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BC Beat

With Robert Edelstein and Melissa Grego

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Alec Baldwin 'Auditions' for '60 Minutes'

The National Business Travelers Association convention might not seem a likely venue for TV stars. But the 6,450 attendees at the annual confab last week in Los Angeles were treated to luncheon keynotes from two of network television's funniest: Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson and 30 Rock Emmy-winner Alec Baldwin.

Ferguson kicked things off Monday, beginning his routine by reading an actual list of "Do and Don't" topics given him by organizers (e.g., politics, the economy) before noting, "They didn't say I couldn't be dirty."

The Scottish comic touched only tangentially on travel when he recounted his history of alcoholism and referred to his native United Kingdom as "Drunkadia." He killed the crowd with riffs on why he loved rehab, how he touches midgets for good luck and the horrors of childbirth classes.

Baldwin, however, did not go over as well. Although his comic turns on Saturday Night Live are legendary, his appearance on Tuesday left conventioneers puzzled. Despite the TelePrompTers nearby, Baldwin proceeded to read his remarks from a stack of papers, covering such topics as getting fat; aging; and what a fat, aging actor can ultimately do when his career goes south.

Baldwin's answer: star in 60 Minutes. He then proceeded to "audition" for Andy Rooney's job with a commentary about the difficulty of putting on socks. Next, he invited a member of the audience—a comely 29-year-old named Barbara—onstage for a Mike Wallace-style interview.

After some banter about the travel business, Baldwin cut to the chase. "So, Barbara," he asked, "are you a member of the 'Mile-High Club?'"

Turning a shade of red that proved she was not in on the act, Barbara whispered, "Yes," prompting the room to give her a standing ovation.

As for Baldwin, NBTA members were left hoping he keeps his night job.

Quake: Take Two

When a 5.4 earthquake hit Los Angeles last Tuesday, KNBC's news team found itself in a familiar situation: on the air as the station began to shake.

"I believe we are having—yeah, a big earthquake right now," said morning anchor Chris Schauble evenly as he and co-anchor Jennifer Bjorklund remained on-camera and seated at the anchor desk, practically bantering about the "rattling" that lasted for several seconds. The station then cut to its external "Valley Cam," which appeared to be shaking, before switching to its on-screen seismograph.

The scene stood in stark contrast to the one in 1987, when KNBC's early-morning anchors Kent Shockneck and Christopher Nance felt the aftershocks of the 5.8 Whittier Narrows quake and famously did what Angelinos are always told to do when the ground starts moving: They took cover beneath the anchor desk.

The rather awkward moment, which became an instant classic after David Letterman featured it on Late Night, resurfaced on the Web last week, making Schauble and Bjorklund look all the more cool, calm and collected.

"I don't know why they did so well except that they're calm people," said KNBC VP and news director Bob Long, who defended Shockneck and Nance, adding, "That was a much stronger earthquake. I'll never second-guess how someone handles the situation."

But Long was particularly proud of the way his news team overrode its new automated control room and went manual.

"I love to compare it to [the film] Apollo 13," he said. "At some point you have to turn the machine off and a pilot has to be able to find Earth through the porthole."

Citing the Valley Cam shot as an example of "heads-up directing and producing," Long concluded, "It's the thing that TV does best."