A 'Hall' of a Night

If I do say so myself, and I am about to, B&C's Hall of Fame induction dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria was quite a shindig.

The black ties (and at least one red, white and blue one) and glam gowns abounded, with the notable exception of honoree Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

He pointed out that one of the advantages of his office is that he can show up in a business suit because he is always coming from one event and on his way to another, or at least he can say he is. He opined on the difficulties of changing clothes in the back of a car, but said his girlfriend that it was tougher for her since she had to get out a formal. The mental picture sent ribald ripples of tittering through the crowd.

But honoree Harry Pappas, veteran broadcaster, proponent of a dazzling digital future and all around good guy, took the "entendre" title. In bemoaning New York's smoking ban–as a nonsmoking Washingtonian, I had trouble empathizing–he said that, in the words of Bill Clinton, a man is entitled to taste a good cigar once in a while, and that the mayor had taken that away from him. Ribald ripples redux.

Corporate modesty, and the fact that I wasn't taping him, prevents me from recounting the glowing tributes to B&C from Mayor Bloomberg, but he said just the sort of glowing things about B&C–it was our 75th anniversary Oct. 15–that makes publishers want to rush out and turn them into a house ad (hint, hint), or at least etch them in stone in letter three feet (make 'em five feet) high on the facade of our building.

The event was ably manned and womaned by the Today Show's Al Roker and Ann Curry. Roker set the tone for what would be frequent self-deprecation by the inductees when, billed by B&C as one of the stars of the industry, he acted puzzled and suggested a bomb must have gone off outside [to thin the potential star pool considerably].

The Fox contingent was well represented, with Roger Ailes and, oh yes, Rupert Murdoch on hand to salute News Corp. President Peter Chernin, who said he relished working with great people and at a company that shared his values of enlightening and occasionally outraging.

As the tenth of 10 honorees, Chernin said he must have just made it by the narrowest of margins and thanked the selection committee for its charity.

Both hizzoner and CBS programming whiz Nancy Tellem evoked the often-evoked-at-B&C's-annual-gala reference to the baseball hall of fame. Bloomberg said his odds on making that hall were slimming, so he was glad to be in ours, his previous induction being that the Boy Scout Hall of Fame, which he said would make his scoutmaster proud, though he was probably no longer with us, he added.

Tellem said that her kids had been surprised she had made it into Cooperstown, "while still an active player."

Tim Russert, meeting on this occasion with the pressed tuxes, talked of the blue-collar values that shaped him and the work ethic instilled by family and teachers. He singled out a sister at Catholic school who redirected his energies into being the editor, publisher (mimeographer, actually), and distributor of the school paper. He also recounted some interview stories, including the one about then Presidential candidate Ross Perot being nonplussed after criticizing policies and being asked by Russert for his solutions. "If I knew you were going to ask that kind of question, I wouldn't have agreed to the interview," said Perot, or something close to that since I am doing this from memory here.

Arguably the most free-wheeling and relaxed thank you of the night came from Chris Albrecht, the stand-up comic who helped turn HBO from a home for movies into one for moving, funny, and provocative original programming.

He said that everybody had already used all his material, and suggested the trick was to only agree to be in a Hall where they handed them out alphabetically–Albrecht did get first honors in the program.

He pointed out that Tellem and Bloomberg had already taken his Cooperstown references, "the station guy" had already told a dirty joke, and he didn't owe anybody in his family anything.

Albrecht said he hoped being inducted did not signal that his career was being capped, saying that since he was in mid-alimony and middle age, he hoped he was still in mid-career.

Lifetime's Betty Cohen borrowed from her net's new tag line: "My Story Is…", filling in the blank by saying her story is gratitude for having the ability to harness the life-changing power of the media beyond her wildest basement rec-room dreams of a three stooges fan and Bullwinkle aficionado fueled by a pun-loving father.

Saying it was the kind of programming that made her want to work in TV, Cohen got in a plug for the debut Monday night of Lifetime movie, Why I Brought Lipstick to My Mastectomy," the story of a former ABC staffer whose brush with mortality prompted her to be the person she always wanted to be, with a book and, now, movie in the bargain.

In the I Love Lucci department, Susan "Erika Kane" Lucci, who could still turn heads in a wax museum, thanked the CBS casting execs who gave her a shot even though she wasn't blonde and blue-eyed. Citing Bloomberg's cameo appearance on All My Children, she extended an open invitation to Russert, saying she would love to have him pay a visit to Pine Valley.

Irwin Gotlieb joked that when Max Robins called and said they needed another short Jewish guy, eh knew at least he fit the bill. There was that self-deprecation again, this time from the E.F. Hutton of media buyers. When he talks, the industry listens, given that he controls something like $60 billion in media buys.

Gotlieb said he would take his induction as the first media buyer in the hall as a recognition of the entire industry.

Oh, and did I mention the hors d' oeuvres were great. Next time, however, I would recommend the "not more than 25% peanut" mix. This appeared to be the 50% peanut variety, which tends to leave the picked-over peanuts to betray the imbalance, reminding one, particularly at this time of the season, of those brandless, black and white-wrapped molasses candies that are always left in great, indelible profusion at the bottom of office Halloween candy bowls.)

But, boy, do I digress.

By John Eggerton