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Ending an era: Tracy Rowlett retiring next year

Outgoing and incoming: CBS11's Tracy Rowlett and Doug Dunbar

Confirming rampant rumors and previously private communications, CBS11 anchor Tracy Rowlett announced Friday that he'll be retiring from TV news when his contract expires in July 2008.

Rowlett also will reduce his workload, anchoring just the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts after the February sweeps ratings period. His replacement at 10 p.m., beginning in March, will be current early morning anchor Doug Dunbar.

"Retirement for me will just be a reassignment," Rowlett said in a statement released by the station. "CBS11 has been very supportive of my family and me, and I will remain part of the Channel 11 family always."

In later comments to unclebarky.com, Rowlett said, "Frankly, it's all good. It's easier for me to step away than one might think. (His wife) Jill and I are looking forward to more time with Michael (their son) and our grandchildren. And there's the quality of life."

Rowlett left Belo8 after a quarter-century to join Channel 11 just after CBS bought the station in 1999. A partially enforced non-compete clause kept him off the air until February 2000, when he began anchoring the station's 10 p.m. newscasts with Karen Borta. CBS11 currently is running third in the late night news ratings.

Dunbar has worked the 5 to 7 a.m. shift for the past three years.

"Tracy is a news icon in North Texas," he said. "I am honored to have his wisdom and support to build upon his tradition of excellence."

Dunbar also will replace the departing Jody Dean as co-anchor of the 4 p.m. newscasts with Maria Arita. The station hasn't yet named Dunbar's early morning replacement.

CBS11 president and general manager Steve Mauldin said the station "would not be where it is today without the presence of Tracy Rowlett. He has made, and continues to make, significant contributions toward the success of our news operation."

No longer just "The Ticket": Gordo flies solo with Belo

Gordon Keith gets a big push; weatherman Pete Delkus plays along.

At least Belo Corporation's trying to loosen its corset a bit.

Irrefutable proof is The Gordon Keith Show, which premiered Thursday night at 10 on Belo8's baby brother, KFWD-TV (Channel 52). It's undoubtedly the company's first presentation to use the words, "Keepin' yo' ass in stitches." Does imperial Belo boss of bosses Robert W. Decherd even know this program is on? If not, don't tell him.

Keith is best known as the knuckleballing comedy relief pitcher on "The Ticket's" (1310 AM) Dunham and Miller morning drive program. His humor can be an acquired taste, but many have acquired it. Now he's takin' it to TV after being duly crowned in a cover story by Belo-owned Quick, for which Keith writes a weekly column.

Keith's first half-hour show, from the gleaming new Victory Park studios, had the rough-hewn feel of a well-earned hangover. Or something like that.

It began with a comedy caper involving Belo8 station manager Mike Devlin. He ranted at Keith about the show's inflated budget before climbing over his desk to chase the underling out of his office. This scene likely has been replicated several times in real life, so Devlin carried it off reasonably well.

Keith wound up on the air anyway, and he liked his new surroundings.

"It's a testament to man's abililty to engineer and a corporation's ability to spend," he marveled after welcoming his literal "audience of two," a young man and woman.

They weren't much of an audience, leaving the host to throw out one-liners into a void. Keith could have used Belo8 anchor Gloria Campos, a good, boisterous laugher who simply could have pretended he was Dale Hansen.

Opening night's highlight was the "Delkus Cam," described on WFAA.com as a "seedy portal into the life of America's favorite weatherman." Caught in the act of being himself, Pete Delkus primped into a compact mirror, clipped his toenails and worked out with miniature barbells among other things.

"It's really sickening to see your heroes fall like this," Keith cracked. But let's give Delkus credit for having more ham in him than the Iowa State Fair.

Keith's featured taped bit took him to Farmer's Branch, lately known as being highly inhospitable to illegal immigrants. Here's where he got away with tons of stuff that could never be broadcast or printed within the confines of any other Belo property.

An elderly man who said he was Brazilian had a hard time convincing Keith he wasn't Hispanic. "Are the spines different?" he wondered.

A young woman who spoke broken English -- Keith's favorite language -- was jokingly threatened with deportation.

"Where are your papers?" he asked.

Keith later pressed an aging white woman for answers.

If all illegals are evicted, "Who will water our lawns? Who will pour our concrete?"

"I have no earthly idea," she blubbered. Generic Mariachi music played throughout.

Keith's very special guests, the Dallas band Radiant, were welcomed to the studio's "love seat of love." They recently played on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live and tried to play along with their host. But the segment never picked up speed and ultimately played dead. It was funny, however, to see Keith encounter a barechested, pot-bellied cameraman enroute to the love seat of love.

Viewers are being encouraged to send in their own videos for future airplay. Keith offered one for starters, a "munkybutter" short in which a Dad inadvertently knocked his kid's head off with a baseball bat.

Then came the big finish, Gordo's annual reading of Valentines sent to "the 30 women that I stalk." Sample sentiment: "Anyone can get a tattoo. But a branding iron really says you're mine."

Keith signed off by urging viewers to "remember my signature catchphrase -- goodnight."

His show wasn't all that good for starters, but these things can take time. Keith is a very inventive guy, which he'll tell you. But seriously, let's give him a chance to find his way and let's hope that Belo will let him find it.

