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A Legendary Newswoman on What She Really Thinks About Katie Couric`s Big Move; Shocking Twist in Scott Peterson Case

Aired May 25, 2006 - 23:00:00   ET


A.J. HAMMER, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: A legendary news woman on what she really thinks about Katie Couric`s big move. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.
SIBILA VARGAS, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: And "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" is one-on-one with "America Idol," Taylor Hicks, "Soul Patrol."I`m Sibila Vargas in Hollywood, TV`s most provocative entertainment news show starts right now.


ANNOUNCER: On SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, a shocking, almost unbelievable twist in the Scott Peterson case. One of the jurors who put him on death row is now his pen pal, and she goes one-on-one with SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

RICHELLE NICE, FMR. JUROR IN SCOTT PETERSON CASE: People are going to say I`m crazy. People are going to say a lot of things.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, why she`s writing to Scott Peterson, and what he`s saying in letters back to her.

Outlaw bike builder and TV star, Jesse James goes to Iraq. The remarkable story behind why he went, what he saw, and what his wife, Sandra Bullock, thought about him going. Tonight, Jesse James, in the interview you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.


HAMMER: Hello, I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

VARGAS: And I`m Sibila Vargas in Hollywood. And when we heard it first thing today, we could hardly believe it ourselves.

HAMMER: That`s right Sibila, the news first came from "People" magazine. Would you believe that one of the jurors who not only convicted Scott Peterson, but sentenced him to death, has become his pal? His pen pal. This is a relationship that`s got everybody wondering, what the heck is going on here?


NICE: I have not a doubt in my mind Scott Peterson killed his wife and child.

HAMMER (voice-over): She helped send Scott Peterson to prison, death row mind you, for killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn baby. And now she`s sending him letters and he`s writing back.

NICE: He just said I didn`t kill my family.

HAMMER: This is Richelle Rice (SIC), known to many of us as juror No. 7 in the Peterson trial. I spoke with her at "People" magazine`s New York headquarters. The magazine obtained Richelle`s letters to and from Scott Peterson, exclusively.

NICE: It takes him about three weeks to a month to get my letters. And then I get his right back.

HAMMER: Richelle says she was an emotional wreck after seven months on the Peterson jury. She says she couldn`t get past the heart wrenching case and needed closure. And thought she might get some by writing Peterson a letter. She never thought he`d write back.

(on camera): What types of things did he say in that first letter to you?

NICE: He was concerned about that -- how I was doing and how the autopsy pictures must have affected me and how we had to sit there and stare at them, the photos of the -- Laci and the baby.

HAMMER (voice-over): Richelle says she has eight letters and an Easter card from the convicted killer. She keeps them in a drawer in her bedroom.

NICE: He asked me why I believed he killed Laci on the 23rd. I typically don`t respond to the questions about the trial.

HAMMER: She says he`s constantly trying to convince her that he did not kill his 27-year-old pregnant wife and wrote her that he thinks the police did not follow all the leads.

NICE: He is a jerk. San Quentin`s your new home.

HAMMER: You probably remember Richelle from the trial. She`s sort of hard to forget. It isn`t just her bright red hair that sticks in people`s heads, it`s also her fiery comments.

NICE: I have one comment for Scott. You look somebody in the face when they are talking to you.

HAMMER: Richelle was outspoken and brash during the trial and the days that followed it. She never hid her outrage at the lack of emotion that Peterson showed in the courtroom.

NICE: No emotion. No anything. That spoke a thousand words.

HAMMER: She said that same disconnect is in his letters.

(on camera): Have you seen an emotional side of him through his correspondence?

NICE: Yeah. But it`s a real flat, like I had wrote him and letter and I said you seem very distant and very kind of cold, and he wrote me back and he said he is.

HAMMER (voice-over): To this day, Peterson denies that he killed his wife, LacI, and their baby.

NICE: I believe Scott will confess one day.

HAMMER (on camera): And you think he`ll confess to you in a letter.

NICE: Maybe not fully exactly what he did and how he did it and, you know, but I do think he will confess one day.

HAMMER: And outright say it, and why do you want him to do it in a letter to you? What does that accomplish?

NICE: I think it would be closure for a lot of people.


HAMMER: Well, Richelle also told me that she has mixed emotions about the intense media spotlight. What made her decide to go public? Well, she says it was out of loyalty to "People" magazine writer Johnny Dodd, who wrote the initial stories about the outspoken juror. Johnny Dodd joins us now from Los Angeles. Thanks for being with us.


HAMMER: So, Johnny, I have to tell you when I asked her why`d you bring the letters out and why are you public with them now? And she said your name, and it was out of loyalty to you, I was a little surprised by the answer, flattering for you, I`m sure. What`s that all about?

DODD: I first met up with Richelle after, right after the trial ended and I was with a group of about probably 25 journalists who were all camped out on her front porch and she came out of the house and sort of surveyed everybody and gave me the nod. So, I got in the house and did an interview and we just sort of hit it off. And I think that`s sort of where it started.

