updated 8/18/2004 9:34:15 AM ET 2004-08-18T13:34:15

Guest: Iain Calder, Mike Walker, Lloyd Grove, Diane Dimond, Linda Stasi

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  Amber‘s final day under direct examination, and still more revealing tapes about her relationship with Scott Peterson.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SCOTT PETERSON, CHARGED WITH DOUBLE MURDER:  I just need to tell you how much I care about you.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Amber Frey‘s phone calls giving the jury a voyeuristic glimpse into Scott‘s secret life.  Next up, cross-examination.

Inside “The Enquirer.”  You can‘t miss it in every checkout line in the country.  “The National Enquirer” has been exposing celebrities‘ and politicians‘ darkest secrets to millions of readers each week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IAIN CALDER, FORMER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER”:  We have, I think, the finest team of investigative journalists in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Iain Calder should know.  He‘s the man who took the nation‘s most infamous tell-all tabloid to new heights of fame.  But can we believe everything we read?  Tonight, secrets behind “The National Enquirer,” from its most sensational scoops...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CALDER:  ... Elvis Presley, and, you know, we were the only people who go could get (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in his coffin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  ... to its most embarrassing gaffes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROL BURNETT, ACTRESS:  I didn‘t do a thing to them.  They did it to themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Tonight, inside “The Enquirer.”  How do they get all that stuff?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s sort of like the CIA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.

NORVILLE:  And good evening, everybody.  Tomorrow, Scott Peterson‘s attorneys get a chance to cross-examine his former mistress, Amber Frey.  But today, jurors in Peterson‘s murder trial listened to more of those taped phone conversations between the two lovers.  In a January 17, 2003, call, just about a month after Laci Peterson disappeared, Scott Peterson once again denies any involvement.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SCOTT PETERSON, CHARGED WITH DOUBLE MURDER:  Amber, are you asking if I had something to do with this?

AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON‘S FORMER LOVER:  You‘ve never told me you haven‘t.

PETERSON:  Yes, I have.  I had nothing to do with this.  You know that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  And joining me now from Redwood City, California, where he‘s been covering the trial, NBC News chief legal correspondent and the anchor of MSNBC‘s “THE ABRAMS REPORT,” Dan Abrams.

Dan, this was day five for the jury to have a chance to hear these tapes.  What was the tone of the tapes today?

DAN ABRAMS, HOST, “THE ABRAMS REPORT”:  Well, it varied quite a bit.  I mean, you had Scott Peterson going from loving to distant to loving again.  And eventually, it ends with Amber Frey saying, I don‘t think that we should be speaking anymore.  But one of the things we saw again was Amber Frey confronting Scott Peterson again, suggesting at times that she wonders whether he may have actually killed Laci.

NORVILLE:  ... really got a sense of how he played her heartstrings and vice versa.

ABRAMS:  Yes, I mean, there‘s no question that a lot of times, you saw Amber Frey trying elicit information from Scott Peterson.  You saw Scott Peterson, at one point, saying to Amber that, well, he doesn‘t know why she thought that they would have a long-term relationship.  She must have misinterpreted things.  And then later on, two weeks later, you have him calling her on the telephone, begging for a meeting.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PETERSON:  I thought I could come to wherever you are, like, tonight, just for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or something, to see you or talk to you.

FREY:  I can‘t have you come to my house, Scott.

PETERSON:  OK.

FREY:  And I have Ayanna.

PETERSON:  I know—I can‘t say I understand, but OK.

FREY:  Scott...

PETERSON:  You know I‘m not a monster, Amber.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And at another point, you have Scott Peterson asking her if maybe they could go away to a cabin that a friend of his has, Amber saying there‘s no way they could escape the media in order to go on that kind of a trip.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

FREY:  Why are these things you want to tell me in person and not over the phone?

PETERSON:  There‘s so many things I want to tell you.  God, it‘s unbelievable.

FREY:  Where to begin?

PETERSON:  One very important thing I wanted to tell you last Saturday, so many things.

FREY:  About Saturday?

PETERSON:  No, there is one thing I want to tell you so much about that.

FREY:  About...

PETERSON:  What‘s that?

FREY:  Tell me now.  What?

PETERSON:  I can‘t.  Sorry.

FREY:  Why?

PETERSON:  Not over the phone, Amber.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  It‘s difficult to hear, Dan.  Is he crying in those conversations?

ABRAMS:  Sure sounds that way.  Sure sounds that way.  Particularly, in these February 7, February 8 conversations, it sounds like Scott Peterson is crying.  And again, this is about 10 days before Amber Frey says to him, You know what?  Just don‘t call me anymore.  And she never did agree to meet with him, and he never did tell her what that thing that he wanted to talk to her about was.

NORVILLE:  At this point, has she had her press conference in front of the media?

ABRAMS:  Yes, she had her press conference in front of the media at the end of January.  And as you pointed out, Scott Peterson talked about—he called her right after the press conference and talked about how amazing she is for going forward, and how it even made him sick when he heard her crying on TV.

NORVILLE:  Yes, and here‘s a portion of that very conversation you speak of.  Here‘s Scott Peterson and Amber.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

FREY:  Is it written all over me, you know, sucker or something?  Oh, here‘s a person I could easily take advantage of.  She‘s just so naive...

PETERSON:  No.  God, no, Amber.  No.

FREY:  ... and so trusting of people.

