Jewish World Review April 14, 2004 / 24 Nissan, 5764

Lloyd Grove

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Dick Clark's diabetes; Barbara Walters' $6 Million book; reality (television) bites; more | NEW YORK — The mystery of Dick Clark's "deeply personal health issue" is a mystery no longer.

The eternally boyish 74-year-old has adult-onset diabetes, a staffer for Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide inadvertently confirmed Tuesday.

"That's embargoed information," the Ogilvy staffer scolded when I asked if Clark suffers from that form of the disease, also known as Type 2 diabetes.

The other day, Ogilvy — which reps the New Jersey-based Merck pharmaceutical behemoth — e-mailed that the "American Bandstand" icon and television mogul was planning to disclose his "health issue" next Tuesday in a PR push for Merck.

Luckily enough, Merck makes Cozaar, a medication prescribed for Type 2 diabetes patients with a history of high blood pressure. Merck's drug slows the progress of kidney disease and other organ damage associated with Type 2 diabetes.

It's not unusual for an ailing celeb like Clark to promote, for pay, the latest wonder drug from a big pharmaceutical company. Clark's flack, Paul Schefrin, declined to comment Tuesday on his client's ailment or his role in Merck's PR campaign.

The Ogilvy staffer, meanwhile, offered to make Clark available for an interview if I would agree to hold off on this column's report. I politely declined.

"What would you do if Dick Clark did an interview today with another newspaper?" the agitated staffer demanded. "It would give them an opportunity to show you up."

Unfortunately, Merck doesn't seem to make a medication for that.

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I'm told that Miramax Books has agreed to pay around $6 million for Barbara Walters' highly touted memoirs — the largest advance in the nine-year history of Harvey and Bob Weinstein's publishing company.

Neither Walters nor her literary agent, Morton Janklow, returned calls Monday seeking comment on her publishing coup, and sources familiar with the deal told me Monday that the ink was not yet on the contract.

Miramax Books president and publisher Jonathan Burnham declined to confirm any agreement but told me: "A lot of publishers, including Miramax, are excited about Barbara Walters' memoirs."

Several observers pointed out Monday that a deal with the ABC News doyenne — who announced two and a half months ago that she's leaving her anchor perch at "20/20" in September — would represent a neat corporate synergy: Both Miramax and ABC are subsidiaries of the Walt Disney Co.

I hear that Miramax's successful bid — about double the reported $3 million it is paying NBC News personality Tim Russert for a book about his father, and more than double Miramax's reported $2.7 million advance for a two-book deal with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani — came after two months of flirting and negotiating.

The highlight was "an audience with the queen," as one source put it.

Suitors called on the 72-year-old Walters at her palatial Fifth Ave. apartment, where she led them on a tour and showed off her "power wall" featuring snapshots of herself and virtually every important person on the planet.

Over tea and cookies, prospective buyers listened to the thrice-married Walters' pitch, which largely focused on her personal story of a difficult childhood growing up the sibling of a mentally retarded sister and the daughter of famed nightclub owner Lou Walters, and on her work as a broadcasting pioneer who led the way for star-salaried women in network television.

Among the participating publishers, I hear, were Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, but I'm told some publishers passed on the opportunity for a meeting after Janklow made his client's bottom-line money requirements clear.

Some balked at the rich numbers, I'm told, because of expectations that although Walters' candid memoirs could be a best seller in the United States, there would be little international interest to recoup the millions through foreign sales.


REALITY (TELEVISION) BITES: Are "Bachelorette" Meredith Phillips and her fiance Ian McKee breaking up already? The 29-year-old McKee proposed to the 30-year-old Phillips on network television only a month ago. But Star magazine reports that he apparently wants out. The former New York investment banker was heard yelling over a West Coast dinner with his betrothed, a model and makeup artist: "I hate L.A! I'm moving back to New York in two weeks."

Phillips replied: "I'm not coming with you." "That's fine with me," McKee retorted. Well, at least we won't have to watch the wedding special.

SPIKE'S LIKES: Sofia Coppola's estranged husband, Spike Jonze, hasn't let any grass grow under his feet since their December separation. The 34-year-old Jonze, director of "Adaptation," has apparently taken up with Karen O, the raven-haired lead singer of art-house rock band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. A spy for this column spotted the pair in full canoodle at the SoHo bar Pravda the other night. Jonze, whose real name is Adam Spiegel (as befitting an heir of the catalogue company), was married to Coppola for four years. Many in the film industry speculate Jonze was the inspiration for shallow and self-absorbed director-husband in Coppola's Oscar-winning film, "Lost in Translation." Reps for Coppola, Jonze and Karen O didn't return calls for comment Monday.

MICHAEL JACKSON, NO JOKE: Pop diva Janet Jackson scored over the weekend with her "Saturday Night Live" sendup of Condoleezza Rice, but a proposed Easter skit involving her indicted brother and the rest of the Jacksons ended up being cut. Us Weekly reports that Janet laughed "hysterically" at the LaToya jokes during a read-through, but was mum during the Michael gags, even though none cited his child-molestation case. The mag reports Janet's handlers demanded that the skit be nixed. But on Tuesday, "SNL" executive producer Lorne Michaels denied that Janet's reps stepped in. He told me that the skit survived all the way through blocking and rehearsal, but he decided on his own to pull the plug on Friday night. "It probably would have played funny, but it seemed to make Janet uncomfortable," Michaels said.

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07/24/03: Ali and George, living it up; Mel Gibson's Washington power play
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© 2003, Creators Syndicate