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Friday, June 26, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Absinthe Minded

"Last Wednesday, June 24, Pugs held a luncheon in honor of our first member to depart for the Elysian Fields, or that large CinemaScope screen up above, Sir Christopher Lee, age 93. Pugs club is now back to 19 members, the ceiling being 21. Our president for life, Nick Scott—I actually was the first chief but was overthrown in a bloodless as well as voteless coup by Nick—gave a wonderful address while breaking yet another custom, this one about having ladies present. Our guest of honor was Lady Lee, Christopher’s widow. Now, there’s nothing more that a poor little Greek boy can add to Sir Christopher’s obituaries, which were numerous, glowing, detailed, and well deserved. Except to say that he personified that smoldering restraint of a long-ago England, with his perfect manners and diction, and his ability to be interested in what other people had to say. The big ME was unknown to him. Christopher loved the members of Pugs, all 20 of us, and was equally loved in return. At last year’s annual lunch on an outdoor terrace of a Chelsea restaurant, he was recognized as he got up to leave and was given a standing ovation by the luncheon crowd. Here’s what fellow Pug and knight Sir Bob Geldof had to say about him: 'Christopher, what a bloke. What a Pug. Lives don’t come more lived than that.' What struck me was the fact that Christopher wore his Pugs club tie for his investiture by the Queen in 2009, and was outspoken about the increasing depravity of film. If ever there was a palimpsest of present and past, it was Sir Christopher." (Taki)

We Tried to Interview This Rich Guy About His Rich People Book

"This month, New York advertising man and chronicler of the wealthy set Richard Kirshenbaum (pictured) published a new book, 'Isn’t That Rich? Life Among the 1%.' We tried to interview him about it. It did not work out.
Kirshenbaum’s book first came to my attention in early June with the appearance of a goading New York Post story [headline: 'You should thank the one percent, you ingrate'] based on the book, which extolled the many benefits of trickle-down economics, concluding that 'NYC would still be a dump' without its ample and growing supply of zillionaires.
'This sounds like a provocative defender of the rich who would make for an interesting and contentious interview subject,' I thought to myself. On June 10, I emailed Kirshenbaum’s publisher about setting up a Q&A. I heard back immediately from his publicist, who was enthusiastic about the idea. I asked for a review copy of the book, and she agreed to send one over. On June 18, the publicist emailed me again asking about the interview. I told her I’d never gotten the book. She agreed to send another one. Still very enthusiastic! That same day, coincidentally, my copy of the book arrived. On June 24, the publicist emailed me again. 'Just checking in to see if you had a chance to crack open the book,' she wrote. 'I’d love to get your questions over to Richard ASAP. He is leaving for vacation soon and I want to make sure I get to him beforehand.' As it happened, I was just finishing up my speed-read of the book. We’d agreed on an email Q&A, so I sent her the following five questions to pass on to Kirshenbaum (bold added later, for reasons the astute reader will see in a moment!)" (Hamilton Nolan)

Both paperback and hardcover are now for sale on Amazon for $74. Click to order.

"I rarely read two books at once but I broke that habit briefly on Saturday when looking for a reference book, I happened upon a big paperback copy of “Chips; The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon,” published in 1996.  I’d read it when I bought it back then, not knowing anything about the man but having perused the names in the index, many of which were the leading characters in British society and politics and literature mid-20th century. Although I’d read most of it I found myself re-reading it with a different eye, as if it were new. What’s new?  The world we live in today, compared to only twenty years ago, is radically different from the world of the diarist sixty and seventy years ago. Channon, or Chips as everyone knew him, was an American, born in 1897, who grew up in Chicago, son of an heir to a Great Lakes shipping company. His parents started taking him to Europe when he was a child. By his late teens he was an expatriate, and would remain so. In London where he married Lady Honor Guinness, he became a member of House of Commons and led the life of a social gadfly extraordinaire, who had connections to many doors. His attitude is so British that there’s no reason to think he didn’t seem entirely British, including the accent – although I don’t know about that detail. He was a gregarious fellow who loved  society (better yet, royalty) and knowing all the right people. And in his case it was at the end time of the British Empire, and the 'right people' were the names that are now of history. He had a great eye for detail and an intelligence to write about it visually. " (NYSD)

DPC with Barbara Tober.