His announced guest next week is Dallas police chief David Kunkle, also known as Mr. Sarah Dodd. Sprinkle in a few more "Delkus Cam" highlights and it could be quite a show.

CBS11/TXA21 have a new news director

Incoming news boss Regent Ducas

CBS11 and sister station TXA21 have named Regent Ducas as their new vice president of news operations.

Ducas, scheduled to arrive in March, has been news director at CBS affiliate KCTV-TV in Kansas City for the past five years. He also oversaw the news operation at sister station KSMO-TV.

"We love Regent's energy and enthusiasm," CBS11 and TXA21 president and general manager Steve Mauldin said in a statement Monday. "But beyond that he is a smart, savvy newsman and an excellent communicator."

CBS11 has improved its ratings in recent years, but is still running third at 10 p.m. and a distant fourth at 6 a.m., the two key battle zones in the D-FW news wars.

"There has been a tremendous amount of work done here, so it's not as if we have to start over," Ducas said. "I understand the mission, and if I didn't think it was attainable, I wouldn't take it on."

CBS11 and TXA21 initially had hired Greg Easterly from Fox-owned WJW-TV in Cleveland. But Easterly belatedly backed out, citing personal reasons.

Two exits: CBS11 anchor Jody Dean and Belo8 reporter Bert Lozano are saying goodnight

Leaving home screens: CBS11's Jody Dean and Belo8's Bert Lozano.

Jody Dean is downsizing to one job. He'll keep his morning drive spot at KLUV radio (98.7 FM), but is leaving CBS11 after a decade as an anchor and former morning TV personality. His last scheduled day is March 2nd.

"My choice. No major intrigue here," Dean said in an email.

KLUV, where he replaced the legendary Ron Chapman in June, 2005, "opened my contract early and made it possible to have just one job for a change," Dean said. "I haven't been able to say that in more than a decade. I love CBS11 . . . but I'm also now 47."

Dean, who's been anchoring the 4 p.m. newscast on CBS11, is a born-again Christian who recently authored Finding God in the Evening News. Last year he was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.

It's possible he'll return to CBS11 at some point, Dean said. "Meanwhile, I'm gonna play with my wife and daughter, and watch my sons become men."

Belo8 reporter Bert Lozano also has decided to put TV behind him. His last day at the ABC station will be Friday, Lozano said in an email.

He joined Belo8 in January 2004 after a five-year stint at KSAT-TV in San Antonio. Lozano said he already has a new job. He'll be joining the global Weber Shandwick public relations firm, which has a Dallas office.

She's goin' to Hollywood: Baylie Brown of Krum ain't exactly no hick

American Idol hopeful Baylie Brown,16, already has a glossy Web site.

Packaged as a down home baby Britney on Tuesday's American Idol auditions from San Antonio, 16-year-old Baylie Brown of Krum isn't quite a Southern-fried neophyte.

Her very polished Web site bills her as a "seasoned professional" whose CD, Big Trouble, is readily available for purchase. Not that appearances are ever quite what they seem on Idol. But the show's so-called "Texas Rose" clearly is more a slickly packaged commodity than a wide-eyed ranch kid/"city girl at heart."

She played the part well, though, and already has a leg up after singing Faith Hill's "Stronger" for the judges. Simon Cowell positively cooed, deducing that Baylie is "probably born to be a pop star . . . You are commercial with a Capital C."

Baylie then asked whether that's a good or a bad thing. The kid's a good actor, and likeable, too. She even said, "Hi, ya'll" in greeting the judges. But don't believe for a second that she's a full-blown rube from "little bitty" Krum, population 1,542. She's goin' to Hollywood with moxie to burn.

Her winning audition was greeted with a prototypical "Yee hah!" from the folks outside closed doors. Then Paula Abdul said, "I want my name to be Baylie."

Twenty-three-year-old Akron Watson of Dallas also made it to the next round, or so he thought. According to a Pegasus News story last week, Watson belatedly got disinvited after initially receiving one of Idol's coveted gold tickets.

A Fox representative confirmed the story, but said no reason would be given for why Watson suddenly was a no-go. Judges weren't overwhelmed by his initial song choice, Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come."

"There is just a massive personality/charisma problem here," Cowell said before Watson rebooted and performed Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." That more or less won Cowell over, as Idol showed on Tuesday's show. So Watson leapt jubilantly into the arms of his likewise unemployed cousin, William Green, who minutes earlier had been used for comic relief.

Dallasite William Green's sleepy time baritone didn't quite cut it.

Green performed "Amazing Grace" in a very slowly unfolding bass voice that had the added disadvantage of being off-key. It left judge Randy Jackson convulsed and Cowell repulsed. But the Brit broke up after Green then asked whether it now was time to prototypically trash the judges on his way out the audition room door. Go ahead, they said. So he did while the cameras rolled merrily along.

A total of 22 San Antonio auditioners, now minus Watson, were invited to Hollywood. They include Tuesday's final auditioner, 23-year-old Jimmy McNeal of Waxahachie, who performed another Cooke hit, "Cupid."

"You're like a little fun Ruben (Studdard), aren't you?" Cowell said approvingly.

Wednesday's final pre-Hollywood edition of Idol's sixth season will showcase the worst of the worst and best of the best, host Ryan Seacrest said before signing off.

Bet on seeing far more of the former. In the meantime, enjoy the Dallas cousins' decidedly different auditions: