February 25, 2002

Photo: AP Photo

Connie Chung Clears the Air
Connie Chung finally admitted it. There are two reasons she’s leaving ABC News for CNN after six years: Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer. While making a speech at her going-away party at ABC producer Victor Neufeld’s West End Avenue apartment last week, Chung surveyed the crowd of about 100 people. “Is Barbara here?” she asked. “No? Is Diane here? No? Well, that’s good because they’re the reason I’m leaving ABC.” Chung’s quip – a rather candid reference to reports that she jumped ship to CNN because she knew she would never get out from under the shadows of Walters and Sawyer – got a few laughs, but not many. “There were a lot of people in that room who work for Barbara and Diane,” a tipster reports. “You just don’t make a joke like that.” Just three days later, Chung and her hubby, Maury Povich, appeared on The View’s Valentine’s Day special. Walters hugged Chung and proclaimed how sad she was to see Chung leaving the network.

The 411 on NBC Cost-Cutting
NBC may have agreed recently to pay Katie Couric $65 million for the next four and a half years, and the network is set to earn about $75 million from the Olympics, but don’t think times aren’t tough at 30 Rock. NBC employees are no longer allowed to make directory-assistance calls. “It’s an effort to reduce telecommunication costs,” an NBC rep explained. Employees have been directed to use the Internet instead. So if Tom Brokaw needs a number at the last minute for a breaking story, he’s expected to surf the Web? “If there is an emergency,” the rep told us, “you can call an NBC operator and they will connect you to directory assistance.”

Paul McCartney: Live and Let Buy
Paul McCartney doesn’t let pushy New Yorkers get in his way. The ex-Beatle was standing in line with fiancée Heather Mills at an East Side Equinox boutique when a young woman bypassed the queue and stepped up to the counter. McCartney called out, “Excuse me, there’s no cutting – you’ll have to wait.” Several customers then asked for McCartney’s autograph, but he said that he never signs anything while shopping. Meanwhile, the 21-year-old salesgirl kept asking, “Who’s that?” McCartney was so touched by the salesgirl’s naïveté that, after walking out with more than $600 worth of clothes, he returned a few minutes later to give her his autograph on the receipt.

A Week in the Life of the Fashion Flock
The folks at Imitation of Christ shouldn’t be surprised if fashion-world A-listers boycott their next shows. Upon arriving at Sotheby’s for the Imitation show, Anna Wintour learned that she’d been assigned a second-row seat. Undeterred, the Vogue editrix plopped herself down into someone else’s front-row spot instead. Wintour’s Harper’s Bazaar counterpart, Glenda Bailey, also received the second-row treatment but got an immediate upgrade after she threatened to leave. Celebrity milliner Philip Treacy did, in fact, take off, after he was overheard griping, “I have never been treated so rudely in my life.” An Imitation rep insists they didn’t mean to offend and that the front row was reserved for celebs like Jimmy Fallon and Natasha Lyonne who pretended to bid on the clothes… . Susan Sarandon played musical chairs at Diane Von Furstenberg’s show, asking a flack to switch Ellen Barkin’s and Ron Perelman’s seats so the two actresses could sit side-by-side. After the show, we heard Jeremy Scott cooing over celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch. “We met a few years ago,” Scott said to Bloch. “I had, like, the biggest crush on you forever.”… Chris Tucker was running late en route to Puffy Combs’s Sean John show at 42nd Street. With the show already delayed an hour, one of Tucker’s assistants called to ask that they hold the show for another 30 minutes. They didn’t… . After Anna Sui’s show, security actually stopped Red Hot Chili Peppers front man Anthony Kiedis from going backstage. “I’m a rock star,” snapped Kiedis. “You should know who I am.” … One of the funnier moments of the week didn’t involve a celebrity. An exceedingly huge guy wearing denim pedal pushers, flip-flops, and pink nail polish tried to crash the opening party of the W Hotel by claiming he worked for Lizzie Grubman. Two guards quietly escorted him away.

DOGGIE DO: Dan Abrams, NBC News’s chief legal correspondent and anchor of The Abrams Report on MSNBC, borrowed Cristina Greeven Cuomo’s Jack Russell terrier, Calli, to meet women at the USA Networks Search-and-Rescue Dog benefit at the American Park. Abrams was spotted working the room and eventually homing in on a gaggle of seemingly eligible bachelorettes. But we’re told that just as things were looking up for Abrams, the women were looking down: Calli was answering nature’s call at their feet.

With Catherine Townsend and Aric Chen.

February 25, 2002