HAMMER: And as you know, this pen pal story that`s now out there has a lot of people kind of shaking their heads in disbelief. When you first heard about these letters, did you say what`s going on here? I mean, it is a little strange when you think about a juror who basically is responsible, one of the people responsible for putting a person on death row, now having this level of correspondence.

DODD: I think it actually happens periodically, you know, after trials, jurors searching for answers, and Richelle was no different. When I heard this, I had pretty much -- I had known about the fact that her therapist had told her to write a letter in order to sort of put questions out to him, but never to address it, to write the letter, stick -- you know, put it in the mailbox and sort of be done with it. And, but Richelle sort of is Richelle and she took it a step further and actually put an address on it and not really expecting anything to come back, but low and behold, she did. When I...

HAMMER: And -- go ahead.

DODD: Go ahead.

HAMMER: You go ahead.

DODD: Oh, when I heard, I pretty much knew that, you know, she was -- she really wanted to get a sense of -- you know, as corny as it sounds, closure out of this. She was searching for answers for herself and also just sort of the only way she felt that any rest could sort of be put to this whole matter would be to get the guy who set it in motion to come forward and fess up.

HAMMER: But do you think that that`s why it continues? Because I could not really feel like I got a straight answer from her when I asked OK, I understand the idea, write a letter for therapy, but then you ended up mailing it. But this has continued 17 letters.

DODD: She, yeah, she`s written, I think, 17, she`s gotten 10 back and you know, they`ve developed a bit of a correspondence back and forth, but it`s not really -- we actually got a call yesterday from Scott`s sister, another reporter I work with, and who claimed to have put, you know, told Scott, go ahead and write Richelle, and, you know, just sort of state your case and she was really interested if Richelle had sort of found any sort of sympathy for Scott.

HAMMER: Johnny, real quickly, do you think he will confess to her in one of those letters?

DODD: I think if he`s going to confess to anybody, she stands a pretty good chance of it. She`s pretty persuasive and I know she`s hammering him hard with questions in these letters.

HAMMER: Definitely is going after him and it doesn`t seem like it`s stopping it. And I appreciate you taking the time. Johnny Dodd writer for "People" magazine, thanks for joining us.

You can read Johnny`s article in the latest edition of "People" magazine, it`ll be on newsstands tomorrow.

VARGAS: Well, America, you have a new idol. Taylor Hicks of Birmingham, Alabama, won "America Idol" last night. Let`s take a look.


RYAN SEACREST, "AMERICAN IDOL" HOST: The winner of America Idol, season five is -- Taylor Hicks.


VARGAS: "Soul Patrol."check this out -- 35.4 million people tuned in for FOX`s two-hour special and during the last half-hour, when Taylor`s victory over Katharine McPhee was announced, 43 million people were watching and more than 63 million votes were cast. After he won, Hicks told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT he`s looking forward to going home, breathing some Southern air, eating some fried chicken and heading to the recording studio.


TAYLOR HICKS, NEW AMERICAN IDOL: I`m excited about, you know, performing and then playing harmonica and playing, you know, guitar and writing music and it`s kind of been tough in this journey. I didn`t really get to perform my own songs and we`ll have to see what happens from here. I think my future`s bright right now.


VARGAS: Sure does, but we have more about the "America Idol" finale. Still ahead, a look at the crazy sideshow that happened along with the show. Why David Hasselhoff was crying, Prince`s performance and so much more, that`s coming up.

HAMMER: This may or may not shock you, another Hollywood couple calling it quits. They were married for 21 years, now they`re getting divorced. We`re going to tell you who coming up. We`ll also have this:


JESSE JAMES, TV STAR: There`s a junkyard full of Humvees that a lot of people had to die to fill up that junkyard.


VARGAS: Outlaw bike builder and TV star Jesse James goes to Iraq. The remarkable story behind why he went and what he saw. Jesse James is here, coming up.

HAMMER: And Hugh Jackman tells me what it was about the new "X-Men" movie that really got him thinking. Plus, see what happens when I morph into his character, "Wolverine", you`ll wan to see that, next.

VARGAS: I can`t wait to see that, A.J. But first, tonight`s "Entertainment Weekly: Great American Pop Culture Quiz." In "The Big Lebowski," what beverage does "The Dude," played by Jeff Bridges, drink? Is it Kahlua and cream, Pepsi and milk, A White Russian, or Maalox? Think you know the answer? We`ll be right back.


VARGAS: So again, tonight`s "Entertainment Weekly: Great American Pop Culture Quiz." In "The Big Lebowski," what beverage does "The Dude," played by Jeff Bridges, drink? A. Kahlua and cream, B. Pepsi and milk, C. a White Russian, or D. Maalox? Well, if you answered "C" you are correct. A white Russian, which, by the way, is made with vodka, Kahlua and cream. Yummy!

HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, TV`s for a Thursday night, we are TV`s most provocative entertainment news show. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. It`s time now for the story today that made us say "That`s Ridiculous!"

I`d like to you check this out. When you think of Jimmy Hoffa, what comes to mind for you? How about dessert? Well, there`s a bakery in Milford Township, Michigan, where FBI agents are searching for Hoffa`s remains, that`s selling Hoffa cupcakes. Yes, these fine cupcakes feature a plastic green hand, just kind of poking out of the frosting and sprinkles that looks like dirt. And at 95 cents, the cupcakes are, well, they`re selling by the hotcakes and we have to say, "That`s Ridiculous," maybe delicious, but definitely ridiculous.