"The city seemed quieter – maybe because of the heat, where there were fewer people on the street because of the high temperatures. I went down to Michael’s to have lunch with my friend Barbara Tober. This was a lunch talking about the books we’re reading, the places and events we’ve been to lately, and theatre. Barbara and her husband Donald who really make an effort to get around the city, have been seeing a lot of Broadway shows. Actually, it seems like they’ve just about everything that’s playing right now. It is a phenomenon that there are so many great shows on right now. Most recently they saw 'It Shoulda Been You.' What was it like? Well, there were moments when they were sitting there thinking: “what is this, nothing’s happening. And then suddenly they’d find themselves laughing so hard tears were streaming down their faces. Needless to say, they loved it. Barbara and Donald Tober are two very active philanthropists in New York. When I say 'active' I mean they are involved in several major charities in which they are not only principals in terms of financial contributions but also players in terms of hands-on participation. Donald, for example, was in on the founding of CityMeals-on-Wheels with James Beard and Gael Greene. Donald was the guy who had the corporate connections that could contribute to this fantastic organization that delivers tens of thousands of meals annually to the elderly, to the ill and infirm and people in need. It’s a perfect charity to describe their personalities: helping  in the quality of life of their fellow citizens in the community." (NYSD)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

President Obama with Marc Maron.
Courtesy of the White House.

"Say President Obama was making his way in a motorcade over to your house for an hour-long interview in your garage. How would you prepare? For Marc Maron, the comedian and host of the popular interview podcast WTF with Marc Maron, getting ready for Obama involved cereal and a guitar. On Friday morning, hours before the unprecedented POTUS podcast, crowds had already begun lining the streets surrounding Maron’s Highland Park, California, home with handmade posters. Secret Service had essentially annexed Maron’s property to ensure Obama’s safety, positioning snipers on a nearby roof, and a tent over his driveway. (The bomb-sniffing dogs had already swept the house in the days prior.) As the clock ticked closer to conversation time, Maron did his best to tune out the exterior chaos. 'I kind of hunkered down in my house with notes and coffee and my bowl of cereal and tried to find my own space,' Maron told us by phone on Friday afternoon. '[I was] kind of making sure I had as focused of a one-on-one experience with him as possible. . . . And I stayed kind of detached. I wasnÆt answering e-mails or texts or anything. I just wanted to stay focused to sort of be present with the president.' As WTF listeners know, the comedian also enjoys 'noodling' on his guitars, occasionally playing snippets of his jam sessions during podcasts. And in the moments before Maron’s presidential summit, jamming was also integral to finding his zen. 'I was playing my Gibson 335, not plugged in, but was playing it intensely and furiously.'" (VanityFair)

Sunday Story ~ Indian Rose

"She awoke feeling woozy and blamed it on the scary nightmare. She often had nightmares, everywhere she lived, and she had lived most everywhere. People called her impulsive. She thought of herself as a wanderer. She sat up and shook out her long hair. She wrapped her body in an orange sarong and brewed coffee. Suddenly she couldn't remember anything. Where was she, she wondered? She hoped it was somewhere exotic. Unseen he watched her. He’d been waiting for her. Hers was a life of impetuous traveling which meant relentless packing and unpacking. How many times had she done this she couldn't even count. Coffee mug in one hand, box cutter in the other she sliced straight lines down the binding tape. Debussy filled the background. He was a patient man, if he was a man at all. She didn’t feel it when she cut herself, but she saw the smudges on the cardboard; ochre orange fingerprints, ‘Pretty!’ she thought, and then she noticed the scrawled address on the side of the box. Jaipur. It wasn't a dream, she almost laughed out loud from relief. All day she retrieved belongings, slipping clothing onto hangers and into closets. Closets that smelled of disuse. Her fingertips hurt from the many tiny cuts." (Christina Oxenberg)

Yanna on stage at 54 Below.

