Monday, April 30, 2007

Jessica Sierra wins Mugshot Idol

She was a Top 10 finalist on the Carrie Underwood season of American Idol, and her only recorded song is her rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" on the Idol finalist disc from that season, and until now she's been best known as the target of a stalker who showed up at her grandma's house-- so the fact that she was arrested over the weekend for smashing a cocktail glass on a guy's head probably isn't worth the international attention it's receiving.

But damn, that Jessica Sierra sure makes for a stunning mugshot, doesn't she?

(The mugshot's on the right...)

Poor Jessica, who reportedly has been working as a Hooters waitress in Florida, was busted early Sunday morning by police in Tampa. Police say she was "uncooperative"when they led her away-- and that they had to threaten to shackle her legs because she threatened to kick out the windows of the patrol car.

Jessica was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and cocaine possession. And we've got to feel bad for a performer whose mugshot looks better than her publicity still. It could be a Fergie album cover, no?

(FUN FACT: Hooters and American Idol have a strange affinity this season. Sanjaya Malakar's sister Shyamali was a Hooters waitress in Tacoma, Washington, Top 6 finalist Chris Richardson worked his way up to kitchen supervisor at a Hooters restaurant in Chesapeake, Virginia, and Haley Scarnato should consider a career at one close to her home.)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Jack Valenti is featured in Presidents' Movies DVD

Jack Valenti, an aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson who went on to lead the Motion Picture Association of America and devise the voluntary film-rating system, died yesterday at 85, days before his recollections and anecdotes about the White House theatre and LBJ’s movie tastes will be featured on the DVD version of Frozen Pictures’ monumental documentary series, All The Presidents’ Movies, narrated by Martin Sheen.

“I had an advertising, political consulting agency in Houston. And I had known the vice president and the Senator for years before that, and my agency was handling the press during the visit of President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson to Texas, and I was in Houston and Fort Worth and Dallas. We were going on to Austin. And I was in the motorcade in Dallas when President Kennedy was murdered. And then I was ordered aboard Air Force One by the new President. And I was, I guess, the first of his newly-hired special assistants, and flew back with him on Air Force One, from Dallas to Andrews Field, up at Washington on November 22nd, 1963.

“I left the White House in mid 1966. And from then on out, we were supplying movies. I wanted to make sure that every president and his family could see any new movie that came out. And we would immediately ship it to (projectionist) Paul Fischer at the White House.

“I think it’s useful and valuable for a President to watch a film that the people that he has, by solemn oath, sworn to serve, are also watching. And there is that relevance, that rapport, that connection. I think it’s very helpful to be aware of the popular culture."

Did Dora send Alec Baldwin over the edge?

We didn’t jump on the Alec Baldwin answering machine story when it broke because it was a cheap shot from a sleazy gossip website run by people whodon't have kids; a private matter that involved an eleven-year-old girl. But then Alec fired his agents, tried to quit his TV series, turned to Dr. Phil for advice (just as Pat O'Brien did when his phone machine messages destroyed his image) and today spills his guts to Rosie O'Donnell, the only celebrity perceived as more liberal, dislikable and fat than himself.

And now, there's word that Baldwin has thrown his career into disarray not because of Kim or Ireland--but Dora The Explorer!

When Alec fired his agents at the once-invincible CAA on Monday, conventional wisdom had it that he was pulling out because the once-invincible agency repped his ex. But today our pals at the great Page Six report that Baldwin split because fellow CAA client Will Ferrell and his boys posted a parody video on their website. Baldwin demanded that his agents force the team to remove the clip, and when they didn’t, he walked.

Hey, we would've fired them for The Cat In The Hat.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hey, he's got a point there!

"People in the tabloid media are themselves people who are abused and are people who are living with shameful secrets. They make it their career to humiliate you and expose your secrets. You find out that everybody who works in tabloid media are people who are filled with self-hatred and shame, and the way they manage those feelings, they destroy the lives of other people and reveal your secrets."

