Saturday, February 28, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Jeremy Bird, a former Obama campaign organizer, who is advising an effort to oust Benjamin Netanyahu. Credit Melina Mara/Getty Images 

"Jeremy Bird, the architect of the grass-roots and online organizing efforts that powered President Obama’s presidential campaigns from Chicago, is advising a similar operation in Tel Aviv. But this time it is focused on ousting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. His consulting work for the group V15 — an independent Israeli organization that does not support specific candidates but is campaigning to replace Israel’s current government — has added yet another political layer to the diplomatic mess surrounding Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to address a joint meeting of Congress next week on Iran. The White House has argued that Mr. Netanyahu’s plan to deliver the speech on March 3, two weeks before the Israeli elections, is harming the United States-Israel relationship by injecting partisanship. Republicans contend it is Mr. Obama who is playing politics and cite the work of Mr. Bird as proof that the president is quietly rooting for the defeat of his Israeli counterpart. American strategists have for decades signed on to work in Israeli political campaigns, with Democrats usually aligned with the Labor Party and Republicans often backing Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party. There is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Obama or any of his senior aides had anything to do with the move by his former top campaign official, who has never worked at the White House, to join the effort to defeat Mr. Netanyahu. But Mr. Bird’s involvement in the elections is drawing attention when tensions between the two countries are so acute that what is usually considered standard practice for American political consultants in Israel is now seen as a provocation. 'It’s clearly a data point that people are looking to that indicates how the relationship has deteriorated,' said Matthew Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. He added that Mr. Bird reflects 'the hypocrisy of this White House, which wants to stand on the notion that they’re not playing politics when in fact their fingerprints are all over this.' The White House has repeatedly said its highest priority is keeping partisanship out of the relationship between the United States and Israel, citing that principle as Mr. Obama’s rationale for refusing to meet with Mr. Netanyahu during his visit." (NYT)

Say It in Style

"Oh! for the days when the worst offense was asking a foreign dignitary’s wife if she 'Likey soupy?' as the great Sir Denis Thatcher once did. Now it’s immediately the F-word and threats of physical violence by the heavy next to the newly rich pig. (And I apologize to our porcine friends, who would be appalled by the comparison if they could read.) But as I’ve said time and again, such are the joys of living in resorts visited by such people. Many of us remember the time when care, courtesy, and respect were part of everyday life. Now the culture is one motivated by spite, envy, greed, and gloating, not to mention bragging and showing off muscle, mostly that of others you pay to come to your rescue. Not that the state does not interfere. The omnipotent state has replaced the ethos of the landed aristocracy and that of the Church, with one that ensures no one’s self-esteem ever takes a dive. It has codified behavior and how we speak and think, and we have to think in the lowest common denominator. Back in the cities everyone’s into care and therapy, but up here in the Alps they’re into hedge funds and other such gadgets. Mind you, I’ve been taking a few lumps about Greece, a country my family has served loyally for generations, but one I’ve given up on until a political party like Golden Dawn is elected. The trouble with Greeks is they’re so predictable. That clown that had his picture all over the newspapers and on television for ten days, Yanis Varoufakis, was all show, no substance. As is Tsipras: Fidel without the beard. Wearing an untucked shirt and one’s collar up might impress the cheap women in Syntagma Square, but it does not get one relief from the hated bailout conditions. Sure, the French and Germans and the Brits smiled politely when the Greek show-off arrived dressed like Marlon Brando in The Wild One—instead of telling him that the dignity of their office required him to dress appropriately – but where did his sartorial defiance get him? NOWHERE. All he got was a permission to change the shape of Greece’s obligations, not reduce them. Varoufakis is a third-rate academic posing as Mussolini, and I apologize to the Duce’s memory. The Greek government had not a leg to stand on, had its day in the sun showing off like peacocks, then bowed to the German wishes as the great economist Taki predicted three weeks ago it would. So what else is new? Election promises in general and in Greece’s case in particular are like swearing eternal love to a woman you met in a low-life nightclub after you’ve had much too much firewater. A run on Greek banks was gathering pace, and capital controls were needed unless Syriza gave in, and they caved quicker than the Lebanese army does whenever it is called upon to fight. Once upon a time I was very proud to be Greek. That was long ago." (Taki)

John Fairchild, shown with covers of W magazine in 1976.

"John Fairchild, the witty and irascible publisher and editor who transformed his family’s fusty trade publication, Women’s Wear Daily, into the lively bible of the fashion industry, died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87. Women’s Wear Daily announced his death without specifying the cause. For more than three decades, from 1960 to 1997, Mr. Fairchild was one of the most powerful, and mercurial, people in the fashion business. From his perch atop Women’s Wear Daily — and later at W magazine, which he founded — he helped make kings out of designers like Oscar de la Renta, Yves Saint Laurent and Bill Blass and whacked down those who did not meet his exacting standards. And before Gawker and Spy magazine and Page Six in The New York Post became must-reads, Mr. Fairchild was already encamped at the intersection of fashion, celebrity and high society, turning socialites like C. Z. Guest, Mercedes Bass and Pat Buckley into personalities, stationing photographers outside fancy restaurants as they came and went. Everyone who crossed his path knew to beware of the newspaper’s saucy headlines and withering asides in capital letters. He even gave designer collections letter grades, as if Carolina Herrera and Donna Karan were back in high school. 'Everybody got graded,' Ms. Herrera said on Friday. Calvin Klein, another loyal subscriber, said, 'He made WWD into a paper that the media as well as socials and celebrities and everyone else read to find out what was going on.' Not that Mr. Fairchild liked to take credit for mussing the industry’s hair and bruising feelings. 'On the whole, I think the fashion press’s power — and WWD’s in particular — is greatly overrated,” he wrote in his 1989 memoir, 'Chic Savages.' 'We don’t make or break a designer. Any designer who is good gets ahead. We write what the buyers are saying.'" (NYT)

EMINENCE TEASE John Fairchild in the living room of his chalet in Gstaad, 2011.

