Brad Garrett, the Emmy-winning star of "Everyone Loves Raymond," tells me the chances of a spin-off now with his character, Robert, are close to nil.
"CBS waited so long that we've lost most of the writers," Garrett said at last night's premiere of "The Odd Couple" on Broadway. "We're in limbo now, and it looks like it won't happen."
Maybe it's just as well: Few spin-offs work. The "Friends'" spin-off, "Joey," is struggling. Others have failed, too, such as "AfterMash." "Frasier" was the rare exception to the rule, turning out to be even more successful than "Cheers."
As for Garrett, he's on to greener pastures once his "Odd Couple" run is over.
"I feel like I want to try some new things," he told me. "I'm ready."
Last night, Broadway had a little of that grandeur and buzz that makes it so legendary.
Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane opened in a revival of Neil Simon's play "The Odd Couple." The Brooks Atkinson Theater was filled to the rafters, and you could feel it.
"There isn't a seat to be had," I heard someone say right before the curtain went up.
Usually there are one or two empties. Not last night.
So, cheek-by-jowl we sat, fifth-row center, courtesy of producer James Nederlander, Jr. and his beautiful wife Margo. (If you expect a publicist to help you, you can wait the rest of your life, folks.)
Behind us: Kathleen Turner. In front of us: Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld, with Sarah Jessica Parker, a.k.a. Mrs. Broderick. Next to us: socialites Jonathan and Somers Farkas. Other side: TravelSavvy magazine editor Jill Brooke.
Elsewhere in the room: Martin Short, Regis and Joy Philbin, Kathie Lee Gifford, Tony Danza, New York radio star Joan Hamburg, Emmy-winner and "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Doris Roberts, Showtime's Matt Blank, theater producer Frederick Zollo, plus the estimable Harry Evans and Tina Brown. I heard Cindy Adams was there, but I didn't see her.
Of course, Simon, the play's great author, was there with his wife, Elaine Joyce, one of my favorite people.
You get the idea. Lots of necks craning. Star power to the max.
It's "Raymond" refugee Brad Garrett's first time on stage anywhere. He seems totally at ease and told me he was later. He plays Murray the Cop, and really is very good.
He's understudying Nathan Lane, too, but he'll probably never get on. Garrett's run is only three months, ending on January 1st.
Broderick and Lane are excellent, and the show is very funny. You have to remember that it's set in 1965, and that it's very different than the subsequent film and TV series. (There are references to the late, lamented Schrafft's restaurant, and a vintage Life magazine as a prop.)
These actors know each other so well from "The Producers" that they already seem like old friends on stage as Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. Lane is wonderful as Oscar becomes more and more outraged by Felix. Broderick, as usual, makes his work seem effortless. He has the sharpest comic timing. I do hope this is his last "nerd" role, but he's a very entertaining Felix.
A couple of differences between the play and the TV series: Felix's wife is named Frances here, not Gloria. And Felix is a news writer at CBS, not a photographer.
When one of the Pigeon sisters asks him, "Where do you get your material?" there is knowing applause — sadly, shades of Memogate. Ha ha, as they say.
On Monday, one of New York's most famous deadbeat dads may walk out of jail, after 15 months of incarceration and not one penny of restitution.
I am told that Assistant District Attorney Thomas Brown of the Southern District Court of New York is mulling letting Jesse Hilsen plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and walk out of court a free man.
Where is Oprah when you really need her?
Hilsen, once a psychologist who made millions, was also the manager for the rock group Kiss in the late '80s and early '90s. His patients included members of the group. His therapy was to bilk the group, stiff his wife and kids and disappear for 10 years rather than pay a penny of child support or alimony.
Hilsen was on the lam for a decade until health problems caused him to sneak back into the U.S. last year. After an investigator tracked him to his elderly uncle's home in upstate New York, Hilsen turned himself in. That was June 2004. Since then, he's cried poor to his ex-wife and three adult kids, none of whom he's seen since 1994.
Prosecutors are now telling Hilsen's ex-wife, Rita, who's been reduced to living in a shelter on the Upper West Side since her ex left her homeless and broke, that they can't find any of Hilsen's assets.
But a prosecutor who was once on the case, Marcus Asner, painted a different picture in a 2004 e-mail obtained by this column, which he sent to U.S. District Judge Robert A. Sweet.
Assistant District Attorney Asner discovered that Hilsen had plenty of assets sitting right out in the open.
Hilsen, Asner states, signed a letter of intent to work as a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Fox Run Hospital in St. Clairsville, Ohio, for a salary of $180,000 plus a 50-percent bonus. Asner also uncovered several businesses owned by Hilsen and property in Sullivan County, N.Y., that Hilsen may have hidden under a couple of corporate names.
From 1987 to 1994, when he disappeared and fled the country, Hilsen managed Kiss and made at least between $250,000 and $500,000 a year.
Nevertheless, he filed for bankruptcy to escape paying alimony and child support. That part of his bankruptcy was rejected, and that may have spurred Hilsen to split the country for Europe and then South Africa.
With interest compounded, he owes roughly $850,000 in child support and over a million dollars in alimony.
Asner wrote in his report to the judge: "As detailed above, evidence gathered during the course for the Government's investigation strongly suggests that Hilsen has significant assets, and that he therefore is not likely to be eligible for a court-appointed lawyer under the Criminal Justice Act."
Asner went on to say that any financial reporting by Hilsen would be based on "misstatements and/or misrepresentations."
Alas, Hilsen did get a court-appointed attorney who now thinks he's convinced the Government to let Hilsen out of jail. His ex-wife — whom I first met in 1994, right after Jesse became a fugitive, when she was living with a roommate in a rental on the East Side — has a pretty good guess about what will happen if that's the case.
"He'll flee the country," says Rita Hilsen, and the lack of an official passport won't be a problem.
When he was being investigated by the FBI between 1994 and 2004, Jesse Hilsen had about 15 aliases and several passports to go with them.
Yesterday, he didn't bother to formally answer a hearing order concerning the matrimonial funds he owes his ex-wife. The result was a small win for Rita Hilsen on paper. But she may never see any of the assets she's technically won.
And here's a twist: Since Jesse Hilsen previously defied the federal district judge by not showing up or sending counsel, he has a six-month stint coming to him on Riker's Island if he's freed from his present incarceration.
Again, that punishment is at the court's discretion, and right now Rita Hilsen is becoming convinced her ex-husband may trot right out of jail.
The hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday in Magistrate's Court in Manhattan has her worried — and I don't blame her.
On July 29, 2003, a grand jury indicted Jesse Hilsen. The indictment cited his many pseudonyms — Jesse Hilsen-Grunebaum, Joseph Grunebaum, Yosef Grunebaum and Jesse Grunen among them.
(Hilsen has had a couple of illegal wives since embarking on this adventure, including a long-term girlfriend named Joan Packles Margolis, a Manhattan-based psychiatrist who has not been cooperative with authorities.)
Though ADA Brown, who did not return phone calls, has told Rita Hilsen he can't find any of her ex's assets, the prosecutor cannot explain to Rita Hilsen how her Jesse put together nearly $58,000 so that hospital in Ohio could get his medical license restored after he had not practiced in the U.S. for more than a dozen years.
When he left town, Hilsen's indictment noted that he owed $174,676 in child support for the two youngest of his three kids. By that time, he also owed his ex-wife $898,419 including interest. A judgment was obtained for that amount, but by that time he was long gone.
On Monday, if he has his way, Jesse Hilsen could be long gone again, this time forever.