C.J.: Diller was a dilly in her day

  • Article by: C.J.
  • Star Tribune
  • August 22, 2012 - 7:48 PM

It's all right with Joan LaBelle if her late husband is being chased around heaven by Phyllis Diller.

LaBelle was telling me about her recent lunch with Lisa Kudrow when I asked if she thought Diller, the barrier-busting comic who died this week, was in the after-life pursuing Lorney LaBelle, who died in 2010.

"Oh definitely, no question about it," said LaBelle, who summers in Minnesota and spends the rest of the year in California. "I don't mean to be bad because I miss him so much."

Lorney worked with Diller a couple of times during his illustrious advertising career. He played a major role in developing the Minnegasco commercial featuring the Indian maiden with the blue-flame feather. He also created commercials for Snowy Bleach, Tuffy trash bags and Land O'Lakes, and he was in charge of the auditions for the first Betty Crocker. The preceding information came from his son Shaun LaBelle, a friend of mine, whose production company is following in his dad's commercial-making footsteps when Shaun is not making smooth jazz hits.

A long time ago, Lorney brought Diller to the Twin Cities to shoot a cookbook commercial. Diller had a bit of a crush on Lorney, whom she always preferred to call Larry; his real name was Lawrence. Lorney had been ignoring Diller's subtle displays of possible interest but he knew he had not misread her intentions when he picked up Diller at the Radisson with Joan in tow.

"She took one look at me and said, 'Who sent for her?'" Joan recalled.

The women got along fine at dinner, where Diller, then a veteran of her first facelift, gave plastic surgery pointers to Joan.

Brown and 'CCO

There are whispers around WCCO-TV about the return of Heather Brown.

"No, no. I have a contract here [WNYW-TV] until October. I'm getting married [in Minneapolis] in two weeks to a St. Paul guy, but not coming back [to work at WCCO]," Brown claimed to me in June.

That WCCO newsroom has a different vibe from October 2010 when Brown left. Brown had no small ego on her when she left, but now her ego wouldn't seem so large.

KSTPers reunite Friday

Even without a revolving door, St. Paul's Sweeney's will look very much like Hubbard Broadcasting present and past Friday starting at 6 p.m.

Meteorologist Jim Guy, now at Seattle's KING-TV, and Mark Ginther, once assistant news director at KSTP who's now the executive news director at KING-TV, are hosting a reunion for KSTPers. They created a Facebook event page, "Best of Eyewitness News." I have no access to the page, but I have a couple of sources so I know that 55 of the 271 invited guests have RSVP'd intentions to attend.

Angela Davis and Mike Binkley, now of WCCO-TV, are scheduled to attend. If Guy rustles up entertaining traffic guy Rusty Gatenby, all four members of one of the best morning show staffs KSTP has ever had will be there.

Former anchor Chris Conangla was apparently planning to attend but now reportedly can't.

Kris Patrow, Bridgette Bornstein, Tom Hauser, Rob Leer (no, I haven't started blocking your e-mails yet) Roshini Rajkumar, Boyd Huppert and Mendes Napoli are expected.

Napoli's the former KSTP news director terror, who has mellowed beyond recognition in LA. Must be all that rolling in money he and a staff of agents are doing at Napoli Management Group. This little devil was in town a couple of months ago and did not call me. If he thinks hard, he'll remember the favor he asked for, and received, when I visited him in LA.

Fox 9's news director Bill Dallman, WCCO-TV's ND Mike Caputa, Scott Libin, a former news director at KSTP and WCCO, and Lindsay Radford, the current KSTP ND, are scheduled to attend.

For years the joke about how Hubbard Broadcasting burns through talent has been that it's as though the front door is a revolving one.

C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or E-mailers, please state a subject -- "Hello" doesn't count. Attachments are not opened, so don't even try. More of her attitude can be seen on Fox 9 Thursday mornings.

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