PETERSON:  Yes.  You‘re wonderful.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  That actually was a conversation that took place earlier, Dan.  And you really have a sense—even though Amber knows she‘s being recorded, you have a sense that she‘s forgotten the recorder is on and she‘s being absolutely emotionally raw and truthful there.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  You know, it‘s interesting, Deborah, is that later on, you get a sense that Scott Peterson knows that these conversations are being recorded.  He talks at one point about only being able to talk about certain things with her on one particular cell phone.  He starts calling her from pay phones.  Of course, I don‘t think, at this point, he realizes that she‘s recording all the conversations, but I think he fears that he‘s being recorded on his own phone.  So it‘s very interesting to hear him talk about pay phones and what he can‘t talk about and can talk about on his phone.

NORVILLE:  Did Amber Frey feel like she was getting, in your opinion, good information out of him?  Because it‘s obvious these conversations are taking a toll on her, as you hear her kind of falling apart in these conversations.

ABRAMS:  You don‘t get a sense of whether she thinks she‘s getting information that‘s useful to the authorities.  You certainly get the sense that—as you point out, that she‘s OK with some of their most intimate conversations being taped recorded.  And keep in mind, though, that not all of the conversations were recorded.  There were other conversations they had that were not tape recorded, and so obviously, we can‘t hear those.

NORVILLE:  And I know there was some reaction outside the courtroom today from Scott Peterson‘s mother.  What can you tell us about that?

ABRAMS:  Well, you have Scott Peterson‘s mother and father coming in and out of the court every day.  They clearly believe in their son‘s innocence.  But also, Scott Peterson‘s sister-in-law has been one of his most outspoken advocates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANEY PETERSON, SCOTT PETERSON‘S SISTER-IN-LAW:  We don‘t condone his actions.  It‘s nothing we make any excuses for.  It‘s—no, but he got caught in the middle of an adulterous affair and his wife went missing, and you know, it‘s—you can second guess him, you know, all day long, but it still is a difficult situation he was in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Yes, and...

ABRAMS:  Caught in the middle...

NORVILLE:  Yes.  Go ahead.

ABRAMS:  Caught in the middle, difficult situation.  I mean, you know, all of the ways—all of her words seem to suggest that Scott Peterson was the victim here, that, you know, he got caught in a situation.  It was difficult.  It‘s similar to the kind of language that Scott Peterson uses on these tapes, when all he will do is apologize to Amber Frey...

NORVILLE:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... but never really get down to the nitty gritty of why it is he did what he did and what it means.

NORVILLE:  Let‘s look ahead to tomorrow.  The cross-examination will begin with Amber Frey.  What do you anticipate‘s going to happen?

ABRAMS:  Well, Mark Geragos has been limited in the amount of cross-examination he can pursue, particularly about Amber‘s relationships.  All he can ask her about are relationships that came up on that tape.  A couple of relationships she‘d had, the father of her now 3-year-old child is mentioned on there.  Another man with whom she had a bad relationship is mentioned, as well.  So expect that Mark Geragos will ask about them.  Don‘t have any real sense of how long the cross is going to take, but it certainly is expected to be aggressive.

NORVILLE:  All right.  Well, we‘ll look forward to it.  And Dan, thanks so much for being with us yet again tonight to talk about it.

ABRAMS:  OK, Deborah.

NORVILLE:  When we come back...

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up: behind the success of the nation‘s most infamous tabloid with the man who made it what it is today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

IAIN CALDER, FORMER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER”:  I mean, “The Enquirer” goes behind the scenes and does the real story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Inside “The Enquirer” when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  “The National Enquirer,” the magazine that no one admits to buying but everybody seems to read, the supermarket tabloid that even mainstream journalists acknowledge has changed the way news is covered.  And much of those changes were under the direction of Iain Calder, who for nearly 20 years presided over hundreds of scoops by “The Enquirer” staff.  Now he‘s telling tales again, this time in “The Untold Story,” his new book that looks back at his wacky days as a reporter and editor.

And joining me now is the man who led “The Enquirer” during all of those interesting stories, Iain Calder.  Good to see you.

IAIN CALDER, FORMER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER”:  It‘s nice to see you.  Thank you, Deborah.

NORVILLE:  Where do you think your magazine comes down in sort of the pecking order of journalistic endeavors out there?

CALDER:  That‘s for other people to say.  I think that we, in the genre we‘re in, are by far No. 1, but I certainly wouldn‘t say we‘re like “The New York Times” or, you know, “Fortune” magazine.  But within that particular genre, “National Enquirer” is just unbeatable, unrivaled.

NORVILLE:  Does it bug you that people use the term “supermarket rag” to describe it?

CALDER:  Not in the slightest.  What happens is that the people who read “The Enquirer,” millions and millions of people—At one point, we were selling over five million a week—they knew we were a really good paper, that the stories were real.  Now, the other 85 percent of America probably didn‘t know that and thought maybe they were made up, et cetera, et cetera.  And that‘s one of the reasons I wrote the book.

NORVILLE:  One of the things really interesting about the book is you talk about some of the stories that made such big headlines over the years when you were there.  And I guess, for you -- - 27 years ago last week, Elvis Presley died -- 27 years ago this week, you made your own kind of history with the cover from that event.

CALDER:  That‘s true.  That‘s true.  We had the cover of Elvis Presley in his coffin, and we sold 6.7 million copies, which was by far the largest sale we had ever had in history.

NORVILLE:  That is just about one of creepiest covers I‘ve ever seen. 

How did you get that picture?

CALDER:  I can understand you saying that.  But for his fans, they loved it.  And in fact, I‘m told, on one occasion, a couple of guys actually robbed a supermarket but didn‘t steal the money, they stole all the “Enquirers.”

NORVILLE:  And the way you got the story was pretty ingenious...

