New AIDS Group: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has formed TV Cares/ATAS Fights AIDS, dedicated to AIDS fund-raising and awareness in the entertainment world. The group, which is chaired by Emmy-winning producer David Michaels and has actress Angela Lansbury as its honorary chair, also plans to lobby for “responsible” AIDS-related TV programming. Initial committee members include actresses Florence Henderson, Vicki Lawrence and Liz Torres; news anchor Kelly Lange; “Young and the Restless” star Peter Bergman, and “Entertainment Tonight’s” Leeza Gibbons. First-year fund-raising efforts will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Caring for Babies With AIDS and the Aileen Getty Foundation/Homestead Hospice. The group’s formation comes one week after the disbanding of the AIDS entertainment charity, Hollywood Helps.
Simpson Coverage Tops Cable Ratings: Interest in the O.J. Simpson trial has translated into big ratings for Cable News Network, which had 99 of basic cable’s 100 highest-rated single programs for the first quarter of 1995. Simpson trial coverage from the week of March 20-26, mostly in half-hour segments, comprised the top 28 programs, led by last Thursday’s 2:30-3 p.m. testimony by Simpson houseguest Brian (Kato) Kaelin. The only breakthrough from a different network was the movie “The Good Old Boys,” which tied for 62nd place, and aired on fellow Turner Broadcasting-owned station TNT. It was CNN’s second-highest-rated quarter ever, topped only by 1991’s first-quarter coverage of the Gulf War.
‘Sesame Street’ en Espanol: A Spanish-language version of the award-winning PBS series “Sesame Street” will get its U.S. premiere Monday on KMEX Channel 34. Called “Plaza Sesamo,” the program is co-produced by the Children’s Television Workshop and Televisa, Latin America’s largest broadcaster. It features Muppet characters Abelardo, Poncho Contreras and Lola--all developed by Jim Henson Productions--and a new set from renowned Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta. In addition to 7:30 a.m. weekday airings on KMEX, the program will also be seen Saturdays and Sundays at 6 a.m. on KCET Channel 28.
PBS Tally: Public television stations nationwide received more than $44.2 million in pledges this month during on-air membership drives, according to the Public Broadcasting System. The dollar amount, which reflects 593,011 separate pledges, is 15.3% above the comparable figure for March, 1994. Currently viewers provide more than 21% of public TV’s support, although the largest source, federal funds, are currently being threatened in Congress.
Winfrey’s Dad Cleared: Charges that talk-show host Oprah Winfrey’s father committed misdemeanor indecent exposure were dismissed by a Nashville judge Wednesday because of lack of evidence. Vernon Winfrey, 62, contended that the accusation from Pamela Kennedy, 28, in January was motivated by a desire to get at his daughter’s money. A $3-million civil suit Kennedy filed against the elder Winfrey is still pending.
More ‘Priest’ Furor: The Catholic League and the anti-abortion group Life League have announced they are boycotting the Walt Disney Co., whose subsidiary Miramax Films is releasing the controversial movie “Priest.” The groups say the film, which includes a depiction of a gay priest, insults Catholics. Last week, the Catholic League got Miramax to delay the national opening of “Priest” from Good Friday, April 14, to April 19.
Jackson Funds Surgery: Pop star Michael Jackson and his wife, Lisa Marie Presley-Jackson, have made good on their promise last August to find and pay for a new liver for a 5-year-old Hungarian boy. The boy, Bela Farkas, was in satisfactory condition Wednesday, after undergoing a successful transplant operation in Belgium March 12. The procedure was funded by Jackson’s Heal the World Foundation. The boy is expected to recover completely and to have a normal life expectancy.
Tonight’s Ambassador Auditorium concert by opera stars Mirella Freni and Nicolai Ghiaurov has been canceled because Freni has the flu. The Ambassador will contact ticket holders concerning refunds. . . . Tupac Shakur’s “Me Against the World” album outsold Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles last week and continues to command the No. 1 position on Billboard magazine’s pop chart with 137,000 album copies sold. . . . TriStar Pictures will make a live-action movie based on “Prophet,” the comic book character created by Image Comics’ co-founder Rob Liefeld, who will also produce the film. . . . Two men have been charged in Provincetown, Mass., with supplying the heroin that led to the drug overdose death last year of Nicholas Curtis, 23, son of actor Tony Curtis. A third person was being sought. Joshua R. Laven, 23, and John C. Denaro, 26, pleaded innocent to manslaughter and distribution of heroin charges. Laven’s lawyer said his client was the victim’s best friend.