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Thursday, June 05, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres






"The ritual started in earnest last fall in the midst of the biggest humiliation of Barack Obama’s presidency, the failure of the health care website. Anytime he heard a sliver of good news, the president reacted the same way: He knocked on the polished cherry wood table in the Roosevelt Room. It’s a small thing, almost a nervous tic, but Obama’s habit of knocking on wood during Obamacare meetings had become notable, something that close advisers talked and even joked about among themselves. Obama had always projected the aura of a deeply confident man, someone who on the basis of past experience was justified in assuming that good luck just naturally happened to him. But in the second term, confronted by recurring setbacks and regular reminders of the limits of his power, he began to convey a sense that even hopeful news might be ephemeral, a mirage.
When Obamacare fixer Jeffrey Zients told the president for the first time that the website would finally hold up under a rush of visitors, Obama joined his senior aides in a round of knocking. When the insurance marketplace finally functioned as it should, they knocked. When enrollment numbers picked up in March, they knocked.In interviews with more than 60 people who have had close dealings with Obama — his aides, lawmakers, friends, historians, critics and outside advisers — the portrait emerges of a president shadowed by a deepening awareness that his time and power are finite, and that two-thirds of his presidency is already in the past tense." (Politico)





"Sometimes so much news circles Hillary Clinton, it’s hard to believe she has yet to declare that she’s running for president.This week, People magazine teased bits from its forthcoming cover story with the former secretary of state; news broke that the Clinton camp reportedly met with The New York Times to try and quell the paper’s coverage of her; she backpedaled on support for the deal to bring home an American prisoner of war; and Vladimir Putin called her a weak woman. Clinton masterfully answered People’s question about a 2012 concussion that has prompted Karl Rove and other Republicans to speculate that she may suffer from brain damage. Clinton denied having any lingering effects, then pointed out that a certain other high-profile politician has survived plenty of concussions (via Politico Playbook) ... Ryan, of course, is a likely 2016 presidential hopeful, and Clinton was smart to link him to the story. If the 'brain damage' meme sticks until they’re both officially running for office, Ryan would presumably point out that there’s a difference between a young athlete and a politician in her 60s, but score one for Clinton all the same. Speaking of circuses, Matt Drudge tweeted on Wednesday that it appears as though Clinton was leaning on a walker in her People cover photo, a stretch of the imagination that should have been ignored but instead spread across the conservative media and resulted in the magazine releasing another photo that proved Clinton was indeed leaning on a patio chair. Across the world, a Kremlin-released English transcript of an interview with Putin included a bizarre, misogynistic response to Clinton’s comparison of Russia’s actions in Eastern Europe to Adolf Hitler’s moves in the 1930s ... The Washington Free Beacon reported Wednesday that top Clinton aides held a meeting with the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, in which they supposedly asked the paper to back off its coverage of Clinton, given that she was not holding public office. Neither party would comment on or confirm the story, but some in Clinton’s camp are said to be worried about the danger of overexposure this far before the 2016 election.: (VanityFair)
Huguette Clark, seated apparently at home. (Photo courtesy of the Estate of Huguette M. Clark.)


"In her 2009 book on Brooke Astor, Mrs. Astor Regrets, NYU professor and New York and Vanity Fair contributor Meryl Gordon chronicled the sad and tawdry unraveling of one of the city’s most storied families. And when Huguette Clark—heiress to the copper mining fortune of her father, the robber baron Senator William Andrews Clark—died at 104 in 2011, leaving behind a fiercely-contested will, Ms. Gordon was asked by her publisher to train her Social Register expertise on Ms. Clark’s largely-mysterious life. The result, The Phantom of Fifth Avenue, offers an alluring, enigmatic portrait of a woman who shunned virtually all face-to-to face interaction during her last decades, the final two of which she elected to spend—despite good health—in a hospital bed, as her palatial residences on Fifth Avenue, and in Connecticut and California sat dormant. The Observer met recently with Ms. Gordon in the Upper West Side co-op she shares with her husband, the journalist Walter Shapiro, where she discussed the riddle of Huguette Clark and the thrill of writing about a city full of fabulously wealthy ghosts. Phantom is out in hardback from Grand Central publishing. The Phantom of Fifth Avenue is your second book about New York high society. Is this an area in which you’ve always been interested? I’m from an upper middle class Jewish family in Rochester, New York. My mother was a social worker and my father was an accountant. But when I first moved to New York, I became fascinated by reading people like Liz Smith, who still does a column, and Cindy Adams. There were gossip columns in every major newspaper. I remember at one point looking at the paper and realizing that I knew more about what these women were doing every day—where they were shopping and their clothes—than I did about my own friends. That world has always interested me because it’s a closed-off society.Did you find any overlap between Ms. Astor and Ms. Clark? Well, they both married Princeton men of about the same era. And I found a couple of overlaps where I think Huguette was on boats with Vincent Astor. And I’ve wondered if they overlapped during different moments of their lives. But Brooke Astor was an incredibly public person who went out virtually every single night in New York and wanted to know everyone. Huguette led the world’s most private and quiet life. She really did not want to be in the headlines. She did everything possible to withdraw from the world." (NYO)


