Sunday, January 09, 2000

Cincinnatian making movie




BY JIM KNIPPENBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        So, what we have this morning is Jim Amatulli betting $1.6 million that the world wants to see Cincinnati on the big screen.

        Specifically, he's ready to go with a film called Artworks, a romance/heist in which a police chief's daughter and her boyfriend steal pricey art from wealthy locals.

        Set in Cincinnati, it will shoot this summer in stately homes in North Avondale and East Walnut Hills, plus an art gallery to be selected.

        So how serious is Amatulli? This serious: He has actor Rick Rossovich (Top Gun, Roxanne, ER) under contract and in town, ready to meet with investors — committed and prospective — Monday at a downtown gallery. An offer to Kelly McGillis (Top Gun, Witness, The Accused) is pending.

        And lest anyone think Amatulli is a newcomer: He has run Amatulli and Assoc. in Over-the-Rhine for 25 years, doing marketing and training videos on a raft of topics.

        “I've been wanting to do this since I got out of college in '69, so I guess it's a 30-year-work in progress. The ball started rolling a year and a half ago when a client gave me a pep talk. Told me to use methods I tell others to use in tapes and get on with it.

        “I did . . . and it worked.”

        PARTY NOTES: Meanwhile, out in Clermont County, we find Bonnie Rabin back from a New Year's Eve of a lifetime: She and husband Steve spent the night on a plane from New York to Los Angeles, celebrating midnight in all U.S. time zones.

        Rabin, recall, is the woman who developed breast cancer in 1995 when she was eight weeks pregnant. Doctors wanted to terminate, but she refused, went through chemotherapy and delivered Jessica on Sept. 23, 1995.

        Rabin's story made her one of eight winners in Goodyear's “Most Gripping Moments” essay contest.

        So she joined the other seven winners and spouses, some Goodyear execs and a handful of other contest winners — 60 people in all — for champagne, balloon drops and confetti blizzards in each time zone.

        Oh yeah, and the cast of Tony "n' Tina's Wedding, the Broadway play about an Italian wedding reception that serves up Cheeze Whiz, insults, bad music and a brawl.

        “At first we thought they were just a bunch of really obnoxious people, but then they got in to the performance and we got it.

        “It was a 24-hour party — on the plane, then the Century Club in L.A. That went 'til 2:30 (a.m.) and we had to leave for the Rose Bowl parade and game at 5. Nobody got much sleep.”

        But lots of celebrating, especially Rabin: “I'm five years cancer free, so I had a reason to party.”

        SEEN AROUND TOWN: The cast of Peter Pan, 35 of them, traipsing around the Zoo Thursday, visiting Cat Ambassador Cathryn Hilker and her cheetahs.

        Barbara McCulloh (Mrs. Darling) organized the field trip and we shouldn't be surprised. She's married to Brad Little, touring as the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera (here in '96).

        Back then, Hilker's Maya was sick with an unexplained illness. Little visited daily, whispering and cuddling. By the time Phantom left, Maya was in good health again. (She has since passed away.)

        Shortly afterward, Little, McCulloh and Broadway Series boss Van Ackerman founded the Angels in Music benefit (there have been two), where touring Broadway stars do a cabaret to benefit Hilker's Angel Fund.

        They have worked on it ever since, so it's no surprise McCulloh organized the trip. Who knows? Might get volunteers for the next Angels benefit out of it.

        Thursday's walk-about wasn't a benefit, just something McCulloh thought would be cool.

        Knip's Eye View appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.