Katie Couric will announce that she’s leaving the "Today" show tomorrow morning during her 15th anniversary celebration.
Expect this in the second half-hour of the show — between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. — when they roll out a cake and show clips of her many hairstyles. At that point, Katie is expected to say it’s been a grand ride, but that it’s time for a change.
The news is no shock at this point. The fact that Couric is leaving to anchor the "CBS Evening News" is the least well-kept secret in broadcasting since Howard Stern left regular radio for satellite.
But it’s a big deal in so many ways: Couric inherits the brass ring in network news. Even if CBS’ crown is tarnished, it’s still considered — if only sentimentally — the standard in broadcast journalism.
Of course, Katie won’t be the first woman there. That distinction belongs to Connie Chung, who briefly co-anchored with Dan Rather years ago. It was a disaster, but like all disasters the Chung episode was one more kick against the glass ceiling.
After Katie makes her announcement on "Today," expect Meredith Vieira to tell her fans on “The View” that she’s leaving to fill Couric’s spot. And then, who knows? Maybe Star Jones will come running in and kick out the imposter who took her place several months ago. Anything is possible!
Couric, as I told you weeks ago, actually takes a pay cut to leave "Today." If she’d stayed, NBC would have anted her up to around $20 million a year. At CBS she will earn only a little bit more than she’s making now: $13 million. But she’ll have the advantage of not waking up at 5 a.m. every day, and getting to be part of the prestigious “60 Minutes” team when possible.
She’ll also be able to dictate changes in the way network news is presented, because her version will be different: more interviews in the studio, and less dependence on outside correspondents.
In fact, the only way that Couric’s ascension to this throne will be worth it is if her “Evening News” becomes a destination for channel surfers. And that will mean hard-charging producers steering her toward hard-to-get subjects on the day the news happens.
We met one year ago tonight. The occasion was the Broadway premiere of “Steel Magnolias.” Before the show began, someone said, “Katie Holmes is here.” I’d liked her work in “Pieces of April” and was happy to say hello.
During intermission, we talked. And at the after party we talked. She didn’t know Tom Cruise. This is what she said: She’d moved to New York, wanted to see a lot of theater and learn about the city. She was living in my neighborhood and wanted to know where to do her grocery shopping. I told her about the world-famous Jefferson Market. When we parted, I remember agreeing to meet her there soon.
A few days later, she was still in New York. Holmes was photographed at a couple of events and the pictures are still available. By April 11, however, she had gone to Hollywood for a meeting with Cruise on a look-see about “Mission: Impossible 3.” That was it. The next time anyone saw her, on April 27, she was with Tom, holding hands and professing true love in Rome. As I wrote last year, there are 16 missing days.
In short order, Holmes fired her longtime agent and publicist. She also severed ties with her newish manager. The rest is history. She and Tom are expecting a baby on or around May 5, the day “Mission: Impossible 3” opens in theaters. She didn’t get that job. She got another one instead.
Yesterday, a German tabloid got an amazing interview out of Cruise. He said that there would be no wedding until the summer, way after the birth and the movie premiere. So let’s rerun these facts: a sweet girl from a Midwestern family, a devout Catholic family, no less, who’s had the same boyfriend for four years, is having a baby out of wedlock with no immediate plans to marry.
Something’s fishy here, and it isn’t the anchovies on the pizza.
The speculation is that the delayed wedding has something to do with a pre-nuptial agreement. There has to be some truth to this rumor. Katie’s father and brother are both highly educated, respected lawyers. They are not about to let her sign a document forfeiting her rights.
The impasse, I am told, is that Katie has had little contact with her family recently. Insiders say that her Scientology monitors and Cruise are isolating her as the delivery date nears.
And without a paper, Cruise — who is worth a fortune — is not getting married.
As for Katie: I will celebrate our one-year anniversary by attending the premiere of Antonio Banderas' new movie, "Take the Lead." It looks good. I will speculate that Katie would have enjoyed the Jefferson Market’s famous rotisserie chicken, that she would have gotten her pictures framed at the Greenwich Village Art Gallery, and had breakfast at Joe Jr.’s. She would have used Jerri’s drycleaners and possibly the famous C.O. Bigelow pharmacy. She doesn’t know what she missed, but I’ll bet she has an idea.
Another great episode of "The Sopranos" aired on Sunday night, as Paulie Walnuts learned about his genealogy and Tony took the reigns of the business from his hospital room.
But some things are missing from this edition of "The Sopranos" and I’m not just talking about Dominic Chianese, aka Uncle Junior (totally missing for the third episode in a row) and Vincent Curatola (Johnny Sack had one scene). The music is gone, too. Last Sunday’s episode reflected the change: it had just three song clips, the lowest number ever for the series.
