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Monday, December 06, 2010

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"The chief flaw the embassy officials exhibit in the documents is one to which journalists, too, are very much prone: the tendency to give too much credence to the people you like. The diplomats in Tbilisi who, as the New York Times points out, swallowed Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's version of the 2008 war with Russia whole, may have been guilty of believing what they wished to be true. So, in a very different way, was the departing U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, who in 2007 optimistically predicted President Robert Mugabe's impending demise. But none (so far) are clueless; as yet there's no Ellsworth Bunker reporting from Saigon on the battle for hearts and minds. The cables may have the unexpected effect of countering the stereotype of diplomats as lickspittles with a mastery of etiquette. I can think of no better example than Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan until this past October. Patterson was a career diplomat; I first met her when she was acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2004 to 2005, and then again in Pakistan in 2008. Our conversation in New York had been notably bland, and in Islamabad she seemed quite comfortable defending -- off the record, of course -- the George W. Bush administration's unwavering support for Gen. Pervez Musharraf in the midst of massive demonstrations calling for civilian democratic government, a policy that had come to seem increasingly tone-deaf. Why expect otherwise? (James Traub)


"In the mid-1980s, Jackie and [her editorial assistant] Shaye Areheart flew out to Encino, California, in order to meet (Michael) Jackson, something she rarely did for her authors. Those who weren’t already based in New York usually flew there to meet her. Areheart tells one version of this meeting and the sub­sequent writing of Jackson’s book in the new edition of Moonwalk, rushed out in 2009 after Jackson’s unexpected death. According to Areheart, Jackie and Jackson got along well. Jackie was present at the initial meeting with Jackson in Encino in 1983, but it was Areheart who had to follow up when the project got messy. At the first meeting Jackson took Areheart and Jackie to his trailer adjacent to the studio where he was making the music video for his song 'Thriller,' and there they talked about what the book might look like. Jackson proposed a kind of picture book with text, and both Doubleday editors were willing to entertain that as an idea. It was in his trailer that Jackson asked Jackie to write the foreword and she agreed. She also wanted something unusual from him, though: to reveal something important about a life lived in the spotlight ... J. C. Suarès, the designer hired from outside Doubleday to work on the book, was present at Jackie and Areheart’s second meeting with Jackson in California, when they showed Jackson some layout ideas. Even before Jackie went to California, Suarès’ answering machine recorded a fragment of her dismay at being involved in the project. 'How the hell did I get [to be] doing a book on Michael Jackson? I’m still trying to think of why,' her voice says on the tape. 'Someone must have told me to go and do it.' Suarès remembered the Encino meeting as a bizarre occasion. He, Jackie, and Areheart had arrived at Jackson’s house and been seated at a long table. Jackie was at one end. At the other was an empty spot for Jackson. He was late. It was not enough that Jackie had flown out to meet him; he had to show his superior star power by being the last to arrive. On the plane back to New York, Jackie asked Suarès, 'Do you think he likes girls?' and she went back to the subject several times while they were working together. The star’s studied ambiguity on the question made them curious." (TheDailyBeast)


"Elaine Kaufman died last Friday at Lenox Hill Hospital. She would have been 82 next February 10 ... I saw Elaine around the place then but I didn’t personally know any of her well-known customers at the time, and I didn’t know her; I don’t think we ever met. I finally met her in the early 90s when I’d returned to New York, through a mutual friend, Ann Downey ... Christmas 1994 I spent in Palm Beach at Ann Downey’s house, along with Elaine. We were the only two house guests. That tough lady some people saw in the restaurant was no where around or apparent. Off-stage, shall we say, Elaine was, in my experience, a not-shy but quiet, contributing guest. She loved conversation and even just loved listening to conversation ... That Christmas in Palm Beach, Elaine brought a five-pound tin of Beluga as a house gift. For the three of us!! I don’t think we even made much of a dent, and we were always at it, just to give you an idea of how much five pounds of caviar is." (NySocialDiary)


"Cherry Vanilla is the ex-groupie/Bowie-publicist/rock performer with a new book out about the great times she had popping her Cherry. At a reading I went to the other day, Cherry sat on a gigantic, red high heel--though in the past, she's sat on other things--and told the crowd how much fun it was 'to be young and cute and sleeping with your idols.' She entertainingly read chapters about the wonderful sex she had in the '70s with stars like David Bowie and Kris Kristofferson, who were as amazing in bed as they were onstage, fireworks and all. And she added, 'It can be addictive, but I don't regret any of it! 'The only thing I regret is not sleeping with Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison.'" (MichaelMusto)



"The invite said the doors would open at 8. But by then, the line in front of The Box, Serge Becker's reservations-only, bordello-meets-sideshow nightclub, was already snaking down Chrystie Street. The crowd was made up of all sorts. White guys in nice suits; a black girl out of a music video with a cumulus cloud Afro in blue leggings and a shearling coat; the Indian guy behind me in a heavy flannel shirt with a fitted baseball cap; clusters of blondes whose lives had been irrevocably altered by Lindsey Lohan's sartorial style. There was a lot of name-dropping. It was a Friday night downtown, so it all made sense. A more perplexing issue that evening was discerning what we were all there for. Jay-Z's publicist had sent the invitation early that same morning. It read, Jay-Z invites you ... to an evening of magic, experience, The Turn. Doors at eight, performance at nine." (Observer)



"Overlooking a stunning vista of the Biscayne Bay at the Mondrian Hotel, AOL and Paper Magazine co-hosted a brunch yesterday in honor of artist and graffiti renegade Shepard Fairey, who served as the mag's first-ever guest editor for the November issue. 'We've known Shepard for almost 15 years,' said magazine co-founder David Hershkovits. 'Carlo [McCormack, an editor at Paper] curated his first show back in 1994.' Paper's relationship with Fairey goes back to his nascent days as a T-shirt-making skateboarder living in Providence, R.I. His current all-star status, due to the André the Giant OBEY posters, inspirational Barack Obama HOPE posters, and large scale art shows (he showed at Deitch Projects earlier this year), has made him a bit of a household name. 'It's amazing when you know someone who succeeds years later," said Hershkovits. 'Talent is not everything you need a lot of more too.' The event, which was sponsored by Tommy Hilfiger, drew fellow artists and blogging phenoms alike. Todd Selby arrived in a very Southern Florida-looking blue tee that featured white kittens (courtesy of his friend Mark 'The Cobrasnake' Hunter, who was also in attendance). Other creative types included Diesel honcho Renzo Rosso, and of course Paper's merry band of editors Kim Hastreiter, Mickey Boardman, Alexis Swerdloff, and Elizabeth Thompson." (ArtBaselAOL)


"But a lot of specialty films had their debuts or expansions including Fox Searchlight's drama Black Swan from Darren Aronofsky starring Natalie Portman (18 theaters in 8 cities -- NY, LA, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, Dallas, Toronto). It had Friday's best per screen average with $23,660, and the studio knew it was overperforming when Friday's matinees were double the per screen average of Aronfsky's previous The Wrestler. Black Swan grossed $1.3M with a gross per theater average of $77,459, setting an all-time record for Fox Searchlight. (More than Juno, Slumdog Millionaire, Sideways, and Little Miss Sunshine all of which were in fewer theatres.) The drama also is the 2nd highest opening of a limited release for 2010, passing The Kids Are All Right and now only behind The King's Speech." (Deadline)

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