updated 4/22/2005 2:39:08 PM ET 2005-04-22T18:39:08

Guest: Dan Whitcomb, Harvey Levin, Rene Foss, Clint Van Zandt

ALISON STEWART, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

From body waxing to, quote, “bad acting,” fireworks in the courtroom as the Jackson defense finally gets quality time with the accuser‘s mother.  And late news tonight of a surprise high-profile subpoena in this case.

The City of Lights was the city of tragedy last night.  A Paris hotel fire forced people to jump from windows and claimed more than 20 lives, at least half of them kids.

A random act of violence, or sport-induced rage?  A teenager beaten to death after a Pony League game.  The bereaved parents are trying to understand why this happened, and so are we.

And ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.  Please feel free to make whoopie about the cabin.  The new airline where joining the Mile High Club comes with the price of admission.

All of that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

And good evening to you.  I‘m Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.

In the judicial jumble that is the Michael Jackson trial, it is challenging to separate fact from fantasy.  I mean, how can it be that we talk about all the head-licking, body-waxing, and Jesus-juicing, that we‘re not making this stuff up?

The accuser‘s mother finally asking the question today that we‘ve all asked ourselves at one time or another.  And I quote her, “Who could possibly believe this?”

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, law and order ain‘t got nothing on day 515 of the Jackson investigation.

In a moment, late word tonight of a surprise subpoena in the case.  A celebrity witness called to testify.

But first, a closer look at this day in that court.

Today‘s testimony was billed as a verbal tug-of-war between Jackson‘s lawyer and the accuser‘s mother.  And oh, it did not disappoint.  All Jackson had to do was show up and enjoy the show.

The accuser‘s mother taking the stand for a third straight day, her toughest day of testimony yet, cross-examination time, Jackson‘s lawyer, Tom Mesereau firing a barrage of combative questions aimed at undermining her credibility.  The witness, none too happy with them.  She gave long, rambling answers, largely unrelated to the questions.  And at one point turned to the jury and said, quote, “He‘s lying,” the judge all but throwing up his hands in frustration.

He chastised Jackson‘s lawyer for unprofessional conduct, and the witness for talking too much, saying, quote, “You are partly at fault here.”

This is just too much for e to handle alone, so I recruited experts.  Dan Whitcomb is a correspondent with Reuters News Service assigned to cover the trial.

Thanks for being with us, Dan.

DAN WHITCOMB, REUTERS CORRESPONDENT:  Thank you.

STEWART:  And Harvey Levin is the creator and executive producer of TV‘s “Celebrity Justice.”

So Harvey, tell me a little bit more about this surprise subpoena today.

HARVEY LEVIN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, “CELEBRITY JUSTICE”:  Well, here‘s what we learned over at “Celebrity Justice.”  We found out this morning in Beverly Hills, Larry King was served a subpoena by the defense at a local newsstand there.  And here‘s why.  Larry King was having breakfast at a place called Natanelle‘s (ph), which is a legendary deli in Beverly Hills.  He was eating with a guy named Michael Viner (ph), who is a pretty famous publisher.

Larry Feldman, he is the guy who represented the lawyer who represented the ‘93 accuser and has been giving the family of the current accuser legal advice.

Larry Feldman walked into the deli.  And here‘s what we‘re told, that Feldman walked up to the table, and Viner, we know, has said that Larry Feldman started saying unflattering things about the accuser‘s mother, and that Viner was left with the impression that what this woman really wanted was money.

We also know that Larry King will tend to back up what Michael Viner says.  This is all very important, because Feldman has already gotten on the stand saying they never really talked about a civil case.  The mother says she‘s not interested in money.

And suddenly, this conversation at a table.  The defense wants Larry King up on the stand to talk about it.

STEWART:  We will see Larry King at the Michael Jackson trial.

Hey, Dan, you were inside the courtroom today for cross-examination of the mom, her credibility obviously in question.  How did it hold up?  Did anything come back to haunt her?

WHITCOMB:  It was a tough day, it was a tough day for both the woman and for Tom Mesereau.  You know, she—it was more than cross-examination.  It was just bickering, it was a day of basically bick—Mesereau bickering with the woman and she bickering back.

And I don‘t know if he ever got a question answered, the way he asked it.  And I don‘t know who came off better or worse.  But it was a tough day for both of them.

STEWART:  I understand at one point, they started talking about this rebuttal tape she says she was she was forced to say nice things about Michael Jackson.  Tell us a little bit about that exchange.

WHITCOMB:  The rebuttal tape may be one of the hardest things for her to explain, because she explains the rebuttal tape as something that was scripted entirely by Michael Jackson‘s henchmen, where she was told to memorize these statements and deliver them.

And it just doesn‘t really come off that way when you watch the tape. 

