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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Jeremy Bird, a former Obama campaign organizer, who is advising an effort to oust Benjamin Netanyahu. Credit Melina Mara/Getty Images 

"Jeremy Bird, the architect of the grass-roots and online organizing efforts that powered President Obama’s presidential campaigns from Chicago, is advising a similar operation in Tel Aviv. But this time it is focused on ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. His consulting work for the group V15 — an independent Israeli organization that does not support specific candidates but is campaigning to replace Israel’s current government — has added yet another political layer to the diplomatic mess surrounding Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to address a joint meeting of Congress next week on Iran. The White House has argued that Mr. Netanyahu’s plan to deliver the speech on March 3, two weeks before the Israeli elections, is harming the United States-Israel relationship by injecting partisanship. Republicans contend it is Mr. Obama who is playing politics and cite the work of Mr. Bird as proof that the president is quietly rooting for the defeat of his Israeli counterpart. American strategists have for decades signed on to work in Israeli political campaigns, with Democrats usually aligned with the Labor Party and Republicans often backing Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party. There is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Obama or any of his senior aides had anything to do with the move by his former top campaign official, who has never worked at the White House, to join the effort to defeat Mr. Netanyahu. But Mr. Bird’s involvement in the elections is drawing attention when tensions between the two countries are so acute that what is usually considered standard practice for American political consultants in Israel is now seen as a provocation. 'It’s clearly a data point that people are looking to that indicates how the relationship has deteriorated,' said Matthew Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. He added that Mr. Bird reflects 'the hypocrisy of this White House, which wants to stand on the notion that they’re not playing politics when in fact their fingerprints are all over this.' The White House has repeatedly said its highest priority is keeping partisanship out of the relationship between the United States and Israel, citing that principle as Mr. Obama’s rationale for refusing to meet with Mr. Netanyahu during his visit." (NYT)

Say It in Style

"Oh! for the days when the worst offense was asking a foreign dignitary’s wife if she 'Likey soupy?' as the great Sir Denis Thatcher once did. Now it’s immediately the F-word and threats of physical violence by the heavy next to the newly rich pig. (And I apologize to our porcine friends, who would be appalled by the comparison if they could read.) But as I’ve said time and again, such are the joys of living in resorts visited by such people. Many of us remember the time when care, courtesy, and respect were part of everyday life. Now the culture is one motivated by spite, envy, greed, and gloating, not to mention bragging and showing off muscle, mostly that of others you pay to come to your rescue. Not that the state does not interfere. The omnipotent state has replaced the ethos of the landed aristocracy and that of the Church, with one that ensures no one’s self-esteem ever takes a dive. It has codified behavior and how we speak and think, and we have to think in the lowest common denominator. Back in the cities everyone’s into care and therapy, but up here in the Alps they’re into hedge funds and other such gadgets. Mind you, I’ve been taking a few lumps about Greece, a country my family has served loyally for generations, but one I’ve given up on until a political party like Golden Dawn is elected. The trouble with Greeks is they’re so predictable. That clown that had his picture all over the newspapers and on television for ten days, Yanis Varoufakis, was all show, no substance. As is Tsipras: Fidel without the beard. Wearing an untucked shirt and one’s collar up might impress the cheap women in Syntagma Square, but it does not get one relief from the hated bailout conditions. Sure, the French and Germans and the Brits smiled politely when the Greek show-off arrived dressed like Marlon Brando in The Wild One—instead of telling him that the dignity of their office required him to dress appropriately – but where did his sartorial defiance get him? NOWHERE. All he got was a permission to change the shape of Greece’s obligations, not reduce them. Varoufakis is a third-rate academic posing as Mussolini, and I apologize to the Duce’s memory. The Greek government had not a leg to stand on, had its day in the sun showing off like peacocks, then bowed to the German wishes as the great economist Taki predicted three weeks ago it would. So what else is new? Election promises in general and in Greece’s case in particular are like swearing eternal love to a woman you met in a low-life nightclub after you’ve had much too much firewater. A run on Greek banks was gathering pace, and capital controls were needed unless Syriza gave in, and they caved quicker than the Lebanese army does whenever it is called upon to fight. Once upon a time I was very proud to be Greek. That was long ago." (Taki)

John Fairchild, shown with covers of W magazine in 1976.

