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The Insider

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Thanks, but no thanks. That is essentially how the folks at Disney reacted to a new song submitted to them by Elton John and Tim Rice, whose efforts for the studio’s 1994 animated film The Lion King won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy. That was then. For Disney’s new live-action version of its 1961 animated hit 101 Dalmatians, John and Rice offered the song “Cruella,” about evil Cruella de Vil (Glenn Close). But the song was rejected, according to a Disney rep, in favor of an updated version of the song Mel Leven wrote for the original. John’s camp says he was subsequently asked by Disney to sing the Leven song for the new movie, due Nov. 27, but refused….

A major emotional moment at last week’s Emmy Awards came when Oprah Winfrey introduced Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Brett Butler, who was in the audience. Just days earlier, Butler had rejoined the lineup four months after undergoing surgery for tonsil cancer. Originally, Winfrey was going to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, Brett Butler,” and the ballplayer would walk onstage with Brett Butler, star of ABC’s Grace Under Fire. It didn’t happen, I’m told, because the actress refused to be introduced with the athlete. So the producers scrambled for a sub, Betty White. Ms. Butler’s version, says her rep, is that, “She was given a list of copresenters [including the other Butler and White], and she chose Betty because she’s a friend.” The ballplaying Butler called the brouhaha silly. Sadly, two days after the Emmys, he broke his left hand bunting during a game and will be out for the rest of the season….

Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen told me at the Emmys that Murphy Brown creator Diane English, the new exec producer of their troubled CBS sitcom Ink, recently took the show’s writing staff for a week on Martha’s Vineyard, where the scribes met up with the stars, who have a vacation home there. Danson says the setting provided “a change in scenery” and a chance to “instill a new spirit” of creativity. Ink will begin on Oct. 21, five weeks later than first scheduled. “The truth is,” says Steenburgen, “the show wasn’t great, and now we have the time to make it better.”…

Kevin Bacon has agreed to write the foreword to the new paperback book devoted to Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, the popular parlor game in which players link famous folk to the actor. (For example, Sean Penn is separated from Bacon by only two Bacon points because Penn starred with Elizabeth McGovern in Racing with the Moon and McGovern starred with Bacon in She’s Having a Baby.) The game’s creators Craig Fass, Mike Ginelli and Brian Turtle have signed a deal with Penguin’s Plume imprint to write the book, due in stores next month….

Do you remember TV’s Have Gun Will Travel (1957-63), the western series starring Richard Boone as hired gun Paladin? Well, a Have Gun movie script, with John Travolta attached as star, is being pitched to studios by his manager Jonathan Krane….

And finally, who will succeed Greg Kinnear as host of NBC’s Later after he tapes his last show Sept. 18? There’s no leading candidate yet. A top NBC source says, “We’re starting from scratch.”