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September 2005 Archives

Emmy Winner Sparks Relief Effort

September 26, 2005 12:00 AM

Patricia Arquette, who won an Emmy last week for her starring role in NBC's "Medium," has been using her celebrity to rally support for Relief Spark, an effort to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina. She calls the government response to the disaster "frustrating and heartbreaking." Her efforts include rounding up support from television executives and fellow stars to provide assistance and donate supplies. "It's wartime!" she told Blink. "And everybody needs to cinch their belts and give what they can." Based at the Van Nuys, Calif., airport, Relief Spark volunteers have been sending truckloads of tools, food and rebuilding supplies to Mississippi and Louisiana and making sure everything gets delivered to the people who need it most. "These people lost everything. They need things like pet supplies and cleaning supplies-bureaucracy-free," Ms. Arquette said. TV show "CSI" donated diapers; "Alias" and "Lost" productions sent clothes. Do-it-yourself diva Barbara K donated $50,000 worth of her line of tools. And "Blow Out" star Jonathan Antin sent 1,000 bottles of his Jonathan Product shampoo and conditioner. "You can buy food in bulk or buy 10 brooms at the 99 Cent Store for 64 cents each," Ms. Arquette said. "If you give it to us, as soon as we get it, we'll send it." -NATALIE VERDUGO



Air Kisses for Everybody

Syndicated entertainment newsmagazines, which battle ferociously for viewers, scoops and media attention, are rarely shy about throwing barbs at competitors, especially after one rival raids another for talent. However, that wasn't the case on the red carpet at the Emmys. Former "Entertainment Tonight" correspondent Maria Menounos was doing interviews for her new employers at "Access Hollywood" and "Today" in a booth catty-corner from the stand for "ET" spinoff "The Insider." It was there that Blink spotted a dramatic and unusual display of camaraderie that made us, well, blink. "The Insider's" Lara Spencer started it off. She threw a verbal bouquet of compliments to Ms. Menounos, including: "Keep up the great work, Maria!" Ms. Menounos returned the niceties, and then "Insider's" Pat O'Brien dove through the crowd, across the red carpet to embrace Ms. Menounos over a velvet rope. "When I see my former colleagues, many of which I love and miss," Ms. Menounos said later, "it's always wonderful." -MELISSA GREGO



Brain Trust

Now here's an odd couple: Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and CBS's Charles Osgood. Both have signed on as spokesmen for brainSpeed, a nutritional supplement touted for its ability to boost memory, attention span and mental agility. The public company behind it, Natrol, is promoting the supplement as exercise for the brain. Mr. O'Reilly will voice the ad spots during his two-hour syndicated daily Westwood One radio show, "The Radio Factor," while Mr. Osgood will do the same on his daily Westwood One radio show, "The Osgood File." Mr. Osgood said in a statement that as a journalist he is intrigued by new ideas on the processing of information. Paul Gregrey, Westwood One's executive VP of sales and marketing, said all of the company's radio personalities have the right to refuse to do an ad if they don't support the product. He said Mr. O'Reilly, with his do-what-I-say intensity, was a perfect fit. "He's a forceful personality, [and with Mr. Osgood] they're getting the best of both worlds," Mr. Gregrey said. "Bill is a little bombastic and Charlie is a bit softer." -NATALIE FINN

Danny Goes Down the Wrong Road … Again

September 19, 2005 12:00 AM

According to Danny Bonaduce, his reality series for VH1 was supposed to be a "very cute, happy-go-lucky show" featuring Gretchen and their two children. Instead, "Breaking Bonaduce," the latest look at the former child star, who played Danny on "The Partridge Family" (1970-74), became a chronicle of another downward spiral. And in the upside-down logic of the star, that was just fine. At one point during the period the show was being taped, Mr. Bonaduce recalled, he had been locked up for 72 hours in a psych ward after a drug-induced freakout. "When my wife came [alone] to pick me up, I said, 'Where's the crew? Of course I want the cameras here!'" he told his wife. VH1 threatened to stop production as Mr. Bonaduce's behavior became increasingly self-destructive, but he insisted the show go on. "I was literally spinning out of control," he said, "and it was a bad call [by VH1]. ... Any network worth their salt would want to be there." He attributed the show's change in tone to his "chemical composition" and on-camera therapy sessions. "The doctor was prodding and poking around my life," he said. "I explained to him in no uncertain terms that I didn't like that. It got ugly and it stayed ugly." Future episodes show him in emotional collapse, taking steroids and boozing. Before the show aired, Mr. Bonaduce agreed with VH1 to enter rehab. He's currently sober. -Natalie Finn





