Mar 29, 2004  •  Post A Comment

President Bush and his White House “photo album” got bigger laughs than did comedian A.J. Jamal, who headlined last week’s Radio & Television Correspondents Association dinner. But Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth set more heads aswivel than any of the political, journalistic or entertainment industry A-listers in the record crowd of some 1,500 guests at the Washington Hilton. People leapt from their chairs and left their salads to wilt in order to follow the drama queen of “The Apprentice,” a guest of “BET Nightly News” executive producer Heather Vincent, as she headed in the direction of Donald Trump, the “Apprentice” taskmaster who fired her.
The Insider heard that Mr. Trump, seated next to Bill O’Reilly at a Fox News Channel table, launched into a pre-emptive assurance that he has said only nice things about the woman who started a flurry of denials when she claimed that another contestant had directed the N-word at her.
All The Insider could pry out of a BET spokesman was, “She’s definitely a person of interest to a lot of people these days, and would certainly appeal to the BET audience.”
Also in the crowd, as the guest of ABC News Radio: Sam Solovey, less conspicuously enjoying his 15-plus minutes of fame conferred by appearing on-and being fired from-“The Apprentice.”
There were vivid vignettes aplenty throughout the evening. The most emotional moments occurred as “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert and Melanie Bloom remembered her late husband, David, the NBC correspondent who died a year ago on the road to Baghdad. “We miss him still,” said Mr. Russert. Ms. Bloom, whose ivory lace dress and healthy tan lent her a classy resemblance to Bo Derek, read a poignant excerpt from one of Mr. Bloom’s e-mails from Iraq in March 2003: “The key is to use that natural fear you have to keep yourself safe.” The inaugural David Bloom Award for enterprise reporting went to “Nightline” for a report on war preparations that was one of Jackie Judd’s last projects before leaving ABC News for a role with the Kaiser Foundation. Joan S. Barone Awards went to CBS News national security correspondent David Martin and producer Mary Walsh and to “MacNeil NewsHour.”
At the CNN cocktail party earlier, big gun Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer chatted with former top U.S. weapons inspector David Kay. At the same time, in the lobby, the irrepressible Ron Reagan, who has become a regular contributor to MSNBC’s “Hardball,” was collecting scads of “Happy Anniversary” greetings for the nearly 7-year-old show. Everybody from Mo Rocca (described as a “media gadfly” on his speaker’s bureau Web site) to Kimberly Guilfoyle-Newsom and hubby San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom had a sentiment to offer. Even CNN’s Paula Zahn waited patiently to wish “Hardball’s” Chris Matthews well.
Ms. Zahn was a fashion standout in her pale, beaded cocktail frock. But The Insider’s eye also was caught by Mary Matalin’s combo of a white, ruched bodice and black palazzo pants.
Looking swellegant in his tux and a light tan at the correspondents’ dinner was John McEnroe, the tennis legend and commentator who is joining the CNBC prime-time lineup.
The Insider hears that the launch of Mr. McEnroe’s show has been pushed from spring to July to maximize promotional leverage from NBC Sports coverage of the French Open (May 24-June 6) and Wimbledon (June 21-July 4), at both of which Mr. McEnroe will offer his thoughts on the action.
As for his CNBC show, a very laid-back Mr. McEnroe said it’s developing, it’s going to be fun and it’s going to be more serious than Fox Sports Networks’ “Best Damn Sports Show Period.”