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Upfront's Back Room

The exterior of the 21 Club in Manhattan is bedecked with 33 smiling lawn jockeys, all of them white, out of political correctness. In the main dining room last week, the club was full of live ones, media and advertising executives jockeying for position, not coincidentally nearly every one of them white, out of tradition. It was the annual William Morris Agency party following the NBC upfront presentation. Les Moonves of CBS, Bob Wright of NBC, Tom Rogers of Primedia, Lou Dobbs of CNN, actors Tony Randall and Brooke Shields were all there, mingling with the big ad men who bankroll their endeavors. Mr. Wright was beaming with satisfaction. His upfront show had gone off, in his opinion, without a hitch. But there was rumbling among the Madison Ave. contingent who whispered that for all of NBC's much-publicized investment in developing comedy, there was very little to show for it. "Emeril," a sitcom about the behind-the-scenes making of a cooking TV show, was given a thumbs down by many at the party. "Another TV show about a TV show, gimme a break," moaned one adman. A true highlight was seeing Michael Kassan, the media agency man without portfolio, constantly mistaken all night for Emeril, who eventually showed up with his wife Alden Lagasse. A spunky Southerner, Alden told Adages that she met her food master in New Orleans. Emeril was working at his restaurant and she was collecting his rent, as his land-lady. Stephen Collins, star of "7th Heaven," talked to Adages about audience share. His knowledge of the market was impressive. Jamie Kellner, founder of the WB network, listened approvingly.

Irwin Gotlieb and Marc Goldstein of MindShare, and Mel Berning and Jeff Grant of MediaVest, were just a few more of the advertising titans in the room.

Adages bumped into the reigning sadist of game show hosts, Anne Robinson of "Weakest Link." She had squeezed herself into a skin-tight leather pencil skirt that made her walk as if her ankles were hobbled in irons. In the upfront show, Anne hosted an "Executive Edition" of "Weakest Link," that featured contestants Jeff Zucker, NBC entertainment president; Scott Sassa, West Coast president; Marianne Gambelli, exec VP-TV network sales, and Darryl Hammond of "Saturday Night Live" doing his Clinton impersonation. Clinton was deemed weakest. Ms. Robinson appeared to be having difficulty rebuffing Clinton's passes and reading the teleprompters. Adages respectfully complimented Ms. Robinson on the stunt. "You actually liked that?" she asked in disbelief.

The Big Picture

The answer to last week's "not separated at birth" question: The two admen were Joe Pytka, independent commercial director, and Jim Ferguson, creative director at Y&R Advertising, who were working together in the California desert, shooting a spot for Sony. "He's sort of like a Gila monster," Ferg says of Joe. "You don't poke him with a stick. You don't run up to him and gouge him with your pointer finger. He may bite you."

Stuffed

In an interview in the July issue of Stuff, "Survivor II: The Australian Outback" star Amber Brkich addresses the hot-button issue of product placement. "All Tina [Wesson, the final survivor] talked about the entire time was how she loved Doritos," says Amber. "It's because she wants a commercial out of it. Her accent, after a while, would get on your nerves. The way she says it, Dor-eetos. Dorito, yeah. Dor-eetos."

Contributing: David Goetzl.

E-mail stuff to: rlinnett@crain.com.

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