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Monday, March 25, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"To MSNBC president Phil Griffin, news is war. And not one of those fancy modern wars fought by drones and computer hackers, either. 'We are in a knife fight for every viewer,' he says often, and: 'We are on the battleground.' So, this winter, as Blizzard Nemo was bearing down on New York City, Griffin bunkered his top executives at the downtown Ritz Carlton for the cable news version of a military training exercise. A Navy SEAL spoke to them about how to manage fear during combat. They toured the September 11 museum, where they discussed the pressures of public scrutiny with the museum’s president. And, later, they participated in drills designed to sharpen their competitive instincts, including one where teams of two each created a specialty cocktail they felt 'embodied MSNBC.' Bill Wolff, Rachel Maddow’s executive producer, joked that the last event combined two things that Griffin loves most: 'talking about MSNBC and having a cocktail.' One pair chose a Michelada (beer, lime juice, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce) and explained that the drink conveyed MSNBC’s spice and unpredictability. Another chose a champagne cocktail (sugar cube soaked in angostura bitters, an ounce of cognac, champagne, and a twist of lemon), describing it, and the second-place cable news network, as classic, original, and unafraid to tell the 'bitter' truth. A third mixed Gosling rum, Mezcal, and chocolate bitters and dubbed it 'The Heart and the Fist,' which was the theme of the day’s activities and also the title of the SEAL’s memoir. In its cocktail incarnation, it was intended to convey MSNBC’s strength and compassion. Griffin, a vodka drinker, picked a Guinness. It was an “acquired taste,” he explained." (TNR)


“if Matt Lauer doesn’t want to be seen with sharp knives, it’s because last summer his co-host Ann Curry was discovered with one in her back. She was swiftly replaced by a younger, more genial woman, Savannah Guthrie. Ever since, Lauer has been the prime suspect in Curry’s virtual demise. Five million viewers, the majority of them women, would not soon forget how Curry, the intrepid female correspondent and emotionally vivid anchor, spent her last appearance on the Today show couch openly weeping, devastated at having to leave after only a year. The image of Matt Lauer trying to comfort her—and of Curry turning away from his attempted kiss—has become a kind of monument to the real Matt Lauer, forensic evidence of his guilt. The truest truism of morning-TV shows is that they are like families, or aspire to be—it’s a matter of practiced artifice, faked from the first minute to the last. But reality can’t always be kept out of the picture. On Curry’s final day, Lauer realized the scene was catastrophic even as cameras rolled. ’I think we all knew it at that moment,‘ says Lauer during an interview with his current co-hosts, Al ­Roker, Natalie Morales, and Guthrie. ‘And it just seemed like something—there was nothing we could do as it was happening, and we all felt bad about it.’ What followed was the implosion of the most profitable franchise in network television. After sixteen years as the No. 1 morning show in America, Today was worth nearly half a billion dollars a year in advertising revenue to NBC, the bedrock of its business. In the aftermath of the Curry debacle, the show lost half a million viewers and ceded first place in the ratings war to ABC’s Good Morning America, losing millions of dollars overnight. Blamed in the press for his co-host’s offing, Lauer has watched helplessly as his reputation gets battered week after week. When Chelsea Handler joked to him on Today earlier this month, ’You have a worse reputation than I do,‘ Lauer’s smile sharpened into something that wouldn’t make it past airport security.” (NYMag)


"Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) son says he 'was pretty relieved' when his father wasn’t selected as GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate. In an open letter about coming out to his family and friends published Monday in the Yale Daily News, Will Portman writes that the relief came from avoiding the glare of the media during the 2012 presidential race. He said Sen. Portman told the Romney campaign he was gay, and that Portman would be open about it on the campaign trail. 'When he ultimately wasn’t chosen for the ticket, I was pretty relieved to have avoided the spotlight of a presidential campaign,' Portman wrote. 'Some people have criticized my dad for waiting for two years after I came out to him before he endorsed marriage for gay couples. Part of the reason for that is that it took time for him to think through the issue more deeply after the impetus of my coming out. But another factor was my reluctance to make my personal life public.' Portman’s note details the college junior’s struggle to reveal his sexuality to his father and his dad’s decision, announced earlier this month, to reverse his stance and support same-sex marriage. While Portman’s son — one of the 57-year-old lawmaker’s three kids — says it’s been 'strange' to have his personal life splashed on the front pages of newspapers, he also calls it 'a privilege,' saying, 'Now, my friends at Yale and the folks in my dad’s political orbit in Ohio are all on the same page.'" (TheHill)


