Couric Would Take $7M Pay Cut at CBS

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Published February 20, 2006

| FoxNews.com

Katie May Take Pay Cut | Jackson D-Day: It's Here| In Memory of 'The Flower Girl' | New Orleans Help

Katie: $7M Pay Cut If She Leaves 'Today'

If Katie Couric takes Dan Rather’s old job on the CBS Evening News, it will cost her big time — $7 million a year.

Right now, Katie makes around $13 million a year co-hosting the "Today" show with Matt Lauer. I’m told that NBC wants her to stay put so badly they will offer her $20 million a year, a $7 million hike, to spurn CBS’s advances.

And here’s the rub: according to my sources, CBS will probably not offer Katie much more than she’s getting now. The CBS Evening News is a half-hour show, vs. the three-hour "Today" show. It’s also not a big money maker. So Couric’s take is likely to remain the same as it is now.

Nevertheless, Couric is probably going to take the job when the offer comes to her officially in mid-May. Her NBC contract doesn’t expire until May 31, and she’s not allowed to talk to any competitors until two weeks before that date.

“If she leaves,” says a source, “it won’t be for money.”

Life is strange, as we all know, but the really ironic part of this is that Katie’s Olympics coverage has been extraordinarily good, better maybe than anything she’s done in the last two or three years.

After drifting, seeming bored and a little self-absorbed as an emerging glamour puss, Couric has regained her old groove with the Olympics. She’s showing genuine interest in the athletes and in the people of Torino.

Of course, "Today" is a far different animal than the evening news, and that’s something she will have to weigh more seriously than the money issue when she makes her final decision. The "Today" show puts her in a daily on-air collaboration with many people, and offers shots of adrenaline that come from the guests as well as her co-hosts.

Nightly news is a lonely business, and unlike the "Today" show doesn’t offer much of a chance to interview anyone. In many ways, being the anchor of a newscast is a glorified reader’s job, requiring little spontaneity.

Couric’s greatest assets — her quips and “perky” personality — will be all but shut down as she introduces a sequence of reports from roving correspondents about the catastrophes and political intrigue which took place around the world that day.

Jackson D-Day: It's Here

Today is a bank holiday, but tomorrow Michael Jackson faces the music, literally.

His 60-day reprieve is over, and $270 million of loans held by Fortress Investments are due. Fortress can now call the notes whenever they want, snatching from Jackson his entire livelihood and his home.

Ignorance, though, is bliss, and according to my sources, when Jackson visited the home of his friend Mark Lester in Britain last week, the singer never once discussed his impending financial doom.

He voiced no concern about the fact that 60 Neverland employees have gone without paychecks since Dec. 23, and that many of them are now taking second jobs or trying to refinance their homes to secure funds so they can eat and pay bills.

As I wrote in this space on Friday, Sony Music is working hard to secure a deal in which Citigroup will buy the loans from Fortress. Sony will secure the debt, keep Jackson from bankruptcy court and keep Sony from having to deal with yet more partners.

Fortress will get a nice piece of change for their year of holding the notes — possibly as much as $50 million.

And then there’s Jackson’s other problems: a looming court date in a $4 million lawsuit from former partner Marc Schaffel, a $48 million suit from the cousin of hip-hop entrepreneur Damon Dash and a custody battle with ex-wife Debbie Rowe over their two children, Prince and Paris .

Last week, Rowe’s parental rights were reaffirmed by a California appeals court, paving the way for a real battle now including the question of whether Jackson faked passports to take the kids out of the U.S.

Last, but not least: the press release on Friday stated that Jackson’s charity single, “I Have This Dream,” featuring a cast of C-list celebrities, will be released in the next couple of weeks.

As I reported in this space recently, the music for “Dream” was written by David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager for a contest. The contest winner, Ric Kipp, a Nashville songwriter, wrote the lyrics.

All four names (including Jackson’s) are on the copyright, but Kipp has not been acknowledged so far in any of the publicity. Talk about charity!

In Memory of 'The Flower Girl'

Since last September, when I heard that Barry Cowsill was missing in New Orleans, I think I purposely blocked out the bad news. Even when I spoke with his brother, Paul, and traded e-mails with his sister, Susan, I knew in my heart that Barry wasn’t coming back. It wasn’t Hurricane Katrina that had gotten him.

Barry’s various mental illnesses had done him in, and I didn’t want to think about it. The Cowsills are etched in memories of my childhood; they are a very distinct part of the years 1966-69.

They disappear in history after a run of three enormous hit singles: “The Rain, the Park and Other Things,” “Indian Lake” and “Hair,” the latter being the theme song from the Broadway musical.

During that time, the whole family — upon which "The Partridge Family" would be based — was fodder for personality and music magazines much the way the Olsen twins and Britney Spears are today.

The brothers — Barry, Paul, John and Billy— were literally everywhere. And when it was over, they were over. Except for singing the theme song for the TV show “Love American Style,” the Cowsills became a trivia question.

This is too bad, since they were real musicians. Over the years they’d be connected to Waddy Wachtel (of Doobie Brothers fame) and the Bangles . But no one would ever take them seriously again.

I’m sure that wasn’t good for Barry, who disappeared on Sept. 1 in New Orleans and was found dead in December. Over this last weekend, during a memorial for Barry, the family announced that Billy had died, too. He’d been battling drug and alcohol problems for years.

The story about "The Partridge Family" is that Columbia Pictures Television sent writers to observe the Cowsills for a series. I guess that would have been the first reality series. Instead, CPTV opted to make a fictionalized version.

Shirley Jones played Barbara Cowsill, the mom; David Cassidy was Barry; Susan Dey was Susan Cowsill, etc. The manager character, Ruben Kincaid, was the Cowsills’ manager Artie Kornfield, who was also one of the co-creators of the legendary Woodstock music festival.

Kornfield and the late Steve Duboff co-wrote the Cowsills’ first hit, a seminal piece of pop luxe called “The Rain, the Park, and other Things.” The title is never sung, which was very unusual back in 1967. There’s no "rain" and no "park." Just “other things,” like a chorus of “I love the flower girl” and a hook: “Flowers in her hair/Flowers everywhere.”

It remains a classic not just because of the structure, but because of the tremendous harmonies. It’s a joyous three-minute record. The Cowsills’ vocals rivaled anything the Beach Boys or the Mamas and the Papas were doing at the time.

But the group simply did not have the staying power, and because of the novelty of a family act, they were devoured quickly in the press. Their three years as pop icons added up to a longer run than they could have hoped for, frankly.

The stories of Barry and Billy are even more tragic if you listen to “The Rain, The Park.” The song melts with happiness, good cheer and possibilities of love without being saccharine. I wish kids today had a pop memory like the Cowsills to fall back on. Hopefully, the brothers have found peace at last.

New Orleans Help

From time to time I’m going to run this Web address for New Orleans Habitat for Humanity. They’re taking donations for a Musicians Village, which will be built in that ravaged city for the hundreds of displaced musicians.

This is a serious problem, not only in practical terms of housing, but for the city’s and the country’s cultural future as well. Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis are spearheading this effort to build 81 new houses in the 9th Ward, the same neighborhood that the great Fats Domino and less well-known music legends have called home for decades. Check out their info at http://www.habitat-nola.org.

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