B'WAY STRIKE ENDS
The musicians' strike that darkened Broadway for four days ended Tuesday when the players' union settled a contract dispute with show producers.
"We have great news," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced. "Broadway is no longer dark."
The 18 shows that were shut down because of the walkout were expected to resume performances Tuesday night. The strike is believed to have cost the theaters, as well as the city's ailing economy, millions of dollars.
The dispute at the heart of the strike was over how many musicians should be required for a Broadway orchestra. The largest houses currently employ 24 to 26 musicians, but the producers wanted to cut a significant number of players. The union agreed Tuesday to reduce the minimum number of players to 18 or 19 musicians.
"While we have made some reductions in the house minimum, we have preserved live Broadway," said union head Bill Moriarity said. "We will continue to provide the best music you will ever hear in your life."
HBO SUES GANDOLFINI FOR $100 MILLION
HBO has made "The Sopranos" star James Gandolfini an offer he can't refuse: go back to work as scheduled or cough up $100 million.
The cable television network and the show's producers filed a $100 million counter-suit in Los Angeles Tuesday against Gandolfini, the award-winning actor who plays conflicted mob boss Tony on the hit series. HBO hopes the counter-suit will force Gandolfini back to work when the fifth season of the drama starts taping March 24.
Gandolfini sued the cable network and Sopranos Productions Inc. last week in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking to cancel his contract on the grounds the company failed to inform him in a timely manner another season of the series had been ordered.
Gandolfini's lawsuit is believed to be a ploy to negotiate a pay raise from his current $400,000 an episode to $1 million a show. HBO insiders said they have offered the burly actor $800,000 per show.
"We are more than certain that James Gandolfini has a binding contract for the fifth and sixth season of 'The Sopranos,'" HBO chairman Chris Albrecht told the Los Angeles Times. "We will have to act as if we are being attacked by hostile parties."
The New York Daily News reports the HBO source said Albrecht is so upset he even is thinking about writing Gandolfini out of the show. The dispute also is sparking talk of a rumble pitting HBO executives against the show's other cast members, who along with Gandolfini are expected to report to work March 24.
A source close to Gandolfini told the News that HBO has "gotten very arrogant" and believes it can pull the show off without its star. "They're saying behind the scenes, 'We don't need him,'" the source said.
Gandolfini has the support of his castmates and "Sopranos" creator David Chase, the insider said. "David Chase is furious about what HBO is doing to Jim," said the source. "He considers Gandolfini his partner."
Lawyer Bert Fields, who is representing HBO, said the producers exercised their option to pick up Gandolfini's contract for two seasons and estimated their losses at $100 million if he doesn't show up for work.
WAR WILL NOT CANCEL OSCAR TELECAST
Organizers of the 75th annual Academy Awards ceremony say the show will go on even if the United States goes to war with Iraq.
Oscar show producer Gil Cates, however, warned actors at an the annual Oscar nominees luncheon in California Monday: "If we go to war, the telecast will reflect that reality both in those parts of the show that we can control and those parts that we can't control -- your acceptance speeches.
"The show will go on and our purpose remains the same as it has for 75 years -- to celebrate our art form and honor its most accomplished practitioners."
He added: "If you pull out a piece of paper and start to read a list of names -- you're done. The orchestra will begin to play and you are finished."
The telecast is scheduled for March 23. The show has never been canceled because of war before although it was postponed because of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and the shooting of President Ronald Reagan.
HALL OF FAME INDUCTS POLICE, CLASH
The Police, The Clash, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, AC/DC and The Righteous Brothers all were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall.
The annual induction ceremony was held Monday night at Manhattan's posh Warldorf Astoria Hostel and featured performances by AC/DC, Costello and his new band, and the long-estranged Police. Highlights of the ceremony will be shown Sunday on VH1 at 9 p.m. EST.