"John Fairchild, the witty and irascible publisher and editor who transformed his family’s fusty trade publication, Women’s Wear Daily, into the lively bible of the fashion industry, died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87. Women’s Wear Daily announced his death without specifying the cause. For more than three decades, from 1960 to 1997, Mr. Fairchild was one of the most powerful, and mercurial, people in the fashion business. From his perch atop Women’s Wear Daily — and later at W magazine, which he founded — he helped make kings out of designers like Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent and Bill Blass and whacked down those who did not meet his exacting standards. And before Gawker and Spy magazine and Page Six in The New York Post became must-reads, Mr. Fairchild was already encamped at the intersection of fashion, celebrity and high society, turning socialites like C. Z. Guest, Mercedes Bass and Pat Buckley into personalities, stationing photographers outside fancy restaurants as they came and went. Everyone who crossed his path knew to beware of the newspaper’s saucy headlines and withering asides in capital letters. He even gave designer collections letter grades, as if Carolina Herrera and Donna Karan were back in high school. 'Everybody got graded,' Ms. Herrera said on Friday. Calvin Klein, another loyal subscriber, said, 'He made WWD into a paper that the media as well as socials and celebrities and everyone else read to find out what was going on.' Not that Mr. Fairchild liked to take credit for mussing the industry’s hair and bruising feelings. 'On the whole, I think the fashion press’s power — and WWD’s in particular — is greatly overrated,” he wrote in his 1989 memoir, 'Chic Savages.' 'We don’t make or break a designer. Any designer who is good gets ahead. We write what the buyers are saying.'" (NYT)

EMINENCE TEASE John Fairchild in the living room of his chalet in Gstaad, 2011.

"Donna Karan still remembers feeling absolutely terrified when fashion arbiter John Fairchild, the tyrannical editor of Women’s Wear Daily, visited her showroom to see one of her early collections. 'I thought I was going to faint, I was so scared,' she says. 'John was larger than life—he intimidated me.” With good reason. The Citizen Kane of the fashion press delighted in making mischief, anointing winners and losers, and encouraging his writers to tweak the powerful with witty and often mean-spirited barbs. 'He made the paper very exciting,' says Oscar de la Renta. Adds his wife, Annette, 'And naughty!' Oscar laughs and continues, 'If the story was about you, you hated it, and if the story was about somebody else, you enjoyed it.' The Princeton-educated Fairchild, who transformed the sleepy publication that his grandfather had founded in 1910 into a lively must-read, trained his critical eye not just on the designers but also on the society women who wore their clothing. He popularized the phrase 'fashion victim' and created the capricious and much-copied 'In and Out” list. As Diane von Furstenberg puts it, 'John took a trade publication that belonged to his family and turned it into a fashion publication that is incredibly influential—it really made people, and destroyed people.' Chairing a Council of Fashion Designers of America (C.F.D.A.) gala several years ago, she spotted Fairchild and announced his presence to the crowd, saying from the microphone, “Even though you are retired, we are still afraid of you.' It’s been 15 years since John Fair­child left his office at Fairchild Publications, on his 70th birthday, March 6, 1997, vowing that he would never return to the workplace or go to another fashion show. And he’s been true to his word, insisting that he is following the example that his own father set upon retiring from the company, at age 65. 'My new life is being with my wife without any interference, and the children come see us every once in a while. I’m very happy,' he says. 'I think when you’re out of something, you should stay out. Don’t you?' These days he and his spouse of 62 years, Jill Fairchild, have become expatriates—holding on to their two-bedroom Sutton Place apartment, in New York, and their sun-dappled Nantucket house but spending seven months a year in luxurious exile overseas. Initially, they split their time between London and a chalet in Klosters, Switzerland. But the Fairchilds have now sold both of those homes and five years ago built a large, three-story wooden chalet, which sleeps 14, on a steep hill just a few blocks from the main street of the tiny alpine town of Gstaad." (VanityFair)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

How to stop the ISIS genocide campaign

"As the world marked last month’s 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, I was in northern Iraq viewing the threat to that nation’s imperiled religious and ethnic minorities — especially the Christians and Yezidis. The parallels are sobering — for genocide looms for these vulnerable communities. Happily, there’s an obvious way America can see to their protection. At the Auschwitz ceremonies, Holocaust survivor Halina Birenbaum recalled the hatred that animated the anti-Semitism of that era and warned of an evil that 'lingers' still, indeed is 'reborn' in the form of 'people being decapitated with the whole world watching.' She was, of course, describing the Islamic State, a k a ISIS, which takes pains to globally broadcast its wanton acts of evil, as with its depraved beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians. Further from the media glare are the horrors inflicted daily on the ancient faith communities of Iraq. Last summer, ISIS drove thousands of Christians from the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries. Largely professional men and women with cars, homes and bank accounts, they often fled with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. ISIS then declared a caliphate in the cradle of Christianity ... Enter the Kurds and their fighting force, the peshmerga. They’re not boy scouts: I heard troubling reports in Iraq that, as ISIS advanced, they abandoned Christian and Yezidi villages they’d pledged to protect. But the Kurds are unique in their pro-American sentiments and they’re prepared to battle the Islamic State, at least in historically Kurdish areas. Roughly 1,000 peshmerga have already given their lives in that fight. In meeting after meeting, leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government lamented to me the lack of direct support from Washington. Touring a peshmerga outpost 1.5 miles from the front, we heard that they are desperate for modern weapons and training to adequately confront ISIS (which is equipped to the hilt with state-of-the-art US weaponry captured in the Iraqi Army’s retreat). If such weapons came with conditions — including Kurdish support for a Nineveh province for Iraq’s religious minorities — it could advance both US national-security imperatives and our values. With the specter of genocide looming and the Islamic State on the march, we must do more than say, 'Never again.'" (Frank Wolf)

