Morning Report


Midlife Changes: Richard Gere, whose handprints and footprints were added to the Mann's Chinese Theatre Hollywood Walk of Fame Monday, has another milestone in the offing. On Aug. 31, he turns 50--and the actor, who's re-teaming with "Pretty Woman" co-star Julia Roberts in "Runaway Bride," says there may be changes afoot. "I always said certain things are going to be happening when I turn 50, and I would probably be leaving this behind in some way," he told the New York Daily News. ". . . I think I probably will, metaphysically and mentally, and be moving on to some other things." Like fatherhood, for instance. Gere recently announced that his girlfriend, former "Law & Order" cast member Carrie Lowell, is pregnant.

New York Chimes In: Four days after the Los Angeles Film Critics denounced the alteration of an orgy scene to get an R rating for Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut," the New York Film Critics Circle weighed in on the subject. In a statement released Monday, it said that the director's original version should never have been threatened with an NC-17 rating because it is no more explicit than many R-rated thrillers, such as "8mm." The classification and ratings administration of the Motion Picture Assn. of America "is out of control . . . and has become a force of censorship," out of sync with values of American society, the critics charged.


'Felicity' Fracas: Keri Russell, the 23-year-old star of the WB network's "Felicity," will be at work when production on the series resumes next week, after a brief threat to hold out for more money. Sources say Russell's representatives had sought a raise to $100,000 per episode, which would have more than tripled her first-season salary. The demand was modified after Disney's TV unit, which produces "Felicity" with Imagine Television, said it would take legal action to compel the actress to honor her contract. "The situation has been resolved," a Disney spokeswoman said. Though Russell received a Golden Globe Award in January, the program's ratings have been only so-so given the early hype showered on it.

'Private Parts,' TV-Style: TV audiences will be seeing a special version of Howard Stern's raunchy R-rated "Private Parts" when the 1997 comedy based on his bestseller makes its network TV debut Aug. 27 on USA. Instead of editing out language or nudity, the network will rely on bleeping and blurring. Stern has filmed new on-camera footage to be dropped into the movie during edited segments, explaining the adjustments and his reaction to them.


Blameless: Livent Entertainment co-founder Garth Drabinsky defended himself in his first American interview since being indicted for accounting fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission in January. Acknowledging that the legal morass is "draining, emotionally and fiscally," he told Time magazine: "I was absolutely steamrolled into the U.S. justice system. It's not humanly possible that someone as involved as I was in the production of shows, the marketing of shows, the building and restoration of theaters, would have any time left to micromanage a huge and complex accounting system." Drabinsky, a Canadian citizen who is also being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, dispelled the notion that he's on the run. "Canada is not a penalty; I'm proud of Canada," he said.


Missing Masterpiece: The most expensive painting ever sold, an 1890 Vincent Van Gogh portrait of his doctor/friend Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, has been marked "present location unknown" in the catalog for a current exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ryoei Saito--honorary chairman of Japan's Daishowa Paper--bought the work for $82.5 million in 1990 and is said to have told friends that the Van Gogh and a Renoir he bought at the same auction should be burned at his cremation so his heirs would not have to pay an inheritance tax. It is unclear whether the painting has been seen since he died in 1996. "There's no fact to the rumor that he brought the painting to his coffin," a Daishowa spokesman told the Philadelphia Inquirer. " . . . We heard he sold the painting to somebody else."

Search Committee: The Los Angeles Master Chorale has formed a committee to search for a replacement for its music director, Paul Salamunovich, "to ensure a logical succession when he determines to step down." L.A. native Salamunovich, 72, has led the chorale--one of the resident companies at the Music Center--since 1991, and has been associated with it since its inception in 1964. Highlights of his tenure include the company's "Lux Aeterna" CD, which was nominated for a 1998 Grammy.


After a wide-ranging international search, Timothy Kittleson has been named director of the UCLA Film and Television Archive. He succeeds Robert Rosen, who held the position for about 25 years. . . . "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace" has passed the $400-million mark in domestic box office, passing "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" to become the third highest-grossing moneymaker of all time after "Star Wars" and "Titanic." . . . The Moody Blues will release their first new studio album in eight years, "Strange Times," on Aug. 10. Coinciding with its release, they will hit the road for a three-month national U.S. amphitheater tour. . . . Lance Armstrong, who rebounded from a battle with cancer to capture the 2,300-mile Tour de France cycling championship on Sunday in Paris, will talk about his victory on "The Late Show With David Letterman" on Friday. . . . Walter Matthau, hospitalized with pneumonia for the past two months, should be going home soon, his agent said. "I saw him yesterday and he's fine," Leonard Hershan said Monday.

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