-- from Alec Baldwin's interview on "The View"

'Idol Gives Back' kills two

American Idol flaunted its generosity and heart on last night's Idol Gives Back charity show by teasing viewers for two hours about "shocking" voting results, only to forego elimination altogether (two contestants will go home next week). But while Chris Richardson and LaKisha Jones were spared for another seven days, the special was notable for being the first telethon to actually kill two people during the telecast in a ploy for sympathy and donations.

The shocking deaths occurred in two separate segments featuring Idol Angels of Death Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell in Africa. The first victim was a woman in the last stages of AIDS. After Simon helped fold her into the back of a pickup truck for a ride to the hospital, Seacrest announced that she died two days later. A later segment featured a mother rushing her malaria-stricken baby to a hospital, only to have the screen go to black and Seacrest intone that the child didn't make it.

Meanwhile, an attempt to raise the dead--a bizarre, grainy, soft focus segment in which Celine Dion (why the long face?) traded verses with Elvis Presley-- just wasn't as successful-- or shocking.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Jordin or Jerry? You be the judge.

American Idol judge Randy Jackson last night called Jordin Sparks' performance of You'll Never Walk Alone "one of the best vocals by any contestant ever on the show ever in six seasons."

But forget Whitney, Celine, Mariah or Fantasia-- how does the rendition by Coca Cola's anointed Idol winner stack up against Jerry Lewis? After all, even though Idol used the song to kick off tonight's Idol Gives Back charity telethon-Idol elimination show, it's been Jerry's closing number for something like forty years.

Heather Mills gets the boot

Less than a week after Sanjaya Malakar was eliminated mysteriously from American Idol, one-legged "charity campaigner," former porn model, Paul McCartney exploiter and British pariah Heather Mills was sent hopping from Dancing with The Stars, leaving most Americans confused about who she is or why she was on the show for any thing other than freak show value.

Paul McCartney's estranged second wife, who entered his life as he mourned the death of his longtime mate Linda, and entered the competition as a way of rehabilitating her image in the wake of overwhelmingly negative press in the UK surrounding her divorce demands, was constantly hyped in Dancing as the disabled, handicapped, one-legged "charity campaigner." But her performances were marked by superhuman vaults, cartwheels and flips, were made possible by a series of Flubber-like state-of-the-art bionic prosthetic legs that some said gave her an unfair advantage over the other contestants.

Despite that her scores remained low in the past two weeks (Dancing rates contestants on a slippery mix of viewer votes and judges' calls) and she was booted last night.

In an ironic twist, Mills, who is known in the UK for being less than charitable to the "little people" who work for her, pulled out a prepared speech and thanked hairstylists and others who helped her in the past weeks. She claimed her stint on the show helped the animal activist cause, and as a hurried footnote, urged viewers to "go vegan"on Mondays (Dancing's night). That final word may have been a stab at McCartney, whose first wife Linda was the world's foremost vegan activist, and whose upcoming album reportedly contains not only a loving tribute to Linda but a few jabs at his high-maintenance trophy wife.

Throughout her stay on Dancing, Mills was feted with hagiographic tributes and neither McCartney nor her controversial past were ever mentioned. Infotainment shows like Extra! cooperated in providing slobbering selected coverage in an implicit deal to help Mills get a Stateside TV gig. It's unclear whether the ploy backfired.

Now for the conspiracy part...

Now that Heather and her collection of special legs has cleared out of Television City, will Paul McCartney show up on the rival Idol event, which is doing some real charity campaigning this week?

Macca had been rumoured to be a guest mentor on Idol this season. He reportedly backed out of appearing on British Invasion night (and was replaced by the equally legendaryand influential Peter Noone and Lulu) because of Mills' Dancing styint. Should McCartney appear on tonight's Idol Gives Back charity event, we'll be convinced that that everything is connected.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Another take on David Halberstam