"Donna Karan still remembers feeling absolutely terrified when fashion arbiter John Fairchild, the tyrannical editor of Women’s Wear Daily, visited her showroom to see one of her early collections. 'I thought I was going to faint, I was so scared,' she says. 'John was larger than life—he intimidated me.” With good reason. The Citizen Kane of the fashion press delighted in making mischief, anointing winners and losers, and encouraging his writers to tweak the powerful with witty and often mean-spirited barbs. 'He made the paper very exciting,' says Oscar de la Renta. Adds his wife, Annette, 'And naughty!' Oscar laughs and continues, 'If the story was about you, you hated it, and if the story was about somebody else, you enjoyed it.' The Princeton-educated Fairchild, who transformed the sleepy publication that his grandfather had founded in 1910 into a lively must-read, trained his critical eye not just on the designers but also on the society women who wore their clothing. He popularized the phrase 'fashion victim' and created the capricious and much-copied 'In and Out” list. As Diane von Furstenberg puts it, 'John took a trade publication that belonged to his family and turned it into a fashion publication that is incredibly influential—it really made people, and destroyed people.' Chairing a Council of Fashion Designers of America (C.F.D.A.) gala several years ago, she spotted Fairchild and announced his presence to the crowd, saying from the microphone, “Even though you are retired, we are still afraid of you.' It’s been 15 years since John Fair­child left his office at Fairchild Publications, on his 70th birthday, March 6, 1997, vowing that he would never return to the workplace or go to another fashion show. And he’s been true to his word, insisting that he is following the example that his own father set upon retiring from the company, at age 65. 'My new life is being with my wife without any interference, and the children come see us every once in a while. I’m very happy,' he says. 'I think when you’re out of something, you should stay out. Don’t you?' These days he and his spouse of 62 years, Jill Fairchild, have become expatriates—holding on to their two-bedroom Sutton Place apartment, in New York, and their sun-dappled Nantucket house but spending seven months a year in luxurious exile overseas. Initially, they split their time between London and a chalet in Klosters, Switzerland. But the Fairchilds have now sold both of those homes and five years ago built a large, three-story wooden chalet, which sleeps 14, on a steep hill just a few blocks from the main street of the tiny alpine town of Gstaad." (VanityFair)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

How to stop the ISIS genocide campaign

"As the world marked last month’s 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, I was in northern Iraq viewing the threat to that nation’s imperiled religious and ethnic minorities — especially the Christians and Yezidis. The parallels are sobering — for genocide looms for these vulnerable communities. Happily, there’s an obvious way America can see to their protection. At the Auschwitz ceremonies, Holocaust survivor Halina Birenbaum recalled the hatred that animated the anti-Semitism of that era and warned of an evil that 'lingers' still, indeed is 'reborn' in the form of 'people being decapitated with the whole world watching.' She was, of course, describing the Islamic State, a k a ISIS, which takes pains to globally broadcast its wanton acts of evil, as with its depraved beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians. Further from the media glare are the horrors inflicted daily on the ancient faith communities of Iraq. Last summer, ISIS drove thousands of Christians from the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries. Largely professional men and women with cars, homes and bank accounts, they often fled with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. ISIS then declared a caliphate in the cradle of Christianity ... Enter the Kurds and their fighting force, the peshmerga. They’re not boy scouts: I heard troubling reports in Iraq that, as ISIS advanced, they abandoned Christian and Yezidi villages they’d pledged to protect. But the Kurds are unique in their pro-American sentiments and they’re prepared to battle the Islamic State, at least in historically Kurdish areas. Roughly 1,000 peshmerga have already given their lives in that fight. In meeting after meeting, leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government lamented to me the lack of direct support from Washington. Touring a peshmerga outpost 1.5 miles from the front, we heard that they are desperate for modern weapons and training to adequately confront ISIS (which is equipped to the hilt with state-of-the-art US weaponry captured in the Iraqi Army’s retreat). If such weapons came with conditions — including Kurdish support for a Nineveh province for Iraq’s religious minorities — it could advance both US national-security imperatives and our values. With the specter of genocide looming and the Islamic State on the march, we must do more than say, 'Never again.'" (Frank Wolf)

"In the olden days, and indeed they are/were, it was the Oscars and that was it. Now award shows are a dime a dozen and even the emcees move around  from show to show like Neil Patrick Harris. It’s all about brand and product, and Zzzzzz. The Oscars had Bob Hope and he was a major draw because the audience knew he was in the thick of it and he was funny (Ha Ha) and upbeat. Those were the times. Hope was a tradition for years – maybe fifteen or twenty, so there was a homey-ness to it all. Hope was our anointed leader of the festivities. It was like old home week in America. Viet Nam ended that for Hope and for the Oscars, but that’s another story. The Oscars are now preceded by the Globes which has become part of the Oscar game (will she/won’t she,etc.), it’s all Ed Sullivan – the old familiar score – without the performances to keep you interested. However, the Oscars do provide rich memories. Maria Cooper Janis sent me the clip from last Friday’s Wall Street Journal by Bob Greene called 'An Oscar Moment Before the Selfie Age.' It’s the Academy Awards on April 17, 1961, 54 years ago. I remember the night and I’ll bet many others of us who were around then remember. Jimmy Stewart came out to present the Oscar to his beloved friend Gary Cooper (Maria’s father) who was very ill in the hospital at the time." (NYSD)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

