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South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Maria Celeste Arrarás: Talk Show Divas Go Head To Head On Telemundo

Magaly Morales

July 17, 2002
Copyright © 2002 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved.

There is a cat fight brewing among the divas of Telemundo and NBC.

For a while, Telemundo's throne belonged to Peruvian talk show host Laura Bozzo -- who was the first to introduce fistfights on a Spanish-language talk show.

It's been more than two years since Laura en América was imported and scheduled against El Show de Cristina, and while discriminating viewers considered it too violent and exploitative, the show zoomed ahead of Cristina.

Laura became Telemundo's gold mine, and to ensure she remained in its ranks, the network offered her the moon and the stars, plus a juicy contract that included gigs for her musician boyfriend. Telemundo took over the production of her show, had her beau record the show's new theme song, and moved Laura to a brand new studio of her own.

The network promoted the law professor turned TV personality like she was the best thing since sliced bread, and all was joy and happiness at Bozzo's wonderland until Maria Celeste Arrarás came aboard.

Arrarás has now replaced Bozzo as the network's femme du jour. The Puerto Rican journalist, who is bilingual, has more crossover promotional potential for Telemundo, which was recently purchased by NBC. Arrarás has been featured on NBC's Today show and her surprise defection from Univisión (for a reported $3 million) prompted a two-page feature in The New York Times.

Arrarás is being called the Katie Couric of Spanish-language television, which, by the way, has prompted another spat. Couric is reportedly green with envy at the royal treatment Arrarás is receiving from NBC, and dislikes having comparisons drawn between the two of them. (Not to mention the fact that the Times has never done an article that long about her.)

Anyway, we heard that Couric, who was supposed to interview Arrarás, came up with an excuse and bailed out just minutes before, to be replaced by meteorologist Al Roker. As might have been expected, the interview didn't go too well, as Roker was not prepared and seemed to have no clue why Arrarás was there that day. One of his questions was about Arrarás' opinion of the Latin music and movie crossover.

She answered, "There are 32 million Latinos in this country, which is the equivalent of the population of Canada. It was inevitable that eventually we would let ourselves be heard and noticed everywhere, including television," she said, adding pointedly, "That's why I'm here."

After the interview, Arrarás flew to Los Angeles to prepare her first Dateline segment, which has yet to air.

With so much going on for Arrarás, Bozzo apparently started feeling a little left out. In a recent interview with gossip magazine TV y Novelas, Bozzo unleashed her frustration, saying she joined Telemundo with the intention of growing and after two years, the network has not fulfilled its promises.

The self-proclaimed advocate of abused women, who is known as the Peruvian Eva Perón, told the magazine she is not the type of person who is happy just to get a paycheck, that her mission in life is not just to earn money.

Bozzo could not be reached for comment, but according to wire reports, she went so far as to say that if Telemundo didn't make good on its pledges by the end of the year, she'll find somewhere else to go, even though her contract with Telemundo is in effect until next July.

Among the "unfulfilled" promises is her Saturday variety show, La Gran Noche Con Laura (The Big Night With Laura). The pilot was taped and produced at the network's studios in Puerto Rico, but it was not included on this fall's lineup.

Now it seems all that whining and threatening has paid off.

Just this week, Bozzo said that after her comments were published in newspapers and magazines worldwide, her issues with Telemundo are being addressed.

"All is well. We are in the process of fixing everything. We have many projects and ideas on the agenda," she told Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Día. "What happened was that there was a point when I wasn't happy with the situation. I wanted to do things like tape my show in other cities. But looks like we are still going to do it after all."

She also said that she wanted to make it clear that she was grateful to James McNamara -- Telemundo's president and CEO -- for supporting her show. Starting in September, her show will go on the road, opening in Los Angeles.

And to clear the room about the alleged rivalry with Arrarás, Bozzo made a surprise appearance on Friday on the newsmagazine Al Rojo Vivo con Maria Celeste (Red Hot With Maria Celeste).

"There aren't any problems between us. In fact, I don't even know what those rumors are based on," said Bozzo. "I don't have any problems with anybody."

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