"In the olden days, and indeed they are/were, it was the Oscars and that was it. Now award shows are a dime a dozen and even the emcees move around  from show to show like Neil Patrick Harris. It’s all about brand and product, and Zzzzzz. The Oscars had Bob Hope and he was a major draw because the audience knew he was in the thick of it and he was funny (Ha Ha) and upbeat. Those were the times. Hope was a tradition for years – maybe fifteen or twenty, so there was a homey-ness to it all. Hope was our anointed leader of the festivities. It was like old home week in America. Viet Nam ended that for Hope and for the Oscars, but that’s another story. The Oscars are now preceded by the Globes which has become part of the Oscar game (will she/won’t she,etc.), it’s all Ed Sullivan – the old familiar score – without the performances to keep you interested. However, the Oscars do provide rich memories. Maria Cooper Janis sent me the clip from last Friday’s Wall Street Journal by Bob Greene called 'An Oscar Moment Before the Selfie Age.' It’s the Academy Awards on April 17, 1961, 54 years ago. I remember the night and I’ll bet many others of us who were around then remember. Jimmy Stewart came out to present the Oscar to his beloved friend Gary Cooper (Maria’s father) who was very ill in the hospital at the time." (NYSD)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

On the Death of a Friend

"I hate to start with a cliché, but Count Arnaud de Borchgrave d’Altena, who died in Washington, D.C., last week aged 88, was the last of the great foreign correspondents, with trench coat, suntan, title, and 17 wars under his belt included. One accomplishment none of his obituaries comprised—mind you, this is perfectly understandable—was the introduction to journalism and subsequent mentoring of the greatest Greek writer since Homer, yours truly, a fact Arnaud kept quiet about throughout our 48-year-close friendship. Here’s how it began: It was May 1967. The Greek junta had just taken over the government in April, and Arnaud had flown in to interview the Greek strongman, Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos. A Greek mystery man, Niko Farmakis, who may or may not have been a CIA agent or a Greek secret service man, or even just a well connected enabler, had invited me to dinner at the Starlight Roof of the Hilton Hotel. 'You’ll meet the greatest foreign correspondent ever,' he told me. My beautiful first wife was the only lady present at the dinner. Arnaud was suntanned, well dressed, and spoke beautiful French and English. He looked far more elegant than most people in the room, with the exception of the reigning King Constantine, dining near us with the pregnant Queen Anne-Marie. Arnaud held court, regaling us with stories about the wars in Indochina and Algeria, including the siege of Dien Bien Phu, one he had covered with distinction. I was going nuts throughout. My tennis career was a flop, I was not happy being married to the prettiest girl in Paris, my father was threatening to cut me off unless I went to work for him, and the future looked bleak for a poor little Greek boy who had just turned 30. Three days later, very early in the morning, I drove to the airport, bought a ticket to Rome, and sat next to Arnaud, flying first class, naturally. I told him I only had a toothbrush and was heading for Turin to see Gianni Agnelli of Fiat fame. He asked for an introduction and I guaranteed him one. We then connected with a flight to Torino. Two weeks later, Gianni’s handsome face was on the cover of Newsweek, Arnaud had convinced the editor of the weekly that I could open doors galore, and I had been given a Newsweek press credential as a photographer. The rest, as they say, is non-history." (Taki)

Arnaud de Borchgrave in the newsroom of The Washington Times, where he was the editor.

