Beware this Ides of January wrap-up of news and opinion from your not-so-humble correspondent.

The Devil Went Down to Haiti

According to the Southern Baptist charismatic Pat Robertson speaking on his show The 700 Club, the recent 7.0 earthquake in Haiti which is estimated to have killed 100,000 — including Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Port-au-Prince, and devastated a third of the country’s nine million inhabitants — was engineered by none other than Satan, collecting on an old debt from when the Haitians made a deal to liberate themselves from the French.

Leaving aside the question of how Pat Robertson has such close relations with Satan that he’s privy to the Alienated Angel’s account ledgers, this correspondent has to sympathize with anyone who feels that trading a Gallic overlord for Satan is a step up; and I also have to wonder — now that Al Gore’s Belle Meade, Tennessee house has frozen over — whether all those things that would never come to pass until Hell freezes over are now in our future?

Jay v. Conan

There’s a very funny moment in the 2007 movie Music and Lyrics where Brad Garrett — playing music manager Chris Riley — tells his client Hugh Grant, as 80’s “Pop” star Alex Fletcher, that his gig as a retro performer is drying up because “There are new old acts coming up all the time.”

To my 18-year-old daughter retro is her parents’ generation; to me, retro is my parents’ generation. That means my cultural memory — without much study of history — easily reaches back to the “golden age of radio” when Fred Allen and Jack Benny feuded with each other for a decade on their respective radio shows, and even in movies.

It was an act, of course. Jack Benny and Fred Allen were good friends in real life and their writing staffs collaborated on writing the insults, long before Don Rickles, Redd Foxx, and Friars’ Club Roasts made a genre out of insult comedy for generations of comics to follow. But the Benny-Allen crossfire caught on with the public and the feud was good for the ratings of both shows.

As of this writing, TMZ is reporting that Conan O’Brien’s last day as host of The Tonight Show will be a week from tonight, Friday January 22nd — just shy of eight months after his taking over hosting of the show on June 1, 2009.

Also as of this writing NBC executives are denying the TMZ story to The Hollywood Reporter.

But NBC executives — who broke promises both to Jay Leno regarding their one-year commitment to his prime-time show, and who are apparently in breach of contract to Conan O’Brien, who moved his old Late Night cast and much of his crew from New York City to Burbank to take over The Tonight Show — do not have a lot of credibility these days.

Still, the NBC website has been promoting all the quips Leno and O’Brien have been firing against each other so heavily that I can only conclude that — like the old Benny-Allen feud — NBC is using this bonanza of free publicity to boost what have been sagging late-night ratings for a network in the toilet during prime-time as well.

If NBC is really dumping Conan to give Leno back the Tonight Show gig they forced him out of five years before his May 29, 2009 last show when he passed the baton to Conan, they’re not only short-sighted idiots but also utter incompetents.

Alienating Conan’s fan base by dumping him could well poison-pill NBC’s entire late night ratings … perhaps for good.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Jay. I thought he grew into The Tonight Show as a masterful host exceeded only by the sheer genius of Johnny Carson, and I’ve also been a devotee of his prime-time show.

But I also watch Conan, who’s just as much a major talent as Jay with his schooling at Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, Late Night, and eight months of hosting Tonight.

And they both have killer bands.

When this finally shakes out if NBC loses either show, Comcast — the new owners of NBC — need a clean sweep of NBC programming management.

How hard, after all, would it be for NBC to schedule 26 weeks a year of an 11:35 PM (10:35 PM Central) Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien and 26 weeks a year of an 11:35 PM (10:35 PM Central) Jay Leno Show?

Or even split the weeks — three nights Jay and two nights Conan one week, alternating with three nights Conan and two nights Jay the next.

I remember that it was Johnny Carson taking so many nights off from The Tonight Show that enabled Jay Leno to make his bones as the show’s regular guest host. Without Johnny’s days off Leno never would have beaten out then Late Night host David Letterman for the Tonight Show gig in the first place.

If you haven’t seen it, give a look to the tremendously entertaining 1996 movie The Late Shift, about the battle between Leno and Letterman to replace Johnny as host of The Tonight Show.

Jay said he never wanted to go through that again when he first agreed to let Conan succeed him as host of The Tonight Show.

Yet here we are.

Jay told us that he’s been saving his TV salaries for decades anyway, living only off his stage gigs. It’s not like he can’t afford to be magnanimous.

It won’t cost NBC any more than they’ll have to spend to pay off Conan for breach of contract after Conan’s management and legal pit bulls get done with them — and there are two standing sets and two working casts and crews ready to perform.

Jay and Conan are old friends. They should get into one of Jay’s classic cars and drive through the In-N-Out Burger take-out window, then present this plan to NBC.

I’d think better of both of them if they did, because it would prove to me they’re savvy enough to have revived the old Benny-Allen bit.

