The Boss Sings: Bruce Springsteen's much-discussed solo acoustic album will be released Nov. 21, with plans for solo theater concerts in the United States and Europe to follow, the musician's manager announced Monday. The album is called "The Ghost of Tom Joad," with the title track honoring the main character of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath"--a subject Springsteen-influence Woody Guthrie also tackled with his song "Tom Joad." The album is said to have a dark, introspective tone reminiscent of Springsteen's 1982 acoustic album "Nebraska," 1987's melancholy "Tunnel of Love" and 1993's "Streets of Philadelphia," which won the Academy Award as best song for its role in the AIDS-related movie "Philadelphia."
Prime Time for Kids: Nickelodeon, the top-rated cable network this year, announced plans for a half-hour of prime-time programming for kids from Sunday to Friday nights, starting next fall. Herb Scannell, executive vice president of the child-oriented cable network, said $30 million will be spent to develop original programs for showing from 8-8:30 p.m. The new programs will include "The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss," created by Jim Henson Productions and based on the Dr. Seuss books; "Hey Arnold," a twice-weekly animated look at a quirky urban-dwelling youngster; and "Nickelodeon Declares BLAM!," a cartoon sketch comedy series. Scannell said the broadcast networks' "obsession with reaching 18- to 49-year-old audiences translates into a tremendous programming vacuum for kids," which Nickelodeon is seeking to address.
A 'Mad' Dash: Results are preliminary but it appears that Fox's "Mad TV" got off to a favorable start Saturday night in its effort to compete with NBC's "Saturday Night Live." While the shows are not broadcast at exactly the same time in all areas, early Nielsen figures show that Fox's new late-night sketch comedy series rated higher than "SNL" in seven of the nation's top 10 markets--New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, Dallas and Atlanta.
On the Block: The hot rod used in "The Beverly Hillbillies" fetched $21,000 at an auction of famous vehicles Saturday in Los Angeles that attracted nearly 300 bidders. The vehicles were sold by Scott Bose, who is giving up a 20-year business of renting cars and trucks to TV and movies. Other big sellers at the auction included the 1953 "Sanford & Son" pickup, $8,000, and the 1959 convertible featured in "Pink Cadillac" and "Weird Science," $15,500. A 1933 Chevrolet roadster used by W. C. Fields in "The Bank Dick" and later driven by Fields for pleasure went for $14,000. Overall, though, selling prices were surprisingly low, said auctioneer Dan Kruse.
Anyway, You Can Park: With the $200-million downtown Disney Concert Hall project on indefinite hold due to lack of funds, a county spokesman said Friday that the already-completed underground parking garage at 1st Street and Grand Avenue--built at county expense to service the Frank Gehry-designed new home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic--will open on schedule in March. John Edmisten of the county's chief administrative office said the county remains committed to allowing Disney backers an indefinite extension on beginning hall construction as long as "they continue to make progress" toward raising a needed $100 million.
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.
Tony Award-winning playwright Neil Simon will receive a lifetime achievement award in drama during PEN Center USA West's Fifth Annual Literary Festival, Saturday at Universal Studios. . . . James Earl Jones gets a lifetime achievement award today from the International Film Festival van Vlaanderen in Ghent, Belgium. The award will be accompanied by a retrospective of Jones' films and clips from his forthcoming "Cry, the Beloved Country," which will be released in December. . . . Nominations for the 38th annual Grammy Awards will be announced Jan. 4 at simultaneous press conferences in Los Angeles, New York and Nashville. The awards telecast will air from the Shrine Auditorium on Feb. 28. . . . Tony Award-winning actor Robert Morse will be the first of a rotating group of narrators for the Santa Monica Playhouse's "Loose Lips," a satirical New York-originated comedy revue that begins previews Oct. 27. . . . Elizabeth Taylor, 63, checked out of Century City Hospital Saturday, a week after surgery to even out her legs following two hip replacement operations. Her publicist, Chen Sam, said she "still has pain, but she's doing OK."