Jewish World Review March 26, 2004 / 4 Nissan, 5764

Lloyd Grove

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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."

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The Internet domain name — 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 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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03/24/04: The perils of film criticism; Dole-ing out compliments; but what about a cure for career lag?; more
03/19/04: Trump trumps everything; Mario vs. Joe; Trudeau pays up; more
03/17/04: Remembering Hillary %*&$#! Clinton; PUT AWAY THAT KRYPTONITE!; more
03/12/04: OOPS!, did Jayson Blair do it again?; skewing Young; more
03/10/04: The laugh that dare not speaks its name; Mistaken identity? NAH!; Is this a great country or what?
03/05/04: Bush vs. Kerry: a Skull session; Kramer vs. The Times, scorch session; enthusiasm curbed; (Tina) Brown-nosing?
03/03/04: Oscars memorialize Hitler's fave filmmaker; baubles, bangles and Kelly Osbourne; moonwalking through cyberspace; more
02/27/04: Regan rebellion; Ed Limato strikes again!; tears for Tom; more
02/26/04: McCain predicts a nasty campaign; the misdirected missive; Janet Jackson, the interview; more
02/20/04: Introducing the Kerry sisters; cyberflap!; Snoop Dogg v. O'Reilly?; more
02/18/04: John Kerry's Friendster?; On the mend?; food for fraughtm; more
02/13/04: John & Carolyn, redux; Zell Miller shows the flag; kill Quentin?; more
02/11/04: HE FEELS BAD!; Dick Cheney, still not dead; more
02/06/04: Glittering Grammys; a laurel for Janet; Haryl's heart
02/04/04: Shriver quits NBC; "Marshmallow" Mike Tyson?; Super Bowl propriety?; MTV's next production?; more
01/30/04: The political forehead front; Alies meets Franken; the art of the hype; arrested career development?
01/28/04: Eyebrow-raising politics; call him indescribable; Woods vs. Williams; more
01/23/04: Eyebrow-raising mystery; who's punk'd anyway?; don't curb your enthusiasm; more
01/21/04: Ridiculous lives of the self-important stars; long arm of the law; all's fair in love and literature
01/16/04: Global warming at a glacial pace; targeting pop culture; Is 'the price of loyalty' too high?
01/14/04: Busting on the "cult buster"; Sarsgaard thinks globally; one angry woman; more
01/08/04: Sitcom star won't be excused from Blake murder trial; fierstein on fire; Drudge & Blumenthal, together again
01/07/04: Bono hits a brick wall; Britney, before the nuttiness; the Arianna primary; more
01/02/04: Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio!?; "Bachelor" bruises; Returning to the scene of the crime?
12/31/03: Disaster for the defense; no-war Omar; the shoe must go on; more
12/19/03: Bob Shapiro's free commercial?; Are sophisticated and hip New Yawkers easily duped?; Positive Saddam fallout?; Ratty insult?
12/17/03: Magic Mystery Tour?; Russell Simmons battles ink by the barrel; Would it have killed her to say 'get well soon'?; no Gest room
12/12/03: Karenna defends her dad; now she tells us!; say it ain't so, Mo!; more
12/10/03: Man & wife, interruptus; pepperoni has feelings, too; more
12/05/03: The knives are out; Who's sorry now?; JWR in the news
12/04/03: The war of the gest-minnellis; something borrowed, something cashmere; fashion trendsetter, nailed!
12/03/03: Colombian grace under pressure; Lord of the Screwups; more
12/02/03: Curb your anti-Semitism?; fame fatigue?; bowing to pressure?; more
12/01/03: Dennis the Menace strikes again; first literary feud of the holiday season; Norma Jean & Hef in heaven?; the fog of McNamara; more
11/26/03: Catherine Crier raps Jacko's TV defender, refuses on-air hint of racism; At 50, Tina's in full cry; STAY OUT OF HER WAY!; more
11/25/03: The mogul strikes back?; go ahead, make Harvey's day; more
