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Friday, July 15, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"It's been a big week for credit rating agencies in global politics. On Wednesday, July 13, rating service Moody's (you might remember them from the subprime mortgage crisis) announced that U.S. bonds are ripe for a possible downgrade from AAA status as the political deadlock in Washington continues over raising the debt ceiling -- which regulates how much the U.S. government can borrow. On Tuesday, the agency downgradedIrish bonds to 'junk' status. The country now joins Portugal, which was downgraded last week, and Greece as the European countries whose bonds are no longer considered investment grade. So what exactly determines these scores. The ratings are a measure of how risky an investment a country's bonds are; they range from AAA (highest) to C (lowest). A country with a credit rating of BBB or higher is considered 'investment grade;' below that is 'junk.'To determine the rating, the agencies look at two main factors: One is economic (the country's ability to pay off its debts), and one is political (whether the government is willing to). The economic criteria include the country's revenue, fiscal and monetary policies, budgetary flexibility, level of inflation, public debt burden, and economic track record. On these criteria, the United States certainly merits its AAA rating; it's more or less taken as a given in global finance that U.S. government bonds are among the safest investments. On the other side of the spectrum there's Greece, where public debt is expected to reach 161 percent of GDP next year, its membership in the eurozone precludes simply printing more money to pay off loans, and a default is now considered a realistic possibility. In the U.S. case, the threat of downgrade is due to political, not economic, reasons." (ForeignPolicy)


"IT’S the dining version of the scene where the Gale house judders down in Oz. Monochrome up until that point, the world is suddenly, gorgeously Technicolor once Dorothy opens the door. On any Friday night at Red Rooster, the crowd is likely to encompass not only elements of New York’s 'gorgeous mosaic' but also David Dinkins, the former mayor who coined the phrase. There, either at the 76-seat restaurant, the 24 seats at communal tables near the bar, the 20-seat bar itself or the 40-seat sidewalk cafe, neighborhood bankers rub elbows with Bill Clinton; Nora Ephron might be seated alongside Thelma Golden, the director of the Studio Museum; Alicia Keys is likely to be found in a corner with Ralph and Ricky Lauren at a table bracketing her left side and a group of local church ladies on her right.  That, in a sense, is a typical experience at Red Rooster, the door onto Harlem opened by the celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson at the end of last year. Smack on Lenox Avenue just north of 125th Street, and with glamorous neighbors like Marshalls, Staples and CVS, the place almost instantly became a destination not just for those seeking soul food cooked with a Swedish accent, but for people with an appetite for a dining experience reflective of the New York Grace Paley once lauded for its 'chromatic dispersion.' Very likely it was the latter that moved Barack Obama to choose Red Rooster as the spot for a $30,800-a-plate fund-raising dinner for the Democratic National Committee in March." (NyTimes)      

"My friend John Sutin, the world’s most generous man, could not believe his ears. Montenegro’s Tivat Airport would not allow him to land because more than 80 private jets had already booked parking spaces. So we landed in Dubrovnik instead. The Croatian airport welcomed us by rushing us through customs as if we were big shots rather than Nat Rothschild’s guests in neighboring Montenegro. A one-hour car trip saw us reach the Bay of Kotor, where the three-day-and-night bash to celebrate Nat’s 40th birthday was taking place. Montenegro’s crammed airport had me momentarily thinking of the notorious terrorist Carlos the Jackal. Had a modern Carlos the Jackal decided to strike in Porto Montenegro last weekend, the capitalist system would still exist, but with a hell of a dent in it ... I don’t remember much about the party except that I found myself next to one of the richest Russian oligarchs, Len Blavatnik ... Next evening everyone assembled right in front of Bushido and regaled me with compliments about her beauty. Nat and an assortment of other Rothschilds came onboard, and we had a quick cocktail party before walking across the palm-fringed promenade to Nat’s final evening shindig. There were yachts and private jets galore and some awfully leggy blondes." (Takimag)


"Warner Bros says the 2-day international cume for Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is now $82.5M from 43 countries after earning $37.6M Thursday and $43.6M Wednesday. Combined with the North American market of a record-breaking $43.5M midnights, that's now a $142.7M global cume. Another phenomenal day for the pic overseas where the 3D share of the box office is approximately 61%. IMAX also reported a record breaking opening for midnights of $2M on 274 domestic locations. Meanwhile, in Orlando last night, 3,000 audience members of the midnight film screening of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 at AMC Universal Cineplex 20 with free passes to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and had the park all to themselves from 3 to 5 AM. Comparing same days and same foreign markets, Part 2 is 39% higher than Part 1. Highlights include Korea which opened to an enormous Won 3.3B ($3M) from 562 screens, including Wednesday previews; Argentina Ps 3.9M ($961K) from 253 screens / 3D share 43% for the biggest opening ever." (Deadline)