"Arnaud de Borchgrave, a Belgian count’s son and storied foreign correspondent who cabled back bell-ringing scoops throughout the Cold War decades, often from the battlefield, died on Sunday in Washington. He was 88. His wife, Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave, said the cause was bladder cancer. Twice a best-selling novelist, Mr. de Borchgrave led a life that rivaled fiction. A teenager when he enlisted in the British Navy, he was shot on D-Day. He was wounded again, as a Newsweek reporter, in Vietnam (where he lobbed a grenade at North Vietnamese soldiers). He covered, by his estimate, at least 18 wars. At 58, he was named editor in chief of a daily newspaper, though he had never worked for one before. A correspondent and editor at Newsweek for decades, Mr. de Borchgrave was fired by the magazine in 1980, after his increasingly conservative political bent found its way into his dispatches, ending in his likening the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to Hitler’s pre-World War II grab of Czechoslovakia. He found a more hospitable place to work in 1985. He was hired to direct the news coverage and the editorials of The Washington Times, the daily newspaper started with the financial support of the Unification Church and its founder, the Rev. Sun MyungMoon, the conservative South Korean evangelist who led a worldwide spiritual movement.
For conservatives in the nation’s capital, Mr. de Borchgrave fashioned The Times into a must-read, if money-losing, alternative to what he viewed as the biased liberal news media, even if the paper was branded a mouthpiece for Mr. Moon. Mr. de Borchgrave insisted that he was no saffron-robed Moonie, as the movement’s followers were derisively known. As editor, he said, 'I have never received a single editorial suggestion, let alone a directive, from any representative of the owners.'
As a foreign correspondent, he told Esquire magazine in 1981, he kept “the starched combat fatigues of 12 different nations' in a closet of his pied-à-terre, conveniently located near the Geneva airport.Wearing an Egyptian general’s camouflage suit and facing six Israeli tanks during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, he cabled his Newsweek editors: 'I burrowed my head into the sand like a mole — a little deeper with each shell until my mouth was full of sand.' Arnaud de Borchgrave (pronounced AH-no deh-BOAR-grahv) was born in Brussels on Oct. 26, 1926. His father, Count Baudouin de Borchgrave d’Altena, was head of military intelligence for Belgium’s government in exile in Britain during World War II. His mother, Audrey Townshend, was the daughter of a British general." (NYT)

Sofia Coppola, left, and Anjelica Huston, third-generation Academy Award winners, at lunch above Central Park. Credit Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

"No matter who takes home Academy Awards this weekend, Sofia Coppola and Anjelica Huston will remain an exclusive club of two: the only third-generation winners in Oscar history. Ms. Coppola, 43, the writer and director of films such as 'The Virgin Suicides,' 'Somewhere' and 'The Bling Ring,' won an Academy Award for best original screenplay for her 2003 film 'Lost in Translation.' Her father, the filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, has won five Academy Awards, three of them for 'The Godfather, Part II.' And her grandfather, the composer Carmine Coppola, won for best score, for that film.Ms. Huston, 63, an actress and writer, won the best supporting actress prize for her breakthrough role as Maerose Prizzi in 1985’s 'Prizzi’s Honor,' directed by her father, John Huston, who was also a screenwriter and actor. He received 15 Academy Award nominations and won twice. Ms. Huston went on to star in 'The Grifters,' 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' and 'The Addams Family.' Her grandfather Walter Huston won the Oscar for best supporting actor for 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre' in 1948, directed by his son. The second volume of Ms. Huston’s memoir, 'Watch Me,' was published last year." (NYT)

My favorite bootie of all time from Madison Brentwood: Officine Creative handmade.

"It seemed the perfect time to go to L.A. It was pre-Awards season! I needed a laugh. As Uma Thurman begins to follow Renée Zellweger with lasering her face off, and Bruce Jenner continues to broaden his transgender brand for reality show purposes, his own 'Keeping up with the Kardashians.' L.A. is the home of 'morphing ... Maybe I needed that in my own way. What L.A. brings up for me is the subject of aging, since this town is the land of 'forever young.' In the last year I have decided that all a woman over 65 years old needs to feel fashionably safe and secure is a good haircut. Bill Blass once said after age 60, 'a woman must get her hair cut to chin level; anything longer and she looks like a Basset Hound' — plus sensible shoes, a great scarf and/or decent jewelry, and a wonderful pair of eyeglass frames. Clearly aging gracefully is in the details — not the clothes!The scarf and jewelry everyone can do, but the shoes — that’s a serious problem. I don’t understand Louboutin spikes after 60 — or even after 50 for that matter. And if you don’t get what I am talking about, look at Madonna at the recent Grammy’s. She might be an extreme example, but not really: 56 years old, dressed in a matador costume, fishnets, a thong, and a 'butt bra.' As the saying goes: 'Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it.' She can’t, and she shouldn’t. Ever. Her spike heels prevented her from doing a decent dance routine. She teetered from step to step. Her entire presentation was shaky and moldy. A bad sign of irrelevancy and desperation. But back to shoes for the advanced agers, and I don’t mean 'space shoes' or Neutralizers or Aerosoles. Actually the Queen of England and Margaret Thatcher choose Ferragamo pumps (even Meryl Streep admitted that she got into playing Thatcher instantly just by wearing the Ferragamos). The only shoe that doesn’t look like Dame Edna! 'Sensible shoes' they call it, but Ferragamo is the original in taste and class. They have done the same cut and low stack heel for years; choose your color and leather. But boots present a problem. Too clunky and you look like an aging Mammy Yokum biker. Too high and you look like you are appearing in Bravo Housewives or a member of an escort service." (NYSD)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Stay the Piste!

