There may be more difficulties brewing with Actors Equity for "Miss Saigon" producer Cameron Mackintosh, who has notified the union that he wants to cast Filipino actress Lea Salonga as Kim, a Vietnamese bargirl. Mackintosh battled the actors union last summer when it turned down his request to allow British actor Jonathan Pryce to re-create his starring role of the Eurasian pimp. Equity's action set off a debate over color-blind casting and minority opportunities onstage. Mackintosh canceled the $10 million production but changed his mind when the union relented, permitting Pryce to appear in the New York run of the show.

Salonga, who played the role of the bargirl in the British production, will need the union's approval to appear in the United States. The agreement between Mackintosh and Equity allowed the producer to hire two non-American, Asian performers for the hit musical, but said he must get special permission for Salonga to star on Broadway. It is not known when the union will meet to consider Mackintosh's request. Out and About

It was all for charity of course: Why else would anyone bid $1,000 to see Secretary of Transportation Sam Skinner do 20 push-ups at Morton's of Chicago steakhouse in Georgetown? It was Tuesday's celebrity waiters dinner to raise funds for the Leukemia Society. People will do silly things for charity, and former Redskin Pete Wysocki agreed to sing "Hail to the Redskins" with a dinner roll in his mouth for $200. House Minority Leader Robert Michel did somewhat better. He raised $600 by singing "White Christmas." What the bidders didn't realize is that Michel, who loves to sing, probably would have paid $600 for the opportunity ...

Tickets for the upcoming Kennedy Center production of "Phantom of the Opera" are going fast, but it was still surprising to receive an invitation in December for a performance of the musical to benefit the Child Protection Center of Children's Hospital. The event won't be until May 30 ...

Milli Vanilli may have lost its Grammy Award, but one of the songs the pair lip-synced is still eligible for a Grammy in next year's voting. Michael Greene, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, said that the song "Blame It on the Rain" could still win a Grammy as the 1991 Song of the Year because the award is presented to the songwriter -- in this case, Diane Warren -- and not the singers. The 1990 Best New Artist Award, stripped from Milli Vanilli artists Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan, will not go to anyone else. The Grammy selection process does not recognize a runner-up ...

New York Shakespeare Festival producer Joseph Papp, who earlier this year turned down more than $700,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts because of what he called "restrictive measures" in the agency's policy, says the festival is having serious money problems. He has announced it will lay off 30 employees at the end of the year. "It's totally a matter of economics," Papp explained. The festival currently employs 123 people. The cutbacks will save the festival, one of New York's leading institutional theaters, about $750,000 a year, Papp said, not far from the amount of federal money he rejected ...