CALDER:  The photograph, yes.

NORVILLE:  ... some would say underhanded.  But how would you describe it?

CALDER:  We just did what we had to do to get the story and to get the picture.  What happened was that Elvis was lying in state, and people were coming, filing past...

NORVILLE:  Right.

CALDER:  ... and the Memphis Mafia were protecting him really, really well.  So we tried all kinds of things.  We couldn‘t get the picture.  So what we did is, we had a photographer wait outside Graceland, wait for one of his relatives to come out, just the first one that came out, followed him to a bar.  Our photographer also followed him into the men‘s room, and then said to him, Look, if you can get a picture for us, it‘s worth a lot of money.  Guy says, Sure.  So the next day, he goes with our camera hidden, and after Elvis—after the showing is over at night, all the Memphis Mafia all go and have a party.  They‘re all drinking and remembering Elvis, et cetera.

NORVILLE:  And this guy snuck in?

CALDER:  No, this guy of part of that.  So he left the party, went in to where Elvis was lying and took four pictures.  He then came out next morning.  We flew him by jet to Lantana (ph), and then we developed the pictures.  The first one was a picture of the guy taking the picture.

NORVILLE:  Oops!

CALDER:  He had put the camera the wrong way.  Second one was the chandelier above him.  And bingo, the third was magnificent.

NORVILLE:  Was the one.  You also, when Princess Grace died, a few years after that, went to extraordinary lengths to make sure your magazine had the exclusive.  You literally held hostage the guy who had seen the accident take place in Monaco.

CALDER:  Well, the man who actually phoned, was the first on the scene, was a gardener.  And we knew we had to have his story.  So we got his story, but of course, we got his story—you could come out and just 10 minutes later and get it and beat us because it took us 10 days from the time we got it until we delivered all the papers on the newsstand.  So we paid him, like, $15,000 and said, We‘ll take you anywhere in the world.  He said No, I want to stay here.  So we put three big reporters in the room with him, with his house.  And so if someone called, an “Enquirer” reporter would answer the phone, would answer the door, et cetera.

I got a call about a week later, and one of my editors said, There‘s problems.  I said, What are the problems?  Said, The problem is, he‘s getting so stir crazy, he took a shotgun and blew a hole in his own ceiling.

NORVILLE:  Yikes!

CALDER:  I said, Don‘t bother me with details.  If he‘s shooting at people, let me know.

NORVILLE:  So you got the story.

CALDER:  We got the story exclusively.

NORVILLE:  I think reading this book was interesting is—people like the stories, clearly, because you see them not only at the supermarket but you see them on TV and everywhere else, but they don‘t necessarily like to know how it‘s made.  It‘s kind of like sausage.  And when you hear the details of how some of these scoops were gotten, it‘s a little disturbing.

CALDER:  That‘s funny you say that because I‘ve been interviewed a lot recently, and one of the things that even mainline journalists have been saying—This is amazing that you actually went to all this length, which, in fact, shows that we weren‘t making up stories.  I can make up stories for free.  These things cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to send 50 reporters to Monaco, for instance.

NORVILLE:  Sure.

CALDER:  So in fact, in a way, it‘s showing how we have this wonderful team of journalists and we were able to spend so much money to actually get the stories because that was the most important thing for our reader.

NORVILLE:  I wonder if a turning point wasn‘t Gary Hart, Donna Rice and the Monkey Business shot, which was another cover.  And it sort of put you all in political reporting, which was an area that you hadn‘t really been in before.

CALDER:  That was a major story.  It changed the course of history, really...

NORVILLE:  The presidential election that year.

CALDER:  ... that particular—absolutely.  And—but I don‘t think it made us go after politicians because politicians generally don‘t sell.  It just so happened that Gary Hart became a celebrity after television and the press made him a celebrity.  Then he got into our target sights and—because the story had run before that he had had this affair...

NORVILLE:  “The Miami Herald” had...

CALDER:  ... “The Miami Herald” had printed it.  However, he was wriggling out of it.  He was still a presidential candidate.  When he learned we had the photograph of him with Donna Rice on his knee, he quit the race, even before we hit the stands.  Most people say he would have been president.  George Bush then would not have been president.  And if he hadn‘t been president, would George W. be president today?

NORVILLE:  Yes, just the whole succession of events that happened with that.  Also, people look at O.J. Simpson, and I think a lot of people in the traditional news side look at O.J. as a watershed event for many reasons.  But you all were given credit by none less than “The New York Times”...

CALDER:  That‘s right.

NORVILLE:  ... for the reporting that you did.  And it all had to do with the Bruno Magli shoe.

CALDER:  No, that was one of—just one of them.

NORVILLE:  That was one of many.

CALDER:  That was one of...

NORVILLE:  But let‘s talk about...

CALDER:  That was one of...

NORVILLE:  ... that one.

CALDER:  The Bruno Magli shoes—in fact, “The New York Times” said we were the bible of the O.J. Simpson case because of the many stories we broke, and also, the many stories we refused to run because we knew they were untrue.

NORVILLE:  But this one right here had Simpson‘s lawyers at first denying...

CALDER:  Exactly.

NORVILLE:  ... and then saying, OK, he got us.

CALDER:  Exactly.  Well, what happened was, at the murder scene, there were pictures—there were—sorry—footprints.

NORVILLE:  Right.

CALDER:  There were bloody footprints made by Bruno Magli shoes.  He said, O.J. said, I never had these shoes.  We got picture after picture after picture showing that he had worn them beforehand.  Initially, his lawyer said, No, it‘s only “The National Enquirer.”  They made (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the pictures.  And then we were able to produce the fact the pictures were taken a long time before the murders even took place.  So we were told that that, in fact—by the Brown family‘s lawyer, that that particular story helped win the second trial.