"Once upon a time, clergymen saw mountain peaks as natural steeples leading them ever closer to God. Doctors considered the mountains the best medicine for tuberculosis, while explorers saw them as rocks never before touched by humans. I thought of those good people while T-barring up the Eggli, in way below freezing conditions but in bright sunshine. For some strange reason, whenever I’m really cold, I try to think of the German 6th Army trapped in Stalingrad, numbed in body and mind by the cold, while Hitler sits toasty warm back home and orders them to fight to the death. After that, skiing in subzero weather is easy. Nowadays most skiers wear helmets and ski masks, but at 78 years of age I refuse to look ridiculously like a boy racer, and to hell with safety. The mother of my children ditto. Where did the present craze with helmets originate? From helmet adverts that tell us how easy it is to get brain damage if one crashes on hard snow. Mind you, brain damage in Gstaad is caused mainly by indoor snow, as most people here après-ski. Last week was as good as it gets: the slopes empty, the snow perfect, the sun shining. But it was very, very cold. Snowcapped mountains are a magnificent sight, and when one thinks that an arrowhead of the Bronze Age was discovered here by some American tourists not so long ago, one sees Hannibal crossing the Alps as a recent visitor. The greatest mountaineer alive is the Swiss, Ueli Steck, a 38-year-old who has scaled the Eiger’s north face solo in 2:47:33, the equivalent of running a marathon in 60 minutes. He is called the 'Swiss Machine' by those in the know, and he goes up mountains alpine style, without fixed ropes or oxygen. I have never met him, although I know someone who accomplishes similar feats of daring, a local Gstaad man by the name of Kobe, pronounced Kubby. He, too, has gone up the Eiger’s north face, a treacherous, almost 90-degree slope of limestone and ice. It’s a funny thing, courage. Kobe and I used to train in karate together, and he’d flinch when I attacked jodan style, to the face. Yet he’d go up like a mountain goat, armed only with crampons and ice axe in places I couldn’t watch on film, such would be the vertigo. Courage, incidentally, is what one loses with age. Until three or four years ago I could still ski quite fast, but no longer. One begins with fearing a fall, and the next thing you know one is slowly going down a steep slope, like an old lady crossing a busy street. Young schussboomers whizz by, evoking anger at their arrogance, and at one’s cowardice to schuss behind them and pass them. Maybe in the next life. Eight people died in an avalanche last week in France, and signs are posted all over not to go off piste. So what did my son do? He went with Lara Livanos on a helicopter and skied all day with her and a guide in deep powder and way off piste, while her husband and I sat drinking at the Eagle Club in the sun. Afterward the four of us skied quite fast on piste, without helmets and being rowdy, John Taki leading the group to take nonstop turns finishing with a schuss. The Wasserngrat used to be Papa Hemingway’s favorite mountain, except that he’d go up with skins, drink his wine and eat his prepared lunch, then ski down once and for all. It would take him two hours to go up, and about 30 minutes to descend." (Taki)

Ronald Perelman, Sheila Nevins, and Rosie O'Donnell.

"It was Wednesday and the Michael’s lunch. In the Garden Room Ron Perelman hosted a luncheon for Rosie O’Donnell to celebrate the documentary she made for HBO about women’s health. There were about fifty guests, mainly women including Katie Holmes, Desiree Gruber, Tamara Mellon, Daryl Roth, Trudie Styler, Martha Stewart, Marlo Thomas, Marina Abramovic, Marie Brenner, Arianna Huffington, Joanna Coles, Joan Kron, Alina Cho, Sheila Nevins, Elaine Irwin, Katherine Farley, Dr. Allison Spatz, Debra Lee, Chris Taylor, Claire Atkinson, Dr. Jonathan LaPook, Fran Townsend, Roberta Karp, Cindi Berger, Ashleigh Banfield, Jean Doumanian, Liz Smith, Ellen Levine, Cecile Richards, Barbara Walters, Dr. Holly Anderson, Linda Stasi, to name just a handful. Mr. Perelman was present as was Richard Johnson of the NY Post and PR guru Ken Sunshine. I was not present so I don’t know what went on but there surely was a lot of talk. What’s the attraction? For a New York restaurant luncheon, (or luncheons), on a single day (or days in this case), all in one room and on the same day, you have movie stars, real estate tycoons, university presidents (Neil Rudenstine was president of Harvard from 1991 to 2001), retailing executives (Delphine Arnault is a VP of LVMH, her father’s company) writers, playwrights, columnists, theatre producers, television producers, film producers, politicos, advertising executives, public relations executives, talent agents (Kevin Huvane is head of Creative Artists Agency), television commentators, music industry executives, philanthropists, book publishers and editors, magazine publishers and editors, investment bankers, celebrities, media marketing executives, socialites, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs. It’s the heat of the Big Town. It’s not a club although there’s a clubbiness to it for those of us who partake regularly. Yet nevertheless, all guests at Michael’s are greeted with same warmth, good cheer and efficiency and the waitstaff is patient, accommodating and eager to please. Plus there’s the tasty menu. Meanwhile in the Garden Room ..." (NYSD)

