In the Loop


Crushing Curses

WMAQ-TV Chicago and co-owned MSNBC will have a front-row seat as Cubs fans attempt to destroy the curse afflicting their team.

Harry Caray's, the late Cubs sportscaster's Chicago nightspot, has bought the ball that "fan" Steve Bartman (right) deflected in Game 6 of the NLCS to help snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Although it ponied up $113,824.16, Caray's will destroy the ball Feb. 26 to help end the curse that fans think has kept the Cubs from winning the World Series since 1908. (Cubs fans blame the team's decision to deny a tavern-keeper and his goat admission to Wrigley Field years ago for the dry spell.) The ball's demise will be televised live on MSNBC, with production help from WMAQ-TV.

To raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Caray's is asking for ideas on the most creative way to destroy the ball. WMAQ-TV will cover the unveiling of the winning method live on its morning news show Feb. 26.—J.E.

Instant Makeover

Afraid of flying in a small jet during a terrible storm? We have a worse specter: getting stuck in an airport with the five Queer Eye
guys (above). NBC Cable President David Zaslav had marshaled the makeover queens to fly to Atlanta for a dinner last Tuesday with senior Cox Communications execs, all in the name of good affiliate relations. (Cox has expanded distribution of NBC's Bravo network and generally has a good NBC relationship.) "I was ready to unleash the boys, full Cox makeover," Zaslav said. In front of their wives, no less.

Storms in the South left Zaslav's troops stuck at Teterboro, N.J., airport for three hours, giving the Queer Eye
boys too much time on their hands. Among other things, they made Zaslav retie his tie and harshly criticized his shoes. "These guys are not shy," he said. "They have no sense of personal space."—J.M.H.

Changing Sides

Richard Wiley presided over the FCC when the agency barred TV and radio stations from owning local newspapers. Next week, he'll tell federal judges it's time to do away with the restriction. Wiley, representing the Newspaper Association of America, has been slotted five minutes to tell the federal appeals court in Philadelphia why the rule has become obsolete since his days as FCC chairman. Wiley's appearance is part of Feb. 11 oral argument in a case to decide the fate of the FCC's newly relaxed broadcast-ownership restrictions.—B.M.

Sopranos Hell

If mob boss Tony Sopranos was worried about going to hell, he can rest easy. He's already there. HBO's new ad campaign for the drama's upcoming fifth season features a dark, Renaissance-inspired image created by famed photographer Annie Lebowitz featuring the show's stars—some alive, some dead—with the message "Hell hath no fury like the family."

For the campaign, HBO "wanted something that would generate buzz and maybe even fuel talk or speculation of upcoming plot lines," says VP of advertising Courteney Monroe. The image is sure to further rumors that dead characters, like Big Pussy and Ralphie, will reappear this season.

HBO is lavishing an estimated $5 million to $10 million to hype the new season, which starts March 7. The print campaign will be plastered on billboards, buses and print ads. A special ad with a music chip that plays The Sopranos
theme song will run in Entertainment Weekly. For real diehards, a special eight-page poster will be inserted in the Feb. 20 edition of The New York Times. There will be plenty of off-channel TV advertising, too, including a spot during the Feb. 29 Oscar telecast.—A.R.