Big turnout for MT&R gala

Group fetes Moonves, Bruckheimer

Leslie Moonves quoted John F. Kennedy. Jerry Bruckheimer quoted Aristotle. Katie Couric quoted Ari Gold, and the Jersey Boys serenaded the honorees with Four Seasons hits specially adapted for the occasion, which was Monday night's Museum of Television & Radio gala saluting CBS Corp.'s Moonves and superproducer Bruckheimer.

The mood in the ballroom at the Regent Beverly Wilshire was light and laudatory, befitting the Halloween-eve timing of the event, hosted by Couric, CBS News' new star anchor. Clips of Moonves from his mid-1970s acting career were shown more than a few times, including an episode of "Cannon" featuring a shirtless Moonves declaring "My name is Pasqual, the cliff diver." Among those chuckling in the high-powered crowd included Moonves' boss, Viacom and CBS Corp. chairman Sumner Redstone, News Corp.'s Peter Chernin, Warner Bros.' Barry Meyer and Peter Roth, Walt Disney Co.'s Robert Iger and Anne Sweeney, MPAA chief Dan Glickman, Capital Research's Gordon Crawford, a host of CBS stars and industry notables.

"Tonight I consider myself the most fortunate failed actor in the history of television," Moonves joked in accepting his award. Keeping with the night's theme of honoring the two men as individuals and for the successful partnership between CBS and Bruckheimer Television — home of CBS' "CSI" trio, "Without a Trace," "Cold Case," "Close to Home" and "The Amazing Race" — Moonves offered a slight revision on a famous Kennedy quote: "Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and 'CSI' has made us rich."

David Letterman contributed a taped bit, a top 10 list of "Little Known Facts about Leslie Moonves and Jerry Bruckheimer." Highlights included No. 4: "In the '80s they formed a rock group called Moonheimer Steamroller" and No. 1: "They met in prison."

The Jersey Boys vocal group, from the Broadway show of the same name built around the hits of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, got the presentation off to an upbeat start with a reprise their performance from CBS' upfront schedule presentation in May with a few lyrical twists. For Bruckheimer, the Four Seasons' high-octave hit "Sherry" became "Jerry," with the refrain "Jerry, whatcha got on tonight?" For Moonves, the ballad "My Eyes Adored You" became "The Eye Adores You," with the gentle entreaty, "Oh Les, our agent's at the bar."

On a more serious note, James Woods, star of CBS' new drama "Shark" and a friend of Moonves' for more than 30 years, praised the CBS chief's unfailing loyalty and support. In July, when Woods' younger brother Michael died unexpectedly, Woods said he figured it might mean the end of the show because of production delays. Instead, Moonves was the first to call and tell his star to take all the time he needed to grieve. "He stood by it, he paid the cast, he paid the crew, and he waited for me to come back," Woods said.

"Trace" star Anthony LaPaglia did the honors for Bruckheimer, citing the producer's golden gut and the extraordinary attention to detail he devotes to every project. And for all of his stunning success, Bruckheimer has remained a man of "quiet grace and dignity," LaPaglia noted.

"He has an intuitive and deep understanding of what audiences want on screens of all sizes," LaPaglia said. "With all the stuff he's got going, he actually watches all of his shows. He cares about the projects he puts together from the top to the bottom."

Bruckheimer was characteristically reflective when it came time for his turn at the podium. He cited Aristotle's definition of the pursuit of excellence being something that is not a one-time act of ingenuity but rather a lifelong habit. "The quest for it is so much easier if you're passionate about what you do," Bruckheimer said. He charmed the crowd with a story about how his parents took him to task for less than excellent scores on his report cards. After pointing out his 101-year-old mother, Anna, in the audience, he beamed like a schoolboy and observed: "Mom, I finally got a good report card."

Resplendent in a black strapless cocktail dress and decidedly un-anchor-like curls piled high into a bun, Couric noted in closing that she was still hunting for her signature signoff statement to deliver at the end of each "CBS Evening News" broadcast. "Because I'm in Hollywood, I thought I'd try: 'Let's hug it out, bitch,' " she quipped to a roar of applause.