By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated September 29, 2003 11:36 AM

SURGED: Republican California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger has a sizable lead in the Oct. 7 recall of incumbent Gray Davis, according to a Gallup survey commissioned by CNN and USA Today. The poll results say 63 percent of voters are ready to recall Davis, while only 35 percent oppose it. Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, leads by 40 percent. His closest rival, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, has 25 percent of the vote. Independent candidate and political columnist Arianna Huffington has 2 percent.

INJURED: Derrick Pontier, the drummer for Great White (the rock band associated with a deadly Rhode Island nightclub fire in February), was involved in a three-vehicle accident Saturday, a few hours before a Pennsylvania concert, the Associated Press reports. He was treated at a hospital for minor injuries and later released. Police say an oncoming car crossed the centerline and crashed into Pontier’s vehicle. That driver was listed in critical condition. Pontier’s car slammed into another vehicle, and the condition of that driver wasn’t known.

HIRED: In her first screen acting role in more than eight years, Liza Minnelli, 57, will appear in a multi-episode guest arc on FOX’s new comedy “Arrested Development,” says the Hollywood Reporter. The show, set to premiere Nov. 2, revolves around the eccentric Bluth clan, which has to band together after the family patriarch (Jeffrey Tambor) is arrested for fraud and their assets are frozen. Minnelli will play a rich widowed socialite.

DIED: George Plimpton, the noted author (“Paper Lion”) and editor (“The Paris Review”), 76, died in his sleep Thursday night at his Manhattan apartment, reports AP. Praised as a “central figure in American letters” when inducted in 2002 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Plimpton also enjoyed a lifetime of making literature out of nonliterary pursuits. Among film roles, he played the character Bill Ford in “Paper Lion” (1968), a film based on his own account of his brief football career (Alan Alda played Plimpton). He even appeared in an episode of “The Simpsons,” playing a professor who runs a spelling bee. … Actor Stanley Fafara, 54, who played the character Hubert “Whitey” Whitney on TV’s “Leave it to Beaver” from 1957-1963, died Saturday in Portland, Ore., from causes related to chronic Hepatitis C, the Oregonian newspaper reports. Besides the popular sitcom, he also had roles on TV’s “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” and in the 1962 movie “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm,” in which he played Hansel.

NAMED: Lydia Acuna, 24, a Mexican-American from Utah, won the 21st annual Miss Latina U.S. pageant in Cancun, Mexico, over the weekend, becoming the second straight Utah delegate to walk away with the crown, reports AP. Born in Ciudad Obregon in the northern Mexican state of Sonora, Acuna is an economics major at Brigham Young University. She received the crown late Saturday night from reigning Miss Latina U.S., Soraya Elynor Martinez, a Salt Lake City college student who was born in Guatemala.