TV in the Edwardian Age

Everyone wants to be Hollywood royalty.

Even royalty.

So you think prince is a fancy title? That was fine for medieval Europe, but this is a town known more for feuds than feudalism. And what's a resume these days without a true title extraordinaire--like executive producer?

Today we introduce that other Windsor, the one who's been keeping a low profile while his older siblings and their amours have been hogging the headlines. Prince Edward quietly sailed through town recently to up his ante as a monarch--of television, that is. Besides being a prince of the realm, he's a TV documentarian in his hometown.

But first we should tell you that the 33-year-old Edward is actually the no-fuss, no-muss Windsor, the baby of the queen's three boys. Wearing his producer crown, he wants you to address him as Edward Windsor. That's instead of His Royal Highness, the Prince Edward, by the way. Clogs up the credits. Anyway, Edward's laid-back approach to his California colleague wannabes flipped out his Scotland Yard bodyguard.

"In Great Britain and wherever he goes on behalf of his mother, you don't speak unless you're spoken to," says his agent, Sam Haskell, the West Coast head of television for William Morris. "You don't shake hands unless he extends his hand.

"It's 'sir' or 'your royal highness,' and the detective who came with him was just astounded about how Edward wanted to be treated. He said, 'I want to be one of the group. I don't want them to feel intimidated by titles.' "

And hear ye, all you nutty TV types out there--you don't break into the receiving line. Needless to say, things were pretty darn unintimidating at a recent dinner Haskell hosted at his Encino home so the prince could mingle with television aristocracy, such as CBS Entertainment president Les Moonves, Brooke Shields, Walt Disney Network Television President David Neuman, William Morris Chairman Norman Brokaw, Diahann Carroll, 20th Century Fox Television President Sandy Grushow, Martin Short and USA Networks Entertainment President Rod Perth. They dined on duck in a heated tent behind the Haskell manse.

"I've known him for a year because I've been working with him," says the England-based Corbin Bernsen, who is developing projects with Edward's company, Ardent Productions. "I ran up and said, 'Hey, Edward,' and I didn't realize there was kind of a receiving line. A small social faux pas."

Oops.

But hey, Edward isn't the only hep-cat royal who wants to be one of the boys and girls in these raffish '90s. Moonves and family stopped by Sarah Ferguson's place in London for a bite last summer. The two have been talking about possible future projects--a talk show, specials--for CBS.

"We were on vacation and our kids played with their kids," Moonves says. "I got a kick out of it. There were two other couples there. Prince Andrew did the cooking. With some help, but it was very funny. There he was in a madras shirt cooking hamburgers on a grill."

What is it with men and fire? For that matter, what is it with royals and television?

"They like to mingle with the people of our community," Moonves says. "We're the movers and the shakers of the media world. We have a lot of control about what gets on American television. And also, we're pretty interesting people.

"I remember when I was appearing in front of a Senate subcommittee for the first time seven or eight years ago, and I was a bit nervous and my attorney said to me, 'Remember, they're as impressed with you as you are with them.' "

Of course, there are humble folk here, too. Like Prince Edward.

"I'm just trying to get on here as a television producer, as with many other people that are here," he says softly as guests begin to dribble in despite the rainy evening. "So we started at the same point, really."

Edward is warm and reserved at the same time, lightly deflecting questions about his sister-in-law's own romance with TV--stumping for Ocean Spray cranberry juice and Weight Watchers. But asked about his motherless nephews, William and Harry, he drops his diplomatic veneer and speaks from the heart.

"They're doing remarkably well under the circumstances, although I think most people forget that they do actually read newspapers, so that these people who go on about conspiracy theories . . . What they are doing to those two boys, it's nobody's business, really."

Edward came to William Morris' attention nearly two years ago with "Edward on Edward," a widely praised PBS documentary he produced and narrated about the duke of Windsor, the great uncle for whom he was named. Ardent has also produced documentaries on castle ghosts, classic cars and tennis, as well as a political drama series about members of Parliament.

But the big money, TV-wise, is on these shores, and Edward really got into the swing of that favorite American pastime, taking meetings. Haskell hopes as many as half a dozen deals come out of the prince's quick trip.

Could that mean that Edward will be setting up castle on the West Coast?

Says Haskell: "I think the Bel Air Hotel will handle everything he needs."

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Excess Hollywood: You think March is coming upon us? Au contraire. It's the month of Hollywood. With Oscars falling on Hollywood 23rd, nearly every glossy magazine that circulates in Trendytown is honoring the month with a special issue.

