October 22nd, 2009
02:22 PM ET

National Organization for Women vs. David Letterman

When something like the David Letterman story breaks, one of the interesting "meta" aspects is the range of tones people take as they react.  In revealing his affairs and the subsequent alleged extortion attempt, Letterman was typically wry and humorous, while TV talking heads, Letterman's supporters, and his opponents have ranged from sober (discussing sexual harassment in the workplace) to somewhat hysterical (Dave should be thrown off TV, castrated, etc.).

Now we have a look at an exchange that eschews the sex jokes in favor of more serious issues: a letter from Terry O'Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, to Rob Burnett, Letterman's longtime executive producer and President/CEO of his production company, Worldwide Pants, Inc. - as well as Burnett's reply to O'Neill.  First, O'Neill's letter, which also went to CBS President/CEO Les Mooves:

As President of the National Organization for Women, I am requesting a meeting with you to discuss respect for women in the workplace and your company's obligation to strive for gender parity in decision-making at all levels within your organization.

In 2009, workplaces remain plagued by men in power sexualizing women.  The behavior that David Letterman appears to have admitted publicly - engaging in a number of sexual relationships with subordinate staffers - sends a harmful message not only to his own employees but also to his millions of viewers, many of whom have seen similar antics first-hand in their own work lives.  When a powerful boss like Mr. Letterman has sex with his subordinates it infects the work culture with uncertainty, gossip, and in some cases, hostility.  The resulting toxic environment is unfair to everyone.  All employees, women and men alike, want and deserve to be judged by their skills, qualifications and professional performance alone.

Your company can act responsibly, as corporate employeers and as a force in the media and culture, to create an environment where women and men are equally respected.  But a real commitment to equality must start at the top.  I urge you to look at your boards and other decision-making structures, at every level of your organizations.  About 50% of the people with real power and authority should be women, and a high proportion should be people of color.  I am eager to discuss with you how you might make your corporate cultures more inclusive and less abusive, and respectfully request a meeting at your earliest convenience.

I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Six days later, Burnett replied:

Thank you for your letter.

Since we started as a company in 1993, we have taken very seriously the issues you raise regarding respect for women in the workplace.  And, as an employee of David Letterman's since 1985, I have personally found the work environment on his shows to be fair, professional and entirely merit-based at all times.

For the past nine years, at the highest level of the Late Show leadership, three of our four executive producers have been women, all of whom have worked for Dave for more than 25 years (in August we promoted a man to become our fifth executive producer).  In addition, the heads of both our talent and production departments are women.  Among Late Show staff, 58% are women, and all the major divisions on the show except one are led by women supervisors, all of whom have been with the company since its inception.

I would also point out that the admissions you cite that Dave made publicly did not stem from a complaint from anyone on our staff, but rather from an alleged attempt to commit a crime, extortion, against Dave, who decided to take the matter to law enforcement.  Since that time, our human resources department has consulted every member of the Late Show staff, and not a single complaint has been raised or filed.  Moreover, over the 29 years David Letterman has been broadcasting, there has never been a sexual harassment claim made against him.

I hope this information demonstrating our record of gender equity and sensitivity is responsive to the concerns you raised in your letter.  Thank you again for writing.

Wow.  We found both letters to be impressive - what do you think?

October 22nd, 2009
01:05 PM ET

Your pop culture cheat sheet

Here's what's happening in the world of entertainment today:

  • A representative for Tom Cruise is responding to comments made by former "Perfect Strangers" star Bronson Pinchot in a recent interview, according to EW.com. Pinchot claimed that Cruise made "constant unrelated homophobic comments" on the set of "Risky Business" in 1983. Cruise's rep tells the magazine, “Obviously, this is so far removed from who Tom Cruise is as a person, this must have been said in jest.”
  • People reports that Michael Jackson's children were involved in a minor accident Wednesday involving a photographer following one of the family's vehicles. No one was injured, the magazine reports, and the incident is being investigated.
  • Roman Polanski's legal team is now denying that he may go back to the U.S. voluntarily, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Attorney Herve Temime reportedly said that the director will continue to fight extradition.
  • The curtain is coming down on "Shrek: The Musical." Variety reports that the show will close on January 3 after just over a year on Broadway, due to fluctuating box office.
October 22nd, 2009
12:39 PM ET

Free book - if you 'find the good'

As bargains go, it's hard to beat free.  And while bookstore bargain bins are usually filled with remaindered rejects, here's a chance to pick up a new book by a popular author, gratis.

Copies of "The Next Queen of Heaven," the new novel by "Wicked" author Gregory Maguire, are available at no charge - but there are a couple of catches.  First, you have to act fast: there are only 2,500 freebie copies, half obtainable online (click the link), the other half at indie bookstores (where you should be shopping anyway).

