New York Times


April 13, 2005

Boss of CBS, Patron of Stage


Right, sure, LESLIE MOONVES. Isn't he the CBS suit guy, the one who banters so fearlessly with DAVID LETTERMAN in that recurring parody segment thing on "Late Show"? The guy who married morning news anchor-fox JULIE CHEN? Hey, it's Mister Moonves to you, pal: chairman of CBS and co-president of Viacom. And he was honored, nay, feted, by the American Theater Wing on Monday night for being the electronic savior of Broadway. "Les, he has been a champion of theater," said SIR HOWARD STRINGER, new global chairman of Sony, a predecessor of Mr. Moonves at CBS. "But of course, if you don't have a passion for theater at CBS, you won't have a job very long. The Tony Awards have been at CBS for several lifetimes."

Amazing but true, "though it doesn't get the ratings of the other award shows," said RICHARD THOMAS, the evening's co-host, once John-Boy from "The Waltons" on CBS.

Why, then, the whole drama deal? "My roots go far back in the theater," Mr. Moonves said, referring to his pursuit of an acting career in New York at the Neighborhood Playhouse. He performed in many stage and television plays before becoming a theatrical company manager and producer. In short, a theater rat.

The night's entertainment was mostly Broadway belt, from the singers BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL, SUTTON FOSTER, LESLIE UGGAMS, LILLIAS WHITE and, yes, JERRY HERMAN. And LUCIE ARNAZ crooned to Mr. Moonves a song to the tune of her mom's "I Love Lucy" theme: rhyming "CB - S" and, er, "Moon-ves." Really.

Many there, like JAMES EARL JONES, had worked on shows with Mr. Moonves. And BILLY CRYSTAL sang Mr. Moonves's praises as a softball pitcher for their team, the Coney Island Whitefish. (Don't ask.) HANK AZARIA even thanked Mr. Moonves "for one of his greatest kindnesses, canceling a show I was in, very fast!" (A sitcom, "If Not for You.")

Then there was CHRISTIAN SLATER, who revealed that "we've crossed paths, but we've never had an intimate dinner." He ventured his snarky smile. "In fact, right here, this would be our most intimate dinner." There were 450 people at Cipriani on 42nd Street paying $635 to $2,500 per.

After the crowd consumed filet mignon, Mr. Moonves gave them more red meat. "You have my word," Mr. Moonves said, "as long as I'm the head of CBS, the Tony Awards will remain with us." Cheers. Applause. Cut to commercial.

The D-Files

Mulder is now into relationships. As in, "a relationship between a boy and his mother is complicated," said DAVID DUCHOVNY of "X-Files" fame as the not always alien-resistant agent Fox Mulder. "I mean, we're the only animals that raise our kids for like 18 years. Things are bound to get complicated. We're not insects that have 1,000 babies and send them off after five minutes."

Oh. Mr. Duchovny was holding forth in a meatpacking district club after the premiere of his directorial debut, "House of D," a film starring Mr. Duchovny as well as his wife, TÉA LEONI, who plays, um, his mother. Ergo, the whole insect-baby idea.

Some of the film's other faces, like ROBIN WILLIAMS, showed up at the premiere, and there were guests like BEN STILLER and ROBERT DE NIRO. At the party, we asked Ms. Leoni to compare and contrast Mr. Duchovny's movie mother and his own.

"His mother had a thing for brussels sprouts," Ms. Leoni said. Ba-dum-dum.

Boldface Turns Red

Here is THE DONALD, accompanying his wife, MELANIA TRUMP, to the dinner for the Martha Graham Dance Company gala. Mrs. Trump is chairwoman, wearing an empire waist Dior of cream chiffon with pale embroidered flowers.

"Your dress is beautiful," BOLDFACE says, "but since it's not so form-fitting, you know that there will be whispers tomorrow that you are pregnant."

MELANIA: "I will tell, that I am not, and if I were, you will be the first one to know."

BOLDFACE (looking at Mr. Trump): "Perhaps the second."

With Lily Koppel

and Kari Haskell