On the Death of a Friend

"I hate to start with a cliché, but Count Arnaud de Borchgrave d’Altena, who died in Washington, D.C., last week aged 88, was the last of the great foreign correspondents, with trench coat, suntan, title, and 17 wars under his belt included. One accomplishment none of his obituaries comprised—mind you, this is perfectly understandable—was the introduction to journalism and subsequent mentoring of the greatest Greek writer since Homer, yours truly, a fact Arnaud kept quiet about throughout our 48-year-close friendship. Here’s how it began: It was May 1967. The Greek junta had just taken over the government in April, and Arnaud had flown in to interview the Greek strongman, Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos. A Greek mystery man, Niko Farmakis, who may or may not have been a CIA agent or a Greek secret service man, or even just a well connected enabler, had invited me to dinner at the Starlight Roof of the Hilton Hotel. 'You’ll meet the greatest foreign correspondent ever,' he told me. My beautiful first wife was the only lady present at the dinner. Arnaud was suntanned, well dressed, and spoke beautiful French and English. He looked far more elegant than most people in the room, with the exception of the reigning King Constantine, dining near us with the pregnant Queen Anne-Marie. Arnaud held court, regaling us with stories about the wars in Indochina and Algeria, including the siege of Dien Bien Phu, one he had covered with distinction. I was going nuts throughout. My tennis career was a flop, I was not happy being married to the prettiest girl in Paris, my father was threatening to cut me off unless I went to work for him, and the future looked bleak for a poor little Greek boy who had just turned 30. Three days later, very early in the morning, I drove to the airport, bought a ticket to Rome, and sat next to Arnaud, flying first class, naturally. I told him I only had a toothbrush and was heading for Turin to see Gianni Agnelli of Fiat fame. He asked for an introduction and I guaranteed him one. We then connected with a flight to Torino. Two weeks later, Gianni’s handsome face was on the cover of Newsweek, Arnaud had convinced the editor of the weekly that I could open doors galore, and I had been given a Newsweek press credential as a photographer. The rest, as they say, is non-history." (Taki)

Arnaud de Borchgrave in the newsroom of The Washington Times, where he was the editor.

"Arnaud de Borchgrave, a Belgian count’s son and storied foreign correspondent who cabled back bell-ringing scoops throughout the Cold War decades, often from the battlefield, died on Sunday in Washington. He was 88. His wife, Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave, said the cause was bladder cancer. Twice a best-selling novelist, Mr. de Borchgrave led a life that rivaled fiction. A teenager when he enlisted in the British Navy, he was shot on D-Day. He was wounded again, as a Newsweek reporter, in Vietnam (where he lobbed a grenade at North Vietnamese soldiers). He covered, by his estimate, at least 18 wars. At 58, he was named editor in chief of a daily newspaper, though he had never worked for one before. A correspondent and editor at Newsweek for decades, Mr. de Borchgrave was fired by the magazine in 1980, after his increasingly conservative political bent found its way into his dispatches, ending in his likening the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to Hitler’s pre-World War II grab of Czechoslovakia. He found a more hospitable place to work in 1985. He was hired to direct the news coverage and the editorials of The Washington Times, the daily newspaper started with the financial support of the Unification Church and its founder, the Rev. Sun MyungMoon, the conservative South Korean evangelist who led a worldwide spiritual movement.
For conservatives in the nation’s capital, Mr. de Borchgrave fashioned The Times into a must-read, if money-losing, alternative to what he viewed as the biased liberal news media, even if the paper was branded a mouthpiece for Mr. Moon. Mr. de Borchgrave insisted that he was no saffron-robed Moonie, as the movement’s followers were derisively known. As editor, he said, 'I have never received a single editorial suggestion, let alone a directive, from any representative of the owners.'
As a foreign correspondent, he told Esquire magazine in 1981, he kept “the starched combat fatigues of 12 different nations' in a closet of his pied-à-terre, conveniently located near the Geneva airport.Wearing an Egyptian general’s camouflage suit and facing six Israeli tanks during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, he cabled his Newsweek editors: 'I burrowed my head into the sand like a mole — a little deeper with each shell until my mouth was full of sand.' Arnaud de Borchgrave (pronounced AH-no deh-BOAR-grahv) was born in Brussels on Oct. 26, 1926. His father, Count Baudouin de Borchgrave d’Altena, was head of military intelligence for Belgium’s government in exile in Britain during World War II. His mother, Audrey Townshend, was the daughter of a British general." (NYT)

Sofia Coppola, left, and Anjelica Huston, third-generation Academy Award winners, at lunch above Central Park. Credit Malin Fezehai for The New York Times

"No matter who takes home Academy Awards this weekend, Sofia Coppola and Anjelica Huston will remain an exclusive club of two: the only third-generation winners in Oscar history. Ms. Coppola, 43, the writer and director of films such as 'The Virgin Suicides,' 'Somewhere' and 'The Bling Ring,' won an Academy Award for best original screenplay for her 2003 film 'Lost in Translation.' Her father, the filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, has won five Academy Awards, three of them for 'The Godfather, Part II.' And her grandfather, the composer Carmine Coppola, won for best score, for that film.Ms. Huston, 63, an actress and writer, won the best supporting actress prize for her breakthrough role as Maerose Prizzi in 1985’s 'Prizzi’s Honor,' directed by her father, John Huston, who was also a screenwriter and actor. He received 15 Academy Award nominations and won twice. Ms. Huston went on to star in 'The Grifters,' 'Crimes and Misdemeanors' and 'The Addams Family.' Her grandfather Walter Huston won the Oscar for best supporting actor for 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre' in 1948, directed by his son. The second volume of Ms. Huston’s memoir, 'Watch Me,' was published last year." (NYT)

My favorite bootie of all time from Madison Brentwood: Officine Creative handmade.

