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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"For someone selling doom and gloom, Meredith Whitney is feeling pretty good. The Wall Street celebri-analyst, who made her name with a prescient bearish call on Citigroup in 2007 (then spent the next few years making TV appearances, pontificating on the markets, and featuring prominently in Michael Lewis's The Big Short), is back in the news again, this time for her new book arguing that many of America's cities and states are on the brink of financial ruin. Whitney's book, Fate of the States, came out of an appearance she did on 60 Minutes in 2010, when she predicted a large spate of municipal defaults as cities struggled to pay back their debts. Those defaults haven't exactly materialized — and that fact, combined with some unfortunately timed recoveries that have dated some of the book's gloomy claims, has given plenty of ammo to her critics. (Bloomberg's nasty review was titled 'Meredith Whitney Offers Barrage of Numbers, Errors'; Reuters muni bond guru Cate Long said it 'felt like the book had been written over a year ago and was not in tune with current fiscal realities.') But Fate of the States isn't really about the 60 Minutes call or the state of municipal finance. It's an accessible beginner's guide to muni-land, hung on Whitney's thesis that the financial mismanagement of cities and states all over the country has created a new geography of opportunity — one that favors the central states, where goods are made, tax burdens are lower, and municipal finances are less screwed up, over the coasts." (NYMag)


"In the first week of January 1988, Ava Gardner asked me to ghost her memoirs. Since I had never met Ava Gardner, the call, late on a Sunday evening, was clearly a hoax. 'Sounds great, Ava,' I played along. 'Does Frank approve? I don’t want to upset Frank.' There was a small silence, then a brief husky laugh. 'Fuck Frank,' she said with a faint southern drawl. 'Are you interested or not, honey?'I should have said no right there. I wasn’t a ghostwriter. I was working 15 hours a day to finish my third novel. But this was Ava Gardner calling me. Only a fool would say he wasn’t interested. 'I’m told we’d get along fine, but who the hell knows? You’ve been a journalist; I hate journalists. I don’t trust them,' she said. 'But Dirk Bogarde says you’re O.K. Dirk said you deal from a clean deck, and you’re not a faggot. Don’t get me wrong. I get on fine with fags, I just prefer dealing with guys who aren’t. Dirk reckons you’d break your ass to get the book right. Are you taping this?' she suddenly asked sharply. “This is between the two of us, right?' 'Of course,' I said. 'I’ll tell you when the meter starts,” she said. I assured her again that I wasn’t taping her. However, I was making plenty of notes.
Eleven days after her first phone call, Ava invited me to her apartment, spread across the first floor of two converted fin de siècle mansions in Ennismore Gardens, in the Knightsbridge section of London.Her bell had the name Baker. 'It’s my mother’s maiden name. I live like a goddamn spy,' she’d told me earlier. Her housekeeper, Carmen Vargas, met me and led the way to the drawing room. 'I think the most vulgar thing about Hollywood is the way it believes its own gossip,' Ava told me that day. 'I know a lot of men fantasize about me; that’s how Hollywood gossip becomes Hollywood history.''Is that why you want to write a book?,' I asked warily. 'You want to put the record straight?''I’m broke, honey. I either write the book or sell the jewels.' I was surprised at the frankness with which she admitted it. 'And I’m kinda sentimental about the jewels,' she added." (VanityFair)