Journo David Halberstam reported from Vietnam and the NBA, lived into his seventies, and wound up dying in a car crash on his way to interview Y.A. Tittle. His cardiologist brother was murdered by an escaped convict in 1980. Halberstam never wrote about or commented on the murder. Our Man Elli In Israel wrote Halberstam's profile in the Encyclopedia Judaica:
HALBERSTAM, DAVID (1934- ), journalist, author, historian, biographer, sportswriter, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Halberstam was the younger of two sons born in the Bronx to Charles, a military surgeon whose parents had immigrated from Poland, and Blanche (Levy), a schoolteacher whose parents had come from Lithuania. His father’s work took him to Winsted, Connecticut, El Paso and Austin, Texas, and Rochester, Minn. In 1951 Halberstam graduated Roosevelt High School in Yonkers, N.Y., where he wrote for the school newspaper, and then he attended Harvard College, where he became managing editor of the Crimson. Upon graduation in 1955, Halberstam chose to work in the South, his first job coming at The Daily Times Leader in West Point, Mississippi, the state’s smallest daily newspaper, and seven months later he moved to The Tennessean in Nashville, where he covered the early Civil Rights movement. Halberstam joined the New York Times in 1960, working first in Washington before being assigned to the Congo, and then in September 1962 to the paper’s bureau in Saigon. It was there that Halberstam became a legend as one of a small group of reporters who began to question and speak out against the official administration version of the war in Vietnam, which led U.S. president John F. Kennedy to request that Halberstam be transferred to another bureau. Halberstam’s reporting earned him the George Polk Award in 1963 and the Pulitzer Prize in 1964, for international reporting. In January 1965 he was sent to Poland, where his reporting on the repressive and anti-Semitic policies of the Communist regime led to his being ordered to leave the country. Halberstam then reported from Paris, and in 1967 he left the Times to become a contributing editor for Harper's. He started writing books including The Making of A Quagmire: America and Vietnam During The Kennedy Era (1965), The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy (1969); and Ho (1971), a biography of Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh. But it was his best-selling book, The Best and the Brightest (1972), a critical history of America’s involvement in the Vietnamese conflict, which established Halberstam as an important commentator on American politics and power.

The enormous success of The Best and the Brightest led to a career in writing on a wide range topics filled with anecdotes, metaphors, and a narrative tone usually seen in fiction. It included The Powers That Be (1979) that examined the influence of the news media on American society; The Reckoning: The Challenge to America's Greatness (1986), a comparative history of the Japanese and U.S. automobile industry; The Next Century (1991), on the diminishing educational standards and decline in economic productivity in the U.S.; The Fifties (1993), a look at the decade integrating history, social change, politics and technology and their impact on each other and the world, which was made into an eight-part television series; The Children (1998) about the youth who were part of the Civil Rights movement; War in the Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton, and the Generals (2001), a look at how U.S. domestic politics came to dictate foreign policy, which was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize; and Firehouse (2002), the story of the firefighters who sacrificed their lives on September 11, 200l. Halberstam also wrote fiction: The Noblest Roman (1961) and One Very Hot Day (1968).

Halberstam is also a leading sportswriter, beginning with The Breaks of the Game (1981), an account of his year spent with the Portland Trailblazers, considered among the best books ever written on professional basketball; The Amateurs: The Story of Four Young Men and Their Quest for an Olympic Gold Medal (1985), a study of the world of sculling; Summer of '49 (1989), a look at the drama of the 1949 pennant race; October 1964 (1994), chronicling the season and World Series that was to become the last year of the New York Yankees dynasty; Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World That He Made (1999), documenting the making of a legend; The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship (2003), about the 60-year friendships of baseball players Ted Williams, Dominic DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Bobby Doerr; and The Education of a Coach (2005), an in-depth look at the life and career of NFL coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. Halberstam also edited the anthology, Best American Sports Writing of the Century (1999).

[Elli Wohlgelernter, 2nd Ed.]

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Find three things that upstaged Larry King...

...at tonight's White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

NBC News ratings are in: Screw "humanity" & "sensitivity"!

From tomorrow's LA Times:

While many viewers were repulsed by NBC's decision to broadcast videos and photos from Virginia Tech gunman Seung-hui Cho, the scoop translated into a ratings bonanza for the network.

"NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams," which led its Wednesday broadcast with rambling diatribes the killer recorded and mailed to the network, averaged a 7.5 rating/15 share in the top 55 television markets, according to early data from Nielsen Media Research. That easily bested the competing newscasts on ABC (6.1/12) and CBS (4.2/8).