Bride catches Wall Street ‘Wolf’ in bed with socialite

"Barry Gesser — one of the wolves of Wall Street — had his marriage to actress Stacey Alysson end after lasting just 15 days in January when his bride came home and found him with New York socialite Dori Cooperman. Gesser — a friend of Jordan Belfort whose house in Bedford was featured in the New York Times — was charged in 1999 with stock fraud and racketeering. He pleaded guilty to fraud, served three years probation and forfeited $2.1 million. Having relocated to Beverly Hills, Gesser married the gorgeous Alysson earlier this year after 14 months of dating and gave her a $60,000 diamond ring. But the couple split in dramatic fashion on Jan. 29, when Alysson returned home to find Cooperman “there in bed with him wearing my clothes,' she said.Cooperman told me she was a houseguest of Gesser, her friend of 20 years. 'We were just sitting and talking. I may have put on [Alysson’s] T-shirt by mistake. They started arguing. I went to my room. The next thing I know the police are there.' No one was charged, but Alysson asserted five days later, when she obtained a temporary restraining order, '[Gesser] told me to leave my wedding ring. He told me if I didn’t, he would bury me six feet under . . . I took this threat seriously because he is a convicted felon with no regard for the law and deep connections to the Mafia.' While Gesser denies Alysson’s version of events, the unhappy newlyweds will be in court on Feb. 24 when Alysson will seek a permanent restraining order. Alysson told me, 'I’m afraid of him. I don’t want anything from him. I made a bad mistake [in getting married] and got out quick!' But she’s keeping the ring.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Last year Richard Gingras and Sally Lehrman came up with the Trust Project (full text here, on Medium). Richard is a seasoned journalist and the head of News and Social at Google; Sally is a senior journalism scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California. Their starting point is readers’ eroding confidence in media. Year after year, every survey confirms the trend. A recent one, released ten days ago at the Davos Economic Forum by the global PR firm Edelman confirms the picture. For the first time, according to the 2014 version of Edelman’s Trust Barometer, public trust in search engines surpasses trust in media organizations (64% vs 62%). The gap is even wider for Millennials who trust search engines by 72% vs 62% for old medias. And when it comes to segmenting sources by type — general information, breaking, validation –, search leaves traditional media even further in the dust. No wonder why, during the terrorist attack in Paris three weeks ago, many publishers saw more than 50% of their traffic coming from Google. This was reflected on with a mixture of satisfaction (our stuff surfaces better in Google search and News) and concern (a growing part of news media traffic is now in the hands of huge US-based gatekeepers.)
Needless to say, this puts a lots of pressure on Google (much less so to Facebook that is not that much concerned with its growing role as a large news conduit.) Hence the implicit mission given to Richard Gingras and others to build on this notion of trust." (Monday Note)

"'Death with dignity' sounds dandy--so humanistic, so reposeful--but what about all of the indignities leading up to the last exhale? They're tough to escape, not only because of all the leaks and sags to which flesh is heir, but of the additional dilapidations so generously assisted by obesity, medication, and alcohol, and Michael Mewshaw barely spares us barely a single one of these glassy-eyed, falling-down senior moments in his memoir of Gore Vidal, Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal. The memoir may cover four decades but the portrait is dominated by the jagged decay of Vidal's final stage, his long decline when the once handsome profile had become splotchy and jowled and the once lucid wit turned addled and vinegary, with occasional silvery flashes of saber counter-thrust. I enjoyed an earlier memoir by Mewshaw--Do I Owe You Something?, where some of this Vidal material originally appeared--but this is a book we could have done without. Not because its anecdotes are untrue (there are other accounts of Vidal's mind and manners in dishabille), but because its cheapening effect in concert with its literary pieties feel corrosive after awhile--a grimy exercise in bad faith. No time spent in Vidal's company could fail to yield hilarious apercus and asides, and there some nifties here, such as Vidal's answer to the question What are the three saddest words in the English language? ('Joyce Carol Oates'), his memorializing of his rumble with Norman Mailer at Lally Weymouth's party as 'the night of tiny fists,' and the plaintive cry of actor, film dubber, and all-around fix-it man Mickey Knox,* 'You have any idea how hard it is to get Burt Lancaster blown every night of the week?' But the anecdotes get seamier and seamier, with Mewshaw passing along gossipy observations about the private parts of various celebrities (a prose snapshot of the once godly, disease-withered and ravaged Rudolf Nureyev swimming nude in the pool is especially awful), and the shambling spectacle of Vidal's decline becomes more and more sordid, the nadir reached when Vidal, having gotten too fat for his belts, has his pants fall down when one of his suspenders snaps, and his steadfast, exasperated partner, Howard Austen, mocked, almost one imagines like a vaudeville emcee, There he is, ladies and gents, the elegant, patrician Gore Vidal! 'Gore flopped back in his chair, pulled up his trousers, and resumed drinking.' Then there's the appalling rudeness Vidal showed to the fellow writers who lined up to pay him homage at the Key West Book Festival, among them Alison Lurie and Joy Williams. It is rather amusing when Vidal is introduced to the widow of William Gaddis and Vidal calls the author of The Recognitions a 'cheapskate' who once stuck him with a restaurant bill in Rome--it's like something out of Kingsley Amis, that." (James Wolcott)

