NATPE Has a Sordid Past

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The annual gathering of the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) may not be the bacchanal it was back in the go-go ’80s. But attendees got a taste of those bygone days last week in Las Vegas, starting with the aftermath of the 2007 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo.

In one memorable moment, two conventioneers from the previous week’s porn confab were overheard discussing where one might "find some drugs around here."

But it was the $200-a-head dinner honoring syndication grandee Dick Robertson that really recalled NATPE’s checkered history.

A raunchy roast of the departing Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution president ran four hours (two longer than scheduled), with unsparing jokes about Robertson’s many failed marriages, his tortuous relationships with colleagues and golf clubs, and his general disdain for NATPE.

Warner Bros. Chairman/CEO Barry Meyer recounted his first NATPE encounter with Robertson in 1989, when Meyer arrived in Houston to discover that the entire Warner Bros. sales force had been jailed after a "lap dance" incident at a strip club.

"I was aghast," Meyer recalled. "They were supposed to be with our clients. But Dick told me [the clients] actually had been with them—all night in the holding cell."

When Meyer asked what he was supposed to tell the studio bosses, Robertson responded, "Tell them we cleared Alf."