Followers of Rona Barrett, who left the Tomorrow program in a huff a year ago, never doubted she would try to make a comeback. Last week Rona unveiled The Barrett Report, a weekly, six-page-or-so newsletter on the entertainment industry that she promises will be full of "advance information, uncensored opinion and commentary, reviews and previews all compiled by the staff of reporters I have personally trained in every major center of the world." Although the public might be interested in a few of the items, clearly Rona has a different audience in mind. The price of her newsletter is $1,000 a year—and that's already set to go up to $1,200.
When Sneak Previews, the weekly half-hour show of film reviews that's one of PBS' most popular programs, returned to the air last month, it wasn't just former hosts Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert who were missing. (They've been replaced by Neal Gabler and Jeffrey Lyons.) Spot, the crafty canine who used to bark in agreement with Siskel and Ebert whenever they called a movie a dog, was gone, too. Actually, Spot, who did the job for three seasons, retired last year. Sparky, his successor, died of kidney failure, and Zeke, the midseason replacement, couldn't bark on cue. So Sparky's trainer, Bill Casey, came up with Brandy, a 7-year-old mongrel, who is working just fine. Says Lyons, "So far, he hasn't peed on the seats."
Who would watch a TV channel that shows nothing but commercials? A lot of people in Peabody, Mass., that's who. Since last March cable TV viewers in that city have been treated to three cable channels that run the same 50 to 60 ads over and over again, 24 hours a day. During the six months of the experiment, two-thirds of the subscribers have tuned in each all-ad channel at least once. And 75 percent of those people tune in at least once a week, according to a spokesman for the local cable operator. If that's not enough, there's even a fourth channel that provides a schedule of when given commercials will air, as well as a special number viewers can call to request their favorites early.
To His Credit
Singer/ songwriter Luther (Never Too Much) Vandross used his American Express card to buy a pair of shoes at a Manhattan boutique. The clerk took his card away and quickly returned to tell him the American Express verifying operator wanted to talk to him. "There's only one reason they put you on that phone," says Vandross, who expected to hear that there was a problem with his account. Naturally, he says, "I got real nervous." Vandross picked up the receiver, and the voice on the other end exclaimed cheerfully, "I just wanted to say I love your new album."
It was a producer's nightmare. Last month a new play opened at Chicago's Wisdom Bridge Theatre, received good reviews and then closed before the next performance. How come? The play was called Princess Grace and the Fazzaris and concerned a fictional couple that married on the same day Grace wed Monaco's Prince Rainier. The Princess died the day after opening night, and the theater was dark for a week. The play reopened with a few minor rewrites, but the title remained unchanged.
•Prince Andrew has reportedly presented his mother with an ashtray. This is no ordinary ashtray, mind you; it was made from a spent shell casing recovered by the Prince's mates during the war in the Falklands and brought back home by Andy. His mum the Queen doesn't smoke, but we can't have Buckingham Palace intruders dropping ashes on the floor, now, can we?
•"She loves ballet," says Paul Newman of wife Joanne Woodward, "but I don't. So we share. For every race of mine she comes to, I go to about 10 ballets with her."