"Sopranos" fans know that creator David Chase loves good music. In past seasons, the shows were filled with it. In particular, it was always fun to see which song he’d chosen for the closing credits.
Last year, the end credits included songs by The Kinks, The Commodores and Queen. Episodes over the first five seasons were literally stuffed with interesting and well-known music.
But so far this season, nothing. "The Sopranos" has been rather tuneless in this outing. The end credits have simply been anonymous instrumental music by either Pink Floyd or Daniel Lanois.
The show has managed to feature a few music tracks on Tony’s hospital boom box, but they’ve been very careful to use just a few bars of each one — which means very small payments to the music publishers.
The reason, of course, is money. Getting the rights to popular songs — which have to be bought forever — can be as high as $50,000 a pop. With cast salaries climbing high as ever, you can bet the first item to be scratched off the budget was hit records.
Episode 3 relied on cheap, generic tracks from B-level doo-wop groups The Turbans and The Mystics, not to mention two tracks from something called Time Pools.
So what will happen? We’ll have to wait and see. Maybe Chase is saving up his budget for the later episodes in this group. In the meantime, we’ll have to console ourselves with tunes from the discount bin. David, here’s a suggestion: “Love is Blue” is always available.
Trudie Styler keeps surprising me. She is the ultimate renaissance woman, if there were such a thing.
“If there were renaissance men, there were renaissance women,” she assured me last night. The occasion was her performance in a one-act play at the Promenade Theater, part of a three one-act play grouping called Addictions that was presented to raise money for the Caron Foundation.
James Earl Jones, looking robust after a bad health year, took a center seat with his wife C.C. and told me. “I’ve healed!”
Elaine Stritch, who likes very little and is always vocal about it, praised Styler’s performance as a recovering alcoholic in the first play, called "The Hurdle."
Chris Sarandon, the fine actor and first husband of Susan, was deliciously smarmy as an Italian with an accurate accent.
But Trudie continues to be a revelation. She has four kids of her own and two stepchildren, four homes, a movie production company, several charities that depend on her and a rock-star husband (Sting) who needs significant attention.
Last Monday, she and Sting did another theatrical presentation. That’s two for Trudie in eight days.
“We rehearsed for the first time at 1 p.m. today,” she told me.
But Stritch was right: the audience was glued to Trudie, who can range from haunted to comic to fragile and defiant without any trouble.
The play’s writer/producer, Tricia Walsh-Smith, was unsurprised by Trudie’s success.
“She came in and did it, and she was a natural,” Walsh-Smith said. “But she was always an actress, before anything else.”
Walsh-Smith wrote the plays and put them together with the Caron Foundation in memory of her brother, Kevin, who committed suicide at age 41.
The second play of the evening, a monologue called "Take the High Road," performed by Jessica Hecht, was about her experiences with his death. The third play featured comedienne Jackie Hoffman, Martha Plimpton and Peter Bartlett in an offbeat dialogue about death.
You might like to know that the Billy Preston situation has been temporarily resolved. In court the other day, Joyce Moore retained her medical power of attorney. Preston will remain in Arizona and continue to receive the best care.
In my report on Monday, I did leave out one fact until I was certain of it: when Preston fell into his coma, he was completely off of drugs. He’d entered a rehab facility, and was determined to get clean.
His subsequent illness and present semi-coma are the result of what may be proven to be medical mishaps at a Los Angeles facility where he’d wound up temporarily. His legacy is that timeless song, “You Are So Beautiful,” which I hear is getting an updated treatment soon…
I have a new hero in New York Family Court Commissioner Nicolas Palos. Yesterday he got so angry with former Kiss manager Jesse Hilsen that he started screaming.
He said, “I have to make sure my words are clean for the record here,” but he looked like was going to explode. The reason was that Hilsen could not tell him where his Social Security checks were going, what bank they were in or where his passport was located.
Initially, Palos was going to dismiss Hilsen’s Family Court proceeding and send him back to bankruptcy court.
That would have meant that Hilsen — who’s never paid child support or alimony from a 1984 divorce after making millions with Kiss — would have gotten out of jail in June after two years.
A flight risk, Hilsen would likely have split ASAP before his assets were located. But Palos hit the roof, and it was spectacular, when Hilsen told him he’d contact him with his answers “once I get out of jail.”
Palos became infuriated — and rightly so. The court reporter must have had a field day getting Hilsen’s tirade against the commissioner — who waited patiently, asked “Are you done?” and then lit into him.
Palos put the case over to May 4, and told Rita Hilsen’s attorney to “bring everyone.” That includes all of Hilsen’s creditors, as well as those — like New York doctors Richard and Joan Packles Margolis — who may know where Hilsen’s millions are hidden. Hilsen’s ex-wife, Rita, continues to live in a shelter uptown. Palos, you rock!