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A New Dice Roll?: Comedian Andrew Dice Clay is apparently shelving his raunchy “Diceman” persona in favor of a co-starring role on the upcoming midseason replacement NBC series, “The Ties That Bind.” Clay, whose foul “Diceman” character brought him attention in the comedy world but has hindered previous TV projects, “will not be anything remotely like the ‘Diceman’ character” on the TV show, which stars Ralph Macchio as a young husband and father, producer Peter Noah told The Times. “He is not going to look the same, and he won’t act the same. This character was written and designed before (Clay) was even mentioned, and his billing on the show will just be Andrew Clay,” Noah said. “I think one of the things that intrigued Andrew about doing this was the opportunity to show that there is something more to him than his ‘Diceman’ persona.” Clay will play Macchio’s single, working-class brother.

‘The Piano Lesson’ Plays: August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, “The Piano Lesson,” will be produced as a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation for broadcast on CBS. The production, which is being adapted for television by Wilson, will star Charles S. Dutton, Alfre Woodard, Rocky Carroll, Carl Gordon and Courtney B. Vance. Lloyd Richards will direct. The presentation reunites Dutton, Carroll and Gordon, who appeared together in the play (seen at L.A.'s Doolittle Theatre in 1990), before starring together in the just-canceled Fox comedy “Roc.”

Staying on the Runways: Despite lackluster ratings, Fox has shown faith in Aaron Spelling’s latest series “Models Inc.,” ordering an additional nine episodes of the “Melrose Place” spinoff dealing with a crop of top L.A. models. That brings the total order to 22. Fox on Thursday praised the show’s ratings performance, noting it has doubled the marks brought in by “Melrose” repeats in the same time slot last summer. However, the series--offering original programs in competition with many reruns--has consistently landed fairly low on the ratings chart, such as last week when it tied for 56th place.


Warner Bros. Fare: A new comedy series starring Robert Townsend, and a serialized comedy from producers Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas (“Soap,” “The Golden Girls,” “Empty Nest”) are the latest additions announced for the nascent WB Television Network. The Townsend vehicle, tentatively titled “Father Knows Nothing,” is described as a “ ‘Cosby Show’ for the ‘90s” about “a well-intentioned dad” heading a “typically dysfunctional household.” The Witt-Thomas serial, called “Muscle,” is set in a New York fitness club, “where getting in shape and romantic intrigue go hand-in-hand.” The new network debuts in January.


Another Jackson Suit: A porcelain statue maker is suing Jackson family member Jermaine Jackson, claiming that he never paid for the trophies used in last February’s “Jackson Family Honors” TV special. According to the New Jersey lawsuit, Jackson and his Jackson Communications Inc., which produced the show, made a $6,250-deposit to Boehm Studios for two diamond-studded trophies but never paid a $12,000-balance. At least one additional lawsuit has been filed in conjunction with the Jackson special.

Another Tony Run-In: Comedian Jackie Mason, who earlier this year returned a previous Tony because he was not invited to appear on the June awards show, has sued six theater groups that administer the prestigious annual theatrical awards. In his $100-million New York lawsuit, Mason claims that his civil rights were violated when his one-man show, “Politically Incorrect,” was not considered for a Tony nomination. Mason continues to star in “Politically Incorrect” on Broadway.



First Time in L.A.: Smuin Ballets/SF, a new company formed by former San Francisco Ballet director Michael Smuin, makes its Los Angeles debut with “Dances With Songs,” Sept. 20-25 at the James A. Doolittle Theatre. Described as “scintillating and sensual dance,” the program includes two dozen dances to such pop tunes as “Unforgettable,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Georgia on My Mind” and “When You Wish Upon a Star.” And thrown in for the purists: Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The Doolittle engagement is the company’s first performance outside of San Francisco, where the company first performed last March. Tickets go on sale Aug. 21.

Protest Letter: Seven photography experts who had recommended three grants that were overturned last week by a group of presidentially appointed National Endowment for the Arts overseers have charged the National Council on the Arts with using political criteria rather than artistic judgments to make the decision. Legislation that established the NEA in 1966 specifically prohibits that practice. The grant panel’s unanimous, blistering letter lambastes the council’s action as “politically expedient, procedurally unfair and artistically unconscionable.”



Comedian Pauly Shore will promote his new movie, “In the Army Now,” by giving military-style buzz cuts to fans today in front of Hollywood Boulevard’s GCC Galaxy Theatre at 11:30 a.m. . . . John Wayne’s 1953 Western film, “Hondo,” will be released on video Sept. 20 by MPI Home Video. The classic, which has been shown on TV only four times in 30 years, is being restored under the supervision of Wayne’s son, Michael.