The numbers are particularly significant because ABC's "World News With Charles Gibson" has lately gained a slight edge in its tight race for the top spot with "Nightly News."

NBC News, which showed off its crass tabloid instincts back at Columbine (see the Tabloid Baby Epilogue) would have done itself a favor by running the Virginia Tech video and photos and then giving them out to everyone-- instead of plastering its ugly logo all over them as if they're an ad for Heroes!

Forget 'Headless Body in Topless Bar'

Tabloid Baby pal and top link Nature Geezer, aka Jack Sanders, legendary New England newspaper editor and wildflower expert, has made it to The Tonight Show with a headline that would make Steve Dunleavy weep!

And don't even get us started on his Woodcock Woes.

Was Sanjaya a victim of Virginia Tech?

We'd predicted he'd be sent home from American Idol the week before the Idol Gives Back charity event (to clear the stage for a new wave of publicity), but Sanjaya Malakar's elimination last night still came as a shock-- and we're sad to see him go.

And it appears that the Virginia Tech incident had at least something to do with his ouster. Chris Richardson's position in the top three signalled that he surely won sympathy votes and saved himself with his words of encouragement to the survivors. And Simon Cowell's "enough is enough-- it's not funny any more" attitude toward Sanjaya on Tuesday night carried more weight because of the pall the tragedy had cast over the show.

There's also the possibility that the ethnicity of the Virginia Tech killer led to anti-Asian sentiment-- and anti-Sanjaya sentiment.

Then again, it could have been his rotten performance!

We'll hear more about that later today. And we'll be hearing more from Sanjaya. Overall, he proved to be a great entertainer in more ways than one. And after all the conjecture about his villainy, the poor kid cried when he had to go.

Look back at the Sanjaya stories here and wonder how Phil Stacey outlasted him...

"Multimedia manifesto" trumps "humanity" & "sensitivity" at NBC News

Remember that memo the morning after the Virginia Tech shootings, in which NBC News' president hailed "the power and humanity" and "sensitivity" of NBC News? We wonder how the victims' families feel about NBC fulfilling the wishes-- and mission-- of the killer.

The sanctimonius hypocrites won't admit it, but a scoop is a scoop.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Heather Mills falls off her leg

Her artificial leg didn't fly off, but Heather Mills fell on her arse and flashed not only her prosthesis but her knickers as she finished the samba last night on Dancing with The Stars.

The tumble in the final moments served the dual purpose of stirring up audience sympathy and showing she's just a down-to-Earth "charity campaigner." Unfortunately, her involvement in the 40-Year-Old Virgin chest-waxing parody in the lead-in package only brought back memories of her past as an S&M porn model.

But did either influence the judges?

Of course not. They've been grading Heather on a curve from the beginning.

Female judge: "The fact that you fell at the end just reminds me of how amazing it is that you're in this competition because you run that risk every time you get on the floor! I have a to take a point off because you fell...but I so appreciate what you did!"

Old British queen: "I wouldn't take a point off for anything that you did tonight!"

Bruno: "You were in a disco diva mode tonight! Studio 54!"

Three sevens.

(And check out Heather's Sanjaya moment in the audience cutaway shots-- except instead of a crying girl, she gets Florence Henderson from The Brady Bunch.)

THE MEMO: Massacre shows "The power-- and humanity-- of NBC News"

Our readers know what national disasters and tragedies mean to the network news organizations: Money. It's a chance to grab new eyeballs, show off their stuff, test out the new technology, demonstrate their sensitivity, beat the competition, spread it around the various platforms, get those one-name star faces-- like Brian, Meredith, Matt and Stone-- up in front, and turn it all into a bite-sized, ratings-grabbing, one-hour specials.

In the words of Jean Giraudoux: "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made."

From: "Capus, Steve (NBC Universal)"
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2007 11:45 AM
Subject: Virginia Tech

The events at Virginia Tech are horrifying, senseless and profoundly upsetting.

I want to thank everyone who stepped up and contributed to NBC's outstanding coverage of these incidents. MSNBC and MSNBC.com provided smart, accurate, non-stop coverage of the events as they unfolded before our stunned eyes.