The other catch is a bit of the honor system: Concord Free Press, the publisher, asks "that you make a voluntary donation to a charity or someone in need.  Then pass your book along so others can give."

You get a free, new book; someone else gets a free, slightly used book; and some third person or party gets a helping hand.  Win-win-win.  Hope it's a good novel.

October 22nd, 2009
10:49 AM ET

Paul Shaffer on Kim Kardashian's ... assets

David Letterman's musical director, Paul Shaffer, hit Los Angeles Wednesday night as part of a tour to promote his new biography with the lengthy title "We'll Be Here For the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin' Showbiz Saga." He co-wrote the book with David Ritz. It details his days on Broadway, his "Saturday Night Live" stint and his 27 years working with Letterman.

It's tough to be out promoting your book when your boss is embroiled in a sex scandal. Inevitably there will be questions regarding  the brouhaha, questions that go unanswered. Shaffer did say "I'm not allowed to even talk about that situation. It's like an ongoing legal proceeding and as such, you can't comment on it."

After 27 years on Letterman, you may think Shaffer has seen it all. Is there anybody he hasn't worked with throughout the years? Is there someone with whom he'd really like to collaborate? Yes, actually, and it may surprise you:

"I heard Kim Kardashian has a record deal. Can you get me a meeting with her agent? I would like to bring her in the studio and lay down some happening tracks and put my coffee right on the top of her a** and just leave it there."

Really, Paul?

 

Editor's Note: Several commenters believe this quote was lifted from Adam Carolla's podcast. It came from an interview Paul conducted with CNN producer Anita Bennett.

October 22nd, 2009
08:05 AM ET

'So You Think You Can Dance:' Your top 20!

At long last, the top 20 have been chosen, and it's shaping up to be a memorable sixth season already: three tap dancers and a married couple, for starters. Before I get to the list, I have to note how disappointed I was to see twin Antwain, ballet dancer David and skilled technician Amber fail to make the cut. Even so, it's a strong top 20, especially among the men. Here's a quick look at who made it:

top ten boys

Nathan: After the then-17-year-old was given the chance to go straight through to Las Vegas last season, Nathan took advantage of the opportunity, and his fluid movements shouldn't be underestimated.

Kathryn: We haven't seen much of her dancing, and her propensity to turn on the waterworks could either endear or annoy the audience. A tough call so far.

Channing: Talented, good personality, but could easily get lost in the shuffle with the many other contemporary girls.

Ariana: Hasn't really left an impression so far (but then again, neither had winners Jeanine or Sabra at this point).

Ellenore: Quite possibly the quirkiest Vegas performance since Mark's "Bohemian Rhapsody" routine. She's definitely won some fans already.

Billy: I don't dare compare him to season two's Travis (yet), but Adam wasn't crying over his performance last week for nothing. Definitely a contender.

Russell: The first krumper to make the top 20, and this untrained dancer has already shown some moves in the other styles that blew me away. Shoo-in for the top ten, at least.

Kevin: He made it through after auditioning three seasons ago, but we saw very little of him Wednesday night, so it's hard to tell if he has the personality to take himself to the end.

Tappers Bianca, Phillip and Peter: Of these three, I prefer Phillip, though his attitude could be a problem for him. Bianca and Peter, on the other hand, have personality to spare (and we've seen precious little of Peter's dancing).

top ten girls

Victor: All we really know about him is that he cut his hair like Kupono.

Jakob: Ridiculously flexible contemporary dancer... and barely seen on Wednesday's show. Between him and Billy, I think one will go far and one will go early.

BFFs Mollee and Noelle: Oh, dear. No doubt Mollee dances immaturely (and acts it), but her personality took her right into the top 20, and that can take you ever farther in this show, so we'll see where she goes. Noelle hasn't made much of an impression beyond being at Mollee's side constantly.

Pauline: She made it through despite a major injury, and she definitely deserved it. Hard to tell how far she will get, however.

Legacy: We may have the most controversial dancer in this B-boy, who really impressed me in his audition but nearly fell short in Vegas. He could definitely rub some of the audience the wrong way as well.

Karen: Her husband didn't make it far enough in Vegas, but she got through. An extraordinary ballroom dancer, no doubt, but she may be forgotten because of...

Ashleigh and Ryan: My opinion of this married couple hasn't changed (he's great, she has potential but isn't there yet), and Ashleigh only got through because Paula turned the opportunity down. Ryan's another top 10 shoo-in.

We'll see if my predictions hold true as the real season starts next week. In the meantime, what do you think of this top 20? Who do you think has the best shot at winning it all?

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