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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Sept. 27)

Most of us at one time or another have felt the terror of walls closing in on us, or the bottom dropping out.

That's what NBC5 and its once high-rated 10 p.m. newscasts are feeling right now. The station used to coast to big late night news wins after inheriting monster lead-ins from the Peacock network's ER. Sometimes it was enough to offset second place finishes for most of the rest of the week during hotly contested ratings "sweeps" periods.

No more. Saddled with a third-place finish from ER in both total homes and advertiser-favored 25-to-54-year-olds, NBC5 again ran third at 10 p.m. on Thursday night. The new deputy in town -- Belo8's undoubtedly the sheriff -- is CBS11. Its late nighter was a solid runnerup in both measurements for the second straight night after inheriting a big hunka hunka audience for CBS' Without A Trace

Belo8, getting decent support from ABC's new Big Shots, controlled the 10 p.m. terrain with 280,094 total homes and 189,420 viewers in the 25-to-54 demo.

CBS11 had 224,075 total homes and 129,150 viewers of the 25-54 persuasion. NBC5 dragged in at 175,363 homes and 117,670 in the demo. Belo8 was the only station to increase its audience over the 9:45 to 10 p.m. lead-in.

Fox4 remained king of the early mornings, scoring twin wins at 6 a.m. while NBC5 sagged back to third place behind Belo8. The ABC station at least temporarily righted its listing ship at 5 and 6 p.m. with first place finishes across the board.

Thursday's heavyweight prime-time fight, between the season premieres of ABC's Grey's Anatomy and CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, ended with the sleep-around docs handily beating the forensics experts in both total homes and among 18-to-49-year-olds, the key advertiser target audience for non-news programming.

Neither show was a slouch, though. Grey's had the night's most total homes (345,855) and CSI ranked as the No. 2 draw (302,014).

ABC's season debut of Ugly Betty comfortably won the 7 to 8 p.m. hour in both ratings measurements over CBS' Survivor: China.

It was a split decision from 9 to 10 p.m., with Without A Trace dominating in total homes but being nipped by Big Shots among 18-to-49-year-olds.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Sept. 21-23)

The Cowboys rocked to a season ratings high Sunday night, with an average of 854,896 D-FW homes tuned to the team's Bear trap on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

That beat the Dallas-New York Giants season opener, also on NBC's prime-time showcase. It drew 803,748 homes.

Sunday night's latest win peaked at close to a million homes (954,755) between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m. The night's most-watched competing attraction, the 9 p.m. second season premiere of CBS' Shark, managed 165,621 homes.

The Cowboys also were a Colossus among among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds, drawing 644,800 of 'em. Fox's 7 p.m. season premiere of The Simpsons and ABC's Desperate Housewives clip show tied for second place with 18-to-49-year-olds, totaling 111,600 apiece.

D-FW also warmed to Fox's Giants-Redskins game , which dominated the late afternoon/early evening Nielsens with 323,935 total homes. CBS' earlier Colts-Texans game had a nice-sized 253,302 homes.

The day's three NFL games were the only TV attractions to draw double-digit Nielsen ratings under their own power, with each point equaling 24,356 homes. NBC5's late night local newscast/post-game show, pushed past 10:30 p.m., happily splashed along with the massive Cowboys lead-in, drawing 299,579 homes.

In Friday's local newscast battles, Belo8 rode to wins at 10 p.m. in both total homes and among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 took first place in both rating measurements at 6 a.m., and Belo8 did likewise at 5 p.m. The ABC station also won at 6 p.m. in total homes and tied with NBC5 at that hour among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Local TV notes: GMA spotlights Belo8's Janet St. James

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Janet St. James, the late Carter Albrecht and Diane Sawyer

Ace Belo8 medical reporter Janet St. James got a big dose of national exposure Wednesday morning on ABC's Good Morning America.

St. James reprised her locally televised look into possible side effects from the drug Chantix, which Dallas musician/singer Carter Albrecht was taking in an effort to stop smoking. Albrecht, 34, died of a gunshot wound early Labor Day morning. He had been yelling and pounding on a neighbor's door when an intended warning shot hit him instead.