11/24/03: Georgette's pilfered baubles; prosecutor of pop?; absent but not missed?; Norman Mailer's prescription for education reform; more
11/20/03: Is a movie career in store for Maria Bartiromo?; People for the Unethical Treatment of Humans?; more
11/19/03: Scientologists on Razor's edge?; picking a winner?; source on a hot tin roof?; more
11/18/03: Clay Aiken neuters PETA?; THEM'S FIGHTIN' WORDS!; a mural for Joe
11/17/03: When networks attack!; leaky Fawcett; forget the Paris Hilton video!; more
11/13/03: Publicity hounds; Prophetic priest; Dumb and Dumber
11/12/03: Not so Rosie; do you believe in miracles?; catalogue of sins; My Heart Belongs to Koppel
11/10/03: Gen. clark on the Subway diet; life of the party; MTV's Dumb and Dumber?; the hug issue; but does the $6,000 shower curtain convey?; red faces at Buckingham palace?
11/06/03: Let them eat pita?; verbal jousting; pretenders to the throne?
11/05/03: Will Harvey Weinstein and Gregg Easterbrook now be pals?; crazed Quentin; more
11/04/03: Herding off the hipsters; more
11/03/03: Dean's tell-all on himself?; Lisaraye vs. Mya?; the odd couple; no need to panic; just don't call him "Scooter"!; Rosie scenarios
10/30/03: Autumn of the editor?; Cynthia Nixon's split may be costly; 'Burning' questions
10/29/03: Ah-nold, unauthorized!; a dilemma for Melissa Gilbert? not even Frank Gifford can help him now!; nobody wanted Elizabeth Hurley
10/28/03: It's Cher calling!; Brown Alert
10/27/03: Paparazzi uncensored!; where's Aaron Brown?; postcards from the middle; invasion of the party snatchers?; House flooded when not afire?; suspenders of disbelief?
10/23/03: Ace up Howard Dean's sleeve; Woody's ordeal; Paul Simon's kid makes good; the non-beginning of a beautiful friendship?
10/22/03: Showing the flag; Joe Frazier, smokin'!; see Carville bruised-up — sort of
10/21/03: Morris & Jaci's charm offensive; Hell hath no fury; Wintertime for Hitler
10/20/03: Isn't it rich?; men (and the occasional woman) behaving badly; peacenik John Lennon supporting the U.S. military?; courageous Connie
10/16/03: George Clooney and intolerable Drudgery; Cameron goes native; and you thought the war in Iraq was nasty?; now it can be revealed; star wars?
10/15/03: Kerik into the breach?; holiday pander?; "the Dink" corrects the record; more
10/14/03: Madge gets mad, lips are sealed; the candidates who listen; he who hesitates is Beatty
10/13/03: Clothes, but no cigar; New Yorkers put a Sox in it; mad at Matalin?; more
10/09/03: Gray Davis goes to the movies; Ali Wentworth, working blue; Law & Order?; pot of gold at the end of the rainbow room?
10/08/03: Art-time for Hitler; the actress who hates movies; lying "Liam"
10/07/03: Pond scum of the rich and famous
07/24/03: Ali and George, living it up; Mel Gibson's Washington power play
07/21/03: White House smear?
07/17/03: Yet another intern scandal; it's her party and she can pay if she wants to
07/14/03: On the auction block: JFK'S boxer shorts; love bytes the maestro
07/10/03: A hairy situation at Homeland Security; Van Susteren v. Orth
06/30/03: Rep. Patrick Kennedy: I've never worked a (bleeping) day in my life; Drudge's dressing down; Ken Lay's Kerry connection
06/26/03: Rapping the beat
06/23/03: Another Watergate scandal?; AL GORE TV!
06/19/03: Tony Snow, rocker?; that won't be crow on Mr. Carlson's plate
06/16/03: Missing dog, ransom demand, Hollywood ending
06/12/03: Giving both parties the needle
06/05/03: Incoming from Barbara Bush?
06/02/03: Bob Dole's plan for fighting unemployment
05/29/03: Newt's new novel
05/27/03: Hitchens & Blumenthal, together again; He still believes in a man called Hope
05/09/03: Close, but no cigar; Romeo & Juliet with a happy ending?; Geraldo to help Heebs?
05/05/03: So Bill Gates and Tom Brokaw walk into a coffee bar . . .; hotel hell; more

© 2003, Creators Syndicate