"It seemed the perfect time to go to L.A. It was pre-Awards season! I needed a laugh. As Uma Thurman begins to follow Renée Zellweger with lasering her face off, and Bruce Jenner continues to broaden his transgender brand for reality show purposes, his own 'Keeping up with the Kardashians.' L.A. is the home of 'morphing ... Maybe I needed that in my own way. What L.A. brings up for me is the subject of aging, since this town is the land of 'forever young.' In the last year I have decided that all a woman over 65 years old needs to feel fashionably safe and secure is a good haircut. Bill Blass once said after age 60, 'a woman must get her hair cut to chin level; anything longer and she looks like a Basset Hound' — plus sensible shoes, a great scarf and/or decent jewelry, and a wonderful pair of eyeglass frames. Clearly aging gracefully is in the details — not the clothes!The scarf and jewelry everyone can do, but the shoes — that’s a serious problem. I don’t understand Louboutin spikes after 60 — or even after 50 for that matter. And if you don’t get what I am talking about, look at Madonna at the recent Grammy’s. She might be an extreme example, but not really: 56 years old, dressed in a matador costume, fishnets, a thong, and a 'butt bra.' As the saying goes: 'Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it.' She can’t, and she shouldn’t. Ever. Her spike heels prevented her from doing a decent dance routine. She teetered from step to step. Her entire presentation was shaky and moldy. A bad sign of irrelevancy and desperation. But back to shoes for the advanced agers, and I don’t mean 'space shoes' or Neutralizers or Aerosoles. Actually the Queen of England and Margaret Thatcher choose Ferragamo pumps (even Meryl Streep admitted that she got into playing Thatcher instantly just by wearing the Ferragamos). The only shoe that doesn’t look like Dame Edna! 'Sensible shoes' they call it, but Ferragamo is the original in taste and class. They have done the same cut and low stack heel for years; choose your color and leather. But boots present a problem. Too clunky and you look like an aging Mammy Yokum biker. Too high and you look like you are appearing in Bravo Housewives or a member of an escort service." (NYSD)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Stay the Piste!

"Once upon a time, clergymen saw mountain peaks as natural steeples leading them ever closer to God. Doctors considered the mountains the best medicine for tuberculosis, while explorers saw them as rocks never before touched by humans. I thought of those good people while T-barring up the Eggli, in way below freezing conditions but in bright sunshine. For some strange reason, whenever I’m really cold, I try to think of the German 6th Army trapped in Stalingrad, numbed in body and mind by the cold, while Hitler sits toasty warm back home and orders them to fight to the death. After that, skiing in subzero weather is easy. Nowadays most skiers wear helmets and ski masks, but at 78 years of age I refuse to look ridiculously like a boy racer, and to hell with safety. The mother of my children ditto. Where did the present craze with helmets originate? From helmet adverts that tell us how easy it is to get brain damage if one crashes on hard snow. Mind you, brain damage in Gstaad is caused mainly by indoor snow, as most people here après-ski. Last week was as good as it gets: the slopes empty, the snow perfect, the sun shining. But it was very, very cold. Snowcapped mountains are a magnificent sight, and when one thinks that an arrowhead of the Bronze Age was discovered here by some American tourists not so long ago, one sees Hannibal crossing the Alps as a recent visitor. The greatest mountaineer alive is the Swiss, Ueli Steck, a 38-year-old who has scaled the Eiger’s north face solo in 2:47:33, the equivalent of running a marathon in 60 minutes. He is called the 'Swiss Machine' by those in the know, and he goes up mountains alpine style, without fixed ropes or oxygen. I have never met him, although I know someone who accomplishes similar feats of daring, a local Gstaad man by the name of Kobe, pronounced Kubby. He, too, has gone up the Eiger’s north face, a treacherous, almost 90-degree slope of limestone and ice. It’s a funny thing, courage. Kobe and I used to train in karate together, and he’d flinch when I attacked jodan style, to the face. Yet he’d go up like a mountain goat, armed only with crampons and ice axe in places I couldn’t watch on film, such would be the vertigo. Courage, incidentally, is what one loses with age. Until three or four years ago I could still ski quite fast, but no longer. One begins with fearing a fall, and the next thing you know one is slowly going down a steep slope, like an old lady crossing a busy street. Young schussboomers whizz by, evoking anger at their arrogance, and at one’s cowardice to schuss behind them and pass them. Maybe in the next life. Eight people died in an avalanche last week in France, and signs are posted all over not to go off piste. So what did my son do? He went with Lara Livanos on a helicopter and skied all day with her and a guide in deep powder and way off piste, while her husband and I sat drinking at the Eagle Club in the sun. Afterward the four of us skied quite fast on piste, without helmets and being rowdy, John Taki leading the group to take nonstop turns finishing with a schuss. The Wasserngrat used to be Papa Hemingway’s favorite mountain, except that he’d go up with skins, drink his wine and eat his prepared lunch, then ski down once and for all. It would take him two hours to go up, and about 30 minutes to descend." (Taki)

Ronald Perelman, Sheila Nevins, and Rosie O'Donnell.

