Anyone expecting a barb attack at Sumner Redstone during Wed’s Center For Communications’ NY award lunch honoring deposed Viacom CEO Tom Freston was rudely disappointed. There was only one direct Redstone hit all ceremony, and it didn’t come from Freston, who was making one of his first industry appearances since being dismissed by Redstone last month. It was News Corp COO Peter Chernin, who showed off a fake Freston-created page with a picture of Redstone muttering "F@*# MySpace." Viacom-owned MTV without Freston, Chernin said, "now stands for (Les) Moonves Takes Viacom." Most zingers touched either on Freston’s MTV Networks track record or the $59mln severance package he’ll get post-exit. "He started MTV with a system in Jersey, and he’s leaving with enough cash, if you believe the reports, to buy all of Jersey," said BET CEO Debra Lee. "Don’t worry, Tom—your peak earning years are ahead," added MTVN CEO Judy McGrath. "Think how rich the next time you’ll be when you get swung." Comedy Central personality Stephen Colbert praised Freston for providing edgy MTV content throughout his career there. "What’s awful in America is fantastic for foreign countries," Colbert quipped. "When the Taliban practice stunts from ‘Jackass,’ we’re all safer." At the end, Freston appeared as someone at peace with himself and ready to take on new opportunities. "It’s a great time to be a free agent in digital’s new world order. I’m taking my time," he said after a standing ovation. "Nothing will change the good feelings at Viacom over what we did." He also showed off his post- job pursuits, from starting a "La-Z-Boy" page on MySpace with a roster of former Viacom execs, to creating a viral music video that has him lip-synching around his apartment to pop song "Bad Day." Lee and a Hallmark Channel-created tape spotlighted Freston’s diversity commitment at the ceremony, which was slated well before Freston’s ousting. Beyond race and gender, "diversity is creativity," she said. "Viacom will be that way forever, and that will be Tom’s legacy." Among the cable/media elite watching Freston take the ribbing and keep on ticking: Rupert Murdoch, Les Moonves, Christie Hefner, Doug Herzog, Henry Schleiff, Viacom founder Ralph Baruch and Russell Simmons. – Simon Applebaum

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