"Last Thursday night I went over to 54 Below on West 54th between 7th and 8th, where Yanna Avis was performing her program of cabaret. Yanna, who is French, was married for a long time to Warren Avis, the rent-a-car tycoon. I can’t remember if we first met in Los Angeles or here in New York, but we have a lot of mutual good friends and have known each other a long time.Yanna had been an actress before she married Warren, but she put that away to have time to spend with her husband. Warren died at the ripe old age of 92 eight years ago this last April. It was about that time that Yanna began to focus once again on her love of performing. I call her The Chantouze. I’d never been to 54 Below before. Because of that, and because I’d never been in the cellar of Studio 54 in the old days (where all the wild druggy stuff allegedly happened), so I had only an idea of what it looked like. A cellar below a nightclub? Dark, grubby, damp, dank? I doubt it looked like it looks now: it’s a beautiful room for cabaret. I don’t know what you’d call the interior design style but it’s perfect for a first class cabaret. And there’s not a bad seat in the house, plus there’s enough space that you’re not packed in, and with a stage adequate enough to hold four or five musicians, a piano and the performer. The service is excellent, quick and attentive." (NYSD)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Review: The Residuals, Season 2

If The Residuals didn't exist, someone would have to invent the show. The comedic web series about actors who do commercials -- the auditions, the callbacks, the competition -- has been around for a year but this season they really hit their mark. Even the outtakes are pretty friction' hilarious. Created and Produced by Gillian Pensavalle and Michael Paul Smith, this season Horatio Sanz, Jenna Leigh Green and Michael Torpey.

Season 2 premiered this week. I have known Gillian since way back in the days of the Jake and Jackie radio program where she worked and I used to call in on the regular. Although I have never auditioned for a commercial I know a lot of actors and their talk about the whole process -- and the dreams of scoring a "national" -- are fascinating. That is why I am surprised that this is the first time someone did a comedy show on the subject. BroadwayWorld is clever for scooping them up.

This season all the regulars return as well as the guest stars. How does one begin tho describe this show? The episodes are digestible nuggets -- less than 15 minutes a pop -- and perfect for viewing on a mobile device. I've told Gillian at the premiere that they would be perfect for IFC TV, where I used to work, because they are trying to do edgy comedy. Comedy Central also would be a perfect fit for this madcap group of actors who audition and compete for the role of corporate pitchman, essentially.  My guess is that anyone who has ever pursued commercial acting has a million stories -- agents, alone --so let's hope this continues for a while because I, for one, am quite enjoying the ride.

The show is brilliant. Check it out here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Debi Mazar making her commentary on the evening and the fashion industry in New York.

"Last night I went down to Cipriani 42nd Street where the Fashion Institute of Technology and FIT Foundation were hosting their annual awards gala. It was a very crowded room, and a bright and well-dressed one, as it was the fashion industry and its supporters and contributors. I was introduced to FIT several years ago by Liz Peek who is (or up until recently was) the chair of the committee that raises funds for the FIT museum. Every early autumn, their Fashion Luncheon where they honor a major designer now opens the New York Fall Fashion Week. This is an organization and force that I’ve seen start with some volunteers (including Mrs. Peek and Yaz Hernandez) and become a visible force on the New York philanthropic and social scene. Their works have also shone a bright light on the college itself which is a great New York success story. FIT began, was created, 70 years ago this year with a couple of borrowed classrooms and a course in fashion design. They had a total of 100 students. Today the enrollment is 10,000! And they are a university plant covering four blocks on the west side of Manhattan in the 20s. Last night Dr. Joyce Brown, President of FIT announced the construction of a new building of ten stories which will add to their enrollment as well as their curriculum which is now varied – although all encompassing creative pursuits. Many famous designers and fashion personalities in this country today started at FIT. Eighty-five percent of their students are working at their chosen field within a year of graduating. I was seated between Susan Baker – who is a major philanthropist in arts and culture in New York – and Amsale Aberra who is on the Board of Trustees of the college. Amsale as you may or may not know is a major designer and manufacturer of Bridal clothes here in New York. A girl from Ethiopia, she is a graduate of FIT and another example of the success of its alumni." (NYSD)

