concluded TV season, "Good Morning America" appears to be in turmoil with anchor Joan Lunden leaving and others to follow, tabloids are writing about "Monday Night Football's" Frank Gifford as well as the personal lives of network executives, and Tim Allen--the star of ABC's top-rated show, "Home Improvement"--was arrested for allegedly driving while intoxicated. What better time to bring representatives from the network's more than 200 affiliated TV stations to Orlando to see if Disney World and a little Florida sunshine can brighten the mood? ABC will showcase 10 new series at the three-day event, which kicks off tonight, as well as a promotional campaign designed to cash in on parent company Disney's marketing machinery. Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, who fielded questions a year ago alongside then-President Michael Ovitz, isn't scheduled to speak but will be on hand, while ABC Entertainment President Jamie Tarses (who joined the network after the 1996 meeting) presents the prime-time lineup. Prevailing wisdom is that ABC may have farther to fall ratings-wise before touching bottom, so look for "patience" to be the watchword of this year's gathering.

Show-Biz Bigwigs Go Bipartisan

What's this? Why are Hollywood's biggest contributors to the Democratic Party throwing a fund-raiser for a Republican? Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the entertainment titans who founded DreamWorks SKG, are scheduled to throw open the doors of their studio-in-the-making today for a $500-a-person reception for Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). The host list also includes another top contributor to the Democrats, former MCA chief Lew Wasserman. In recent years, each man has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats and Geffen raised $10 million for the party during the last election cycle. Then there is Specter himself. The senator drew the ire of feminists in 1991 for his acerbic interrogation of Anita Hill during the televised confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. But Specter is nonetheless considered a moderate by many and he has friends in Hollywood. Andy Spahn, head of corporate affairs at DreamWorks, said Specter asked Spielberg to co-host the fund-raiser. Spahn said the senator had been helpful to Spielberg's Shoah Visual History Foundation, which the director of the Oscar-winning film "Schindler's List" created to assemble the largest video library of Holocaust survivors' testimony ever recorded. In 1995, Specter introduced a bill that provided $1 million to the project, Spahn said. Among the other co-hosts for today's reception are Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, Motion Picture Assn. President Jack Valenti and David Horowitz, president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture. Horowitz said the reception, which will be attended by Republicans and Democrats, supports his belief that the entertainment industry should strengthen its contacts with the GOP.

Return of the Wu-Tang (Not a Kung Fu Flick)

Consumer reaction to Tuesday's release of the Wu-Tang Clan's two-disc album "Wu-Tang Forever" should tell the record industry how well hard-core rap is holding up commercially after the turbulence in the field in recent months and MTV's suggestion that interest in the genre is waning. While the New York-based Clan has not received as much mainstream attention as the late Tupac Shakur or the late Notorious B.I.G., the group's debut album, 1993's "Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers," has sold 1.1 million copies, according to SoundScan. Since then, five of the group's nine core members--Raekwon, Method Man, Genius, Ghostface Killah and Ol' Dirty Bastard--have released Top 10 solo collections that have sold a combined 3.6 million copies. "It's going to be the biggest record of the year," Violet Brown, urban music buyer for the Wherehouse Records chain, says of the new group effort. "Fans have been waiting for and asking about a new Wu-Tang album for a couple of years now."

Another Monterey Festival, This One Global

With cultures colliding all around the globe via the Internet, organizers of this weekend's Monterey World Music Festival believe the time is right for an international music celebration. The two-day event at the Monterey Fairgrounds, unfolding one weekend shy of the 30th anniversary of the legendary Monterey Pop Festival that helped usher in the "Summer of Love," will bring together some 50 acts representing more than a dozen countries and musical styles. Among the musicians scheduled for the main stage: Los Lobos, Fourth World, Jai Uttal & the Pagan Love Orchestra and Zakir Hussain & the Rhythm Experience. "Our advances in communication have brought people closer together," says David Cloutier, director of the Monterey festival. "The whole computer and information explosion has dissolved the boundaries that may have been there . . . and has created an audience for many interesting and different new sounds."

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