NORVILLE:  Are there any stories that you regret having done over the years?

CALDER:  Very few.  I would say Carol Burnett.

NORVILLE:  Because that was the one libel case that was successfully lodged against you.

CALDER:  Exactly.  It was the only libel suit that I lost in court during, really, 35 years with “The Enquirer.”

NORVILLE:  And you had insinuated that she had been seen drunk in...

CALDER:  Well...

NORVILLE:  ... a restaurant.

CALDER:  ... that‘s what—that was her case.

NORVILLE:  And she had a family history, so it was a very...

CALDER:  That was her...

NORVILLE:  ... painful accusation.

CALDER:  That‘s exactly right.  We had about five lines in a gossip column saying she had been walking around this restaurant, handing out a pieces of her dessert, and including Henry Kissinger.  And she said that intimated she was drunk.  She told us that.  We apologized.  We said we were wrong, because we were wrong, and people do make mistakes.  When we are, we say we‘re wrong.

But she still went ahead with the lawsuit, quite rightly, and she beat us in court.  And frankly, that helped “The Enquirer” because afterwards, we were much more careful.  And this was in the ‘80s.  We put in a brand-new research system, brand-new set of lawyers.  And actually, Carol Burnett made us a better paper.

NORVILLE:  What‘s the story that got away, the one that you really wanted to get but never got?

CALDER:  Oh.  I would say the one I really wanted but couldn‘t get was an exclusive interview with Mrs. Onassis.

NORVILLE:  But you tried hard.

CALDER:  We made an offer of a million dollars to her, but we knew she would never accept it.  But that would have been, I think, the ultimate.  Her story would have—anybody would have loved her story, to tell the whole thing.  Why did she—what did she really feel like, and why did she marry Onassis?

NORVILLE:  But right there, “Jackie O Alzheimer‘s tragedy”—she didn‘t have Alzheimer‘s.  She died of cancer.

CALDER:  Doesn‘t mean she didn‘t have Alzheimer‘s.  You can die of cancer and still have Alzheimer‘s.  You know, if you die, you can have five diseases and die of one of them and have other diseases.  You know that.

NORVILLE:  Does it trouble you to know that you‘re putting publicly—out in the public domain information about people‘s private lives, their personal lives?  Jackie Onassis was one of the most famous woman in the world...

CALDER:  Sure.

NORVILLE:  ... but she was also entitled to a level of privacy, was she not?

CALDER:  Well, depends where you‘re standing.  What I did and how I decided to run stories was I decided to figure out who my reader was.  My reader was the average woman who—you know, American woman, you know, in Kansas City or in Oklahoma or anywhere like that.  And if she wanted something, then I went after it.  She thought it was OK.  If I thought there was something that might cross the line, I tried to be her.  And I thought, I can‘t do better than that.  If I can get into the skin of my average reader and do the things that she thinks are OK, then if other journalists don‘t like it, well, so be it.  I didn‘t really care.

NORVILLE:  That said, was there anyone who was off limits, or was everyone on planet earth fair game?

CALDER:  I would say that everybody we would do stories about—there are certain stories...

NORVILLE:  Was there anybody you wouldn‘t do?

CALDER:  That we wouldn‘t do any stories about?  No.  No.  But there may have been people we wouldn‘t do certain stories about.  I mean, we often turned down stories, especially specially sex stories.  We did some sex stories, but we had to be very careful.  Remember, we were selling in supermarkets in the deep South, the Bible belt.  And in fact, there were many, many stories, which I can‘t tell you, that we didn‘t run that would blow your mind.  I mean, things about celebrities (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that person couldn‘t have done that.  Well, they did, but we didn‘t run the stories because it would have upset my mythical reader.  And that was...

NORVILLE:  Mrs. Smith in Kansas City.

CALDER:  That‘s exactly right.  Mrs. Smith in Kansas City.

NORVILLE:  All right.  The book is call “The Untold Story: My 20 Years Running ‘The National Enquirer,‘ “ because you have to say it that way because it‘s in  really bold print.  Iain Calder, thank you so much for being with us.

CALDER:  Thank you, Deborah.

NORVILLE:  Appreciate your time.

CALDER:  It was a pleasure.  Thank you.

NORVILLE:  When we come back, we‘re going to keep talking about our celebrity- obsessed culture.  We‘ll talk to some of the other people who have been on the front lines of reporting in this arena.

ANNOUNCER:  Up next: from Elvis to Gary Hart to O.J., they‘re the stories that captivate the nation and sell newspapers.  But has it all gone too far?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, you have to be sure that you‘re right, and that gets very difficult sometimes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  Why America is obsessed with the lives of celebrities and politicians when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Whether it‘s Michael Jackson, J.Lo, Paris Hilton, Scott Peterson, or the latest scandalous story, which is New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, America loves this stuff.  And these stories, which used to be called tabloid, are now pretty much considered mainstream.

Here to look at that are Court TV‘s anchor and executive—investigative editor, Diane Dimond.  She‘s covering the Michael Jackson case out in California.

DIANE DIMOND, COURT TV:  Hi, Deborah.

NORVILLE:  Hi, Diane.  “New York Post” columnist Linda Stasi is here.  Also in the studio with us, “National Enquirer” columnist Mike Walker, and the man behind the “Lowdown” column in “The New York Daily News” is Lloyd Grove.