"Governor Scott Walker, of Wisconsin, who is running for president, says he is personally opposed to gay marriage but takes the position that this is a matter for each of the 50 states to decide for itself. Nice try, Governor, but that train has pulled out of the station. The country has already accepted gay marriage, and it’s too late for half-measures. “Leave it to the states” is a hoary evasion for national politicians who want to duck a troublesome issue, but it’s not available to Walker, because governors of states can’t duck an issue by saying it should be decided by the states. Well, they can try, but they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. You are the governor, Governor. Man up (as Sarah Palin used to say) and tell us where you stand. It’s remarkable that a Republican running for the Republican nomination for president should need to be evasive about marriage equality, as opposed to using it as a cudgel. There were days, not long ago, when Republicans used to fabricate issues like this in order to embarrass the Democrats. Elderly readers may recall 1988, when George H. W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis in a vicious campaign almost entirely about artificial issues concocted in the G.O.P. laboratory, like the urgent need for an amendment to the Bill of Rights against burning the American flag. Twenty-seven years later the Bill of Rights remains pristine, there has been no serious effort to pollute it with an anti-flag-burning amendment, and yet there has been little if any flag burning going on. It will not be an issue in the 2016 campaign. There may be some vestigial sentence in the Republican Party platform, but no podium time will be wasted on it. Regarding abortion—a genuine social issue—something similar has happened. Few people have actually changed their minds about the morality or legality of abortion, but Republicans don’t look forward to arguing about it on the campaign trail. They wish it would just go away. They may honestly believe that human life begins at the moment of conception, or they may have adopted that position cynically, but in most places the candidates would just as soon not dwell on it. Abortion, marriage equality, gun control, drugs, prayer in the schools, affirmative action, the 'War on Christmas': these are all classified as 'social issues' (as opposed to economic and foreign-policy issues) and have generally been regarded as 'wedge issues' too—issues that the Republicans can use like a wedge to pry voters away from the Democrats. But the wedge isn’t what it used to be. In 2004, a writer named Thomas Frank wrote a terrific book called What’s the Matter with Kansas?, which immediately became a classic. It was an attempt to solve a puzzle. Why, when people are upset about the economy, concerned about their jobs, resentful of growing income inequality, tired of watching industries move overseas, and generally sullen about money—why, with all this, do they nevertheless keep voting Republican? Frank’s answer was, in short, that the Republicans use social issues in a bait-and-switch routine: people are enticed into voting Republican over social issues like abortion or gay marriage, and then Republican pols, once elected, ignore all that and govern like the pro-business, rich-people’s party that they are at heart." (Michael Kinsley)

DPC and Vincent Minuto of Hampton Domestics at Michael's.

" I had lunch at Michael’s with Vincent Minuto. Vincent has a business called Hampton Domestics which supplies staffs for private residences as well as other commercial areas for the same clientele. Vincent is very much an under-the-radar kind of guy although he knows all the right people from Vanderbilts and Whitneys to hedge fund moguls. He is also an advertiser on NYSD and has been since JH and I created it fifteen years ago this September. I first met Vincent when he used to “cater” dinners and parties for the late Judy Green. Judy, who died of pancreatic cancer at age 66, three days after 9/11, was probably the last of the great party-givers here in New York ... After getting the beginning of his culinary education at the Culinary Institute, Vincent started out in the food and service business at “21” ordering the caviar. The Sicilian kid from Brooklyn learned a lot about it. He quickly acquired a lifelong taste for it. From '21' he was hired by Donald Bruce White. When Mrs. Green gave Mr. White the heave-ho, Vincent succeeded. And produced. He’s had a long career in the food business ever since. He’s owned restaurants in the Village, as well as a once famous gay bar out in the Hamptons (now defunct), he’s worked as a private chef (for among others, the late Leona Helmsley – whom he liked very much 'she was a very lonely woman'). He continues to this day to 'cater' for his longtime clientele which include Vanderbilts and Whitneys (remember them?). But mainly his business today is the Hampton Domestics." (NYSD)