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former finance minister of France, center, and his lawyer Henri Leclerc, left, leave the Lille courthouse, northern France, on Feb. 2. Photographer: Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

"Dominique Strauss-Kahn, on his first day of testimony at a French pimping trial, was put on the defensive as he had to respond to comments from a prostitute who said she was hired to have sex with him in a Paris hotel.  The woman, Mounia Rabou, who took the stand just before Strauss-Kahn, said that there was no mention of money or payment in front of Strauss-Kahn the night at the Hotel Murano in Paris in 2010. Rather she was only paid by another defendant, in a taxi afterward.
'It was pretty clear,' nonetheless that she and 'the other women there that evening were there for sexual relations,' she said at the court in the of Lille Tuesday. 'I was just there to prostitute myself.'
The former French finance minister has begun three days of testimony to try to prove his innocence and -- at least partially -- revive his battered reputation. He told the judge the frequency of the parties has been grossly exaggerated in the press. 'When one reads about this, one gets the impression that this was frenetic activities, the dates are so mixed up,' he said. 'It was four times a year for three years, nothing more.' DSK, as he’s known across France, resigned as chief of the International Monetary Fund in 2011 after he was arrested in New York, accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. Those U.S. charges were dropped later that year only for him to be charged with 'aggravated pimping' by French prosecutors investigating the so-called Carlton Affair -- named for the Lille hotel where some of the parties took place -- in 2012. Strauss-Kahn, who was running the IMF from Washington at the time of the Murano episode, said he would come to Paris every two or three months, sometimes for work, but also to visit his children." (BusinessWeek)

Talking to the star the night we met in November 1978, at a cocktail party in Beverly Hills

"Lizabeth Scott died on January 31st at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. She was 92.  She and I had a “friendship” when I lived in Los Angeles. I use quotation marks around the word because it was a Hollywood friendship. Hermes Pan,  choreographer and Fred Astaire’s dance collaborator used to  refer to such relationships as 'I loved ya honey but the show closed.' He always laughed when he said it, and it did amuse him. It’s the nature of the business, of that business and the personalities who are drawn to it and can manage to progress and even triumph in it. It’s a microcosm of itself. Lizabeth was the first movie star I met when I moved to Los Angeles in 1978. By 'met' I mean: got to know; a friend. We were introduced by our mutual friend Luis Estevez. He had invited us both to join him one evening at a cocktail party in Beverly Hills at the home of a local restaurateur named Marilyn Lewis. It was a big party with a lot of Hollywood people. The picture of the two of us was taken that night. I don’t know how I ended up with it although I’ve had it for years. I was unaware of the camera, as you can see, because I was full of enthusiasm about this move I’d made from East to a new world in the West, and I was charmed by this famous face talking to me with that voice that I remembered from her movies. She kind of took me under her wing that night, introducing me to people at the party, telling me about them afterwards. She spent much of the evening with me at her side, so that we fell into conversation. She was a curious person: where are you from, why are you out here, what do you like to write ...? The questions were perfunctory but always related to the business, the industry. I was flattered by her attention because I knew no one, everything was new, and I was green. I was taken by what seemed like an extreme mid-Atlantic accent that movie stars in her youth were schooled-in." (NYSD)

"German Chancellor Angela Merkel, accompanied by French President Francois Hollande, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 6. Then she met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Feb. 9. The primary subject was Ukraine, but the first issue discussed at the news conference following the meeting with Obama was Greece. Greece and Ukraine are not linked in the American mind. They are linked in the German mind, because both are indicators of Germany's new role in the world and of Germany's discomfort with it. It is interesting to consider how far Germany has come in a rather short time. When Merkel took office in 2005, she became chancellor of a Germany that was at peace, in a European Union that was united. Germany had put its demands behind it, embedding itself in a Europe where it could be both prosperous and free of the geopolitical burdens that had led it into such dark places. If not the memory, then the fear of Germany had subsided in Europe. The Soviet Union was gone, and Russia was in the process of trying to recover from the worst consequences of that collapse. The primary issue in the European Union was what hurdles nations, clamoring to enter the union, would have to overcome in order to become members. Germany was in a rare position, given its history. It was in a place of comfort, safety and international collegiality.The world that Merkel faces today is startlingly different. The European Union is in a deep crisis. Many blame Germany for that crisis, arguing that its aggressive export policies and demands for austerity were self-serving and planted the seeds of the crisis. It is charged with having used the euro to serve its interests and with shaping EU policy to protect its own corporations. The vision of a benign Germany has evaporated in much of Europe, fairly or unfairly. In many places, old images of Germany have re-emerged, if not in the center of many countries then certainly on the growing margins. In a real if limited way, Germany has become the country that other Europeans fear. Few countries are clamoring for membership in the European Union, and current members have little appetite for expanding the bloc's boundaries. At the same time, the peace that Germany had craved is in jeopardy." (STRATFOR)

