updated 04/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

SLICE OF LIFE: Should Michael J. Fox tire of acting he needn't worry about finding employment. While prep-ping for his role as a magazine fact checker in the movie version of Jay McInerney's best-selling Bright Lights, Big City, Fox spent two days working in the research department at Esquire magazine in New York. "I would have hired him in a minute," says Larkin Warren, Esquire's chief of research. "Michael took his work very seriously and acted like one of the gang. He answered phones. He got coffee from the cart. He didn't showboat at all." He even learned a few things. "Michael told me that he came out of this with a new appreciation for fact checking," added Warren. "He said for years the media have been reporting that his father is a Mountie in Vancouver, but he's not. Now Fox says he won't feel bothered when he is asked to verify things." As for the glamour of working for a big-city magazine, well, there wasn't much to speak of. Michael's first assignment was to check a recipe for blackberry pie.

PLAY MYSTERY FOR ME: Unknown to his early morning listeners, London deejay Graham Dene didn't host his last breakfast show (before moving to a mid-morning slot) alone. Dene confessed to a British newspaper that his co-pilot of the airwaves had thrown on jeans and driven to the studios from her house, arriving at 6:30 a.m. toting a box of her favorite records, "in case you don't have everything you want," she told him. The only hint of who was sharing the broadcast booth came when Dene dedicated his final song, Billy Joel's Uptown Girl, his guest's favorite. "This is for Charles, back in Kensington," he announced. Later Dene wouldn't comment on his breakfast with Diana, Princess of Wales. "It was," he said, "a private visit."

NETWORK SNOOZE: Many people grew up watching the Tbdayshow, but don't count the program's current anchor, Bryant Gumbel, 38, among them. "I knew it existed but never watched it even after I got into the television business," Jane Pauley's a.m. sidekick told the Toronto Star. "It's only because I wasn't raised in a TV household, and the set was rarely turned on." Gumbel still doesn't live in a TV household. "My son and daughter watch less than a half hour a day," says Bryant. "They're aware that Daddy is on TV when they're ready to leave for school in the morning, but it's no big deal, only something boring and adult that Mommy is watching."

SACKED AGAIN: Playing Dad to his 1½-year-old daughter, Jessica, suits exquarterback Joe Namath, 43, so well that he's back on the paternal playing field—sort of. Asked whether he and his wife, Deborah, 24, are working on having another child, the proud papa replied, "Sure. What do you think? That we sit around and watch television all the time?" Well, maybe just on Monday nights in the fall.

NAME-DROPPER: If experience counts for anything, Steve Allen, 65, the first Tonight Show host and a 34-year veteran of TV talk, is in a position to assess his on-air heirs. Here's how he sizes up the current crop of tongue flappers. David Letterman: "I'm a fan of his. He has a congenial, likable quality, the type that makes for a great brother-in-law." Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue: "Phil created the formula first, but Oprah does it just as well. They're the best thing that's ever happened to morning or daytime TV because people really can learn by watching their shows." Johnny Carson: "It's the perfect niche for him. What else could he possibly do? He never asked for my advice, but here it is anyway—'Stay behind that desk until you drop dead before our very eyes.' " Joan Rivers: "Talk show hosts who have been in the game for the long haul are relatively easy going and soft spoken. Perhaps Joan will be the first of a new breed, but I don't know if that'll happen. Joan is certainly a talented comedienne, but talent isn't necessary for hosting a talk show."

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