Katie Couric leaving CBS and the anchor chair on the "Evening News"? Not so fast.
Even though the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post went nuts overnight reporting this perhaps-maybe story, what really happened was a "pile-on."
It started with an earlier story this week that CBS was thinking of combining forces and resources with CNN. That actually was an old story, since the two networks have been allied for years.
But then the Journal needed something. And got it. What will happen to Katie, they wondered? The answer: She can't possibly stay through her whole contract. Bingo! She must be leaving.
Before you start getting out your hankies, here's the reality: Couric isn't going anywhere so fast. In fact, CBS News is going to invest all its promotion into her for the summer political conventions, the fall campaign and the presidential election.
The network doesn't have much choice: Dan Rather is gone. Walter Cronkite is 91 and not active. Bob Schieffer is on his way out. John Roberts has gone to CNN.
Indeed, there is no one to take Couric's place. Unless CBS were to just hand over its shows to CNN and put Anderson Cooper in the anchor chair, which isn't going to happen, Couric is going to be sitting tight for quite a long time.
This gives her opportunities galore. Through the next six months, there are innumerable possibilities to break stories and attract viewers. Concentrating on the candidates and the economy, using a hard-news approach, Couric and producer Rick Kaplan have a chance. It's a long shot, but it's a chance.
"Who would want to replace her now?" asks an insider who's been watching the whole CBS debacle. "You can see what's already happened. There's no confidence that it wouldn't happen to the next person."
Meantime, I remind you of a column that appeared here on Sept. 7, 2006. I told you that CBS was agitating for a combo of Cooper and Campbell Brown for the "Early Show." The duo have since been matched on Cooper's "360" show, and they are good together. Don't be surprised if a CBS/CNN relationship brings them to the morning on the broadcast network.
Michael Jackson? Just in case you were wondering, he’s still in foreclosure with Neverland. The auction is still on for May 14 in Santa Barbara on the steps of the county courthouse.
The auction had been scheduled for March 19, but Jackson managed to scratch up $3 million as a good-faith payment to the note holder, Fortress Investments. That bought him a 60-day extension. But the first half of that time is almost up, and there’s been no sign of a white knight coming in to save Neverland from the chopping block.
But two people won’t be attending. I am told definitively that Jackson has finally officially dismissed manager-publicist Raymone Bain from all her jobs. Bain had been unofficially cut off some months ago, but this is it. She’s done.
Also gone, I am told, is Londell McMillan, the lawyer who represents Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Prince, among others. McMillan can’t be criticized for trying to help Jackson. He did the best he could. He’s just the latest in a long line of people — some talented, some not — who’ve tried to sort out the biggest ongoing drama in pop history.
Jackson’s reps are now attorney Peter Lopez on the West Coast and Greg Cross on the East. Lopez has proved a vital connection for many reasons, not the least of which is his close relationship to the Maloof brothers of Las Vegas. They’ve allowed Jackson and his family/entourage to live at the Palms Hotel and Casino for free for months and months.
There is some good news for Jackson, however. His "Thriller 25th anniversary" album has turned into the steadiest selling CD of the last year, at least since Alicia Keys’ "As I Am." The repackaged, remixed set sold another 24,000 copies this week.
Jackson gets his first "gold" record in a zillion years, and the second for the same album that was released in 1983. "Thriller" keeps thrilling. So Jackson should take the deal he was offered in London by AEG Live and perform it 10 times, for a million bucks per show. This is called "like shooting fish in a barrel."
Forget Elton John and Hillary Clinton, the place to be Wednesday night was Paul Simon’s spectacular opening night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with "Under African Skies."
This is the second of three mini-runs this month for Simon at BAM. The first was a concert version of his Broadway musical, "Capeman." The next and last will be more traditional Simon fare such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and solo hits.
But the night was all about Simon’s amazing musical journey with African musicians, showing the roots for the "Graceland" and "Rhythm of the Saints" albums. Filmmaker/PR guy Dan Klores, who was Simon’s press agent for years, convinced his friend to help raise money for BAM on for its anniversary.
The program is called "Love in Hard Times: The Music of Paul Simon." Ken Starr and Diane Passage helped produce the event.
Among the guests at the star-studded event: Susan Sarandon with powerhouse movie producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas; plus Steve Buscemi and wife, Jo; Cynthia Nixon; Suzanne Vega and hubby, Paul Mills; famed artist Chuck Close; chef Mario Batali; Ed Schlossberg (husband of Caroline Kennedy); Eddie Simon (Paul’s manager brother); Edie Brickell (Mrs. Simon); and producer Phil Ramone, who gave the event its lush and perfect sound (as usual).
The highlights were many, but ex-Talking Head David Byrne’s solo performance of Simon’s "You Can Call Me Al" was a tour de force. Byrne remains an ingratiatingly awkward performer. For "Al" he did a kind of ostrich dance and mambo, winningly singing off-key and totally captivating the audience. It was just genius.
Other guests included Ladysmith Black Mambazo with the amazing African singer Vusi Mahlasela, who solo’d the vocal on "The Obvious Child," aka "These Are the Days of Miracles and Wonder," with aplomb.
A star is born! The very pregnant Brazilian jazz singer Luciana Souza also got cameos and much applause, particularly for Simon’s lesser-known songs "Further to Fly" and "Can’t Run But…," each, like "Obvious Child," from the underrated "Rhythm of the Saints."
I counted 10 musicians in Simon’s band, seven instrumentalists and three background singers. They sounded as if they were 10 times as strong in number. That’s how rich, textured and precise the orchestrations were.
Simon, himself, is center stage all through the show. He’s very much there, leading the cheerfully historic Ladysmith Black Mambazo through a bunch of songs they did together, such as "Graceland," "Homeless" and "Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes." Simon still gets a good rousing hometown cheer for the couplet "There’s a girl in New York City/Who calls herself the human trampoline."
And he even got a little personal, telling the audience: "There are so many people here who I’ve worked with over the years, I’m a little emotional."
The sensational Elaine Kaufman will celebrate the 45th anniversary of her world-renowned eatery on Sunday night. It’s "dutch treat," but I am told that regulars from every era of the truly legendary establishment already have called for reservations including many of the rich, famous and infamous.
Elaine started her place in 1963, and overnight it became the destination for writers, actors, professional athletes and artists. Sunday night’s dinner should be quite the event … and they still have the best veal chop in town.
P.S.: Elaine’s is still such a late-night spot after all these years that there’s talk of the comedians performing across town in Comedy Central’s live "A Night of Too Many Stars" stopping by after raising money for autism education.