"Vanity Fair: I read you have a screenplay about baseball titled Winning that’s not produced yet? James Van der Beek: Correct, yeah. And I’ve got another project that I’m developing with Roger Avery and Bret Easton Ellis, actually. VF: Based on one of Ellis’s books? JvdB: No, it’s an original concept the three of us have come up with. You’re actually the first person I’ve told this to, but, yeah, that’s the project that I’ve got going as well. VF: Can you share the general concept? JvdB: I wouldn’t, just ’cause I’ve got two other people involved. Let’s just say that it’s definitely in Bret’s wheelhouse. It’s very modern, it’s very dark, very sick, and very funny." (VanityFair)


"Growing up in SoHo in the 1980′s and 90′s with your Spanish duke father and women’s rights activist mother may sound perfectly idyllic, but the occasionally acerbic actress Paz de la Huerta says otherwise in an interview in the New York Times Magazine that was published today. 'It was like a circus,' she tells writer Andrew Goldman. 'Larry Gagosian lived above us.' According to Ms. de la Huerta (who is continuing her role as Steve Buscemi’s girlfriend in the next season of HBO’s 'Boardwalk Empire'), the powerful art dealer was something less than an ideal neighbor at 421 West Broadway, across the street from one of legendary dealer Leo Castelli’s SoHo galleries. She continues: 'My mother was trying to raise two baby girls in a quiet atmosphere, while Larry would be having big parties with models, and his hot tub would leak into our apartment. It was the ’80s, you know. My father, who is a true character and had been in the French Foreign Legion, would go up there with a gaucho knife and confront him — ‘Ahhhhh, get your bath fixed!’" (Observer)

"Ryan Duffy, a host of MTV's 'The Vice Guide to Everything,'  is safe in Williamsburg after being held by Egyptian officials who feared the tattooed hipster was a spy this week. While shooting an upcoming Vice news series near the Suez Canal, Duffy's crew was captured by Egyptian military intelligence officers, a Vice source told us. After being quizzed for hours, Duffy and his team were turned over to the State Department and landed in New York Wednesday. 'The padded room, long interrogations, and [bleeping] in a hole were quite unpleasant,' Duffy told us, adding, 'The tea was actually quite nice'." (PageSix)



"We all know that the rich and powerful are seldom held accountable. Take, for example, the recent case of Albert II, the Prince of Monaco, and his new wife, Charlene Wittstock. Rumors that Charlene was first kidnapped, drugged, and then forced to abide by the agreement she had signed with the Principality of Monaco—or else—went almost entirely unnoticed by the media once the runaway bride had been brought back to the palace and was allegedly sedated heavily. Her father was also reportedly held hostage and threatened unless he played ball and helped palace courtiers convince Charlene to stay put. 'Strauss-Kahn seems to think anything goes because his patrician standing renders him untouchable. Prince Albert, ditto.' I have known the Monegasque royal family for more than thirty years. Some of my closest friends are just as close with Monaco’s ruling family, and unpleasant details have a tendency to slip out. From what I’ve been told, Albert is into rough sex with both men and women. Charlene is not, and the two have not been intimate in months. I’m told the deal is that she will one day produce an heir, and with a very generous allowance she will be allowed to return to South Africa away from the sweaty hell that is Monte Carlo. Money has allegedly already been paid upfront. The lack of intimacy between Albert and Charlene is neither here nor there. Albert is said to have already fathered two and perhaps as many as four children—all of them after a night of rough sex with multiple people of both sexes present. For Charlene to become pregnant will not raise eyebrows even among those in the know.  If what I’ve been told is true, what baffles me is how Monaco got away with it." (Takimag)



"What to do with a giant portrait of yourself by one of the most famous artists of the 20th century? That’s the question Vanity Fair special correspondent Bob Colacello found himself asking last fall. In 1980 Andy Warhol, his then boss at Interview magazine, had painted a 40-by-40-inch likeness of Colacello as a gift for brokering a commissioned sale, but after 30 years, Colacello was finding it “hard to live with.” With Warhol prices continually hitting new highs—and with a mortgage to pay off—the writer decided to put his portrait up for auction at Sotheby’s." (VanityFair)

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