But if NBC truly can only have one and only one 11:35 star, then it’s time to settle this the American way.

No, not pistols at dawn.

I propose a series of Comedy Debates between Jay and Conan.

Four or five of them should do.

Let the League of Women Voters run it … or the Friar’s Club.

Tom Brokaw should moderate.

The American people can vote for the NBC late-night host just like they vote for American Idol contestants.

Now that would put NBC back at the top of the ratings, much more than the Winter Olympics will.


White House Party Crashers

On December 3, 2009 in my column “Let’s Not Make a Federal Case Out of It!” I wrote the following:

Then we have the case of Michaele and Tareq Salahi, from Virginia, who allegedly gate-crashed a White House state dinner between President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on November 24, 2009. They even got onto the receiving line and got their picture taken shaking President Obama’s hand!

Michaele Salahi was a reality TV hopeful trying to get on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of D.C.. Maybe they thought this would help … or at least get them a fat check from The Inquirer. But Michaele and Tareq’s story is they showed up at the White House not knowing whether their request to be on the guest list had been granted or not, and the Secret Service let them in.

Now, of course, that it’s a big news story, the Secret Service — being shown up as somewhat less than stellar in keeping out people who aren’t supposed to get within miles of the President — are all huffy and puffy that this guy with the Arabic name should be charged with violating federal Homeland Security laws.

Hey, guys. News flash. Michaele and Tareq didn’t pull a gun on the President. Tareq wasn’t wearing a suicide belt. They got some free food. The President is reported as being pissed. Sure thing. The Democratic Party got rooked out of its usual five- or six-figure “contribution” for buying a fancy photo-op with the Prez. I’d love to see them try to collect their graft.

But a federal crime for attending a party without being on the guest list?

If this had been World War II and a well-dressed couple had crashed a reception with President Roosevelt, the only thing that would have happened is FDR asking the Secret Service if they had let in a Republican couple. Otherwise, FDR would have gotten a nice laugh out of it on an otherwise depressing day.

I’ll bet Richard Nixon, at the height of the Vietnam War protests, would have told the Secret Service to let it slide, too.

If President Obama is truly angry, he has no sense of proportion about what’s presidential-level important.

Yesterday I received an email with the following photo attached:

Tareq and Michaele Salahi snapped the pic above with Barack Obama at a “Rock The Vote” event on June 9, 2005

My email correspondent writes me, “Tareq and Michaele Salahi snapped the pic above with Obama at a ‘Rock The Vote’ event on June 9, 2005.”

The point of this photo made by my right-wing emailer — and all the right-wing blogs that are carrying this photo — is that supposedly the Salahi’s had a prior relationship with Barack Obama and were actually invited to the dinner — thus the Secret Service made no mistake in letting them in — but somehow the White House is trying to smear the Secret Service (who hold the President’s life in their hands every day) for letting them in.

How’s that again?

All the photo proves to me is that the Salahi’s began stalking Obama long before he ran for president.

Pharmaceutical Madness

If you’re upbeat and busy all the time, you’re hyperactive — and there’s a prescription pharmaceutical for that.

If you’re melancholy or grieving, there’s a prescription pharmaceutical for that.

And if you are sometimes upbeat and sometimes melancholy, you’re bipolar — there’s a prescription drug for that.

Heads they win, tails you lose.

No matter what your mood is, you’re sick and need their drugs.

What a racket!


The “Sheik of Araby” on Science Fiction

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudia Arabia — interviewed Thursday by Neil Cavuto on the Fox Business Network — responded to Neil’s comment that Avatar portrayed businessmen in a negative light, “It’s science fiction. Who cares? … It’s going to make over two billion dollars for News Corp.”

Prince Alwaleed told Neil Cavuto that he owns 5.7% of News Corp. as a permanent strategic investment in support of the Murdoch family.

The Prince also told Cavuto that Avatar is the only science-fiction movie he’s ever seen.

First off, kudos to Neil Cavuto for being the only Fox commentator with the guts even to note that Fox’s blockbuster movie would have been ideologically trashed by almost every pundit on both the Fox News Network and the Fox Business Network if the movie had been released by any studio other than Fox.

Double kudos to Neil for having the balls to bring the subject up in a conversation with an investor holding an “irrevocable” 5.7% strategic investment commitment to his employer’s company.

Triple kudos to Cavuto for giving a writer/producer like me the heads up that — assuming I could ever get the gig — I can make any point I want to in a Fox movie, just so long as it’s science-fiction, and makes its investors a bundle.

That leaves every project I currently have in development — or have in my archives — open for submission to Fox.

That would include Alongside Night.

That would include Lady Magdalene’s.

Yes, the trivialization of much of my life’s work is insulting.

But the tolerance granted a court jester also has its advantages.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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