updated 5/3/2004 10:41:15 AM ET 2004-05-03T14:41:15

Guests: Charlie Cook, Harvey Levin, Larry Star

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? 

Mission accomplished:  A year later, and it seems closer to mission impossible.  The deal is done in Fallujah.  One of Saddam‘s generals is now heading Iraqi security in that city. 

Michael Jackson arraigned, the sequel:  No moon walk, no home movie, no live ego concert, but a new charge as the indictment is unsealed—conspiracy. 

Twenty-five billion dollars for two guys who invented something while they hated each other‘s guts. 

And now for something completely different: It‘s not “Monty Python‘s Flying Circus,” it‘s a movie about “Monty Python‘s Flying Circus.”

And coming to a TV near you this fall:  The Howard Dean Show? 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

(GROWLING)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  The White House is often fond of puncturing those who oppose the war there, by noting if such-and-such had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be running Iraq—instead of one of his generals running Fallujah.

Our fifth story in the COUNTDOWN, tonight:  In hope of ending the crisis there, this country has made a deal to have Fallujah patrolled by 1,100 Iraqis led by Major General Jassim Mohammed Saleh, a veteran not just of Saddam‘s army, but also of his elite republican guard.  Mission accomplished.  Here‘s Richard Engel in Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In Fallujah, two U.S.

Marines killed, six wounded, another suicide bomber. 

PSU RANGER RANDY WILLIAMSON, USMC:  I‘ve been blacking out for like two or three seconds and looking up and—you know, opening my eyes, barely being able to see. 

ENGEL:  The attacks as U.S. Marines pulled back from parts of Fallujah.  Their posts taken over by a new Iraqi militia under U.S. Marine command, but led by one of Saddam Hussein‘s generals, Jassim Mohammed Saleh.  He promised to bring peace. 

COL. JOHN COLEMAN, 1ST MARINE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE:  He‘s a man who stepped forward, who says he thinks he can be a part of the solution to the problem in Fallujah. 

ENGEL:  But it‘s not good enough for many Iraqis.  NBC News has learned Saleh, a republican guard commander, was a key planner of the 1996 assault on the Kurdish city of Erbil, displacing tens of thousands of Kurds.  That year, the state department‘s human rights report said “Saddam‘s perceived political opponents were summarily executed or disappeared during the campaign.  There‘s no evidence Saleh was directly involved in war crimes. 

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  Well, the Republican Guard formations were the best paid, best equipped.  They were the Nazi S.S.  troops of Saddam‘s regime. 

ENGEL:  Today, in Baghdad, protests by Shiite Muslim who, like the Kurds, were oppressed under Saddam. 

(on camera):  These Shiite demonstrator, many carrying pictures of fellow Shiites executed by Saddam‘s government, accused the U.S. of bringing back criminal from Iraq‘s past just weeks before it hands over power. 

(voice-over):  And there are doubts any Iraqi force will arrest insurgents in Fallujah like these in a video obtained exclusively by NBC News, standing in front of what appeared to be bloody American uniform.  They vowed to keep fighting. 

Marine commanders said today, they‘re not leaving Fallujah, waiting to see if General Saleh can produce results. 

Richard Engel, NBC News, Baghdad. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And then there‘s General Saleh‘s former employer.  Almost for the first time since the arrest of Saddam Hussein, there has been a development pertaining to the future of Saddam Hussein.  As he awaits trial for a long list of crimes that will likely include the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, many of whose bodies still lie undiscovered in mass graves, to build the case against him, Attorney General John Ashcroft has selected Tampa lawyer, Greg Kehoe.  He will lead a team of 50 lawyers and investigators who will spend six to nine months scouring Iraq for evidence against Saddam and his ruling clique.  Kehoe told the newspaper, the “St.  Petersburg Times” that to prepare himself, he bought every book on Iraq and Islam he could find at Borders and Barnes and Noble. 

His relevant experience includes a stint on the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and also prosecuting members of the Outlaws motorcycle gang. 

Not buying any of this is John Kerry.  It, being the shortly to be 1-year-old quote, It was year ago tomorrow that President Bush informed the crew of the USS Lincoln and the world that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.  In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” 

Today Kerry at Westminster College in Missouri, Kerry tried to make the most of that statement as our correspondent Kelly O‘Donnell reports, the democratic standard bare (PH) told an appreciative crowd that the U.S.  is now facing its moment of truth in Iraq. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Today in Missouri, John Kerry delivered his most detailed policy on Iraq in what amounted to an unusual equal time invitation from Westminster College after Vice President Dick Cheney was here Monday.  His speech was labeled, “Kerry Bashing” in an e-mail sent by the college president. 

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And a senator from Massachusetts has...

O‘DONNELL:  Mr. Cheney referred to Kerry more than three dozen times. 

CHENEY:  Senator Kerry said...

Senator Kerry‘s record on that...

O‘DONNELL: And questioned Kerry‘s ability to fight the war on terror. 

CHENEY:  Yet to the many nations that have joined our coalition, senator Kerry offers only condescension. 

