Leslie Moonves had no fear of being the butt of barbs from the Friars last month at Cipriani 42nd St. As this was no roast, the CBS president and CEO gladly joined Tom Jones and Natalie Cole to be honored at the Friars Foundation Applause Award Gala as some 500 Friars and fans cheered.
The comedians and singers who performed for Moonves were duly respectful. Dionne Warwick, Lucie Arnaz, and Ben Vereen performed. Natalie Cole would have sung too, but she was home recovering from a liver transplant.
Robert Klein talked about his fourth colonoscopy, and Norm Crosby said he went to the bank to check his balance and the clerk pushed him.
Freddie Roman thanked Moonves for putting his son’s show on the air. Freddie’s son, Alan Kirschenbaum, executive produced "Yes, Dear," which just ended a four-year run.
In presenting Moonves with his award, Elie Wiesel seized the moment to give the network honcho something to worry about.
"I would be afraid to be in your place of power," the Nobel laureate said. "I’d worry how my words would be interpreted, or misinterpreted. Do you worry?"
Moonves, a New Yorker whose family Munweis came from Ukraine and is a great-nephew of David Ben-Gurion, may not have been worried but he said he was humbled.
"Television is not just entertainment," Wiesel added. "It’s a vehicle for information. It must be transmitted with sensitivity."
"This is not fair!" Moonves protested. "I’ve received a lot of awards but never from someone like Elie Wiesel."
What’s Elie Wiesel doing with the Friars anyway?
"I joined the Friars for the humor," he said. "I wondered what real humor is."
Stewie Stone, who emceed the awards gala, offered an example when he told about meeting the pope.
"How is Tom Jones?" the pope asked.
"How do you know Tom Jones?"
"I don’t but his name comes up in confession a lot."
Moonves said CBS and the Friars have had a long relationship, with such members as Walter Cronkite and Mike Wallace. He mentioned that his wife, Julie Chen, the CBS Early Show anchor, expects her first baby in October. "Our child will be the first Jewish Chinese member of the Friars."
Leslie Moonves and wife Julie Chen who, he said, will give birth to the first Chinese Jewish member of the Friars. Photo by Tim Boxer