It doesn‘t look like someone who‘s speaking lines that they‘ve memorized.  And Mesereau confronted her again and again on this when she would make long speeches on this tape, very (UNINTELLIGIBLE), say very emotional things, praise Michael to the stars.  You know, he would say, Are you sure that you memorized this?  Are you sure that this is something you‘re not just saying from the heart?

And they went back and forth on that.  And that‘s got to be hard for her to explain.

STEWART:  She called herself a bad actress, is that the case?

WHITCOMB:  Yes.  At one point, she said, I‘m sorry, Mr. Mesereau, I‘m just not a very good actress.  And he said, Oh, no, I think you are, you know, which sort of set off a little bit of a rumble through the courtroom, because, you know, obviously, he thinks she‘s acting throughout this whole case.

STEWART:  And it‘s a good example of the bickering you were talking about.

Hey, Harvey, want to bring you back into the conversation.  If the jury turns out not to believe this woman, what‘s the prosecution left with?

LEVIN:  Well, I don‘t think it destroys the case.  I mean, it would definitely be a blow.  But, you know, Alison, I got to tell you something.  This woman, I, you got to be a little bit of a nutcase to kind of put your kid in a position like this to begin with, let‘s face it.  So she kind of starts in that position.

You know, a lot of people have said this, and I think there‘s some truth to it, that maybe if the story is so incredible that nobody could make up something like that, in a weird sort of way, it could become true.  And if there are witnesses who come up, and there‘s going to be a guy next week, Rudy—a guy named Rudy Provencio (ph), who could end up backing up some of the things she says, as crazy as it sounds, I don‘t think she‘s necessarily crashed and burned.

STEWART:  So Dan, where was Judge Melville during all of this in court today, during all this bickering and this not answering of questions?

WHITCOMB:  Well, I think Judge Melville got pretty exasperated.  In fact, at one point, he actually threatened to shut the trial down for the afternoon if Mesereau and the woman wouldn‘t quit, wouldn‘t knock it off.  And, you know, he was pretty exasperated.  Sometimes he was kind of sitting back and letting it happen.  At other points, he was trying to jump in, tell Mesereau, Hey, you know, ask a better question, or tell the mother, Hey, you know, you got to answer the question.

But it was a little bit hopeless.  I mean, you know, she would not directly answer any of his questions.  And he was—I think the judge felt Mesereau was almost just as much at fault, because, you know, he was taking potshots at her and making little asides, and it was kind of the wild West out there.

STEWART:  Dan Whitcomb of Reuters and Harvey Levin of “Celebrity Justice.”  Thanks so much for the Larry King scoop, Harvey, we appreciate it.

LEVIN:  My pleasure, Alison.

STEWART:  Dan, thanks to you as well.

Also in the COUNTDOWN crime docket, a three-year-old murder mystery on Cape Cod that at one time focused on a constable, a children‘s book illustrator, and a drug addict ex-hooker, may have been solved.  None of the above implicated.

The killer may have been a garbage man with a really long rap sheet.  He‘s being held in the stabbing death of fashion writer Christa Worthington (ph).  You might remember the story, she was found dead in her home back in January of 2002.  Her then 2-year-old daughter was found clinging to her body in a pool of blood.

Thirty-four-year-old Christopher McCowan (ph) now being held for the crime.  He has pleaded innocent to charges of first-degree murder, aggravated rape, and armed assault.

This case stumped police, who had no witnesses or motive.  All they had was DNA from a man who had sex with Worthington shortly before her death.  So last year, police took the unusual step of randomly collecting DNA samples from men in that area.

Today, thanks to science, they believe they have a case.

Now, near Tampa, Florida, the search for Sarah Lunde continues.  Hundreds of volunteers were back out looking for that 13-year-old girl today.  She‘s now been missing for nearly a week.  Police are asking the volunteers to look for bottles of Budweiser, because, according to Sarah‘s brother, a family acquaintance who was in their home at the time of the girl‘s disappearance took a bottle of beer with him.

They are not calling David Onstatt (ph) a suspect in the case, saying that he has only gotten their attention.  Why?  Well, he is a convicted sex offender who used to have a relationship with the girl‘s mother.

Believe it or not, it was only one month ago and 100 miles away that Jessica Lunsford was kidnapped and killed by convicted sex offender John Couey, who traveled across state lines.

Half a country away, back in the news, the case of Drew Shadin (ph), the North Dakota coed abducted by a sex offender, who also crossed state lines.  Their tragic stories and too many others just like them raising difficult questions about how the judicial system deals with sex offenders.

Here to help us sort through this tonight is Clint van Zandt, a former FBI profiler, now an MSNBC analyst.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE), talking about sex offenders can they, should they be treated like other criminals, locking them up for a period of time?

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  See, you‘re—I don‘t know if you‘re asking the right guy this question, because I‘ve seen the end results.  I mean, my last year as an FBI agent, I sat with two different families, held their hands, and cried with them, and told them that their child wasn‘t coming home, their child was a victim of a predator.

