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


Fainting Spells: HBO clearly set out to affect viewers with its upcoming movie, “If These Walls Could Talk,” a hard-hitting look at abortion in three eras, starring Demi Moore, Sissy Spacek and Cher. And if the movie’s East and West Coast premieres are any indication, affect folks it will. Five people--women and men--fainted during the New York premiere Monday, and one woman fainted at Tuesday’s Los Angeles premiere, despite a pre-movie warning to be prepared for graphic scenes issued by Colin Callender, senior vice president of HBO NYC Productions. Since the movie screened without incident at the Toronto Film Festival, an HBO spokeswoman said officials were unprepared for the audience members’ severe reaction to the scenes, set in 1952, in which Moore’s character first uses a knitting needle to try to rid herself of an unwanted pregnancy, and then dies of a hemorrhage after a barbaric abortion performed by a stranger on her kitchen table. To prepare viewers, HBO plans to run both a standard mature content advisory and an additional disclaimer with the film, which premieres on the cable channel Oct. 13 at 9 p.m. HBO has also scheduled all five of the movie’s repeats at 10:30 p.m. or later.

Lineup Set: Gene Hackman, Christine Baranski, Helen Hunt, Kenny G, John Larroquette, Sharon Lawrence, Helen Mirren, Jane Seymour, Pierce Brosnan and most of the “Frasier” cast are among those set to take part in “Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond,” a tribute to the franchise airing Sunday night on UPN. Also joining host Ted Danson on the program--which will be filmed that night on a Paramount sound stage--will be stars from all-four “Star Trek” series, including William Shatner, LeVar Burton, Kate Mulgrew, Jonathan Frakes, James Doohan, Rene Auberjonois, Robert Picardo, Brent Spiner, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Nana Visitor and Avery Brooks. Proceeds from the $500-per-person event will benefit several charities.



And They’re Off!: The countdown to Hollywood’s biggest night, the Oscars, got a step closer this week, when two other major award shows--the Screen Actors Guild and Independent Spirit honors--called for submissions. Entries for the Spirit Awards--recognizing “visionary filmmaking"--will be accepted through Nov. 1, with the awards to be held on March 22 (with portions to be broadcast March 24 on cable’s Bravo channel during Academy Awards commercial breaks). Entries for the SAG Awards--given to actors selected by their peers--will be accepted through Dec. 3, with the Feb. 22 awards to be broadcast on NBC.


Nothing to Crow About: “Sheryl Crow,” the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter’s follow-up to her smash debut album, sold about 80,000 copies during its first week in stores, according to SoundScan, debuting at No. 6 on the national sales chart. The album wasn’t even the week’s top-selling debut--that honor went to the “Set It Off” soundtrack, featuring songs by Queen Latifah, En Vogue and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, which sold 84,000 copies to debut at No. 4. Crow’s album is being boycotted by Wal-Mart stores because of a lyric that accuses the 2,265-store chain of selling guns to children. Some industry experts have speculated that the boycott could cost Crow as many as 400,000 sales, but others say that Wal-Mart is not a major outlet for Crow’s audience. Meanwhile, the nation’s top-selling album for the second straight week was Celine Dion’s “Falling Into You” (131,000 copies sold).

Reunion Discounted: Van Halen fans waiting for the band to officially reunite with original singer David Lee Roth can stop waiting: The reunion is off. In fact, Roth says in an open letter released by his publicist Wednesday that he discovered only last week that his former bandmates hired a replacement for the departed Sammy Hagar “possibly as long as three months ago” without Roth’s knowledge. “I was an unwitting participant in this deception,” says Roth, who rejoined the band in June to sing two new songs for a greatest-hits album due out Oct. 22. “It sickens me that the ‘reunion’ as seen on MTV [a surprise walk-on appearance during last month’s Video Music Awards] was nothing more than a publicity stunt. . . . Those who know me know that trickery was never my style.” The New York Daily News reported last week that Gary Cherone of Extreme was a contender to be the band’s new lead singer. A Van Halen spokeswoman said Wednesday that no permanent singer has been hired.



After two outings, ABC has decided to shuffle the order of its Friday night “TGIF” comedies. Beginning Oct. 18 the lineup, starting at 8 p.m., will be as follows: “Family Matters,” “Boy Meets World,” “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and “Clueless.” “Sabrina” surprised network executives with its strong ratings last week, while results for “Clueless” have been less impressive. . . . Mel Torme continues to recover from his Aug. 8 stroke and is back out of intensive care, his spokesman said Wednesday. The singer, 71, had been readmitted to intensive care on Sept. 18 after developing a gastrointestinal illness. . . . Radio and TV personality Gary Owens has joined “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” as a regular performer who will chat with O’Donnell on various topics. . . . “General Hospital” stars Genie Francis and Anthony Geary and perennial Emmy bridesmaid Susan Lucci of “All My Children” were among those inducted in New York this week into the Soap Opera Hall of Fame, organized by Soap Opera Weekly magazine.