All systems are go for "Today" show host Katie Couric’s coronation to anchor of "The CBS Evening News."
I’m told by sources that her package will likely include the possibility of doing reports on “60 Minutes” as well. That bit of news may be more major than the primary job Katie’s taking, because “60 Minutes” is the crown jewel of all television news reporting.
Lesley Stahl remains the only woman on the show, so adding Couric at times would be a ratings novelty — and a certain hit.
And if you don’t think the stage is being set for this all to happen, consider that Steve Friedman, Katie’s original executive producer at “Today,” has been rehired by CBS, ostensibly to revive their long-moribund morning show (writer’s note: I love Harry Smith, it’s not his fault.)
Friedman (no relation to me) has already had stints with that show, and come and gone. But he may turn out to be a key player in Katie’s arrival at the network.
I know, the waiting is, well, a lot of waiting as all this shakes out. The whole shebang hinges on NBC finalizing the deal to take Meredith Vieira from ABC’s “The View” and bring her in as Katie's replacement.
This is the strangest piece of the puzzle, in my opinion. In order to take "Today," Meredith would lose "The View" and a lucrative contract hosting the daytime syndicated version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” But she may have given her final answer already.
It also eliminates NBC’s Campbell Brown from the competition to replace Couric. That’s too bad, since she was home grown and comfortable with the show.
Vieira is popular on ABC, but hosting the "Today" show? The verdict is way out on that one. Yet, insiders insist the deal is done.
That brings us to who will replace Meredith on "The View," and the perennial question of who will anchor the ABC Network News.
Right now, Elizabeth Vargas holds the chair on the latter. But that seems temporary. For one thing, Vargas is pregnant. For another, she doesn’t have the gravitas needed to be the sole anchor. So what to do?
A few weeks ago I told you that Diane Sawyer campaigned within ABC to take over the news slot. ABC had not been able to make a deal with Charlie Gibson, Diane’s co-anchor on "Good Morning America," and was considering the idea.
Since then, Gibson has worked fast to resurrect his deal, putting Diane back on the runner-up list. I’m told Gibson is close to finalizing his deal now.
That puts Diane in an interesting position on "Good Morning America." With Katie gone, a Diane Sawyer-driven GMA has a chance to knock off the "Today" show.
In this new scenario, Sawyer will most likely stay put and substitute for Gibson when necessary. She’ll be paired with someone new at GMA, and take over as the lead anchor.
Where does that leave Vargas? Maybe hosting "The View," which makes sense with a new baby. She’ll probably also get other bonuses thrown her way in political coverage, emergencies, that sort of thing.
Vargas got caught in the undertow of Katie-Diane-Meredith, but that doesn’t mean her day won’t come again. All of these ladies are more than qualified. It’s all about timing, isn’t it?
So while there’s no truth, I am told, to the rumor of a CBS press conference this week, there is a chance that NBC will let Katie make some kind of statement in the next days. We’ll see.
But you can bet that Couric will be on "Today" right through May sweeps. NBC will do the most to play out her finale for the biggest ratings possible. Because post-Katie, the "Today" show is going to have some rough sledding — that much is likely.
Anyway, at least Meredith won’t have to think about Star Jones anymore. That’s got to be her incentive, beyond money…
Are The Pretenders over? After 26 years of rocking, “tough chick” lead singer Chrissie Hynde — whose trademark is black jeans, black T-shirt, no makeup — has pretty much said so.
The sobering announcement came at the end of the group’s terrific set at Irving Plaza in New York City on Saturday night. Taking a final encore, Hynde, 54, thanked the audience and acknowledged her “archivists,” devoted fans who were standing at the lip of the stage in a completely sold out show.
“I’ll do this for you since this is one of our last shows … ever,” Hynde blurted out. It was not an April Fool’s Joke. The audience kind of gasped.
She then launched into The Pretenders’ popular treacle ballad, “I’ll Stand By You.” After a few bars, Hynde stopped, then said, “No, I’m not mean enough to do that to you.” With that, she and the band launched into their biggest hit, “Brass in Pocket (I’m Special).”
It was a funny moment, but characteristic of the humorless rock chanteuse. For one thing, die-hard Pretenders fans despise “I’ll Stand By You.” To hear Hynde mock it was a treat. For another thing, if “Brass in Pocket” was her last New York performance, it was a nice, fitting way to go. The record went to No. 1 in 1981 and kicked open the door for the New Wave.
After the show, Pretenders publicist Liz Rosenberg was a little teary. She didn’t know what to make of Hynde’s announcement, except to acknowledge, “Chrissie’s been talking about it.”