"But back to Paddy and his circle of friends. The leading players were the painter Niko Ghika, George Seferis (the ‘Colossus of Maroussi,’ as Henry Miller immortalized him), George Katsimbalis, and our hero Paddy. I only met Ghika and Paddy once—in 1978 or ’79—under unfortunate circumstances. Ghika is Jacob Rothschild’s father-in-law, and his paintings throughout his life have been fresh and clean and pure and naked of all pretense. I was lying at anchor in Corfu on Gianni Agnelli’s boat when my host asked me to go up at the Rothschild villa and ask them down to lunch. Back then it was the only way to communicate, unless the Rothschilds understood Morse code ... I went and ran into a strict nanny-like woman sunning herself on the terrace, asked her if Jacob Rothschild was there and was told he was out, so I left a message that the Agnellis were expecting them for lunch in the bay below. The nanny was not best pleased. In fact she was downright rude, but I don’t do rude from foreigners in my own country, so perhaps I was a tiny bit rude also. ('Listen you old hag, just give them the bloody message.') Then the Ghikas and the Rothschilds arrived, me never having met any of them before. And they looked rather peeved. The nanny turned out to be Dame Peggy Ashcroft, who had stayed behind. The atmosphere did not improve after Agnelli asked me to do the introductions—a strange request, as I had not met Paddy or Ghika before. I got them right, of course, but then introduced Jacob’s wife as his mother and his mother as his wife. Had it not been for Paddy’s brilliance (he recited poems and sang and told nonstop stories), the lunch would have been a disaster. Afterwards the Rothschild woman went to theSpectator’s editor, called me scum, and asked that he fire me." (Taki



”‘I was booted from boarding school in Connecticut, for being a punk rocker glued to a skateboard -- the official reason was lying about leaving campus without permission and it would have been my Pomfret School record-breaking fifth time in front of the 'DC,' the Disciplinary Committee. (Think a court-like scenario made up of grouchy preppy teachers and nerdy students -- my worst nightmare. So the second I got home to NYC, I snuck out and of course went clubbing. Naturally, I was busted by my parents. My mother told me, through fake, overly dramatic tears, that I was 'done' amongst nice people and belonged in jail. My mom always takes things next-level. It was late February and my parents were going on their annual trip to stay with fancy friends like Annette de la Renta in Lyford Cay in the Bahamas. My mother was 'terrified' to leave me 'to my own devices' in Manhattan. 'You're coming to Lyford with us and you'll work as a gardener the whole time at the house.' Needless to say, I never raked a single leaf. I was pissed at Pomfret and missed my hooligan friends. So I bought a bunch of those 'It's Better in the Bahamas' postcards with bodacious bikini babes and wrote every member of the [Disciplinary Committee]: 'Everything worked out for the best. I'm on the beach in the Bahamas and happier than ever. I heard Connecticut is really cold now. Off to Paris next.' Bad boys finish first!" (PeterDavis)



”Today we are featuring another one of those great obits from theThe Daily Telegraph of London. This one about a jewel thief. It’s impossible to read it and not think of the famous Alfred Hitchcock film ‘To Catch A Thief’ starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in which Grant plays a retired cat-burglar. That film was based on a real character named John Robie. The Telegraph obit is about an Englishman operating about the same time as the film, all over Europe. I was reading a lot of financial and economic news and commentary about chicanery that’s been going on internationally (I also saw Sheila Bair, former head of the FDIC on Bill Moyers, talking about it -- ‘not one person has gone to jail,’ she remarked) -- as well as the potentially mysterious death of another Russian oligarch, Boris Berezovsky over in the UK.  So the following story of a professional thief, came with a ‘lightness,’ the humorousness of this particular man’s life of crime. And it was crime; and he had not only a record but served several stints in prison for his crimes. Yet he took the high road in ‘confessing’ (he wrote a memoir) chosen profession and his victims, portraying himself as a kind of 20th century Robin Hood, milling about among the elites in the guise of a confrere.“ (NYSocialDiary)


"I went to a prep school called Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts, where the big pre-Spring Break treat was (and still remains) its 'Winterim' program, where for two weeks in March everyone chooses an 'intensive course of study' -- sailing in New Zealand or learning French in Paris or something. Anyway, my hockey player/student government boyfriend and I were caught having sex in his dorm and so we couldn't go to Costa Rica together to build houses for the poor or something. I dunno what we were going to do -- obviously the real plan was just to have more hot illicit teen sex! In abandoned doghouses or something. Anyway, I got suspended from Winterim as punishment and sent home to D.C. To get the project credit, I had to do two weeks of grueling psych ward rounds with my arch-nemesis to this very day: my bitchy hotshot psychiatrist DR. DAD! -- Who was so mad he wouldn't TALK to me, and we were in the car together three hours a day! (Not that I WANTED him to!) We left the house every day at 6:40 AM and got home every night at 8 PM. It was f-ing miserable and the only time in my life I felt true empathy for my aforementioned always-in-a-bitch-mood father. I wound up getting expelled from Lawrence for drugs like a month and a half after I came back from spring break -- just before graduation. But this time, I came home pregnant! Yes, with a giant Xanax bar. No, I had a gory second trimester abortion. The End." (CatMarnell)

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