St. James joined GMA's Diane Sawyer at the show's anchor desk after the program replayed her story, which is well worth a look. It included the first TV interview with Albrecht's girlfriend, Ryann Rathbone, who also had been taking the drug.

Earlier in September, CBS11 reporter Jay Gormley had the first TV interview with Albrecht's parents.

Local TV notes: Tarnation (who says that anymore?)

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Belo8's Troy Dungan and old-time cowboy sidekick Gabby Hayes

Belo8 isn't quite on the cutting edge with its newest feature on infomercial-infused Good Morning Texas.

It's called "Where in Tarnation is Troy Dungan?" The semi-retired weatherman drops a daily clue and then will reveal his locale on Friday. Wednesday's hint: He's in the bluebird capital of Texas, otherwise known as a very easy place to find if you google "bluebird capital of Texas."

What's up with "tarnation," though? You've got to be pretty grizzled to still be using that word. Roy Rogers' talkative old comic sidekick, Gabby Hayes, was at home on the range with it. But how many people know who he is anymore? Drop that name on anyone under 30 and they'll look at you as though you're Eddie Cantor.

There are many more outmoded words and expressions for Belo8 to choose from if it wants to go after the Horace/Gertrude demographic.

How about "Land sakes alive, what's Dale gonna palaver about tonight?"

Or "Dagnabbit, you dasn't miss Pete's forecast tonight."

Or maybe, "Jumpin' Jehosophat, wait'll ya feast yer eyes on Gloria's getup tonight."

Just trying to help.


Wednesday night's American Masters presentation, Orozco: Man of Fire, is a co-production of Berkeley, CA-based Paradigm Productions and KERA-TV (Channel 13) of Dallas.

The one-hour documentary (8 p.m. on Ch. 13), recounts the artistry of painter Jose Clemente Orozco, who died in 1949 after spearheading the Mexican Mural Renaissance. Oscar-winner Anjelica Huston narrates, with Orozco voiced by actor Damian Alcazar.


One-of-a-kind TV reporter Jack Brown died earlier this month at the age of 73. His television career began at KXAS-TV (Channel 5) in 1958 and continued from 1980 to 1998 at KDFW-TV (Channel 4). He retired on Oct. 1 of that year after becoming known primarily for his longrunning series of "Jack Brown's Texas" reports.

"I've been doing this for 40 years, and that's 10 years too long in this business," Brown told the Dallas Business Journal in a 1998 story. "I don't think a person was meant to have 40 years of deadlines. That does something to you."

Brown's farewell story for Ch. 4 closed with him walking toward an Exit sign while Willie Nelson's "The Party's Over" played taps.

Longtime friend and TV colleague Jorge Villarreal said in an email that Brown met his surviving wife, Marilyn, while doing a story on a supposed haunted house near the Fort Worth Zoo. Brown, a short-talker on the telephone, uncharacteristically spent 90 minutes pre-interviewing Marilyn, who previously had lived at the house.

"The next day she started telling us where to put the lights and what to ask her and what should be in the background," Villarreal recalls. "When we got to the car, Jack shook his head and said emphatically, 'How would you like to be married to that?' But the long phone calls continued and they were married about a year later. She had bewitched him."

Brown and Villarreal rode the TV range from Alpine to Orange, from Barton Springs to Hamilton Pool, etc. etc.

"It was work -- sometimes real hard work," Villarreal says. "But it was always a great time being with Jack."

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Sept. 14-16)

Fox's prime-time Emmy telecast ran virtually even Sunday night with NBC's marquee Patriots-Chargers game.

Neither, of course, was a match for the preceding Cowboys-Dolphins game on Fox. The Dallas win averaged 625,949 D-FW homes to dominate Sunday's TV landscape. Still, that's a substantial dropoff from the 803,748 homes that watched the Cowboys beat New York the previous Sunday on NBC's prime-time NFL season kickoff.

The Emmys then dipped to 282,530 homes while the competing Patriots-Chargers matchup had 289,836.

D-FW's other pro sports team in action, the Texas Rangers, played to a virtually empty house directly opposite the Cowboys. The Rangers victory over Oakland mustered 21,920 homes on MY27 while drawing just 6,200 advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds. The Cowboys did a bit beter than that, with 362,700 of 'em.

