By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International  |  March 7, 2002 at 4:42 PM
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It's no secret that if ABC is able to convince David Letterman to move his show to that network, it could mean the demise of the long-standing "Nightline" broadcast. The media has been full of varying reports as to what part the show's anchor, Ted Koppel, might have played in some ABC executive's feelings that the show has outlived its usefulness. Now columnist Richard Johnson is reporting that Koppel may have signed his own death warrant during an encounter with Disney head Michael Eisner a year ago. (Disney owns ABC). During a meeting with the ABC news division, Eisner apparently talked candidly about the planned massive layoffs at the company. The most vocal of the staffers in defending his division and demanding security for the staff was Ted Koppel. Later, Sam Donaldson told a USA Today reporter that he thought that Koppel had gone too far in confronting Eisner in front of fellow employees. So, in the meanwhile, the future of "Nightline" swings in the balance with major participants and observers posturing in the media. "Nightline" was born as a nightly update on the Iran hostage situation during the Carter years.


The man considered to have been the "dean of Nashville songwriters" has died. Harlan Howard's death came as a surprise, even though though he had battled a variety of maladies in his later years. Published reports indicate that he had been suffering from arthritis and heart trouble, though neither condition seemed immediately life-threatening. Among his best-known compositions are "I Fall to Pieces," "Busted," "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down" and "Blame it on Your Heart." He even tried singing, hitting the country charts in 1971 with "Sunday Morning Christian." A Detroit native and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Harlan Howard was 74.


There are increasing reports in the media that former "King of Pop" Michael Jackson is in rough financial waters. Both the New York Post and Billboard say that Jackson's next road tour, his first in nearly 20 years, will be a short-lived thing, most likely sometime in May. As we have reported over the past months, every attempt that Jackson has undertaken to try to revive his career has seemed to fall short. He even spent a month in New York hyping last fall's dual-concert return to show biz, but the events did not create many sparks. Then he was involved in that flap about whether he should appear on the American Music Awards or the Grammys ... and ended up at neither. This week he turned down an appearance at a major awards show in Monaco. Meanwhile, some on his staff have told reporters that Jackson, now 43, wants to spend more time working on movie projects than making music. Amid all of this comes the persistent rumor that Epic records has told Jackson that the best way for him to repay a massive loan from them ($200 million) is to sell the company his holdings in the Beatles catalog of songs -- estimated to be worth as much as $600 million. Epic's parent company, Sony, obtained half the catalog from Jackson last year for $100 million. Stay tuned.


For the second time in less than a year the people at Walt Disney have signed a deal with a high-profile athlete. This time it's Michelle Kwan. She has been tapped to be an official spokeswoman for the multi-faceted entertainment company. Published reports indicate that the financial terms with the bronze medal-winning Kwan were not announced. According to advance information, Kwan will hawk the company's theme parks, restaurants and cruise trips, as well as its movies, radio and TV projects. Last summer Disney struck a deal with golfer Tiger Woods. He will work with the company on a variety of sports-related TV and cable projects.


Some of the very early recordings by the late country star Waylon Jennings are among the hottest selling in the country. A re-issue of some of his early work, "Phase One: The Early Years," was just pressed by Hip-O Records and is selling as fast as it hits the shelves. The news provider says that it includes 20 of Jennings' songs, including his one recording for A&M Records, "Sing the Girls a Song, Bill." Unfortunately for Jennings and A&M, it was a flop. Also on the retrospective CD are two songs that Jennings did that were originally Buddy Holly hits, "It's So Easy" and "Rave On."


The Royal Opera of London confirms that rising tenor Ben Heppner has had to withdraw from planned performances of "Tristan and Isolde" there. Heppner, who had to cancel a planned American tour this winter because of laryngitis, was to have appeared in the much-heralded British production of the Wagner chestnut in six performances. Reports indicate that tenor Wolfgang Muller-Lorenz will assume the male lead. The last time Heppner appeared in public was at a recital less than two months ago in his native Canada in Toronto. Although he began the concert he was unable to finish because his voice faded. Last year his voice failed him on several high notes during performances of "Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg" at the Met.


I guess the topic of "spam" in Internet mail -- unsolicited junk -- is close to my heart since I get so much e-mail and spend so much time in my "in box." So, the response to today's question may be directly related to the extent or your contact with others in cyberspace ... but here goes: "How many pieces of junk e-mail did you get in your various computer mailboxes yesterday?" Put SPAM (forgive me, Hormel Foods) in the subject line and send to via the Internet.

SPECIAL NOTE: The results of previous survey questions will be printed soon. A computer glitch continues to plague this function. Meanwhile, keep the cards and letters coming. GBA.

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