With the Pellicano intrigues still dominating the news, a survival guide is clearly needed for those who want to avoid this sort of mess in the future. Herewith, some initial guidelines:
- If you’re contemplating divorce, forget about it. All of us knew divorce lawyers were greedy, but we never realized they were also so clueless that they’d routinely hire wiretappers.
- While we’re on lawyers, avoid hiring any attorney who is famous for never losing a case. Now we know the reason they never lose.
- When you go to a dinner party, check the seating arrangement prior to the sit-down. If you’re seated next to Bert Fields, you’ll probably end up in a New York Times expose hinting you’re a suspect.
- If you have a stash of weapons in your back closet, or perhaps even some WMDs, donate them to a neighborhood insurgent. Pellicano apparently was too busy tapping phones to deal with his stash.
- Don’t ever file suit over a production deal that’s not supported by a mound of signed documents. But remember, they’re still worth nothing if a studio doesn’t want you around.
- Just as your agent always has two or three aides listening in on your calls, assume that every call you make also has an extended audience. There is no such thing as a private conversation, except in bed. And even there, the specter of Pellicano may join you.
- Private investigators say they now have a booming business in sweeping homes for suspected taps. Remember, the guy you hire to check for taps may also be putting them in. Hence, if you need the dirt on someone, the Pellicano case taught us that a few bucks tucked into the wallet of a friendly cop can get you any information you may require without ancillary complications.
- If your name even remotely sounds like Bo Zenga, change it. There are 276 people named Richard Cohen in the Writers Guild. Trust me, Richard Cohen is a safer name.
Appetite for change
Just as the Pellicano case has inspired a journalistic outpouring, so has Katie Couric’s career switch.
Scanning the myriad analyses of her decision, I have now learned the following:
First, Katie’s 14-year-old daughter, Ellie, wanted her to take the CBS anchor spot because the family was tired of “early-bird dinners.” Apparently, Ellie wasn’t aware that Mumsy would have to take a pay cut in return for the privilege of eating later (she’d be paid only $75 million over five years by CBS, less than her “Today” show payday).
Second, from CBS’ point of view, the network needed to make a change because its evening news ratings were climbing under traditionalist anchor Bob Schieffer while rival NBC, with Brian Williams, was falling off (Schieffer added 200,000 viewers, while Williams lost 750,000 compared with last season).
With the more traditional show winning, CBS decided to go less traditional, favoring Couric because, spokesmen explained, she excels as an interviewer. That’s logical, except that some of us thought the nighttime anchors read the news to us, rather than doing a series of interviews.
Fortunately, the network chiefs clarified all these issues by week’s end:
“This is an opportunity to evolve the show,” said NBC’s Jeff Zucker about “Today.”
“Seasoned broadcasters … are increasingly important in this fragmented media landscape,” said CBS patriarch Les Moonves.
Ellie, enjoy your late dinners.