Spell THE WORD B-R-O-A-D-W-A-Y

Two of the latest stars on Broadway are Larry Aidem, president and CEO of the Sundance Channel, and Shelly Good-Cook, director of membership marketing at CTAM. Both performed on stage, in the Tony Award-winning musical-comedy "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" on Sept. 13, during a performance that was a fund raiser for Cable Positive. "Spelling Bee" chooses audience members to participate in each show. Mr. Aidem was approaching center stage to spell a word when it was announced, good-humoredly, that he does impressions of Kevin Kline. Mr. Aidem, who bears a passing resemblance to Mr. Kline, then proceeded to blow the spelling of his word. Ms. Good-Cook had better luck. As she was getting up to spell her name, she was announced as having recently come in second in a regional spelling bee that was won by a contestant named "Great-Cook." And she did spell her word, "jihad," correctly. -Chuck Ross





Getting Connected

It was a panel on the influence of women in cable TV, but some revelations at last week's Women In Cable & Telecommunications Executive Women's Luncheon in New York got very personal. Betty Cohen, named president and CEO of Lifetime earlier this year, lamented that her husband still lives in another city and won't join her permanently in New York until the end of the year. Brooke Johnson, president of Food Network, said, "Being a working mother is living with guilt." Lynne Costantini, senior VP of programming for Time Warner Cable, said she and her husband thought they could do "the Superman thing"-have a two-career family and kids-but it was impossible. She now rushes from the office to take her kids to games or lessons while returning e-mails on her BlackBerry as she waits at traffic lights. She also uses connectivity to stay in touch with her family: "I'm starting to have conference calls with my kids." Holly Leff, exec VP and general manager of television and on-demand for Nielsen Entertainment, said that on the same day she started her job a year ago, she learned she had breast cancer. During the early months of her treatments, she often worked from home: "Having the ability to work remotely … allowed me to survive the whole ordeal." -Alex Ben Block

Using Their Fame to Benefit Hurricane Relief

September 12, 2005 12:00 AM

Numerous celebrities have come forward to help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Now add to that list some of the great stars of television's past. Carol Burnett, Bill Cosby, Ted Danson, Tony Danza, Florence Henderson, Alyssa Milano, Mary Tyler Moore, Rob Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, Phylicia Rashad and Henry Winkler will appear together in a public service announcement designed to support the Red Cross. The 30-second spot, scheduled to premiere Sept. 15, will be carried on Viacom's Nick at Nite and TV Land and will be available to other outlets. Larry Jones, president of Nick at Nite and TV Land, said, "The most exciting thing to me was that the talent was so ready and willing to help. It was very quick, and I've got to tell you, it was easy." The PSA is being directed by Gil Cope, who has directed commercials for Coke, Levi's and Mercedes. -NATALIE FINN



Pitching In

Show business last week continued its outpouring of aid. Blink notes its generosity.



Individuals

Director Steven Spielberg and family are donating $1.5 million. … Farm Aid, founded by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young, pledged to help rural areas of the Gulf Coast and has asked the U.S. Agriculture Department to set aside farm loan payments in the region. … The Rolling Stones announced a $1 million donation to the Red Cross and will place donation booths in their concert venues. … Actors Hilary Duff, Hank Azaria, Shannon Elizabeth and Jennifer Tilly will compete for a $100,000 donation to the Red Cross in a celebrity poker tournament hosted by www.BosPoker.com. … Oprah Winfrey contributed $1 million to America's Second Harvest (food and grocery supplies). … Stars from ABC soap dramas "All My Children," "One Life to Live" and "General Hospital" appeared on "The View" for Operation: Soap Hope (Sept. 7-9) to help the Red Cross and the Points of Light Foundation & Volunteer Center National Network. … Ellen DeGeneres said on her Sept. 5 show that Warner Bros. was donating $500,000 and would match additional donations of up to $500,000, not a lower amount previously reported (Blink, Sept. 5).



