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SHOWBIZ TONIGHT

Tina Fey Factor; Oprah Sued; Ellen DeGeneres` Efforts to Get People to Vote; O.J. Simpson Found Guilty; SNL Behind the Scenes

Aired October 6, 2008 - 23:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


A.J. HAMMER, HOST: Now, on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, the Tina Fey presidential election factor. Tonight, could Tina`s "Saturday Night Live" Sarah Palin impersonations actually change the outcome of the election? Will she change minds? Will she change votes? Tonight SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with a controversial heated debate over the Tina Fey factor.
A shocking Oprah lawsuit. Tonight, a brand new battle for Oprah Winfrey. Surrounding allegations of physical and sexual abuse at her African academy for girls. Why Oprah is being sued by the former headmistress of that school.

Plus behind the scenes at "SNL." Tonight SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with an inside look at "Saturday Night Live," the real story of how Tina Fey became Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LORNE MICHAELS, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": She looks so much like Tina Fey.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The audience cast her.

MICHAELS: Yes, the audience cast her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: TV`s most provocative entertainment news show starts right now.

(MUSIC)

Hello, I`m A.J. Hammer, broadcasting tonight and every night from New York City. And we begin tonight with the startling Tina Fey factor in the presidential election. Everybody was buzzing today about Tina Fey`s brand- new and devastating impersonation of Sarah Palin over the weekend on "Saturday Night Live." Now, I also have to say, "SNL" didn`t make Joe Biden look all that great either.

But you know, the clips being played today on TV and online focus not on Biden but Fey`s imitation of Palin. And as wild as this sounds, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can tell you that serious questions are now being raised about whether Fey`s continuing impersonations could actually influence the election. It`s the big story making news right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice over): It is one factor that could decide who becomes the next president of the United States. Is it the economy? No. The war? Get real. It`s the Fey factor.

TINA FEY, ACTRESS: I would also look to give a shout-out to the third graders of Gladys Woods Elementary who were so helpful to me in my debate prep.

HAMMER: Tina Fey sends up Sarah Palin`s debate performance on "Saturday Night Live." It`s Fey`s third appearance as John McCain`s running mate.

FEY: I do think it`s patriotic to tell the government, "Hey, get out of my way. Stop trying to impose on my right to shoot wolves from a helicopter."

HAMMER: But SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can tell you, Tina Fey`s funny impersonation may be having a serious effect. As election 2008 enters the final stretch, people are wondering could Fey`s less-than-flattering Palin imitation -

FEY: Are we not doing the talent portion?

HAMMER: Actually affect the outcome of the election? Serious political watchers are starting to talk about the Fey factor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They clearly intend to use her to drive the very strong message against Barack Obama. I think it`s harder for her to do through that filter if she is still the punch line on late night TV.

JO PIAZZA, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": I think that maybe there have been some kind of side effects. I think that Tina Fey is actually playing the presidential election a little bit.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull - lipstick.

(LAUGHTER)

HAMMER: Ever since Sarah Palin came from out of nowhere to become McCain`s running mate and the household name, "30 Rock" star Tina Fey has been returning to "SNL" to make fun of her.

FEY: I can see Russia from my house.

We are not afraid to get mavericky in there and ruffle feathers and not got to allow that and also, too, the great Ronald Reagan.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT has noticed around the same time Tina Fey started doing her Palin impression on "Saturday Night Live," approval ratings for the real Sarah Palin started tumbling. Coincidence? Probably. That doesn`t mean Fey isn`t making an impact.

PIAZZA: The Fey impersonations are all over television and the Internet more than Sarah Palin`s actual speeches. So the public is getting more exposure to Fey than they are to the real Palin. So I think that`s why absolutely it could be a factor in the McCain-Palin ticket.

HAMMER: But Republicans aren`t exactly worrying about the Fey factor. Palin herself jokes about her "Saturday Night Live" doppelganger on the trail.

PALIN: I was just trying to keep Tina Fey in business, just giving her more information.

HAMMER: Republican consultant Jack Burkman tells SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, Tina Fey may be doing Palin some good.

JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: She is an attractive woman. I think any time you are putting that face in a very visible, very watched venue like "Saturday Night Live," you are helping Palin and you`re the Republican ticket. I think the only way you hurt her is if you keep her off television.

PIAZZA: Any press is good press. And you know, I talked to a lot of so- called hockey moms on Sunday. And even when Tina Fey is making fun of Sarah Palin, they`re just kind of like, you know, chanting along at the screen, yelling at Fey. So it just makes them love Sarah Palin even more because she is getting lampooned.

HAMMER: We`ll know in less than a month whether the Fey factor is real. Until then, we`ll get more "SNL" skits, more laughs, and more drinking games to play.

PALIN: For those Joe Six-Packs out there playing a drinking game at home - maverick.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAMMER: All right. Is it so far-fetched to think that Tina Fey`s impersonations of Sarah Palin will actually have an effect on the presidential election?