I don‘t think predators can be rehabilitated.  You know, I wrote an article for MSNBC.com last month, where I asked, Do we want a one-strike or two-strike rule?  But I just, I‘ve seen predators.  In the FBI, we interviewed this one predator.  And he said, You know what?  He said, I‘m a child killer.  And he said, The only thing I want, he said, you give me any type of therapy you want, anything you want, because the only thing I want to do is get out and reoffend children again.

You know, as a parent, as a grandparent, these people truly scare me. 

And I don‘t want them on the street to have access to our children.

STEWART:  So perhaps the question I should be asking is, should we manage sex offenders better once they‘re released from prison, that maybe that‘s more—almost more important than the punishment.

VAN ZANDT:  And then the question is, can we?  You know, I, there‘s a question within a question here.  Can we adequately manage someone like this?  Number one, should we put them in jail for life, so they can‘t get back out again?  If we say, Well, no, that‘s too expensive, and if there‘s 530,000 known predators in the United States, we don‘t have enough jails for them.

OK, let‘s put them back on the street, but let‘s put a GPS bracelet around their ankle so we can follow them.  Well, that doesn‘t stop them from offending.  Maybe it‘s a deterrent to do that.  But if treatment doesn‘t work, if jail doesn‘t work, if we can‘t rehabilitate them, if we can‘t follow them, I mean, this is a tough time, and it has been a tough time for parents, grandparents, caregivers, when, you know, you‘ve these human tsunamis, like these last few individuals who‘ve rolled through Florida and committed these horrific acts, this is a real challenge for society.

And you and I and everybody else, we‘ve got to make a decision, you know, how much do you want to pay?  How much are we going to invest to protect ourselves and our children from these predators?

STEWART:  Well, let‘s talk about some action that may be happening on Capitol Hill.  There‘s a possibility of creating a national sex offender registry.  Do you think this would help?

VAN ZANDT:  Well, I think it would help.  I‘d like to also see that balanced with a national DNA registry.  I‘d like to see, just like the last case you talked about, where this killer was found based upon his DNA.  You know, if we can take these 10 fingerprints, these 10 fingers, and put that fingerprint in a file, why can‘t we take DNA from every person who is accused of a crime, put it away, and let‘s not have to deal with a five-strike or a 10-strike or, you know, the Justice Department tells us the average child molester will molest 350 or more times in his life.

We‘ve got to stop that before that point.  If it takes a DNA base, if it takes a sex offender base, if it takes prayer and money as a society, we‘ve got to invest that.

STEWART:  Former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst Clint van Zandt. 

Great to get your perspective tonight.

VAN ZANDT:  Thank you.

STEWART:  Tragedy hits in Paris before daybreak.  A fire rips through a hotel, sending guests jumping out of windows.  We‘ll have the latest on that.

And more on the baseball-bat murder case.  The parents of a young teen killed after a squabble over a lost game speak out about the unspeakable.

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  It now has the distinction of being the deadliest fire in Paris in three decades.  It took three hours to subdue the blaze that broke out as most were simply in bed, 2:00 a.m. in the morning.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, 75 of the 76 beds were at the Paris Opera Hotel were full last night.

And as our correspondent Martin Savidge reports, panic spread as quickly as the flames.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  As flames engulfed the roof of the Paris Opera Hotel, a woman with a baby in her arms pleaded for help.  Just below in a window, a figure shrouded in smoke and holding another child waved frantically, trapped.

The hotel‘s only staircase was filled with fire and smoke.  The desperate finally jumped.

“I saw a woman jump.  Then I saw a mother throw her baby and her son from the window,” said this eyewitness.

It took over an hour for the 250 firefighters and 50 fire trucks to control the blaze.  At the nearby Gallery Lafayette department store, a makeshift medical clinic was set up to treat the more than 50 injured.

The mayor of Paris, Bertram de la Noie (ph), called it a great tragedy.

The hotel had been popular with tourists.  Many guests were African. 

The city government had rented rooms to house needy African families. 

“Safety had been our prime concern,” said the daughter of the hotel owner. 

“Hotel guests had been informed of emergency procedures,” she said.

(on camera):  Just last month, the Paris Opera Hotel had passed a safety inspection.  Tonight, France‘s interior minister said at this stage,  there is no indication the fire was anything but an accident.

Martin Savidge, NBC News, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  Changing gears here on the COUNTDOWN, literally.  And this guy is changing a whole lot more than gears.  He‘s had a little too much of the Force for his own good, maybe.  Oddball is next.

And later on, the Mile High Club, a new airline in service to help flyers achieve that status.  But we‘ll talk to a flight attendant who thinks those flyers are just faking it.  You can‘t miss that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  I‘m Alison Stewart, wrapping up a week in the superanchor chair of Keith Olbermann.  He will be back on Monday, and I‘ll return to the special COUNTDOWN backup anchor booth that says, In case of vacation, break glass.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin far, far away, California, actually, where one man has taken his “Star Wars” obsession to a new level of geekdom.  Meet Shawn (ph) Crosby.  He goes by the name—are you ready? --  Obi-Shawn.  And this is his very own X-wing fighter.

