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



Ali Enters Concert Biz: The Artist Formerly Known as Prince will perform at an October benefit concert being mounted in Los Angeles by boxing great Muhammad Ali. The concert, announced in Washington on Tuesday by Ali and Prince, will be called “The World Healing Honors” and will include live performances and inspirational dialogue from musicians, sports figures and others. It will inaugurate the Muhammad Ali World Healing Project, which will raise funds for existing charities and organizations working to eliminate bigotry and prejudice around the globe. “I wish people would love everybody else the way that they love me,” Ali said in announcing the project. “I hope I can encourage people to show the same love and respect for each other. If so, it would be a better world.” The specific date and venue for the concert, as well as names of additional performers, have yet to be announced.


More ‘Star Wars’: The Force will continue to be with us when 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment releases the “Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition” on Aug. 26. Included will be restored and digitally remastered video versions of “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” all with the new footage and enhanced visual effects seen in the films’ $250-million U.S. theatrical re-release earlier this year. 20th Century Fox says the video package--which will sell for a suggested $50 (or $60 for a wide-screen version)--will be available for only 97 days before being pulled from shelves indefinitely.


Still Not Ready for Prime Time: “Saturday Night Live’s” “Weekend Update” anchor Norm MacDonald prompted a public apology from University of Iowa officials after the comedian delivered a 50-minute routine at a school benefit Sunday that university athletic director Bob Bowlsby described as “profane, vulgar and off-color.” Officials said about 80% of the 1,300-member audience--which included some children--walked out during the performance and that MacDonald’s invitation to play in a benefit golf event Monday was rescinded because of the ruckus. In addition to profanity, MacDonald’s routine included jokes about women having sex with pigs. As audience members were leaving the show, MacDonald said: “What do you want me to talk about, losing my luggage at the airport?”



Coming Preschool Fare: PBS is beefing up its children’s programming with plans to begin airing the Canadian hit series “Wimzie’s House” in October, followed by the premiere of the previously announced Shari Lewis series, “The Charlie Horse Music Pizza,” in January. Two other new preschool series are set to premiere later in 1998: “Noddy,” adapted from an animated BBC series of the same name and based on the best-selling books by Enid Blyton, and “Zoboomafoo,” a wildlife series from the creators of “Kratts’ Creatures.” Meanwhile, eight other PBS kiddie series will return with new episodes, including “Theodore Tugboat,” which moves up from a weekly to a daily series.


He’s Back: Micah “Manny the Hippie” Papp, made famous as a summer film critic on “Late Show With David Letterman,” will return to the CBS show July 4 to celebrate his own independence day. Letterman “discovered” the then-21-year-old Papp during a May 1996 trip to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. But Papp’s short-lived TV career ended last summer when he was arrested and jailed for violating probation in his native Ohio. He was released from an Ohio prison last week, however, and is back at Haight-Ashbury, where he has a part in a comedy film.


Grant Helps Fund MOCA Purchase: Almost two years after L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art acquired a $1.5-million collection of photography assembled by New York dealer Robert Freidus, the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation has given the museum a $600,000 grant to help fund the purchase. The 2,100-piece acquisition, which traces the development of postwar American documentary photography from the 1940s through the 1980s in the work of 11 artists, will be called the Ralph M. Parsons Photography Collection. The grant will repay a loan from a museum trustee that allowed for the collection’s original purchase.


Syndicated talk radio host Laura Schlessinger will expand her KFI-AM (640) broadcast by an hour, airing weekdays from noon to 3 p.m., starting Monday. The syndicated “Dr. Dean Edell Show,” previously heard weekdays from 2 to 3 p.m., will now air Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 2 p.m. . . . E! Entertainment Television has named Gina St. John co-anchor of “E! News Daily.” She will join anchor Steve Kmetko, starting Monday. That’s the same day the daily newscast expands from half an hour to an hour. St. John recently hosted the USA Network/Sci Fi Channel show “C/Net Central.” . . . The ‘70s rock group KISS, which launched a successful comeback tour last summer, will star as animated action figures in “Action League Now,” a short film that will premiere in theaters on July 25, airing along with the Nickelodeon movie “Good Burger.” . . . Goldie Hawn’s 18-year-old daughter, Kate Hudson, is set to make her feature film debut in “Ricochet River,” a low-budget independent film from Dee Gee Entertainment. . . . Former “Beverly Hills, 90210” star Luke Perry and his wife, Minnie, have announced the birth of their first child, son Jack Perry, born June 15.