Well, joining me tonight in New York, Ashleigh Banfield, who is an anchor of "Banfield and Ford: In Session." And in Washington D.C., Amy Holmes, who is a political analyst for CNN.

So there is no denying that Tina Fey`s impersonations of Sarah Palin have become must-see TV. "Saturday Night Live" with a record-breaking weekend, 23 percent jump is what they`re experiencing in viewership from last week.

Ashleigh, over to you first. Do you think it is having a real impact on the election or at least the process?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "BANFIELD AND FORD: IN SESSION": I go back and forth a little bit on this, A.J. Half of me thinks that the people who don`t maybe watch cable news very much are certainly getting a dose of this information through sources they might not have otherwise, meaning they`re seeing stuff on "SNL" they didn`t see on CNN.

But the other half of me thinks that Tina Fey and company are preaching to the choir. Meaning those who are watching already made up their minds when they`re watching the debate. And they`re just sort of laughing along and having fun with it now.

HAMMER: Yes. But that would almost be to suggest that most of the people who watch "SNL" are liberal or, you know, definitely already aligned with the Obama-Biden ticket.

What do you think, Amy Holmes? Is it hard to ignore the impact that "SNL" could potentially be having here one way or the other?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don`t know if most of "SNL" viewers are liberal, but they do tend to be younger. And we know Barack Obama is already doing very well with that cohort of viewers.

And let`s also - you know, I think Tina Fey`s impression is actually pretty gentle. It`s very good-humored. And the person that comes across is actually quite charming, you know, the gal next door, and every woman that a person could relate to.

So I don`t know that Tina Fey is going to influence the outcome of the election, but she`s certainly giving us a lot of entertainment. And don`t forget Dana Carvey - he had an absolutely hilarious, drop-dead fabulous impression of Ross Perot. And Ross Perot got 17 percent of the votes. So if you`re going to link comics to politicians, it actually might be helpful.

HAMMER: I think we need to watch some more of that entertainment right now. Here`s another look at Palin - Tina Fey as Palin over the weekend on ""SNL"." Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: How will you solve the financial crisis being a maverick?

FEY: You know we are going to take every aspect of the crisis and look at it. And then we`re going to ask ourselves, "What would a maverick do in this situation?" And then you know we`ll do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: All right. Obviously this is an exaggeration of what Sarah Palin said in her real debate with Joe Biden last week. But here`s something I was thinking about. You know, given that in the past Tina Fey has imitated Palin word-for-word and turned it into humor.

Ashleigh, what do you think? Is it possible that now it`s lost on some people who are thinking - wow. They`re watching this at home thinking, "I can`t believe that Sarah Palin really said that?"

BANFIELD: I definitely think a lot of people are watching. And I`ll disagree with Amy on this fact that I don`t know that it`s beneficial to her to be depicted as a dumb-dumb. Because it definitely does depict her as a dumb-dumb, as well as a huge hokey, small-town girl.

But the dumb-dumb factor, I think, stands out more than the cute, you know, down-home girl. And when it comes to electing people, I think that is an issue and that is a problem. That said, Amy is absolutely right. Reagan, Quayle, Bush - they`ve been mercilessly mocked on "SNL" and prevailed.

HAMMER: Well, Biden is getting some too. It`s not all Palin. You know, we had Tina Fey playing Palin obviously in the debate that we saw on "SNL." And then Jason Sudeikis from SNL impersonating Biden and making plenty of fun of him. Let`s roll some of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON SUDEIKIS, ACTOR: OK. Let`s be frank, John McCain - and again, this is a man I would take a bullet for. He is bad at his job and mentally unstable. As my mother would say, "God love him. But he is a raging maniac." And a dear, dear friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: All right. So let`s flip that last question. Amy, I`ll send it to you. Not just Palin, but could Biden maybe take a hit? Because the "SNL" spoof of him - well, not exactly complimentary, you know.

HOLMES: I don`t think Joe Biden has anything to worry about. "SNL" - sure, they were underscoring some of sort of hypocrisy and contradiction of Joe Biden saying, you know, "My best friend in the senate." You know, most people would say, with friends like these who are going on stage, you know, thrashing him. But, you know, at end of the day, I don`t think it has that much influence.

And getting back to the earlier point that Ashleigh was making about Sarah Palin being a lampooned as a dumb-dumb, there was some danger of that. I think that was completely done away with on Thursday that Sarah Palin did such a spectacular job, that this is kind of a lighter, softer, side of her. But it`s not the story about Sarah Palin.

HAMMER: Yes. And as we heard in our story, we are also hearing that people on Palin`s side are just yelling at the TV when Tina Fey comes on. Got to end it there. Amy Holmes, Ashleigh Banfield, thank you both.

HOLMES: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Thank you.