Now, before you get all worried about Obi-Shawn blasting through your neighborhood like a bat out of the third ring of Saturn, that thing can‘t fly.  It‘s actually just a repainted Honda del Sol with an R2-D2 head glued to the trunk.  But this guy spent about $12,000 building it, even designed it on a computer before he bought the car.  Obi-Shawn says most people like his ship, and he says women actually leave their phone numbers on his windshield.

Women?  What kind of women?

And if that is true, I‘m Lando Kalrissian‘s love child.

Now to space nerds who get paid for it.  The fine folks at NASA who launched their latest toy into space today from the belly of an L-1011 airplane, the Dart, the demonstration automization rendezvous something-or-other.  Well, it‘s an unmanned ship.  It‘s not even controlled by the guys on the ground.  It will fly into space, dock with a satellite, and do its business all by itself.  Later, it will take aim and fire a powerful space weapon right at Obi-Shawn.

Back to earth, where scientists in New Mexico have announced a pleasant discovery, the fossil and footprints of a giant six-foot centipede.  That is so very disgusting.  Researchers found the big bug‘s footprint outside Albuquerque, proving it once lived in the American Southwest.  They used that info to build a big model of the thing.

Arthopleura (ph) has been extinct for 300 million years.  But Dr.  Spencer Lucas (ph) has advice, just in case one shows up in your bathtub, like a six-foot silver fish.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SPENCER LUCAS:  I wouldn‘t tangle with this monster.  I wouldn‘t let the children approach it or the pets.  Definitely, you ought to find a giant can of Raid and see if you can back this guy out of your house and into the yard, and then hopefully call animal control and let them deal with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Or get a Roach Motel the size of the Taj Mahal.

We move right along and take up the topic of violence in sports.  In the big league, another fight in Fenway Park between players and fans.  Is it any surprise youngsters are imitating their heroes?

A tragedy in a Pony League game.  This teen killed after some postgame teasing.  We‘ll hear from the parents dealing with this unbelievable loss.

We‘ve got those stories ahead.

But now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three is, Wendy‘s claiming the company‘s reputation has been sorely damaged.  The fast-food giant announced today it will double the reward for anyone who can help find the true owner of the infamous chili finger.  One hundred thousand dollars for information leading to where the inch-and-a-half-length manicured digit came from that ended up in a bowl of Wendy‘s chili.  And I don‘t know why every article refers to that manicure.

Number two, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, while his teammate is trading punches with Fenway spectators, the quarter-billion-dollar shortstop just keeps coming up with ways for Red Sox fans not to hate him so much.  Yesterday in Boston, A-Rod reportedly saved the life of an 8-year-old boy who started to run across the street into the path of an oncoming truck.  Roger (ph) just grabbed the kid, pulled him back just in the nick of time.  But before you Red Sox fall fans fall in love, it should be noted, this kid, a Yankees fan.

And number one, a true hero, Uegene Safken of Colorado.  OK, see how that‘s spelled, Uegene?  That‘s the way he spells it, which should make the rest of the story make sense.  He‘s a chicken farmer.  And last week, one of his young chickens got itself into a tub of hot water and appeared to have drowned.  But Uegene, with a U, saved the chicken.  He swung it around by its legs to get the water out, then performed mouth-to-beak resuscitation until the chicken started breathing again.

Safken says he yelled to the chicken between breaths, Don‘t go, you‘re too young to die!

We aren‘t making that up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  Last night at this same point in the COUNTDOWN, we told you about an altercation between two kids at a Pony League baseball game that turned deadly.  A 13-year-old boy who‘d just pitched his first losing game of the season was being teased by his friend‘s older brother, and what happened next is so sad.  The younger boy took out a baseball bat and clubbed the older boy to death.

The No. 3 story on the COUNTDOWN—the timing is lamentable.  Last night, a scuffle played out at a Yankees-Red Sox game between Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield and a Boston Red Sox fan.  Pro players behaving badly and the kids who watch them.  We‘ll talk about that a bit more.

But first, an update from Palmdale, California.  The 13-year-old was in juvenile court today, where his lawyer asked for more time to prepare a defense.  The boy has been charged with murder, and an arraignment has been set for May 2.  The parents of Jeremy Rourke, the 15-year-old who was killed that night, issued a statement the next day asking the community not to demonize the 13-year-old attacker.

This morning, they sat down with Matt Lauer on the “Today” show to talk about their son and their conflicting feelings over how his young killer should be punished.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN ROURKE, SON MURDERED AFTER BASEBALL GAME:  Actually, the first thing I heard was my daughter in the snackbar, screaming his name.  As I turned around, I saw him face flat on the ground.

