Beware of Crooks: Former talk-show-host-turned-actor Morton Downey Jr. appeared Saturday at a Studio City seminar about fraudulent practices in the entertainment industry and cited himself as a typical victim, albeit in another area. "For a small fee, [there are people] who promise to clear your credit rating and make you eligible for bank loans," Downey said. "After I signed up and paid my money, I couldn't find these people again and my credit is as lousy as ever." Deputy City Atty. Greg Parham told the session sponsored by Actors for Actors that his office is investigating the practices of certain casting services, workshops and talent agencies. One warning, from panelist Billy DaMota, a casting director: If the agencies ask for up-front fees in return for work, "at the very least they are unethical, and at worst they are crooks."
Children and the Law: Court TV will turn its attention to kids on Saturday mornings, starting in March, the cable television network announced Monday. A three-hour block of programming aimed at 8- to 15-year-olds will look into the justice system and will involve young people discussing such topics as whether it's fair to search school lockers or whether drugs should be legalized. Three one-hour shows will take varied approaches keyed to youngsters. "These are no cartoons posing as education programming," said Court TV founder and CEO Steven Brill. "This is a true news and education effort directed at young people, aired at an hour when they can watch and learn. We think it will be a good business and a good way to fulfill our responsibility to the community."
Kirov Bribes Alleged: Two prominent officials of the Kirov ballet have been detained by police in St. Petersburg and accused of accepting thousands of dollars in cash from foreign promoters booking tours by the ballet, according to reports from news sources in Russia. Anatoli Malkov, director of the Maryinsky opera and ballet theater, and Oleg Vinogradov, the Kirov's director and chief choreographer, reportedly were held for three days and one or both are likely to be charged as early as today with taking a $10,000 bribe. The money allegedly came from an unnamed impresario who was trying to persuade Malkov to let his firm organize the theater's 1996-97 foreign tours, according to an unnamed official quoted in a wire report. The Times of London reported that investigators were said to be working on the assumption that bribe-taking had been going on for several years and that millions of dollars had changed hands over that period.
Neiman's Own School: Painter LeRoy Neiman, known for his vividly colored sports art, has donated $6 million to Columbia University to help pay for the new LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies, which is to be part of the university's School of the Arts. The center, with up to 200 graduate and undergraduate artists, will have studios for lithography, silk-screening, photography and computer art.
Agassi's Grand Slam: Andre Agassi's "Grand Slam for Children" benefit concert at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas on Saturday night raised more than $1 million for five children's charities. The event drew 11,500 fans to see Elton John, Robin Williams, Michael Bolton, Wynonna Judd, Kenny G. and Oleta Adams. It opened with a welcome from Agassi's girlfriend, Brooke Shields. A black-tie audience of about 1,000 paid up to $25,000 for tables at a pre-show banquet and auction in which they bid for such items as a dinner cooked by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and a piano bench autographed by John. "I'm a huge Andre Agassi fan," John said. "As far as I'm concerned, anything that Andre needs from me, he can just pick up the phone and I'll do it."
Willie Scores, Too: A decade after the first Farm Aid concert, Willie Nelson opened this year's event in Louisville, Ky., Sunday with the hymn "Amazing Grace" and a grim picture of America's family farms. Nelson said more than 500 farmers go out of business each week. "This problem is a black eye on America," he said at a news conference prior to the show. "This problem is not only here, but worse than it was" 10 years ago. The 10th anniversary concert at Cardinal Stadium attracted a sellout crowd of 50,000 with such acts as Hootie & the Blowfish and Blackhawk joining Farm Aid regulars Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp. Farm Aid concerts have led to grants of more than $12 million to more than 100 farm organizations, churches and service agencies in 44 states.
Charles Van Doren, 69, whose fall from grace in the game-show scandal of the 1950s was explored in the movie "Quiz Show," was released from a Hartford, Conn., hospital late last week, four days after collapsing from an undisclosed cause, the Hartford Courant reported Sunday. . . . Annette Funicello, Tim (Spin) Considine, David (Marty) Stollery and nine of Annette's fellow original Mousketeers will be reunited today at Disneyland for a 10:30 a.m. cavalcade down Main Street to mark the 40th anniversary of the classic ABC-TV daytime show where--you remember--they used to sing, "M-I-C . . . K-E-Y . . . M-O-U-S-E."