NBC News Specials moved swiftly with 3 break-ins.

The Netdesk, News Channel and Field Ops somehow managed to get the right people into the right places.

Our broadcasts of Nightly, Dateline and Today covered the events completely and with great sensitivity, grounded in outstanding journalism. To have Brian, Meredith, Matt and Stone on location, leading an incredibly strong group of journalists, demonstrates the power - and humanity - of NBC News.

Dateline NBC scrambled to produce a compelling one-hour special... It was the only such offering by any of the networks in primetime.

The coverage has moved forward today - and we will continue the pursuit. I thank everyone at NBC News for their genuine commitment... and ask all of you to continue to keep the Virginia Tech families in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve Capus

Learn more here.

The Fatal Triangle

Now let's show some decency, Roger, and call Geraldo back to New York.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Cloud 9's breakout star inspires campus craze

Cloud 9, the hilarious sports comedy motion picture starring Burt Reynolds, is exhibiting all the qualities of a cult classic and campus craze-- thanks, in part, to the performance of its breakout star.

Not only are kids photoshopping the well-known Cloud 9 DVD cover to put themselves in place of Burt Reynolds as the king of beach volleyball strippers (above)-- but Cloud 9 viewing parties in rec rooms and dorms feature a new drinking game centered on Katheryn Winnick, who plays the world-weary Russian dancer named Olga.

"Every time her character speaks, we drink until she's finished," a campus source tells us. "Olga rocks!"

Maybe it's because she of the way she says "wodka." But whatever the reason, it's Katheryn whose star has been on the rise since Frozen Pictures' movie about a man's dream to turn a group of strippers into a beach volleyball powerhouse was released last year by 20th Century Fox. And she did it among an impressive, legendary cast that includes Reynolds, D.L. Hughley, Paul Rodriguez, Angie Everhart, Gabrielle Reece, Tom Arnold, Tony Danza, Gary Busey and a host of young talent.

First it was her performance as Ivana Trump in ABC's biopic, Trump Unauthorized, then well-received roles in films like Failure To Launch and TV dramas like CSI: NY and House.

And last month, after she was replaced in the pilot for a Fox comedy series called Nurses, Fox turned around and signed her to a new, six-figure talent deal-- for a new dramatic series.

"Olga was originally written as 'Inga,' the stereotypical Swedish bombshell," says Brett Hudson, who wrote and produced Cloud 9 with his Frozen Pictures partner Burt Kearns and Academy Award winner (The Godfather, Million Dollar Baby) Albert S. Ruddy. "It was a tribute to the dumb blondes of the Sixties. We were looking at Victoria Silvstedt to take the role when Katheryn showed up and played it Russian. The director convinced the rest of us to make the change."

"Katheryn's no dumb blonde. She's an actress," Kearns adds. "And I think it's a combination of our comedic writing and her intense delivery that resulted in comic gold. We knew when we were filming on the beach in Malibu that she had real star power.

"She reminded us of a young Sharon Stone."

When Hudson and Kearns wrote the script for their upcoming film, Psych House, they had Winnick in mind for a major role in the psychological horror.

"No announcements yet," Hudson cautioned. "But Katheryn's a horror fan. And we're fans of hers."

"And we don't encourage underage drinking," Kearns adds.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sanjaya, Surya, Sanurya, Surjaya-- and Imus

All this attention focused on American Idol fave Sanjaya Malakar has become a royal pain for another Indian-American reality series contestant.

Tabloid Baby pal Surya "Chili" Yalamanchili was fired by Donald Trump in Episode 8 of The Apprentice: LA (though he was our initial favorite to win). When we last checked in with the pride of Cincinatti, Surya told us he wasn't following Idol.

But now, he's let us know that Idol is following him:

For the past 2 weeks, a very interesting phenomenon has occurred. And by "interesting," I actually mean "terrible annoying." When strangers come up to me these days they call me "Sanjaya."

...If you've seen the show you'd know that I look absolutely nothing like him, and you know, there's the fact that I'm not... 16 years old. But anyway, if they don't call me "Sanjaya", the second most common is a "Surya"-"Sanjaya" mix.