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST:  Did anyone have any fears that this young man could act in this manner?  Did he show any signs of violence in the past?

ANGELA ROURKE, SON MURDERED AFTER BASEBALL GAME:  Not that we‘re aware of.  Our children haven‘t played together for a few years and so—but you know, we have always seen him around the ballfield, and he‘s—we‘ve never seen any violence.

LAUER:  How would you describe this 13-year-old young man?

ANGELA ROURKE:  He‘s a pretty quiet boy.  He‘s nice.

BRIAN ROURKE:  Very competitive...

ANGELA ROURKE:  Very competitive.

BRIAN ROURKE:  ... when it comes to baseball.

LAUER:  And so do you think that perhaps if your son teased him a little bit about losing this game, that might have caused him to snap?

ANGELA ROURKE:  I don‘t think that—it may have.  But I‘m sure, it probably—obviously, it did, but I don‘t think that anybody rational should ever act that way.

LAUER:  I should mention, Angela and Brian, that even though this young man took your son‘s life, both of you have expressed concern that he not be described as a monster.  I‘m talking about the 13-year-old.  Would that be accurate?

BRIAN ROURKE:  Yes.  We wrote that in a statement that we had at the vigil, just because we‘ve known him for so long and never seen anything that‘s happened like that.  But you know, on the other hand, you know, we look at it as no matter who it was, it was somebody else that took our son‘s life.

LAUER:  And so the next logical question is, what do you think should happen to this 13-year-old?

BRIAN ROURKE:  That‘s hard to say.  We have mixed emotions about it.  You know, knowing him, you know, we don‘t want to see him lose the rest of his life.  But on the other hand, we feel that there‘s got to be some type of punishment for—for the acts.  It‘s not, to me, a spur of the moment thing.  It‘s—you know, from what was described to me, it was more of an act that took extra thought to happen.

LAUER:  Have you spoken to his parents?  Have they reached out to you in any way?

ANGELA ROURKE:  No.

BRIAN ROURKE:  No, we haven‘t spoken to them at all.

LAUER:  Can you tell me about Jeremy?  What kind of young man was he?

BRIAN ROURKE:  I guess the best way to describe him is the class clown.  I mean, his biggest thing was getting people to laugh when they were down and out and—I mean, even if it was making fun of himself, making faces, making whatever—you know, whatever he had to do to get somebody else to laugh.  That‘s basically his thing.

ANGELA ROURKE:  And an athlete.

BRIAN ROURKE:  Yes.  Always adamant about playing sports.

LAUER:  And although he wasn‘t involved in this Pony League anymore, it was still a big part of his life, wasn‘t it.

BRIAN ROURKE:  Yes.  Well, the thing—he was still active in being an umpire.  You know, all three of my kids are umpiring there this year.  And he‘s been doing it for the last two years now.  And he loves being around the kids there.  He jokes with the coaches, the managers.  You know, he just has a blast out there.

LAUER:  And Angela, if you can say something to this 13-year-old in custody now, what would you say?

ANGELA ROURKE:  I can‘t say anything to him, unfortunately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Remembering Jeremy Rourke.

Now to last night‘s clash at Fenway Park.  The Yankees Gary Sheffield was fielding a ball along the low right-field fence when a Red Sox fan swung out and connected with Sheffield‘s mouth.  The outfielder picked up the ball but stopped to turn around and shove the guy who‘d hit him before throwing it back into the field.  During this bat, another fan‘s beer went flying, soaking the Yank.  Afterwards, Sheffield said that he almost snapped, but as the incident was unfolding, thought of Ron Artest‘s infamous NBA brawl with fans back in November, so he held his composure.  He said that was what was keeping him from jumping over the railing and going after the fan in the stands.

So here you have the big league player and the Pony League kid, both angry, acting out.  One‘s a grown-up.  One is not.  I‘m joined by “Boston Herald” columnist and MSNBC analyst Mike Barnicle at Fenway Park.  Mike, thanks for weighing in on this tough subject.

MIKE BARNICLE, “BOSTON HERALD,” MSNBC ANALYST:  Hi, Alison.  How are you?

STEWART:  I‘m doing well.  Can we expect kids in Little League to show more sportsmanship than the major league players they idolize?

BARNICLE:  Well, I think we can.  I think part of the problem—and I was so struck by watching this morning and then just listening to the parents of that—the tragic story out in California.  Their composure is incredible, absolutely incredible.  And part of the issue here, I would think, having a lot of kids, having coached kids in baseball and football...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

BARNICLE:  I‘ll be right with you.  I‘ll be right with you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Fine.

BARNICLE:  ... having coached several kids, several teams across the years, is that the parents are often a larger problem than the kids are.  The parents put so much pressure on the kids, and very often, it‘s parents who have never played a single baseball or football game in their lives.  We have hockey fights.  We have fights at Little League game. We have parents being thrown off the field in Little League games.