Hugh Jackman is a man of fearlessness in his latest film, "X-Men: The Last Stand," which opens tomorrow. Of course, for the third time now he reprises his role as angry, but sensitive blade-knuckled "Wolverine" in the third installment of the blockbuster movie franchise. I had the chance to sit down with Hugh, and I asked him about how the movie has some parallels with some real-life issues.


HUGH JACKMAN, ACTOR: The center of the movie is the idea that a cure is invented for being a mutant or basically if you can take a pill to change this thing about you which makes your life tough, would you take it? Now, you can do that on a large level, of course the movie work if, whatever sexuality you are, whatever race you are, whatever sex you are, it gets much tougher when you start talking about things like, say, disabilities or being deaf. Now, if you talk to a lot of deaf people, they will say there`s nothing wrong with being deaf, it`s wonderful. But if your child was born deaf, would you give them the technology which exists.

HAMMER: What, in particular, really pushed your buttons? What issue that we deal with, here in this society, whether it`s a sickness or the color of your skin, or even just being bald, what was it that got you all fired up?

JACKMAN: People prey on fear a lot. People fear of what might happen. And it seems to me that much of life, and I understand where it comes from because every person on this planet is trying to improve themselves to be happier, to be more content, so that`s kind of a good human impulse, but I`m a parent, and we as parents, or adults in society making these decisions for them about their choices in life, now, that for me is something that I wrestle with as a parent every day.

HAMMER: A lot of people here, in the United States, will say, well, you know, there`s this sort of fear mentality. You know, is that something you concern yourself a lot with here, sort of the divisiveness that goes on? That, you know, maybe if you were living back in Australia, it`s not that same sort of mentality.

JACKMAN: I don`t think it is as fear-based in Australia as it is here. I see a lot, you just turn on the news, and you think, wow! You know, I actually read -- I read enough to know that statistically we are safer now than we probably have been in year, but if you watch the news, you`d think this is apocalyptic what`s going on. I don`t want my children to inherit a sense of the world of being a place to be afraid of, only stepping out halfway into the world. Now, Australians, as you can see, we`re everywhere, all over the place. I think, as a nation, one of the great things about Australians is we`re very optimistic about life. We feel like there`s great opportunities everywhere, and I think that`s what America was built on.


HAMMER: Hugh also told me that if he had the chance to advise decision- makers in this country, he would tell them to try to see the best in people. He truly is a nice guy. Now, if you`re sitting home tonight wondering well, A.J., why didn`t you get the role of "Wolverine?" Why did they not cast you for that particular character in "X-Men?" Charlie, can we put up a picture of me here and see what happened if I decided to take on the "Wolverine" persona. You see, there`s my little morph exercise. What do you think guys? Not so much? No. No. Not so much -- Sibila.

VARGAS: I think it`s good. What are you talking about, not so much?

HAMMER: Let`s look at that one more time.

VARGAS: You make a great wolf.

HAMMER: Hey, I make a good back scratcher.

VARGAS: Well, it`s Fleet Week in New York City, when thousands of Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen come to the city. And this year, they got an extra treat Hollywood-style from Jackman and his "X-Men" co-stars. Jackman, Halle Berry and Kelsey Grammer arrived by helicopter on the deck of the "USS Kearsarge" to greet troops. The troops also got a chance to see the movie, which opens in theaters tomorrow.

HAMMER: Well, the crew from "X-Men III" weren`t the only ones who were saying thank you during Fleet Week. Country music legend John Conlee`s son is back from Iraq, just in time for the release of his dad`s musical tribute to the families of the military who are patiently waiting back at home. He has recorded a song called "They also Serve," the album is titled "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus." John Conlee and his son Johnny, joining me now here in New York.

It`s a pleasure to meet both of you and have you here.



HAMMER: Welcome home. You must be thrilled that your son is sitting here next to you.

JOHN CONLEE: Absolutely. We are so very proud of his service and all of our other young people, but we couldn`t wait to get him home and April 15 is when he landed back on U.S. soil, and this is the first time in years I`ve actually looked forward to April 15.

HAMMER: Unbelievable. Normally not a day we necessarily embrace. Johnny, how do you feel now that you`re home?

JOHNNY CONLEE: Doing great. I mean, can`t be better. I`m back.

HAMMER: I have to ask you, because your song is not only a tribute to our troops, but it`s a tribute to the families who are at home waiting for their sons and daughters to return. As a father, living day-to-day, knowing that your son is in harm`s way all the time on one of the most dangerous places on the planet, what is it like?

JOHN CONLEE: Well, you have trepidation the whole time, certainly. Every time the phone rings, you hope it`s him calling to say everything is fine, and it was almost all but one time. He had an encounter with an IED and was wounded back in the middle of December, but he was the one that made the call and so that relieved us pretty quickly. But, you spend the time watching the news and checking websites and looking for any piece of information you can find.