HAMMER: And now, we turn it over to you for our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day - "Tina Fey: Will the Sarah Palin impersonation that she`s doing affect the election?" Vote at CNN.com/ShowbizTonight. Or E-mail us more of your thoughts at showbiztonight@cnn.com.

So are you wondering just how did Tina Fey become Sarah Palin? Well, tonight, we have got a truly amazing look at exactly what goes on behind the scenes of "Saturday Night Live" and the stunning political poll this show does seem to have.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: What`s "SNL`s" role?

MICHAELS: I think "SNL"s role is the moment they`re in power, we`re the opposition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT talking to the cast, the producers. You definitely don`t want to miss this, coming up.

And this could be big trouble for Oprah Winfrey. Tonight, she`s being sued by the woman who used to head up Oprah`s African school for disadvantaged girls. You won`t want to miss the very latest on that. And I have that coming up as well.

And this is just incredible - 13 years to the day he was acquitted for the killing of his ex-wife and her friend, O.J. Simpson has been convicted of kidnapping and armed robbery.

Tonight, the jurors who found him guilty are speaking out. Plus, could O.J. Simpson actually spend the rest of his life behind bars? I`m investigating, coming up next on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury in the above-entitled case find the defendant, Orenthal James Simpson as follows: Count one, conspiracy to commit a crime, guilty. Count two, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, guilty. Count three, conspiracy to commit robbery, guilty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: Tonight, could O.J. Simpson really spend the rest of his life in jail after being convicted of armed robbery, getting convicted exactly 13 years to the day he was acquitted on double-murder charges?

Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. Tonight, the big question - did O.J. get what he deserved this time around?

Of course, we all remember the trial of the century. O.J. Simpson accused of killing his former wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. And you can probably remember exactly where you were October 3, 1995, when we all heard these words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury in the above entitled action, find the defendant Orenthal James Simpson not guilty of the crime of murder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: Yes. Much different story and a different reaction for O.J. Simpson this time around. And you know, he might never get out of jail again.

With me tonight in Hollywood is Darren Kavinoky. He is an attorney and founder of the Kavinoky Law Firm.

All right. So Darren, O.J. Simpson was convicted in Vegas on Friday of robbing two sports memorabilia dealers at gun point. Simpson said, you know, the dealers stole his stuff. He was just trying to get it back.

I`ve got to ask you this, Darren. If you were a betting man, would you bet that O.J.`s days as a free man are over?

DARREN KAVINOKY, FOUNDER, KAVINOKY LAW FIRM: Well, obviously the jurors bought the prosecution`s view of the case which was essentially that O.J. burst in there like Linc from the "Mod Squad" with this band of gun-toting miscreants and they were hell-bent on regaining that stuff. I don`t think you have to be Stephen Hawking, A.J., to figure out that O.J.`s odds of ever breathing fresh air or seeing daylight again is slim to none.

HAMMER: Isn`t that wild? And the reaction has been pretty much what you`d expect. Really, no shortage of people cheering the fact that he got convicted including of course, as you would expect, the family of Ron Goldman who was the man who was killed along with O.J.`s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. Goldman`s sister appeared on CNN today and she said that O.J. finally got what he deserved. Let`s watch her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIM GOLDMAN, RON GOLDMAN`S SISTER: I absolutely feel that my father and I and our pursuit of him for the last 13 years helped push him over the edge. I think that we are pretty confident that we had a hand in that. And that`s where he belongs. He got away with murder, and that`s truly unfortunate. And it didn`t stop him from thinking he could commit other crimes. And this time, he finally got caught, and hopefully, you know, he will spend the time for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: OK. So I want you to help me out with this, Darren. Because obviously, those words have no legal bearing. But could O.J.`s lawyers use that sentiment perhaps as a basis for an appeal? You know, the sentiment that O.J. was convicted because people thought, you know, "Here is our chance to finally put this guy away."

KAVINOKY: Well, O.J.`s defense team has promised an appeal. And there are really two fertile areas that they promised to explore. First of all, there`s that halo effect that you just described where the negative halo, really, where people are judging O.J. now based on the case from 13 years ago.

And then there`s the other issue relating to the racial make-up of the jury because there were of course no African-American jurors that heard the case. Appeals are, of course, uphill battle. The legal standards for a successful appeal are very, very high. So, we probably have better odds of O.J.`s memoir "If I Did It" landing on Oprah`s Book Club selection than we do of an appeal being successful in this case.

HAMMER: Well, to that point, the jurors who convicted O.J. also had the past hanging over their heads. Of course, now, they deny that it had any impact on them at all and they`re speaking out. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERESA OWENS, JUROR IN O.J. SIMPSON ROBBERY TRIAL: There were 12 people that came together cohesively, that never once entered our minds or the deliberation room. There are reports right now that we have had some kind of vendetta against Mr. Simpson for what he did 13 years ago, and that in no way had anything to do with this case, whatsoever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: How do you feel about that perception?