" I lunched four times this week at Michael’s. This is the result of an obsessive/compulsive personality on one hand, eternal curiosity on another, and the fact that habits are security blankets that we all need for one reason or another (to keep warm). The big day of course was Wednesday because for some reason that is the center of the Michael’s week of people and their professional politics. That is the day that people go there if they want to be seen. 'To Be Seen' is important if you are “out there” professionally. It’s also not a bad idea even if you aren’t. It may provide a lead, even get you a job, introduce you to someone you’d like to meet. 'Friending,' to use the Facebook word, is an operative term in Michael’s except it is far more serious than adding another address to your list. Michael’s role is that of an important social venue in the media industry. So, Wednesday, I went to lunch with Nina Griscom whom you may know from her travel pieces to Africa and Paris that she’s done for NYSD (ninagriscom.com). Nina has lived a kaleidoscopic New York life; rich and colorful and transforming. Born and bred here. Model, television personality, socialite, writer, mother (daughter now in college), and wife (more than once, or thrice). If you see a picture of her, you see a wry smile – in the eyes too – an almost devilish grin. If you get to know her, the grin is often accompanied by a throaty laugh, a champagne chortle, because she’s one of those women who has the ability to take it all in and enjoy. When Auntie Mame exclaimed that 'life’s a banquet…!' well, that’s Nina’s MV. If she read this, and she might, she’d probably and say 'he’s crazy, he doesn’t know the half of it' because she’s a woman whose mind is working all the time. And you know that kind of mental full-time activity isn’t about paradise. Except when it is. So the occasional times we meet for lunch we put all that on the table, along with several plates off the Michael’s menu of 45 items (small plates). Meanwhile, while we were there chortling away, William Lauder was at Table One with Alan Quasha, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Quadrant Investment Management. The presidential level of politics knows Mr. Quasha as well. At the table in front of them, Washington, D. C. attorney Robert ('Bob') Barnett – you’ve read about him before – Rita Braver’s husband who is even more important than she is famous (in that business). After Mr. Barnett was finished, Lucy Danziger, Editor of SELF and gallerist Alexandre Chemla. " (NYSocialDiary)

"Just the muted click of cameras announced their arrival the other night at the Conservatory Ball, the annual spring fund-raising party of the New York Botanical Garden. Alighting on a swatch of crimson runner and posing gamely for photographers were the Fendi heiress Fé Fendi, swathed in a Carolina Herrera floral chiffon; the philanthropist Somers Farkas in a pewter Maggie Norris evening slip; and the social stalwart Mai Hallingby Harrison, sheathed in vintage Halston.  Theirs was a stately parade, but it picked up steam when Jean Shafiroff stepped onto the carpet in a froth of baby pink designed by Zang Toi, a favorite of the gilded set. For what seemed like 10 minutes, Ms. Shafiroff fanned out her skirt for photographers and twirled like a music box ballerina, all but hijacking this otherwise decorous affair. Hers was the sort of unabashed swanning that’s become almost reflexive on the charity circuit as guests, old-guard and new, turn the prominent benefits that dot the city’s social calendar into the East Coast equivalent of a Hollywood gala, with much of that activity chronicled by a few tireless society photographers whose pictures end up in New York Magazine, WWD, The New York Times and a seemingly inexhaustible number of party-tracking Web sites. 'Increasingly there is the feeling,' said Peter Davis, the editor of Scene, a society magazine, 'that if Patrick McMullan or Billy Farrell doesn’t take your picture, you weren’t at the party. And if you weren’t at the party, you don’t exist in New York.'" (Ruth La Ferla)


"As controversy swirls around a new documentary about Venus and Serena Williams on the eve of Wimbledon, Serena calmly co-hosted a pre-tournament party with fellow tennis stars Maria Sharapova, Laura Robson and Heather Watson for the Women’s Tennis Association on Thursday night. Richard Branson co-hosted the London bash at the Roof Gardens in Kensington for the WTA’s 40th anniversary. Guests included Prince Harry’s gal pal Cressida Bonas, Brit model Jade Parfitt, Bianca Jagger, designers Henry Holland and Jasmine Guinness and London party promoter Henry Conway. Earlier this week, 'Venus and Serena' coincidentally premiered in London, even while its filmmakers are being sued in federal court by the United States Tennis Association for using what it claims is unlicensed footage. Directors Maiken Baird and Michelle Major said in an introduction at the Curzon Mayfair Cinema, 'The USTA is trying to censor and stop the exhibition of this film about two of the greatest Americans to ever play tennis.'" (PageSix)

"Bloomberg reports that three former interns are suing Gawker Media and publisher Nick Denton for unpaid wages and overtime. According to the suit filed in Manhattan federal court on Friday, the plaintiffs — identified by the New York Post as Aulistar Mark, Andrew Hudson, and Hanchen Lu — all claim they moderated comment sections and researched, wrote, edited, and promoted posts for Gawker blogs between 2008 and 2010 without compensation. 'Gawker employs numerous other 'interns' in the same way, paying them nothing or underpaying them and utilizing their services to publish its content on the Internet, an enterprise that generates significant amounts of revenue for Gawker,' said the complaint. This comes just days after a judge ruled that two Fox Searchlight interns who performed menial tasks on the set of Black Swan should have been paid for their work because their coffee-fetching and lunch order-taking immediately benefited the studio, which did not provide the kids with a sufficiently educational experience." (NyMag)

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