O‘DONNELL:  Today, with that in mind, Kerry shelled his overt attacks and laid out what he would do. 

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This may be our last chance to get it right.  We need to put pride aside to build a stable Iraq. 

O‘DONNELL:  For the first time, Kerry urged the president to persuade NATO to commit troops, and reluctant nations on the U.N. Security Council, like France, Russia and China to send forces in what Kerry calls their “own self-interest.”  Kerry supports a new kind of figure, a high commander, an Arab-speaking diplomat to assist a new Iraqi government.

KERRY:  To share the risk and reduce the burden on our own forces. 

O‘DONNELL:  Beyond policy, Kerry added a kind of uncluttered imagery, usually accenting his speechmaking, on the every day sacrifices of military families. 

KERRY:  The truth is that there‘s an empty seat in the church pew on Sunday, There‘s an extra car in the driveway, and one less friend to phone for a movie on a Friday night. 

O‘DONNELL:  Tonight the Bush-Cheney campaign dismissed Kerry‘s plan, saying it lacks any credible alternative.  While observers say Kerry has yet to benefit from any doubts about the president‘s handling of Iraq. 

CHUCK TODD, POLITICAL EDITOR, “THE HOTLINE”:  Iraq is the one issue that John Kerry has had—struggled with more so than any issue during this campaign. 

O‘DONNELL:  Kerry, a veteran of one war, tested by yet another. 

Kelly O‘Donnell, NBC News, Fulton, Missouri. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Senator Kerry‘s speech may not draw any blood from the White House, but the Bush administration has taken its hits lately from the books of insiders and analysts.  For the one that topped the “New York Times” best seller list, Richard Clarke‘s “Against all Enemies,” to the pick-to-click “Plan of Attack” by Bob Woodward.  And now out this afternoon, former ambassador Joseph Wilson‘s “The Politics of Truth: 

Inside the Lies That Led to War and Betrayed my Wife‘s CIA Identity.”  In the book, Wilson names three men he considers suspects in the leaking of his CIA agent‘s wife‘s name to columnist Robert Novak in an attempt to embarrass him and to frighten other would-be critics.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the list, Louis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney‘s chief of staff; Karl Rove, the president‘s chief political adviser whose name appears in the fourth sentence of Wilson‘s text; and Elliott Abraham (ph), a member of the National Security Council who played a prominent role in the ‘80s in the Iran Contra Affair. 

Ambassador Wilson will be our guest Tuesday night here on COUNTDOWN.

Meanwhile, the faces, the viewers of ABC television in eight American cities will not see tonight are the 500 or so America war dead Ted Koppel plans to show and identify on the newscast “Nightline.”  The controversy over one broadcasting company‘s refusal to air the program on its stations has now touched the U.S. Senate where John McCain of Arizona has called the preemption, quote, “unpatriotic.”  Koppel‘s program will not appear on the eight ABC stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, they include the ones in Saint Louis, Jacksonville, Columbus, Ohio, major cities in three swing electoral states.  Sinclair called the broadcast part of an anti-war agenda.  Today in a letter to Sinclair‘s president, the Arizona republican wrote:

“Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war‘s terrible costs in all their heartbreaking detail is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.  It is in short sir, unpatriotic.”

President Bush might have hoped to the swell of patriotism would rise and sweep him into a second term.  The events in Iraq, his “mission accomplished” speech, the so-far fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction, and the many statements that this war was necessary, could counter all that. 

Charlie Cook is an MSNBC analyst, a political analyst for the “National Journal” and editor of the “Cook Political Report.”  He joins us now to read some of the tea leaves. 

Charlie, good evening. 

CHARLIE COOK, “NATIONAL JOURNAL” POLITICAL ANALYST:  How you doing, Keith?

OLBERMANN:  Are thing like “mission accomplished” and the deal with the Saddam general in Fallujah ringing a little hollow right now politically?  Or are mind already so made up that none of it matters in the particular? 

COOK:  I‘d answer yes to both those questions.  I mean, in terms of the “mission accomplished,” I mean, is it a black eye?  Is it an embarrassment for the administration?  Of course it is.  But, like any kind of shiner, any kind of black eye, it‘ll fade after a few days.  I think the White House is probably really glad that the anniversary of the “mission accomplished” banner was May 1, and not November 1, the day before the election, now we have six months more to go. 

And at the same time, the situation in Fallujah, this is obviously not what we wanted to do, I mean, I—you know, this is—the next worst of all options, but I think—you know, having urban door-to-door combat, we were probably going to lose a couple hundred Marines, I think they just tried to decide to do—to try one other thing before we go to that option, so both of these are horrible things to have happen, but we have six more months to go. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there a clutter buster anywhere in Iraq?  The pictures of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated by American servicemen and the new one today where there‘s a British serviceman urinating on one of the prisoners?  I mean, do these kinds of thing have the chance of evoking reactions either way that transcend party lines? 