Guys, before we get into specifics about stories, I want to throw out something that Iain Calder was saying.  He said we do stories about the people our viewers, our listeners, our readers want to hear about.  So anybody who gets on their high horse and says, oh, this is awful, what we‘re seeing, should look in the mirror for blame? 

MIKE WALKER, NATIONAL ENQUIRER:  If it didn‘t sell papers, we wouldn‘t be writing about them.  And it‘s an absolute fact.  I mean, you can look—for instance, “The National Enquirer” doesn‘t do much about politicians. We might do Bill Clinton, for obvious reasons.  Because people want to know about Bill Clinton, even now.  But politicians, generally, I don‘t care what they do, don‘t sell papers. 

LINDA STASI, NEW YORK POST:  Unless they have sex.

WALKER:  Even Bill Clinton didn‘t sell that well.  Oprah burps, big sale.

NORVILLE:  Oprah gets on the jury.  Front page story.  

LLOYD GROVE, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS:  The whole thing about these stories is basically you have a celebrity who‘s rich and famous, and they are being brought down to the level of you and me.  I mean, there was a magazine this week that had a series of pictures of celebrities blowing their noses.  You know, what is more human than that?  

STASI:  Well, it is also, you know, it‘s sort of an opiate for the masses.  If we are talking about them, then we don‘t have to look at the bigger picture.  You know, it‘s very easy to look at people being brought down, and kind of say, well, my life isn‘t so bad, you know. 

NORVILLE:  And Diane, how much of that do you think plays into the Michael Jackson story?  It‘s like watching a train wreck.  You can go in there, you can look, but at the end of the day, you are not going to get hit by any of the debris that is flying around. 

DIMOND:  Yeah, you know, if you want to know what bizarre is, you need to come to Santa Maria, California.  You know, just when you think you‘ve got this story figured out, Michael Jackson shows up with all of his siblings dressed in angel, white-flowing robes to accompany him into court.  It is a bizarre life that we all lead.  We all need to just admit that.  We get wrapped up in these stories that with people that we would otherwise never associate with.  You know, we might see them at a costume party...

NORVILLE:  Now, when you say we, are you using royal we?  The reporters, or we as viewers and readers? 

DIMOND:  No, I mean, we, all of us on this panel, we get involved in stories about people that we would never associate with, but those viewers or readers that are out there digesting our products, they cannot get enough of this stuff.  They want to pooh-pooh it and say they don‘t really like it, but they do. 

NORVILLE:  They do. 

STASI:  And also, you know, the Michael Jackson story, the story that won‘t go away.  I was the first one who reported that, because I knew the kid‘s family. 

I reported it.  I was done.  It came back to haunt me.  It keeps coming back.  I heard from the family today.  There is another story that might explode very soon.  So it‘s just the never-ending Michael Jackson story. 

WALKER:  And, and, Michael is the perfect example of when celebrities scream about how they are overcovered or we‘re unfair and so forth, what did Michael Jackson do?  The most incredible thing.  I mean, the guy, no one was paying any attention to him, and there he is, fondling this little boy, on camera, looking right in our face.  Now, don‘t you think that if you had been through what we had been through, you would say, you know what, let‘s just not have the little boy...

NORVILLE:  And do you think that was a deliberate act?  I mean, just the other day he said...

WALKER:  I think he is—I think he is...

NORVILLE:  He‘s at the...

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  ... and he‘s saying, I‘m here for the children.

WALKER:  ... consciously self-destructive.

NORVILLE:  The children are the reason for your problems, Mr. Jackson.

WALKER:  That‘s correct.

(CROSSTALK)

STASI:  I also think that whole film thing, I think they had us all scammed.  This is why we cover these people. 

NORVILLE:  One second, Diane.  Let Linda finish.

STASI:  He just happened to have his own film crew at the same time which Bashir never bothered to mention, so who did you think that whole film crew was that was following your film crew?  And then he got to say what he wanted to say after he got all the publicity from Bashir.  So who is being had here?

NORVILLE:  And he goes and sells it a second time to a network, and gets a big chunk of change for that.  Diane.

(CROSSTALK) 

DIMOND:  I hear they are trying to sell it a third time, as a matter of fact.  Look, if Michael Jackson doesn‘t want the coverage, then you know what?  Don‘t come to court in a big fat tour bus with your whole family dressed in these strange costumes, and then during lunch time come out and parade around with a parasol over your head, and go and put your hand up to the chain link fence where the fans are. 

You know, we are there to capture the moments and capture the truth.  And the truth is stranger than fiction, especially with the Michael Jackson case. 

But that‘s not the only one.  Come on, we‘ve all covered Heidi Fleiss, you know, all the rest of them. 

NORVILLE:  Hold on one second.  Yeah, we‘re going to get to all of them, too. 

Lloyd Grove, what is going on really here, though?  Is it that the tabloid stories are just so juicy that you can‘t resist, or is it that the tabloid story has really become mainstream news in today‘s world? 

GROVE:  Well, in some sense that is true, and I think one example of that was where Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky became the front page of my old paper, “The Washington Post” and “The New York Times,” and ended up in a pretty serious Senate impeachment proceeding. 

NORVILLE:  Right.

GROVE:  So...

NORVILLE:  And does that then give mainstream media permission to go not just a toe, but a foot, maybe up to the knee or higher in this...

(CROSSTALK)

GROVE:  Back in the Lewinsky days, I remember my own newspaper at the time, there was a lot of hand wringing by editors, and, you know, “Newsweek,” which had the story refused to print it until everybody else had it.  I don‘t see a lot of that hand wringing any more. 