OWENS: It`s terrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: Yes. So this juror seemed almost insulted about the perception of payback. But Darren, obviously, there is really no way for us to know for sure what the jurors were thinking?

KAVINOKY: No. And of course, if that was the truth and this really is payback, you know, what do you expect her to say? "Yes, we disregarded our oath and we did this to punish him for the past."

But you`re absolutely correct, A.J. You never know what the jurors bring into the jury room. Obviously, they bring all of their past experiences and their biases and their perceptions. Those of us that labor long and hard in the criminal justice system hope they`re going to play it straight. But we know that we all have our own lenses through which we view life.

HAMMER: Absolutely. And I`ve heard the word "karma" tossed around once or twice. Darren Kavinoky, got to end it there. I appreciate you being with us.

Now, it`s time for "Showbiz On Call." This is your chance to give us a buzz and let us know what`s on your mind. And tonight, Paris Hilton - because we have been flooded with your voicemails about Paris and her new show where she is on a mission to find a new best friend.

We heard from Lisa in Texas. Lisa pretty much can`t stand Paris.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LISA, CALLER FROM TEXAS: It is just pathetic, literally pathetic, that Paris Hilton has to go to these measures to try to keep her name out there. Paris has absolutely zero talent. I don`t even think she is cute to where she can use that as a backup plan.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HAMMER: All right. Lisa, thank you for your call. We also got a call from Mike in New York. Mike thinks that Paris really has good business sense.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MIKE, CALLER FROM TEXAS: I don`t know why everybody is grilling her so hard because all she is doing is trying to make money. And to be honest with you, I don`t care how stupid the show is. TV is business. And you`ve got to give her props and let her do what she got to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: All right. Remember, "Showbiz On Call" phone lines working 24/7 for you. So call them - 1-888-SBT-BUZZ. That`s 1-888-728-2899. Leave us a voicemail so we can play some of your calls right here on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

I, for one, think it is just terrific that Oprah Winfrey opened up her school for disadvantaged girls in Africa. But tonight, this is pretty tough. Some startling developments related to that school. The former headmistress suing Oprah, and that suit is tied to allegations of physical and sexual abuse at the school. Could Oprah be in big trouble? That`s coming up.

Also this -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: What`s "SNL`s" role?

MICHAELS: I think "SNL"s role is the moment they`re in power, we`re the opposition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: Well, I think that "Saturday Night Live`s" political skits have been really funny. I`ve been catching them every week. And I think that they`re making somewhat of a difference in this election.

Tonight, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT taking you behind the scenes. We`re speaking with the cast and the producers so we can show you, how the show has become such a force in the race for the White House.

And Angelina Jolie is finally speaking out about the election. We`ve got her on camera talking about the presidential race. Plus, Angelina opens up about Clint Eastwood and motherhood. Coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. And tonight, Angelina Jolie speaking out about motherhood, Clint Eastwood and the upcoming presidential election.

Angelina was right here in New York City for the premiere of the Eastwood-directed movie, "Changeling." The film really touched Angelina. Her character got her thinking about her six kids and her late mother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS: She reminded me of my mom. And my mom had passed away that year. And so it is very much - a mother`s love is such a powerful thing. So instead of the sadness, I was kind of overwhelmed with how much strength my mom found when she needed to with her kids because she was very shy. And then as a mom, it just made me hold on to my kids that much tighter at the end of every night and you know, love them and just be so grateful that I know where they are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What was it like working with Clint?

JOLIE: It was just the best. He is really - you hear so many things about him, and he`s this icon. He`s this great man and gentleman and so strong. And he is - he is everything you hoped he would be when you meet him. He is just gracious and smart and strong and very decisive as a director. So you feel you`re in safe hands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: Angelina also spoke out about the upcoming presidential election, something she has been keeping pretty quiet about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What do you think about the election? Right around the corner?

JOLIE: I`ve been thinking a lot about it. I`m watching and reading everything I can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: All right. Well, so far, Angelina hasn`t endorsed any one publicly. Angelina Jolie may not be saying very much about this election.

Definitely not the case over at "Saturday Night Live." They have been ripping into Republican VP pick, Sarah Palin. You know, Tina Fey`s impression I think is just dead-on.

Tonight, we`re going behind the scenes to get the inside story of how Tina ended up as Sarah Palin. Plus, we`ve got your fired-up calls to the question we asked, "Has Palin become the biggest TV star in the country?"

It was a really bad start to the week for Oprah. Her African school for girls has been caught up in allegations of physical and sexual abuse. And now, tonight I can tell you the ex-headmistress of the school is suing Oprah. The very latest on that, not to be missed, coming up.

And for the first time since Titanic, Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are back to star in a movie together. You will not want to miss your first look at "Revolutionary Road." That is coming up on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

(NEWS BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMMER: Now, on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, Oprah Winfrey sued. A brand-new battle for Oprah Winfrey surrounding allegations of physical and sexual abuse at her South African school for girls. Tonight, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT with the story of why Oprah is being sued by the former headmistress of that school.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: What is "SNL`s" role?