Sanurya. Surjaya. Whatever. And yes, I'm being totally serious...

Most distressing. The brilliant Don Imus recently ran into a little bit of trouble by calling some lovely ladies from my alma mater, Rutgers, a few poorly chosen names. I find it hard to believe that other people, likely far more intelligent that Don Imus, can't seem to tell apart two very different looking Indian-Americans who were on TV.

Well, I guess they can tell us apart, they just can't remember our names. Or rather, they can remember his name, but not my name.

If there's any justice in the world, somewhere, wherever that Sanjaya kid lives (or stays... I have no idea how Idol films as I've never seen it), people are coming up to him and asking him about his fascination with whiteboards and the word "absurd."

Read the complete post and more of Surya's musings on his blogsite. And we don't know about you, but we can't wait for the Surya cartoon series.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

His "friends" expose Sanjaya as a subversive

If his fauxhawk version of "You Really Got Me" showed that young Sanjaya Malakar has got American Idol in the palm of his hand, last night's revelatory performance of "Besame Mucho" revealed much more.

And it wasn't the fact that his controversial hairstyling has crept down to cover his upper lip and chin (sort of). It was the group in the audience identified as "Sanjaya's friends." High-fiving, possibly high and sharing a seat with Sanjaya's demure Hooter's waitress sister Shyamali, were two of reality television's most anarchic figures.

Watch the video and see Tom Lowe, the controversial openly-gay adult British Idol contestant, with "BJ" Averell, one of the Hippies who won the ninth Amazing Race, acting as if they were under the influence of something other than Sanjaya.

Lowe caused a mini-stir this season after he showed up at the Seattle auditions (where Sanjaya and his sister went through) and was soon outed as a former member of a boyband that had been under contract to Simon Cowell's label. Lowe was featured in an extended segment that was shown only in the UK Idol feed, leading to speculation that he was a ringer inserted into the mix to boost ratings there.

As the scandal erupted, he vanished mysteriously once the show moved to Hollywood.

And BJ, the merry prankster (left), has been caught doing some strange male bonding of his own--

So what gives? Now that they've adopted Sanjaya, or vice versa... something strange is definitely in the air at Idol.

Something's up. And it's got nothing to do with Howard Stern.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bonaduce announces divorce, steals radio show

Danny Bonaduce has livened up morning radio in LA since he was forced into the mix at the low-rated, monotonous and amateurish Adam Carolla show that replaced Howard Stern. While Carolla, whose job is protected by BFF Jimmy Kimmel's contract as a "comedy consultant" to the station group, continues his sour, droning, know-it-all dummy rants about dry-walling and left-turn signals, Bonaduce has added a lowbrow Sternian dose of reality.

And this morning, he took the show to a compelling new level that Carolla couldn't have imagined when he announced that he and his red-haired songstress wife Gretchen-- costar of his VH1 hyper-reality TV show Breaking Bonaduce-- are heading for a divorce.

Breaking chronicles Bonaduce's problems with drugs, alcohol, anger management-- and his marriage, so his revelation was a taser dart in the drabness, riding herd over an interview with an actress from ABC's Notes from The Underbelly.

Carolla, oblivious to the broadcast gold, tried to move things along, promising more guests to come-- until he obviously received a sleepy morning phone call from his guru during a commercial break, because he returned to state with great solemnity that a special announcement from Jimmy Kimmel would be saved until tomorrow.

Then Bonaduce took over. He said he doesn't want the divorce and loves his wife but-- demonstrating his skill in creating radio soap opera-- promised to be having sex with another woman by 3:30 in the afternoon.

He also said he warned Gretchen in a phone call last night that if she pushes him too far, he'll drag out the divorce, show up naked and drunk at the radio station, lose his job, go to jail and let her and their two kids starve.

Bonaduce said he apologized immediately, but no one believes the threat isn't real.

Stay tuned!

And that, Carolla, is good radio.

Monday, April 09, 2007

THE MEMO: NBC weenies cover their asses because their Meet The Press host Tim Russert is a regular on a show whose racism they've coddled for decades

From: Capus, Steve (NBC Universal)
Subject: Don Imus

This afternoon we took decisive action as it relates to the deplorable comments by Don Imus on his nationally broadcast radio program.

