A Bash for Barbara

Sep 27, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Not everything was all about CBS News last week.

There was, for example, a gathering of boldfaced names Wednesday at the “Good Morning America” studio on Times Square in honor of Barbara Walters as she tries something new: not working 24/7/365.

In the crowd-which ranged from Geraldo Rivera and Bill O’Reilly to Beverly Sills and Connie Chung-were some for whom it would have been easier not to pay their respects to Ms. Walters, who is giving up only her weekly commitment to “20/20.”

There was no missing Martha Stewart, who has a date with some cellmates Oct. 8: She got loud notification of incoming messages twice during the informal program.

CBS News anchor Dan Rather got a quick hand from partygoers after Ms. Walters said he had the “support” of all present as CBS News braces for the investigation into Memogate. Mr. Rather and CBS News President Andrew Heyward were in and out of the “Good Morning America” studio quickly and quietly.

Rounding out the CBS contingent were Viacom co-President and co-Chief Operating Officer Leslie Moonves, Julie Chen and the founder of “60 Minutes,” Don Hewitt.

Mr. Hewitt was not happy to trade his control of the signature Sunday night edition of “60 Minutes” for a roving role as CBS News executive producer in June, but he has maintained a statesmanlike silence on the controversy. But if you want to get his dander up, mention the new book “Tick … Tick … Tick … The Long Life & Turbulent Times of `60 Minutes,”‘ by David Blum. Mr. Hewitt tick, tick, ticked off what he said were more than 50 errors in the first 26 pages and said he’s not sure why the author “took my hide off.”

Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, who joked in a videotaped tribute that he plans to nominate Ms. Walters for chairman of the Disney board of directors, complimented her for her stunning appearance on the Primetime Emmy Awards, for her work-work-work ethic and for her refusal ever to let a glass ceiling get in her way. Disney Media Networks co-Chairman Anne Sweeney traveled cross-country to recall her first encounter, as an ABC page, with Ms. Walters. “I hope I didn’t brush you off,” interjected Ms. Walters.

Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg went out of his way to declare himself a longtime friend and “fan” of Ms. Walters. Only “World News Tonight” anchor Peter Jennings seemed at a loss for complimentary words that didn’t seem to carry a sharp jab. The consensus on Mr. Jennings’ speech: “Appalling.”

On “The View” the next day, Ms. Walters chatted about the party and flashed a picture of “Nightline” anchor Ted Koppel “tweaking Peter Jennings for good reason, which I’ll tell you about another time,” said Ms. Walters. Oooooh, to be a fly on that wall!

Cocktails for ‘CSI’

CBS began celebrating “CSI: New York” the night before it won its first head-to-head contest with NBC’s “Law & Order.” A screening of the debut episode at David Letterman’s Ed Sullivan Theater was followed by a big cast-network-production company bash. Among those turning heads: former Lakers and Heat coach Pat Riley, who helped hot producer Jerry Bruckheimer celebrate his birthday; and Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone’s daughter Shari Redstone, who is president of CBS’s parent company and a member of the Viacom board. Ms. Redstone, whom some expect to someday lead the Viacom board, has broadened her familiarity with Viacom’s numerous divisions. She recently attended a season-preview party for the Viacom-owned stations.