Katie Couric is suddenly very much in demand now that she's departing "The CBS Evening News." The anchor talked at Tufts a few weeks and now Boston University has announced that Couric will deliver the commencement addrees at Nickerson Field May 22. The onetime "Today" host, who's reportedly trying to get her own talk show, will also receive and honorary degree. But the real fun today took place after the announcement of this year's commencement speaker. That's when BU's dean of students Kenn Elmore jumped into the Charles. Elmore had promised to go for a quick dip if 2,011 members of the Class of 2011 contributed to the school's fundrasing campaign. (In 1996, you'll recall, then governor William Weld took the plunge, fully clothed, to show his commitment to cleaning up the notoriously nasty river.) "I ran my mouth and said I'd not only jump in, but I'd wear a tux and my flyest tie," Elmore told us afterward. "It was warmer than I thought it would be." It helped, of course, that Elmore had a wetsuit on under his tux. "I cheated a little, I guess," he said. You can watch him get wet here.
The elusive Whitey Bulger on Castle Island
There are already plenty of books about Whitey Bulger, but the shelf is about to get a little more crowded. Tom Foley, former head of Massachusetts State Police who spearheaded the probe that led to murder charges being filed against Bulger, has inked a deal to write an insider's account of the Boston gangster. The book, to be called "Betrayal," will trace Foley's 20-year pursuit of Bulger, and his discovery that the FBI not only protected the mobster but allowed him to build his criminal empire. The book, which Foley is writing with Cambridge author John Sedgwick, was sold to Touchstone after a bidding war among four prospective publishers. (We're told Foley's advance is north of $250,000.) Reached yesterday in Florida, the retired top cop said he's writing the book to "set the record straight." While there is no shortage of books, at least a few of them don't get the story right, he said. "This will be the real true story of what went on, and there's nobody who can tell that story like I can," said Foley. Of course, that hasn't stopped others from trying. There's "Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob" by Dick Lehr and Gerry O'Neill; "Brutal: The Untold Story of My Life Inside Whitey Bulger's Irish Mob" by former Winter Hill henchman Kevin Weeks; "Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob" by Edward MacKenzie Jr.; Howie Carr's "The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century"; and Carr's latest "Hitman: The Untold Story of Johnny Martorano." (We're not sure what's "untold" since Martorano has talked to anyone who'll listen, including "60 Minutes.") Foley said he'll be focusing on the FBI's (mis)handling of Bulger because that's what the publisher wants. "When I said this would be about what (investigators) ran into on a daily basis from the government, they jumped all over it," he said. "We're going to tell the whole thing, including the good bad guys and the bad good guys." There's no timetable for the book, but Foley told us it'll be done within a year.
Jay Severin, the highly paid talk show host whose provocative on-air comments twice resulted in suspensions, was fired by WTKK-FM (96.9) today.
Severin was let go because he did not maintain an "appropriate level of civility and adhere to a standard that respects our listeners and the public at large," according to a statement released by Greater Media Inc., which owns WTKK. "Unfortunately, it had become clear at several points in the past two years that Jay was either unwilling or unable to maintain our standards on the air. It's for that reason we have made the decision to end our relationship."
Severin, who signed a seven-year contract in 2006 that pays him close to $1 million a year, was suspended last week for saying on the air that he had slept with female employees years ago. "That's not the purpose for which they were hired," he said while discussing the case of a CEO who was sued for sexual harassment. "I don't think of myself as a monster or strange in any way because of that. All I was was a young man who was the boss, and I did it because I could."
Severin was pulled off the radio in 2009 after he called Mexican immigrants "primitives," "leeches," and exporters of "women with mustaches and VD." He returned to the air a month later, apologizing for his "hurtful, unkind, and wrong" commentary. Severin did not return calls today, but his attorneys, George Tobia and Laura Studen, did.
"It's pretty transparent that this is no more than the station's interest in saving money," Studen said. "Jay's the highest paid guy at the station and they have a ratings problem, so they look at his contract. Jay's going to pursue all of his rights under his contract. He was terminated for no cause. This is a thinly veiled attempt to get out from under his contract."
For now, Michael Bower, who was Severin's occasional cohost on the 2-6 p.m. show, will take over while the station reviews its programming option for the time slot. By midafternoon yesterday, Severin had already been removed from the WTKK's website.
It had been a tumultuous tenure for Severin, who arrived on local airwaves in 2000, a self-described libertarian and "rock `n' roll Republican" with a fondness for tossing rhetorical bombshells. He used a crude epithet to refer to Hillary Clinton, called Jesse Jackson a "pimp, a race hustler," and said, in his world, "the poor and stupid would starve."
The firing did not come as a complete surprise to some observers, who suspect that Severin's high salary and also-ran ratings had become a problem for his bosses.
