Queen Latifah, Frank Sinatra, and Meredith Vieira made headlines this week

Entertainment news for May 17, 1991

Is the world ready for a sore-infested, crooning Dustin Hoffman? Ready or not, Tri-Star is making a screen version of Dennis Potter’s acclaimed British TV series, The Singing Detective, in September. Potter himself adapted the Americanization, which will now be set in 1950s Chicago instead of wartime England. Hoffman is committed to the project, but he’s also committed to Hero and a Half, Stephen Frears’ film about a petty thief who inadvertently becomes what the title suggests. The romantic comedy is supposed to film through the summer. A Detective coproducer says Hoffman is trying to stuff both films in his schedule — but should he fail, Haft has calls from four other marquee names who are ready to step into the role.

When Spike Lee’s new movie, Jungle Fever, debuts next month, keep an eye peeled for Queen Latifah. The rapper has a cameo as a waitress at Sylvia’s, Harlem’s famous soul-food spot. Lee and crew took over the restaurant last month for a one-day shoot in which Latifah sounds off at Wesley Snipes, who plays her boss. Snipes tells her, ”You’re fired.” She snaps back, ”You’re tired.” Also seen at Sylvia’s recently: Stevie Wonder and singer Mike Bivens of chart toppers Bell, Biv, Devoe, who ordered chicken with yams and banana pudding without even glancing at the menu. Says Biv: ”You could say I’m a regular.”

Is 75-year-old Frank Sinatra really going to listen to countless telephone messages from fans? ”Of course he’ll listen,” says Angie Dickinson, who set up Ol’ Blue Eyes with his own 900 number, the Diamond Jubilee Tour Hotline, which fans can call to record their personal wishes. Proceeds from the $2-per-minute calls go to a favorite Sinatra charity, the Variety Clubs International. Is Dickinson absolutely sure he’ll catch every word? ”He said he’ll listen to one hour here, one hour there. He said he’ll listen on planes, maybe putting the tapes on a speaker for everyone to hear.” Oh, joy.

It’s hard to believe that Arnie Becker didn’t recruit Roxanne Pulitzer to trumpet his self-help divorce video on L.A. Law. Not to worry though: Life Management, a South Carolina company, has picked up where Arnie left off, selecting Pulitzer as its prize pitchwoman for a video series on divorce. Due out this summer are six new videos in which Pulitzer helps teach consumers how to deal with legal, emotional, and financial issues in divorce, as well as how to plot a healthy rebound. ”The producers said that I represented everything that could go wrong,” says the twice-divorced Pulitzer, 40, who admits she has made a lot of mistakes. (”About 45.”) Now she lectures on joint custody and is working on her third book. ”I messed up at step one,” she warns. ”You have to captain your ship. Don’t rely on lawyers. They can’t remember to tell you everything. They’re only human. And most of them are below human.”

60 Minutes may not have Meredith Vieira to kick around anymore, but the CBS newswoman, who was booted off the series in February after becoming pregnant with her second child, isn’t planning to idle away the rest of her $500,000-per-year contract. This summer she’ll turn up as one of the reporters contributing to The Verdict, a prime-time CBS News series that will focus on a different high-drama trial each week. The half-hour series is expected to begin an eight-week run in June.

James L. Brooks (The Simpsons, Cheers) has just gotten some good broadcast news. Insiders say that ABC has green-lighted Brooks’ long-awaited new comedy series. ABC announced Brooks was developing a series early in 1990; last month came word that Marsha Mason had agreed to star in it. Official confirmation won’t come until May 22, when ABC unveils its fall lineup, but a source says that the network committed to 13 episodes after seeing a 10-minute presentation. The series will be a half-hour comedy show about Mason and two younger sisters.

Written by: Leonard Klady, Casey Davidson, Cindy Pearlman, Kate Meyers, Mark Harris, Deborah Mitchell