Star is born

Did anyone see our blonde, double-dimpled newscaster Christianne Klein on the late-night talk show Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher Jan. 9? I’d gotten two messages earlier in the day that she was scheduled for that night’s show, but still didn’t believe it, and I didn’t bother waiting up to see the show. The next morning CN&R Contributing Editor Laura Smith handed me a videotape when I walked into my office. “Did you see it?” she asked. I knew exactly what she was talking about, grabbed the tape and slid it into the cheap little TV/VCR combo in my office. And sure enough, there was Klein on Politically Incorrect. She was introduced by the host as an evening news anchor from KNVN (no location given) and a commentator on media and politics. I admit I had my doubts as to how Klein would fare talking about world events with Maher and his guests, in this case former Saturday Night Live cast member Kevin Nealon, writer of teen pop-psych books Jay McGraw and Michelle Phillips, one of the mamas in the ‘60s singing group the Mamas and the Papas.

Three or four of us gathered in my office and watched the tape. We speculated as to how she got on the show. “She’s done some advertising, she went to school back east, she’s got connections,” someone suggested. I pointed out that I’d heard that Maher attended Chico State University some years ago and maybe that was the connection. Truth be told, we each felt a tinge of jealousy and probably secretly hoped she would fail miserably here on national television. “Why, I’ve got more opinions than she does!” we were silently telling ourselves. “And better ones, too!” But much to our initial disappointment, Klein came across reasonably well. She had a bit of trouble at first getting a word in against the blustery fulminations of the haggard and bitter-sounding Phillips, but once she got going, she held her own, was relaxed and used effective hand gestures. Maher started the show by bringing up the teen in Florida who flew his single-engine plane into the side of a Bank of America building in Tampa. When her chance to shoehorn a sentence or two into the discussion finally presented itself, Klein suggested that terrorists had troubled relations with their fathers.

This week I talked to Klein about her late-night adventure on ABC. She was in Sacramento nursing a cold but was gracious enough to take my phone call. She said her connection to the show came by way of her attending the all-women Wellesley College in Boston. While there she served on the Committee for Political Action, which brought speakers to the school speakers like Horace Cooper, who once served as press secretary for House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas and now works for Voice of America, the radio station established in 1960 to broadcast American propaganda around the world. She also brought in and met Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women. “We all got along,” Klein said. Cooper talked with the producers of PI, who in turn called Klein and asked if she’d like to be on. She said “yes.” They called again on Jan. 3 and asked if she could come to Los Angeles on Jan. 8 to tape the show. The rest is history. After her appearance on nationwide television, Klein, too, may be history on the local scene. A talent agency has already called, as has another news program in another city. “They were all very nice to me,” Klein reported of her taping. I asked if Maher’s attending Chico State had anything to do with her appearance. “Oh no,” she told me, “he graduated from Cornell.” Oh. We wish her well.

The local Republican Party’ solidarity, while never all that solid, has been split wide open by the actions of Kim Yamaguchi and David Reade. So wide is the chasm that it would seem a politician would have to be on one side or the other. Where’s Rick Keene? Hard to say. I’d put him in the Reade camp because he is employing right-wing political hack John Gillander on his campaign team. Gillander used to work for the late Assemblyman Bernie Richter as a chauffeur and digger of dirt on the opposition. Reade is Richter’s son-in-law. Keene has Gillander doing the same kind of digging on his opponent, Dan Ostrander. But Keene is also using the consulting services of Cliff Wagner, who works for Sen. Rico Oller, Richter’s foe two years ago in Bernie’s last and possibly ugliest race. Keene is obviously trying to sit the fence separating the two sides. Could the Gillander baggage be heavy enough to pull him off that fence?