Beware of Brussels Bearing Gifts

"Athens was very quiet the night of Syriza’s victory. Most of my friends were appalled at the size of Tsipras’s win. I asked them, what did they expect after four years of austerity? A Samaras victory? A good friend expostulated, 'But Samaras is a cousin of mine …' As if that made it OK. They’re funny, the Greeks. The gang of Brussels inserts a Trojan Horse, Samaras, to do its bidding; the middle class disappears—6000 doctors go west—and my Greek friends are surprised when a Castro appears and wins big. The losing center-right and center-left made mistakes, big-time. The first was not to leave—or threaten to leave—the Euro when the crisis first broke. The Brussels gang were running very scared in 2010. No longer. Another was to turn all the power of government against Golden Dawn, a so-called neo-Nazi party, something Golden Dawn is not. Many of its members are languishing in jail on trumped-up charges now, something that will come back to haunt Greeks once Tsipras shows his real colors and begins to jail people for 'anti-Greek activities,' such as speaking out against his Marxist policies. Let’s not forget that it was Golden Dawn who made sure Muslim extremists did not spread their evil messages and activities around Athens and Salonica, the two largest cities. They beat the crap out of budding jihadists and criminals threatening the poor, something the long-suffering Brits and French should have done years ago. As I said, they’re funny, these modern Hellenes. Just last week as I was watching the Andrew Neil BBC program, he had a Greek comedian on the show, someone I had never heard of, but whose dress and manners reminded me of the modern Greece. All the comedian did was bitch against the Germans. He was apparently a man who never asked himself whether it was the Germans who forced the Greeks to borrow far more than they could afford and then fiddled the figures under the expert advice of Goldman Sachs. A man who never doubted the guilt of Angela Merkel where tax collection is concerned, a system that lost 20 billion euros per year in unpaid taxes. Who is certain it was Merkel’s fault that a Greek government came begging Germany for help once the game was up. Never mind. Introspection is not our strongest characteristic ... Here are Taki’s suggestions for the survival of the nation: Most important are structural reforms, not feel-good bullshit. Public sector unions are choking the nation’s economy, whereas the private sector is booming. Starting a business is almost impossible due to bureaucratic blackmails, while overregulation is stifling economic activity. Free the economy and stop protecting cartels, shrink the state, and in five years Greece will be the Switzerland of the south. And if Tsipras follows my advice I shall be having a sex change quicker than you can say “Syriza.” In the meantime, the Greek suppository is working." (Taki)

Barbara Cirkva Schumacher, Shirin von Wulffen, and Jamee Gregory.

"Although the beat goes on, this past Thursday at Restaurant Daniel (on 65th and Park) The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center held its annual Winter Lunch. Roger Vivier – Paris was the generous sponsor of the event and a clever reminder was the placement cards which were in the shape of a low-heeled woman’s shoe, as well as the napkins.The SMSKCC is one of the most prestigious charities in town because much is expected from their volunteers and much is delivered. They are dedicated to promoting  the well-being of patients, supporting cancer research, and providing public education on the early prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer.
The Winter Lunch is a fundraiser and this one was focusing on 'Harnessing the Immune System To Target Sarcomas.' MSKCC’s pioneering research has resulted in significant improvements in the prognosis for children and sarcomas, the tumors of which remain a leading cancer killer of children and young adults. Dr. Paul Meyers, Vice Chair, Academic Affairs, Department of Pediatrics at MKSCC, spoke to the guests about the matter, the progress they’ve made, and why it's important to keep the donations following this process at this moment. The funds raised from this lunch will accelerate the processes needed to launch and support the first clinical trial of a treatment with monoclonal antibody called 3R8 against osteosarcoma – one which promises to change the future for children and young adults afflicted with this difficult potential lethal disease. Chairs of the Winter Lunch were Gretchen Gunlocke Fenton, Jamee Gregory, Emilia Fanjul Pfeifler, Gillian Hearst Simonds, Amanda Taylor and Caryn Zucker." (NYSD)