"It was Wednesday and the Michael’s lunch. In the Garden Room Ron Perelman hosted a luncheon for Rosie O’Donnell to celebrate the documentary she made for HBO about women’s health. There were about fifty guests, mainly women including Katie Holmes, Desiree Gruber, Tamara Mellon, Daryl Roth, Trudie Styler, Martha Stewart, Marlo Thomas, Marina Abramovic, Marie Brenner, Arianna Huffington, Joanna Coles, Joan Kron, Alina Cho, Sheila Nevins, Elaine Irwin, Katherine Farley, Dr. Allison Spatz, Debra Lee, Chris Taylor, Claire Atkinson, Dr. Jonathan LaPook, Fran Townsend, Roberta Karp, Cindi Berger, Ashleigh Banfield, Jean Doumanian, Liz Smith, Ellen Levine, Cecile Richards, Barbara Walters, Dr. Holly Anderson, Linda Stasi, to name just a handful. Mr. Perelman was present as was Richard Johnson of the NY Post and PR guru Ken Sunshine. I was not present so I don’t know what went on but there surely was a lot of talk. What’s the attraction? For a New York restaurant luncheon, (or luncheons), on a single day (or days in this case), all in one room and on the same day, you have movie stars, real estate tycoons, university presidents (Neil Rudenstine was president of Harvard from 1991 to 2001), retailing executives (Delphine Arnault is a VP of LVMH, her father’s company) writers, playwrights, columnists, theatre producers, television producers, film producers, politicos, advertising executives, public relations executives, talent agents (Kevin Huvane is head of Creative Artists Agency), television commentators, music industry executives, philanthropists, book publishers and editors, magazine publishers and editors, investment bankers, celebrities, media marketing executives, socialites, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs. It’s the heat of the Big Town. It’s not a club although there’s a clubbiness to it for those of us who partake regularly. Yet nevertheless, all guests at Michael’s are greeted with same warmth, good cheer and efficiency and the waitstaff is patient, accommodating and eager to please. Plus there’s the tasty menu. Meanwhile in the Garden Room ..." (NYSD)

Bride catches Wall Street ‘Wolf’ in bed with socialite

"Barry Gesser — one of the wolves of Wall Street — had his marriage to actress Stacey Alysson end after lasting just 15 days in January when his bride came home and found him with New York socialite Dori Cooperman. Gesser — a friend of Jordan Belfort whose house in Bedford was featured in the New York Times — was charged in 1999 with stock fraud and racketeering. He pleaded guilty to fraud, served three years probation and forfeited $2.1 million. Having relocated to Beverly Hills, Gesser married the gorgeous Alysson earlier this year after 14 months of dating and gave her a $60,000 diamond ring. But the couple split in dramatic fashion on Jan. 29, when Alysson returned home to find Cooperman “there in bed with him wearing my clothes,' she said.Cooperman told me she was a houseguest of Gesser, her friend of 20 years. 'We were just sitting and talking. I may have put on [Alysson’s] T-shirt by mistake. They started arguing. I went to my room. The next thing I know the police are there.' No one was charged, but Alysson asserted five days later, when she obtained a temporary restraining order, '[Gesser] told me to leave my wedding ring. He told me if I didn’t, he would bury me six feet under . . . I took this threat seriously because he is a convicted felon with no regard for the law and deep connections to the Mafia.' While Gesser denies Alysson’s version of events, the unhappy newlyweds will be in court on Feb. 24 when Alysson will seek a permanent restraining order. Alysson told me, 'I’m afraid of him. I don’t want anything from him. I made a bad mistake [in getting married] and got out quick!' But she’s keeping the ring.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres


"Last year Richard Gingras and Sally Lehrman came up with the Trust Project (full text here, on Medium). Richard is a seasoned journalist and the head of News and Social at Google; Sally is a senior journalism scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California. Their starting point is readers’ eroding confidence in media. Year after year, every survey confirms the trend. A recent one, released ten days ago at the Davos Economic Forum by the global PR firm Edelman confirms the picture. For the first time, according to the 2014 version of Edelman’s Trust Barometer, public trust in search engines surpasses trust in media organizations (64% vs 62%). The gap is even wider for Millennials who trust search engines by 72% vs 62% for old medias. And when it comes to segmenting sources by type — general information, breaking, validation –, search leaves traditional media even further in the dust. No wonder why, during the terrorist attack in Paris three weeks ago, many publishers saw more than 50% of their traffic coming from Google. This was reflected on with a mixture of satisfaction (our stuff surfaces better in Google search and News) and concern (a growing part of news media traffic is now in the hands of huge US-based gatekeepers.)
Needless to say, this puts a lots of pressure on Google (much less so to Facebook that is not that much concerned with its growing role as a large news conduit.) Hence the implicit mission given to Richard Gingras and others to build on this notion of trust." (Monday Note)