COOK:  Well, I mean, I think, in Iraq, the public opinion—popular

support seem to be turning increasingly against us and this probably just

sends it up by a factor of 10.  And to the extent that that comes back to

Americans, and we—you know, and people start saying, “gosh, this thing

is pointless.  This thing—I mean, this is a quagmire how can we—I

mean, we‘ll never get out of this.”  That‘s when the pressure would start

going—getting put on the president.  So, I mean, I think people have

been hanging in there with the president on this pretty much, but the odds

·         I mean, things—the tables have been sort of—the leveling now, and getting to the point where we‘re almost to the tipping point where a Iraq starts going from being first an asset to kind of a wash and now increasingly a problem for the president and I think we‘re about to that tipping point, now. 

OLBERMANN:  If we are, where has the Kerry campaign been on that tipping point in Iraq?  You mention that the president is—you know, getting dinged, essentially.  If 2004 is like 2000, a couple of dings decides the vote in three states. 

COOK:  Yeah, but at the same time, for Kerry, I mean—you know, his position up until—you know, today‘s speech, but—you know, up until today, it‘s been kind of androgynous, I mean I—you know, I‘ve heard it 10 times, his position, wasn‘t sure what it was.  Really, that he‘s sort of uniquely bobbled this whole issue so that he has not been able to take advantage of it in any meaningful way.  I mean, it makes you wonder whether the democrats would be better off right now if they‘d Howard Dean as a candidate than John Kerry.  Now, maybe Kerry will hit his stride on this, but he certainly hasn‘t yet.  So, you‘ve got an issue that‘s a horrible problem for the president that Kerry simply hasn‘t been able to take advantage of. 

OLBERMANN:  Dean‘s too busy selling his TV show, which we‘ll get to in a moment. 

Charlie Cook of the “National Journal,” “Cook Political Report,” MSNBC

·         many thanks sir, have a good weekend. 

COOK:  You same, Keith.  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  One more political note.  It may not have gotten him the Democratic nomination.  It may in fact cost him the Democratic nomination, but Howard Dean‘s larger than life‘s persona may now get him a TV talk show.  Being pitched to Paramount as the host of a gab fest, not a political show, exactly “more like,” says his would-be producer, “a little Howard Beale, a little Dr. Phil, and a little Donahue all rolled into one.”

The “Howard Dean Show” would be syndicated.  They‘d have to sell it to stations city by city.  Not only are they going to go to Boston, they‘re going to Oklahoma City and Baltimore and Phoenix and Tampa, St. Pete.  Yeah!

The COUNTDOWN opening with Iraq and politics:  The anniversaries, the ramifications, and the talk shows. 

Straight ahead, tonight‘s No. 4 story:  Ga-ga for Google.  Two students armed with a dream and intense dislike for each other and they‘re now set to become billionaires. 

And later on, Michael Jackson in court minus Mark Geragos, minus the Nation of Islam, minus the outdoor circus, with eyeglasses.  What sobered him up?  Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Tonight‘s No. 4 story is up next:  The land of dot-com, as the boom went bust, one company rose from the ashes and now you too can own apiece of the pie.  The Google success story and the young men behind it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It all began with the “find” function on the first home computers.  A revolution in information retrieval that not even the loopiest of the science fiction writers could have imagined.  And when “find” meant the Internet, there was born the search engine.  Our fourth story in the COUNTDOWN:  The foremost of the search engines is about to go out of entirely private public ownership and present its initial public offering.  Which will make two guys, who six sears ago, weren‘t even friends, very rich, very fast.  As their own search engine would that it, the dollar equivalent of 25 billion results in about 0.24 seconds. 

George Lewis, tonight, from Los Angeles on the Googlers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Google, hottest spot on the Internet -- 200 million hits each day.  The place where you look up everything from aardvarks to zebras. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And the Libby goes to Google!

LEWIS:  Two former Stanford University classmates, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, launched Google in 1998, although they couldn‘t stand each other at first. 

SERGEY BRIN, GOOGLE CO-FOUNDER:  We both found the other equally obnoxious, I suppose. 

LEWIS:  They got over it. 

LARRY PAGE, GOOGLE CO-FOUNDER:  We thought, what we want to do is, very much to build something very big and very important. 

LEWIS:  They were feeling lucky.  Some analysts think that when Google, based in Mountain View, California, goes public, the company will end up valued at almost $25 billion and that will make the two founders extremely wealthy. 

(on camera):  They refuse to talk about that for this story, but when we interviewed them two years ago, Google was making lots of money as a private company, surviving the dot-com bust and in no hurry to change. 

BRIN:  We don‘t have to go public, we don‘t have to raise more money, we keep adding to our cash base. 

LEWIS (voice-over):  But Google, profiled recently in “Wired” magazine, is under new pressure to go public. 

CHRIS ANDERSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “WIRED”:  You raise money when your company‘s doing well, when the stock market is going with you.  It gives you a liquid currency that you can use to defend against stiff competition when it comes. 

LEWIS:  And Google, known as a free wheeling place where employees work hard and play hard, faces tough competition these days from the likes of Yahoo! and Microsoft.  Google will offer some of its shares directly to the public over the Internet, still trying to maintain its unconventional image, even as it enters the world of public companies. 

