Jewish World Review March 26, 2004 / 4 Nissan, 5764
Bye, bye Banfield; from porn to politics?; more
NEW YORK Onetime cable television star Ashleigh Banfield a publicity-magnet even before she achieved celebrity in the aftermath of 9/11 is out at NBC News.
The 36-year-old former rock singer once a fashion icon for her blonde tresses and her everpresent on-air glasses, but whose career took a slide after she dyed her hair dark brown joined the network's MSNBC outlet four years ago, and has been working without a contract since late January.
"Regrettably, we were unable to agree on a new assignment for her," an NBC News spokeswoman told me Thursday. "We thank her for her hard work and wish her well."
The native Canadian was a controversial figure at NBC, where detractors spread rumors of diva-like behavior and sniped at her supposed journalistic deficiencies.
Banfield didn't try to butter up colleagues and supervisors, and instead cast herself as an enemy of the Establishment. She once showed up for anchor duties at MSNBC's Secaucus, N.J., studios sporting a T-shirt that shouted, in garish glitter: "Starf r." But on camera, the message was discreetly concealed by a conservative jacket.
On Sept. 11, 2001, her dramatic reports from Ground Zero won her star status and her own nightly live show from Afghanistan and Pakistan, "A Region in Conflict" (for which she wore a burqa and dyed her hair) and, later, "Ashleigh Banfield: On Location."
But, in due course, her star dimmed.
Banfield's manager, Alfred Geller, told me: "Since her contract expired, we have been exploring with a variety of NBC components the possibility of future activity that would include cable and network. At the end of these explorations we were mutually unable to come to an accommodation that was OK with everybody. I didn't work. Life marches on."
Geller said Banfield, who didn't return my calls, is looking at syndication as well as other network and cable television possibilities. "She will be just fine, thank you very much."
FROM PORN TO POLITICS?
The Internet domain name Whitehouse.com for years a source of confusion to Web users searching for info about the Executive Mansion, only to find photos of naked women having sex is for sale.
But New Jersey Web entrepreneur Dan Parisi who acquired Whitehouse.com in 1997 as the Monica Lewinsky scandal was brewing in Bill Clinton's White House has a surprising condition for selling: The buyer must agree not to use the Web site to purvey pornography.
"I would prefer that it would be used as a political site or something like that," Parisi told me from the Jersey suburbs. "I have a 4-year-old son who's going to start kindergarten next year. He's getting older and starting to understand things so I'd rather get out of the adult-entertainment business now, while I still have the choice."
The 44-year-old Parisi's requirement has cooled the ardor of potential bidders, notably Larry Flynt Publications, which was turned off by the "Do as I say, not as I do" contract language.
"It certainly is unusual for him to take this step not only getting out of the business himself, but also preventing himself from receiving the best possible offer," a Flynt associate told me. "I think he's probably had a genuine change of heart. Maybe it's a real 'Road to Damascus' moment."
I wonder if President Bush applauds Parisi's wholesome transformation, but my calls to the White House press office were not returned.
SOFT TOUCH?: Maybe George Ross, known to fans of "The Apprentice" as Donald Trump's tough-guy henchman, isn't so tough, after all. I'm told that on Friday Ross will tour the Valhalla, N.Y., construction site of Westchester Medical Center's Maria Fareri Children's Hospital, where Ross is underwriting a high-tech playroom to the tune of $100,000-plus, I hear.
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© 2003, Creators Syndicate