"Toward the end of the presidency of George H.W. Bush, America stood alone at the top of the world—the sole superpower. After five weeks of 'shock and awe' and 100 hours of combat, Saddam’s army had fled Kuwait back up the road to Basra and Bagdad. Our Cold War adversary was breaking apart into 15 countries. The Berlin Wall had fallen. Germany was reunited. The captive nations of Central and Eastern Europe were breaking free. Bush I had mended fences with Beijing after the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square. Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin were friends.The president declared the coming of a 'new world order.' And neocons were chattering about a new 'unipolar world' and the 'benevolent global hegemony' of the United States. Consider now the world our next president will inherit. North Korea, now a nuclear power ruled by a 30-something megalomaniac, is fitting ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. China has emerged as the great power in Asia, entered claims to all seas around her, and is building naval and air forces to bring an end to a U.S. dominance of the western Pacific dating to 1945. Vladimir Putin is modernizing Russian missiles, sending ships and planes into NATO waters and air space, and supporting secessionists in Eastern Ukraine. The great work of Nixon and Reagan—to split China from Russia in the 'Heartland' of Halford Mackinder’s 'World Island,' then to make partners of both—has been undone. China and Russia are closer to each other and more antagonistic toward us than at any time since the Cold War. Terrorists from al-Qaida and its offspring and the Islamic Front run wild in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia. Egypt is ruled by a dictatorship that came to power in a military coup.Japan is moving to rearm to meet the menace of North Korea and China, while NATO is but a shadow of its former self. Only four of 28 member nations now invest 2 percent of their GDP in defines. With the exception of the Soviet Union, some geostrategists contend, no nation, not defeated in war, has ever suffered so rapid a decline in relative power as the United States. What are the causes of American decline? Hubris, ideology, bellicosity and stupidity all played parts." (Pat Buchanan)

"CNN threw a ’70s party at Marquee in New York last night to celebrate Thursday’s premiere of its newest original series. CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker started the night off by addressing the crowd and reminding everyone that The Seventies kicks off at 9 p.m. ET. After Zucker’s brief reminder, it was time for music. 1970s acts such as Peaches and Herb, Heatwave, Maxine Nightingale, The Manhattans and Evelyn 'Champagne' King hit the stage and played until the party ended.
Guests were treated to passed hors d’oeuvres from the era, including mini portions of Hamburger Helper, TV dinners and tuna casserole along with fondue, Swedish meatballs and eventually, Jell-O. Ashleigh Banfield, Don Lemon, Brian Stelter, John Berman, Michael Smerconish, Kate Bolduan and Brooke Baldwin were among the CNN personalities spotted at the event." (TVNewser)

Another rendering of 2 World Trade Center. Courtesy of World Trade Center.