(CROSSTALK)

WALKER:  Look, the turning point was very simple.  It was when “The New York Times” announced during the O.J. Simpson trial that “The National Enquirer” was the bible of the O.J. Simpson case, and that was a case that everyone one of us, everyone, radio, TV, newspaper, everybody was covering.

STASI:  No, it was before that.  It was the William Kennedy Smith case. 

WALKER:  Ted Koppel did a show abut it...

NORVILLE:  I was going to say, William Kennedy Smith...

WALKER:  And he said, he said, when that happened...

DIMOND:  It was William Kennedy Smith when “The New York Times” started to cover that.

WALKER:  It was “The National Enquirer,” and he said, every reporter out there is grabbing “The National Enquirer” the minute it gets off the rack.

NORVILLE:  Well, I don‘t disagree that that was a big moment...

WALKER:  And it became...

NORVILLE:  ... but I think Diane and Linda are right, I think it was William Kennedy Smith, because suddenly, a rape has become wall to wall Court TV.

STASI:  And then there were publications using her name.  It was...

(CROSSTALK)

DIMOND:  It was Court TV‘s first—very first trial.

STASI:  All of a sudden, all of the cases were covered, and all bets were off.

WALKER:  “The New York Times” did something that “The National Enquirer” never would have done.  They sneaked up and took a picture through her bedroom window.

NORVILLE:  Inside that woman‘s home, and you saw...

(CROSSTALK)

GROVE:  And named the alleged victim.

NORVILLE:  And named the victim as well, Patricia Coleman (ph).

WALKER:  That‘s right.

NORVILLE:  Short break, more with my guests in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Back with our panel.  Court TV anchor Diane Dimond, “New York Post” columnist Linda Stasi, “National Enquirer” columnist Mike Walker and “New York Daily News” columnist Lloyd Grove.  And we‘re talking about celebrity and how people get there.  I have always been fascinated to see the nobodys turn into somebodys.  How does one become a bold-faced name?  Mike, you first.

WALKER:  The latest, best example.  I remember vividly—what was it now, two years ago—somebody coming back from an L.A. party that I hadn‘t gone to and talking about this girl, this trashy girl, this Paris Hilton and she did this and that, and she did—and all the girls are like (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  And she went over to Demi Moore, and afterward Demi said, “what a dress,” and all of that.  And I‘m going, yes, yes.  And who are you talking about? 

So I actually did—I mean, of course, we know—you know, we knew vaguely who Paris Hilton was then.  So I, you know, hotel heiress, she‘s—and then of course Paris had this way of showing up in certain places, sans...

NORVILLE:  Clothes? 

WALKER:  Underwear.  And suddenly everybody was talking about her.

GROVE:  Dancing on the tops of tables. 

WALKER:  Dancing on the tops of tables, that was her big thing. 

NORVILLE:  And Lloyd, is this all by design?  I mean, do these people not only show up without their underwear at parties but also make sure that someone calls you and says, oh, it was an amazing party, so and so was there without her underwear dancing on the table tops? 

GROVE:  Well, these Hilton girls, and the whole family, they have publicists who call our gossip columns, and in fact, in the case of the Hilton girls, “The New York Post” venerable gossip column, “Page 6,” put them in the column week after week and made them into personalities, and of course the best thing that happened to Paris in her career was her...

NORVILLE:  Was the video. 

GROVE:  ... sex video.  What could be better than that?  And now she is just a huge star, making all kinds of money.

STASI:  She (UNINTELLIGIBLE) because of her reality TV show. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  But wait a minute, the reality show came...

GROVE:  Right after the sex video.

NORVILLE:  No, no, but because...

STASI:  It started being reviewed before the video came out.  That guy, that creepy Rick Solomon guy, actually was trying to piggy back on that TV show. 

NORVILLE:  And launch a career himself? 

GROVE:  Are you sure you want to use the phrase piggy back in this context? 

WALKER:  I will—I will give you probably a little scoop, and I will say nothing, but the aforesaid Rick Solomon will be in my column next week, with news of perhaps another video. 

(CROSSTALK)

WALKER:  Well, you know, I‘m here to plug.  Come on. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Well, the rumor is that there was a video with Nick Carter, her moment and a half boyfriend and Paris Hilton, and Nick Carter‘s people say, he is not that kind of guy. 

GROVE:  Of course he‘s not. 

STASI:  He makes more videos than Osama bin Laden. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  But the point being, Diane, is that someone can really maneuver their way into the system if they know how to play it. 

(CROSSTALK)

DIMOND:  And you know what, conversely, Deborah, conversely, we can really...

(CROSSTALK)

DIMOND:  We can really maneuver them, too.  Let me throw out a few names—Donna Rice, Jessica Hahn, Amber Frey.  These are not people who came looking for us.  We, and I‘ll be frank with you, a lot of times these stories happen in the summertime, when nothing is happening, or around Christmastime, and we glum on to these names.  Chandra Levy, God rest her soul, but she was really a nobody who we glummed onto in the heat of summer, because there was no other news.

I cover more hard news, I think, than the rest of the people.  I have never done a story on Paris ton, darn it.  But...

NORVILLE:  Get her in court and you‘ll be there.

DIMOND:  If there is a murder trial, I will be there.  You know, I will be there for the murder trial.

STASI:  But what I wanted to say is, this really has been going on since the beginning of time.  In the new “Vanity Fair,” there is a whole thing on Gloria Vanderbilt.  I mean, apparently she was Paris Hilton of her day.  I think this has always gone on.  I think there‘s always been tabloids, I think people have always been fascinated with it.  I remember as a little girl my mother having movie magazine around the house.  I think it‘s always...

