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


Crystal Back as Oscar Host: Billy Crystal, one of the most popular hosts of the Oscars, will return for the 70th Academy Awards on March 23 at the Shrine Auditorium--his sixth time as master of ceremonies. “I’m thrilled to be back,” said the comedian. “I guess I’m just a sucker for a free tuxedo.” Crystal was host of this year’s awards and four consecutive shows beginning in 1990. His performances at the Oscars ceremonies have won him three Emmys for writing and hosting. “I am delighted that Billy is returning as host this year,” said Gil Cates, producer of the Academy Awards telecast. “There is nobody like him. . . . The audience loves him.”

Producer Suspended for Language: A senior producer at ABC’s “Good Morning America” was suspended for a month without pay for using a racist slang term when discussing a planned segment on suspended NBA basketball star Latrell Sprewell. Kevin Cosgrove admitted to making the remark and “expressed deep, sincere regret,” ABC spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said Friday. The morning show had decided to interview well-known African Americans for a story on the racial elements of the Sprewell case. Sprewell, who is black, was suspended by the NBA for one year for attacking his coach, P.J. Carlesimo, who is white. Cosgrove went to two of “Good Morning America’s” talent bookers and said, “The bosses want spades for the Sprewell segment,” according to the New York Daily News.



No More ‘Good Morgans’: Longtime L.A. radio personality Robert W. Morgan, whose broadcasting career has spanned more than 40 years, will formally announce his retirement as part of a ceremony paying tribute to his career Jan. 9 at the Museum of Television & Radio in Beverly Hills. Morgan, 60, has been broadcasting on a part-time basis from his home since last May, when he announced during an emotional on-air segment on his KRTH-FM (101.9) morning show that he was battling lung cancer. The longest-running morning personality in L.A. radio--he broke into the local market as the original morning man on KHJ’s legendary “Boss Radio” in 1965--Morgan will be honored during a ceremony that will be broadcast live on KRTH from 6-9 a.m.


Hold the Beets: Mikhail Gorbachev set aside his diplomatic credentials last month to star in a Pizza Hut commercial in Moscow. But the former Soviet leader said that it was a one-time job he took out of desperation to raise money for the Gorbachev Foundation, which oversees his library and archives. “I will not do it again,” he vowed through an interpreter this week in New York, where he met with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. “I found myself in a difficult situation, so I decided to accept on a one-time basis this offer of doing this commercial. Pizza is a popular food after all, so I thought I did not sin that much.” Gorbachev is shown offering a slice of pizza to customers who cry out: “Long live Gorbachev, who brought us Pizza Hut!” He didn’t divulge how much he was paid.

She’s No Soccer Fan: Rod Stewart’s fondness for soccer has landed him in court after a woman sued him claiming he got his kicks at her expense. Candace Conroy filed a $75,000 lawsuit in Detroit this week alleging that the British rocker injured her when he kicked a soccer ball into the audience at a March 1996 concert in suburban Auburn Hills, Mich. Conroy claims she suffered unspecified head, neck, face and mouth injuries. Her husband, James, also is a plaintiff and is seeking damages for loss of companionship.



Gilbert, Slatkin to Lead L.A. Philharmonic: Two American conductors will lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic in its Dorothy Chandler Pavilion concerts May 15-17 and May 22-24, replacing composer-conductor Pierre Boulez, who has canceled a scheduled two-week visit to the orchestra in order to devote more time to composition. The award-winning Alan Gilbert, 30, conducts a Colin McPhee/Beethoven/Rachmaninoff program with the orchestra May 15-17. His soloist will be 19-year-old Japanese pianist Yuki Takao, who made his Philharmonic debut at the Hollywood Bowl last summer. Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony in Washington, returns to the Philharmonic podium May 22-24 for a program offering symphonies by Haydn and Samuel Barber, Ravel’s “La Valse” and the Piano Concerto by Gyorgy Ligeti, played by soloist Pierre-Laurent Aimard.


Actress Diane Farr has been added to the couch panel of MTV’s “Loveline,” a nightly call-in advice show that will begin its third season Jan. 26. . . . The Whispers, BeBe Winans, Sounds of Blackness and Joe are scheduled to perform during the KJLH-FM (102.3) “House Full of Toys” concert tonight at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. . . . Plans are being made for a weekly action series based on the video game Mortal Kombat to air in syndication starting next fall. . . . Actor Walter Matthau will narrate “Billy Wilder: The Human Comedy,” a one-hour tribute to the Oscar-winning filmmaker that is scheduled to be broadcast Feb. 4 on PBS.