Lesley Stahl's Tipsy Ties | Alec Baldwin's Bomb Book | Cruise Sells Out | Jeremy Piven Sheds Ari; Rob Thomas Goes To The Dogs; Jennifer Hudson’s Sorrow.

Lesley Stahl's Tipsy Ties

Remember Lou Grant? The fictional newspaper man always had a bottle of something good in his desk drawer. He was a hard-drinking reporter.

Now, of all people, respected journalist Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” fame comes along and reinforces the image. Sort of.

Stahl has just sent out invites to the launch of Little Barrel, a line of clothing based on the love of drinking wine. The brand is the invention of the daughter and son in law of Stahl and her husband, writer Aaron Latham—whose magazine stories inspired “Saturday Night Fever” and other films. The young couple has designed ties, scarves and other items like headbands and tote bags with pictures of wine bottles, wine glasses, wine being poured from bottles into glasses, and grapes.

According to their website, the Stahl-Lathams fell in love with Santa Barbara wine country. Taylor and Andrew got married there, and decided to send out merchandise with these designs. They call it “vibrant varietals for any occasion.”

Is it a little odd? Why yes, it sure is. And the launch party, scheduled for November 7th, just a few days after the presidential election campaign is over, should be hilarious considering the number of journalists who’ll be unwinding at the bar and trying to tie Windsor knots. But in this time of economic disarray, I guess you have to try and make a go of it any way you can.

The ties cost $75, as do the headbands and scarf belts, and can be found at www.littlebarrel.com. And if the ties are made by underpaid workers, or the toebags are woven in countries with dictators, you can bet Stahl will on the story faster than you can say, “Morley Safer.”

Alec Baldwin's Bomb Book

Thank goodness: no one is snapping up Alec Baldwin’s book, "A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood."

The unrepentant rant by actor Baldwin about his divorce from actress Kim Basinger is number 4,933 on amazon.com

Considering that Baldwin is at the top of his game right now in the exquisitely funny “30 Rock,” it’s amazing that anyone let him put this book out at all.

As I told you previously, he addresses custody of Ireland, his daughter with Basinger, in a strange manner, as if she’s a pawn in a game. He’s not sorry for calling her a “thoughtless, rude pig” in a famous voice message, and blames everything on Basinger. The book is so weirdly detached from reality that it reads like a diatribe from Baldwin’s TV alter ego, Jack Donaghy. Maybe when the paperback comes out, he can recast it that way.

Cruise Sells Out

Tom Cruise sold himself out yesterday.

Desperate to be able to sell his movie "Valkyrie" when it comes out on Christmas Day, Cruise made a rare appearance at Friday’s Friars Club roast of the "Today" show's Matt Lauer.

Remember: In 2006, Cruise had a bitter moment with Lauer on NBC's "Today" about Scientology and the evils of psychiatry. It happened during the promotion of "Mission Impossible 3." In that live interview, Cruise called Lauer "glib" and famously told him he knew nothing about the history of psychiatry.

Subsequently, Cruise lost his standing at Paramount Pictures and, to some extent, his career. He’s now on the hook for over $100 million with "Valkyrie," a movie in which he plays the real-life failed assassin of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany. The film has caused the collapse of Cruise’s longtime business partnership with producer Paula Wagner and could end the short run of the revived United Artists, an offshoot of MGM.

At the roast — where Lauer had daily press banned from the actual lunch — Cruise delivered a slide show message to Lauer that made it seem like they were old buddies. "Believe it or not, Matt and I are friends," Cruise told the crowd that included Lauer's "Today" show co-hosts, as well as ABC's Diane Sawyer from competitor "Good Morning America."

Actually, it isn’t to be believed. Sawyer, for one, must have been surprised. She and "GMA" have had a long-standing reciprocal arrangement with Cruise in which he’s been allowed to promote anything in exchange for softball questions about his personal life and religious beliefs.

But for "Valkyrie," Cruise obviously realizes he needs the higher-rated "Today" show. A return match with Lauer would certainly be a ratings-grabber, but what remains to be seen is whether the roast appearance can help that happen. Lauer definitely would ask Cruise difficult questions in such a session, the kind that might dig "Valkyrie" a deep hole.

Meantime, insiders are starting to wonder what the nontaxable-income-producing Friars Club roasts are really all about. According to federal tax records, the Friars last year had gross receipts of a little more than $866,000 and net assets of $1.5 million. They gave away just $72,000 in charitable donations. Spokesman Richard Rubenstein did not return calls.

More interesting: They claim their restaurant and gym are tax-free as part of a separate foundation that in 2006 earned over $5 million. It’s against that fund that the mostly elderly Friars write off most of their expenses including cemetery maintenance ($7,000) and "flowers, obits, and condolences" ($21,000).

And what of the Friars? Long gone are the days of the great comedians associated with it like George Burns, Jack Benny or even more recently, the late great Alan King. For reasons that remain unclear, the modern Friars cannot seem to attract David Letterman, Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld, Conan O’Brien, or any of the big name funnymen or women who make New York their home. Instead, the Friars now treat “Apprentice” annoyance Omarosa and “Sopranos” character actor Vincent Pastore as celebs.

Jeremy Piven Sheds Ari; Rob Thomas Goes To The Dogs; Jennifer Hudson’s Sorrow

Jeremy Piven has won a bunch of awards for playing fast tongued, acerbic Ari Gold on TV’s “Entourage.” You might think he’d be typecast after that. Certainly coming to Broadway and playing Bobby, the lead character in David Mamet’s “Speed the Plow” was a risk. Bobby has just been made the head of production at a movie studio when the story unfolds. But Piven is just sensational and not at all like Ari (well maybe just a little) as parries with Raul Esparza as Charlie, the studio guy who’s languished for many years, and Elizabeth Moss as Karen, the temp whose one day on the job could change their lives. “Speed the Plow” opened on Thursday, and can’t be an open run, so run, run, run to see it right now. There’s nothing like hearing Mamet’s language spoken by pros, and these three are completely captivating. This is the 20th anniversary of “Speed the Plow,” and need I mention suffering through Madonna’s memorably awkward performance in the original? Of course, Ron Silver and Joe Mantegna were the guys back then. I missed them on Friday night, but they can feel good about their replacements. …

Rob Thomas is a trooper. He and his wife Marisol planned their Sidewalk Angels/Pets Alive fundraiser for months before it came off on Saturday night in Mt. Kisco. Who could have known that Rob would lose his voice a few days earlier thanks to all the weird weather we’ve been having? Still, he put on a bravura show of his and matchbox twenty’s hits for the slightly rained on audience, knocking himself and nearly sweating to death. Chris Daughtry was the opening act, and none other than our old pal Butch Walker was in the audience with wife Nora. There were plenty of record biz people around, too, including Monte Lippman, Matt Serletic, Pete Ganbarg, and Rob’s famed manager Michael Lippman. Marisol Thomas shined in her Marchesa gown, and pulled off a grand night. It was so successful that next year Sidewalk Angels will come into Manhattan…

…Everyone wants to know about what’s going on with Jennifer Hudson’s family. But really, at this point, the situation is terribly obvious. Even in a close family, horrible things happen. The irony is that Jennifer is one of those great girls, with a heart of gold. I can still remember her mom coming to the “Dreamgirls” party in Cannes a year and a half ago. She was so proud of her daughter, and so overwhelmed by the reaction to the footage that was shown. It’s a tragic story. Condolences to Jennifer and the rest of her family and friends in Chicago…