"'Death with dignity' sounds dandy--so humanistic, so reposeful--but what about all of the indignities leading up to the last exhale? They're tough to escape, not only because of all the leaks and sags to which flesh is heir, but of the additional dilapidations so generously assisted by obesity, medication, and alcohol, and Michael Mewshaw barely spares us barely a single one of these glassy-eyed, falling-down senior moments in his memoir of Gore Vidal, Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal. The memoir may cover four decades but the portrait is dominated by the jagged decay of Vidal's final stage, his long decline when the once handsome profile had become splotchy and jowled and the once lucid wit turned addled and vinegary, with occasional silvery flashes of saber counter-thrust. I enjoyed an earlier memoir by Mewshaw--Do I Owe You Something?, where some of this Vidal material originally appeared--but this is a book we could have done without. Not because its anecdotes are untrue (there are other accounts of Vidal's mind and manners in dishabille), but because its cheapening effect in concert with its literary pieties feel corrosive after awhile--a grimy exercise in bad faith. No time spent in Vidal's company could fail to yield hilarious apercus and asides, and there some nifties here, such as Vidal's answer to the question What are the three saddest words in the English language? ('Joyce Carol Oates'), his memorializing of his rumble with Norman Mailer at Lally Weymouth's party as 'the night of tiny fists,' and the plaintive cry of actor, film dubber, and all-around fix-it man Mickey Knox,* 'You have any idea how hard it is to get Burt Lancaster blown every night of the week?' But the anecdotes get seamier and seamier, with Mewshaw passing along gossipy observations about the private parts of various celebrities (a prose snapshot of the once godly, disease-withered and ravaged Rudolf Nureyev swimming nude in the pool is especially awful), and the shambling spectacle of Vidal's decline becomes more and more sordid, the nadir reached when Vidal, having gotten too fat for his belts, has his pants fall down when one of his suspenders snaps, and his steadfast, exasperated partner, Howard Austen, mocked, almost one imagines like a vaudeville emcee, There he is, ladies and gents, the elegant, patrician Gore Vidal! 'Gore flopped back in his chair, pulled up his trousers, and resumed drinking.' Then there's the appalling rudeness Vidal showed to the fellow writers who lined up to pay him homage at the Key West Book Festival, among them Alison Lurie and Joy Williams. It is rather amusing when Vidal is introduced to the widow of William Gaddis and Vidal calls the author of The Recognitions a 'cheapskate' who once stuck him with a restaurant bill in Rome--it's like something out of Kingsley Amis, that." (James Wolcott)

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former finance minister of France, center, and his lawyer Henri Leclerc, left, leave the Lille courthouse, northern France, on Feb. 2. Photographer: Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

"Dominique Strauss-Kahn, on his first day of testimony at a French pimping trial, was put on the defensive as he had to respond to comments from a prostitute who said she was hired to have sex with him in a Paris hotel.  The woman, Mounia Rabou, who took the stand just before Strauss-Kahn, said that there was no mention of money or payment in front of Strauss-Kahn the night at the Hotel Murano in Paris in 2010. Rather she was only paid by another defendant, in a taxi afterward.
'It was pretty clear,' nonetheless that she and 'the other women there that evening were there for sexual relations,' she said at the court in the of Lille Tuesday. 'I was just there to prostitute myself.'
The former French finance minister has begun three days of testimony to try to prove his innocence and -- at least partially -- revive his battered reputation. He told the judge the frequency of the parties has been grossly exaggerated in the press. 'When one reads about this, one gets the impression that this was frenetic activities, the dates are so mixed up,' he said. 'It was four times a year for three years, nothing more.' DSK, as he’s known across France, resigned as chief of the International Monetary Fund in 2011 after he was arrested in New York, accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. Those U.S. charges were dropped later that year only for him to be charged with 'aggravated pimping' by French prosecutors investigating the so-called Carlton Affair -- named for the Lille hotel where some of the parties took place -- in 2012. Strauss-Kahn, who was running the IMF from Washington at the time of the Murano episode, said he would come to Paris every two or three months, sometimes for work, but also to visit his children." (BusinessWeek)

Talking to the star the night we met in November 1978, at a cocktail party in Beverly Hills

"Lizabeth Scott died on January 31st at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. She was 92.  She and I had a “friendship” when I lived in Los Angeles. I use quotation marks around the word because it was a Hollywood friendship. Hermes Pan,  choreographer and Fred Astaire’s dance collaborator used to  refer to such relationships as 'I loved ya honey but the show closed.' He always laughed when he said it, and it did amuse him. It’s the nature of the business, of that business and the personalities who are drawn to it and can manage to progress and even triumph in it. It’s a microcosm of itself. Lizabeth was the first movie star I met when I moved to Los Angeles in 1978. By 'met' I mean: got to know; a friend. We were introduced by our mutual friend Luis Estevez. He had invited us both to join him one evening at a cocktail party in Beverly Hills at the home of a local restaurateur named Marilyn Lewis. It was a big party with a lot of Hollywood people. The picture of the two of us was taken that night. I don’t know how I ended up with it although I’ve had it for years. I was unaware of the camera, as you can see, because I was full of enthusiasm about this move I’d made from East to a new world in the West, and I was charmed by this famous face talking to me with that voice that I remembered from her movies. She kind of took me under her wing that night, introducing me to people at the party, telling me about them afterwards. She spent much of the evening with me at her side, so that we fell into conversation. She was a curious person: where are you from, why are you out here, what do you like to write ...? The questions were perfunctory but always related to the business, the industry. I was flattered by her attention because I knew no one, everything was new, and I was green. I was taken by what seemed like an extreme mid-Atlantic accent that movie stars in her youth were schooled-in." (NYSD)

