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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Red wine in hand, Rupert Murdoch chatted with guests at his London townhouse on what would be one of the most important nights to the future of his company. Gathered for cocktails were Rupert’s son James, heir apparent to the family media empire; Rebekah Brooks, the chief ­executive of News Corp.’s U.K. unit; and Chase Carey, the New York-based president and chief operating officer. Joining the executives were a pair of legal heavyweights: Joel Klein, former New York City schools chancellor, and Brendan Sullivan Jr., the well-connected Washington lawyer brought into the Murdoch fold at Klein’s request. It was May 19, 2011. The senior Murdoch had flown in two days earlier for a whirlwind of meetings with his top London executives. He had called the dinner party to hash out once and for all how to handle the phone-hacking scandal that had been hanging over the company for months and was suddenly spinning out of control. A lawsuit filed by actress Sienna Miller—charging that a senior editor at the company’s British Sunday tabloid, News of the World, was behind a campaign to hack into her phone—sparked a police investigation, producing a steady drip of disclosures about repeated incidents of phone hacking at Murdoch’s British tabloids.
In the weeks leading up to the dinner, Murdoch had been presented with two opposing strategies for dealing with the mess. None of the people present at the dinner was willing to speak on the record. The events reconstructed in this story are based on interviews with four at the dinner who spoke on the condition that they not be identified. (A News Corp. spokeswoman declined to comment on the record for this article. Bloomberg L.P. competes with several units of News Corp.) Klein, Brooks, and James Murdoch recommended that Brooks continue to manage the company’s response from London. Doing so could reduce any chance of the scandal ensnaring Rupert Murdoch or James, who had recently been posted to the U.S. as deputy chief operating officer of the parent company, a move that positioned him as his father’s probable successor. Over the previous five years, Brooks and her predecessors at the U.K. unit, News International, had successfully stymied similar police investigations. There was no reason, the executives argued, for a radical shift now. Lon Jacobs, News Corp.’s general counsel, disagreed. For weeks he had urged Murdoch to get out in front of the widening scandal and launch an independent investigation into wrongdoing at News of the World." (Businessweek)


"The tumult of the Republican primary contest has once again prolonged the path to nomination for Mitt Romney—or for any of his shifting rivals, for that matter. And while Rick Santorum’s striking victories in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado may not guarantee the thrill of a brokered convention, they go one step further toward ensuring that, whenever this fight ends, there will be some pretty significant losers (and maybe some pretty sore ones) whose needs will have to be met if the party is to unite for November.  According to an estimate by the Associated Press, Santorum already has 45 projected delegates to Romney’s 107, while Newt Gingrich has 32 and Ron Paul 9. If anything like even that lopsided trend continues, more than one candidate will arrive at the Republican Convention in Tampa expecting—aye, demanding—to be heard. A prime-time speaking spot, a platform plank, a Cabinet post, the vice-presidential nomination itself: all are potential salve for a loser’s wounded pride ... 'It’s a delicate dance,' said (Harold) Ickes, a past master of his party’s rules and procedures, who has used them relentlessly over the years on behalf of his chosen candidates. 'Typically, what happens is, most want to see if they can get something at the convention, either by way of putting something they care about in the platform, or even just speaking. The vice-presidency? Obviously that’s sort of fairy dust; you’ve just got to wait and hope you’re in the right place.' ... The great danger—one that Santorum or Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul or perhaps even Romney himself may yet face—is hanging in too long. Already, internecine attacks have been mounted in this campaign that can never be taken back, and while Ickes believes that a long and competitive primary can produce a better, tougher nominee, there are limits. 'If you stay in too long, not only the putative nominee but the party elders, if there are any left, say, What is going on here? and you hurt your chances in the future,' he said. 'That future can be a Cabinet appointment or the nomination itself four years later. So there’s always that restraining aspect.' Which is doubtless why, in his hour of triumph, Santorum took pains to say that he did not regard himself as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney but the conservative alternative to Barack Obama. Not a bad line for a general-election running mate, whether in the No. 1 or No. 2 spot." (VanityFair)


