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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"My last few months [in office] did not go quietly or without consequence. They even brought historic moments—none more so than my much anticipated visit to Libya to meet with Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. When the Libyans gave up their weapons of mass destruction in 2003, there was a clear diplomatic quid pro quo: in exchange, we’d help them to return to good standing in the international community. But it would not be easy and not only because of Qaddafi’s long record of brutality. Libya had arrested five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor several years before on trumped-up charges that they had deliberately infected more than four hundred Libyan children with HIV. The medics insisted that they were innocent, but the Libyan courts had sentenced the group to death. The United States repeatedly urged Libya to find a way to release them, and I was grateful for the dedication and leadership of European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner on the issue. Libya’s decision in 2007 to commute the sentences and allow the medics to return home was due in large part to Benita’s resolve.' We had to make sure, too, that we were sufficiently attentive to the sensitivities and needs of the families of the victims of the colonel’s decades-long reign of terror. I withheld my visit until we could secure a Libyan claims settlement for families whose relatives had been killed in attacks such as the bombing by Libyan agents of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. My upcoming trip gave me powerful leverage in these negotiations because Qaddafi desperately wanted me to visit Tripoli. There were two reasons for this: one traditional and the other, well, a little disconcerting. Obviously, the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state since 1953 would be a major milestone on the country’s path to inter- national acceptability. But Qaddafi also had a slightly eerie fascination with me personally, asking visitors why his 'African princess' wouldn’t visit him." ( Condi Rice)



"I don’t know a lot about being black and gay and cool. In fact, I’m going to write this disclosure: all my information came from short conversations with D.J. MikeQ, my good friend and collaborator Maluca, and the only YouTube comments I could understand. In fact, that I’m white and straight makes me the perfect outsider to Vogue Knights Tuesdays, a vogue/'ballroom' party in Manhattan. It’s probably one of the few places where I would be considered exotic—mostly people probably think I’m a narc or an undercover police officer when I spend time in this club." (VanityFair)



"My lunch with Millard S. Drexler, the 67-year-old chief executive of J. Crew, the American clothing brand made world famous by its First Client Michelle Obama, turns out not to be a lunch. Or to be more specific: not just a lunch. It’s lunch, followed by a short walk, a couple of emails and two phone conversations ... He grew up in the Bronx, an only child with a father in the garment business and a mother who was a secretary; has been married to the same woman (Peggy, a psychologist) for 42 years; and last summer started doing SoulCycle indoor cycling classes with his daughter, who is in college. His son, who is out of school, works in clothing manufacturing. His favourite pastime is not playing the market or buying art but checking out property: his investments are all homes (an apartment on the Upper East Side, four estates in the Hamptons, including Andy Warhol’s old Montauk place, which he reportedly bought for about $30m) and a few other places. This could sound very tycoon-like, were it not for his explanation: 'Growing up, I always wanted a bedroom of my own.' Given his intelligence and his wife’s profession, it’s hard not to think he knows this is psychologically facile but doesn’t care. He is the sort of chief executive who in other times would have been called 'folksy.' He famously has a loudspeaker system in the J. Crew headquarters in New York that allows him to constantly 'talk' to everyone he works with and, occasionally, pipe in customers or store managers to talk to them too. He is not, in other words, likely to buy a $1,200 wastebasket for his office, à la former Merrill Lynch chief executive John Thain, which makes him a model chief executive for these Occupy Wall Street times. Indeed, Drexler’s usual working uniform is a pair of jeans, a 'relaxed' (ie wrinkly) button-down shirt, a grey T-shirt and a navy blazer, all of which he sports when he arrives at Pulino’s and all of which, as he shows me later by twisting around and otherwise contorting himself, are from J. Crew." (FT)


"The American rich, who used to be the most stable slice of the personal economy, are now the most volatile, with escalating booms and busts. During the past three recessions, the top 1% of earners (those making $380,000 or more in 2008) experienced the largest income shocks in percentage terms of any income group in the U.S., according to research from economists Jonathan A. Parker and Annette Vissing-Jorgensen at Northwestern University. When the economy grows, their incomes grow up to three times faster than the rest of the country's. When the economy falls, their incomes fall two or three times as much. The super-high earners have the biggest crashes. The number of Americans making $1 million or more fell 40% between 2007 and 2009, to 236,883, while their combined incomes fell by nearly 50%—far greater than the less than 2% drop in total incomes of those making $50,000 or less, according to Internal Revenue Service figures. Of course, the trauma of giving up a Gulfstream or a yacht can't compare with the millions of Americans who have lost their only job or home. The Siegels will make do in their current 26,000-square-foot mansion." (WSJ)

