Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation’s press.
Pumpkins Pick Musicians; Postpone L.A. Shows: The Smashing Pumpkins have chosen a new drummer and a keyboard player for the remainder of their 1996-97 tour, but have postponed more scheduled dates--including three in the L.A. area--to give the new musicians sufficient rehearsal time. Keyboardist Dennis Flemion, of the Milwaukee duo the Frogs, will fill the role that had been occupied on the tour by Jonathan Melvoin, who died of a drug overdose in New York on July 12. The new drummer is Matt Walker, a member of the group Filter, which opened for the Pumpkins in Europe earlier this year. He takes over for founding band member Jimmy Chamberlin, who was fired following his arrest for drug possession after he had allegedly been with Melvoin when the pianist died. The tour had been set to resume Monday, but dates through Aug. 25 (including shows planned for Aug. 21 at the Forum and Aug. 23 and 24 at the Pond of Anaheim) will be rescheduled, with new dates to be announced soon. The tour will now resume on Aug. 27 at Las Vegas’ Thomas and Mack Center.
Running Out on Rosie: Olympic double gold medalist Michael Johnson has proved to be as fast off the track as he is on. Just hours before he was scheduled to appear on Rosie O’Donnell’s syndicated daytime talk show Wednesday, Johnson ran out on the program. However, Johnson did appear that evening on CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman.” Sources said Johnson’s handlers belatedly realized that the sprinter was booked on two talk shows on the same day, and the O’Donnell guest stint was canceled since Johnson had committed to make his first post-Olympic appearance with Letterman. O’Donnell’s spokespeople said the situation ended amicably, and both New York-based shows denied that a booking war was brewing, and said that there was no pressure from Letterman for the sprinter to appear on his show first. But O’Donnell, who has not rescheduled Johnson, may have gotten the last laugh: The sprinter’s Letterman gig was trounced in head-to-head competition with NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” which featured Olympic decathlon gold medalists Dan O’Brien and surprise guest Bruce Jenner. According to preliminary ratings, “The Tonight Show” scored its best Wednesday ratings of the summer with an estimated 17% share of available viewing homes, while Letterman drew only about a 12% share. Johnson, meanwhile, gets his chance with Leno’s audience next Thursday.
Just a Coincidence? Speaking of Letterman, Margaret R. Ray, 44, who was sentenced in 1993 to four months in prison and two years probation for repeated trespassing at the talk-show host’s Connecticut home, was arrested last week near the suburban Indianapolis home of Letterman’s mother, Dorothy. Ray’s arrest this time was for allegedly trying to steal vitamins and a backpack from a Wal-Mart store; she said from jail Wednesday that she didn’t know Letterman’s mother lived so close and that her obsession with the gap-toothed one was “ancient history.”
Mission: Stop Scientology: Germans youths picketed cinemas throughout their country on Thursday to protest Tom Cruise’s movie “Mission: Impossible” because the American actor is a member of the Scientology religion. The protests--organized by the normally placid youth wing of Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democratic Union--are a token of the growing political pressure against Scientology in Germany, where recruiting has been active. The pickets came after Paul Stefan Mauz, a Christian Democrat member of parliament, claimed that Cruise was a “high-ranking” Scientologist and that, as the leading actor and co-producer of “Mission: Impossible,” he was likely to swell the coffers of the group. The parliament member is trying to persuade the German government to restrict subsidies to cinemas that show films starring known Scientologists, which would include John Travolta.
Little Shop of Mars Horrors: B-movie king Roger Corman (“The Little Shop of Horrors,” “Wasp Woman”) plans to capitalize on this week’s NASA announcement about the possibility of life on Mars. Corman, who rushed “War of the Satellites " into theaters in 1957 just 10 weeks after the Russians sent up their first satellite, has already begun work on “Mars Lives.” Plans call for filming to begin in November on the science-fiction thriller, which Corman says will have a $20-million budget and be heavy on special effects.
Think you’re the splitting image of Rachel, Monica, Joey or Chandler? Well, radio station KYSR-FM (Star 98.7) is holding a “Friends” look-alike contest at the House of Blues today, with judging from 8 to 9 a.m. Winners get $500 and a one-year contract with Ron Smith Celebrity Look-alikes. . . . Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug makes her only post-Olympics radio appearance this morning at 7 on Los Angeles’ KLOS-FM (103.5). A KLOS spokesman said Strug picked KLOS because morning hosts Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps are syndicated in her hometown. . . . Joan Lunden has signed a new, multiyear contract with ABC News to continue her longtime role as “Good Morning America” co-host. . . . An arrest warrant was issued Thursday for “Step by Step” star Sasha Mitchell for allegedly leaving the Los Angeles area without finishing court-ordered domestic-violence counseling. Following a short jail stay, Mitchell was put on probation in mid-June for beating his wife.