After an emotionally exhausting afternoon listening to former TV news titan Dan Rather blubber on about Edward R. Murrow, wrung out TV critics retired to the pool at the Ritz Carlton Huntington Hotel in Pasadena to restore their tissues and fluff up their collagen at a mini-spa party hosted by E! Entertainment's Style network.
It had been a trying Q&A session with Rather and his new Internet Billionaire Boss Mark Cuban, who came to Summer TV Press Tour 2006 to unveil plan for Rather's new HDNet newsmag, "Dan Rather Reports." Rather, still licking his wounds though taking the high road after being subjected by CBS News to the same treatment Hollywood actresses receive when they hit 40, treated critics to one last round of Ratherisms. He even threw in some James Taylor material. It seems Rather has "seen fire" and he's "seen rain" and he's "seen sunny days" though he stopped short of saying he "thought they'd never end." (Rather, in case you've had your head in the sand, recently departed CBS News after they let him know they were going in another direction, as they say in Hollywood -- a Katie Couric direction, an Anderson Cooper direction.)
When the long Q&A was over, critics staggered to the pool where Style network had set up folks from a place called Nite Spa in Venice, California -- open noon to midnight and located on Abbot Kinney Blvd which, we were assured, is "the new Melrose" -- to restore them with massages and manicures.
Also offered was a Brow Bar -- because getting one's brows tweezed should be an interactive experience involving a nice glass of wine and good conversation with other eyebrow challenged guests, we were told.
The brightest star in the E! firmament, Ryan Seacrest was there; people were waiting in line to interview him, including an intern from Teen People, who wanted to know what was the best advice his parents ever gave him (Brush your tongue before a meeting).
Journalists also lined up to interview Internet Billionaire Cuban, who E! Entertainment CEO Ted Harbert had graciously invited to join the mini-spa party.
Cuban, sucking down a beer at the bar by the pool, continued with a nick the Net theme he'd been developing during his Q&A with critics, when he told them they were all suffering from "internet-and-broadband-itis."
"It's so ancient it's like the telegram," he said of the Internet, adding for good measure, "It's like electricity -- you don't make a big deal about electricity."
Cuban said he's not worried about how 74-year-old Rather is going to look in high-def. But then, on the five minute high-def presentation Cuban showed critics, Rather had looked pretty good, particularly next to the clip of a high-def dead pope.
One intrepid reporter from E!, with cameraman in tow, cornered Cuban and noted he'd just signed Dan Rather. Cuban did not deny it.
"Obviously he's an icon," the reporter said. Cuban, impressed, offered him a job. But he rescinded the offer when the guy asked him about his Dallas Mavericks, who recently lost the NBA championship to the Miami Heat.
And, if Rather's not enough, Cuban's about to sign whackjob Dennis Rodman to do a "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"-ish reality series for the network. (He's also bought reruns of "Arrested Development" for his network, which was shot in high-def).
Sitting poolside in a grassy area, talk with party host Harbert naturally turned to messed-up child stars. Harbert's something of an expert on damaged child stars, having been a programming honcho at ABC during the "Full House" years. For sheer concentration of damaged former child stars, "Full House" is the motherlode, having produced Jodie Sweetin, now a recovering meth addict, and Mary Kate Olsen, who was treated for anorexia a couple years ago.
So, not surprisingly, Harbert has ordered a new series for E! called "House of Carters, " in which the five Carter kids -- including Backstreet Boy Nick and pop sensation Aaron -- help each other and their siblings get over their manager/parents.
"I'm so angry at these parents for what they did to these kids" Harbert said. Then he had the good sense to acknowledge he's not going to win a Humanitas Prize for putting on the series.
Mini-spa night winding to a close, critics migrated over to the top of the hotel parking lot for the GSN party.
GSN used to stand for Game Show Network but they prefer you not mention it these days. Kind of like how Discovery's TLC used to stand for The Learning Channel when it had the veneer of "educational," and A&E used to stand for Arts & Entertainment until they stopped telecasting "Vanity Fair" in favor of "Dog the Bounty Hunter."
GSN had a whole surfin' party thing going on. It involved air-mattress Twister, a firepit for roasting s'mores, beach chairs looking out over a video of an ocean, an Airstream with a neon martini on top, and -- speaking of damaged former child stars -- Danny Bonaduce hawking his latest series "Starface" in which contestants test their knowledge of all things celebrity.
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