Rewinding to Friday, the first fall premiere of the season, Fox's Nashville, played like an old country song titled "She Got the Ring, I Got the Finger." It drew just 53,582 total homes and a measly 18,600 viewers in the 18-to-49 demo.

Still, the country cute reality series managed more total homes than NBC's competing Las Vegas repeat and Belo8's locally produced and very well done The Cost of War: The Texas Toll. The 8 to 9 p.m. slot was "won" by a rerun of CBS' Jericho in total homes and Las Vegas among 18-to-49-year-olds.

Friday's local news derby had just two winners in the four major combat zones.

Belo8 swept the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts in total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. Fox4 won in both measurements at 6 a.m., and the 7 to 9 a.m. portion of its Good Day also whipped the three network morning shows.

Flooring it: Cuban primed for takeoff on Dancing with the Stars


Fred and Ginger? No, it's Kym Johnson and Mark Cuban. Photos: Ed Bark

Barely two-and-a-half months removed from hip replacement surgery, Mark Cuban gets airborne for a heel click while prepping for Dancing with the Stars.

It prompts a big grin from him and two quick judgment calls. The 49-year-old Dallas Mavericks owner definitely does not have two left feet. And his competitive drive won't let him half-step his way through ABC's hottest show.

"I think everybody thinks I'm gonna be the stiff," he says during a brief break Wednesday afternoon. "That's the underlying sentiment. So I'll use that in my favor."

His training camp since late August is a North Dallas dance studio, where Cuban and pro partner Kym Johnson have been getting in step via three-hour weekday workouts. Their first televised performance, on Sept. 25th, will be the fox trot. That one's getting pretty smooth. Next up, assuming they survive the following night's first viewer vote-off, is a more demanding mambo that for now includes Johnson sliding through Cuban's A-framed legs.

"He's one of the hardest workers I've ever come across," she says.

Cuban's also lucky to have her. Johnson took goofball Jerry Springer deep into the competition during her first appearance on Dancing. Then, in last spring's edition, she and Joey Fatone placed second to Apolo Anton Ohno and partner Julianne Hough.

Fatone parlayed his winning personality and near-victory into a career resurgence that now finds him hosting NBC's The Singing Bee and the TV Guide Channel's red carpet award ceremonies. But Johnson says he was a slacker compared to Cuban, who's already sweated off 22 pounds since surgery.

"He's dancing like you'd never know he had anything wrong with him," Johnson says. "I was a bit concerned at first, but after working with him I can't see it, or feel that he's got any problem at all."

Cuban says his left hip "gets sore and it hurts. But I use lots of ice and lots of drugs (namely Tylenol, he adds)."


"You are now becoming a born dancer," Johnson tells her TV beau.

However Cuban fares, he can't do any better than fellow Dallas sports figure Emmitt Smith. The former Cowboys great won the third edition of Dancing despite an early round of hoots from ex-teammates. Cuban says that most Mavs players and coach Avery Johnson at least are talking good games.

"Avery thinks it's great," he says. "And 'Stack's' (Jerry Stackhouse) like, 'You've got a big set of balls to go out there.' Dirk (Nowitzki) doesn't give a (damn), but that's OK. I told him I was doing it, and he just shook his head."

Cuban and the female Johnson seem to be a good match on a different set of hardwoods. He jabs at her ("See, I always have to help her out") and she jabs back ("I've got another child to deal with," referring to the earlier partnership with Springer). She prods him, too, instructing Cuban to keep his movements snappy and his butt inverted.

"OK, mom, whatever you say," Cuban rejoins.


Taking a break between bouts with the fox trot and mambo.

Johnson had never heard of Cuban until learning he'd be her partner. "I googled you," she says.

Now he's in her world -- and feels welcomed to it.

"I'm pretty much learning everything from scratch," Cuban says. "I mean, disco moves don't really count in this . . . In new businesses you're always out of your comfort zone, because you never know who's gonna kick your ass. But that's why I like it. It's one of those once-in-a-lifetime things. And if it's only a question of hard work, that I can do."

