Pop Culture
Pop Culture: Articles for the Scripps Howard News Service & "Seen, Heard, Said"

Why the top-365-songs list isn't a stupid idea

Actors sink their teeth into vampire roles

Gregory Corso: My encounter with a Beat legend

Golden Globes: Sleazy and proud of it

In the offing, Clinton continent looms

"NYPD Blue" opener: The misery continues

 New movie genre: Reclusive authors anonymous

"West Wing," "Ally," et al.: Words, words, words

When TV shows outstay their welcome

Film critics dig their own graves with "Angels" review

Great Robert Altman films you never
heard of

Famous folk, next week in the arts, show business briefs

"Time regained": Proust in the multiplex

Glitterati is dead, long live Popfocus

Carl Barks: The man who put the ducks in Duckburg

"Almost Famous": Lester Bangs rises from the dead

Liz Hurley wins in war of words with Jane mag

Douglas poses with Zeta-Jones, and baby-makes three

Weddings that aren't: Douglas, Zeta-Jones, Madonna, Ritchie

The Emmy War: A half-century of coast-to-coast feuding

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays the Iglesias odds

It's raining books by and about Trumps

What's in a mane? Blond woman in the news

Liz Hurley denies dissing ex-beau

Rock Hall of Infamy: Anti-heroes from Elvis to Eminem

Barbra tix bankrupt fans

Laurels for Kathie Lee to rest on

Hillary "In bed" with De Niro, Cruise, Kidman

How "Sopranos," "West Wing" will divvy up awards

This just in: Donald Trump is not a dope

Walter Matthau: A rumpled old dog in the heart of the city

Sampras to take a stroke at wedding bells

Who wants to host "Monday Night Football"?

Queen rewards Tina Brown for demoralizing American readers

How the Korean War cane to TV land 20 years late

Ivanka Trump: From catwalk to commencement line

Lester Bangs: The troublesome punk who wouldn't die

Rags clash over Ted Turner "romance"

With straight face, Trump deems Marla's move "tacky"

"Friends" re-up for another season of top ratings, top money

Madonna in denial, and rightly so

"Suburbia": The continental subdivide

Howard Stern, Sly Stallone in bizarre, apocryphal triangle

Easter video viewing: "Spartacus" to "Harvey"

Billy’s in the news: Bob, Joel in love but not with other

"Charles's Angels" movie: Dispiriting news for old-time fans

Innovative career move for 'NYPD Blue' co-star

Top model: Why I gave oldish rocker husband the heave-ho

Unpleasantville: The awful truth about old-time TV families

Tina Brown held captive in desert by demanding children

Anybody's Oscar: Unusually suspenseful awards show looms

Oscar telecast: Looking for a few good hosts

"Lambs," "Beauty": Oscar's love affair with unacceptable behavior

Brad Pitt, Oscar to be in same room at same time

Letterman bites guest-host bullet: Andrew "Dice" Clay, call your agent

Seinfeld eyes East Hampton manse: Where's the welcome wagon?

"Mod Squad" Immortal dishes couple du jour

Brad Pitt's second thoughts about Oscar

Mike McCurry praises "West Wing": It's not entirely demeaning,,,"

Memo to "Hannibal" producers: Get Najimy while the getting's good

Don't Invite Gwyneth and Oscar to the same party

True or false: Douglas, Zeta-Jones don't even know each other

Ex-Clinton honcho linked to ex-"Cheers" costar

Third party cited in Trump-Knauss breakup

 Gossip queen goes to bat for Talk mag

20th century's No. 1 hit: "Satisfaction" hits the spot

Statement: Spice girl's marital problems insoluble

Charlie Brown, Pogo and me

From Howdy to Charlie Brown, we hate to say goodbye

The Beatle George: While his guitar gently weeps

Jodie Foster's people in mild tiff with CBS

A Peanuts trivia Q&A

Publicist: Boyle still joined at hip

There's video in your future and future in your video

"The future is now": Hit rewind

Whitney Houston presides over confluence of talent

Jim Carrey's flack earns A "D," Cher's A "B-minus"

Geraldo: bye-bye, doghouse

Michael Douglas does nothing much, reporters go wild

Ricky Martin on Menudo: Look back in anger

How to outsmart Halloween crowds at the video store

Tom Cruise puts himself in harm's way, only not really

1800-1900: Steaming towards revolution

1700-1800: Liberty, equality and bloodshed

1600-1700: The earth moves; North America is settled

Trump mulls travel plans, from altar to White House

"Faces of Impressionism" Time machine made of canvas, paint

Major quakes aren't personal unless they happen to you

Brad Pitt gracious about character assassination

Director insists Harrison Ford is not a brainless hulk

Costner, Willis, Douglas. Branagh, Sting_ in that order

Streisand: Color her ready to plug her new album

Julia and Benjamin's rings devoid of significance, flack says

Literary mud wrestling, featuring Geri and The Spice Girls

Urgent news: Ford to replace Gibson on "GMA" eventually

She married a monster from outer space

Never mind Godzilla VS. Mothra, Here's Trump VS. Cronkite

Spurned by Pitt, Redford pays court to Damon

Celebrity coyness is bustin' out all over

"Detroit Rock City": Kiss of death

Talk is cheap? Not with Tina Brown at the helm

The Beats: Remembered, Lionized and Unread

Real estate beat, starring Woody Allen and Donald Trump

Mood Music, or how we learned to stop worrying

Sex in the cinema: From "Last Tango" to "Eyes Wide Shut"

Two easy steps to looking exactly like Ricky Martin

Close encounters of the Muppet kind

Upcoming Brad Pitt movie not garbage, insiders say

Kathie Lee's eyewear excites Islanders' ire

Back to the future, continued

"Wild Wild West": Buck Rogers in the 19th century

Sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein: Fun, Fun, Fun

An expert's verdict:" Austin Powers" is pretty neat

Click here for pointless celebrity gossip

P. Dempsey Tabler of the jungle: The many faces of Tarzan

Kirk Douglas' Ex tells all about Errol Flynn fling

New twist in TV programming: Ax profitable shows

Private jet fees spell the end for another celebrity union

Killer serials: "Flash," "Buck" and a boy named George Lucas

Top nonfiction books: A message from two old men

Celebrity Dream dreams: Monica, Donald, Barbara, Georgette

Two divas, publicist form bizarre show-biz triangle

Johnny Cash tribute: Ring of fire, ring of friends

Streisand employee really upset about rumors

Grande Dame Eyes MGM Grand Gig

Secretive celebs? Not by a long shot

NBC honcho bristles at notion that Brokaw is not a saint

Barbara Walters not keen on daily dose of Monica

"Seen, Heard, Said"

David Letterman, Donald Trump, Eddie Murphy, Elton John

Madonna, Frank Sinatra, Prince Charles, Maj, Ronald Ferguson, Fergie, Miranda Richardson, Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, Axl Rose, Stephanie Seymour

March 7, 2000

Letterman bites guest-host bullet: Andrew 'Dice' Clay, call your agent

By ROGER ANDERSON Scripps Howard News Service

For years David Letterman had no use for guest hosts, but now he's finally given in - and for the most un-Letterman-like reasons imaginable.

Sidelined by heart bypass surgery and now on the mend, Letterman is taking it easy by showing up for work a few nights a week and getting pals like Bill Cosby, David Brenner, Regis Philbin, Kathie Lee Gifford, and Nathan Lane to make up the difference for him.

Longtime TV watchers may feel relieved at this late-in-life conversion of Dave's, because, after all, talk shows have since prehistory been as much about guest hosts as they are about hosts.

Indeed, there was a time B.C. (before Carson) when it was nothing BUT guest hosts. After Jack Paar went sulking off into the night and before Johnny Carson was at contractual liberty to take over his spot, NBC turned the show over to wall-to-wall guests for months on end.

From April through September 1962, viewers were treated to a cavalcade of the great and near-great ranging from Art Linkletter, Soupy Sales, Joey Bishop, Jimmy Dean, and Mort Sahl to Donald O'Connor, Jack E. Leonard, Hugh Downs and Groucho Marx.