We've suspended the Imus MSNBC simulcast for two weeks, beginning next Monday.

We decided to start the suspension on Monday because we did not want to do anything to hurt the previously scheduled radiothon which raises money for some truly worthwhile organizations.

The fact that Imus devotes a great deal of energy to that radiothon every year speaks in large measure to who he is. However, it is also true that many people will define Imus by his own hateful words about the Rutgers women's basketball team. He made it very clear all day today that he understands the level of pain associated with his words and he's devoted to a true effort of reconciliation. I take Imus at his word that he is going to continue to take serious, meaningful corrective actions.

The dialogue that has begun as a result of this terrible incident is felt in the heart and souls of NBC employees. For example, Ron Allen wrote an extremely powerful commentary on this matter in the MSNBC.com "Daily Nightly" blog. I've also heard from a number of people who have expressed their thoughts in support of Imus in general... and against his actions. This internal dialogue is healthy for our organization.

I want all of us to be mindful of the diversity issues we have in our control. Think long and hard about the people we choose to use as pundits... for sound bites ... and to help shape our journalism. Let's make sure that our work is reflective of America. Let's encourage a diversity of opinion in our newsrooms. Let's do all we can to ensure a diverse workforce at all levels of our organizations. Speak up quickly when you see or hear something that is not right. That is the culture of NBC News, at our best. And to be clear, I want nothing but the best FROM this organization and FOR this organization.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sanjaya, Idol, India, racism & Ravi Ravinder

Sunday newspapers around the world are picking up an Associated Press story claiming that support from India has nothing to do with Sanjaya Malakar's success on American Idol. The article also flips off the Indian phone center theories with "most workers have calls automatically dialed for them by computers. They couldn't even call next door if they wanted to." But a check of popular Indian blogsites, including India Uncut, whose founder is quoted in the article calling Sanjaya "an object of ridicule" in India, show that interest is high. (See an Indian site's compilation of Sanjaya-related video clips here.)

And for the first time, the popular Uber Desi website, whose postings helped launch the call center theories, is suggesting that racism may be at the root of the anti-Sanjaya movement (see Celebrity Big Brother UK):

"...Is it really Sanjaya's singing why so many folks in America hate him or is it the color of the skin that is making them uncomfortable and hence the hatred?"

And there's another reason why Sanjaya's story is reverberating through India and the Desi community around the world: His rise on Idol is drawing many comparisons to a contestant on the first season of Indian Idol.

Two years ago, an impoverished Punjabi housepainter named Ravi Ravinder became the public's favourite after he sang "Khuda bhi aasman se jab zamin pe dekhta hoga."

And then all hell broke loose.

Because Ravi lacked any formal training, the judges became more frustrated as "talented" singers were voted off and he stayed in. Judge Anu Malik hated Ravi more than Simon Cowell hates Sanjaya-- and spoke these words long before Randy Jackson threw up his arms: "I have nothing to say to you because it seems our words carry no weight and the people of India seem to love you."

Said another judge: "I hope the people of India realize that they have to vote for someone who will represent the country. It's high time we started acting in a mature manner instead of being emotional fools."

Ravi became the most talked-about contestant on the show. Each week he survived, there were more conspiracy theories about voting irregularities and lost phone calls. And all the controversy and fuming judges only translated into more votes.

He made it to the Top 5. When he was finally voted off, some charged that the vote was fixed against him!. After Idol, Ravi was cleaned up and became a bigger star than ever. He released an album, accompanied by a music video shot in Barcelona and starring a former Miss Norway and is one of the busiest Indian Idol performers.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Idol producer ridicules Stern's Sanjaya claim

The morning after Sanjaya Malakar turned in another memorable, winning performance on American Idol and inspired an audience member's sign that read "Sanjaya is my Papaya," one of the show's executive producers says Tabloid Baby was correct in reporting that Howard Stern listeners have nothing to do with his success in the competition.

