One of the goofiest stories of the year out of Hollywood surfaced yesterday when Rona Barrett said on NBC's "Today" show that two top executives at ABC employed a psychic for two years to help determine what shows they should put on the air . . .
Barrett said the Los Angeles Times will reveal details of the 1978-80 arrangement in its Sunday edition of "Calendar" . . .
Barrett named ABC Television president Fred Pierce and ABC Entertainment boss Tony Thomopoulos as the beneficiaries of psychic Beverlee Dean's "intuition" and claimed she was paid a total of $54,000 over the two years by the network for her advice . . .
Barrett said the Times article, written by Deborah Caulfield, will reveal that Dean successfully predicted the success of "Vega$," "Mork & Mindy" and "Taxi" and the failure of "Tenspeed and Brownshoe" . . . without seeing any of the shows!!!. . .
The Caulfied story, according to Barrett, will also reveal that Dean worked as an "unpaid consultant" for NBC in 1979 . . .
At NBC, however, Dean was able to see scripts of pilots whose fortunes she was asked to forecast . . . and, not surprisingly, predicted they were all going to fail . . .
But as the story developed yesterday, it became apparent that Dean is not merely a psychic, and apparently a good one, but has considerable talent as a judge of TV materials . . .
Thus, the main ingredient of the story may be that Pierce signed her to a "secret" contract as a consultant, the revelation of which put the story in such a curious light . . .
Barrett yesterday taped a 14-minute "Tomorrow Coast-to-Coast" segment for use next Monday night, featuring Dean and author Caulfield, during which Barrett maintained, Dean said that the two ABC executives had separately sought out the psychic for personal "readings" at her Los Angeles office-home early in 1978 . . .
Dean apparently did not know either executive but during Thomopoulos' visit, she successfully identified him as being from ABC and predicted that he would soon become "president" . . .
Intrigued, Pierce then visited her -- at which time she predicted that Fred Silverman, then president of ABC Entertainment, would be leaving ABC. Pierce scoffed at the claim . . .
Shortly thereafter, Silverman did defect to NBC for a $1 million contract and the title of NBC president and Thomopoulos was named to succeed him as Entertainment "president" at ABC . . .
Dean told Barrett yesterday that an impressed Pierce then signed her to a "secret" contract as a consultant . . .
Neither Pierce, who is also executive vice president of ABC Inc. nor Thomopoulos, who is network programming boss, was available for comment yesterday . . .
But a spokesman for ABC yesterday confirmed that "we had a two-year consultancy deal with Dean that expired in July of 1980 . . .
"For want of a better title," he said, "you could call her a 'script reader.' She was reacting to concepts on programs for prime time but was not involved in programming decisions" . . .
"She also co-produced the TV movie on Mother Seton, 'A Time for Miracles,' for us last year," the spokesman added (Dean tells Barrett Monday night that Pierce was so mad at the low ratings for "Miracles" he never spoke to her again) . . .
"At no time in those two years," the ABC spokesman emphasized, "did Fred and Tony go to her for psychic readings on programming decisions" . . .
A spokesman for NBC yesterday confirmed that "Dean has never worked for us, but apparently in 1979, as a friend, she may have looked at scripts for a friend, Joyce Burditt, who, at the time, was vice president, programming, comedies for NBC out on the West Coast" . . . v
Burditt was fired by Silverman in 1979 and is currently living in Boston, where she is busy writing novels . . .
Yesterday she put a different light on the Barrett-L.A. Times revelations . . .
Frank to admit she was fired by the network, she said from Boston that in her opinion, "Beverlee combines psychic abilities with very sound creative judgments about television . . . she has all the right instincts . . .
"Fred Silverman relies on his instincts, too," she pointed out, "and he's known in the business as the 'man with the golden gut'" . . .
The former NBC executive said she became friends with Dean in 1977 when she went to her for a reading and two years later, after sorting through several scripts already accepted by the networks or pilots, called Dean and told her "I feel like the captain of the Titanic." She asked her to read the scripts and tell her what she thought about them . . .
"She told me that none of the pilots would work and she was very right . . . Beverlee employed her television judgment although perhaps her psychic judgement figured in . . .
"I'd have been glad to hire her for NBC at any time," Burditt added . . .
"What's really goofy about this story," said Burditt, "is that Fred Pierce wanted the contract to be a secret instead of openly hiring her as a creative consultant . . . when she's a very good one" . . .
In her Monday interview with Barrett, Dean claims that "Fred Pierce didn't want anybody to know about my contract" . . . and says that Thomopoulos didn't know about the secret pact "until much later" later . . .
Nevertheless, one small mystery remained yesterday: why psychic Dean, who is apparently qualified to earn $54,000 from a major network for her consultations, would choose to go public with the story at this time . . .
Stay tuned . . .