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Can Beverly Johnson 'Save' Oprah?

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"The test of good manners is to be able to put up pleasantly with bad ones," said dear old Anonymous.

  • REALITY TELEVISION -- that fetid swamp of bad manners -- is here to stay. Only the feared-by-many, hoped-for-by-some, December 21 apocalypse could halt the onward march of reality programming.

    Even Oprah Winfrey knows that. Oprah's latest attempt to shore up her still-struggling OWN network is something called "Beverly's Full House." It stars supermodel/actress/entrepreneur Beverly Johnson, her husband, her daughter, her granddaughter, her longtime friend Robert Dupont and Robert's twin, Richard.

    Robert and Richard are vivid reminders of the good old days of Studio 54 and Halston and Andy Warhol, etc. Miraculously, these guys survived. They have become cult figures. (A British pop group, I Am Camera, have composed a club song dedicated to them, titled "Factory Boys.") The show debuted last Saturday.

    Beverly Johnson and her campers have high hopes for her "Full House," which one insider describes as "'Three's Company' on Acid!" (Though it is really supposed to be a "no-glamour" look at Ms. Johnson's "family dynamics.") Can this show "save" Oprah's OWN?

    Perhaps not, but for those who enjoy this sort of thing--scripted, carefully edited "reality"--it will probably be an amusing addition to the genre.
  • WHO WOULD have thought it could ever happen--a Broadway musical with an almost completely male cast and most of the guys wearing scruffy Depression-era costumes?

    To top it all off, this unique news-breaking show is produced by Disney. Yes, Disney as in "The Lion King," "Mary Poppins," "Beauty and the Beast" and glorious costumes fame. (Well, Capathia Jenkins, one of the six females in this irresistible show, does wear a splendidly gorgeous gown.) There are no names above the title, just a cast of wonderful common fellows who can really dance. The choreography by Christopher Gattelli is spectacular.

    The cast is great, especially Jeremy Jordan. And beware! There is a tiny tot with a long name, Matthew J. Schechter, who will steal your heart. Bravo, Disney! Now we can forget all about Tarzan and that Little Mermaid.

    Oh, yes! The name of this exciting musical is "Newsies," as directed by Jeff Calhoun. Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman and Broadway's darling, ever-busy and gifted Harvey Fierstein, who has written a fascinating book.

    Join the standing ovations happening at every performance of "Newsies" at the Nederlander Theatre. "Newsies" is a limited run and scheduled to close on August 19. But maybe you and I can help keep it running.
  • VERY FEW of us can keep romance glowing and aflame year after year. But my friend Barbara Taylor Bradford, the novelist extraordinaire, can -- and does. She brought out her latest, "Letter from a Stranger," just the other day via St. Martin's Press.

    This is the beautiful blond dynamo's 27th book and I believe each one has been a best-seller with more than 85 million copies sold in 40 languages in more than 90 countries. Top that!! Barbara's 1979 debut book, "A Woman of Substance," ranks as one of the top 10 best-selling books of all time.

    I have never encountered any kind of scandal story to write about Barbara though I have looked, in vain. So I am on her side and she and her terrific husband, Bob, are on mine.

    I feel lucky to have them on the board of my pet charity Literacy Partners, which attempts to teach one million of the adults in New York City who can't read and write at the 5th grade level, how to become useful citizens. They learn how to read the prescription on their medicine bottles, which is the men's room and which is the women's, how to find a correct address and how to express themselves when job hunting and just plain living.

    On May 21 at Jazz@Lincoln Center, we will mount our annual gala and this year it's in my honor. (This makes me wonder: Did all the terrific people who really deserve an honor, wander off and die?)

    This very year, Literacy has had to bid goodbye to the wonderful Susan McLean, who is taking a leave but will still advise us...Likewise, our stalwart influential Peter Brown has gone on to other things, though he still tries to give us his all ...Our co-founders Arnold Scaasi and Parker Ladd are retired in Palm Beach. So, we are inching to our goal of raising $1,000,000 to teach a long list of adults on our waiting list. You could help us by sending any kind of offering to Literacy Partners, 30 East 33 Street, 6th floor, 10013. It's in my honor, if that matters.

    None other than that stalwart controversial comic Bill Maher is opening our show of readings with his usual bruising and brilliant presence before he jets back to Los Angeles. And, we'll have Sally Bedell Smith and Jeffrey Toobin joining in. If I am lucky, I will inveigle the genius actor Frank Langella to read from his dashing new book "Dropped Names." As he's making a movie at the same time, it's touch and go.

    But, anyway, it's going to be great and I hope you will help us with a contribution. The address is above. And by my side will be the ever faithful Bob and Barbara Taylor Bradford. They'll give us some much-adored glamour and class!