I think it‘s more what the kids derive from the parents, in terms of pressure, than what they get from watching TV and seeing the behavior of major league players.  I really believe that.

STEWART:  You bring up an interesting point.  I‘m wondering if we‘re teaching kids about losing.  We talk about winning so much.  After all, this was an argument about this kid who pitched a losing game.

BARNICLE:  Well, you know, we live, Alison, in a culture that worships winners.  We all know who winners and losers are.  They happen in elections.  They happen in schoolyards.  They happen in academic facilities, SAT scores this week.  Who scored a perfect score?  Who‘s a winner?  Who‘s a loser?  Who goes to a better college?  Who doesn‘t?

This is a game being played behind me right now at Fenway Park in Boston, baseball, that kids begin playing at a very early age.  And I would submit that unlike any other sport, baseball, above any other sport, teaches children, or ought to teach children one big lesson: how to learn how to deal with loss.  If you get up three times in a game and you get one hit, you have the potential to go to the Hall of Fame because you‘re a .300 hitter.  But too many parents put too much pressure on kids by indicating, What happened those other two times, sonny?  You didn‘t get a hit those other two times.  But teach kids how to deal with loss, and they‘ll be better winners.

STEWART:  Let‘s talk a little bit about Gary Sheffield last night.  He almost sounded like he was bragging a little bit that he didn‘t go after this fan in the stands.  What do you think about that?  Is he maybe right?

BARNICLE:  Well, I don‘t think he was bragging.  I think he was merely responding to, you know, the constant barrage of questions he was getting from nitwits like me in the news business.  I think Gary Sheffield showed admirable restraint last night.  You buy a ticket to a baseball game, a football game, a basketball game, it entitles you, as a spectator, to watch the game.  It doesn‘t entitle to you participate in the game.

But of course, we live in a virtual culture where we think we‘re all participants in everything.  We take movies of traffic stops.  Policemen stop us on the road, you know, we‘ll get out our cell phone camera and take a picture, you know, to prove to the court, if we want to take it to a further extent.  You know, we‘re all participants too often, too much in this society.

Sheffield was great.  You know something?  If the fan had a beef with Sheffield, maybe the fan could give Sheffield his home address and Sheffield will go see him at home.  See how the fan reacts then.

STEWART:  All right, Mike.  And finally, I‘m going to play the gender card here.  Why don‘t we hear about this at the WNBA or women‘s soccer, both very physical, competitive sports?  We don‘t hear about brawls like this.

STEWART:  I think women know how to play their games better than a lot of guys do.  If you watch college women‘s hockey—I would submit to anyone out there with a young boy interested in playing hockey, go watch the women play.  They know how to play the game.  They play it with a lower level of violence and a lower threat of mayhem than the guys do.  The WNBA is a terrific game to watch.  Women play the game better.  They play the game the way it‘s supposed to be played, the way it used to be played 20 or 30 years ago.  Now I‘m showing my age.

STEWART:  Mike Barnicle, you look good for showing your age...

BARNICLE:  Thanks!

STEWART:  ... of MSNBC and “The Boston Herald.”

BARNICLE:  Thanks.

STEWART:  We thank you for your time.  Good luck with the fans out there.

BARNICLE:  All right, Alison, thank you.

STEWART:  OK, sure, it‘s cool to see beluga whale up close, especially if you‘re in New Jersey, looking into the Delaware River.  But how‘s she going to get back in the ocean before getting sick?

And first Simon and Garfunkel and now this.  Paris and Nicole might be splitting up for good.  News that the ditzy duo is having a major parting of the ways.  That‘s hot.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  Under the heavenly skies of Hawaii‘s Pacific paradise and the warm, protected waters of Honolulu‘s Sea Life Park, the No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN was born.  Introducing, the wolphin—I am going to use that word in Scrabble—a whale/dolphin hybrid whose birth last December has just recently been made public.  The as yet unnamed calf is not the only wolphin in captivity.  Oh, no.  Her mother, Keika Malu (ph), is also a wolphin.  Her parents, a 2,000-pound false killer whale and a 400-pound bottlenose dolphin.  But the wolphin calf is being hailed as further proof of compatibility between species.  And since her father is a bottlenose dolphin, the baby wolphin is actually three fourths dolphin, one fourth whale.  But she‘s already pretty jumbo-sized.  At just 4 months, as big as a 1-year-old dolphin.  And pretty cute.

Meanwhile, back in Kansas—or rather, the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border, a beluga whale took the wrong exit and has been struggling to get out of the Delaware River.  Even worse, it‘s about 1,200 miles from its home in the waters east of Canada.  But it‘s not going hungry, feeding on shad and herring in a stretch of river between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  It‘s kind of near Trenton.  The river makes it hard to see and hard to help, as Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, explains.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB SCHOELKOPF, MARINE MAMMAL STRANDING CENTER:  There is the first time we had a beluga whale in that river.  We‘d say it‘s about 12 foot in length, probably weighing about 1,000 pounds, 1,500 pounds.