Ken Warwick says that even if all of Howard's listeners voted-- or if any other radio campaign was started-- they wouldn't make up the difference that Sanjaya has over the contestants below him-- or above him-- in the weekly phone-in votes.

"There is very little hype anybody can do to affect the vast numbers of votes we get," he says.

Warwick also tells the New York Daily News that Idol's technical staff has the ability to trace each of the 40 million calls the show receives each week--and to identify or stop electronic voting-- though they've not spotted a problem so far.

Howard has reportedly bragged that he and a website that urge people to vote for the worst contestants have kept Sanjaya in the running-- to ruin Idol's credibility. We reported that the claim was probably unfounded, due to the fact that Stern has virtually disappeared from the pop culture radar screen since he left radio and millions of listeners for big money but a small audience on a pay-satellite show.

Howard has also ignored Sanjaya's obvious audience appeal, which crosses generations and cultures, his attention-getting showmanship-- and his vocal talent, which was praised last night by no less than Tony Bennett, the music great who Frank Sinatra called "the best singer in the business."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sanjaya inspires a Heather Mills hunger strike

Now how would an anonymous woman claiming she'd gone on a hunger strike until Sanjaya Malakar was eliminated from American Idol become international news? The story seemed to be a fake from the start, and more so when it was propped up and pimped by a sleazy corporate infotainment website, and now it appears to have been a hoax sponsored by a weight-loss program.

But anger over Heather Mills exploiting the disabled on Dancing with The Stars? That sounds righteous, and this young man seems sincere.

Let's see if he gets half as much attention.

Is Heather Mills cheating?

The promotion for Dancing with The Stars makes it clear that one celebrity comes to the dance floor with a tremendous handicap. But three weeks into the competition, many are saying that the combination of judges' sympathy and state-of-the-art bionic prosthetics are giving the one-legged, Beatle-fleecing porn model-turned- "charity campaigner" Heather Mills an unfair leg up on the competition. (Apologies for the "leg up" pun).

Mills, a hated figure in Britain because of her ugly divorce battle with the beloved Paul McCartney, is using the show to rehabilitate her image and perhaps begin a Sarah Ferguson-like career in the States. From the beginning, she's played along with the producers' crass promotion, expressing fears that her fake leg will fly off on live television, and playing up her disability by walking down the stage stairway like Jerry Lewis in Cinderfella.

Yet, for two weeks in a row, she's executed superfluous backflips during her dance routines, landing hard on the prosthetic and rebounding like the Son of Flubber. The controversial secret was revealed in the video package that preceded her dance.

Mills was shown stumbling and fumbling in rehearsals, and complaining that she'd be unable to dance "The Jive" because "You try and hop on a leg that's like concrete and the other leg bounces up and down like a trampoline."

But then she said she'd "go and see the "prosthestist" for relief.

Her words came as a jolt, since Mills, who's been accused of being a former call girl, pronounced the word "PROS-the-thist," leaving the impression she was going to visit some hookers.

No such luck.

She was next shown being fitted with a new, "special" leg that, after adjustments and tightening, allowed her to dance and bounce with ease.

That, combined with a second show-offy cartwheel, was enough to win more sympathy points from the judges and put her in a four-way tie for first place with Joey Fatone, Ian Ziering and Leeza Gibbons. Judge Bruno Tonioli called her "the incredible Heather Mills": "One, two, three legs, I don't care how many-- you did a fantastic job."

Reports say Mills paid for the special leg herself. There is no indication that show producers examined it. Is this the equivalent of a corked bat in baseball? Or worse--steroids?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Dr. Ruehl guests on Tom Green's show

Dr. Franklin Ruehl is the special guest on The Tom Green Show tomorrow, Monday, April 2nd, at 11 pm Eastern time. Green's show broadcasts from his house, over the Internet.

You can click here right now to see Dr. Ruehl and other episodes on demand.

Dr. Ruehl, of course, was a legendary figure on public access television before his fame and appearances spread to syndicated and network television. His public access show, Mysteries from Beyond The Other Dominion, continues to be a public access winner.

And though Green's web show is a long way from his heyday on MTV and in the movies, as you can see by the schedule above, he gets better guests than Craig Ferguson.