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


Bonus Prescriptions: The executive producers of NBC’s “ER"--still in a generous mood after being granted an $850-million windfall because of the series’ pricey renewal--distributed bonuses amounting to $7 million to the drama’s cast. The five remaining original cast members--Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Juliana Margulies, Noah Wyle and Eriq La Salle--were given $1-million checks Thursday from Tony Jonas, the president of Warner Bros. Television, which produces the show. The other main cast members--Laura Innes, Gloria Reuben, Alex Kingston and Maria Bello--each received $500,000 bonus checks. The three executive producers--John Wells, Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg--earlier this week donated $6 million to those working behind the scenes on the show, leaving the distribution of the money up to department heads.

Excellent Writing: Writer-producers James Brooks (“Taxi”) and Allan Burns (“The Smothers Brothers Show”), who worked together on “Room 222" and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” will receive the Writers Guild of America’s Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award on Feb. 21 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The guild’s highest television honor recognizes “writers who have advanced the literature of television through the years.”



Pricey Rembrandt: Rembrandt van Rijn’s “Portrait of a Bearded Man in a Red Coat” sold at Sotheby’s New York auction house Friday for $9.1 million, the second-highest price ever paid for the Dutch master at auction. The signed 1633 painting, which Sotheby’s said was being presented in public for the first time, was bought by Milwaukee art collector Alfred Bader. The highest price for a Rembrandt was paid a decade ago--$10.5 million for “Portrait of a Young Girl With an Earring"--at Sotheby’s in London.


Newsworthy Plot: PBS journalist Jim Lehrer’s play “Chili Queen” will have its West Coast premiere at the Coronet Theatre on Feb. 20. In the play, an argument over change from a $20 bill at a chili burger joint escalates into a media-fed hostage crisis. It will be produced by Kermit Christman and director Del Tenney.

More ‘Capeman’ Reviews: East Coast critics liked Paul Simon’s songs and Bob Crowley’s sets but otherwise didn’t think much of Simon’s new Broadway musical, “The Capeman.” The New York Times called it “a sad, benumbed spectacle,” USA Today deemed it “a dud,” Associated Press pronounced it “anemic,” and Newsday found it “inert and dramatically inept.” The New York Post called the music “the best score on Broadway” but said that the show itself is “a series of awkward scenes.”


Posse Member Arrested: Insane Clown Posse member Violent J was among a group of 10 musicians arrested in Indiana Friday in a restaurant brawl in which an 18-year-old man was beaten, police said. “They said the victim had made a rude comment about one of their mothers,” Greenfield Police Chief Rick Hoy said. Violent J’s rap partner, Shaggy 2 Dope, was not involved.

Defining Violence: Country singer Tracy Lawrence, who was convicted earlier this week of hitting his estranged wife on the head during an argument, has released a statement saying: “I do not condone violence. . . . I did not beat my wife. There was a heated verbal argument during which a scuffle took place and I pushed her. . . . By my choice, I will seek counseling for my own health and well-being.” Saying that he believed the Tennessee judge “ruled fairly,” Lawrence, 30, noted that his punishment was only a $500 fine and that he received no prison time, public service requirement, probation or mandatory counseling. Stephanie Lawrence, 30, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, said her husband struck her with a fist at least twice on Sept. 13. They have since filed for divorce.



German car maker Volkswagen said Thursday that it is negotiating with the three surviving Beatles--Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr--to help launch the remade Beetle car. No word on the Fab Three’s level of interest. . . . Big screen actor Liam Neeson reportedly will return to the Broadway stage in April, playing Oscar Wilde in David Hare’s new play, “The Judas Kiss.” . . . Robin Williams, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Gloria Estefan, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Deana Carter are among the scheduled performers for the upcoming ABC special “Christopher Reeve: A Celebration of Hope.” The show will be taped Feb. 1 at the Wiltern Theatre. . . . Actress Alyssa Milano (“Who’s the Boss?”) is leaving Fox’s “Melrose Place” at the end of the season to develop her own drama series, a Columbia TriStar project planned for next fall. . . . The Carlos Mencia-hosted comedy show, “Funny Is Funny!,” and the talk program “Cafe Ole With Giselle Fernandez"--two English-language shows that appear on the Spanish-language network Galavision--have both been renewed for next season. . . . The Laugh Factory on Sunset Boulevard has announced a competition for the “funniest intern [for any company] working today.” Stand-up auditions will be held on Feb. 16 before a panel of celebrity judges; the winner will receive a paid trip to Washington to visit the White House.