Life’s a beach for Fox vet

Catching up with Stephen Chao

Hey, remember Rupert Murdoch and the stripper?

That was 1992. But it has remained a gleeful nugget of Hollywood lore how Stephen Chao, a then-rising star at Fox, invited a male stripper to perform at a News Corp. management conference in Aspen and promptly got the boot. He said he was trying to make a point about freedom of expression.

Chao had been cutting a wide swath at Fox, launching shows like “America’s Most Wanted,” “Cops” and “Studs.” But Rupe wasn’t amused at the beefcake caper. And it didn’t help that then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne were there at the meeting as the mogul’s guests.

Since that fateful parting, Chao, a Harvard grad said to be the grandson of Madame Chiang Kai-shek, formed his own company and spent five years producing programming for networks and studios, launching Playboy TV in Latin America and an animation channel, Locomotion.

He consulted with QVC when Barry Diller, his former boss at Fox, ran it. Then he moved to Diller’s USA Cable in 1998. He ankled in 2001 when Diller hired British TV exec Michael Jackson as head of USA Entertainment. Chao, like others in Diller’s orbit, exited with a hefty package rumored to be in the neighborhood of $30 million.

It’s been five years.

Chao bought and restored a string of a dozen ramshackle houses in Santa Monica. He lives there with his family.

And they surf.

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