"I'd guess it was a business decision," said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine. "If you have a controversial host, you have to put up with a lot of heat from special-interest groups and, sometimes, the FCC. If the host is worth it, you keep him or suspend him. But when the heat outweighs the benefits, you get rid of him, and I'd say that's what happened in this case."
Since Arbitron instituted a new digital ratings system two years ago, Harrison said the numbers for Severin's show, once a leader among 25-to-54-year-old listeners, have been lackluster. He also said the culture of talk radio has gradually changed.
"There's less tolerance for frivilous, insulting, or offensive behavior," Harrison said.
That was certainly true two years ago when Severin made derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants. Organizations such as the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts protested, and Governor Deval Patrick, who does a monthly "Ask the Governor" segment with WTKK morning hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, said he was "embarrassed to be associated with the station."
In suspending Severin that time, Greater Media issued a statement affirming its commitment to "basic principles of civility, common decency, and respect for all cultures."
On March 29, while discussing the case of American Apparel CEO Dov Charney, who is being sued for sexual harassment by two former female employees, Severin called the women "whores and liars" and said they belong in jail. He went on to say that he had slept with interns.
"Those girls that got to sleep with me got to know their boss better, they got to go on trips, they got to travel in some cases to various parts of the world, to see things and meet people that they never would have seen or done," he said.
Greater Media management would not comment beyond its email statement yesterday, but a person close to the decision to fire Severin said his salary had little to do with the decision to terminate him.
"This was quite simply about a guy who ran out of second chances, and just couldn't maintain basic civility on the air," said the source, who asked not to be identified because was not authorized to speak publicly. "It's not about money. They will lose advertisers who believed in and supported Jay. But it was the only credible and honest way to deal with it."
Greater Media's full statement today:
Boston, MA (April 6, 2011): "Greater Media today ended its relationship with Jay Severin. Our company has always encouraged a free and open dialogue on a variety of issues and topics, and we will continue to be guided by that principle. But we also demand that our on-air talent maintain an appropriate level of civility, and adhere to a standard that respects our listeners and the public at large.
Jay Severin has been an important part of what we have accomplished with 96.9 WTKK-FM since its inception in 2000 and for that we are grateful and wish him well in future endeavors. Unfortunately, it had become clear at several points in the past two years that Jay was either unwilling or unable to maintain our standards on the air. It's for that reason we have made the decision to end our relationship.
In the interim, Michael Bower will be assuming the on-air duties from 2 to 6 p.m. each day on WTKK while we review our long-term programming plans for that time slot."
Vice President of Corporate Communication
Greater Media, Inc.
A few new details have emerged behind this weeks' suspension of Jay Severin, the right-wing talk show host on Boston's WTKK-FM radio
station. In talking about a lawsuit involving a CEO being sued for
sexual harassment by two former female employees, Severin said he had
slept with his own interns and didn't understand the fuss: "We'd have
drinks together at the end of the day and we'd spend the night together.
I should feel badly about that?" The highly-paid drive-time host, who
was pulled off the air in
2009 for calling Mexican immigrants "primitives," "leeches," and
exporters of "women with mustaches and VD," has been suspended again,
indefinitely, according to a station spokeswoman. "Jay was suspended
after we received serious complaints about the recent content of his
show," said Heidi Raphael of Greater Media Inc.
"The matter is currently under review." Raphael wouldn't discuss what
Severin said to upset listeners and perhaps advertisers, but we're told
it may be related to a comment Severin made while discussing sexual
harassment in the workplace. Discussing the case of American Apparel CEO
Dov Charney, who is being sued for
sexual harassment by two former female employees, Severin called the
women "whores and liars" and said they belong in jail. He went on to say
that, years ago, he had slept with interns. "Those girls that got to
sleep with me got to know their boss better, they got to go on trips,
they got to travel in some cases to various parts of the world, to see
things and meet people that they never would have seen or done...These
were not whores. These were Ivy League graduates, young women or interns
from Ivy League institutions who were interested in politics and
government." (Emily Rooney is playing the audio on her show tonight.)
A source at WTKK was surprised by the suspension and characterized the
comment as mild in comparison to the misogynistic, borderline racist
rantings found elsewhere on the radio. Severin, who signed a seven-year
contract in 2006, has not been on the air since Tuesday. In a voicemail
message today, the host said he was "not at liberty" to talk and
referred us to his lawyer, George Tobia, who declined
to comment. Severin, who's one of the highest-paid talk-show hosts in
the city making close to $1 million a year, has lagged in the ratings of
late. As a result, the station has begun introducing a series of
cohosts. One of them, Michael Bower, was Severin's
replacement today and yesterday, the first day of his suspension.
