* The voice of the young narrator in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was based on a 10-year-old black servant the author had met, a scholar says. The theory, proposed by University of Texas professor Shelley Fisher Fishkin, could lead to a reconsideration of the classic tale, which has been banned in some places because of its attitudes and language, especially use of the word nigger.
Twain supporters argue Huck Finn's language in the story was meant to expose racial intolerance.
Although Twain said Huck was based on Tom Blankenship, a poor white boy in Hannibal, Mo., Fishkin said Huck's voice really belongs to a boy described by Twain in an 1874 article in the New York Times, titled "Sociable Jimmy."
"Jimmy" and Huck repeat the same words and often make the same mistakes, such as using adjectives in place of adverbs, says Fishkin. In addition, both boys have only a "Pa" as real family and both "Pa's" drink too much.
"Clearly, Jimmy's speech was ringing in Twain's head when he was writing Huckleberry Finn," Fishkin says.
* Ringo Starr, on tour with his All-Starr Band, received a rapturous welcome in Liverpool, the home of the Beatles. "Thank you. It's great to be back," he told the crowd of about 2,000 on Monday night. Starr, 52, and the band performed "You're 16," "Photograph" and "I'm the Greatest." When Starr held up a model submarine during the Beatles song "Yellow Submarine," he received his loudest cheers.
* Michael Keaton in People magazine speaks of the thrills of suiting up as Batman: "This kinda big guy in black rubber walking around kickin' butt is, at moments, tremendous fun, but I'm immature, so don't go by me."
Jay Leno, on Hillary Clinton saying she'd quit her law practice if her husband, Bill, became president: "That should be his campaign slogan, 'Vote for me and there will be one less lawyer in the world.' "
Actor-singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson, a Rhodes scholar and Ross Perot supporter, on his intellectual credentials, in Entertainment Weekly: "I think between us, Bill Clinton and I have settled any lingering myths about the brilliance of Rhodes scholars."
Eddie Murphy, on his ever-present entourage, in Premiere magazine: "I go to these premieres and all these Hollywood things. There aren't a lot of black people at Spago. I'm not going to be the only black person in a room full of white people. (Bleep) that. I'm bringin' my crew with me. In case somethin' go down, I won't be the only one. You tell me one famous white guy that'd go into a room full of black people by himself. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, with all his muscles, will not be walkin' into (a black club such as) the Speakeasy by
himself. I'm sorry. And that's not racist. This is America, and that's the reality of the situation."
* So you wanna be in pictures? Greg Mason, a casting director for Walt Disney Productions, will be in town this Friday, looking for a boy and girl between 8 and 13 years old, of any race, to play lead roles in Life With Mikey, starring Michael J. Fox. In the movie, Fox plays a talent agent who discovers two child actors who turn out to be big stars. Those interested in a crack at Hollywood should show up between 1 and 5 p.m. at the Actors Center, Suite 300, 1627 Walnut St. The phone number: 215-568-4300. No experience necessary.
A NEW TACK
* Yet another man named Ted Turner is making waves by sailing them. Pro yachtsman Ted (Teddy) Turner 4th - son of Ted III, media king and 1977 America's Cup capturer - is gearing up for his toughest saltwater safari yet: next year's Whitbread Round the World Race. He ditched a career in his father's TV empire without regret for the privilege of circling the globe in a 60-foot boat: "The phones don't ring. You don't have to fight moving traffic." Dad's new wife, Jane Fonda, isn't really sailing material, the younger Turner observes.
* In a wide-ranging interview with David Frost, taped at the Playhouse theater in London, John Gielgud, the quintessential Shakespearean actor, says Laurence Olivier was "a much more inventive impersonator because I was very narcissistic and rather self-obsessed." Nevertheless, says Gielgud, Olivier was "jealous of my verse speaking being admired because he thought he spoke it just as well as I did . . . and, of course, I was a star before he was." Gielgud, who became an Oscar-winning movie star for Arthur at age 78, says Olivier was also jealous of Gielgud's friendship with Olivier's wife, Vivien Leigh, with whom they both worked. "She was very obedient, she adored him," Gielgud says, "but she also liked me very much and there was a quandary as to who she must be loyal to." In the interview, to be broadcast on . . . Talking with David Frost on July 24 at 9 p.m. on PBS, Gielgud mourns Leigh's eventual physical decline, saying, "When she had her breakdown . . . her face would swell, her handwriting would go funny. It was terrible to see her sort of disintegrating before your eyes."
* In case you had any lingering doubts, the '60s are now over. Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead's lead guitarist/singer, now has his own line of neckties! That means his fans can be corporate and hip at the same time! Garcia has dabbled in art for 25 years. Irwin Stoneberg, president of neckwear maker Stonehenge Ltd, recently saw his work and finagled a collaboration. The ties ($28.50) will be launched in New York at Bloomingdale's 59th Street store Saturday, in time for the Democratic National Convention. "We wanted to give the delegates a chance to see the line first," says Bloomie's Nicki Hedrick. ''We figured there would be a lot of former Deadheads there."