The Fix

Baldwin to play Halston? The Beatles still rule, and Tom Cruise plays cupid in Spain. Plus: Jacko invites everyone back to his place!

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Afternoon Briefing:

Will Alec Baldwin play Halston? Rumors are that Alec is preparing to play the late, gay fashion designer to the stars, who died of AIDS. Baldwin is already losing weight and preparing himself for “a full-blown love scene with a guy.” The mind boggles at who will play Liza, Andy and Bianca … (IMDB)

Where were you when the Beatles arrived? The fab four appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” Feb. 9, 1964, and if you were older than about 2 you probably remember the frenzy that one show caused. A group called the Fab 40 Committee has tracked down some unlikely characters from that time, including the Pan Am greeter who met the plane and the woman who played hooky from school that day and showed up at the Plaza Hotel with a sign saying: “Elvis is dead. Long live the Beatles.” (Newsday)

What a surprise! Is anyone shocked that the Republicans have more than three times the amount of money to spend on the upcoming elections than the Democrats? At last count the RNC reported having $33.1 million, the DNC $10 million. Same as it ever was … (AP)

Tom Cruise plays cupid: The megastar Mr. Cruise was in Spain to promote “The Last Samurai,” and a cameraman covering the event shared his story of unrequited love with the actor, who then went on TV and said, “Sonia, you have to marry Joao. He is crying behind the camera.” Reports are that Sonia said yes. (Yahoo)

Money Quote:

After Michael Jackson’s court appearance this morning, during which he pleaded not guilty to charges of child molestation, his handlers passed out invitations to the crowd of fans who had gathered to support Jackson. The invites said: “In the spirit of love and togetherness Michael Jackson would like to invite his fans and supporters to his Neverland ranch. Please join us Jan. 16, 2004, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Refreshments will be served. We’ll see you there!” Isn’t how all this started in the first place? (CNN)



Karen Croft

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He probably won’t chuck a racket at his guests or anything, but fiery former tennis pro John McEnroe has been tapped to host his own TV talk show on CNBC specifically because of his unpredictable displays of emotion.

“He’s a rebel in many ways,” CNBC president Pamela Thomas-Graham told the press this week. “I think that’s fun for our viewers. A lot of our viewers are entrepreneurs and they like that rebellious attitude in him.”

The Fix — ever fair and impartial — has decided to take a wait-and-see attitude. But if McEnroe’s failed attempt at hosting a game show (remember “The Chair” back in 2002? Thought not) isn’t enough to give him pause as he jumps back into prime time, a quick review of some of the celebrities who have (briefly) sallied forth into the world of TV talk before him might:

Magic Johnson, of whose 1998 show, “The Magic Hour,” New York Newsday wrote the following: “I predict that Magic Johnson will have 17 minutes. ‘The Magic Hour’ is nice. He’s nice. The bandleader, Sheila E. is nice. She even employs her brother. You want it to succeed because it is all so nice … [But] Magic is not a comedian. He is not even an entertainer. That would seem to be a couple of strikes against him.”

And Newsday’s review of Magic’s show was, well, nice, compared to the one that ran in the Chicago Tribune: “Even before seeing it, you knew that ‘The Magic Hour’ was an optimistic name for Magic Johnson’s new talk show. About the best producers could ask for, given his past track record as less-than-adept basketball announcer, was ‘The Not Embarrassing Hour, or, ‘At Least Twenty-Five Minutes of Tolerable Competence, Hopefully.’ Two weeks into the run of the show, even those titles seem too much.”

Robert Urich, who in 1997 set the standard for his talk show by singing to Fran “The Nanny” Drescher on the pilot and discussing his motives for hosting the show. He said he’d been “moving and evolving toward” TV chatter for a long time and was motivated by the cancer that took his life in 2002: “When this cancer thing came up I had the opportunity of talking to Diane Sawyer, and after that interview I got 50,000 pieces of mail. These were not postcards, they were 10-page letters from people pouring their hearts out to me like I was a brother. And so I thought maybe I can communicate something in a different way. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

Marilu Henner, whose talk show, “Marilu,” didn’t last long either. But it lasted long enough for her husband, Robert Lieberman, to give this heartbreaking quote to the press: “Marilu has wanted to do a talk show since she was a little girl.”

Chevy Chase, who was so jittery on the “The Chevy Chase Show” back in 1993 that his own guests were commenting on it. “God, he is so nervous, I feel sorry for him,” Dennis Hopper told the Hollywood Reporter after an appearance on the shows. “He picks up a glass and he is shaking … He has to relax.”

Meshach Taylor. The former “Designing Women” costar’s 1998 syndicated talk show got canceled before it even hit the air. Alas, the same cannot be said of the talk show efforts of Roseanne, Howie Mandel, Carnie Wilson, Suzanne Somers, Danny Bonaduce, George Hamilton, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alan Thicke, Kato Kaelin and so, so, so many others.

In fact, in 1987, years after his “Thicke of the Night” crashed and burned so horribly, when he had seemingly recovered and was starring on the successful sitcom “Growing Pains,” Thicke told the press that he was still smarting from the devastating reviews. (“Thicke is worse than boring. He is aggressively boring,” wrote People magazine before the disastrous late-night show was canceled.) The failure was painful, Thicke commented. “It probably always will be.”

Morning Briefing:

Queer chicks for the straight guy? “The L Word,” Showtime’s series about lusty lesbians in love, stars Jennifer Beals and Laurel Holloman and premieres tonight amid lackluster reviews. (USA Today)

Still skinny, but not so young anymore: Kate Moss turns 30, is hailed as an icon. (Vogue U.K.)

Horrible way to go: Olivia Goldsmith, who wrote “The First Wives Club,” has died from a reaction to anesthetic she was given during plastic surgery. (London Evening Standard)

More sad news: Actress and teacher Uta Hagen, who originated the role of Martha in the Broadway production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” has died at age 84. (Reuters)

Money Quote:

Ahmad Sabki Yusof, a leader of the fundamentalist Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party’s youth wing, which wants Mariah Carey’s show banned from Malaysia for promoting un-Islamic values: “Everyone knows Mariah Carey presents herself in a sexy, unacceptable and almost vulgar manner. She is not an appropriate role model for young Malaysians.” (Associated Press)

Amy Reiter

With additional reporting by Christopher Farah

Bookmark the Fix here. To send a hot tip to the Fix, click here.

Karen Croft is the editor of Salon Sex.

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