George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  For more things you need to know about tonight‘s story, COUNTDOWN did some research through Google search engine, of course, to find our top four opening dot-com IPO‘s.

No. 4:  Theglobe.com ranked in $27.9 million.  It survived the boom and bust and is still trading.

Three: Marketwatch.com, also still in business, $50 million on the first day.

No. 2: The infamous Pets.com $82.5 million when it went public in 2000, went bust later in 2000.

And, No. 1:  With $375 million on its IPO, Webvan, 18 months later, even before you had ever heard of it, the online grocery store declared Chapter 11. 

COUNTDOWN now past No. 4 story:  Google-eyed over Google stocks.  Straight ahead, those stories that get no COUNTDOWN number, but in the place of honor in our news of the weird, we call it “Oddball.”  Including news of the special delivery, a baker‘s dozen.  Ahhh.

And later, the wedding dress guy:  First his marriage went sour, now his whole eBay sale has run aground as well.  Wedding dress guy will be back on COUNTDOWN live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We rejoin you with COUNTDOWN and, as we always do at this hour, we look away from Iraq and Santa Barbara and Washington and towards the places where the real news was made today, like Northwest Community Hospital in Chicago.  Let‘s play “Oddball.” 

Oh boy, newborns.  No, it‘s not the new ABC reality show, “Who Wants to Buy a Baby,” this is maternity ward at Northwest Community in Chicago where between midnight and 1:00 p.m.  On Tuesday of this week, 13 children were born, about twice as many as usual in a 13-hour stretch, and their genders, in order, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl -- 13 consecutive girls.  That‘s it, there‘s no other news about it.

And an Internet evangelist who claims to have 1,900,000 subscribers will lead a protest in front of the White House during which he will publicly proclaim that George W. Bush will not be reelected.  And that‘s not the interesting part, this is:  Bill Keller also points out that televangelist Pat Robertson has told his flock that the president will win the election in a landslide.  Says Keller, “On November 2, either Pat Robertson or Bill Keller will be wrong.  I have clearly stated in the past that the penalty for false prophet is to be stoned to death.  I support that standard and am willing, I wonder if Pat is.” 

Hey, pay-per-view. 

Throwing rocks or throwing something was on the mind of motorists in Los Angeles, this morning.  On the five freeway, truckers, angry at the high price of diesel fuel, jackknifed their vehicles, blocking the highway, and left them there, taking the keys.  That‘ll show those diesel fuel selling guys, huh? 

And, what about the thousands of ordinary car drivers who were no doubt delighted by the high price of ordinary fuel?  Well, it‘s Friday, and you all know what day of the week Friday is—never mind. 

COUNTDOWN picking back up with our No. 3 story, your preview:  What a difference an indictment can make.  Michael Jackson facing the judge again, this time there is no way to rival, no film direction, no dancing on top of no SUV.  What‘s with the new normal all of a sudden?  We‘ll talk with Harvey Levin of “Celebrity Justice.”

And later, the new lead for the Pete Rose movie has been announced, and given who the actor is, the movie might have a surprise ending.  We‘ll explain. 

These stories ahead, first here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day:

No. 3:  An unnamed pilot for All Nippon Airways of Japan.  He fell asleep at the controls for several minutes while in mid-flight, but was awakened by a government inspector who happened to be traveling in the cockpit.  “He was only asleep for two or three minutes,” said the inspector. 

Here‘s a question for the inspector:  You let him sleep for what reason? 

No. 2:  Carlos the Jackal.  The infamous Venezuelan terrorist had his belt taken away from him before a court hearing, so he protested by going to the hearing wearing only his shirt and underwear.  Now he has a new nickname, “Little Carlos.” 

And No. 1:  Sergeant Jim Squance of the police force in Oxford, Ohio, who said that city will let its citizens start writing parking tickets.  Months from now, when the riots start in Oxford, Ohio, remember we told you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Last time he was arraigned, Michael Jackson danced atop an SUV for his fans, interlocked fingers with some of them and seen, in the judge‘s mind, at least, to have paid more attention to them than he did on the very serious charges facing him. 

Our No. 3 story on the COUNTDOWN, this time he was arraigned, Mr.

Jackson limited himself to buying his fans pizza. 

Your entertainment dollars in action, day 165 of the Michael Jackson investigations.  And Jackson arrived 40 minutes early this morning for his arraignment in a Santa Maria courtroom adorned in a suit and tie and wearing what looked like prescription glasses, his family and brand new attorney Thomas Mesereau by his side.  In front of him, the grand jury indictment was unsealed.  There are now 10 charges against the pop icon, four counts of lewd acts upon a child, one count of an attempted lewd act upon a child, four counts of administering an intoxicating agent, and the last, a new charge, one count of conspiracy, which alleges 28 individual acts of child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.

