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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"On April 11, in the early afternoon as the sun was peaking over Abidjan, Ivory Coast, troops loyal to the country's president-elect, Alassane Ouattara, burst into the presidential palace where Laurent Gbagbo was hiding, after four months of refusing to step down after losing the election. For the last week, as a de facto civil war raged, the international community had engaged in furious negotiations to try to lure him out of the bunker where he and his wife remained guarded by about 1,000 troops. Rumors circulated that he might accept exile, perhaps in South Africa or Togo. But Gbagbo wasn't having it; he'd received many such offers so far and had accepted none of them. Perhaps the most intriguing offer of a 'dignified exit' came from the White House. In early January, after a month of failed negotiations to get the outgoing Ivorian president to quit the stage, Barack Obama's administration offered him another option -- a post at a Boston University program created precisely for this purpose: to help answer the increasingly difficult question of where a former strongman finds a soft landing these days. The man behind the program is Charles Stith, a former pastor turned diplomat, and now academic. While serving as the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania in the late 1990s, Stith noticed an interesting problem. African leaders across the continent, even those who appeared democratically inclined, seemed loath to step down. As he put it in a statement upon Gbagbo's arrest, 'Power is a seductive mistress, who once kissed is hard to walk away from.'" (ForeignPolicy)



"I’d come from a literary benefit lunch – as you might have guessed after that first paragraph – at the New York Public Library’s Annual Spring Luncheon, held in the Celeste Bartos Forum of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building library on Fifth and 42nd. Although the women who chair and committee this event often get their husbands and other men to attend, it is mainly a woman’s luncheon for several hundred of some of the most prominent women in the city. The luncheon always features an author or authors being interviewed about their work. This year Nora Ephron interviewed Hermoine Lee, whose recent biography of Edith Wharton is now in paperback ... The conversation yesterday started around Lee’s biography of Edith Wharton, and the world she wrote about. It soon moved into the business of divorce, and women marrying for money. The character of Undine Spragg in Wharton’s The Custom of the Country, came up again and again. A rich middle class girl buying her way in and up in New York Society. Ephron remarked that she is often astounded today by the massive private wealth that she is exposed to in private/ public life, and the women who pursue it through the venue of holy matrimony. The mention of the entire subject caused a restrained and muffled tittering across this Belle Epoque style banquet room filled to capacity with prominent women in New York. Some of whom began their social ascent in just that actuarial manner. Their histories are not forgotten even if their financial (and social) status commands silence. These women, it was assumed by others, were at that very moment feeling un petit mal, as the French would say. I’m not so sure about that ... This was, according to the Library’s president Paul LeClerc, the most successful Spring Luncheon raising more than $600,000." (NYSocialDiary)


"As 1993 was drawing to a close, Steve Friedman had had just about enough. He had joined Goldman Sachs in 1966, ran its world-class M&A group for years, served as its co-chairman with Robert Rubin between 1990 and 1992, and then headed the firm alone after Rubin left to be part of the Clinton administration. Especially this last job—being the sole senior partner at Goldman Sachs—had taken its toll on him. Whereas once he could divide up international travel and flag-waving with Rubin, now, at 55, he was on his own. There were questions about both his physical and mental health. People would often come up and tell him he didn’t look so well. He knew he felt tired, but began to think there was something more to his chronic fatigue. Occasionally, when he traveled, he would experience heart arrhythmia, when his heartbeat would speed up dramatically and uncontrollably. This made him nervous about flying—something that others noticed. But Friedman kept forging ahead and, for the longest time, failed to have his ailments checked by a physician even though he was a former college athlete and knew better. He understood that his predecessors had literally worked themselves to death—former senior partner Sidney Weinberg died soon after retiring in 1969, and his successor, Gus Levy, had died in office, so to speak. 'I had no desire to die in the saddle and no desire to get greener and greener in the saddle,' Friedman says. 'But also, hey, there’s a lot of other stuff out there in the world. And I’d like to have time to think about it and explore it. It’d be kind of sad if you were just doing the same thing over and over.' Whatever the reason—health, fatigue, exasperation, or perhaps some revisionist history—Friedman decided at the beginning of January 1994 that he would retire at the end of the year. 'I wanted to do it young enough so that I could do something else with my life,' he says. He told his wife, Barbara. He told Bob Rubin, then at the White House (but not yet President Clinton’s Treasury secretary), over dinner in Washington. And he told Bob Katz, Goldman’s general counsel, who, following tradition, had come from the white-shoe law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. He decided not to tell anyone else, including the other Goldman partners, so that he wouldn’t become a lame-duck executive; instead, he would drop vague hints here and there that he might be starting to think about moving on." (Vanity Fair)


"Cable channels are already making upfront presentations to advertisers, and those sales efforts will accelerate on Thursday when Discovery Communications introduces its fall shows. According to new forecasts out this week which do not take into account the deepening NFL labor strife, cable channel sales could hit $9 billion during the coming 2011 upfronts, up 11.5% over last year. As for broadcast, Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce projects a 14.9% increase to nearly $9.9 billion for the Big Four networks’ primetime schedule unveiling next month. Media services firm Zenith Optimedia also said this week that it expects double-digit gains in cable and broadcast sales. Car, cell phone, and banking service companies -- eager to take advantage of the thawing economy -- could make this upfront ad-sales season one of the strongest since 2003. Auto companies normally account for about a quarter of TV ad sales but were in a deep slump during the economic crisis giving the TV honchos fits. Now they'll likely drive the market once more." (Deadline)


 
"'As Bob Weinstein’s brother, I take no responsibility for what you are about to see,' Harvey Weinstein crowed before an energized crowd at last night’s screening of SCRE4M at the Crosby Hotel. With his mother seated in the audience, Harvey proudly introduced the night’s hosts, David Arquette and Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson, whom he lionized as a great actor who will 'undoubtedly grow to become better and better.' Arquette grew wistful of the franchise, updated by original director Wes Craven in its 2011 reboot, marveling at the way it has spanned the past fifteen years of his life: through marriage, childbirth, and even the death of his father—the actor Lewis Arquette, who famously appeared as the Woodsboro town sheriff in the original Scream. What unfolded in the following two hours is something I dare not spoil for fear of a Weinstein-sanctioned hit on my life, suffice to say that it was infinitely the most self-aware, hypercritical, terrifying, and meta take on the horror genre I’ve possibly witnessed. Following the screening, the crowd—including Sky Ferreira, the cast of MTV’s Skins, Terry Richardson, singer Estelle, Gabourey Sidibe, and more—shuffled through the rain to the Mondrian Hotel down the street, where a private afterparty was held in the hotel’s bar. Weinstein friends Courtney Love and Scream 3 star Parker Posey made splashy appearances, Posey overheard apologizing for missing the screening and asking the studio chairman 'Was it funny? Horror movies are never funny anymore!'" (VMagazine

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