MICHAELS: I think "SNL`s" role is the moment they`re in power, we`re the opposition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT behind the scenes at "Saturday Night Live." An inside look at how those political sketches come together, including Tina Fey`s Sarah Palin impersonation. Plus, your fired-up phone calls after we asked, "Is Sarah Palin the biggest TV star in the country?"

TV`s most provocative entertainment news show continues right now.

(MUSIC)

HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. It is 30 minutes past the hour. I`m A.J. Hammer, broadcasting tonight and every night from New York City. Tonight, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s continuing coverage of Hollywood`s vote in the explosive presidential race. And here is what`s making news right now.

Tonight, is Sarah Palin the biggest TV star in America? Well, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT viewers have been voting on that question and burning up our showbiz on call phone lines tonight. You have got to hear what everybody is saying.

Also, tonight, the Bruce Springsteen factor, the man who swore he would never endorse a candidate is literally singing the praises of Barack Obama. His weekend pro-Obama rally drew tens of thousands of people. So could the boss actually help get Obama in office?

Joining me tonight in New York, Ashleigh Banfield who is the anchor of "Banfield and Ford: In Session." And tonight, in our nation`s capital, Amy Holmes a political analyst for CNN. Hello to you both.

I want to start out with Sarah Palin. This is just staggering, an estimated 70 million people watched her debate with Joe Biden last Thursday. That`s more people than watched the presidential debate. And since Tina Fey began impersonating Sarah Palin on "SNL," that show`s ratings just through the roof, up 42 percent from last year.

So is Sarah Palin the biggest TV star in America? Our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT viewers weighed in on air and online. And look at these results. I`m a little surprised by this - 15 percent of those who voted said yes; a whopping 85 percent said no.

Amy, I`m going to start it off with you. Does that lopsided vote surprise you?

HOLMES: Well you know, it doesn`t surprise me because you have to think of the context of the question, is she America`s biggest TV star? It sounds like viewers were saying, "She`s not a TV star. She`s a politician. This is a serious election. This is serious business."

So they don`t want to turn her into just merely a celebrity. But they`re certainly are watching and we`re finding out that Sarah Palin is great for business.

HAMMER: Well, you`re saying basically people are keeping it in perspective ...

HOLMES: Exactly.

HAMMER: ... and are able to make that distinction despite all the coverage that is just nonstop. She`s on TV all the time. And the "Showbiz On Call" phone lines also ringing nonstop about whether Sarah Palin is the biggest TV star in America.

I want you to listen to what Diane in New York had to say about this question.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DIANE, CALLER FROM NEW YORK: I am calling to say that Sarah Palin is not the biggest star on TV. What she is now is a character. She is nothing but someone we want to have fodder with. And I think that her star is on the rise, but definitely not in field that she`s going for.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HAMMER: OK. So that doesn`t exactly go along with what Amy Holmes said a moment ago. Ashleigh Banfield, I want you to weigh on this. Do you agree with Diane that perhaps Sarah Palin has become more of a character than a celebrity?

BANFIELD: I think to some she has become a character. And listen, our cable news cycle is pretty rapid fire. So things cycle through fairly quickly. What I do believe is that Diane is right, she is on the rise. And if she doesn`t prevail in this round in this election, you watch and mark my words. Sarah Palin could be and I think will be, a pretty big player in the Republican Party once she gets her feet wet and starts to really understand the workings of big politics instead of small town politics.

HAMMER: Amy, is there any denying that character factor there?

HOLMES: Oh, I don`t think there is any way to deny that. I mean, you look at "SNL`s" depiction of Joe Biden. Look, Joe Biden - he`s sort of a made- to-order politician. There aren`t really sort of characteristic things about him.

But Sarah Palin - she is bursting with character. You have sort of the small-town inflections, dictation, all of those things - the glasses, the hair. You know, and she`s got really great legs. Let`s face it. So, Tina Fey - she`s someone - she`s an artist who has found her muse.

HAMMER: This is amazing. We`re doing a presidential race here and we`re talking about really great legs. So how times have changed.

Also making big news right now, the Bruce Springsteen factor. This is pretty wild. We mention that tens of thousands of people showed up for his big Barack Obama rally in Philly over the weekend. Now, keeping in mind that The Boss has never endorsed a candidate ever. I want you to listen to what he had to say about Barack Obama and his promise to America. Watch The Boss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, MUSICIAN: I believe that Sen. Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. And I think he understands in his heart the cost of that distance in blood and in suffering and in the lives of everyday Americans. And I believe that, as president, I think he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: All right. Ashleigh Banfield, I want to send this one out to you. Obviously, endorsements are important in a political campaign. There has been mixed reviews over whether celebrity endorsements are good thing or not. But do you think Bruce Springsteen could actually influence Americans to vote for Barack Obama?