One-track mind on this whale.  It was swimming north.  It traveled throughout the night south, 20 miles.  When we located it, it just turned around and headed north again.  In the Delaware, you couldn‘t see below the surface, so the only time you were able to see the animal was when it came up to take a breath, which was a good thing that the animal was white or we wouldn‘t have spotted it in half the time.

Right now, it‘s in good shape.  The skin looks clear.  Our concern is that it‘s in fresh water.  Marine mammals belong in salt water.  But in time, the fresh water will start affecting the skin.  The eyes will start clouding over, and it could actually go blind from being in fresh water too long.

In the wild, they travel in large schools.  But when you have one of these alone like this, when they‘re separated, this is a problem because the animal‘s upset.  It has no company.  You always have that sense that you‘re going there, hopefully, to have that animal swim away and go its merry way.  But we‘re hoping that the animal will get fed up with the area and take off on its own and head south.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  From whales to tales of the famous and infamous, the silly, the stupid, the rich and the royal in our nightly segment called “Keeping Tabs.”  And we begin in Monaco with the funeral of Prince Rainier, where today‘s event was a fairly private affair.  More now from NBC‘s Martin Savidge.

SAVIDGE:  Kings, queens, princes and presidents are all in Monaco to bid farewell.  Prince Rainier‘s 56-year reign was marked by prosperity, by fantasy and by tragedy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  Monaco‘s Prince Rainier continued in death to do what he‘s done so well in life, lead.  The body of Europe‘s longest-ruling monarch headed a procession of family, friends and guests.  The simple funeral mass was held in the same cathedral where Monaco‘s fairy tale began half a century ago.  In 1956, the prince married actress Grace Kelly.  This story of how Hollywood royalty captured the heart of real royalty captivated the world.

But it was not to be happily ever after.  In 1982, Princess Grace died in a car crash.  Rainier never really recovered and never remarried.  His family seemed to fall apart.  Daughters Caroline and Stephanie became tabloid regulars with their troubled lifestyles.  Prince Albert, who now rules in his father‘s place, at 47 has no wife and no children.

Without Rainier‘s strong leadership, some worry the future of this little country may be in doubt and that the fairy tale is finally at an end.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Prince Rainier‘s final resting place is in the cathedral next to his wife, Princess Grace, reunited in death with the woman who was the love of his life.  Back to you.

STEWART:  Martin Savidge, thanks so much.

OK, this next story was made for the segment “Keeping Tabs.”  It appears the falling-out between Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie is complete, Paris Hilton saying she may dump Richie for another rich kid gal pal authority for the fourth season of “The Simple Life.”  Hilton says, quote, “I love the show, and I just want to freshen it up, bring new things in.”  Well, let‘s just put it this way.  That‘s just one step short of citing “creating differences.”  You know the kind, when Andrew originally wanted to break up Wham (ph)?  Andrew who?  My point exactly.

Anyway, substitutes are being considered for Richie, including Rod Stewart‘s daughter, Kimberly.  And don‘t worry.  Hilton‘s falling out with her Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, is all patched up.  She just forgot where she put the dog.

Guess who‘s getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?  Seacrest on the pavement out west?  Ryan Seacrest.  The “American Idol” host that Simon Cowell loves to hate will be inducted next Wednesday for his contributions to radio.  The ceremony will include Larry King, provided he‘s not at the Michael Jackson trial, and Merv Griffin as a special guest.  Seacrest is best known to “American Idol” fans as the one who drags us through hour-long results shows, where he repeatedly refers to the bottom three as if it were a modern form of leprosy.  He also has the unenviable task of handing the microphone to the loser so they can sing one last time.

And from the now not so seemingly exclusive Walk of Fame club to the mile-high club.  Too embarrassed to partake on a normal flight?  Now there‘s a new airline whose sole purpose is to get you to cruising altitude so you can earn your wings, so to speak.  What will they think of next?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEWART:  Great achievements in aviation history, the year 1916.  Daredevil pilot Lawrence Sperry is giving a flying lesson to a New York socialite.  But the lesson soon turns to foreplay, followed by in-flight intimacy.  Sperry loses control of the plane, and it plunges into the Great South Bay, so to speak.  Long Island duck hunters rush to their rescue.  The find the couple alive but naked.

And so aviation lore has it that Lawrence Sperry, who eventually invented the autopilot, was also the founder of what would become known as the mile-high club.  Over the years, passengers have joined that club by achieving peak flight at 5,028 feet.  Our No. 1 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, 89 years after that non-maiden voyage, there‘s an option for those less daring.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOEL EISENBAUM, WOAI, SAN ANTONIO (voice-over):  Philip Carroll‘s business gives “flying the friendly skies” a whole new meaning.

PHILLIP CARROLL, SAN ANTONIO AIR TOURS:  You know, when you say the mile-high club, you don‘t have to explain it to anyone.