Jackson pleaded not guilty to the whole laundry list and made a brief statement as he left the courthouse. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL JACKSON, DEFENDANT:  I would like to thank the fans around the world for your love and support from every corner of the Earth.  My family has been very supportive.  My brother Randy has been incredible.  I want to thank the community of Santa Maria.  I want you to know that I love the community of Santa Maria very much.  It‘s my community.  I love the people.  I will always love the people. 

My children were born in this community.  My home is in this community.  I will always love this community from the bottom of my heart.  That‘s why I moved here. 

Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Among other post-court indulgences of his January appearance that will not be repeated, there will not be ice cream social at Neverland. 

To talk about the arraignment and what we can expect as a result, we‘re joined now by the creator and executive producer of TV‘s “Celebrity Justice,” Harvey Levin.

Harvey, good evening. 

HARVEY LEVIN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, “CELEBRITY JUSTICE”:  Hi, Keith. 

That new conspiracy charge, 28 accusations bundled together, well, clearly that it wasn‘t idea of some layman in the grand jury.  You‘re a lawyer.  Deconstruct that one for us. 

LEVIN:  Keith, well, we have been looking at this for months now.  We know what this is about. 

And we‘ve been reporting it on “Celebrity Justice” and on your very show as well.  There is a—what the prosecution in this case is going to try and do is not just put a kid up on the stand and have the kid say, I was molested.  They want to paint a picture that Michael Jackson had a consciousness of guilt. 

And the way they want to show this is by bringing two of Jackson‘s key employees center stage in this trial.  They are people who worked for Michael Jackson during the time in question and people responsible for handling the accusers and his family.  Their names are Frank Tyson and Vinnie Amen.  They‘re about 25 years old.  One is 24.  One is 25. 

And authorities believe—that‘s Frank Tyson there.  Authorities believe that Tyson and Amen, seen right there, intimidated and harassed this family, held them hostage, and even tried to get them out of the country to Brazil.  I spoke with Frank Tyson extensively a week and a half ago by phone.  And he admitted to me, he said, yes, you know what?  I did try to get them to Brazil with Vinnie, but we weren‘t trying to get them away permanently.  It was just for a couple weeks on vacation.  Prosecutors don‘t buy that. 

They think Jackson put these two up to that and that‘s why they‘ve charged him with conspiracy. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, so we also have the lewd acts, which have changed from seven counts in the original charging to four in the indictments.  A, is this it, no more changes in what he‘s being charged with?  And, B, is Jackson in better shape now legally or in worse shape? 

LEVIN:  Well, to some extent, I think he‘s in worse shape because this conspiracy is on the table. 

And, Keith, again, I can‘t stress how important this is to the prosecution‘s case to be able to show that there was what they believe a conscious effort to scare the family, to intimidate the family and ultimately get the family out of the country so nobody could make a charge against anybody.  So I think, to that extent, it is worse.  I don‘t think these charges will change.  As far as I know—and I‘ve been talking to people involved in the case—there are no other children involved.  This will be a stand-alone case. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, the tone of the thing today, Michael Jackson unplugged.  His old attorneys wanted this.  His new attorney got it. 

Is there an explanation as to what the process was?  What was the thinking?  Was there thinking finally on his part and was there any explanation for those glasses? 

LEVIN:  I can‘t really explain the glasses.  But, you know, I do know that there were a lot of talks with Michael Jackson after the disastrous first arraignment.  He was so disrespectful.  And it was clear to the lawyers, even Geragos back then, that this would be a fiasco if Jackson didn‘t show more respect. 

Keith, I don‘t know about you, but he really did show it.  But I was almost uncomfortable by the suit that he‘s wearing.  He‘s just a little too Wall Street.  I‘m not sure I‘m buying it. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, but the red armband always just reminded that you it‘s not really an average Joe.  Let‘s put it that way. 

LEVIN:  It is a nice accessory. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  Harvey Levin of TV‘s “Celebrity Justice,” as always, my friend, thanks for your insight.  Have a good weekend. 

LEVIN:  My pleasure.  You, too, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Continuing the third story with other news of celebrities and justice, five-sixths of a verdict today in the Jayson Williams case. 

After four days of deliberation, a New Jersey jury acquitted Williams of the most serious charge, aggravated manslaughter, but convicted the former NBA player and announcer of four of six lesser counts, including covering up the shooting death of his limo driver, Gus Christofi.  The jury could not reach a verdict on one count of reckless manslaughter.  No date has been set for sentencing, but Williams faces a maximum of less than five years in jail, unless, that is, the state decides to push to retry him on that manslaughter count.  There will be a conference on that on the 21st of next month. 

And rounding out the justice statement, we told you last August that the way the court schedule was working out in his case, it was obvious that Kobe Bryant would not be on the American basketball team at the Olympics in Athens this August.  Tonight, it is official.  Bryant‘s agent has informed USA basketball that his client is with withdrawing from the Olympic roster because of—quote—“scheduling conflicts.”  You bet.  But Bryant did express a desire to—quote—“keep an option open” to play for the Olympic squad if there were changes in the scheduling of his trial on rape charges in Boulder, Colorado. 

