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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres



"President Obama led a conga line, took part in a 'Gangnam Style' dance-off with Usher, and even did the electric slide at his celebrity-packed inauguration bash at the White House. Barack and Michelle danced past 3 a.m. at the spectacular private bash in the East Room for their closest friends and supporters ... “They played ‘Single Ladies.’ and all the women were dancing, led by Michelle. Later, everyone lined up and did the electric slide, and the president led a party line around the room. Most people did the conga with him. The only people who weren’t dancing were Bill Clinton (without Hillary), Timothy Geithner and John Kerry ...'Pick any party you’ve ever been to, this was a thousand times better,' our source said. Even though Obama has embraced social media better than any other politician, the invite to the super-exclusive bash — which took place after the formal inaugural balls — strongly stipulated 'no social media.' Guests were treated to cocktails and food in the Lincoln Room before the party got under way with performances by Eric Benét and Monáe. Later, DJ Cassidy spun party tunes, and stars including Katy Perry — with John MayerUsher, Swizz Beatz, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys did impromptu performances. Cassidy played 'Empire State of Mind,' and Keys sang her part live over the mike. Other guests included Colin Powell, Susan Rice, Eva Longoria, Gayle King, Ashley Judd, Al Sharpton and Rahm Emanuel. The business world was represented by power players including American Express CEO Ken Chenault, 32 Advisors’ Robert Wolf and Honeywell’s David Cote. Missing were Anna Wintour, who was at the Paris couture shows, David Geffen and Oprah Winfrey, who we’re told had a speaking engagement in Canada."(PageSix)


"Now, nearly a decade later, (Mort Marcus), 59, and (Ira Bernstein), 53, again are bucking both convention and controversy with the FX sitcom Anger Management, starring Charlie Sheen. Others were afraid to go near Sheen after his 2011 firing from Two and a Half Men amid a drug-induced meltdown, but Debmar is turning the Sheen circus into a franchise potentially worth as much as $800 million. After airing a 10-episode first season on the cable network in summer 2012, Anger returns Jan. 17, this time for a staggering 90 episodes, solidifying Marcus and Bernstein's reputation for being among the industry's shrewdest execs. In fiscal 2012 alone, their company -- which distributes shows featuring such diverse talent as Tyler Perry (House of Payne), Steve Harvey (Family Feud) and Wendy Williams (The Wendy Williams Show) -- accounted for $134 million in annual revenue, more than one-third of Lionsgate's overall television business for the year. And that's all before a penny of the Anger revenue is factored in. With Anger, though, the Debmar co-presidents have been selling more than simply a sitcom. They are pushing a new template for series television, a medium rocked by a fractured landscape and changing viewer habits. 'Financially and creatively, it will completely change how everybody does their projects,' Anger showrunner Bruce Helford has said of Debmar's '10/90 formula,' in which 90 additional episodes of a series are automatically ordered if the first batch of 10 hits a predetermined ratings target. The 6-year-old model, first employed on Perry's House of Payne, ensures that, in success, Debmar can quickly amass enough episodes of a show to launch in syndication, allowing many involved to cash in on the backend faster than ever. Take Sheen, for example. Over the course of 100 episodes, Anger is poised to generate $350 million to $500 million in revenue; if it ends up running for 150, that range could swell to as high as $800 million, say sources, once network license fees, international sales and syndication revenue are factored in. (Anger is expected to generate close to $1 million an episode overseas, in addition to the lucrative off-net syndication deal the company inked with Fox stations, where Anger will begin airing nightly double runs in 2014.) Sheen, who is earning a fraction of the per-episode money he made at Men's height, could make between $75 million and $200 million on the backend, or nearly 40 percent of the series' profits. FX, too, has reaped the benefits." (TheHollywoodReporter)


