You did see Tim Russert on the cover of a lot of magazines last week. But TV Guide, the publication that covers Russert’s own medium, snubbed him.
I’m told that the editors had plenty of time to put Russert on the cover but decided against it. Who did they go with? Reality TV star Denise Richards, an actress of little talent who continually fights former husband Charlie Sheen over custody and financial issues in their divorce.
Russert, loved and respected, was celebrated by every major publication in the U.S. last week. He made the cover of People, with a terrific story that included a shocking quote from his wife, writer Maureen Orth. People’s dean of celebrity journalism, Frank Swertlow, interviewed Orth. She told him that when she said goodbye to Russert in Rome, she told him, ‘I want to give you a big hug; maybe I’ll never see you again.’" Maureen, this column sends you all our best wishes.
But back to TV Guide. If you’re under a certain age you might not believe this, but the pocket sized journal was once a powerhouse in publishing. But with many different owners, and the stupid idea to make it as big as every other magazine, the poor Guide has suffered. It may have a circulation of 3 million, but no one cares about it anymore.
The Russert incident cements this. The new editor, Debra Birnbaum, 37, came to TV Guide from Life & Style, one of the cheaper and more sensational of the celebrity supermarket tabloids. It was her decision, I’m told by sources, to put Richards on the cover, fluffed up in big hair and a miniskirt. The headline reads: "Reality TV Attacks!"
In reality, however, the Richards story is not about TV at all, but an opportunity to put a tabloid celebrity on the cover. Birnbaum has evidently been handed a mandate by new parent company owner Macrovision Solutions Corporation to goose up what they think is a staid operation so they can sell the print part of the magazine business. I’m told — and it’s been reported in the New York Times — that Macrovision thinks it can somehow do that and hold on to the TV Guide Web site. Good luck.
Russert, meantime, got short shrift in the magazine, with small online features by writer Matt Roush, an even shorter "Cheers and Jeers" paragraph devoted to his funeral. On the cover of the print issue, there’s just a small cover tag line that reads: "Tim Russert, We Miss You!"
Hey, TV Guide, we miss you!
P.S. Just as this column predicted last week, NBC has named Tom Brokaw as the host of "Meet the Press" through the November election. Brokaw will no doubt anchor the presidential conventions and election night, too, with strong help from Brian Williams. And TV Guide? For that last week of August, when the conventions begin, how about a salute to "The Hills"?
This is like a Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
Believe it or not, Bulldog Entertainment may be back. The talk this weekend in the Hamptons was that concert promoter Joe Meli, not content to have masterminded a huge colossal magnificent failure last summer with his $15,000-a-ticket concert series, is cooking up something new.
The word around town is that Meli is trying to orchestrate at least two new Hamptons shows this summer with big ticket prices. The names being bandied about are Lionel Richie, possibly for July 5, and Lenny Kravitz, for the end of August.
In case you’ve forgotten, Meli was the guy behind Social @ Ross last summer. He staged five shows — Billy Joel, Prince, Dave Matthews, James Taylor and Tom Petty — on the grounds of the tony Ross private school. Meli’s plan was to charge $3,000 a ticket for each show, or $15,000 for the whole thing per person. Each act was to receive $1 million or more for the show.
The shows happened, but the audiences got thinner and thinner. Meli lost his shirt, but not before taking Warner M. Group’s Edgar Bronfman Jr. with him for an estimated loss of $30 million. WMG’s involvement was largely a secret until it was revealed in their SEC report the following quarter.
Meli’s Bulldog Entertainment still has a Web site that lists Atlantic Records, a division of WMG, as its phone number and address. Bulldog also has two other phone numbers, one in New York and in L.A., both of which are disconnected.
I’m told that Meli met with some people in the music biz over the weekend to discuss all of this. "The concerts would be on someone’s estate, very private and exclusive," one source said, "Very different than last year."
As George W. Bush once said: "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."
Christie Brinkley has won the right to have press at her divorce trial beginning July 2, in Islip, N.Y.
Estranged husband Peter Cook now has to decide how badly he wants Brinkley’s money, as well as custody of her their daughter, Sailor, and Brinkley’s son, Jack, whom Cook adopted.
It’s already slipped out that Cook has an inordinate interest in Internet porn sites. That much will certainly be described in full at the trial. Having sat through Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial — at which the prosecutors brought out bags and bags of the stuff found at Neverland — I can tell you that Cook is in for quite an embarrassing ride.
But the porn isn’t all. His ex-over, 19-year-old Diana Bianchi, has reportedly been subpoenaed and will testify to their affair. Soon, a witness list will be presented, and then all of Cook’s secret lives during his marriage to Brinkley will be kicked around the courtroom like a football.