BANFIELD: Maybe some. I am a huge music fan and I love Barbra Streisand, too. But she hasn`t had that kind of influence if you look at the last eight years. She is a hardcore Democrat, and the Republicans have prevailed. So that is one versus one. It`s like apples and oranges.

I think in the end, honestly, while we all love to watch this stuff, it is a credibility and character of the top of the ticket that really ends up being who - you know, the reason for the choice that people make in the ballot box, not necessarily the people who sing about them.

HAMMER: No question about it. I just wonder if he was betting on the fact that maybe he will have more of an impact this time around because he never endorsed anybody in the past as I mentioned.

And next week, Bruce is going to be performing along with Billy Joel. They`re doing a big fundraiser for Obama. That is some major star power hand in hand there.

We`ve got a phone call from John in Ohio, however. He called into "Showbiz On Call" and he tells us that he is just sick of celebrities getting involved with politics. Let`s listen to John.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JOHN, CALLER FROM OHIO: With the celebrities getting involved with politics, actually persuading me to change my vote from Obama to the McCain-Palin ticket.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HAMMER: Now, that`s a pretty drastic move. And I`ve got to say we have gotten a lot of calls and a lot of E-mails just like John`s.

Amy, over to you. Do you think he speaks for a lot of people out there?

HOLMES: Well, A.J., you remember that early on, George Clooney said that he didn`t want to come out and be too publicly in favor of Barack Obama because he was worried about just the thing that the American people - we love our celebrities to entertain us. We don`t want them to tell us who to vote for. And while celebrities are citizens and they get to vote, too, we don`t want them to have undue influence in our politics.

So I think a lot of Americans - they discount the views of celebrities and they go into the polling booth and they make their own decisions. You know, we`ve had Hollywood supporting Democrats now for, you know, at least two decades.

And certainly, since I have been watching, in the `80s they didn`t like Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan won two terms. And George Bush won, you know, what is considered Reagan`s third term in 1988.

HAMMER: Right.

HOLMES: So you know, celebrities - they`re fun. We talk about them. I was really pleased when I saw Annette Bening. She said - I don`t know if it was today. But she said she is a Barack Obama supporter but she thinks Sarah Palin deserves respect. She is an accomplished lady.

HAMMER: It`s really interesting to watch how the influence of celebrities can really go both ways. Ashleigh Banfield, Amy Holmes, I thank you both for joining me tonight.

BANFIELD: Thank you.

HOLMES: Thanks, A.J.

HAMMER: And we want you to call us as well, just like John. It`s "Showbiz On Call." That`s how you let us know what you think about this or really anything else on your mind. We keep those "Showbiz On Call" phone lines open all the time. So hit the number, 1-888-SBT-BUZZ; 1-888-728-2899. You leave the voicemail. That`s your job. Our job is to play your call right here on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

HAMMER: We have been asking you to vote on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day as well - "Tina Fey: Will her Sarah Palin impersonation affect the election?" What do you think? CNN.com/ShowbizTonight is where you vote, or you can email showbiztonight@cnn.com.

Well, another famous funny lady is hoping to have a major impact on the election one way or another - Ellen DeGeneres. She`s pulling out all the stops getting people to register to vote. Here`s SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Kareen Wynter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW": This is a very, very important time -

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Serious talk from a comedian concerned about a high-stakes election.

DEGENERES: Look at what is going on with the world right now. We need to fix some things.

WYNTER: Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres teamed up with the national nonpartisan, nonprofit campaign Declare Yourself, which encourages young people to register and vote.

DEGENERES: We`ve registered over 10,000 people to vote here at our studio and online. I don`t know. I just assume everybody`s registered to vote that is able to vote and I`m shocked by the amount -

CHRISTINE SCHUL, REGISTERED VOTER: This is the pin I got for registering.

WYNTER: 23-year-old Christine Schul just registered on DeGeneres` show and has decided to vote for the first time in her life.

SCHUL: Actually I can`t wait until November rolls around. I`m really excited. I`ve been listening to the debates.

MARK MORGENSTERN, DECLARE YOURSELF: Young people are inundated with media. Unless you break through that clutter, you can`t get them to take action. So we use celebrity to break through, get into young people`s heads.

WYNTER: If that doesn`t work, the comic has another idea. Try this on for size.

DEGENERES: And I thought, let`s take it to the next logical step. The Ellen underwear is popular, let`s put them on the underwear. So, we have, "Laugh, dance, vote." Are you wearing them? That`s great! You know what`s great about that is you can support yourself and your candidate at the same time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAMMER: Leave it to Ellen to make a difference in this election with underwear in a nonpartisan way. That was SHOWBIZ TONIGHT`s Kareen Wynter. Well, did you see "Saturday Night Live" over the weekend? It really is must-see TV during this election season.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: What is "SNL"s role?