"German Chancellor Angela Merkel, accompanied by French President Francois Hollande, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 6. Then she met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Feb. 9. The primary subject was Ukraine, but the first issue discussed at the news conference following the meeting with Obama was Greece. Greece and Ukraine are not linked in the American mind. They are linked in the German mind, because both are indicators of Germany's new role in the world and of Germany's discomfort with it. It is interesting to consider how far Germany has come in a rather short time. When Merkel took office in 2005, she became chancellor of a Germany that was at peace, in a European Union that was united. Germany had put its demands behind it, embedding itself in a Europe where it could be both prosperous and free of the geopolitical burdens that had led it into such dark places. If not the memory, then the fear of Germany had subsided in Europe. The Soviet Union was gone, and Russia was in the process of trying to recover from the worst consequences of that collapse. The primary issue in the European Union was what hurdles nations, clamoring to enter the union, would have to overcome in order to become members. Germany was in a rare position, given its history. It was in a place of comfort, safety and international collegiality.The world that Merkel faces today is startlingly different. The European Union is in a deep crisis. Many blame Germany for that crisis, arguing that its aggressive export policies and demands for austerity were self-serving and planted the seeds of the crisis. It is charged with having used the euro to serve its interests and with shaping EU policy to protect its own corporations. The vision of a benign Germany has evaporated in much of Europe, fairly or unfairly. In many places, old images of Germany have re-emerged, if not in the center of many countries then certainly on the growing margins. In a real if limited way, Germany has become the country that other Europeans fear. Few countries are clamoring for membership in the European Union, and current members have little appetite for expanding the bloc's boundaries. At the same time, the peace that Germany had craved is in jeopardy." (STRATFOR)

Beware of Brussels Bearing Gifts

"Athens was very quiet the night of Syriza’s victory. Most of my friends were appalled at the size of Tsipras’s win. I asked them, what did they expect after four years of austerity? A Samaras victory? A good friend expostulated, 'But Samaras is a cousin of mine …' As if that made it OK. They’re funny, the Greeks. The gang of Brussels inserts a Trojan Horse, Samaras, to do its bidding; the middle class disappears—6000 doctors go west—and my Greek friends are surprised when a Castro appears and wins big. The losing center-right and center-left made mistakes, big-time. The first was not to leave—or threaten to leave—the Euro when the crisis first broke. The Brussels gang were running very scared in 2010. No longer. Another was to turn all the power of government against Golden Dawn, a so-called neo-Nazi party, something Golden Dawn is not. Many of its members are languishing in jail on trumped-up charges now, something that will come back to haunt Greeks once Tsipras shows his real colors and begins to jail people for 'anti-Greek activities,' such as speaking out against his Marxist policies. Let’s not forget that it was Golden Dawn who made sure Muslim extremists did not spread their evil messages and activities around Athens and Salonica, the two largest cities. They beat the crap out of budding jihadists and criminals threatening the poor, something the long-suffering Brits and French should have done years ago. As I said, they’re funny, these modern Hellenes. Just last week as I was watching the Andrew Neil BBC program, he had a Greek comedian on the show, someone I had never heard of, but whose dress and manners reminded me of the modern Greece. All the comedian did was bitch against the Germans. He was apparently a man who never asked himself whether it was the Germans who forced the Greeks to borrow far more than they could afford and then fiddled the figures under the expert advice of Goldman Sachs. A man who never doubted the guilt of Angela Merkel where tax collection is concerned, a system that lost 20 billion euros per year in unpaid taxes. Who is certain it was Merkel’s fault that a Greek government came begging Germany for help once the game was up. Never mind. Introspection is not our strongest characteristic ... Here are Taki’s suggestions for the survival of the nation: Most important are structural reforms, not feel-good bullshit. Public sector unions are choking the nation’s economy, whereas the private sector is booming. Starting a business is almost impossible due to bureaucratic blackmails, while overregulation is stifling economic activity. Free the economy and stop protecting cartels, shrink the state, and in five years Greece will be the Switzerland of the south. And if Tsipras follows my advice I shall be having a sex change quicker than you can say “Syriza.” In the meantime, the Greek suppository is working." (Taki)

Barbara Cirkva Schumacher, Shirin von Wulffen, and Jamee Gregory.

"Although the beat goes on, this past Thursday at Restaurant Daniel (on 65th and Park) The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center held its annual Winter Lunch. Roger Vivier – Paris was the generous sponsor of the event and a clever reminder was the placement cards which were in the shape of a low-heeled woman’s shoe, as well as the napkins.The SMSKCC is one of the most prestigious charities in town because much is expected from their volunteers and much is delivered. They are dedicated to promoting  the well-being of patients, supporting cancer research, and providing public education on the early prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer.
The Winter Lunch is a fundraiser and this one was focusing on 'Harnessing the Immune System To Target Sarcomas.' MSKCC’s pioneering research has resulted in significant improvements in the prognosis for children and sarcomas, the tumors of which remain a leading cancer killer of children and young adults. Dr. Paul Meyers, Vice Chair, Academic Affairs, Department of Pediatrics at MKSCC, spoke to the guests about the matter, the progress they’ve made, and why it's important to keep the donations following this process at this moment. The funds raised from this lunch will accelerate the processes needed to launch and support the first clinical trial of a treatment with monoclonal antibody called 3R8 against osteosarcoma – one which promises to change the future for children and young adults afflicted with this difficult potential lethal disease. Chairs of the Winter Lunch were Gretchen Gunlocke Fenton, Jamee Gregory, Emilia Fanjul Pfeifler, Gillian Hearst Simonds, Amanda Taylor and Caryn Zucker." (NYSD)