He's the third oldest dancer in a 12-competitor field, with only Wayne Newton, 65, and Jane Seymour, 56, his elders. Cuban has been known to act like a kid, though. Just ask NBA referees and commissioner David Stern. ABC likely will play up his occasional courtside meltdowns, but Cuban says he won't lip off -- at least not in the early going -- to Dancing's three judges. Bruno Tonioli and Len Goodman are the mostly likely to test that resolve.

"What am I gonna do -- tell them that the rules of ballroom dancing are such and such, and they're wrong?" Cuban says. "People expect that, and ABC wants that, I think. Maybe if I get an overinflated opinion of myself . . . I told them I'm not opposed to speaking my mind, but I have to have a good reason."


So who's the boss? On these hardwoods, that would be her, not him.

Cuban has managed to "make Kym promise" to incorporate "a beer drinkers' special dance" into each of their routines.

For the fox trot, it will be a fleeting rendition of Churn the Butter. Also on tap: The Lawnmower, The Sprinkler, The Worm and The Gator.

"We're putting it in the routines in a clever way and not too much of it," Johnson says. "Len (Goodman) may kind of think it's a little strange, but I think he'll have a laugh about it. The most important thing is bringing a celebrity's personality out. And that's what we're doing."

It's also very much about technique, though, with Dancing's judges scolding contestants for bad posture, sloppy execution and overall stiffness. So there's Cuban jotting down notes about the mambo and later chanting, "Boom, boom, boom, cross body lead."

"You are now becoming a born dancer," Johnson tells him.

"My brain's keepin' up with the music," says Cuban.

So maybe he'll in fact defy expectations and be a serious contender for the show's oft-lampooned mirror ball trophy. Or might the fans at Mavs road games be treated to a new brand of Cuban sideshow?

"What I'm really curious about is if I screw up anywhere on the show, how much of it am I gonna see on those big Jumbotrons?" he wonders. "But considering what they do to me now, it would be a step up."

Rash decision

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Fox4's Brandon Todd got Wal-Mart to toe the line on flip-flops

D-FW television reporters have a knack for prompting national product recalls.

NBC5 Night Ranger Scott Gordon's Valentine's Day scoop on potentially bad batches of Peter Pan and Best Value peanut butter led to shelf-clearing across the country.

Now Fox4 reporter Brandon Todd's piece on skin-irritating, made-in-China flip-flops has caused Wal-Mart to pull them nationwide. The discount chain announced the decision Tuesday (Sept. 11) after Todd's earlier story on a Gun Barrel City woman who developed a rash in the same design as the footwear, which she bought for a dollar. Fox4 had the pictures to prove it, plus far grislier ones from a Florida woman who posted her badly scabbed feet on her Web site.

Wal-Mart contended that "only a few similar claims" were made by "several million" purchasers of the flip-flops. "Nonetheless we are removing the product from our shelves for testing and are preventing our registers from selling them," the company said in a statement.

The flip-flop recall now is getting heavy national play, as did the peanut butter scare.

Crowning achievement: New CBS11 anchor/reporter returns to Dallas homeland

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New CBS11 newswoman Nerissa Knight also competed at the 2007 Mrs. Texas America pageant, where she was among the 16 finalists.

Dallas-raised Nerissa Knight has returned home as a weekend morning co-anchor and general assignment reporter for CBS11.

She arrives from Beaumont's KBTV-TV, where she anchored that station's 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts after earlier stops at Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Mobile, Ala. TV stations.

Born in Wisconsin, Knight recalls watching Fox4 anchor Clarice Tinsley as a kindergartener during her earlier tenure at a Milwaukee TV station. When the family moved to South Dallas, "lo and behold, the first time I looked up to turn on the news, Clarice was there," Knight says in an email.

"I was entranced with news at age five" after first seeing Tinsley on TV, she says. "In kindergarten, I told my mom (her name also was Clarice) that I wanted to 'do the news.' "

It's been 14 years since she's lived in North Texas. Enroute Knight entered the 2007 Mrs. Texas America pageant, where she was Mrs. Southeast Texas. She placed among the 16 finalists and won an award for career achievement at the June 30th crowning in Southlake.