"At ten minutes past four on the afternoon of April 28, 1945, a plumber named Moretti shot and killed a prematurely aged man and a youngish woman who was not wearing any underwear in front of the Villa Belmonte near Lake Como. Next to Moretti—who was later tried for theft and other misdeeds—was one Colonel Valerio, whose submachine gun had jammed while he was trying to shoot the defenseless couple. Millions of words have been written about Benito Mussolini and Clara Petacci’s last moments, but until now not a single writer—not even Il Duce’s definitive biographer, Nicholas Farrell—had managed to correctly discover Benito’s last words to Clara before the cowardly communist assassin cut him down. This is a Taki’s Mag exclusive: Mussolini’s very last words. Alas, I am not at liberty to reveal their source (hint: the Churchill family). Here they are verbatim, translated by me: What shit (merda) this Honours Forfeiture Committee is! Can you imagine the shitty (merdoso) British have stripped me of my knighthood? As everyone knows, Valerio left the assassinated couple’s corpses lying on the road, later to be dragged to Piazzale Loreto in Milan and hanged upside down from a petrol station’s roof girders. The cheering mob even had the courtesy to tie a rope to la Petacci’s skirt to hide her nakedness ... Musso’s knighthood had been awarded to him in 1923 and rescinded in 1940. After faceless British mandarins forfeited it, he was left a haunted and broken man. Il Duce stayed angry and depressed thinking about it day and night, which at times made him impotent. Exactly the same thing happened to Nicolae Ceausescu during his last night on Earth. The faceless British committee revoked Ceausescu’s knighthood the night before his 1989 execution by firing squad." (Taki Theodoracopulos)


"If you’ve been following the political commentary in the national media recently, you’ve probably heard that the 2012 presidential election is likely to result in the largest vote for a third party candidate in many years, perhaps exceeding the 19% of the national popular vote won by Ross Perot in 1992. According to a number of prominent pundits and pollsters, including the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus and Democracy Corps’ Stan Greenberg, Americans are fed up with Democrats and Republicans in Washington and are ready to vote for a centrist alternative. In fact, there’s an organization that hopes to provide Americans with a centrist alternative to the two major party candidates in 2012. It’s called Americans Elect and it has already raised over $20 million (mostly from a few anonymous donors) and is well on its way to securing a place on the ballot in several key states for its presidential candidate -- a candidate who is supposed to be chosen not by party bosses or primary voters but by millions of Americans on the Internet.So far no prominent candidates have indicated an interest in seeking the Americans Elect nomination. Some political commentators have even suggested that the entire process could be hijacked by Internet-savvy supporters of a decidedly non-centrist candidate like Ron Paul. But the absence of a high profile candidate is far from the only major obstacle that Americans Elect faces. Attracting media coverage, raising the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to wage a national campaign and securing a place on the ballot in all 50 states are perennial problems faced by third party candidates. Of course there will be third party candidates on the ballot in 2012, just as there are in every presidential election. But it is unlikely that any of these candidates will approach the 19% of the vote that Ross Perot received in 1992, or even the 8% that he received in 1996. Third party candidates have not fared well in recent presidential elections: The total vote won by third party candidates has fallen from 20% in 1992 to 10% in 1996, 4% in 2000, 1% in 2004 and 2% in 2008." (SabatosCrystalBall)


