Believe Your Eyes, Guys, Not the Sign


National Association of Television Program Executives conference attendees who waited in line to pick up convention bags last week encountered a mountain of black faux-leather totes which at one point was twice the size as the pile shown above .
But one convention worker said many attendees walked away in disgust after they saw the "temporarily out of bags" sign,
which was placed on top of the pile as a goof. No one ever accused TV executives of being the brightest people. NATPE's sense of humor was also on display at the opening session, which featured a wild marshmallow-eating performance by Blue Man Group, currently the hottest act on the Vegas strip. The show ended when Blue Man wheeled out a desert cart containing a huge slab of Jell-O. After poking it for a few seconds, Blue Man pulled apart the Jell-O, unveiling the head of NATPE CEO Bruce Johansen, who was hiding in the cart.

---Computer-wise, the week leading into Super Sunday wasn't a party for Carrie Collins, wife of C-SPAN vice president and general counsel Bruce Collins. For reasons not immediately clear, Carrie had to slog through a backlog of electronic-mail messages sent by total strangers making all kinds of odd requests.

Another documented case of spamming to report to federal authorities? No. Husband Bruce Collins related that Carrie'scorrespondents were phoneticallychallenged football fans who thought she was New York

Giants quarterback Kerry Collins
. "During Super Bowl, she's been inundated with e-mails and questions and so forth," he said.

---Hey, Nicholson, sing along! If Steve Webster, vice president of publicity for FX Networks, ever quits his day job, he has another calling he can pursue: singing the national anthem at sports arenas. Most recently, Webster belted out The Star Spangled Banner
at the Lakers vs. Portland game at Los Angeles'Staples Center, his fourth time singing the song at that venue. Webster was first recruited to sing the anthem 12 years ago, when he was an assistant in the Charlotte Hornets'PR department.
The scheduled performer cancelled that night and Webster's cohorts at the Charlotte Coliseum-who had heard Webster sing to himself-recruited him. The pressure was really on at the recent Lakers'game, since Fox Cable Networks and FX officials were hosting a party for writers in town for the Television Critics Association tour. All of Webster's bosses were present and watching. "I'm still nervous," said Webster, who has never had a singing lesson. "I walked off that floor drenched." We're usually drenched after belting out a tune, too, but unlike Webster, it's because we lack the nerve to leave the shower.

Despite its decreased participation this January, Turner Broadcasting System Inc. insists it has no plans to pull out of the TCA press tour. During the recent winter tour, only one TBS Inc. service made a presentation: Turner Network Television. "This was a hiccup," a Turner spokesman said. "We're already making plans for July." Cable News Network, about to announce layoffs, cancelled its scheduled TCA presentation, as did TBS Superstation. Though the programmer expressed a continuing commitment to the twice-yearly tour, Turner honchos have privately complained about the event,
saying they are most concerned about reaching the Los Angeles and New York press-and can do that without the TCA tour.

--- If Hollywood writers and actors strike, the summer press tour may be restructured. Normally, the cable networks would hold sessions for five days, then the broadcast networks would follow for almost two weeks. With a strike-which would mean the Big Four wouldn't have much scripted programming to talk about-the TCA is considering "vertically integrating" the sessions. In other words, the CBS network would stage its panels, followed by the cable networks owned by parentViacom Inc.
-MTV: Music Television, Nickelodeon and so on. And The Walt Disney Co.'s ABC would do its thing, followed by its cable networks, like Disney Channel and ESPN.

And here's the last shot at the industry from the Clinton White House: As Bill Clintonprepared to move out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on Jan. 20, several of his aides offered reporters a similar joke about his "Citizen Clinton status." Senior advisor Paul Begala, for instance, told NBC's Tom Brokaw during the Inauguration Day coverage, "[Clinton] will be spending Monday waiting for the cable guy" at his Chappaqua, N.Y., homestead. Press secretary Jake Siewert, quoted in that day's newspapers, seemed to be taking a shot at cable's

customer service when he said that Clinton's schedule for Monday Jan. 22, shows he " will be awaiting the arrival of the Westchester County cable guy.
[And on Tuesday Jan. 23] he will be awaiting the arrival of the Westchester County cable guy."