In the Know / A LOOK AT THE WEEK AHEAD : Still Relevant? The Artist Just May Find Out

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It’s 1999--does that mean a comeback party for the Artist formerly (and still occasionally) known as Prince? Watch this week to see how fans of the mercurial Minnesotan react to a new collection of previously unreleased songs titled “The Vault . . . Old Friends 4 Sale,” the first of several endeavors by The Artist to reclaim the spotlight in coming months. His most loyal fans will surely scoop up the album, but is the Purple One still relevant to a mass audience? The early word from retailers is mixed: The album, which arrived in stores last week, will likely crack the Top 40 this week, but it will also be easily overshadowed by other debuting albums from Puff Daddy, Christina Aguilera, Noreaga, LFO and Sevendust. “It’s a pretty big week for releases and the [interest in the] Prince album is much smaller than the rest,” says Jim Litwak, a vice president of Trans World Entertainment, which leads a 500-store chain of music retailers. “It did OK for us, but it’s down the list.” “The Vault” was put out by Warner Bros. Records under an old deal with the singer, who parted with the company in a notoriously bitter split a few years ago, but he also has an album of fresher material on tap for November from his new label, Arista Records. That collection, “Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic,” will feature Sheryl Crow, Chuck D, Ani DiFranco, Gwen Stefani of No Doubt and renowned saxophonist Maceo Parker. That album will also be hyped by a tour and a New Year’s Eve performance (details still unannounced), making it the true test of The Artist’s pop world standing. “Absolutely,” Litwak said. “That’s the one to watch.”

‘Bulworth’ Is the Ticket for Beatty, HBO

Home Box Office attorneys worked overtime examining campaign finance guidelines and equal-time provisions before determining they could add presidential candidate Bill Bradley to the opening montage on their sports-themed comedy “Arli$$.” This Saturday, the pay channel will give two hours of free exposure to an undeclared--but nevertheless much-speculated about--presidential contender: Warren Beatty. “Bulworth,” Beatty’s 1998 box-office dud that casts him as a senator who finally starts speaking the truth to constituents, makes its television debut on HBO. An HBO spokeswoman noted that the film’s play date was set months in advance--long before anybody was discussing the possibility of a Beatty candidacy--based on a formula in which films premiere on HBO roughly six months after they become available in home video. It also didn’t hurt that Beatty’s “Bulworth” running mate, Halle Berry, just starred in an HBO movie, “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.” Scheduling the film doesn’t raise equal-time concerns, since Beatty isn’t running for anything at this point. The ratings, meanwhile, may provide at least some indication how many HBO subscribers are interested in what Beatty--er, Bulworth--has to say.

This Baldwin Was Supposed to Make It Big

In “Outside Providence,” the new Miramax film that opens Wednesday, actor Alec Baldwin plays Old Man Dunphy, a hard-drinking, hard-line, blue-collar father in 1970s Pawtucket, R.I. After his son (Shawn Hatosy) crashes into a parked police car, Dad packs him off to a blueblood prep school, where he learns life from an entirely new circle of friends. A decade ago, many in Hollywood thought Baldwin was on the cusp of superstardom when he starred as American intelligence ace Jack Ryan in the submarine thriller, “The Hunt for Red October,” which grossed $120.7 million. But Baldwin stunned Hollywood by opting to do a play on Broadway rather than doing the movie sequel. Harrison Ford then turned the Jack Ryan character into his own franchise, starring in “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger.” In the decade that followed, Baldwin’s films fell short of blockbuster status: “The Marrying Man” ($12.4 million), “Malice” ($46 million), “The Shadow” ($31.9 million), “The Getaway” ($15.5 million), “The Juror” ($22.8 million), “The Edge” ($27.6 million) and “Mercury Rising” ($33 million). By this summer, he seemed comfortable taking roles in smaller, independent films. In an unbilled cameo, Baldwin plays Julia Roberts’ preening, self-absorbed movie star boyfriend in the romantic comedy, “Notting Hill.” Off camera, Baldwin has often become a lightning rod for controversy. In July, 1998, a civil jury in Van Nuys decided that the actor and a celebrity photographer were both to blame for a scuffle outside the actor’s Woodland Hills house. And, in recent weeks, the politically active Baldwin has had running battles with the New York Post. After noting that Baldwin had declared the Post “the worst newspaper that was ever created in the history of journalism,” the feisty tabloid fired back, taking note of his waistline and dubbing him a “portly political wannabe.”


--Compiled by Times Staff Writers