"Hollywood was buzzing Friday when actress Milla Jovovich took to Twitter to bitchslap Summit Entertainment over the promotion for Three Musketeers 3D. Jovovich texted that the film wasn’t marketed as a 'fun family film' and that Summit is 'resting on their laurels' because of the Twilight franchise and 'making no effort' for her film. (See below). So I asked Summit last night what it thought of Milla’s accusations, and an executive pointed out that the actress had been up in Canada shooting the next Resident Evil installment 'and working 15-hour days and probably didn’t see the campaign. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about and we don’t know where she’s coming from.' On the other hand, Jovovich is married to Three Musketeers 3D director Paul W.S. Anderson, so it’s hard to imagine she is completely clueless to how Summit marketed the film. Nevertheless, Summit points to awareness in the 80s as a sure sign that the movie was marketed adequately even if U.S. grosses were terrible. 'Wouldn’t you think she would call us first about this? It’s frustrating. it’s not the right way to behave. If she has a problem then come to the studio and talk about it.' Milla was tweeting on her flight to Japan where Three Musketeers 3D is debuting at the Tokyo International Film Festival." (Deadline)


"Which brings me to the latest fashionable vice, that of 'occupying' Wall Street. I’m all for it, but who’s gonna replace the crooks that are there now? Those Woodstock wannabes posing as Dickensian urchins who have occupied Zuccotti Park? These melodramatic young people have turned downtown into a pigsty. Wall Street should have ensured their own leaders had gone to jail after 2008, but that’s not how one does business there. Squealers in Wall Street are like stool pigeons in jail; they have a very limited shelf life. These “occupiers” may be well-intentioned, but they’re also professional protesters looking for publicity in the guise of pretending to change the world for the better. Basically it’s people who have the time to do this, sleep al fresco, play the guitar, give interviews to concerned-looking hacks, and smell bad.They might get even angrier if they knew about the park’s namesake. John Zuccotti was the city’s first deputy mayor and is head of Brookfield Properties, which owns the quasi-public park. He is a very affable man who lives quietly in Brooklyn and whose father was a very, very good friend of mine. Angelo Zuccotti was the most important man in New York society during the 1940s and 50s because it was he, as El Morocco’s maître d’, who decided where you sat once inside that high-society temple." (Taki Theodoracopoulos)



"Among the revelations in former CNN chairman Walter Isaacson‘s new biography of Steve Jobs, was that Jobs met his biological father Abdulfattah 'John' Jandali many years ago. But at the time, Jobs didn’t know Jandali was his father. And the father had no idea Jobs was his son. Isaacson tells the story to Steve Kroft for a '60 Minutes' story airing tomorrow, ahead of the book’s release Monday.
Jobs was already well-known for creating Apple when he met Jandali. Jobs had dined at a popular Silicon Valley Mediterranean restaurant 'once or twice' that Jandali owned. 'Everybody used to come there,' Jandali told Jobs’ sister, the novelist Mona Simpson. 'Even Steve Jobs used to eat there. Yeah, he was a great tipper.' But when Jobs learned more about his biological father, he made the decision not to meet him — and he never did." (TVNewser)


"IN this land of grandiose movie premieres, red-carpet nightclubs, klieg lights flashing across the sky and personal lives splattered across the tabloids, the most sought-after people in town had long sought refuge in a tree-shaded, coral-hued home on Lexington Road. For nearly 20 years, without a single velvet rope or red carpet in sight, Sue Mengers, a retired Hollywood agent, brought the biggest of names to her table for intimate Saturday night dinners that would often end past midnight in a haze of wine, smoke and gossip about movies, politics and the entertainment business. These were salons in their grandest tradition, the West Coast equivalent of the gatherings of politicians and news media titans in Georgetown or socialites and financiers on Fifth Avenue, though with a movie-screen sheen provided by someone who, until her death last week at age 79, adored and collected celebrities. Even in her retirement, Ms. Mengers’s home was a Hollywood showcase, a place for her to assemble — and show off — what it was she loved about her life as a Hollywood agent. 'My Twinklies!' she would call her stable of stars, as she consulted with Jack Nicholson or David Geffen or Lorne Michaels for help in drawing up the next guest list. In the days since her death, even prominent actors and entertainment magnates spoke in interviews of gawking across Ms. Mengers’s table at their fellow guests — actors, publishers, directors, newspaper columnists, writers, studio owners, essayists — as they shared a decidedly unpretentious dinner of brisket, chicken potpie, or sausage and peppers." (NYTimes)



"Yesterday, Playboy centerforl turned fashion designer CoCo Johnsen (and fun fact, former girlfriend of BIll Maher) presented her latest collection as part of L.A. Fashion Week. Pulling inspiration from Mahogany-era Diana Ross and Oscar de la Renta in the '70s, Johnson focused on fun textures, oversized bows and a playful necklines." (Papermag)



"When you finish a Neal Stephenson book, you feel like you've really accomplished something, except you also sometimes feel like you've taken a very long Greyhound bus ride and you're mostly very tired. So, about 30 days after its release, I have finally gotten through the 1056 pages of Reamde, which is his novel about how a computer virus messed up a credit card scam and a video game, which upset the Russian mob which then intruded upon a terror cell, drawing everyone into a giant international mess. The great stuff is so terrific! Particularly the asides, the thoughts on how minds work, on how the modern world treats us, and all that very 'now' stuff." (Choire Sicha)

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