"Jack is in his 30s. He’s good-looking, makes money and has a nice apartment, and in this city, what all that gets you is almost everything. He meets me on Greenwich Street one morning for black coffee. Two girls he knows come walking by. He smiles, and his blue eyes are warm, but on one girl’s face you can see that whole wringing week she waited for a call. You’re Jack, and you take a girl out to dinner at Blue Ribbon, and she spends three hours deciding if you’re the kind of guy who will like her more if she sleeps with you or if she doesn’t. If you like her enough, it will mean East Hampton on Memorial Day and Nantucket on Labor Day and New Canaan for life. And God help her, there will be golden retrievers. Jack can have any girl he wants. A blond event planner who wears heels on Sunday mornings. A former fit model who looks great in Hanes white. A yoga instructor who makes him spicy tempeh wraps with steamed kale on the side. There are girls who make great Bloody Marys and there are good girls who go to church on Sunday with their families, but last night they were at Jack’s. There are girls who ride horses and lawyers and designers and tall ones and short ones, stacking their needs up across his walls and then saying those are not needs, they are shadows. So why does Jack prefer escorts?" (Observer)



"'I was reluctant to let you come,' says the man sitting in front of me, 'until I heard that you're planning to do a story about ownership.' have flown out from Los Angeles to the ice fields of Minneapolis ('Well, it's back to the tundra,' says one of my fellow passengers as we touch down on a crisp 12-degree day) on 24 hours' notice. I am hoping I will get a chance to discuss the spontaneous touring strategy Prince has raised to an innovative art in the last few years, as well as what plans he may have for his storehouse of unreleased material (his last album was 2010's 20Ten). And I'm planning to talk with him about his being chosen as Billboard's 2013 Icon honoree at the Billboard Music Awards in May. But I begin wondering how much of that we'll get to when I get word from Prince's manager, Julia Ramadan, that I should spend what little time I have to prepare by watching 'The Adjustment Bureau' (more on this later), reading the Twitter feed of an apparent (and mysterious) Prince bootlegger and watching an online video discussion between a Prince superfan and the blogger Dr. Funkenberry. And now I'm worried that the interview I've come here for may not happen at all. One thing you learn quickly about Prince: He doesn't suffer fools or folks who don't know what they're talking about. For the next three hours, we ricochet back and forth on a variety of topics. Later, back at my hotel, I'll be re-creating our conversation from memory. This is how Prince interviews have unfolded for many years. He remains adamant about not allowing reporters to record their conversations with him. ('Some in the past have taken my voice and sold it," he says. 'I can't remember the incident that triggered it and it's probably best that I don't.') And he still frowns at the idea of a reporter taking notes. ('That would be just like texting.')" (Billboard)


"One of the very worst things you can do as a critic, I think, is slag artists for not making the movies or writing the books or painting the pictures that you wish they had, as opposed to the works they themselves felt like creating. Which isn’t to say that you can’t call something regrettable—or even crap. Only that you shouldn’t complain that Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter isn’t Lincoln, or vice versa. By that measure, it’s even shabbier to slag someone for not pursuing the career you would have preferred—but I’m going to do it anyway. This week, I fulfilled a long-standing ambition by catching up on Conan O’Brien’s talk show. Jimmy Kimmel’s move last week to 11:35 on ABC served to remind me that late-night talk shows aside from Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s still exist, and I was curious how Conan was holding up creatively more than two years into its run on TBS at 11, and nearly three years after the host was booted off NBC’s Tonight show to make way for Jay Leno’s return to 11:35. I was a fan of O’Brien’s original Late Night show on NBC, which ran for 16 years. I was an even bigger fan of his Tonight show, since, for tradition’s sake, it was nice to have a watchable Tonight show again after 17 years of Jay Leno. Hey kids, want to hear a strange-but-true story about the olden days? As Jimmy Kimmel pointed out in his recent Rolling Stone interview, Leno was once an actually funny comedian. People have forgotten that by the 1980s, the now-revered Johnny Carson was mostly phoning it in, taking long vacations, still doing corny bits such as Aunt Blabby and Carnac the Magnificent when he bothered to go on air. At times, he could exude disdain for the show, and I remember people looking forward to the weeks when Leno, who seemed fresher and hipper, would guest-host. (My old haunt Spy, which prided itself on its comic snobbery, put Leno on its cover twice.) But once Leno took over Tonight, he willed himself to become the comic equivalent of a Big Mac—popular, predictable, and revolting. Moral of the story: comedy, like food, should never be machine-tooled. Both should also have sell-by dates. Speaking of which, the once-brilliant David Letterman, now in his 31st year as a late-night host, has also become unwatchable, his bitterness and self-loathing having curdled so palpably that you now feel as if you’re being entertained, if that is the word, by a giant, double-breasted-suit-wearing ulcer. He can still be funny when he wants to be—a big if—but these days I feel that by watching Letterman’s show, I’m making myself complicit in some creepy sado-masochistic psychodrama, that I’m enabling something dark and destructive that I don’t quite understand but I know isn’t good for me. Paul Schaeffer’s too-hearty guffaws hang in the air like warnings." (Bruce Handy/VanityFair)


