NBC makes changes to the anchor desk; Highsmith also departs

ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO Men on "Bandstand" had to steer clear of Rittenhouse Square, a dancer claims.
ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO Men on "Bandstand" had to steer clear of Rittenhouse Square, a dancer claims.
Posted: January 08, 2014

NBC10 IS DOING some housecleaning in the new year, with switches on the anchor desk and a departure of a familiar face.

Reporter Steve Highsmith, who hosted "NBC10 @Issue," ended his WCAU tenure in late December, although his Twitter profile still says he's an NBC10 reporter. "@Issue" will continue with a new host to be determined. Highsmith also hosts the Mummers Parade every year on PHL17. He will remain the director of community relations at PHL17, where he has been since 1994. I tried to reach Highsmith for comment but did not hear back in time for print.

On the anchor front, Keith Jones officially made the move from the morning shift (4:30 to 7 a.m. and the 11 a.m. broadcast) to the 5 p.m. slot along with Jacqueline London. Vai Sikahema moves to Jones' former spot, along with Tracy Davidson.

Renee Chenault-Fattah and Jim Rosenfield will continue to anchor the 6 p.m. broadcast, while Rosenfield and London hold it down at 11 p.m.

Bandstand's homophobic past?

The National Enquirer - before you start laughing, remember who broke the John Edwards- Rielle Hunter mistress scandal - posted a story on its website claiming that Dick Clark had producers scour noted gay hangouts in Philadelphia to root out potentially gay dancers.

According to the Enquirer, "Eddie] Kelly revealed, Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square was known as a meeting place for homosexuals. If you were seen in the square, you couldn't go on 'Bandstand.' So most of us really stayed away."

Kelly went on to claim in the story that many of the male dancers on "Bandstand" were gay.

Lo and behold, though, the story is gone from the Enquirer's website after being posted this morning.

I called original "Bandstand" dancer Bunny Gibson to find out what was up. "Back in those times, really, had the word gotten out there were gays on the show, the show would have probably been closed down," Gibson said.

This is not the first claim of discrimination against "Bandstand." In 2012, for instance, Scripps College assistant professor Matthew F. Delmont published The Nicest Kids in Town, disputing Clark's claims that he integrated "Bandstand" by revealing some of the show's segregationist practices.

Weiner separates

Jennifer Weiner, former Inquirer reporter and current queen of the best-seller list, was profiled in the most recent issue of the New Yorker, focusing on her fight for literary legitimacy. The profile, by Rebecca Mead, revealed that Weiner and her husband, noted local political lawyer Adam Bonin, have been "amicably separated" since 2010. Could readers expect an autobiographical twist in Weiner's next novel?

Sax-y 'Parks and Rec' star

Aubrey Plaza, who plays the wonderfully deadpan April Ludgate on NBC's "Parks and Recreation," takes up the saxophone for Cassorla in the new jam "Bona Fide." Performance artist Nick Cregor is also featured in the video, which you can see at ph.ly/bonafide.

Cassorla, a/k/a Cheltenham High graduate Ben Cassorla, will release the EP "Amigos" on Feb. 4, featuring collaborations with members of Blitzen Trapper, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (whom Cassorla has toured with), Dawes and Plaza herself.

Plaza and Cassorla didn't grow up that far apart. Plaza grew up in Wilmington and used to ride into Philly regularly to take comedy classes at ComedySportz.

Email: eichelm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @PhillyGossipDN

Online: ph.ly/DNGossip

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