Hynde’s longtime manager, Gail Colson, echoed those sentiments. “If it’s over, the show will be in London on Friday,” she said.
London would be an appropriate place to stop, since the Pretenders rose to fame as part of the British New Wave circa 1978-81. Their first single was “Stop Your Sobbing,” a cover of a Kinks record. Hynde went on to have a child with Kinks leader Ray Davies.
Two years ago, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame. Apart from her rocker abilities, Hynde has been an outspoken vegan, vehemently defending animal rights and campaigning against fur.
The Pretenders’ biggest accomplishment is making it this far. The original group consisted of Hynde, drummer Martin Chambers, guitarist Pete Farndon and bass player James Honeyman-Scott. The pair died within two months of each other in 1982 of drug overdoses. On Saturday night, Chrissie dedicated one of the band’s earliest hits, “Kid,” to the two of them.
It’s not like Chrissie Hynde would ever win any popularity contests. She’s done it her way since venturing out into the rock world in 1978. A native of Akron, Ohio, she’s always been blunt, never sugarcoating her thoughts. When I told her how good I thought Saturday night’s show was, she looked at me like I was completely crazy. When I said I hoped she’d re-think ending it all because her fans couldn’t live without her, she replied, dryly, “Oh yes they can.”
Hynde’s announcement comes as the band was touring, supposedly, to promote a new box set on Rhino. And think about it: no other group from The Pretenders’ heyday is still around. The Cars, Squeeze, The Police, Talking Heads — all disbanded long ago.
New Wave architects like Joe Jackson and Graham Parker have all but vanished. Only Elvis Costello continues to record and perform, but his newest album, “My Flame Burns Blue,” was dropped into the abyss like a hot potato by Lost Horizon Records.
The Pretenders spent most of their own career on Seymour Stein’s Sire Records, a division of the former Warner Music Group. Recently they have been relegated to Artemis Records, a company that will not exist much longer, if they even existed at all. I’m told what’s left of Artemis is to be sold.
Currently, the group is not signed to a record label at all. As Colson put it, “Chrissie says she’s tired of doing it.” Who can blame her? Putting out a CD these days is agony for an artist who doesn’t have corporate sponsorship and a deep-pocketed lackey to bribe radio stations.
In the end, I do hope Hynde reconsiders. Maybe some record company will sign The Pretenders and put a lot of money into them. I doubt it though.
On Friday night, I caught a show at Coda on East 34th St. in New York City by Glenn Tilbrook, formerly of Squeeze, the man who wrote “Tempted” and “Cool for Cats.” He’s long ago given up dealing with the business, preferring to tour and play solo.
Luckily Tilbrook is charming, and a virtuoso acoustic guitarist, a one-man band. He puts out his own records now.
Why not? New, genius CDs by Ray Davies of The Kinks and lots of other artists besides Costello are simply issued and then abandoned.
I have a feeling Chrissie Hynde sees the writing on the wall. Still, I thank her: she’s played the “Cuban Slide” twice in two weeks, a rarity, and maybe a real sign that the Pretenders' quarter century party is over.
Paul McCartney — oh, what are we going to do with you?
The easily misunderstood Beatle sent some words to be read at Saturday’s Peter & Gordon show at Beatlefest.
This is what the world’s most successful songwriter came up with for one of his oldest mates—Peter Asher — a man in whose home McCartney lived, and whose sister he contemplated marrying:
What the world needs now is Peter & Gordon to sing their songs and remind us all of the fab years they are from.
I’m very glad to hear that they have got together after these many moons and are going to help to make a world without love into a love-filled planet
I am told that despite the possibility of more such testimonials, Peter and Gordon have agreed to be part of an upcoming PBS fundraising special featuring other Brit pop groups from the '60s
Rocker Rob Thomas returns home to the East this week after braving several weeks of the Pacific Northwest and c-c-cold parts of Canada so that our neighbors up north could hear what it’s like when a heart breaks. Luckily, Rob kept warm with beautiful wife Marisol by his side. Rob and Gavin DeGraw will participate in a fundraiser at Sotheby’s next Monday for Musicians On Call. Call 212.627.9961 x18 for details…
TV actor John Corbett played two sold-out shows at The Cutting Room over the weekend. His music is best described as country-bar band; the group covered “Never Been to Spain” and “Help Me Make it Through the Night.” The audience consisted largely of regular women who’d driven from many distant places to see Corbett. Many of them told me they took the “Sex and The City” bus tour during the day…
The great jazz saxophonist Jackie McLean died over the weekend at age 73. He played with Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins. He leaves quite legacy, and a school named for him at the University of Hartford…