09/24/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT
Can we talk about gratitude? Okay, so the kid was maligned for years in her mother's comedy routines, but can you believe that Joan Rivers' 16-year-old daughter, Melissa, has changed her last name to Howard? It all started when agent Toni Howard urged casting director Mike Fenton to see Melissa in her school play, Once Upon a Mattress. Fenton recommended Melissa to the director of the upcoming film Secret Admirer starring C. Thomas (Grandview, U.S.A.) Howell. Though she has only a few lines, Melissa's screen debut will be memorable: Howell throws a jockstrap in her face while cleaning out his high school locker. Mama Joan couldn't be prouder. After spending a day on the set at Burbank High School helping Melissa prepare for her scenes, Joan quipped, "Now I'll sit back and let her earn the bucks."
The producers of the new NBC movie about former UCLA volleyball star Kirk Kilgour will probably exclude one character from the script: Kirk's childhood neighbor was Virginia McMartin, the matriarch of the family involved in the notorious child-molestation case in Manhattan Beach, Calif. After Kilgour was partly paralyzed by a sports-related accident in 1976, Virginia sponsored a fund raiser for him. Says Kirk, "She has written to me every week since the accident. If I had to pick one person to be a saint, Virginia would be the one." According to a producer of the movie, which will star Mark (St. Elsewhere) Harmon as Kilgour, "I don't think the McMartins will have anything to do with the story."
Rita Jenrette, who makes her film debut this fall in Zombie Island Massacre (previously titled The Last Picnic), hopes to bow on Broadway in November in Caught, a play about extramarital romance. Meanwhile she plans to start shooting her second film, Lady Love, this month in Texas, playing a whorehouse madam. One of her customers is a U.S. Senator who bears no resemblance to her own congressional ex from South Carolina, John....
Among those getting casting calls from Steven Spielberg for his movie The Goonies are Chad Lowe (Rob's younger brother) and Jean and Liz Sagal, the twins on NBC's Double Trouble....
Prince is a hard act to follow, but Purple Rain director Albert Magnoli may score another musical coup. He recently returned from Paris where he discussed a film project with British rockers Duran Duran. Another development meeting is scheduled for mid-October in L.A.
As TV's ratings wars heat up this season, so will the climate on the set of ABC's Webster. In the Oct. 26 episode, Webster, played by Emmanuel Lewis, accidently sets fire to his parents' apartment. Says producer Steve Sunshine, "Not only did we want to teach kids about the danger of playing with matches, we wanted to get rid of the old set and move the family into a house." It proved to be an expensive move. Torching the old set and building a new one (modeled after a two-story Victorian house) burned a $135,000 hole in the production budget.