Once Carson took over and became a broadcasting personality of unprecedented popularity, NBC was highly motivated to cater to his whims by (a) paying him a lot of money, (b) cutting the show from 90 minutes to one hour, and (c) allowing him to engage guest hosts so that he could stay home and relax in front of the tube some nights, just like his viewers.

However, the guest-host expedient goes back almost to the beginning.

Really old people will recall that “The Tonight Show" actually was launched in 1954 under the hosting aegis of Steve Allen, who himself gained increasing viability as a broadcast commodity as the years went on.

Finally Steverino was given his own primetime show, forcing him to cut back on his "Tonight” labors, which in turn occasioned him to bring aboard no less a legendary TV figure than Ernie Kovacs to fill in the gaps two nights a week.

The sad fact of the matter is that the fate of guest hosts has not always been happy.

Take Joan Rivers - please.

To give her her due, she was perfect as a guest host. Her rapid­fire mouthiness was such a salubrious counterpart to Johnny's less manic schtick that he actually crowned her permanent guest host from September 1983 to 1986.

Then the whole thing turned into a Greek tragedy. Hubris took over, causing Joan to think that she could herself become another Johnny Carson. Off she went to start her own talk show in competition with the NBC franchise, a move that turned Johnny against her and did her no good in the long run - the show failed, rather dismally.

All during the Joan era no other guest host had appeared on "Tonight," but now Johnny went back to playing the field. Pre-and post-Joan, he engaged as guest host such luminaries as Joey Bishop, Bob Newhart, John Davidson, David Brenner, McLean Stevenson, Jerry Lewis, and - fatefully - both Jay Leno and David Letterman, who in later life were at loggerheads over the Carson dynastic succession.

Perhaps the saddest case of guest-hostitis was contracted by McLean Stevenson. He was so popular on the very popular sitcom "MASH" and went over so well as a Carson guest host - his mild, wry, slightly melancholy demeanor was both funny and disarming, and he was great at letting guests do their stuff - that he quit "MASH" with the idea that he was right on the verge of rising to stardom.

It didn't happen (his sitcom "Hello Larry" is synonymous with television (failure to this day), and no one ever makes a permanent show-biz niche simply by filling in as a late-night talk show host (unless he's Joey Bishop). So eventually he lapsed into obscurity and never emerged until his untimely death in 1996.

Finally, in 1987, Carson named Leno his permanent guest host. Meantime, Letterman had his own post-Johnny show, produced by Johnny's own people. This is what is known in the industry as a train wreck waiting to happen.

When Carson announced his retirement, what Dave seemed to forget was that he himself is basically an acerbic, barely pleasant TV personality whose stock in trade is behaving like an anti-Carson. Having forgotten that, he conceived an ambition to take the "Tonight" torch from Johnny, Of course, Leno had the same idea - and the rest is history.

The current state of affairs is especially un-Letterman-like insofar as Dave's ratings fortunes - his former friend Leno has been besting him in the Nielsens season after season - have been immeasurably enhanced by the old illness-and-sympathy syndrome, the kind of thing the old Dave always made merciless fun of.

As for the quality of his guest hosts, is anyone surprised that Bill Cosby doesn't come off well? All you have to do is recall his millions of talk-show appearances over the years to realize that the beloved star has, despite his wise paterfamlllas persona, a serious personality deficit, never managing to restrain himself from one-upping his colleagues and engaging in borderline passive-aggressive behavior.

Regis and Kathie Lee as guest hosts - now that's more like Letterman. No doubt Dave is genuinely devoted to Reege and his old-fashioned showbiz smarm, but that doesn't stop him from tacitly presenting him to America in the character of a laughingstock. The same goes double or treble for Kathie Lee.

Only time will tell if Letterman decides to stick with the guest-host dodge once his ticker has won a clean bill of health. If he does, maybe the best thing he could do is go the anti-guest-host route. Kathie Lee is a good start. Tonya Harding is probably available.

Roger Anderson is arts and entertainment editor at Scripps Howard News Service.

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