TOP OF THE NEWS: The families of Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown, the murder victims in the O. J. Simpson trial, have joined with the news media to ask a Los Angeles judge to permit televised coverage of their civil suit against O. J. The judge will rule on Friday. Simpson asked for a TV blackout.

BOOKED: Andrew Lloyd Webber will premiere his first musical in America since Jesus Christ Superstar, 25 years ago. Whistle Down the Wind, directed by Broadway veteran Harold Prince debuts at the National Theater in Washington on December 6.

APOLOGIZED: NBC said it is sorry that remarks by sportscaster Bob Costas about human rights in China during the Olympic broadcast hurt the feelings of some Chinese but it did not retract what Costas said.

EXPERIENCED: A Florida restaurant paid $17,000 at a London auction for a handwritten draft of the song "Ain't No Tellin'" by Jimmy Hendrix. Also sold: a laquer box the singer used to store drugs, for $7,845 to an anonymous buyer.

SPOTTED: The team that developed The Spot, the first Web soap, premieres a new series, Grapejam, on August 27. It's about an improv comedy group. There are now 76 episodic Internet sites.

REINCARNATED: Daily Variety reports that CBS will air the Reunion Patty Duke Show, a second-generation take on the '60s TV hit about look-alike cousins. In the new show, the cousins have children who also look-alikes.

ARRESTED: Police in Hemet, California busted Larry Fortensky, Elizabeth Taylor's most recent ex-, on misdemeanor drug charges. He and Taylor met at the Betty Ford addiction clinic.

WATCHED: As viewers fled coverage of the GOP convention by the broadcast networks, cable's total share of the primetime TV audience beat the aggregate share of CBS, ABC, and NBC for the first time last week, 41 to 37, according to the Cable Advertising Bureau.

STEAMED: Morton Downey, Jr., the former loudmouth talk-show host and smoker's-rights activist. plans to sue the tobacco companies and one of their law firms for "not telling the truth about nicotine," his attorney said. Downey underwent surgery for lung cancer last month.

ICED: The Ice Capades next show, which goes on tour in September, is all about Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movies, including Goldfinger, The Pink Panther and Stargate.

PROTESTED: Members of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee say they'll picket today outside Disney World, Disneyland, and the Disney lot to protest "Arab bashing" in Aladdin, Kazaam and other films.

CAST: Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts join to produce A Class Divided, with Sarandon starring, based on the true story of a teacher who tried to educate kids about discrimination by dividing her Iowa classroom between blue- and brown-eyed children...Sharon Stone is in talks on a film based on the life of tobacco heiress Doris Duke...Director Walter Hill and Bruce Willis, who just did the upcoming Last Man Standing, will reunite for Icarus, about a fighter pilot's last day before retirement.

GROUNDED: Propaganda Films is in trouble with Los Angeles film-permit officials after a helicopter crashed Tuesday while shooting a commercial, killing the co-pilot. The company didn't have the proper permits. The shoot for Black and Decker was directed by Michael Bay, director of The Rock.

HELPED: Rodney Dangerfield and Howie Mandel headline a benefit comedy show in Los Angeles tonight for the family of Ray Combs, the host of Family Feud who killed himself, leaving his family destitute.

REFORMED: Ex-con Edward Bunker sold the film rights to his latest novel, Dog Eat Dog, to producers Ed Pressman and Ken Lipper. The former bank robber has been busy lately as a consultant on crime films, too, says Daily Variety.

DEATH: Albert Bertino, 84, Walt Disney animator and ride designer, who helped create the characters of Bambi, Goofy, and Donald Duck as well as the Pirates of the Caribbean and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride attractions at Disneyland.

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