HAMMER: And some of that news filters over to you guys, over there in Iraq, but you hear it in a different way than we do back at home. And I`m curious, Johnny, what you hear over there about the support that the troops are getting and the supports that Americans have for the war and the troops versus the reality of that when you actually got home. How different was that?

JOHNNY CONLEE: It`s very hard. I mean, you really can`t feel the support unless you`re really here. Like, now that I`m in New York, the patriotism is just so strong and so great, it really makes you proud to be an American. Just to see these great people. But over there, it`s still so strong, like mail coming in, that`s like the most important thing over there. So, it`s strong either place, but here you can definitely feel it.

HAMMER: So you do feel it is fairly represented. You`re not getting mixed messages when you`re over there?

JOHNNY CONLEE: Definitely not. Definitely not. It`s laid on the line pretty plain either way, so...

HAMMER: And there`s a lot of music on both sides of the aisle for this thing. You know, you have your tributes, there are obviously protest songs. There always have been in times of war. As a parent of somebody over there serving, does it make you angry when you hear that there are these protest songs and people who are putting in their lyrics, you know, how they feel about this war?

JOHN CONLEE: Sure. Well, I remember, I was in the Army National Guard in the Vietnam era, `67 through the early `70s. So, I remember what happened then, and I don`t want that to happen in this situation or any other future conflict we find ourselves in because it is demoralizing to the troops and hurts our efforts. So, certainly we, in America you have the right to protest, you have the right to disagree, but, you know, when it comes to our politicians and a lot of public people, you need to stop and think before you, you know, wise off and maybe hurt the efforts that we`re, you know, at a time of war.

HAMMER: But do you accept, Johnny, do you accept the premise that it is possible, even if you don`t agree with the reasons for war or war in general why we are there, it`s still possible for supporting you and supporting the troops?

JOHNNY CONLEE: That`s true. Well, I mean, that`s the reason I fight for those freedoms so we have those freedoms of speech and whether I like it or not or disagree or agree, that`s why I fight. That`s my job.

HAMMER: I salute you for that.

JOHNNY CONLEE: Thank you very much.

HAMMER: And I appreciate your service on behalf of everyone here. And John and Johnny I`m glad to see you guys together. Thanks for being with us tonight.

JOHN CONLEE: Thank you.

JOHNNY CONLEE: Thank you very much.

HAMMER: John Conlee`s album, "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus," featuring "They Also Serve," and you`ll find it in stores now.

VARGAS: Well, another Hollywood marriage is ending. We`ll tell you which couple is calling it quits after 21 years, coming up. And we`ll also have this:


JAMES: We`ve only got four days to get it done, so (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


HAMMER: Outlaw bike builder and TV star, Jesse James, goes to Iraq. The remarkable story behind why he went and what he saw. Jesse James, here, coming up in the interview you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

VARGAS: And the crazy sideshow that happened along with "America Idol" finale. Why David Hasselhoff was crying, Prince`s performance, and more you might have missed coming up.

HAMMER: First, a "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" "Birthday Shoutout," where we give fans a chance to wish their favorite stars a happy birthday. And tonight, we`re sending one out to singer Lauryn Hill, celebrating her 31st birthday, today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, how you doing? I just want give a "Birthday Shoutout" to Lauryn Hill. Happy birthday, Wish you many more and we waiting for that next (UNINTELLIGIBLE) album. You know, it`s beautiful out here in Central Park and again, Lauryn Hill wish you happy birthday and many more. Take it easy, girl.



HAMMER: Tomorrow, as we get into the holiday weekend, a special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "Hollywood Speaks Out." From the Dixie Chicks to Bon Jovi, George Clooney, to Richard Dreyfuss, the stars not holding back about President Bush, wiretapping, and the causes that are most important to them. That`s tomorrow on a SHOWBIZ TONIGHT special, "Hollywood Speaks Out."

VARGAS: Victoria Principal has filed for divorce from her husband of 21 years, big-time Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, Harry Glassman. The "Dallas Star" says it`s due to those pesky "irreconcilable differences." By the way, does anyone know exactly what that means? Well, anyway, the couple has no children. The court documents show a prenup and that the 60- year-old Principal asked that Dr. Harry get no spousal support. And in case you forgot your "Dallas" characters, Victoria Principal played Pamela Barnes Ewing.

HAMMER: Exclusive pictures from Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn`s first photo shoot together. Plus they talk about their movie, "The Break- Up," that`s coming up.

VARGAS: Plus, the legendary newswoman tells us what she really thinks about Katie Couric`s big move and the state of women in news today. That`s coming up in the interview you`ll see only on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. We`ll also have this.


JAMES: There`s a junkyard full of Humvees that a lot of people had to die to fill up that junkyard.


HAMMER: Outlaw bike builder and TV star, Jessie James in Iraq. The story behind why we went and what he saw, coming up next.



HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT for a Thursday night, it`s 30 minutes past the hour. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

VARGAS: And I`m Sibila Vargas in Hollywood. This is TV`s most provocative entertainment news show.

