May 23, 1988 12:00 PM

OPEN BARRE: As one of the finest practitioners of an art that depends upon meticulous technique and precise timing, dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov is surprisingly relaxed about whom he’ll take as a partner. Asked if there’s someone new he’d especially like to dance with, he replied, “Not really. If you think about someone you want to dance with, you may be disappointed when you actually do it. Things go well when you least expect them. It’s very much like sex.”

CHERRY ON TOP: Although she’s only 21, China Beach’s Nan Woods knows all the maneuvers in Hollywood’s war games. But like the honest and righteous Red Cross volunteer named Cherry White she plays on the show, Nan came up through the ranks unsullied. “I’m not sleeping with a Senator,” she says. “My father isn’t a studio exec, I don’t have Douglas or Sheen in my name, I’m not the illegitimate daughter of a rock star, and I don’t even know what a casting couch looks like.”

CANADA WRY: Why have so many Canadian journalists, including ABC’s Peter Jennings, 60 Minutes’ Morley Safer and PBS’ Robert MacNeil, migrated to American news? “Things are a little different there now,” says MacNeil, who co-anchors the MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour, “but when I left Canada 25 years ago, it was a stodgier, duller, smaller and restrictive place to be.” And what are the major on-air differences between Canadians and their American colleagues? “The Canadian television aesthetic is somewhat less assaultive,” says MacNeil. “I think that’s something that informs what Canadians are doing in the States. It’s what gives Morley Safer his wry character. ‘Ironic distance’ is what Canadians have. You sense that in Morley, Peter Jennings and, I think, in me.”

PICKET LINES: During the strike by members of the Writers Guild of America, daily soap operas are being scripted by nonunion writers who are not always familiar with the show’s past history. “My character’s from the South, and all of a sudden the script had her speaking like a Californian who has gone to college for six years when really she hasn’t even finished high school,” says Emmy winner Kim Zimmer, who plays Reva on The Guiding Light. “There’s a fear that your character will be thrown into an irreversible direction that our normal head writer won’t be able to correct when she returns. For now,” adds Zimmer, who nonetheless gives passing marks to the substitute writers, “you go to the producer and bitch and bear it, but when your character’s in danger, you have to stamp your feet.”

BREW HA HA: As Norm Peterson, the beer-nursing character on Cheers, and also as the pitchman in last year’s Meister Brau beer ads, actor George Wendt has tapped a reservoir of success. “Between the commercials and the series, beer has been my life,” George told the Boston Globe. “If you think about it, it’s a dream come true. If you polled high school kids and said, ‘Here’s the deal: Basically you drink beer, it’s your job, you make a nice living and have a nice house in California, people like you, and you never have to buy beer,’ you’d get kids shifting away from Nobel Prize lives.”

FAT’S ENTERTAINMENT: For years, Weird Al Yankovic, the prince of pop parody, has been putting his own satirical spin on records by rewording hits by such masters as Michael Jackson, Madonna and Huey Lewis. This year Weird Al is back on the loose with a new album titled Even Worse, which contains the hit single Fat, a takeoff of Jackson’s Bad. “Michael was a great sport about all this. He has a great sense of humor about himself,” says Al, who had to receive Michael’s permission to parody the song. Michael even donated the subway set he’d used in his Bad video for Al’s Fat video. “He went beyond the call of humor,” adds Al. How did he get Jackson’s permission? “My manager had lunch with Michael’s lawyer’s secretary’s phone machine—the usual.”

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