MICHAELS: I think "SNL"s role is, the moment they`re in power, we`re the opposition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMMER: Coming up, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT taking you backstage, behind the scenes. You get to see how the political sketches come together including Tina Fey`s Palin impersonation.

Plus, Oprah Winfrey sued. Oprah has talked about how unbelievably difficult it was for her when there were allegations of abuse at her school for girls in South Africa. Well, now, listen to this - she`s being sued by the former headmistress of the school. I`ve got those startling details, coming up.

HAMMER: And Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio, back on screen together for the first time since that little movie "Titanic." The new one is called "Revolutionary Road," your first look still to come on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMMER: Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York.

Tonight, Oprah sued. The former headmistress of Oprah`s school for girls claims that Oprah destroyed her reputation and it`s all related to the abuse scandal at the school.

Let`s roll out the SHOWBIZ news line. In January 2007, Oprah Winfrey opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for disadvantaged girls in South Africa. Nine months later, in October, abuse allegations surfaced at the school. The school suspended a dormitory matron who was later charged.

Now, the headmistress who was not charged in this case is claiming Oprah suggested she knew about the alleged abuse and covered it up.

With me tonight, from Hollywood is Darren Kavinoky, who is a defense attorney and founder of the Kavinoky Law Firm.

So Darren, right after the scandal broke, Oprah talked about one of the students allegedly abused. And here`s what she said, quote, "I have spoken to her mother who told me that she had, on three occasions, been to the school and had a conversation with the head of the school complaining about the abuse. That was never relayed to me."

So now, the headmistress is claiming that Oprah falsely implied that she covered up the abuse complaint. Darren, from what we know so far in this case, does it seem that the headmistress has a case here?

KAVINOKY: Well if what the head mistress says is true, then she definitely does. Oprah has essentially accused her and now allegedly falsely of engaging in criminal misconduct, business misconduct in covering up sexual misconduct. If this is all accurate and the headmistress allegations are grounded in fact, then this could be a very, very expensive problem for Oprah.

HAMMER: Well, I want you to listen to what a spokesperson for the headmistress is telling SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, quote, "Oprah Winfrey is very powerful and has done a lot of good things for a lot of people. This just wasn`t one of those things." "She," referring to the headmistress, "is all about forgiveness. She wants her name back. We ask for a retraction and apology when this first broke and Oprah`s lawyers responded there was no need for an apology. She is being accused of turning her back on the physical and sexual abuse of a child when that never happened. It`s just not true."

Now, Oprah`s reps tell SHOWBIZ TONIGHT that they haven`t even been served with a lawsuit yet. So, Darren, especially given how solid you think this could be as a case, do you think it would be in Oprah`s best interest to perhaps settle something like this out of court?

KAVINOKY: Well, I`ll give you the best lawyer answer I know, A.J., and that`s - it depends. There is a lawsuit out there. I know because I have seen it. Oprah`s folks may not have been served with it yet, but it`s already been filed with the court in Philadelphia. So service is just a matter of time at this point.

Whether or not it is in her best interest to settle will largely depend on how truthful the allegations are. But I will say this of the headmistress - it takes an awful lot to take on somebody that has Oprah`s resources. She is throwing herself right into the middle of this controversy. They`re going to scrutinize absolutely everything about her.

HAMMER: Yes.

KAVINOKY: So she better be careful there. If this isn`t truthful, she is going to be in trouble.

HAMMER: Well, separate, Darren, from the resources that Oprah obviously has behind her, obviously, she`s one of the biggest stars on the planet. So if this gets to court, could the stardom of Oprah actually influence the case, do you think?

KAVINOKY: Well, it definitely has potential to be a double-edged sword. Certainly, in terms of allegations here which are defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress. Because Oprah has such a scope and reach and so much power, then what the headmistress is going to say is that this defamation was spread to a much larger audience. And of course on Oprah`s side, she`s got all the resources to do absolutely everything to defend herself.

HAMMER: Yes. This one is going to be interesting to follow. Darren Kavinoky, thank you for your insight on it.

Well, tonight, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT is taking you behind the scenes at one of the most important TV shows to watch during an election year. I`m not talking "Meet The Press." I`m not talking about "Face The Nation." I`m talking "Saturday Night Live."

Yes, Tina Fey`s Sarah Palin impersonation has really turned "SNL" into must-see TV. And this campaign season has really given the writers plenty of materials. Here`s CNN`s Alina Cho for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT behind the scenes of "Saturday Night Live."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHO (voice over): Here`s Sarah Palin and Tina Fey. Can you tell the difference?

PALIN: Here`s a shout-out to all those third-graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School -

FEY: Who were so helpful to me in my debate prep.

CHO: The two look so much alike. Fey who retired from the show, came back to play the role that was made for her.

MICHAELS: She looks so much like Tina Fey.

CHO (on camera): The audience cast her.

MICHAELS: Yes, the audience cast her.