Nothing if not provocative, Severin has a long history of using strong
language - he's called Hillary Clinton a "lying bitch" -
and sometimes it gets him into trouble. Following his month-long
suspension in 2009, Severin returned with an apology for his "hurtful,
unkind, and wrong" commentary. "Most especially to the members of the
Mexican community and Mexican-American community, I regret my remarks
and apologize for them," he said, reading from a statement. To hear some of the audio of the latest Severin controversy, here you go:
Patrick Kennedy (photo credit: Kristoffer Tripplaar for The Boston Globe)
Former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy, son of late Senator Ted Kennedy, is engaged to be married. Sean Richardson, a former aide to the 43-year-old bachelor said he got engaged Saturday in Rhode Island to sixth-grade schoolteacher Amy Petitgout. No wedding date has been set. Last month, Kennedy told the Associated Press he was living in New Jersey with his girlfriend. Recalling the title of his father's book, "True Compass," he said Petitgout is his compass. She has a 3-year-old daughter, Harper, from a previous marriage. Kennedy decided last year not to run for a ninth term in Congress.
Tom Brady's supermodel spouse is making a super-sized donation to the relief effort in Japan. A source close to Gisele Bundchen tells us she's written a check for $1 million to the earthquake fund created by the Japanese Red Cross Society. We're told Gi, who a year ago donated $1.5 million to the Haitian relief effort, is also sending $250,000 to the Pacific Tsunami Fund and Save the Children and another $250,000 to a Japanese Red Cross earthquake fund...Brady, meanwhile, is a little richer after finally selling his condo at the Time Warner Center in New York. The New York Observer reports that No. 12, who paid $14 million for the pad in 2006, has sold the 74th-floor spread for $17.5 million. The best part is the buyer: Robert Stiller. Who? Stiller is a hero to stoners around the world because, in 1971, he created E-Z Wider rolling papers, a favorite among hand-rolled cigarette aficionados (wink, wink). (Maybe he'll turn Brady's place into a spliff-level apartment?) Stiller later owned Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and oversaw the coffee company's expansion. The three-bed, three-bath luxury abode has sweeping views of Central Park and the Hudson River.
Massachusetts native and "Mad Men" star John Slattery is hilarious as a secret service agent in the new video for The National's song "Conversation 16." In the video, Slattery's object of affection is a commander-in-chief played by "Flight of the Chonchords" comedian Kristen Schaal. Schaal, for those who forgot, had a tiny part on "Mad Men" in 2007. Slattery, of course, can be seen now in "The Adjustment Bureau" with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.
President Barack Obama announces his National Medal of Arts recipients tomorrow, and our own James Taylor and Robert Brustein are on the list, as is the Becket-based Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival. Yes, Brustein is listed as a New York resident, but we know him as the founding director of the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge.
Other medal-worthy artists who have been chosen for the honor include Meryl Streep, Quincy Jones, Harper Lee, and Poet Donald Hall.
Taylor released the following statement about the award: "I feel profoundly honored by the news that I will receive the National Medal for the Arts and feel that there must be some mistake; if this were an election, I would ask for a recount."
Add Showtime to the list of networks not interested in airing "The Kennedys." The miniseries canceled earlier this week by the History Channel has now been rejected by Showtime, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "Although 'The Kennedys' is well-produced, well-acted and a quality piece of work, it doesn't fit the Showtime programming brand," a rep for the network told THR in a statement. Starz and FX are among other networks that passed on the project after the History Channel abruptly canceled the eight-part series. Starring Greg Kinnear as John F. Kennedy and Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy, the series was due to air this spring. (It still will be broadcast in Canada and overseas.) Showtime seemed a possibility because the network aired the controversial miniseries "The Reagans" in 2004 after it was pulled by CBS due to advertiser concerns about the content. THR reported this week that Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver may have intervened to persuade the History Channel to kill "The Kennedys."
Did members of the Kennedy clan persuade the History Channel to cancel its controversial miniseries "The Kennedys." Yes, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which claims that both Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver intervened, using their connections in the media to kill the series starring Greg Kinnear as John F. Kennedy and Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy. The Hollywood Reporter, citing an unnamed source, which broke the story that the eight-part series had been canceled, says members of the Kennedy family specifically lobbied officials at the Walt Disney Co. and NBC Universal, owners of the History Channel. The trade publication says Anne Sweeney, who heads Disney/ABC Television Group, was personally contacted by Caroline Kennedy (above). Seems the daughter of JFK and Jackie has a deal with Disney's Hyperion publishing division to help promote a soon-to-be-released collection of her late mother's interviews, and her participation would perhaps have been in jeopardy if the miniseries aired. Shriver spoke to NBCU execs Jeff Zucker and Jeff Gaspin, and is also friends with Sweeney, according to THR. An attempt to contact Carolin Kennedy was unsuccessful yesterday. "We will have no comment," a spokesperson at the Kennedy Library told us. ("The Kennedys" is scheduled to air in Canada on March 6 and will be broadcast overseas as well.) The multimillion-dollar project developed by Joel Surnow, the conservative co-creator of "24," had faced criticism from the outset. Former JFK adviser Ted Sorensen saw an early version of the script and called it "vindictive."
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