"The news that Rupert Murdoch’s media companies, 21st Century Fox and News Corp., have agreed to move to the World Trade Center downtown if Norman Foster’s design for the tower they would occupy, 2 World Trade Center, were abandoned in favor of a very different one by the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels seems, at first, like a case of a distinguished older architect being pushed aside by a young upstart. Foster, after all, just marked his 80th birthday. Ingels turned 40 last October. But this change signifies more than Oedipal rumblings in the architectural world. It may say even more about the world of media, and not just Murdoch’s media. The announcement wasn’t made in a newspaper, or in the architectural press, or in some real estate journal. It was announced via an online posting in Wired, the technology magazine, that included a slickly produced video in which the telegenic Ingels, the founder of the firm BIG, presented his design for the building while walking around Tribeca and Ground Zero as a virtual image of his new tower rose behind him, populated by a racially diverse group of smiling workers, all to the music of Tchaikovsky. Once, Norman Foster’s firm was able to knock competitors out of the picture with its famously dazzling models and well-crafted, hardcover presentation books. Now, new media, captained by an architect who can be found on Instagram and Twitter as much as anywhere, appears to have squeezed Foster out. As anyone who plays computer games knows, you can now create moving images that look as real as any photographs. Who could fail to be seduced by a tour through a magical glass tower that features women lounging amid lavishly planted roof decks, happy workers playing in a basketball court in the sky, and a window cleaner who smiles and bows before a roomful of delighted occupants of the tower? This building is presented less as a design than as the star of a short little movie, populated by cheerful supporting characters: it hasn’t yet been built, but it already has a narrative. Here is where the employees of Fox News and Dow Jones, the Murdoch divisions that will be the primary occupants of the tower, will live happily ever after as they move media into the new age. The Murdoch enterprises are certainly going to the right place. Condé Nast (which owns Vanity Fair) has been in 1 World Trade Center since last fall, and Time Inc. is moving to Brookfield Place, just across West Street, later this year. As financial firms have migrated uptown, media companies have been seduced by the lower costs of relocating downtown, and the two industries have, for all intents and purposes, changed places." (VanityFair)

"Sounds of summer. At 8 o’clock in the evening, with my terrace door open, I could hear the motor of the ice cream truck in the street below, still parked and idling since mid-afternoon, catching the neighbors who had hit the Park after dinner and now returning home with a treat. Today is the 93rd anniversary of the birth of Judy Garland born on this day in 1922 in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Born in a trunk or something as legendary, as Frances Ethel Gumm, the youngest of the singing sisters who was put to work performing by the time she was four. Six or eight years later she was in Hollywood and on the brink of what would become a legendary talent. There have been many who are well apprised of such matters who claim Judy Garland was the greatest talent  in the history of the movies. She could sing, she could dance, she could act and could play comedy, all very well. However, as anyone who is familiar with her talent, it’s the singing. She was forty-seven when that talent died just twenty days after her birthday, on June 22, 1969. Washed up and drug- and booze-ridden, a sad sad tale of Dame Fortune." (NYSD)

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Why Did it Take NBC So Long To Figure Out The Fate of Lester Holt?

If the reports are true, Lester Holt is poised to take over the duties of anchor for the NBC Evening News. My question is: why did it take this long? Why did the suits at NBC News drag their feet so long in an age that moves at digital speed?

Game-theorywise there seem to me to be only three viable options for Comcast: 1) Make Lester permanent; 2) get out of the TV network news business altogether (and don't looks back); or, 3) cue up another replacement anchor to usurp Lester in the Grand Pecking Order, and take his place (which, one cannot fail to note, did not work swellegantly with Anne Curry and Savannah Guthrie)

Options one and two seemed best and of the two, option one, at least for now, seemed the smartest. David Zurawik, on CNN's Reliable Sources, figured this out weeks ago. On May 31st he told Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources, "As a journalist, Brian, I don't think he can return to that anchor desk. He certainly can't return as managing editor and anchor." Bryan Burrough of Vanity Fair, another guest earlier pretty much said the same thing. Further, Zurawik -- a media critic and not a high paid NBC executive -- noted that letting Brian host hugely profitable "specials," like Dateline or even a 48 Hours type show would keep him useful to the network, vaguely in the news division and on-contract, making the network money.

Well put, and I think almost anyone who covers the media media -- Michael Wolff notwithstanding -- thought the chances of Williams returning to the anchor chair were slim. So, again: why did it take NBC so long? Why did they leave Lester Holt -- a well-respected loyalist, a hard worker, in the lurch?

Lester Holt has held onto most of the ratings of Brian Williams with almost none of the promotion. It could be argued that given time and promotion, Lester could probably dominate the evening news ratings and run a ship without scandal, as he is so respected at the network.

So why did it take "the suits" at NBC so long to figure this out? In taking so long to figure out what most media analysts figured out within a week of the whole imbroglio makes me wonder if sometimes TV executives are chosen for reasons other than an understanding of the present media landscape.