That wraps up No. 3 tonight, crime and punishment.  Up next, our second story.  This is a late parrot.  It‘s a stiff.  Bereft of life, it rests in peace.  It has run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible.  This is an ex-parrot.  A movie not by, but about these geniuses looms.  I did not try out for it. 

Then later, a fallen actor to play a fallen baseball star. 

All that ahead, but, first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O‘BRIEN”)

CONAN O‘BRIEN, HOST:  “American Idol” was on last night.  And they voted off the guy that everyone has been telling me looks just like me.  John Stevens.  I just want to say, John, don‘t worry because you‘ll always have a future as a male model. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  We have to have more competition in the milk industry.  Our farmers upstate don‘t get a fair price for the milk.  And our consumers down here pay through the nose. 

JEFF LIEFER, INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS:  I went to the restroom.  It was a perfectly normal thing to do during a game.  I went in there and take care of my business.  And when I went to leave the restroom, the handle didn‘t want to work on the door.  Hey, I don‘t want to be remembered as the guy who got stuck in the bathroom.  Hopefully, it will happen to someone else, so it won‘t be as much of a big deal. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  A dead parrot, some lovely spam, and the knights who say “Ni,” who wouldn‘t want to be a part of that?  We‘ll meet those trying to join the Circus in our No. 2 story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  This fall, I will celebrate 30 years of annoying my friends and co-workers with imitations and repetitions of the comedy sketches of the group Monty Python‘s Flying Circus.  I‘ve done it on this program.  And if it has been annoying you, I apologize. 

On the other hand, as our second story on the COUNTDOWN shows, it turns out I am hardly alone.  There‘s a Monty Python movie in the works., not by them, but about them.  And if you‘re going to have a Python movie, you‘re going to have actors who can do impersonations of the six men who made up the Python troop.  And to find six good ones, you‘re going to go through a lot of bad ones.

COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny reports now on the auditions, where she saw a lot of the bad, the good, and the completely different. 

Monica, good evening. 

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening.  That‘s putting it kindly. 

Director David Eric Brenner, a Python addict himself, says he feels like he has won the lottery.  His production company has licensed the rights to Graham Chapman‘s life and memoirs in order to make this movie.  Now, so far, they have a name, “Gin and Tonic.”  They have a Web site. 

They have the first draft of a script.  And now all they need is a cast. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  They won‘t play this song on the radio.  I‘ll bet you they won‘t play this new song.  It‘s not that it‘s bad or controversial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Am I supposed to say something?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Shut up!

NOVOTNY (voice-over):  There are fans and then there are fanatics. 

DAVID ERIC BRENNER, DIRECTOR:  When we announced this film, the e-mails immediately came flooding in.  People were asking about the roles.  Python fans essentially came out from wherever they were hiding. 

NOVOTNY:  Because devoted followers of Monty Python can‘t resist the call, auditioning for a chance to play one of the original Pythons in the soon-to-be-made film focusing on what life was really like for the British comic troop. 

BRENNER:  Really, they were the Beatles of comedy, so to speak.  When they exploded, they were huge. 

NOVOTNY:  And though 26-year-old Jonathan Fielding (ph) was just a kid at the time, he was already busy spinning off their skits. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What‘s it say, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I can‘t tell.  It‘s either Hebrew or Latin.  I never can tell the difference. 

NOVOTNY:  And today, he‘s on the ultimate quest. 

JONATHAN FIELDING, ACTOR:  It is the holy grail, of course.

NOVOTNY:  Well, the Python version. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Now stand aside, worthy adversary. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  ‘Tis but a scratch. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVOTNY:  Fielding is willing to do just about anybody for a shot at playing his idol, Graham Chapman.

FIELDING:  Monty Python has used fish a lot.  It is a big motif in their movies, their films.  And so I thought it would be nice to have a fish going through my head. 

NOVOTNY:  Even flying across the country to L.A. just for a tryout. 

At this audition, checking is a Python moment. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And your favorite color?  Yellow?

FIELDING:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Red? 

FIELDING:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Green? 

FIELDING:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  White? 

FIELDING:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Orange? 

FIELDING:  No. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Black?

FIELDING:  Yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Please follow the black line. 

FIELDING:  Thank you. 

NOVOTNY:  And that‘s the idea behind the film, follow, but not too closely.  For the faithful, that would be sacrilege. 

BRENNER:  If we were going out and going to redo the Monty Python sketch with other actors, we would fail miserably. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  What will they do to me? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Oh, you will probably get crucifixion. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Crucifixion? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Yes, first offense?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  (INAUDIBLE) crucifixion. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  It‘s the best thing the Romans ever did for us. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  What?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  If we did not have crucifixion, this country would be in a right bloody mess. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVOTNY (on camera):  Well, how much time do you have? 

FIELDING:  I have one minute. 

NOVOTNY:  One minute.  So a beginning, a middle and an end.  Something that‘s very funny. 

