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The Insider

Jul 29, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The art of the party, gore of the lore
The Summer 2002 Television Critics Association tour is history. For those readers who like The Insider were leading their no-life lives at home while the critics were trying to get their arms around the upcoming TV season, we offer this postscript on the lighter side of the three-week session: the parties and the incidents sure to become lore.
According to an informal (verrrrrry informal) survey of people (OK, editors) who attended more than one official party, Fox’s bash at the Mondrian Hotel’s Sky Bar was the hippest event, with a henna tattoo booth and an aquatic variation on the fortune cookie theme. NBC’s carnival-themed extraganza on the grounds of the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena, Calif., broke the most ground (a chance to drop NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker into the dunk tank). The WB’s party was the most forward-looking. The Don’t-call-us-a-netlet folks transported the TCA members to poolside at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood, site of the upcoming January press tour, in hopes of soothing fears that the new hotel won’t be as happy a home away from home as the Ritz has been since the early `90s.
At the NBC party, executed by Bob Holmes, Mr. Zucker, wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed “Not Ari Fleischer” to distinguish the entertainment executive from the White House spokesman, was dunked by Tony Potts of “Access Hollywood” and NBC Studios finance exec Jerry Dicanio. (“Boomtown” director-producer Jon Avnet needs to work on his pitch; he could not make Mr. Zucker take a dive.) It was a two-Jeff night. Alternative programming executive Jeff Gaspin was dunked by 11-year-old Dempsey Marks, daughter of Mr. Zucker’s top PR executive, Rebecca Marks, and “Fear Factor’s” Joe Rogan.
The art of the party, gore of the lore, Part 2
Meanwhile, back at the Fox party, the network capitalized on the cool quotient at the Sky Bar and the Mondrian, where signage tends toward the cryptic (“Shhhhh” instead of “Quiet”) and the fabulous view-which that night included a quartet of buff young men and women in shorts and T-shirts who dove to the bottom of the pool and retrieved plexiglassed fortunes written by the Fox event planners and producers.
The Insider wanted, of course, to know where one goes to hire fortune divers. Why to a service called Beautiful Bartenders, of course. Fox events wizard George Oswald specified “natural, healthy, beautiful people.” No Pamela Andersons need apply. The “fortunes” ranged from “When you come to a fork in the road, take it” to “You can have your cake and eat it” to “Every dog is allowed one bite.”
The Insider would have told those divers they were all wet if they didn’t surface with an old-fashioned, straightforward fortune that told her exactly where and when her life would be changed by a winning lottery ticket or a Prince Charming. Instead, she was thousands of miles away from a sequence of events that made for unscripted drama amongst the critics, who in 1998 adopted “standards of conduct” designed to crack down on gate-crashing fringe elements and to remind members that one critic’s behavior reflects on all.
The bottom line: A little-known reporter whose fanlike request for Ben Affleck’s autograph (an incident that made its way into a gimlet-eyed Los Angeles Times story about the TCA tour that has itself become the touchy subject of controversy) was facing disciplinary action by the TCA. Already on notice that she might be suspended from the tour for unprofessional behavior, she made a dramatic appearance at a network-sponsored breakfast wearing her swimsuit and robe. There are, of course, two sides to every story. Having heard both, The Insider has vowed never to go on a working trip while under a doctor’s dispensation to “take a lot of Percocet a day.”
The Insider also hears …
… That both PBS and NBC had been in discussions about broadcasting the “Concert for America” that will be a highlight of NBC’s Sept. 11 anniversary programming. The concert, at which first lady Laura Bush is scheduled to appear, had been mentioned at the annual PBS meeting this summer. But NBC landed the event largely because it brings with it a larger audience-not to mention “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw as host. The two-hour event, which will be taped Sept. 9 for broadcast at 9 p.m. Sept. 10, is being produced in collaboration with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts under the auspices of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
And The Insider wonders …
… Why no one has suggested casting Mare Winningham as Martha Stewart in the NBC movie about the domestic diva’s life and trying times.