Industry

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association created the Cable Hope Fund to benefit cable industry employees and other victims. … The National Association of Broadcasters has announced an initiative to distribute 1,300 battery-operated hand-held television sets to public safety officials . … The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which puts on the Golden Globe Awards, donated $250,000 to the Red Cross. … The McCormick Tribune Foundation matched $2 million in donations made to its Hurricane Katrina Relief Campaign, with help from Tribune stations. ... Aiding the Red Cross were LIN TV's WTNH-TV, New Haven-Hartford, Conn., which donated more than $600,000. … KGUN-TV, Tucson, Ariz., raised more than $150,000. … Westwind Communications' KBAK-TV, Bakersfield, Calif., raised $135,000. … Cox's WSB-TV, Atlanta, with WSB Radio raised more than $3.3 million. ... And many others helped too. -NATALIE FINN



A Kinky Series

"In times of crisis this great, we have no opponents, only common enemies, in this case, hunger, disease and worse, and whether we live in Texas or Massachusetts, we are all in this together." So wrote iconoclastic Texas renaissance man Kinky Friedman last week on his Web site, encouraging contributions to the Red Cross disaster relief fund. Now CMT has ordered two half-hour docu-soap specials following the humorist, musician and author, who is running for governor of Texas in 2006 under the slogan "How hard can it be?" The country music network will premiere the specials in November and may order a full series if Mr. Friedman gets enough votes from viewers. His proposed platform includes banning the declawing of cats and making Willie Nelson head of the state police, the Texas Rangers. -JAMES HIBBERD

Connick Captures Spirit of New Orleans as Industry Rallies to Cause

September 5, 2005 12:00 AM

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans/When that's where you left your heart?

Those lyrics from the song "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," recorded by Harry Connick Jr., had special poignancy last week in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. No one was more visible in the recovery efforts than Mr. Connick. The singer and actor asked for donations to be sent to Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild the city where he grew up and where his father was district attorney for 28 years, until 2003. "Everything that I have professionally and so much of what I have personally is because of this great, fair city, and to see it being drowned like this is almost unbearable," he said on NBC's "Today" show. His voice cracking with emotion, Mr. Connick added that he had no doubt New Orleans would recover. "These people are freakishly strong and passionate about this city," he said. As soon as the disaster hit, Mr. Connick called NBC personally to offer his services and encourage the network to embrace relief efforts. He soon appeared from New Orleans on both "Today" and "Nightly News With Brian Williams." He continues to contribute special reports for NBC News and was scheduled to be a headliner, along with Leonardo DiCaprio and fellow Louisianans singer Tim McGraw and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, on an hour-long telethon, "A Concert for Hurricane Relief," which was scheduled to be simulcast last Friday evening on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC and on Sirius Satellite Radio. -NATALIE FINN



Telethons And Network Events

Along with the rest of the nation, numerous show business figures and media companies have lent their support to aid the victims. In addition to the concert on NBC, all six broadcast networks agreed to simulcast a live one-hour commercial-free special, "Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast," as a salute to "the brave citizens in the devastated areas" and to "rescue personnel guiding relief efforts in the region," according to a joint press release. Joel Gallen, who produced "America: A Tribute to Heroes" after the 9/11 attack on America, is producing.

Another effort is a special edition of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"-Ellen DeGeneres is a New Orleans native-to raise funds, scheduled to air today. The Warner Bros. show will match donations up to $50,000.

On Tuesday evening Jay Leno will have celebrities on "The Tonight Show" sign a donated Harley-Davidson motorcycle that will be auctioned off for the American Red Cross on eBay.