(CROSSTALK)

GROVE:  There are only like three plots in the world.

NORVILLE:  Well, are the stories...

GROVE:  I mean—yeah.

NORVILLE:  .. are there people that you can put in your column, Lloyd, and you know folks are going to turn and they‘re going to read this article?  Are there just sure-fire winners if you can get them in a gossip item? 

GROVE:  Absolutely. 

WALKER:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) every week.

GROVE:  Of course there are.  I mean, Paris Hilton is one of them right now.  And Courtney Love is very popular to write about, even though she seems to be having serious trouble and probably should be left alone.  Howard Stern, you know, he has a fan base and you know you are going to attract those readers. 

So yeah, everybody is sort of a cultural touchstone and attracts a certain base. 

NORVILLE:  But Mike, if somebody is troubled like Courtney Love, certainly appears to be to the uneducated eye, is there a certain hesitancy on your part to do too much on her?  Because clearly this is somebody who has got some bigger issues than being in a gossip column? 

WALKER:  No, because the rule is, first of all, celebrities deserve privacy, OK, but the rule is if you are in a hotel suite with people doing God knows what, that‘s fine.  Do not come out into the hotel corridor at 3:00 a.m., or you are mine. 

Courtney Love is the same thing.  I mean, if she is a train wreck in public, what are you going to do?  Not cover her?  Walk away from her?

(CROSSTALK)

WALKER:  ... we‘re going to draw the line—is I remember speaking of Howard Stern years ago, a publication took pictures of Howard Stern‘s kids at camp, and they had the name of the summer camp on the jersey—I mean, Howard Stern wasn‘t even there.  So why would you take pictures of his kids?  You never do kids. 

(CROSSTALK)

STASI:  When there was Jerry Seinfeld was dating Shanna...

NORVILLE:  Lonstein.

STASI:  Lonstein, and she was 17 at the time.  I knew this because I would see her playing basketball with my daughter.  And I saw her, and one of the guys who worked for me said this happened.  I said, I am not going to write the name of the 17-year-old kid, forget it, forget it, forget it.  The next night, I go to the Knicks game, and they‘re sitting in celebrity row.  Then she‘s mine.

NORVILLE:  Now, she‘s yours.

We‘re going to take a short break.  When we come back, I want reaction from everybody on the latest bombshell from New Jersey, Governor Jim McGreevey and his incredible statement from last week.  One moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JAMES MCGREEVEY (D), NEW JERSEY:  I am a gay American, and I am blessed to live in the greatest nation. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  That was New Jersey Governor James McGreevey announcing all kinds of things the other day, that he was a gay American, that he had had what he called a consensual sexual affair with another man, and that he would be stepping down from office effective November 15. 

Well, needless to say, a lot of folks are in a tizzy about that. 

We‘re going to start with Diane Dimond.  What‘s your take on this? 

DIMOND:  This is a perfect example, Deborah, of where tabloid journalism hits mainstream journalism, if that‘s how you want to divide it.  I have done both of these kinds of journalism, and when it hit, the mainstream didn‘t know what to do with it.  I turned on radio—my husband is a radio anchorman, they‘re in New York—I turned on his radio station, I turned on TV.  They were all congratulating McGreevey for being so courageous for coming out of the closet, and my tabloid mind, you know, Mike Walker‘s too, I‘ll bet you anything, started to say, wow, wait a minute.  There is no way this guy is resigning just because he is a gay American.  There has got to be a scandal, there is already a financial corruption cloud over his head.  There has got to be more to this. 

Tabloid is about layers of things.  Mainstream has gotten too much for what‘s the fact right now and don‘t put it in perspective. 

WALKER:  And that‘s the lazy way out.  She is exactly right.  I mean, the second this guy did this, I mean, we all went—and I mean, immediately—I mean, we were just on it because we were on it. 

(CROSSTALK)

WALKER:  And of course we found out.  Of course, it‘s not really a story for us.  There will be aspects of this story will be a story for us.

NORVILLE:  But it‘s certainly a story for your paper and your page.

GROVE:  Sure.  And there will be other stories, you know, you hear all kinds of rumors of perhaps other state employees.  And you know, I can‘t imagine that he is going to last until November 15.  There is so much pressure on him to resign. 

WALKER:  The polls are really very heavily...

STASI:  I have two things.  What is a gay American?  Does that mean you‘re from Gayana?  And No. 2, how come if you are a man and you have a male lover, he gets a better job than say, Monica Lewinsky?  That poor girl is still...

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Well, here‘s the thing, look...

WALKER:  He started at only $80,000, though. 

(CROSSTALK)

WALKER:  He started at 80; it went up to 110.

NORVILLE:  But wait a second.  He brought this man over from Israel, he tried to hire him as his homeland security chief, and then after this all came out, there is a headline in one of your two papers that says, I was scared.  What kind of homeland security chief is this? 

GROVE:  Well, maybe he couldn‘t get a security clearance because he was a foreign national...

DIMOND:  Now you‘re getting the idea, Deborah.  Now you‘re looking into layers.  That‘s right.

NORVILLE:  Now, let‘s—let me just throw out—let me throw out some just names of people who are constantly in the columns, constantly in the tabloids.  Britney Spears.  Is her minute of fame over? 

GROVE:  Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no.  There‘s a whole—there is a whole thing we‘re going to play out here.  And by the way, would now be a good time to mention that she admitted that her hair extensions did catch on fire?  One of my...

(CROSSTALK)

STASI:  She‘s desperate to be the next Liza Minnelli.