It's an unusual combination, but not unprecedented in the D-FW market. Former Miss America Jane Jayroe co-anchored the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts for KXAS-TV (Channel 5) from 1980-84.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Sept. 7-9)

Nothing else really mattered Sunday night. Not even Britney's extraordinarily inept performance on MTV's even dumber than usual Video Music Awards.

No, the only game in town was the Dallas Cowboys' season opener against the New York Giants, which averaged 803,748 D-FW homes on NBC5. That's more than six times the audience for ABC's runnerup duo of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Meet the Fockers.

But wait, there's more. This was an extraordinary sports weekend that also included the Texas-TCU clash in Austin, the U.S. Open Tennis Final, Tiger Woods' big victory at the BMW golf championship, a pivotal prime-time NASCAR race and three other season-opening pro football games. Here's the D-FW total homes scorecard:

Bears vs. Chargers (Fox) -- 360,469
Eagles vs. Packers (Fox) -- 233,818
Texas vs. TCU (FX) -- 158,314
Redskins vs. Dolphins (CBS) -- 151,007
Chevy Rock & Roll 400 (ABC) -- 107,166
BMW Golf Final Round (NBC) -- 75,504
U.S. Open Tennis Final (CBS) -- 63,732

And oh yes, 26,792 devoted hardball homes watched the Texas Rangers sweep the Oakland A's on MY27 Sunday afternoon to climb out of the American League West basement for at least a day.

In Friday's local news derby, NBC5's first batch of high-definition telecasts all fell short of winner's circles. It might have helped had the station first launched a promotional campaign instead of essentially sneaking them on the air.

Belo8 won comfortably at 10 p.m. in both total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 did likewise at 6 a.m. in both ratings measurements.

Belo8 took the 5 and 6 p.m. races in total homes and barely nipped NBC5 at 6 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds. Fox4 won at 5 p.m. in the 25-to-54 demo.

Monk see, Monk do

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Nancy Jay and Tony Shalhoub will be castmates on Friday's Monk.

Whatever your profession, it's often who you know. And D-FW media vet Nancy Jay has been virtually lifelong friends with Monk executive producer Randy Zisk.

He gifts her with a brief role as a news anchor on the Friday, Sept. 7th episode of Monk (8 p.m. central), subtitled "Mr. Monk and the Wrong Man."

"This is my 15 minutes of fame, probably condensed down to about 45 seconds," Jay says in a telephone interview.

She's otherwise been all over the D-FW media landscape since the early 1980s. Jay's worked in radio at KZPS, WBAP and KRLD. She's written for The Dallas Times Herald and was an entertainment reporter/anchor for much of the 1990s for KTVT-TV before CBS bought the station.

Lately she's freelancing in both radio and TV. Listen for her as the off-camera voice of Jerry Jones' wife during a new commercial in which he cradles a Super Bowl trophy while talking in his sleep and wearing his Cowboys pajamas.

"I want it all . . . I've tasted greatness and I'm hungry for it again," Jones says before his "wife" yells, "Jerry, wake up! You're dreamin' about Papa John's pizza again!"

Jay and Zisk have known each other since his days at St. Mark's School of Texas and her days at W.T. White. So he threw a little work her way when Monk's script called for a news anchor to report that a murderer put away by Monk had his conviction overturned.

"My heart was pounding," she says, "but it was an absolute blast."

Jay and fellow guest stars Alfred Molina and Angela Kinsey from The Office all had their own trailers, even if their names were spelled out in impermanent masking tape. She then spent six hours worth of "hurry up and wait" after a 6:15 a.m. makeup call. Jay says it gave her a firsthand understanding of why actors sometimes act up on the set. They're simply bored.

"If Brad Pitt had been my co-star, sure I'd invite him in and lock the door," she says.

Jay hasn't seen her Monk episode yet, but has been assured that "I do not end up on the cutting room floor."

Her character didn't have a name during filming, she says. "I'm thinking Nancy Jay'll work."

CBS11 news: The new guy has his work cut out for him -- but so does the old guy

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CBS11 prez and GM Steve Mauldin and news director Scott Diener.

