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Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation’s press.

STAGE

But Will Julie Andrews Approve?: Broadway producer David Merrick, who lost a recent legal scuffle with the Tony Awards over that group’s declaring some songs from his “State Fair” production ineligible for awards consideration, is lashing back by proposing his own competing awards show--to be titled none other than “The Merrick’s.” “After all, this is the dawn of a new century and we must keep on the cutting edge--the Tonys have had their day,” said Merrick, who announced his plans Thursday. A spokesman for the nascent awards show said the first presentation will be held next May or June--after the coming theater season--and is likely to take place in either New York or Hollywood. The Merrick’s, he said, had been in the planning stages even before the recent Tony flap and will be more international in scope, recognizing productions from throughout the country and the world. He said younger stars will be featured and it will be more of an “entertainment program” than the 50-year-old Tony Awards.

ART

Guggenheim Back in SoHo: The Guggenheim Museum SoHo, a spacious downtown New York branch of the city’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, will reopen today after a five-month hiatus with German support and new emphasis on high technology. In recognition of support from German telecommunications carrier Deutsche Telekom, which is sponsoring the first exhibition, “Mediascape,” four galleries on the main floor of the SoHo space will be named the Deutsche Telekom Galleries and dedicated primarily to multimedia art.

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LEGAL FILE

‘Double’ Suit: Mandalay Entertainment and the production company Liteoffer Ltd. have sued John Travolta, claiming the actor signed a $17-million contract to star in Roman Polanski’s “The Double,” but made unreasonable demands and then left Paris rehearsals without explanation last week, just before filming was to begin (Steve Martin has since been cast as Travolta’s replacement). The L.A. Superior Court complaint, which seeks unspecified damages, contends Travolta “undermined” Polanski’s authority by demanding to rewrite the screenplay out of the director’s presence. Travolta’s lawyer, Bert Fields, responded that there was no contract, and that the only two points that had been agreed upon were Travolta’s salary and his right to approve the screenplay. Fields also said that the plaintiffs tried to alter promises they had made to Travolta, adding, “Even though Mr. Travolta wanted to solve the problem they refused to do anything reasonable and, as a result, we have this litigation.”

Sexual Harassment Alleged: Two women who used to work for Montel Williams claim that they were fired because they objected to the talk-show host’s alleged sexual innuendoes and harassment. Stacy Galonsky, a former associate producer of “The Montel Williams Show,” and Mahri Feldman, a former executive assistant, contend in a New Jersey Superior Court lawsuit that Williams grabbed co-workers’ buttocks, regularly called women “whores” and other derogatory names, and conducted meetings in his underwear. In a statement released by his attorney, Williams categorically denied the allegations and said he would be vindicated. His attorney said Williams was “outraged by this attack on his personal integrity,” and added, “It is an unfortunate but sad truth that the price one must pay for fame is having to defend one’s reputation against outright lies.”

TELEVISION

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MSNBC News: Sources say that BET anchor Ed Gordon, who gained fame for his BET interview with O.J. Simpson, will soon sign on as an anchor for NBC’s upcoming cable news channel, MSNBC. Meanwhile, “Dateline NBC’s” Jane Pauley also has been tapped for work on MSNBC--as anchor of a nightly historical showcase of past NBC News programming. In other news, MSNBC will be offered to cable subscribers of Cox Communications, which covers local areas including Palos Verdes, Irvine and South Orange County.

QUICK TAKES

Pop artist Peter Max pleaded not guilty in Manhattan Thursday to federal conspiracy and tax fraud charges alleging that he did not report income from more than $1.1 million in art sales. “The allegations are completely false. They counter everything I stand for,” Max, 58, told reporters following his arraignment. “I look forward to my day in court. . . . I will win this.” . . . Garth Brooks surprised his fans this week by making a surprise appearance at Nashville’s weeklong country music Fan Fair--and staying around for a whopping 23 hours to sign autographs and pose for pictures. Brooks, who starts a string of local dates at the Forum on Wednesday, began the marathon session at 11 a.m. Tuesday, and continued without a break until 10 a.m. Wednesday. . . . Orange County songwriter Donald I. Altman filed a $5-million federal copyright infringement suit against MCA Inc., claiming composer John Williams stole his copyrighted song “Jacob’s Song (Live Forever)” for the theme music to the blockbuster “Jurassic Park.”


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