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"It was Wednesday, so it was Michael’s. Even busier than Tuesday, and louder than hell, thanks to the Con Ed workman who were drilling on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, and right by my table.  Nevertheless the show must and did go on.I was invited to lunch by Leslie Stevens, Lisa McCarthy and Kathy Rayner, all working on organizing the 40th anniversary celebration this summer of the Animal Rescue Fund (ARF) of the Hamptons. In their forty years, ARF has rescued and secured adoptions for 20,000 dogs and cats.  They are a no kill shelter and never turn an animal away, including those adoptees who are returned ... Meanwhile back at the Michael’s lunch tables. At the table next to us: Lovey Arum and Mary Carol (Mrs. Milton A. 'Mickey') Rudin. Mrs. Arum is the wife of Bob Arum, the biggest fight promoter in the world and is in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Mrs. Rudin is the widow of the prominent Hollywood lawyer, one of the power figures of tinseltown in its heyday. He was famous to the public as Frank Sinatra’s lawyer but that was only one of many famous names on Rudin’s client list. The relationship with Sinatra was a long and deep one as “counsel, defender, investment partner and friend. He was also Marilyn Monroe’s lawyer and coincidentally, at the time of her death, the brother-in-law of her shrink Ralph Greenson. Other clients included Lucille Ball, the Warner Brothers, Marvin Davis, Steve Ross, Steve Wynn, Elizabeth Taylor, the Jackson Five, Norman Lear, Liza Minnelli, and even the Aga Khan. At table one next to Arun and Rudin, agent David Kuhn with Kerry Kennedy. On the other side of the ladies: Joe Zee with a woman from Carolina Herrera; and in the corner: George Lucas; next to him Stan Shuman. Next to him Alice Mayhew with Jill Abramson, the recently relieved executive editor of the New York Times. Alice Mayhew, the great Simon & Schuster editor, was also editor of Lynn Sherr’s new biography of Sally Ride, the first woman astronaut. Lynn was lunching a few tables away with Peter Price, as was her agent on the project Esther Newberg, who also gave the book party for Lynn this past Tuesday night. Meanwhile back to the list: in the middle of the room, Duh Boyz: Della Femina, Kramer,  Imber and Bergman. Across from them TV producer Joan Gelman with her friend Joan Hamburg, the WOR talk-radio veteran who after 35 years of keeping the listeners interested, got the boot Tuesday morning. Called into the Human Resources office (where she thought was going to be told she’d also have to fill in for someone who had called in sick), she was told she could leave. Now! No thanks, no nothing. This form of firing is not new in the big bad world of media, be it broadcasting or print. It is cruel, but then, so are a lot of the people practicing that method of executive direction. Jerks, ultimately." (NYSD)





"The Guardian, financed through a trust created by its then owners in the Thirties, has traditionally been organised as something like a private-equity firm, with investments in a variety of businesses whose profits went to supporting a newspaper. Earlier this year, with the newspaper costing more than the investments yielded, it liquidated most of its holdings, converting itself into an entity more like a wealth-management company or, perhaps, even a family office, wherein capital could be tapped to support the interest of the family. One of those interests is Edward Snowden - at a cost far from accounted for. Curiously, the Guardian  may well be the best-funded newspaper in the world. But, at its current losses, there is also something finite to that money - even a willingness for it to be finite. Between business discipline and philosophical mission, it would choose the latter. Between exigencies and martyrdom, martyrdom.I have written periodically for the Guardian  for more than a decade. Most recently I contributed to what it has portrayed as something of a life-or-death effort to transport a new version of the Guardian to the US, giving me a sideline view of the effect of the Snowden story, not just on readers or the political world, but on the organisation that produced it. The cost of heroism, if you will. US expansion has long been a Guardian dream. For some years now, there has been no growth left for it in the UK market - with circulation and advertising in perilous decline - but the US market seemed to the Guardian management full of opportunities for a serious but stylish, left-leaning news outlet. The obvious models, albeit on something of the opposite political spectrum, were the Financial Times  and the Economist, which had adroitly managed to internationalise their brands with an investment in US distribution (quite a substantial investment). But the Guardian was looking for something more, something transformational. Like Superman blasting off from the doomed planet of Krypton, or the Corleone family leaving New York for Vegas, or even like Rupert Murdoch, the Guardian's bugbear, outgrowing London and moving his headquarters to New York, the Guardian, by setting up shop in Manhattan - on the corner of Spring Street and Broadway in Soho - had a kind of spunky or wildly speculative confidence that it could become an American voice. Not just a British voice in the US. The planned expansion was all the more gutsy - or harebrained - not just because introducing a media brand in the US market is a complicated and expensive effort, but because there was no clear way for the Guardian, even if it were to become a clarion voice, to make money in the US." (GQ)


Cornelia Guest before her office table setting, last night.


"Last night Cornelia Guest threw a small cocktail party at her offices in the East 70s. It’s from here that Cornelia runs her catering business, as well as her handbag business and her animal philanthropies. The office was once upon a time the ground floor of limestone mansion. I know this because all of her doors open to a garden." (NYSD)


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