The naughtiest might be Details, helmed by Michael Caruso, lately of Los Angeles magazine. Caruso recently celebrated Details' "Mondo Hollywood" issue at a fete jammed with Vince Vaughn look-alikes. OK, there was also Ben Affleck, Bill Maher, Djimon Hounsou, Paul Sorvino and Ashley Hamilton. The backdrop was the fabulous Perino's, the shuttered old Hollywood glam stand where Bugsy Siegel and Dean Martin used to hang.

Anyway, Caruso lends new meaning to the idea of Hollywood as fantasy land. Details polled its denizens to learn that they're having more sex than you are, whoever you are. Nyaaah, nyaaah.

"Hollywood gets a lot of criticism about being too excessive," says the boyish Caruso. "At Details, we embrace that."

The issue's poster children are the demure Farrah Fawcett, the late Chris Farley and the busy Charlie Sheen, who is crowned Hollywood's idea of "the most prodigious lover today." (Survey says . . .)

Sheen wouldn't talk to the magazine, but a few of his old girlfriends did. One of them, Charity ("That's my whole name"), speculates on the meaning of Sheen's sartorial tastes: "When I moved out, I was missing a lot of my little shorts and stuff. And one day I looked in his drawers and found all these shorts and miniskirts. I was like, maybe they're just souvenirs--but then again, maybe he's a cross-dresser."

Ahem.

A spokesman for Sheen says: "My only comment will be that I think these women need to get over Charlie Sheen and get on with their lives and stop living in the past."

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Wild Catter: Of course, excessiveness--and we mean that in a good way--is in the eye of the beholder. And the beholder whose excessiveness gets our vote is the late Dr. Seuss, a.k.a. Ted Geisel, the man who put the cat in "The Cat in the Hat."

You know Dr. Seuss as the avatar of childhood, the author and illustrator who put the tra-la-la into bedtime. Well, it's time you grew up and accepted the naked truth about Dr. Seuss. After midnight, the guy painted light porn, as well as other images abounding in "nuttiness, 'political incorrectness,' and lots and lots of cats," wrote his buddy Maurice Sendak in the introduction of "The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss" (Random House, 1995).

"He put out a couple that I find tremendously, humorously erotic," his widow, Audrey Geisel, says sweetly.

And just for the record, you can never have too many cats, even ones that smoke cigars.

Geisel says her husband, who died in 1991 in La Jolla, didn't consider these paintings to be real work, so he made them after hours and between books as a form of "private self-therapy." He never showed them to outsiders, but before his death, Audrey Geisel promised to disseminate them to his fans.

Who are old enough to drink, that is.

OK, so milk qualifies for some pieces.

Anyway, Audrey Geisel made good on her promise recently in a rare appearance at Storyopolis, which hosted a reading by fans Jamie Lee Curtis, Eriq La Salle and Pia Zadora. Storyopolis, the Los Angeles kids' bookstore and art gallery, is carrying five limited-edition serigraphs, starting at $1,500, reproduced from the original images, including one of a smoking Cat, another of more kitty faces than you can shake a stick at and another of lady neighbors fighting over potted plants.

If you're surprised by Dr. Seuss' many sides, join his widow. She remembers him as "unbelievable. Awesome. A puzzle that was very intriguing and you couldn't get to the end of it."

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TV for a Good Cause: Pretend this item is on a yellow background: TV is good.

Sometimes, anyway, when shows like "Murphy Brown" and "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" sneak in a little medicine--public service announcements--with the sugar.

At a recent benefit for Cedars-Sinai Research for Women's Cancers, Candice Bergen talked about the impact of Murphy Brown's brush with breast cancer.

"After our first episode, one mammography center reported an extra 200 phone calls, all of whom cited 'Murphy Brown' as their impetus," she told a packed ballroom at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

And O'Donnell, whose mother died of breast cancer in 1973, has used her show to urge women to get mammograms. The comedian, who was honored with a Women of Courage Award, announced her family's $100,000 donation for research. Before the presentation, she talked about her personal loss.

"So many women whose mothers died when they were children fear they'll never surpass that age, and I know I've suffered from that as well," O'Donnell said. "My mom died at 39 and I'm 35 years old, and it's been a motivating factor for me in my career and in my life to try to succeed before I get to that age, because I have always worried that that would be my legacy as well."

Also honored was Dr. Beth Karlan, director of gynecologic oncology, who received the Women's Cancers Research Award for her work in ovarian cancer. Anne and Kirk Douglas, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Rita Wilson, Kate Capshaw, producer Bonnie Bruckheimer and Luther Vandross also put their muscle behind the benefit, which was underwritten by Saks Fifth Avenue and raised $1 million.

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