CHO (voice over): A pitch perfect impression.

FEY: And I can see Russia from my house.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Live from New York, it`s Saturday night!

CHO: For more than 30 years, "Saturday Night Live" has been the place for political humor.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:: Strategery.

CHO: Election years provide the best material and the best ratings. This year is no exception.

AMY POEHLER, ACTRESS: I don`t agree with the Bush Doctrine.

FEY: And I don`t know what that is.

CHO: This season`s opener, the most highly rated "SNL" premiere since 2001. "SNL" is also a must-stop on the campaign trail. In the past year, Clinton, Obama, and McCain have all paid a visit.

(on camera): It`s almost a rite of passage for these politicians to come through here, isn`t it?

DARRELL HAMMOND, CAST MEMBER: Everybody comes here. They all show up sooner or later.

CHO (voice over): Darrell Hammond is one of "SNL`s" best-known faces. He played everyone from President Clinton to Al Gore to John McCain. So much so, sometimes people take him for the real thing.

HAMMOND: People come up and they`re like, "Hey, excuse me. That thing the other night. Could we talk about the subprime mortgage thing? What was that about?"

CHO (voice over): Over the years, "SNL" has even made fun of us. CNN. Wolf, Campbell, Anderson, and we returned the favor.

(on camera): We play your sketches on CNN.

HAMMOND: Isn`t that really bizarre?

FRED ARMISEN, "SNL" CAST MEMBER: It`s crazy.

CHO: Why do you think that is bizarre?

ARMISEN: I think it`s bizarre in a good way. I`m psyched.

CHO: The best part, they say, everyone`s fair game.

POEHLER: Whatever. CHO: What`s "SNL`s" role?

MICHAELS: I think "SNL"s role is the moment they`re in power, we`re the opposition. We`re not partisan. We`re - you know, and we`re not putting on anything that we don`t believe is funny.

FEY: Are we not in the talent portion.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAMMER: I think their impact was a big surprise to a lot of people. That was CNN`s Alina Cho for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

Well, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are reuniting onscreen for the very first time since that little bitty movie they made, you may have heard of it, called if the Titanic." This is their first time back together. It`s a whole different kind of movie. Your very first look at "Revolutionary Road." It`s coming up next right here on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT.

Now, keep in mind, you can watch SHOWBIZ TONIGHT video any time. In fact, we`re always posting new stuff for you to check out at CNN.com/ShowbizTonight. That`s our Web site. Set it as a bookmark. Among the videos now playing, "Profiting Off of Palin," how everyone from TV shows to an eyeglass maker considers Sarah Palin a gold mine.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HAMMER: It`s time now for the SHOWBIZ first look. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are back together for the very first time since "Titanic." Here`s your first look at "Revolutionary Road."

LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ACTOR: You`ve been to Paris.

KATE WINSLET, ACTRESS: I`ve never really been anywhere.

DICAPRIO: People are alive there, not like here. I`m going back the first chance I get.

WINSLET: Frank Wheeler, I think you`re the most interesting person I`ve ever met.

What do you think?

DICAPRIO: I guess I kind of like it.

WINSLET: Won`t you miss the city?

DICAPRIO: Nothing`s permanent, right?

WINSLET: Frank - Look at us, we`re just like everyone else.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: We bought into the same ridiculous diversion.

WINSLET: This idea that you have to settle down and resign from life.

DICAPRIO: I want to feel things, really feel them. .

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: A man only gets only a couple of chances in life.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It won`t be long (UNINTELLIGIBLE) second-rate.

WINSLET: We can`t go on pretending that this is the life we wanted.

DICAPRIO: I support you, don`t I? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I can`t stand.

WINSLET: You don`t have to.

DICAPRIO: But I have a backbone. I don`t run away from my responsibilities.

WINSLET: Who made these rules anyway?

You`ve got me safely in this little trap. You think you can bully me into feeling whatever you want me to feel.

DICAPRIO: We can be happy here. I can make you happy here and we`re going to be OK.

WINSLET: I hope so. I really hope so.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HAMMER: "Revolutionary Road" will be in theaters in December.

Well, on Friday, we asked you to vote on our SHOWBIZ TONIGHT question of the day, which was this - "Sarah Palin: Is she the biggest TV star in America?" Pretty lopsided, or totally lopsided. Fifteen percent of you saying yes, 85 percent no.

Among the E-mails, one from Danielle in California. She writes, "I believe Sarah Palin is the biggest star in America and not getting a fair shake in the media."

Also heard from Elisa from Texas who writes, "Sarah Palin is not a TV star. She is an intelligent, witty lady. Political figures shouldn`t be called TV stars."

Well, that is it for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Thanks for watching. I`m A.J. Hammer in New York. You can always catch SHOWBIZ TONIGHT on the 11:00s - 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, and in the morning at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. The latest from "CNN HEADLINE NEWS" is next.

END