LITHGOW IN REHEARSALS FOR 'SUCCESS'
A revival of the musical "Sweet Smell of Success" is in final rehearsals in Chicago, with John Lithgow in the lead. Producer Marty Richards, according to columnist Neal Travis, will first stage the re-do in Chicago, with plans, of course, to eventually bring it to Broadway. Richards is taking the same route as did the stagers of the megahit "The Producers," in hitting the Windy City first. Meanwhile, Richards is involved in getting a new movie off the ground. The film, to be made in Canada, will be a screen version of the highly successful musical "Chicago." It's close to Richard's heart because it was the first project he backed in New York. He says that it's about time that moviegoers be reintroduced to an old-fashioned, lavish musical.
WILLS GETS ROOT BEER SPONSORSHIP
For decades major brewers have sponsored racing and other sports events and helped foot the bill for numerous musical tours. In an earlier report I mentioned that a distillery in Kentucky was coming out with a new bourbon to honor a Willie Nelson song and would play an active part in the singer's 2002 tour. Now comes word that country star Mark Wills has gotten a liquid endorsement, but his is from a root beer company. The folks at upscale IBC Root Beer -- a division of the Dr. Pepper/7-Up franchises -- say they will help the award-winning singer stage his next tour. IBC will also provide merchandise tie-ins with local promotions and sweepstakes, CD giveaways, concert tickets and backstage passes. Will's Web site says he will kick off his 2002 touring with a concert in Raleigh on Jan. 18, then move on to other Southern cities.
HITCHCOCK SITE FAVORITE FOR BIRD WATCHERS
In the movie "The Birds" -- which ran on AMC on Monday -- the coastal town of Bodega Bay, Calif., was invaded by millions of birds. After the release of the movie, humans began flocking there to see the old school and other locations used in the filming. Now, decades later, a group called the American Bird Conservancy has designated the tiny Northern California town as a "globally important bird area." It seems that the hamlet actually is a hot spot for bird nesting, and a huge variety of species call Bodega Bay their home. The group says that many endangered species also gather there and it's a stopping-off point for many birds during their annual migrations. By the way, this reporter was proudly given a ball-point pen by a merchant in the city who had not noticed that the printer accidentally engraved the pens with the name Bogeda Bay instead of Bodega Bay.
NYC HOTEL SAYS SHARPTON BAILED
The Millennium Hotel in Manhattan says it's suing the Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network for welching on a hotel bill. The New York Post is reporting that Sharpton and his group still owe the hotel about $25,000. The publication says that the organization rented 14 rooms, including the $900-per-night presidential suite, and spent $8,600 on room service and mini-bars. Sharpton and his group staged a meeting there to coincide with the celebration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King in January of 1999. The hotel says Sharpton's $18,000 deposit failed to cover the final bill --- $43,000.
THORNTON TO BE IN TRITT VIDEO
In this day and age of crossovers galore, actor and producer Billy Bob Thornton is about to become a video star in another genre. He stars in singer Travis Tritt's next video. The news provider country.com says Thornton is the central character in a video for "Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde," filmed in the stark nowhere of California's Mojave Desert. This will mark the first time that Thornton has ever appeared in a major project that he has not spearheaded. In the video the actor portrays a convict on the lam after holding up a convenience store with the help of his girlfriend. The video is expected to be released in the next week or so.
ANN BROWN TO BECOME NBC COMMENTATOR
When one-time American consumer guru Ann Brown made TV appearances only on NBC, the other networks naturally were miffed. Now she's agreed to accept an offer from the peacock network to become a contributor to the network's news programs. USA Today is reporting that Brown, who resigned last month from the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, now runs her own nonprofit consumer affairs group in the nation's capital. She has reportedly signed to do a dozen consumer pieces for NBC in 2002. Her initial report aired on "Today" three weeks ago. No contract details have been announced yet.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 122
Everyone loves to tell ghost stories. Last night I was telling a friend about an incident that happened in the 1930s in my family when my great-grandfather, the only doctor in a rural town, suddenly came back to the city from a Sunday buggy ride when he heard church bells ringing -- once a signal that there was a fire or something was wrong. As he passed his daughter's house, he heard the bells stop. Entering the home he discovered that his granddaughter had just died, and they were frantically searching for him. No one else heard the bells. So, in light of that: "Are there any classic family stories of that type hanging on your family tree?" Put STORY in the subject line and send to email@example.com via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION 217 (CELEBRATE)
Last week I asked that any non-Christians who read this column comment on what it's like in a world dominated by the observance of Christmas. In all truth, I received a flood of critical letters from people claiming I was trashing the celebration of Christmas. Some were strident. Several wondered why, if I were brought up in a Christian tradition, would I refer to Christmas as a secular holiday. The lesson I've learned from this is that I touched a nerve with many people delving into the topic. For 27 consecutive Christmases I produced five hours from four churches on my hometown radio station in Indiana on Christmas Eve. For half of my adult life the celebration of Christmas was a focal point. My intention was to get a feeling of what it's like for others at this time of year whose focus is not the events of Bethlehem. So, if I've offended anyone. I'm sorry. My lesson in all of this is that questions of politics and religion are best left to more in-your-face columnists. I'll stick to other things. GBA.