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As ‘Today’ boss leaves, some wonder if Matt Lauer’s next

NEW YORK NY - APRIL 24:  Journalist Matt Lauer attends TIME 100 Galcelebrating TIME'S 100 Most Influential People In

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Journalist Matt Lauer attends the TIME 100 Gala celebrating TIME'S 100 Most Influential People In The World at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 24, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Fernando Leon/Getty Images for TIME)

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Updated: December 19, 2012 10:44AM



Without question, there has been a great deal of tumult in the NBC executive suites in recent months over the drop in “Today” ratings and slippage to second place behind archrival “Good Morning America” at ABC.

Along with this week’s departure of “Today” executive producer Jim Bell (transferred back to NBC Sports and Olympic oversight duties) and the promotion of veteran “Today” producer Don Nash to the top job — overseen by NBC honcho Alexandra Wallace — rumors are flying that even longtime “Today” anchor mainstay Matt Lauer’s position may be in doubt.

That said, a top NBC source told this column Thursday, “I don’t know how that could really happen — or happen easily,” considering Lauer recently inked a new multi-year contract that reportedly pays him $25 million annually.

However, others say Lauer may be a stumbling block to any real change that might return “Today” to its previous spot atop the ratings. A former top NBC News exec told the New York Daily News, “This problem is not going away until Matt Lauer does. He’s great, but fairly or unfairly, his brand is damaged.”

According to this column’s sources, part of that damage — and its effect on “Today” viewers’ opinions — came from the role he reportedly played in the clumsy exit of former co-anchor Ann Curry and the less-than-well-received arrival of her replacement, Savannah Guthrie.

BON JOVI UPDATE: Stephanie Bongiovi got a bit of good news Thursday when a prosecutor in central New York dropped drug charges against her.

Bongiovi, the daughter of rock superstar Jon Bon Jovi, was unresponsive to paramedics after she appeared to have overdosed on heroin in her Hamilton College dorm room early Wednesday. While authorities originally charged her with possession of both a small amount of heroin and marijuana, the charges were dropped because of New York’s recently-passed “Good Samaritan 911” law — designed to reduce overdose deaths by encouraging people to call 911 without fear of being arrested for drug possession. Under terms of the law, those individuals cannot be prosecuted.

Sources close to Bon Jovi say his only daughter, now 19, long has struggled with addiction issues but refused to go into rehab. Even a recent family intervention apparently was not successful.

† While Bongiovi’s drug incident Wednesday is in violation of Hamilton College student regulations, it appears her she will not be expelled. That’s a good thing, considering her dad is participating in a Dec. 5 concert in New York’s Times Square to raise funds for Hamilton scholarships and arts programs.

† Bon Jovi is also among the all-star lineup of musicians performing in the “12-12-12” concert at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 12 to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy. Others on board with the event include Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band, Roger Waters, Kanye West and the Who.

FREAKING OUT: Sounds like the relationship between “Flipping Out” reality star Jeff Lewis and his longtime assistant Jenni Pulos has soured since Lewis attended Pulos’ May wedding to Chicago orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jonathan Nassos. Lewis and his production company have sued Pulos over the upcoming publication of her book “Hang In There, Baby,” which Amazon.com reports will be out next August.

Originally it was called “Hang In There, Baby: What One of the World’s Most Difficult Bosses Taught Me About Life, Work & Love,” but the shortened title apparently didn’t satisfy Lewis. The lawsuit charges Pulos’ book violates confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements she signed in 2008 and 2010.

FASHION FLASH: Word has it, Kristen Stewart’s very sexy, lacy outfits paraded on the red carpet events for premieres of “Breaking Dawn, Part 2,” were not simply for those avid “Twihard” fans on hand for the kickoff of the fifth and final “Twilight” flick.According to sources close to the actress, her primary focus was to look as appealing as possible for her co-star

Robert Pattinson. She has been working to restore their relationship in the wake of that much-publicized fling with her “Snow White and the Huntsman” director Rupert Sanders.

TUNE TIME: Fans of Our Town’s popular cabaret team of Nan Mason and Terry Higgins will want to know the dynamic duo will again be playing amidst the holiday decorations in the Palm Court of the Drake Hotel this Friday — plus Dec. 7 and Dec. 21. Mason and Higgins also are scheduled for Nov. 30, Dec. 14 and Dec. 28 gigs at Twelvewest, 12 W. Elm.

SEEN ON THE SCENE: A crowd of pols and pundits packed Rich Melman’s Petterino’s event space Wednesday to toast Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg and his seventh book, “You Were Never in Chicago.” Neil was introduced by Gov. Pat Quinn, who quipped that “I have only written one book — ‘How to Appeal Your Property Taxes.’ I’m still waiting for Hollywood to turn it into a movie!” Among those on hand for the festive fete were Lisa Madigan, Ed Burke, Jim Houlihan, Burt Natarus, Sheila and Chris Kennedy, Bill Zehme, Richard Babcock, Hedy Ratner and Mort Kaplan, Maria Pappas, Dan Rutherford, Lori Cannon, Art Johnston, Ron Magers, Rob Johnson, Rick Kogan, Eric Zorn and a slew of fellow Sun-Timesers, including editor-in-chief Jim Kirk and publisher Tim Knight. … Former mayor Rich Daley was among those at 100 E. Walton to check out the new Sofia store — owned by Ashley, Allison and Zach Zisook.



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