"I went down to lunch at Michael’s to meet Sir Christopher Meyer who was interviewing me at table, on camera, about the social pecking order in New York these days. Sir Christopher is hosting a documentary about the social structure (read, the power structure) in five American cities. After New York I know he heads out to Los Angeles. The documentary will be aired on Sky Atlantic in August. Sir Christopher was in town on a break neck schedule with interviews. Yesterday morning he interviewed Jim Tisch at the Regency where many New York business people and real estate developers have their daily 'power breakfast' meetings. I was asked about the '400' List that I created in Quest magazine about 18 or 20 years ago (now known as the Quest 400). A certain 'gravity' is attached to it at least by outsiders (such as Brits) whose interest helps perpetuate credulity, as do all such magazine lists. My list was 'loosely modeled' on the famous list of the Mrs. Astor in the late 19th century (the reported number of people her ballroom could take). The term went into the American vernacular to refer to those who held 'wealth and power.' Later it was discovered Mrs. Astor could only fit 370 in her ballroom, so it was never what it seemed. Just like today. Mrs. Astor’s list was a domineering force in the image of Society in New York for almost a century, or until the Kennedys came to the White House and marked the final blow to the WASP/Knickerbocker era." (NYSocialDiary)


"Gearing up for Fashion Week, when models are ubiquitous, literary lothario and social scene iron-man Salman Rushdie made the rounds Tuesday night. The writer popped up at Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld’s West Village opening for Ouattara Watts’ art show, 'Vertigo,' where he was spotted rubbing shoulders with Diane von Furstenberg and artist Brice Marden. Also in the high-end crowd were model Lily Donaldson, W editor Stefano Tonchi, chef Todd English and designer Yigal Azrouel. Rushdie then skipped an Acme after-party to head to Flatiron eatery Junoon, where he was honored by Dom Perignon and Booktrack, which creates music to go with e-books. “He got up and was supposed to read a page or two from his short story [‘In the South’],' said a spy. 'But by music momentum, or popular demand, he read the entire story.' Rushdie spent the rest of the night surrounded by beautiful women including DJ Donna D’Cruz and Topaz Page-Green." (PageSix)
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"The first time I read Colleen McCullough's The Thorn Birds, I was about eleven years old and volunteering as a library-cart-girl at an old folks' home. Please save your praise on the latter point; even at the age of eleven I knew I wasn't going to get into a decent college from a Canadian hick town without performative volunteer work. I was there to use the elderly, not to serve them. Anyway, the first thing you learn about old people when engaged in such an act of questionable good works is: Old People Read Smut. They do! They love it. I could not keep anything vaguely bodice-rippy in stock. Hey, struggling novelists of America: write some Depression-themed erotica and just wait for the Werther's Original-scented twenties to start rolling in. No, no, I love old people, really I do. I just wish they would stop voting. Anyway, The Thorn Birds was our most popular title. And, on re-read, I can see why! This must be our most Classic of Classic Trash selections yet: foreign land, sweeping cross-generational saga, six hundred and eighty-eight pages in paperback, forbidden love (and not just 'oh, he's married' forbidden! BINDING SACRED VOWS forbidden!), illegitimate children, and a weird, evolutionarily dubious metaphor about a made-up bird. This is what we professional trash-readers live for!  Your particular enjoyment of The Thorn Birds may be linked to where you sit on the priests/sexiness matrix. If you find the idea of priests sexy, this is going to be a fun billion pages. If, however, you find priests off-putting and completely lacking in erotic appeal, you'll still have a good time, but with a certain amount of ew along the way. I fall into the second category, but that's probably because the Catholic priests of my childhood were way more Ratzinger than Ralph, if you know what I mean." (TheAwl)


"The Sandro invasion of NYC has officially begun, thanks to last night's store shindig on Bleecker, followed by a swank soiree at the (finally open) Le Baron ... The band broke out with some raucous, tuba-peppered, migrating band action when the clock struck 12, which was just about the time that Penn Badgley and Zoe Kravitz wandered in to join the pre-NYFW hearty partiers like Waris Ahluwalia, Brad Goreski, Gilles Bensimon, Mickey Boardman, and Annabelle Dexter-Jones (beau of Le Baron baron, Andre Saraiva). Besides the jams, there were petite merguez sausages, tiny crepes, platters of macarons, and other French nibbles befitting the ambiance." (Fashionweekdaily)

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