Adages: In the company of men, and some bunnies

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Spike TV - "the first network for men" - threw a launch party at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles last week. It may have been premature. A Manhattan judge ordered Viacom to hold off using the name after director Spike Lee sued the company, charging it expropriated his name. Spike Lee obviously didn't show up at the party, but Stan Lee, of Marvel Entertainment, did. Pam Anderson was there too. Hugh Hefner, in his bathrobe, of course, was there, as was Kelsey Grammer (and wife), Carmen Electra, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Busta Rhymes, David Spade, Fred Durst, Funkmaster Flex, Owen Wilson, Lance Bass and Mira Sorvino. Also present: executive bigwigs such as Leslie Moonves, CBS chairman; Rob Friedman, Paramount Pictures vice chairman; and Albie Hecht, Spike TV president.

Ice-T hosted the event, which featured a jazz band, a space-age array of black-bikini Playboy Bunnies swimming around the famed grotto, and a traditional burlesque dance number, featuring bustier- and lingerie-clad women.

Adages accosted Mr. Moonves, who was strolling around the grounds. "Isn't ESPN really the first network for men?" Mr. Moonves laughed and shrugged his shoulders.

Dropping the puck

Speaking of ESPN, at an NCTA conference forum last week in Chicago, seven CEOs from the leading cable operators griped about the $2 fee per subscription they are being asked to pay Disney to carry the sports net. Apparently, ESPN is telling operators they have to have to offset the high cost of licensing sporting events from the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL. The moderator, Harry Jessell, editor in chief of Broadcasting & Cable, then asked, "So what sport do you drop to save money?" The seven suits-Glenn Britt of Time Warner Cable; Stephen Burke of Comcast; Rocco Commisso of Mediacom Communications; James Robbins of Cox Communications; Tom Rutledge of Cablevision; Bill Schleyer of Adelphia Communications; and Carl Vogel of Charter-dropped their jaws, not a sport, and kept mum.

But deep down inside, were they thinking "hockey?" They shouldn't be.

Sure, ESPN's airing of the first few two games of the Stanley Cup finals was down 55% in viewers, reaching only 1.1 million viewers from last year's 2.3 million, but according to Jeff Lindsey, VP-ratings research at ABC, the Stanley Cup final's game seven on the Disney broadcast net drew the largest TV audience for any NHL hockey game in at least 16 years, since Nielsen began reporting total-viewer statistics back in 1987. The game also pulled the highest adult 18-to-49 and men 18-to-49 ratings for any Stanley Cup game since the broadcast nets began carrying the series in 1998. (For more NCTA coverage go to QwikFind aao75a)

Fox's latest dish

Fox News Network on June 18 will celebrate the opening of its latest expansion, Studio D, with a party in the space, which was once the Chinese restaurant Dish of Salt. In the 2000 edition of Zagat's the Dish was described as "bland, somewhat chilly and pricey." According to a Fox exec, the net's boss Roger Ailes quipped about the Dish: "We bought them out of their lease when sweet-and-sour cat went off the menu."

Voodoo child

Three of Madison Ave.'s top studs took the stage at the Youth Culture Conference sponsored by Rolling Stone and Ad Age at former New York nightspot Powder last week. Donny Deutsch, Peter Arnell and Alex Bogusky appeared together on a panel with Alissa Quart, author of "Branded" to debate the excesses of teen marketing. When Quart blamed TV advertising for childhood obesity, Donny pointed at bulky Pete and joked, "He doesn't even watch TV and look at him." But Pete came prepared. He yanked a muscle-bound action doll and a package of sewing needles out a paper bag. "It's a Donny voodoo doll," he said. Meanwhile, perhaps feeling left out, Alex butted his forehead against his microphone, and the room thundered with his amplified thuds.

Contributing: Wayne Friedman

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