HOT DISH: What's Up With Ratings for CMA Awards?

Keith Urban, Nicole Kidman Up to Something?

(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 shares her recipes at

Numbers Don't Lie

The CMA Award ratings for 2004 earned an 11.5 and an 18, slightly more than 2005's earning of 11.1 and 17. Share numbers don't lie. Now that it is all over, I await with anxiety and hope for sponsorships for each and every act that traveled to the Big Apple. Tell you the truth, with all the hullabaloo preceding the award show and all that went with it, I thought for sure there would be over-the-top ratings, and by now, I expected at least a dozen acts would be sporting new buses compliments of Mr. and Mrs. Deep Pockets -- owners of NEW WAYS TO SELL COUNTRY MUSIC IN NYC. Ratings slipped, and so far, nary a sponsor and it's a shame. Any product should be honored to sponsor country music. Country music is like Cracker Barrel ... you can trust what you're getting.

Still no country music station in NYC, but there are country fans. Don Imus does play country music on WFAN radio and MSNBC-TV. He had Big & Rich on live Nov. 17 for an hour, and he featured Miranda Lambert. The week before, Patty Loveless blew Imus and his crew (and me) away with her marvelous vocals. A couple weeks before, it was Dwight Yoakam. Imus will be the first to tell you loud and clear the execs at WFAN hate country music.

New Jersey has always been country music friendly. They have that huge venue, the Meadowlands, where fans fill bleachers when country comes to town. All you radio merger experts listen to me -- grab a spot just over the Jersey line, and let's start satellites screaming into New York City 24 hours a day, seven days a week with country music and make sure the fans of bluegrass are well-fed on a daily basis! The fans proved they will pay to see their favorites. Hey, there should be a 2,500-3,000-seat venue sorta like Broadway theatres -- except showcase a different country act nightly. Where is Donald Trump?? He's rebuilding New York. The Donald can build and fill the hall with fans, and we'll provide country music -- Keith, Kenny, Brooks & Dunn, Lee Ann Womack, Brad, Vince, Sara, Trisha and the entire kit and caboodle are a-raring.

An Actor's "No"

Actor John Corbett of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Sex in the City fame is back in Music Town wanting to be a hillbilly on the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman. He was set for an interview with backstage host Keith Bilbrey, and necks were stretching to see if Corbett's girlfriend actress, Bo Derek, was along. No Bo, and as it were, no John showed for the interview. He did however send someone to tell Bilbrey that a lens popped out of his glasses, so he couldn't mosey over to chat. Bilbrey allowed he's been doing interviews for 30-plus years, and that was a new alibi. An actor's "no," no doubt.

Ring or Not

While Nicole Kidman's ex, Tom Cruise, has yet to repeat nuptials with Katie Holmes, heavy with swollen belly, rumor has it Kidman is wearing a shiny ring on her most important finger. Kidman ain't saying and neither is Urban, but there's talk the Oscar-winning actress has eyes set on a walk down the aisle with the 2005 CMA entertainer and male vocalist of the year. When asked about the relationship backstage at the CMAs, Keith evaded the issue by saying he wished to talk about his two awards, besides everyone has things they need to keep sacred. The couple's latest hand-holding episode was during a stroll in Boston.

The two Aussies met in January at an L.A. event honoring distinguished Australians. Since July, when they were spotted motorcycling in Woodstock, N.Y., after a lunch of sandwiches, the couple have been an item. In September, they were seen in Woodbury, Conn., having lunch in a café. A few weeks later, the two Aussies were seen lunching again, hand-in-hand, in Leiper's Fork near Urban's Tennessee residence while he was on doctor-ordered vocal rest from throat problems and just prior to his mini-tour of Europe. Late October, they reportedly were seen dining in Washington, D.C., where Kidman is filming the movie The Visiting. Rumor mill says this is when Keith proposed. Is there a ring or not??

Underwood Is Understood

Nashville is a tough town. There was talk that American Idol's Carrie Underwood was not one of us, but she's proving she is. From the first time I saw the Oklahoma beauty on the show, I knew she was a country music star. Underwood had the goods, and more and more she has proven she's here for the long haul. When crotchety judge Simon Cowell growled that Carrie would make more money than any of the other contestants, I knew he knew what he was talking about. The 22-year-old beauty closed on a house in Music City recently, and she chauffeurs herself all over town in her blue Mustang, a gift from the TV show. She's smart too ... No. 2 in her 2001 high school graduating class. Her college journalism paid off -- she wrote her own bio.

Charlie Daniels' Operation Heartstrings

On a trip to Southwest Asia entertaining our men and women in uniform, Charlie Daniels learned that the troops play musical instruments of one kind or another, but the supply of them was extremely limited. Always a doer, upon his return home, Charlie launched Operation Heartstrings to combat loneliness and isolation by providing instruments, albums, DVDs and CD and DVD players. His first stop was Gibson Guitar where Henry Juszkiewicz led the way. Donations came from Gravely/Ariens, Gorilla and Pignose Amps and Guitars, Black Diamond Strings, Peavey Amps, Forks Drum Closet, Gretsch Electric Guitars, keyboards from Soundcheck/Nashville, Rapco International Cords, Shure Mic's, Vic Firth Drumsticks, Ernie Ball guitar picks, laptop computers from Bridgestone/Firestone, CDs from Sony Nashville, DVDs and CDs from Anderson Merchandisers and keyboards from SIR.

God bless the great Charlie Daniels and all the above for giving our Americans in uniform a little pleasure.


By now you know Toby Keith did not attend the CMA Awards in New York where he won video of the year, but he plans to perform in Vegas at the Billboard Awards on Dec. 6. He's also nominated for country artist by the Radio Music Awards airing Dec. 19 also from Vegas. Toby's up for People's Choice award for favorite male music performer that airs Jan. 10, and we can vote.

Shania's Canadian Award

Superstar Shania Twain received the Order of Canada, that country's highest honor. The citation said the singer's journey from a small Ontario town to the pinnacle of the entertainment industry had inspired countless other emerging musicians.

David's Canadian Award

Grascals banjo player David Talbot got quite a surprise when the group performed during the Canadian Bluegrass Awards in Huntsville, Ontario, on Nov. 19. Talbot was presented with the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Canadian Bluegrass Music Association recognizing his achievements in the International Bluegrass Music scene.

What They Are Doing

Kenny Chesney admits, "You gotta recharge your batteries to do what I do."

TV producer/booker Mark Bracco accepted the 2005 CMA media award from Shania Twain backstage at Good Morning America. Yours truly was the proud recipient of this honor in 1999, and the year before, the honor went to CMT's Chet Flippo.

Collin Raye sings "You Can't Over-Love Your Underwear" on TV and radio for Fruit of the Loom.

Bonnie Raitt and Lyle Lovett set to create what will no doubt be an unforgettable CMT Crossroads on Dec. 14.

Craig Morgan, Lorrie Morgan, Two-Foot Fred, Chris Cagle, Tracy Lawrence and Blue County's Aaron Benward participated in the celeb poker tourney in the Big Apple to benefit the T.J. Martell Foundation. The participants raised over $14,000 that goes toward research for leukemia, cancer and AIDS.

Two legends, country music's George Jones and NASCAR icon Richard Petty, will come together for a special Q&A session at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum as part of Sprint Nextel Sound & Speed. Jones, known as the Possum, and Petty, known as the king, will give out autographs following the joint Q&A. Lord willing, I will see you there.

Here's hoping you had a Happy Thanksgiving with those you love -- family and friends.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Hot Diggety Dogs.

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