HAMMER: Sibila, it`s done. "America Idol" is over. The questions are is Taylor Hicks the right choice? Did America make the right decision? And what is Clay Aiken thinking with his new look? We go to the experts to answer these and other important "American Idol" questions coming up in just a few minutes.

VARGAS: Because we want to know. Also tonight, a legendary newswoman tells us what she really thinks about Katie Couric`s big move to CBS and the changing face of television and television news. That`s coming up.

HAMMER: But first tonight, Jesse James builds some very unique stuff. We`re talking original motorcycles, cars, all kinds of machines on his Discovery Channel show, "Monster Garage." he`s also happens to be married to one of Hollywood`s biggest A-listers, Sandra Bullock. So why did Jesse risk it all and go off to Iraq? For a whole bunch of very important reasons it turns out.


HAMMER: You`ve got what I consider to be a charmed life going on. You clearly have followed your passion, you love what you do, you`re making money at it. You`ve married this big-time Hollywood star, Sandra Bullock and you`ve decided to basically risk your life to go over to Iraq. Why did you do that?

JAMES: Well, I think that the reason you just gave it, you know, I`m living the dream life. I mean, I`m like a welder/fabricator, mechanic, but I get treated like a rock star and get to live this great life and it`s all because people are fighting for that lifestyle, you know? These people that are risking their lives day in and day out, they`re doing it to defend the American dream. And I`m like the epitome of it because I`m not like a musician or anything like that. I`m just a mechanic, so.

HAMMER: You`re a guy who`s good at welding.

JAMES: Yeah, yeah, I`m good at making stuff.

HAMMER: On your very on level. I imagine when you raised the idea to your wife or to your family, they weren`t crazy about you going over there.

JAMES: No, I mean, well I do a lot of crazy stuff and make them nervous a lot with, you know, fast cars and bikes and just the stuff I do and to come to them, you know, hey I`m going to go over to Iraq right before Christmas, is that cool? And they are, you know -- but they knew how I felt about it and how, you know, I was compelled and needed to go do it and they stood behind me 100 percent.

HAMMER: Because the other craziness that you talk about, you sort of have control over that. I mean, you can decide how fast you`re going on one of your bikes, but over there...

JAMES: Not really, man. My hands can`t control that.

HAMMER: The vibrations kick in. But over there, of course, there`s a lot of...

JAMES: Yeah, and you know, it`s dangerous and stuff, you know, but I felt I needed to put myself in risk because those people don`t have a choice. You know, they`re working day in and day out and doing the same type of stuff that I do, but people are shooting, you know, lobbing mortars at them and you know, I think, taking myself there and trying to give them a little break where they are, you know, and give them a little break in the action, where only for a week we thought about some stupid car instead of thinking about getting killed or, you know, being stuck there for a year. You know, I think that was mission accomplished.

HAMMER: Well, you`re a big star for the Discovery Channel. Your show is wildly successful. They actually weren`t crazy at all about you going over there, in fact, they threatened to fire you, didn`t they?

JAMES: Yeah, they were pissed. They sent me a nasty letter saying, you know, that, that they didn`t think I belonged over there, and in not so many words I would be fired if I went over there, and I think it was mostly lawyers, you know, liability, you know...

HAMMER: Comes with the territory.

JAMES: If we tell him not to go, then he won`t go, but we`d really like to see the footage when you get back. You know? So...

HAMMER: Well, part of the reason you went was to do what you do best, you actually worked on rebuilding a war-damaged Humvee, but that really wasn`t the only reason.

JAMES: No. Because I actually snuck over there in 2003 with Kid Rock on a USO tour. I lied and said I was his tour manager, and so being over there a month after the war had started and thinking about it for three years and hearing all the crap that flies around in the media that people claim to know what`s going on and claim to know what the troops want and what we should be doing, and, you know, it`s all these like, armchair quarterbacks, and I got the best bs detector on the earth. And I just needed to go over there and like show what`s really happening.

HAMMER: Yeah, we`re not seeing through the media what really is going on. So what, so tell though, from what you saw over there, what are we not seeing? What is the biggest thing that shocked you that hey, you know what? Nobody in America has any idea?

JAMES: Nobody shows any positive aspects. I mean, this is CNN, You guys are there all the time, but you know, reporters are sent with a specific agenda. You need to go cover the Saddam trial. You know, that`s nothing -- I think getting it from the horse`s mouth; the people are actually risking their lives and, you know, what do you think about being over here? What do you think is happening? They see the difference first hand that they are making in the country, you know. I mean, you know, some people they say come up to them and give them flowers and bake them bread and stuff like that and some people spit on them. But the simple fact that they show an emotion in public and they`re allowed to have an opinion now, where three years ago they weren`t allowed to. You weren`t allowed to say anything or you are killed, that means we`re making a difference.

HAMMER: Clearly you support our troops. Clearly you, you know, believe in them and went over there to support them firsthand. Do you support the reasons we are over there and the war in itself?

JAMES: You know, why are we really -- do we really know? Do we really know the whole story? You know, all these people speculate that, you know, weapons of mass destruction and George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam all these people that -- I don`t know those people. I don`t know the whole story. We don`t see all the information. We only get what`s interpreted and that`s why I go there and talk to those guys. You know, that`s the best way I can get the information is from the horse`s mouth, and they seem to be into what they are doing, so I support them 100 percent.

