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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Pick almost any recent big story out of Washington. The secret phone and email surveillance. The proposal to give 11 million illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship. President Obama's drone 'kill list,' or American weapons for Syria's rebels. On these and other issues, Lindsey Graham is at odds with prevailing—in his preferred description, merely louder—opinion in the GOP. He is also one of his party's leading legislators. The South Carolinian is spearheading the immigration-reform push in the Senate, even as he fights to protect a Democratic president's war powers.  Mr. Graham also faces re-election next year, and something may have to give. 'If I lose, I lose,' he says, invoking one of his trademark sayings: 'I don't want to stop being a senator to be senator.' But Mr. Graham, a practiced politician, says the assumptions about the GOP's mood and future direction are wrong. He says defense and immigration are a winner for him, even with South Carolina primary voters, as well as for the Republican Party.That proposition is going to be tested. The immigration-reform bill is headed for Senate passage, likely next week, and a rough debate in the House in the fall. Mr. Graham was one of the four Republicans and four Democrats—the Gang of Eight—who came together in January to work out a comprehensive package. 'With immigration, we know what we need to do,' he says. 'We're just afraid to do it, because people on the right and the left sometimes yell about things like this.'" (WSJ)


"After weeks of Wednesdays full of Hollywood heavyweights (culminating in our Table One sit-down with Mitch Glazer and Kelly Lynch last week) there were more moguls (William Lauder, Jimmy Finkelstein) than celebrities at Michael’s today. However, the talking head contingent was represented by regulars Star Jones and MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart. Today’s most intriguing table was the one where Jann Wenner was sitting with his son, Gus Wenner. Discussing the finer points of the power lunch, perhaps? Or maybe just tossing around some ideas for the website the 22 year-old publishing scion is now running. No matter — when dad’s the boss, I’m sure there’s plenty of room on that learning curve regardless of the subject." (Diane Clehane)



'It was a brothel!' exclaims Goga Ashkenazi delightedly by way of greeting. I have just walked into our private lunch room at LapĂ©rouse in Paris. The Kazakh oligarch-turned-fashion-designer is pointing a perfectly manicured finger to the scratches in the mirror above her head, and reciting a story about the 19th-century courtesans who frequented these upstairs salons. 'They were testing the diamonds that they were being paid with, and they would test whether or not they were authentic on the mirrors.' Actually, we agree, some of the names scratched into the glass look suspiciously contemporary. Ashkenazi concludes: 'It’s a very funny place but it’s got fantastic food.' Ashkenazi is best-known for her social circle: a pal of Britain’s Prince Andrew, she has a glittering array of former boyfriends. Her surname comes from a brief marriage to American hotel heir Stefan Ashkenazy. Timur Kulibayev, the married billionaire son-in-law of Kazakhstan’s eternal president Nursultan Nazarbayev, fathered her two young sons. Fiat heir Lapo Elkann is her latest former boyfriend. Yet the 33-year-old, who recently jumped from the oil and gas industries to purchase the venerable French fashion house Vionnet, is also a case-study of how elites from resource-rich economies are buying up western Europe. This woman embodies the shifting global economy. In the confines of our private salon, Ashkenazi is quite a presence: sharp central Asian cheekbones, long shiny black hair, full lips. One hand has green nail polish to match her trousers, the other black to match her top. In the place where other people wear a belt buckle, she has an upside-down black heart. Is she wearing Vionnet? She beams and gushes, in accented but fluent English:  'Just for you. I just flew in from Tokyo, I didn’t have time to change. For your sake, I actually had to travel like this.' The clothes are her own creation: unusually, Ashkenazi is both creative director and owner of Vionnet." (FT)


"Over the course of her career working as a journalist for Vanity Fair, New York Magazine and Harper's Bazaar, among other publications, writer Nancy Jo Sales has seen a lot of kids behaving badly. Make that rich kids behaving badly. Over the years, she's covered everything from promiscuous prep schoolers to Upper West Side-dwelling, drug-dealing "gangsters,' and has turned into something of an expert on privileged youth acting out. So, in the fall of 2009, when a troop of well-off Calabasas, California kids got arrested for burglarizing the homes of celebrities like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom, it made perfect sense that Sales would hop on a plane from New York and head out west to join the media fray that was slowly converging on the soon-to-be-named 'Bling Ring.'  Landing interviews with suspects Nick Prugo, Courtney Ames and Alexis Neiers (who would appear on the much-maligned E! reality show Pretty Wild and would leave Sales a highly memorable voicemail), Sales went on to publish a feature in Vanity Fair about the saga called 'The Suspects Wore Louboutins,' which, as many know by now, caught the eye of Sofia Coppola who optioned the article and turned it into The Bling Ring movie, a fictionalized version of the real-life events starring Emma Watson. Around that time, Sales was approached to write a book of the same name, based off of her original article and expanding on interviews with the suspects as well as addressing larger themes and issues surrounding the crime spree. With the movie's nationwide release today and the book's recent publication, we talked to Sales about some of the most outlandish aspects of the 'Bling Ring' case, what she thinks contributed to the wealthy teens' desires to commit the crimes in the first place and why we, like the 'Bling Ring' kids, are all so celebrity-obsessed." (Papermag)


"Kanye West’s militant new song 'Black Skinhead,' decrying the way the rapper’s been treated by white America, is a peculiar choice for a movie about wealthy white Wall Street types. And yet the trailer for Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest collaboration dropped this week, with West’s hard-driving drums playing behind scenes of DiCaprio frolicking on a yacht, dancing in a tux, throwing out $100 bills and using lobsters as weapons. It’s eminently GIF-ready. If Kanye West’s latter career and the trailer for the forthcoming film 'The Wolf of Wall Street' have anything in common, it’s an uncanny sense that America is more or less over the class resentment generated by the 2008 Wall Street crash. In 2011, Americans occupied Wall Street; in 2013, they’re buying 'Yeezus,' the album of a rapper who’s gone from bragging he was a millionaire (on “Watch the Throne”) to calling himself a god. And they’re preparing to see the second film in six months in which DiCaprio plays a charming, roguish financial swindler with a taste for excess. Occupy Wall Street gave rise to little popular art other than the mere fact of its own existence as a happening, and movies post-crash have barely acknowledged the themes of fundamental inequity expressed in Zuccotti Park. And there’s been very little acknowledgment onscreen that a financial crash even happened; the years since 2008 have seen a slow trickle of films about Wall Street, which generally seemed off-key." (Salon)

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