Geraldo, Joan, Dennis mingle and schmooze at lavish harbor party


Joan Rivers jetted in from France. Geraldo Rivera sailed from Cape May. And Dennis Miller . . . well, Dennis came from his hotel room where he'd been watching championship golf on TV.

No matter their point of origin, the stars all landed in the same spot last night -- Baltimore -- where they were guests at a private party at the Inner Harbor Rusty Scupper, sponsored by Tribune Entertainment, syndicators and producers of their TV shows.

The gala was held in conjunction with a broadcast conference at the Baltimore Convention Center through tomorrow. The four-day event -- organized by the Broadcast Promotion and Marketing Executives and the Broadcast Designers' Association -- has drawn nearly 3,000 professionals from TV, radio and cable. The guests at last night's party were from local stations around the country that carry the stars' shows.

And when Joan, Geraldo and Dennis talk, people do listen. An entourage followed each around the multi-level restaurant, watching as they did such ordinary things as pick up a carrot stick and wave hello.

But it was Mr. Rivera's appearance that made the biggest, ah, splash of the evening. He arrived on his 44-foot boat, the sail of which bore the logo of his new fall show, "Now It Can Be Told."

Asked what such an entrance might say about him, he offered, "It says . . . I have a great sense of showmanship."

Before the party, Mr. Rivera seemed eager to entertain guests and a few fans on his boat as he drank a gin and tonic, and his wife, C.C., did the dishes.

But he ranked schmoozing as being more difficult than several other challenges he's faced in life -- including talking to convicted killers and being punched by neo-Nazis.

"I hate conventions," he groused. He'd come simply because it's good business when your show is syndicated to pay attention to the people who put -- and help keep -- you on the air. Both he and Ms. Rivers, however, were scheduled to leave two hours after the party started. Mr. Miller, formerly of "Saturday Night Live," was expected to perform a short stand-up comedy routine for the crowd.

Joan Rivers arrived by limousine in a quieter fashion, wearing a black-and-white trapeze dress and Chanel accessories. "Not too close," she warned a TV cameraman who raced toward her. She also declined when someone asked to take her picture with a Polaroid camera.

For the last few days, she'd been on a hot-air balloon in France with Malcolm Forbes' son. "I had breakfast in Brittany, lunch in London and now I'm at a cocktail party in Baltimore," the daytime talk show host said in a brief interview.

Missing from the picture was her usual trusty companion, "Spike the Wonderdog," who was home in New York "getting fatter," she said.

She viewed schmoozing with more excitement than Mr. Rivera, because she enjoys matching faces with voices of people she's talked to around the country. "You get a chance to meet Harriet Schwartz from Bangor, Maine, and you say, 'Oh, that's what she looks like,' " she explained with a laugh.

Of all the guests, Dennis Miller seemed the most subdued initially, perhaps because this is his first broadcast convention. It was also the first time the comedian has talked about his upcoming late-night talk show, "The Dennis Miller Show," since the announcement was made last month.

"I used to be deathly afraid of performing," said Mr. Miller, whose syndicated show will debut next year. "Now I can stare down the barrel of a camera and not flinch."

For some guests, being in the business made them immune to the pleasures of stargazing.

Tom Anderson, an executive from a station in Anchorage, Ala., was more interested in eating than autographs. He had plenty to choose from, with a buffet featuring everything from oysters Rockefeller to seafood salad with champagne dressing.

An hour after the party began, he had downed six small crab cakes and was heading back for more. "They're as good as Alaskan King," he praised.

But Bruce Burns, promotions director for a Louisville, Ky., station, was anything but blase about getting the chance to shake Geraldo's hand. He had called his parents, in fact, to gloat about who he'd be hobnobbing with later that night.

"They were real impressed," he said. "We promote stars, but we normally don't get to meet them in person."

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