HAMMER: Well, they are doing their job. Jesse James, it`s a pleasure to have you here. Thanks so much.

JAMES: Cool. Thanks, man.


HAMMER: Very good points, one and all. "Iraq Confidential with Jesse James" makes it to premiere on the Discovery Channel this Sunday.

VARGAS: Tonight, some firsts for Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn. Their first movie together, "The Break-Up," opens next week, it`s in theaters next Friday, June 2. In an "Entertainment Weekly" exclusive, we have the pictures from their first photo shoot together. The duo posed for some stunning black and white photos. Vaughn tells "Entertainment Weekly" that even before he and Aniston met, while he was working on the script for "The Break-Up," she was always a first choice for his role. Some people on the production team were nervous about approaching her because she was going through a real-life break-up from Brad Pitt and thought she wouldn`t do the movie. But Aniston says she didn`t think of it that way, she just thought the movie sounded really funny. She also says you don`t often get the chance to do a movie called "The Break-Up" and then also go though a break-up at the same time. For more about Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, pick up a copy of "Entertainment Weekly," on newsstands everywhere on Monday.

HAMMER: Even if you watched the "America Idol" finale, you might have missed the crazy sideshow that went on. Why David Hasselhoff was crying. And did Clay Aiken`s makeover make his fans happy? We also have this:


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I wouldn`t have predicted it, that they would have gone with the single woman anchor.


VARGAS: One of TV`s most legend ary newswomen tells us what she thinks of Katie Couric`s big move from the "Today Show" to the "CBS Evening News" that`s coming up next.


HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, TV`s most provocative entertainment news show. I`m A.J. Hammer. Time now for another story today that made us say "That`s Ridiculous!" You ready for this? I`m ready for this. David Hasselhoff has been in all kinds of tough guy roles in his career, a crime fighter, of course, with that talking car named "Kitt" in "Knight Rider," of course he was the bare-shirted lifeguard in "Baywatch," and he`s even a hugely popular singing sensation in Europe. OK, maybe not a tough guy role there, but we couldn`t believe, watching closely crying when Taylor Hicks was named the winner of "America Idol" last night. Why David, why? Well, he tells "People" magazine he wanted Katharine to win because she`s from Sherman Oaks, California, that`s he lives. All right David, but crying over spilled "Idol?" I`m going to say this in my best "Kitt" voice now, Michael, "That`s Ridiculous!" That wasn`t so good.

"America Idol" may be able to make David Hasselhoff cry, but did the finale bring our "Idol" panel to tears? Let`s find out. Joining me from Hollywood tonight, Julie Jordan the associate L.A. bureau chief of "People" magazine. From the CNN Center in Atlanta, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s" Adrianna Costa. And from New York, "Rolling Stone" contributing editor, Jenny Eliscu.

Ladies, a pleasure to see you all.




HAMMER: Let`s skip right past the main show, because we got to talk a little bit more about this wacky sideshow that was going on. And Adrianna, I want to start with you. As Taylor Hicks being announced as the winner, David Hasselhoff gets weepy. He starts crying. I could go with some very easy jokes here, I`m just going to toss that one right over to you.

COSTA: Well, listen, he`s a huge music star in, say, Germany, so he should know what he`s talking about with great acts, right? Did you know he was upset that Katherine was (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I don`t know why he was crying. Was he like, tears of joy or tears of being upset?

HAMMER: No, he said he was upset because she`s from Sherman Oaks, he lives in Sherman Oaks.

COSTA: Yeah, but he`s clapping. So, he seemed pretty happy. Anyway, I got to be honest. That`s the best David Hasselhoff has looked in years. Since the red little shorts.

HAMMER: Jenny, what do you make of that, David Hasselhoff`s look and tears?

ELISCU: I definitely assumed that he was crying tears of joy. I thought he was thrilled that Taylor won that he was overcome with emotion, which would ultimately not speak well for Taylor`s ability to attract credible artists as fans of his. But now, who knows, it turns out he`s a Katherine fan, that Hasselhoff.

HAMMER: Well, let`s talk about it then. Julie, did Taylor Hicks, the "Soul Patrol," deserve to win the "American Idol" last night?

JORDAN: Well see, you`re asking a bias person because I`m from Alabama, so of course I think it`s that Birmingham magic. I can`t help it. I think, ultimately, Taylor represented the journey to the dream. We all live vicariously though him. He`s from the South. Like you said, he`s truly discovering, you know, what it`s like to become a superstar, and the American public is putting him there. So, I mean look at him, the salt and pepper hair, you know, he`s a bigger guy, he`s singing soul. This is not what we`ve come to expect from "American Idol," so it`s fun to see Taylor take home the gold.

HAMMER: Adrianna, you`ve been a member of the "Soul Patrol" ever since he got down to the final few, there.