WALKER:  She is—and she‘s going to—she‘s going to be—you see, we love these little morality plays, because now we‘re all involved with her.  Is she going to going to crush and burn?  Is she going to come back?  You see? 

DIMOND:  Is she going to get as big as Delta Burke? 

WALKER:  That‘s right. 

NORVILLE:  Donald Trump went from being a figure in the business pages to being a figure in the tabloid pages.  Lloyd.

GROVE:  And he‘s a figure on NBC and a great television personality, and thank God for that, because his hotel business is crashing.  So he has something to do, something to fall back on, which is good.

(CROSSTALK)

WALKER:  And we always in “The National Enquirer,” we did stories about him.  And you know, the New York papers...

(CROSSTALK)

DIMOND:  I think it‘s all about the hair there, Deborah.  I mean, people are just fascinated with that hair.

STASI:  The day...

DIMOND:  Yeah.

STASI:  The day that he had the last show and he was going to announce the final apprentice, my boss said, call him up and tell him you want to go hang out with him.  I said, I can‘t do that.  He said, you can be fired.  I said, OK, I‘ll call him up.  And I called him up, and sure enough, he said, I can‘t do this, I can‘t do this.  I said, Donald, it‘s my birthday, and I will throw myself in front of your building and I‘ll set myself on fire, and say it‘s your fault.  He said, all right... 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  ... story with Donald Trump?  Oh, my goodness.

Real quick, we just have a few seconds.  Give me a name of somebody you think is somebody we‘ll be reading about quite a bit in the future? 

WALKER:  Colin Farrell.  Colin Farrell.

NORVILLE:  Colin Farrell.

WALKER:  Yeah, he is still a guy who is bubbling under.  He‘s a bad boy.  Girls like bad boys.  All he need to do is one really bad thing to get in my column.  And he‘ll be launched.

NORVILLE:  And you think he‘s there.  OK.  Lloyd?

GROVE:  I think we‘ll just read more and more about Jenna and Barbara Bush and all the exciting activities that they are going to get up to between now and November. 

NORVILLE:  Do you think they will misbehave? 

GROVE:  I think there might be a chance of that, Deborah. 

NORVILLE:  Diane Dimond.

DIMOND:  I think we should watch Chelsea Clinton. 

NORVILLE:  Oh, another presidential daughter possibly misbehaving? 

DIMOND:  Yes, I think that she probably already is, and we were so busy giving her a pass all those years, we forgot to really look at her.  Mike Walker, wake up.

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  The challenge has been made.  And finally, Linda.

STASI:  If we are going to do this, I would say probably the Kerry girls.  They are simmering right there, you know, with the see-through dress and everything else. 

GROVE:  Oh, sure, because they have got Ben Affleck and John Cusack after them. 

NORVILLE:  And everybody who said politics wasn‘t tabloid news anymore. 

Diane Dimond, Linda Stasi, Mike Walker, Lloyd Grove, thanks all of you for being with us.

STASI:  Thank you.

NORVILLE:  When we come back, we‘re going to be telling you about those e-mails that we got about our conversation with the fired radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge.  The good, the bad on Bubba, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  A lot of you had plenty to say about one of my guests last night, Bubba the Love Sponge, the former radio shock jock who lost his job after the FCC hit his Tampa radio station with a huge fine for obscenity violations. 

Got a lot of people talking, including Robert Seely from Vista, California.  He wrote in and said: “Personally, I think he had a horrible show and I would never listen to that filth.  But he had a good point—and that is that he was rated number one, which means the people wanted to hear him.”

Steve Binder said, “I‘m surprised that even though you‘re on cable, you actually showed what you obviously objected to on your show while kids were watching.”

Well, Steve, we wrestled with that one, and frankly, I wasn‘t so distressed by Bubba‘s comments when I was told about them.  But when we got the transcript of what was actually put on the airwaves, well, I was stunned, and as far as I am concerned, there‘s no way anyone could have thought that stuff would not violate the FCC‘s regulations.  And remember, the one we shared with you last night was the tamest of the bunch. 

Alex Scott from Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania says: “I have three children and firmly believe that I am capable of deciding what they should watch on TV and listen to on the radio.  The government has plenty of other things to attend to.”

Tim Trammell said: “I enjoyed your interview with the Love Jerk.  He displayed no common sense or basic understanding of the real world.  If he wins his election, that poor of group of people.”

And Michele Clarke wrote in: “Thanks for not letting him try to blame his bad choice on others.  Terrific job.”

Thanks.

And Terri Anello from Pinellas County, Florida says: “The way you handled Mr. Clem was great.  You didn‘t let him get away with anything during the interview.  Great job.”

Terri, we should note, lives in the county where Mr. Clem is now running for sheriff. 

As you can see, we love to hear from you.  So e-mail us.  The address is norville@msnbc.com.  Some of your e-mails are posted on our Web page at norville.msnbc.com, and that‘s the same place where you can sign up for our newsletter. 

That‘s our program for tonight.  Thanks so much for watching.  

Coming up tomorrow, two women who put their careers and their reputations on the line for their country.  With all this post-9/11 talk and all the questions, could it have been prevented?  Tomorrow night, we will meet Coleen Rowley, the FBI whistle-blower who accused the bureau of ignoring terror warnings.  We will also talk with Sibill Edmonds (ph), a translator who left the FBI and accused it and the 9/11 Commission of not doing enough.  They will join me to talk about the risks that they took to do what they thought was right, and we will also get their sense on whether we are any safer now. 

That‘s our program for tonight.  Thanks for watching.  Joe Scarborough is next.  We‘ll see you tomorrow.

END   

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