EISENBAUM:  Maybe not, but photos on San Antonio Air Tours Web site suggest what kind of fun you‘re in for.  That‘s a mattress just behind the pilot‘s seat.

CARROLL:  They can get a nice, romantic flight, and they can do whatever they like in a private cabin.

EISENBAUM (on camera):  As for the actual aircraft they use, it‘s a little bit bigger than this one, but for privacy, it‘s this, a curtain partition that‘s separating you and your loved one from the pilot.

JACK YATES, CASTROVILLE CITY MANAGER:  It‘s not at all what we would have in mind and not what we want.

EISENBAUM (voice-over):  Castroville‘s municipal airport has already said they don‘t want mile-high club activities coming from their strip.

YATES:  We‘re a family-oriented airport.

CARROLL:  We don‘t want to do any business anywhere where the business isn‘t wanted.

EISENBAUM:  Carroll says some flights originate out of San Antonio‘s Stinson airfield, a city-owned airport.

DAVID HEBERT, SAN ANTONIO CITY SPOKESMAN:  We do have some latitude on the ground, at the airport itself.  But once the plane takes off, it‘s really an FAA issue.

EISENBAUM:  Pending guidance from Uncle Sam, the city has not yet expressed an opinion about Carroll‘s business, but a Stinson airport manager did remove brochures from the lobby.  Is that going too far or not far enough?  Carroll left us with his philosophy.

CARROLL:  There‘s lots of things to buy at the grocery store besides onions.  I don‘t eat onions, and therefore, I don‘t buy onions.  And if you think that the mile-high club is nasty, then don‘t join.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEWART:  And that is a heck of an analogy.  Joining me right now, Rene Foss, author of “Around the World in a Bad Mood: Confessions of a Flight Attendant.”  She‘s  also performing a one-woman show based on the book.  Ms. Foss, good evening to you.

RENE FOSS, FLIGHT ATTENDANT:  Good evening, Ms. Stewart.  Thank you for having me.

STEWART:  Absolutely.  So this version of the mile-high club, is it the real thing?  Are you buying it?

FOSS:  You know what I think?  I think it‘s cheating because there are some rules to belonging to the mile-high club.

STEWART:  And you would know the rules, wouldn‘t you.

FOSS:  Oh, absolutely.  I‘m sort of the unofficial president of the mile-high club.

STEWART:  Oh, we‘ll get to that in a minute.

(LAUGHTER)

FOSS:  OK.  Well, I wrote down some of the rules just from the rulebook that I wanted to share with people, just for those, you know, people watching, passengers, that may want to join.  First of all, the mile-high club encounter should be spontaneous, in that it shouldn‘t be a planned thing that you purchase, it should be more like, Wow, look at that guy in $17 billion.  I like him.  And then secondly, you never want to be caught in the act.  Thirdly, you should never, ever proposition a crew member.  Most importantly, clean up after yourself.

STEWART:  Oh, that‘s true.

FOSS:  And above all, no smoking afterwards on a commercial flight.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART:  Have you ever interrupted a mile-high attempt?

FOSS:  Well, I will tell you this.  I never stand in the way of romance, particularly on the airplane.  However, I have seen two passengers come out of the lavatory.  And I am just going to leave it up to you as to what they might have been doing.

STEWART:  Now, is that the normal place of mile-highness?

FOSS:  Generally speaking, although I do have a colleague who tells me that one time on an international flight, overseas to Japan, someone approached him and said, I will give you $500 if you will allow myself and my date to go into your crew bunks, which is where the crew members sleep on these long flights.  And we said, Absolutely not.  The minimum bidding is $5,000.

(LAUGHTER)

FOSS:  And bring your cash.

STEWART:  Small bills, preferably.

FOSS:  Yes.  Right.  Right.

STEWART:  Did you ever seen someone trying to join this club, thinking they were being particularly clever and being completely obvious?

FOSS:  Well, yes, because a lot of times, what‘s involved with the mile-high club is alcohol.  And you know, sometimes, when people have had a little something to drink, they are less discreet than they might think that they are being.  But you know, we try to overlook that.

STEWART:  And finally, without naming names, how many professionals in your business are probably members of the mile-high club, pilots included?

FOSS:  Well, I would never, ever betray a confidence with my fellow crew members.  I‘m a current flight attendant.  But if you want to know, come and see me at the “Around the World in a Bad Mood” at the Paramount Theater in Chicago, May 4 through the 8th, and I‘ll tell all my tales there.

STEWART:  And that was one sweet plug!  And you earned it tonight.  Rene Foss, helping us understand how the skies got so friendly.  Thanks so much.

FOSS:  My pleasure.

STEWART:  And that is COUNTDOWN for this Friday, and not a moment too soon.  I‘m Alison Stewart.  Thank you so much for watching.  Keith will be back on Monday for coverage of the start of the papal conclave.  Have a great weekend.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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