Viacom networks MTV, VH1 and CMT plan to do a telethon Sept. 10 featuring top musical acts, including Green Day, Alicia Keys and The Dave Matthews Band. Viacom's BET network will have a fund-raiser Sept. 9, hosted by Chris Rock and with appearances by Master P, Wynton Marsalis, Russell Simmons and others.



TV Stations

Numerous individual TV stations were raising relief funds and broadcasting public service messages, including WFAA-TV in Dallas, WISN-TV in Milwaukee, WCAU-TV in Philadelphia, KHOU-TV in Houston, WPLG-TV in Miami, KCAL-TV in Los Angeles, WNYW-TV in New York and WPTY-TV and WLMT-TV in Memphis, Tenn. The National Association of Broadcasters donated $1 million to the American Red Cross and designated Sept. 9 as Broadcast Unity Day, a day for stations to raise additional funds.



Celebrities

Actor Morgan Freeman organized an online auction (www.charityfolks.com) to benefit the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. … Singer Celine Dion, with partners Concerts West/AEG and Dragone, donated $1 million to the Red Cross. … Tennis star Serena Williams pledged $100 for every ace she serves for the rest of this year. … Tennis great John McEnroe pledged $25,000. … Actor Nicolas Cage donated $1 million to the Red Cross. … Actress Hilary Duff pledged $250,000, of which $200,000 went to the Red Cross and $50,000 to USA Harvest, which is supplying food shelters. … Rap artists Sean "Diddy" Combs and Jay-Z together pledged $1 million to the Red Cross.



Media Companies

News Corp. pledged $1 million to the Salvation Army and will match employees' contributions. … Viacom donated $1 million to the American Red Cross. … The Walt Disney Co. gave $2.5 million. … Comcast Corp. and the Comcast Foundation donated $10 million worth of advertising time and $50 million in cash to the Red Cross. … Weather Channel gave $1 million to the Red Cross. … QVC pledged to raise $3 million for the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund. -NATALIE FINN, NATALIE VERDUGO and CHRISTOPHER LISOTTA





Liar's Poker?

A key to the success of Texas hold 'em poker on TV is that the viewer can see the two hole cards the player has been dealt. But what if the cards in the on-screen graphic aren't the same as what the player actually had? Apparently it can happen. When ESPN's "World Series of Poker" is shot, only the main table has cameras that show the hole cards. So to do analysis at other tables, ESPN sometimes relies on a player's honesty. (Professional poker players, who often love to bluff, can laugh now.) Last week Bob Chesterman, ESPN's coordinating producer, admitted the practice in an e-mail sent to players who questioned the production process. "In some cases, when we can trust the player, we ask them what they had afterwards," he wrote. That brought a caustic reaction from a fan on a poker message board: "Providing an accurate look at hole cards is vital to the show. Without hole-card integrity, ESPN poker is no more a legitimate sport/game than pro wrestling." An ESPN publicist, who apparently knows when to fold 'em, had no comment. -JAMES HIBBERD



Lucy & the Loudmouth

In her new book "Laughing With Lucy," pioneering TV writer Madelyn Pugh Davis, co-creator (with Jess Oppenheimer and Bob Carroll Jr.) of the enduring "I Love Lucy" series, recalls it wasn't all laughs. As the sole woman writer, one of Ms. Davis' unspoken duties was to monitor the star's wardrobe because, while Lucille Ball was a phenomenal talent, choosing stylish wardrobe wasn't among her gifts. One day, flummoxed over an unflattering skirt the star had chosen to wear in an episode, Ms. Davis pondered the awkwardness involved in telling another woman-particularly a TV mega-star-that her outfit was, well, ungainly. She decided a well-placed ally was the answer. So Ms. Davis approached the show's executive producer, Ms. Ball's co-star/husband Desi Arnaz, for an assist. To Ms. Davis' dismay, Mr. Arnaz reacted like a hapless husband instead of a diplomatic producer: He turned and called loudly to Ms. Ball in front of the cast and crew, "Honey, Madelyn thinks that skirt makes you look fat!" -TOM GILBERT