Imus OK to Return to Radio: Players | Sting's Message to Throttle | Joel Siegel's Farewell

Imus OK to Return to Radio: Players

Don Imus can do whatever he likes, including return to the radio airwaves.

That’s the feeling of the Rutgers women’s basketball players, whom Imus branded with a racial comment last winter.

The team and their coach, C. Vivian Stringer, received a standing ovation Monday night at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City from Billie Jean’s Women’s Sports Foundation. They also were presented with the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award for getting through the Imus episode with grace and dignity.

But when I asked player Essence Carson, who speaks for the team, if she minded Imus’ return, the tall beauty responded with aplomb.

"We never asked for his resignation in the first place," she said. "He can do whatever he wants to."

Would she consider being a guest on Imus’ new show, set for Citadel Broadcasting’s WABC in New York? Carson, no fool, just shook her head. She had more important things to think about.

Later I asked Stringer the same questions, but the famed coach just sort of whisked the air with her hand. A man she identified as director of sports for Rutgers said, "It’s all in the past."

So that’s it: Imus can return without fear of reprisal from the Rutgers women. But maybe their lack of protest just shows how classy they are. They certainly all looked good last night as ESPN produced the three-hour show at the Waldorf. Now if only the sports net would broadcast the show on its network or on Lifetime.

I lucked out at the Salute to Women in Sports. Thanks to the indefatigable Peggy Siegal, the queen of New York movie premieres, we landed at a dinner table with Billie Jean King, Holly Hunter and Sheryl Crow. Also at the table were our old friends Bill and Tanny Austin of Minneapolis, the tireless do-gooders and world travelers who run the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

First, King has become the rock star of sports stars. "She’s more than a rock star," Crow said, and she’s a rock star. Crow’s new album, tentatively titled "Detours," is set for February.

"I’ve had a lot of detours in my personal life this year," she said, with a rueful laugh. She was referring to breast cancer, romantic break-ups and adopting a baby. Can’t wait to hear those lyrics.

Crow, by the way, is a hoot. She’s very real, and charming and funny. She brought her best friend from high school to the dinner, too.

But back to King. Oscar-winner Hunter played her in an HBO movie about King’s fabled Battle of the Sexes with Bobby Riggs. Now Holly’s on the board of King’s foundation, which sends money directly to school sports programs for girls. Once you get involved with King, you can’t leave, you see. She’s a whirlwind, and a doll. It’s an unbeatable competition.

From our table she bounced back and forth to the podium, shook the hands of hundreds of ticket-holders and told me all about her nearly completed sports complex in downtown Manhattan.

"It’s even going to have a Hall of Fame for women in sports!" Billie Jean exclaimed before greeting more superstar guests such as Donna De Varona, Michelle Kwan, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Laila Ali and Monica Seles. We’re excited for her. You can check it out at www.womensportsfoundation.org.

Sting's Message to Throttle

Remember last week when Blender, a magazine no one reads, tried to get some press by putting Sting at No. 1 on its list of worst rock lyricists?

Well, Sting gets the last laugh. He sent this column a message by e-mail to relay to Blender.

"I am deeply honoured and proud to receive this tremendous accolade for my past efforts, especially when one considers all of the competition out there. Well, I guess somebody has to be top of the heap, so it may as well be me. I can only try and live up to this extravagant and unexpected honour in my future work. So once again, thank you, thank you and thank you."

Gracious and charming, no surprise. But Sting really gets the last laugh. The people at Blender apparently didn’t know that the musical superstar was publishing a book of his lyrics with Dial Press. It’s coming out Oct. 23 and includes all his hits with the Police and solo work, too.

The book is filled with memories of writing the songs, such as his biggest hit, "Every Breath You Take":

"My original intention was to make it a seductive love song," he notes, "but what I ended up with was something much darker. My life had invaded the song. Everything around me seemed to be disintegrating: my marriage, my band, my sanity and this at a time when, from the outside, I appeared to be one of the most successful musicians of the world."

Talk about publicity. Maybe now Blender truly will know "how fragile we are," to quote the "worst" lyricist of all time from one of the most sophisticated pop songs ever composed. Suckers!

Joel Siegel's Farewell

"Knots Landing" star Michele Lee, the actress and singer who made her name on Broadway in musicals, said goodbye to Joel Siegel on Monday at his memorial service held at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York with a poignant rendition of "Look at that Face" from "The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd."

There couldn’t have been a more perfect selection for Joel, who loved theater and movies like no one else. He succumbed to cancer tragically this summer at age 63.

The New Amsterdam, where "Mary Poppins" plays during the week, was filled with Joel’s friends and family including Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts, Cynthia McFadden, fellow critic Jeffrey Lyons, Hearst mag honcho Ellen Levine, ABC News chief David Westin and Lynn Sherr, who narrated a lovely video biography of Joel that included pals such as Jerry Della Femina, Jeff Greenfield, Andrew Bergman and Michael O’Neill.

There was more music, too: Patti LaBelle performed two gospel songs including "Take a Walk Around Heaven," and the Persuasions sang a gorgeous medley of "He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother" and "You’ve Got a Friend."

Joel’s nephew, who sounded just like him, gave a nice speech, as did his widow, Ina, and Gibson and Dr. Tim from "Good Morning America." By the time the program was over, all I could think was: This is really fun; Joel should come back now. He’d really enjoy this. A beautiful afternoon, and there’s no justice. Joel, you fought a good fight. Rest in peace.