FIELDING:  Yes, but I found it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  These mitts (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FIELDING:  ... truly a lot of bread.  So if you‘ll just step through here...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  I‘ll slit your (INAUDIBLE)  

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  What?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVOTNY:  And in a few moments, it is all over. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ll call you.  We‘ll call you names.  You suck!

NOVOTNY:  For now, Fielding waits for the callback, his hunger fueled

by old friends. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  I want to buy some cheese. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Yes, certainly, sir.  What would you like? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Well, how about a little red leicester? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  I‘m afraid we‘re fresh out of red leicester, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Ah.  Stilton.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Sorry. 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Gruyere, emmental? 

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Any Norwegian Jarlsberg?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Liptauer?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Lancashire?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  White Stilton?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Danish blue?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Double Gloucester?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOVOTNY:  For those of you who just can‘t wait for “Gin and Tonic,” like yourself, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of “Life of Brian,” that film is being rereleased beginning tonight in New York and Los Angeles and, in the coming weeks, in theaters throughout the country.  And a music based on “The Holy Grail” is scheduled to open in Chicago at the end of this year. 

OLBERMANN:  Best bit they ever did.  And I‘ve always wanted to do it on a newscast.  It is an interviewer.  And he says, Mr. Bentist (ph) is sitting with us in our studios in Durham, which is rather unfortunate, in so much as we‘re all down here in London.  I always wanted to do that. 

What happens next for these actor, fanatics, nerds like me?  Have they chosen anybody from the group? 

NOVOTNY:  They‘re all in a holding pattern.  Essentially, the director described the performances that day as ranging from the hilarious to the horrific.  And they‘ve decided that they actually will come to New York after all and do an audition.  That happens in June.  And then late this summer, they‘re going to go to London.  They have very high hopes for London.  So, right now, everyone who has auditioned is on hold.  They‘ll call back after London. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, all right, I‘m covered in case we bail out on this show. 

NOVOTNY:  That‘s right. 

OLBERMANN:  COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny, Brie, roquefort, Pont l‘Eveque, Port Salut, Savoyard?

NOVOTNY:  No.  No.

OLBERMANN:  Saint-Paulin, Carre-de-l‘Est.

NOVOTNY:  No.

OLBERMANN:  Bresse-bleu?

NOVOTNY:  No.

OLBERMANN:  Boursin?

NOVOTNY:  No. 

OLBERMANN:  No, you‘re supposed to say, sorry, sir, the van broke down. 

Many thanks. 

All of which segues us somehow to our nightly roundup of the unwashed, the unloved and the unrestrained, our news of Tinseltown and the great white way, “Keeping Tabs.” 

And as airtime for the TV show in question approached, Uri Geller was trying to sue Barbara Walters.  You‘ll recall the controversial segment in “20/20” about five couples vying to adopt the newborn child of a 16-year-old girl.  Well, world famous self-proclaimed psychic and spoon bender Geller says that was his idea.  Geller says he had written a novel about just this subject, a reality TV show in which five couple competed to win a baby.  He says ABC ripped him off, raising the questions, OK, if he‘s really a psychic, how come he didn‘t know ABC was working on a show and how come he didn‘t file for a copyright on it sooner than yesterday?

And they‘ve cast the lead character in another new made-for-TV thing, a movie about Pete Rose.  And if this isn‘t perfect.  The troubled Tom Sizemore will play the troubled baseball hit king.  The only stretch for Sizemore is that, at least as of now, the character of Pete Rose is not supposed to die in the movie Pete Rose.  And I‘m afraid Tom Sizemore only does roles in which he does die.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  “Strange Days.”  “Enemy of the State.”

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Who are these guys? 

OLBERMANN:  “True Romance.”  “Natural Born Killers.”  “Heat.”   “Devil in a Blue Dress.”  “Saving Private Ryan.”  “Flight of the Intruder.”

TOM SIZEMORE, ACTOR:  Why don‘t you take me to a bus stop and I‘ll wait there!

OLBERMANN:  “Heart and Souls.”  And “Red Planet.”

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  So look out, Pete. 

Coming up, he‘s back and he‘s back in his wedding gown with the train this time.  We‘ll ask him why he still has it. 

But, first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top two photos of this day, besides that one. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Life is cruel.  Yes I know, this just in.  But it‘s often cruelest to us in the most unexpected, most painful ways, not torrents of fair, just splinters of sadness or maybe clipped toenails of sadness. 

Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN, sometimes all you can eat is not all you can eat.  And sometimes the guy willing to pay you $3,850 for your ex-wife‘s wedding dress is just fooling.

But Chuck-A-Rama in Taylorsville, Utah, has publicly apologized to Mr.  and Mrs. Sui Amaama, on whom they called the cops 10 days ago when Mr.  Amaama refused to stop eating all their roast beef at their buffet.  But the restaurant chain still insists it never presented said buffet as an all-you-can-eat kind of thing and were their rights to cut Mr. Amaama off after 11 slices.  The Amaamas are on the Atkins diet.  While Chuck-A-Rama is offering an apology and a gift certificate, the Amaamas‘ lawyer is still hinting at a lawsuit in a case which would then be Amaama vs. Chuck-A-Rama.