At last it dawned on the head man. CBS11's news operation couldn't withstand another minute of news director Regent Ducas, let alone the start of a new fall season followed by the hyper-competitive November "sweeps" ratings period.

So CBS11/TXA21 president and general manager Steve Mauldin abruptly did what he had to do Friday evening by cutting loose the guy he'd hired barely five months earlier. The bigger question is why Mauldin did what he did in the first place.

He's not commenting right now, preferring to let the dust settle while CBS11's newest news director, Scott Diener, is left to undo the damage done to morale, image and ratings. The latter didn't improve either under Ducas, whose twisted metal 'n' mayhem approach to news perhaps fittingly left a train wreck behind.

Mauldin earlier had hired the well-regarded Greg Easterly from Cleveland to run the CBS/TXA21 news ships. But Easterly belatedly backed out during the holiday season after first attending the staff Christmas party. Then came the back flip to Ducas, who had taken Kansas City's CBS station to the top after first schooling it in the art of "urgent" in-your-face, small j journalism.

"I'm sure there is an adjustment period," Ducas said during an April interview with unclebarky.com. "I'm sure some people are wondering to themselves whether they're going to make it under this new format, whether they even subscribe to it in the first place."

Instead the troops finally prevailed while their volcanic general was sent to the stockade. But one wonders what would have happened had Diener been given the job in the first place.

He arrived at CBS11 as assistant news director in June 2006, more than nine months before Ducas got the call. Diener previously had been news director at KTVK-TV in Phoenix, which is hardly Podunk. Instead it's the country's 12th largest TV market, ranking well ahead of No. 31 Kansas City. KTVK also is owned by Dallas-based Belo Corp., which runs WFAA-TV (Channel 8) as well.

Belo may be a conservative, hidebound company in some respects, but none of its stations serves crap for news. In fact Diener's resume includes prestigious George Foster Peabody and duPont-Columbia awards for excellence in journalism. Maybe that was deemed to be too good a track record in these low-aiming times for many TV news operations. But now CBS11 is touting those honors in a news release that has Mauldin praising Diener as "a solid newsman, a strong leader and a great member of our team."

Still, Mauldin first chose Ducas, so he clearly shares the blame for what became a debacle. He's been running CBS11 and TXA21 since February 2003, when he arrived from Miami's WFOR-TV.

Gambling on Ducas -- and losing big -- may have cost Mauldin all but a few of the chips he had piled up with CBS before taking the D-FW job. But as a businessman, he knows the bottom line like the back of his hand. He was smart enough to recognize that Ducas' brand of news was turning off both advertisers and viewers. CBS11's newscasts had a respectable reputation even during rough times in the ratings. But Ducas made them an increasingly bad buy. CBS11 wasn't an art museum, but under Ducas it was starting to look like a junkyard.

Now Diener is left to clean up the mess without cleaning house. The station still has a solid group of reporters, even if many of them became dazed and confused in the past several months. In its favor, CBS11 also is going to high-definition on Sept. 24th, and will have a new news set as well.

Those cosmetic changes will open the door to wider sampling. But will curious viewers find ample reason to keep watching? Unfortunately, CBS11's promotions department isn't likely to get the go-ahead for a campaign underscored by the slogan, "Hey, we're not that way anymore!"

So we'll just have to wait and see.

Hansen's Waxahachie wingding

Only one D-FW television anchor throws an annual bash that's big as Texas. That of course would be Belo8 sports anchor Dale Hansen, whose "Party In My Backyard!" originated from his impressive Waxahachie spread Saturday night.

Benefiting the American Diabetes Association, the event featured three bands, at least four Hawaiian shirt changes by the host, piano top dancing, bottomless libations and a guest list in the very high hundreds. Here's some of what it looked like, with all photos by your dogged correspondent.


The host leans in for a commemorative picture with a party-goer.


The host seems larger than life. Dash Riprock (right) not so much.


Weather pal Pete Delkus requests a nice man hug and gets one.


Keyboard wiz Jason D. Williams gave the ivories a thorough beating.


All of the night's piano top dancers received a helping hand.