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


Were the Spice Girls Booked Too?: Elton John will be away on tour and so will miss a much-hyped June charity concert near Princess Diana’s British burial site. Several of Britain’s other top entertainers, including Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and George Michael, along with Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, have also pleaded prior engagements and will not perform. That leaves organizers--who have been criticized by British newspapers for high ticket prices ($65)--with a less-stellar-than-expected lineup, including Sir Cliff Richard, Chris de Burgh, the Soweto String Quartet, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and the pop band Wet Wet Wet. Organizers, however, denied that they had been snubbed by the top stars, saying they were very happy with the lineup. All profits will go to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

Meet the New Singer: “Van Halen III,” the first Van Halen album featuring new singer Gary Cherone, will be played in its entirety March 12--five days before it hits stores--on an Album Network radio special airing locally at 7 p.m. on KLSX-FM (97.1). The two-hour show will originate from an invitation-only event at Billboard Live in West Hollywood with the band in attendance, though it’s uncertain whether they will perform live.



We’re Still Not Alone: Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a special “Collector’s Edition” home video release on May 12 featuring restored footage; retrospective interviews with the director, cast and crew; behind-the-scenes and archival shots; and a 15-minute feature on the movie’s making. The digitally remastered Columbia TriStar Home Video release will be sold for $13.95 ($79.95 on laserdisc), and will be offered in both regular and wide-screen versions. Richard Dreyfuss, Melinda Dillon and Teri Garr star in the movie, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards (and won two) in 1977.

No More Twisters, for a While: Out of respect for victims of the severe tornadoes that hit its neighbors this week, Universal Studios Florida is delaying the April opening of a new motion simulator attraction based on the movie “Twister.” The multimillion-dollar attraction, which simulates a tornado, is expected to open later in the spring. More than three dozen people were killed Monday in what authorities called the deadliest group of twisters in Florida’s history; especially hard-hit were two trailer parks in Kissimmee, which is just 10 miles from Universal Studios and Walt Disney World. The parks, however, escaped damage.


New, Returning Voices: Radio station KGIL-AM (1260), which went from all-Beatles programming to all show tunes, will undergo another format change on Monday when it adds personality-driven fare from the Music of Your Life Radio Network. The new programming kicks off Monday with longtime radio personality Gary Owens in the 6-7 a.m. weekday slot. Other Monday-through-Friday Music of Your Life hosts are Wink Martindale (9 a.m.-noon), Chuck Southcott (noon-4 p.m.), Rich Capperela (4-6 p.m.), Scott O’Neil (6-9 p.m.), Teresa Payerle (9 p.m.-1 a.m.) and Carl Hampton (1 a.m.-6 p.m.). Weekend hosts include Owens (6-10 a.m. Saturdays) and singer Patti Page (noon-2 p.m. Sundays). Also scheduled is “Celebrity Weekend,” a forum for rotating hosts that will feature Johnny Mathis for the first three weeks (2-3 p.m. Sundays). The station will also still feature some of its previous show tunes fare, including Saturday night swing and lounge music (9 p.m.-1 a.m.), and a Monday-Friday “Showtune Special,” hosted by Southcott (7-9 a.m.); Monday’s guests include “L.A. Confidential” stars Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito, along with director Curtis Hanson, playing music from the movie’s soundtrack.


Welcome Back, Mother Love: Also getting a new on-air lineup Monday is KBIG-FM (104.3), which will start its weekdays with “The BIG Morning Show,” from 5 to 10 a.m. with veteran KBIG hosts Carolyn Gracie and Rick Diego. Joining the morning team will be former KFI-AM (640) personality Mother Love. Other new KBIG deejays: Lance Ballance (10 a.m.-3 p.m.), Jeff Davis (3-7 p.m.) and Delilah Rene-Ortega (7 p.m.-midnight).


Oprah Winfrey will talk with Diane Sawyer in her first network interview since winning a courtroom battle against Texas cattlemen, on Monday on ABC News’ “20/20.” Also on Monday’s broadcast will be veteran newswoman Connie Chung’s first piece for the newsmagazine, a story on laws allowing coroners to sell corneas from corpses. . . . Actor Michael Douglas received the French government’s Order of Arts and Letters in Paris Friday. French Culture Minister Catherine Trautmann called him “Hollywood’s most talented golden boy.” Douglas will also receive a Cesar award--the French equivalent of an Oscar--tonight for life achievement. . . . The New York Philharmonic said Friday that Kurt Masur, 70, will continue as music director through the 2001-02 season as the orchestra begins a search for his eventual successor. . . . The FX network has picked up the WB network’s sophomore series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” for a syndicated cable run starting in 2001. . . . Tickets go on sale today at noon for a March 28 Portishead concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.