COSTA: I also feel like it was a win for me. But you know what, which, sort of about what she said. It`s nice because we`re in such an image of society and culture, I mean, I understand, you know, I`m part of it too, but to see someone who`s got sort of these unconventional looks and maybe not traditionally the pop idol or icon, to see him take it over, I mean, is really inspiring for a lot of people out there, and it`s sort of like he`s living out this American dream.

HAMMER: I don`t know what to say, now. I feel like everybody`s just gushing so much about him. I just -- from the time I first saw him, I wasn`t onboard with it. I accepted that he`s won and sure when we got down to the end, but Jenny, what do you think?

ELISCU: Well, I mean, I think the tough think here is that he -- America clearly wanted him to win the TV show.


This is a TV show.

HAMMER: I mean, I know that we`re down to the -- it was in the finale, but America clearly wanted some other people to win before we got there. Let`s be clear about that.

JORDAN: I agree. I agree. I mean, there was great love for Chris Daughtry, there was great love for Elliot Yamen. But, you know, I think the thing is that we have to look at, now the show is over, Taylor Hicks has been crowned America Idol and is anyone going to buy his record? I mean, that`s the big question for this guy. That he may be America`s sweetheart right now and people rooted for him to win the TV show, but does that mean that they`re going to go out and spend $18.98 or whatever it cost to buy a full length CD of Taylor Hicks singing original songs?

COSTA: I`ll tell you one thing though, that song "Do I Make You Proud" it`s already stuck in my head, I`ve been singing it all day. But, that`s a good sign. You know? Probably going to get a ton of radio play. He`s likeable also, which will sustain him in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a little bit longer.

HAMMER: You are just giddy with excitement, Adrianna. But let`s move on to the, you know, perhaps the more interesting stuff of the night, because we knew somebody was going to get around the winner. We did not know that Clay Aiken was going to make an appearance on the show, looking as he did. Did you get a look at this, what had happened, this extreme make-over Clay Aiken edition. It was like a whole new Clay was out there for all the world to see.

COSTA: I almost fell of my couch. Let me tell you that.

ELISCU: Yeah, I didn`t know who it was.

HAMMER: Julie, what do you think of that?

JORDAN: I think, you know, ultimately he came out and it was that moment where you, you know, you caught your breath. You couldn`t help it. He looks -- I have to tell you, towards the end, I was kind of a fan of the new look. I mean, he`s trying to do something so different for a variety of reasons. He`s trying to kind of like sculpt his image and, you know, present a new Clay Aiken. Like I said, you know, he`s wanting everybody to see him in a new light. You know he pulled it off last night. I mean, I think by the end, I don`t know, I like the new look. I think it`s going to work for him.

HAMMER: All right, well, I want to move back to something we were touching on a moment ago. Let`s move away from Clay Aiken for the moment and I want to know if Taylor is actually going to be up there with Kelly Clarkson. Well, Katharine McPhee is perhaps going to go make a from Justin to Kelly toward -- sort of a thing. But, will Taylor have that sort of arraign? You know, we saw what happened with Ruben Studdard, not so much. We saw what happened even with Fantasia. Not the big, you know, nobody`s done it like Kelly has done it. So, what do you think, Jenny?

ELISCU: Well, I think, we also have to remember Kerry Underwood from last season has sold a lot of records, because she has tailored herself for the country audience. And she`s actually sold just as many records if not more than Kelly did for her first album. But no, I think Taylor is more likely to be like a Clay Aiken and appeal to much of same demographic. I don`t think there`s much potential for him to be a huge superstar on the order of Kelly Clarkson, because he`s just too quirky.

HAMMER: Adrianna, 15 seconds to tell me if he`s too quirky to be that size of a superstar.

COSTA: Um, well listen, he`s got heart, soul, he knows how to play the harmonica like a champ. He`s got the guitar down, and you know what? As long as he`s got like sort of a string of No. 1 hits, and he stays out there touring and connects with the audience and his fans, he`s got it made. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

HAMMER: That`s what it`s going to be about. All right, we got to wrap it up there, ladies and look forward to the next season. Julie Jordan, Adrianna Costa, and Jenny Eliscu, thank you all for joining us.

JORDAN: Good to see you.

COSTA: Thanks A.J.

HAMMER: Well, Linda Ellerbee is an "America Idol" of sorts, herself. Let`s just put it this way, she`s been anchoring her own newscast way before Katie Couric CBS News talk. "Nick News with Linda Ellerbee" turns 15 this year, and Sunday night, Nickelodeon celebrates. So what does Ellerbee think about all the changes going on in the world of news? Well, here`s what she thinks.


HAMMER: So I read this great article about you in "Time" magazine from a year ago. Now, in this particular article, you correctly predicted that in the big shakeup that was about to happen in the nightly news casts, that if a woman were to get one of the anchor jobs, it would be as a duo. Now, of course, as we know, as things played out and there was the duo with Vargas and Woodruff, as things played out, we now have Katie Couric as the solo anchor on a nightly newscast. Would you have predicted that that actually could have happened and that it could have been Katie Couric?