"First, that’s just what rich, smart people do, right? It’s just another piece of (bogus) investing folklore: Once you have a big pile of money to invest, the solution must be complicated. And the more complicated and secretive and exclusive it is, the better. Second, people want to believe there’s a better way of investing that’s only available to a select few. This idea of using plain old mutual funds is for the common folk. People think, 'I’ve got to get access to the best minds in the industry, and they’re in the heads of people who go manage hedge funds, right?' Finally, there’s a perverse belief that if something is more expensive, it simply has to be better. But when it comes to investing, as Vanguard Group’s founder, John Bogle, said, 'You get what you don’t pay for.' This is just cold, hard math. If an investment earns 10 percent, and you’re paying a 3 percent management fee plus 50 percent of profits (or even 2 and 20), you’re going to keep a lot less of your money than with an investment that earns 10 percent and only charges a management fee of 0.5 percent or 0.25 percent, like an index mutual fund or exchange-traded fund might. I once worked with an attorney who represented a large family endowment that wanted a new investing strategy. So I walked him through a simple, well-diversified, low-cost portfolio. I gave him the returns and the risk numbers. They were impressive. But this was just a plain vanilla portfolio. Three other groups made pitches. Those folks came with two-inch-thick proposals and flew people in to give presentations. Their strategies were pretty complicated with lots of bells and whistles. But their performance numbers weren’t quite as good. Not long after the pitches, the lawyer called to say that his client had decided to go in different direction. He told me it was because my plan seemed too basic." (Carl Richards/NYTimes)


"Carl Richards has a post over at the New York Times' Bucks blog in which he puzzles over the enduring appeal of hedge funds, despite the fact that they have historically underperformed the S&P 500. Why, he asks, are people paying exorbitant fees to hedge-fund managers who don't even make money for them? Richards takes a stab at the answer in a few ways. First, he implies that there's an element of groupthink in Hedgistan, with investors all chasing increasingly complex hedge-fund strategies because 'the more complicated and secretive and exclusive it is, the better.' He also gets at the false correlation between exclusivity and superior returns: 'People want to believe there’s a better way of investing that’s only available to a select few.' I think those are both true, to an extent. But I don't think it's correct to draw the sweeping conclusion that rich people are dumb and desperate to get richer, and therefore easily fooled by hedge-fund managers bearing Powerpoint decks and sleek Brioni suits. First, I question Richards's assumption that 'people' — as in individual, high-net-worth investors — are flooding into hedge funds unabated. Look at this chart from a Citi report last year, for example, which shows that the percentage of hedge-fund assets coming from individuals and family offices is actually down since the crisis, while the amount of money hedge funds get from institutional investors like pension funds and endowments has overtaken it." (Kevin Roose/NYMag)

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