And then there‘s Larry Star, our COUNTDOWN mensch of the week.  You will recall that he decided to salvage what he could of love gone bad.  He auctioned off the ex-wife‘s wedding dress on eBay and sold the thing by posing in the dress, not just on eBay, mind you, but also here on COUNTDOWN and on one of the network morning shows. 

When the auction ended Wednesday, Mr. Star‘s ex-‘s dress—by the way, that would make her an ex-Star—had sold for $3,850.  But there‘s sold and then there‘s sold. 

Larry Star joins us again live from Seattle. 

Larry, good evening.  Oh, you know, you always wear that. 

(LAUGHTER)

LARRY STAR, SOLD EX-WIFE‘S WEDDING DRESS:  You know, there‘s a little stain here.  I didn‘t know what it was. 

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t want to know what it is. 

No sale?  What happened? 

STAR:  The—he backed out of it.  He said that I left my computer on and somebody made the bid for me.  It wasn‘t me, you know, the kind of guy that you sat next to in school that said, my dog ate my homework, you know? 

OLBERMANN:  His dog ate his computer mouse. 

So what are you going to do now?  Do you relist this thing?  Do you wear it on stage with your band tonight, or what do you do with it? 

STAR:  You know, I was actually going to use this forum to sell this beautiful wedding dress, used only 6,000 times.  Look at this beautiful train. 

OLBERMANN:  There‘s just an outside hint of humor to this, he was going to say.

STAR:  An outside hint of humor? 

OLBERMANN:  An outside hint of it.  Some of it looked a little rehearsed. 

You may not be aware of this.  In fact, I can‘t think of a reason that you would be aware of it.  But we kind of helped William Hung turn total adversity into a marketing blitz.  Have we helped you, too?  How are you exploiting this commercially? 

STAR:  I‘m actually going to be at the Punchline comedy club in Atlanta next week, next Thursday, I believe.  And then I‘m going to go up to New York to do “Today.”

It‘s just been a whirlwind and unbelievable.  Still, I‘m getting e-mails, 10,000 e-mails.  It‘s just incredible. 

OLBERMANN:  So you can‘t sell it now, right?  It‘s sort of a blessing in disguise that the guy backed out? 

STAR:  Right.  Right.  It‘s pretty much that—it‘s kind of my—it‘s like the Paul McCartney Beatle base.  I can‘t sell it, you know?

OLBERMANN:  So, clearly, we‘re going to suggest here that you better get on the marketing stick, though, because there‘s already—there‘s some items on eBay.  There‘s one called wedding dress gown guy doll with a picture of one of those like Howard Dean dolls, only in a wedding dress being sold by some dude in West Virginia. 

STAR:  Oh, my goodness. 

OLBERMANN:  There‘s a wedding dress guy compact toolbox and car back vacuum, and a wedding dress guy Gymboree onsie romper.  So you better get moving on the merchandising?  Can you get anything together?

STAR:  I want royalties.  I have a Web site, weddingdressguy.com.  I also have a Web site for my band, thebuzzcuts.com, which you probably see in the background. 

My band—it‘s funny, they‘re—nobody is under 6‘2“ but me, 6‘2“ to 6‘8“.  I‘m 5‘8“, so when they huddle around me, I feel like Doug Flutie. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, I don‘t think you look like—or you feel like Doug Flutie dressed like that, but that‘s another story altogether—maybe in some of the days in Chicago.  And, by the way, it looks like the band is really not at all interested in this anymore. 

(LAUGHTER)

STAR:  No, they‘re not. 

OLBERMANN:  Larry Star, a man, a band, and a gown. 

Thank you, sir.  Have a good weekend. 

STAR:  Thank you for having me.  Take it easy, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  So long. 

Before we leave our No. 1 story tonight, one more thing you need to know about the worldwide marketplace that is eBay.  The most expensive sale to ever actually close on the site, a Gulfstream 2 jet selling for $4.9 million in August 2001.  But we‘re thinking the wedding guy doll might give that thing a run for its money. 

Before we go, let‘s recap the COUNTDOWN five stories, the ones we think you‘ll be talking about tomorrow.

No. 5, mission accomplished.  Nearly a year to the day after the president spoke on board the USS Lincoln with that banner flying behind him, the country cuts a deal with one of Saddam‘s former generals to run the security in Fallujah.  Four, the Google guys, two former classmates who did not even like each other but who will now put their company on the stock market and earn around $25 billion for doing so. 

Three, Michael Jackson muted, no dancing on cars, no signing autographs.  He showed up early to hear the 10 separate charges now filed against him, pleading not guilty to all.  Two, playing Pythons.  Dozens show up to audition for a movie about the famous British comedy act.  No, I was not among them.  And, No. 1, sold to the highest hoaxster.  The wedding dress guy, alias Larry Star, also stuck with his ex-wife‘s bridal wear after an eBay bidder turned out to be a faker.  His heart is broken twice. 

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann. 

Good night and good luck. 

END   

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