Katie Couric’s big jump today from NBC to CBS News got the stamp of approval and thumbs up from someone whose opinion actually counts.
Don Hewitt, the man who created "60 Minutes" and carried the banner of Edward R. Murrow for decades, told me he thinks Couric will do fine as the new anchor of "The CBS Evening News."
Indeed, Hewitt said: "I tried to hire her for '60 Minutes' 10 years ago. We talked about it a lot."
With that kind of support, Couric should be fine as she makes the transition.
But don’t expect her on the air before mid-August. It’s going to take that long for CBS to ready her new format. Word up, though, newshounds (as Ted Baxter used to say): Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Just pump it up.
Hewitt and wife Marilyn Berger were just some of the guests who came to New Line’s premiere for "Take the Lead," a "Fame" type movie about Harlem dance teacher Pierre Dulaine. I also ran into Paul Sorvino, Chris Noth, producer Diane Nabatoff and famed singer Garland Jeffreys.
But there was little to no sign of star Antonio Banderas. The reason? He’s hosting "Saturday Night Live" this week, and has been in rehearsals night and day.
Banderas spent about 10 minutes at the post-screening party at the legendary Roseland Ballroom, where Dulaine’s students put on quite a spectacular dance show.
It was just like Roseland at the height of its popularity in the 1950s, although someone should tell the venue’s proprietors that the rest rooms were not included when the place was landmarked!
The next big question for NBC, after seeing off Katie Couric, is what to do about Matt Lauer. Sources say the remaining "Today" show host gets about $3 million a year. Incoming co-host Meredith Vieira is being paid $10 million, according to sources. Ouch!
Matt and Meredith are not exactly anyone’s idea of a perfect team, but maybe they’ll work in the long run. In the short term, though, NBC is going to have make Lauer very happy if they want him to stay on with Meredith. It should be interesting too to see how Matt and Meredith are referred to. Will they be co-anchors?
No matter what anyone says about Lauer’s jobs prior to "Today," he’s certainly proven himself. At this rate, Matt could be on "Today" without any trouble for the next 20 years. He’s a popular, soothing presence at 7 a.m. The show will need that when Vieira arrives.
And if you’re looking for irony this morning, how about this: Barbara Walters, who got her start and made her career with "Today," plucked Vieira out of the ether when she put her on "The View" eight years ago. Now she’s losing her to, of all things, the "Today" show. Life is weird that way.
Walters is probably not that thrilled, although she’d never say so. Vieira’s spot on that row of cackling chicks is the only serious one. Without her, we’re left with Joy Behar cracking wise, Star Jones losing weight and shilling for Payless shoes and the other one. Barbara is going to have do some quick tinkering to preserve her show. After all, she owns part of it.
Michael Jackson is leaving New York today. He’s been staying at the Trump International Hotel in Columbus Circle, presumably at the expense of Prince Abdullah of Bahrain. MiJac (we’re tired of calling him Jacko) is going back to Bahrain now to continue playing court jester.
But his legal troubles in the U.S. are mounting: a June 2 court date has been set in the Marc Schaffel $4 million lawsuit in Los Angeles. If Jackson doesn’t show up, Schaffel’s lawyers will play the video deposition the singer gave last September. It’s a doozy, I hear.
And what’s Michael been doing in New York? I’m told he recorded John Legend on that Katrina charity single which still has not been released. Hurricane Katrina occurred on Aug. 31, 2005, by the way.
Anyway, that single should be coming out any day now, maybe in time for the next hurricane season. Why or how Legend got involved in this long-running debacle is anyone’s guess. But the pair met in Bahrain during that F1 racing weekend.
You’ve never heard of T.I., but Atlantic Records president Craig Kallman is probably cleaning his house this morning.
The Southern gangsta rapper sold over 500,000 copies of "King," his new Atlantic CD last week, making him No. 1. He also single-handedly saved Kallman’s job, I’m told.
Rumors were abundant for weeks that Kallman was about to get the ax. It’s amazing what will happen when push really does come to shove. Maybe every record exec should read tales of their imminent demise.
T.I.’s real name is Clifford Harris, hence the need for a "handle" (his other nickname is "Tip.")
The 23-year-old’s lyrics are the usual Songwriters Hall of Fame fare: guns, sex, dope, getting beaten, giving a beating. One of the tracks features Jamie Foxx, who’d better start pulling back before he starts getting lampooned the way he used to mock other celebrities on "In Living Color."
The reason for the over-the-top sales? Harris is also the star of a Warner Bros. film released last week called "ATL." The movie’s been a big hit with urban audiences, and they went out and bought the CD at the same time.
Ironically, this synergy took place between Warner Bros. films and the company it got rid of two years ago, Warner Music Group.
I wish I could quote from T.I.’s love song, "Hello." This is not your father’s "Hello," a la Lionel Richie. It’s really dirty.
Instead, here’s a stanza from "What You Know":
"I got the top spot/And it will not stop/A video or not that will bust it to the Glock stop/Drag ya out that Bentley Coupe and take it to the chop shop."
Dig it, yo.