People of the Year — 19. Meredith Vieira

itw_people16.jpgA year after departing The View for Today, the Irvington resident has proved she made a smart move. Among her exclusive “gets� in 2007: J.K. Rowling and Valerie Plame. And she would have had Paris Hilton’s first post-jail interview, if not for Larry King (the rat!). Of course, Vieira had her share of on-air gaffes this year, too. In February she shared one of her dreams, in which she’s naked in a bunker with Diane Sawyer. And in April, she cracked two teeth after an ice skating face-plant.

Prediction for 2008: While her salary of $10 mil a year ain’t bad, Matt Lauer still gets 30 percent more. Time for Vieira to start earning Katie Couric-caliber cash.

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Adapted from “People of the Year,� InTown Westchester, December 2007

Does Meredith Vieira want to quit ‘Today’?

nup_102702_0633.jpgGranted, Bonnie Fuller’s rag, Star, isn’t exactly the most reliable source. Still, the magazine’s story this week about how Vieira, an Irvington resident, wants to jump ship is simply too juicy to ignore.

The mag quoted from several unidentified sources and friends in the story (which, annoyingly, isn’t online). Among the best quotes: “Meredith told me she’s already planning her exit strategy so she can leave ‘Today’ with her dignity intact. … For her, it’s been a noble experiment that hasn’t worked as well as she had hoped.”

It’s not totally unbelievable that Vieira would want to spend more time at home, especially given that she has three teenage children. On the flipside, leaving NBC would mean breaching her four-year, $10-million contract. Not to mention, her old cushy gig at ‘The View’ has already been taken by Whoopi.

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Meredith Vieira nabs an interview with J.K. Rowling

Carmen Troesser/The Journal News; Rowling: AP/Vadim Ghirda

First she gets Paris Hilton and now this. Meredith is en fuego!

J.K. Rowling has agreed to do her first interview about the final Harry Potter volume, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” on Today at the end of July. Vieira, who lives in Irvington, will fly over to Edinburgh, Scotland, to talk with Rowling, who is notoriously reclusive and hard to get on camera. As with the William-Harry extravaganza Matt Lauer treated us to this month, NBC will be getting as much mileage out of the interview as possible. Excerpts will air on Thursday, July 26, and Friday, July 27, and then the full thing will get its own one-hour special of “Dateline.”

“NBC’s Meredith Vieira To Interview J.K. Rowling” [Starpulse]

CORRECTION: Turns out that Meredith Vieira didn’t land the Paris Hilton interview after all. The NY Post reports that NBC’s top brass nixed the deal, and then Larry King and CNN swooped in book Hilton. Still, if given the choice between Hilton and Rowling, I’d still pick Rowling any day of the week.


Shameless InTown Westchester Plug: Matt Lauer’s secret Tom Carvel obsession

intownjune.jpegUntil a couple months ago, the question of whether Matt Lauer even grew up in Westchester was hotly debated in our offices. There were rumors that he might have lived in Chappaqua and/or Ardsley, but no confirmation about either. That is, no confirmation until intrepid reporter Jenny Higgons got on the set of NBC’s “Today” and ferreted the truth from him for InTown Westchester’s June cover story.

Here’s what she learned: Lauer did indeed live in Chappaqua — until the first grade. Then he moved to Ardsley, where he lived right next door to Tom Carvel. And, as Lauer explained to Higgons, the ice cream kingpin had a big impact:

<blockquote><div>“Tom gave us frozen flying saucers for Halloween, and he kept all the old Carvel trucks in a big wooded area behind his house; my friends and I would play in them and pretend we were ice-cream men. Life was an adventure in the woods.�</div></blockquote>

Just imagine how different things would have been if, during 4th grade, Lauer decided to go work for the Hartsdale Carvel instead of taking up an afternoon paper route. Would Fudgie the Whale be doing the weather instead of Al Roker? Could Katie have been replaced by Cookie Puss? We’ll never know.

What we do know is that after Lauer’s parents got divorced, he was forced to slum it up in Hartsdale (hey, I can say that ’cause I live there!), until he finally moved to the greener pastures of Greenwich in high school.

“Lauer Power” [InTown Westchester]

Irvington’s Meredith Vieira will not continue with “Today” — for a fourth hour

tjndc5-5cxrhlxf2493etcojpx_layout.jpgNBC’s announcement that it’s extending “Today” to a fourth hour this fall reminds me of one party animal friend in college. He was one of those guys who loved our annual “Spring Fling” weekend so much he remarked, “If Fling is so much fun, why don’t we do it EVERY weekend?”

Indeed, why not? And hey, if “Today” is such a cash cow — helping the network to subsidize pricey programs like “Studio 60” — why grow it to five hours? Or six? Heck, would anyone really mind if we just renamed the network to “Today” and went wall-to-wall?

Well, hosts Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira might not be crazy about the idea. Three hours on air daily is already a tall order, and the team at “Today” has already wisely decided not to force the two to go to four, says USA Today. But oh, lucky us, in their place we’ll get Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush and Maria Menounos! Yes, that’s right, we’ll get to see Menounos insult and taunt America Ferrera over breakfast now, too. And that’s not all. We’ll also get ex-Giants running back Tiki Barber as a men’s lifestyle contributor. Oh, and can’t forget about Ann Curray and Al Roker. Poor suckers — for some inexplicable reason, they’re still on the hook.

“NBC to take ‘Today’ to fourth hour this fall” [USA Today]

(AP Photo/Stuart Ramson)