LINDA ELLERBEE, NETWORK NEWSWOMAN: Well, that it`s Katie is not surprising. It`s amazing the number of people who forget before Katie was anchoring the "Today`s Show," she was a first-rate field reporter, first- rate journalist. So, I -- she`s perfectly qualified for the job. No, I wouldn`t have predicted that they would have gone with single woman anchor and I`m so proud of them for it, because my feeling on all of this has been, you know, I think it`s great that Katie`s doing this job, but what took them so long? How come we had to wait until 2006 to say well it`s OK for a woman to anchor the evening news?

HAMMER: What do you think it is? What changed because it is ridiculous? I`ve long thought that it`s crazy that that never happened before.

ELLERBEE: I don`t know what changed. I suppose Katie became available. They were able to get her is probably it. But, you know, when I first came into this business, the theory was they won`t take news from a woman. They just won`t listen to news from a woman. You don`t have the authority in your voice.

HAMMER: It was always about the voice, right, it was that thing?

ELLERBEE: Well, you know, It turns out they will. They, they is also we. We are also part of the audience as well as on this side of the camera. Of course we`re going to listen to a smart, intelligent woman the same as we`d listen to a smart, intelligent man. Networks are a little slower, I think, than the general population.

HAMMER: And of course, things have really changed, Katie aside, we know that the age of the nightly news audience continues to get older, and basically with all the proliferation of technology from the internet to 24- hour news cable channels, what do you think it means in terms of the relevance of a nightly newscast? I mean, do you think they should be sticking around?

ELLERBEE: Yeah, I do. I do. But, you know, they lost their big opportunity when they didn`t take that extra half-hour back from the affiliates and give themselves time to do an hour news cast and do it at 8:00 or 9:00 at night. That would even be better. We don`t live in a culture where people are home at 5:30 or 6:00 to watch the news, most of us. So, it`s kind of a bad time and, like you say, most of us, we`re in the habit of turning on CNN when something happens. So...

HAMMER: It`s not a bad habit, of course.

ELLERBEE: Please. I think that they could take somewhat of the same role that PBS (UNINTELLIGIBLE) takes and do more explaining the news, as we do on "Nick News," quite frankly.

HAMMER: Exactly, that`s what you`ve been doing now for 15 years, and certainly for kids the nightly news don`t mean a thing.


HAMMER: What have you rally seen over the last 15 years of doing this show, in terms of how kids are looking to get their information and what they`re looking for?

ELLERBEE: Well, they are far more connected than kids used to be. And they do look at information in different ways. And one of the things that we do on "Nick News," and I think is more to the point on how kids get information today, is our shows are very interactive. We are explaining things, but at the same time we are also always saying to people, to kids, what do you think about this? What are your thoughts? What are your opinions? What are your emotions on this? Tell us, let this be all part of our story. It`s not just a one-way thing. We give you the news, and you shut up.

HAMMER: Well, and the other thing you do wonderfully, you know, a lot of people may hear the news on Nickelodeon and think it`s some kind of a cartoon news, if they don`t know anything about it. You`re dealing with the most serious of issues from war to homelessness to AIDS, these are things we shouldn`t shy away from telling our kids.

ELLERBEE: No. We -- I think "Nick News" is a wonderful show. Two years ago in, I think it was January or maybe it was last year, was the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust. All of the grown-up networks -- everybody did their specials, one network did a show called "Never Again?" with question mark "From Holocaust to the Sudan." That was "Nick News" and I thought at the time, ABC ought to be doing this, NBC, CNN ought to be taking a look at the Holocaust cost then and genocide now. So, yeah, I`m still covering the real news. Sometimes better.

HAMMER: And there`s a lot of history that`s not getting taught, so congratulations on 15 years and thanks for talking about it with us.

ELLERBEE: You`re welcome. Hope you`ll watch the special this Sunday night.

HAMMER: Linda Ellerbee`s "Nick News 15th Anniversary Special" airs this Sunday on Nickelodeon. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s coming right back.


VARGAS: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Now, last night we asked you to vote on our "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT Question of the Day." Dixie Chicks: Do you mind politics with your music? Forty-seven percent of you said yes, and 53 percent of you said no, you don`t mind politics with your music. So, pretty much split.

Here are some of the e-mails we got: J.J. from Texas writes, "I am embarrassed the Dixie Chicks are from my home state of Texas. They need to stick to music and not politics."

But David, also from Texas, he disagrees: "I don`t mind politics in popular music if" politics agree -- if I agree with them. But "therefore I...bought the Dixie Chicks album."

HAMMER: Can you feel it in the air? We`re about to fire up the big holiday weekend, tomorrow, time to come -- time to see what`s coming up on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, as we do that with your "Showbiz Marquee."

And tomorrow, a special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Hollywood Speaks Out," from the Dixie Chicks to this guy, Bon Jovi, George Clooney to Richard Dreyfuss, the stars aren`t holding back about President Bush, wiretapping, and the social causes so important to them.

Plus, has Oprah become a spiritual leader?

And who exactly are the people that the stars call when celebrity scandals break? We`ll get all this and more tomorrow on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT "Hollywood Speaks Out."

That`s SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Thanks for watching, I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

VARGAS: And I`m Sibila Vargas in Hollywood. Good night, everyone. Good night, A.J. Stay tuned for the latest from "CNN Headline News."


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