HOT DISH: Rolling Stone‘s Toby Keith Story Hurt Some Good People

More News About LeAnn Rimes, Jessica Simpson, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and Jack Ingram

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also hosts CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at

When it comes to Toby Keith, The Tennessean’s Peter Cooper, Rolling Stone magazine and actor Ethan Hawke, I’m not here to say who is right or who is wrong. It’s not my job to judge. However, I will sometimes give my opinion if I know what is the truth. This time, though, I’m not sure I know what is the whole truth. What I do know follows:

I met Toby Keith the first day Mercury Records chief Harold Shedd brought him to Nashville and signed him to the label. Toby is a singer, songwriter, actor and businessman who has made more money than the average hillbilly singer. Last year alone, he made something like $48 million, according to Forbes. His other business interests include restaurants, a clothing line and his own record label. Toby is loyal to friends like his former sideman whose 3-year-old daughter died from cancer. Money generated from his annual golf tournament goes to Ally’s Fund to treat any sick child in the state of Oklahoma. Most of all, Toby is loyal and supportive of the troops serving in harm’s way. He’s made a dozen or more trips to the war zones where he hangs with and sings for the troops. Toby’s a friend of mine.

Peter Cooper is also a friend of mine. Peter, a fine writer and reporter, also plays guitar and writes songs. He loves music. I’m sure when Peter read the Rolling Stone article actor Ethan Hawke wrote about Kris Kristofferson, he believed what the big movie star had written and what the big magazine printed. Like any other writer, Peter did add a few editorial touches when he wrote a few paragraphs about Hawke’s story on Kris. Whether right or wrong, all of us who sit before a computer typing stories for a newspaper, magazine or Web site are guilty of this.

Peter’s first article about the Rolling Stone piece appeared in The Tennessean on April 3. It dealt with the magazine’s account over an alleged verbal confrontation between Toby and Kris in 2003 at the TV taping of Willie’s 70th birthday party in New York. According to Rolling Stone story, the dispute was over political matters.

Toby didn’t like what Peter had written. Two days later, when he went into the pressroom at the ACM Awards , Toby sort of nailed Peter to the chair, so to speak, and he did it in pure unadulterated rage. He said he’d spoken about the Rolling Stone article to both Kris and Willie Nelson via phone that day, and both assured him there were no harsh words exchanged between Toby and Kris at the taping.

Meanwhile, Kris copied Peter on a note he sent to Rolling Stone, thanking the magazine for the article while also emphasizing that he has no recollection of such an incident and that he has “nothing but admiration and respect” for Toby.

Now, it seems to me the root of this problem is Rolling Stone and Ethan Hawke. For whatever reason they chose to publish that part of the story, the report of the riff between Toby and Kris is apparently not true. It has hurt and angered Toby unnecessarily, causing him to stand up for himself in the presence of a room filled with hacks and flaks who will never forget the incident. This is not good. Yes, it made Toby to be a stand-up kind of guy, but it also made him appear to be out of control. The language he was using is not what Toby would normally use in a room filled with country music media.

Willie is reportedly being interviewed by Andy Greene of Rolling Stone about the incident. Peter did exactly what any other writer would have done in writing about a major magazine’s report of an incident involving major stars. As for Ethan Hawke, I’ve never seen one of his movies and doubt very much I ever will.

I am so sorry this occurred. On my hurting knees, I have prayed both for Toby and Peter. I even said a few words for Ethan Hawke and Rolling Stone. Prayer is the only bank I’ve ever known that guarantees a full return.

LeAnn Rimes Remains in the Spotlight
Us Weekly, which is owned by Wenner Media (which also owns Rolling Stone), is reporting that LeAnn Rimes was hoping her partner in movie making, actor Eddie Cibrian, would split from his wife. According to the magazine, Cibrian has instead cut off all communication with LeAnn, his co-star in the recent made-for-TV movie, Northern Lights, to try to save his marriage with model Brandi Glanville. They are trying to make a go of it while LeAnn and her husband, Dean Sheremet, are taking a break.

I was told Sheremet was nowhere to be seen in Las Vegas when LeAnn was presented the humanitarian award at the recent ACM Awards. I’ll tell you one thing: The dress LeAnn wore was so short, I thought she had on a blouse and forgot her skirt.

I’ve Got Something in Common With Jessica Simpson
Yes, you read right. Jessica Simpson and I do have something in common. Neither of us have a record deal in Nashville. Trying a different spin, someone in her camp claimed Jessica was never signed to Sony Music’s Nashville division. They say she’s an Epic artist who was on loan for her one country album.

When Simpson was opening concerts for Rascal Flatts this year, reports surfaced that she often forgot lyrics and appeared to be unprofessional in some of her other tour duties. When asked about Jessica, those Rascal Flatts boys said, “She did a fine job.” That made Rascal Flatts look very professional in the book of Hazel..

Taylor Supports Hometown Talent
First off, Taylor Swift is set to perform on the Grand Ole Opry. Secondly, I see where Taylor chose local dancers for her video of one of her songs, “You Belong to Me.” Taylor’s mom, Andrea, spoke with Jamie Jordan, the coach of the Golden Girls, the dance team at Hendersonville High School near Nashville. After tryouts, the nine girls chosen were told they would be cast as mean girls. But when they got there, Taylor did not want that. She wanted the juniors and seniors to be hot dancers. Taylor uses locals whenever she can, especially those who live in Hendersonville like she does.

Nicole’s Hubby Does Good
Keith Urban’s Defying Gravity has debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s country albums chart and its all-genre chart, too. Keith, of course, is the husband of the beautiful Nicole Kidman.

Don’t Miss Oprah This Week
Don’t miss the The Oprah Winfrey Show on Tuesday (April 14) when Oprah welcomes four of country music’s biggest acts for an hour-long extravaganza. There will be interviews and performances from Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Sugarland and Darius Rucker.

Jack Ingram Connects With U.S. Troops in Cuba
The lighting director for CMT’s Southern Fried Flicks is a wonderful guy named Jimmy Corn. He hasn’t missed a day on my TV show in almost three years. Jimmy told me the following story about his recent trip to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was involved in shooting video footage of Jack Ingram performing for our nation’s troops.

“The troops knew Jack’s songs,” Jimmy told me. “They sang along with Jack when he sang. Music brought them through from being lonely, being away from their families. Jack was very moved that the troops knew his songs. He really liked the young boys in uniform who were barely college age. There are 6,000 troops on the island and 2,000 additional Americans.

“When Jack would finish a set, he’d step off the stage with his acoustic guitar and keep on singing while the troops gathered around. With the big moon shining above and reflecting in the Guantanamo Bay every night, Jack shook hands with every serviceperson he could reach.”

Thanks, Jimmy, for sharing the story about Jack, an artist who continues to make us all proud.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Chicken Cheese Casserole.