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced on Friday that he would not attend the speech to Congress by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel next month, further escalating a diplomatic flap that has already soured relations between the Obama administration and one of America’s closest allies. Mr. Biden, who as president of the Senate would normally be seated next to the House speaker during such a speech, plans to be overseas when Mr. Netanyahu visits, his office announced. President Obama had already decided that he would not meet with Mr. Netanyahu, citing a policy of not getting together with foreign leaders shortly before elections in their countries.There have been deepening strains between the Israeli leader and the administration since Representative John A. Boehner, the House speaker, arranged for Mr. Netanyahu to address Congress about Iran without informing the White House. Mr. Netanyahu is deeply worried about Mr. Obama’s efforts to negotiate a nuclear pact with Iran, and Republicans want to give him a forum to express those concerns. It has driven a partisan wedge into what has traditionally been bipartisan support for Israel. Democrats in Congress have expressed anger over the speaking invitation, and some have talked about skipping the speech. Israeli officials were on Capitol Hill this week to try to calm Democrats, and some said they thought most would still attend. But Mr. Biden’s decision could encourage others to boycott.A Jewish-American leader, Abraham Foxman, meanwhile, has called on Mr. Netanyahu to cancel the speech. Mr. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said it would be counterproductive because angry recriminations had 'turned the whole thing into a circus.' 'It needs a mature, adult statement that this was not what we intended,' Mr. Foxman told the newspaper Forward. 'It has been hijacked by politics. Now is a time to recalibrate, restart and find a new problem and new timing to take away the distractions.'A member of the Israeli Parliament from Mr. Netanyahu’s party, Tzachi Hanegbi, questioned on Friday whether the prime minister had fully understood that the invitation had originated solely from the Republicans." (NYT)

Fashion, art crowd flocks to Gagosian’s Kappo Masa

"Fashionistas, artists and aristocrats came out to Larry Gagosian’s Kappo Masa on Madison Avenue Thursday night, where the gallerist was meeting with megacollector Eli Broad.Spies said chef Masayoshi Takayama greeted his partner in the restaurant with Broad before moving on to a table including Vogue’s Princess Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis — just back from her first Super Bowl after haute couture week in Paris — Olympia Scarry, Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson, Jen Brill, Proenza Schouler designer Lazaro Hernandez, Vanessa Traina and her photographer husband Max Snow, W contributor Giovanna Battaglia and Beyoncé stylist Jenke-Ahmed Tailly." (P6)

Melanie Lazenby and David Hallberg

"Wednesday night, a week ago, Peter Lyden and Leslie Ziff gave a dinner at Il Posto Accanto at 190 East 2nd Street to celebrate 'the unparalleled artistry of David Hallberg,' of the American Ballet Theatre and the first American to become a Premier Danseur with the Bolshoi Ballet. The guestlist was made up of Sarah Jessica Parker, Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera, Isaac Mizrahi, Julia Koch, Prince Dimitri, Prince Dushan Kargeorgevitch, Vanessa Noel, Bettina Zilhka, Melanie Lazenby, Bronson Van Wyck, Tonne Goodman, Wendy Goodman, Stacy Goodman, Leslie Ziff, Peter Lyden, Carol and Daniel Strone." (NYSD)

Judith Regan at lunch with writers and colleagues at the Odeon restaurant in Manhattan in December. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

"In Judith Regan’s corner office on the eighth floor of an office building on Bleecker Street is a picture frame with a quote inside it that reads, 'Against the ruin of the world, there is only one defense: The creative act.' It comes from Kenneth Rexroth’s essay “Disengagement: The Art of the Beat Generation” and it is a philosophy Ms. Regan has held on to with unwavering conviction over the years, peering over at it again and again and repeating it to herself like a mantra, an indicator to get back up and just keep going. One afternoon this fall, Ms. Regan was dressed in a dark, custom-made double-breasted suit and a pair of sky-high Stella McCartney platform boots. Though she is 61 — old enough to have had to have a hip replacement last year and old enough not to bring every conversation about sex back to herself, as she was known to do back in the day when she was a rising star in the media world — her swagger remained undiminished.
She still flipped her long brown mane about as much as ever, she still spoke less in conversation than in monologue, and she still invoked the spirits of the evil demons who at one point or another have tried to undo her, though she did so without any obvious sign of rancor. 'I’m not bitter,' she said, discussing her contentious and well-publicized exit from the News Corporation eight years ago, which eventually won her a reported settlement of more than $10 million. 'Strangely, I have no hostility. I carry grudges when things are unresolved, not when they’re resolved. I don’t relish other people’s suffering.' And why should she? Thanks to a generous but undisclosed sum of money from the billionaire Leon Black, Ms. Regan has re-entered the book business with a new shingle, Regan Arts. She has signed a distribution deal with Simon & Schuster. She has hired Lucas Wittmann, a well-known industry figure, as executive editor and associate publisher. And she has a slew of new authors to play with, many producing books that are in one way or another personal to her. They have strong female characters, tell David/Goliath narratives and are full of sex and mayhem and backstabbing: the main ingredients — essentially — from Ms. Regan’s very own, very full, life. (Not for nothing did Ms. Regan almost write a book called 'The Art of War for Women.') She says she’s even mulling a collaboration with the one other person whose expulsion from the News Corporation kingdom was perhaps as memorable as her own: Wendi Deng, Rupert Murdoch’s former wife." (NYT)
“Wendi was in the other day,” Ms. Regan said, giving a little smile, as if to indicate yet another way in which she’s gotten one over on her former boss, adding that the two were talking about the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang. “We may be working on something together.' There was a time, not too long ago, when Judith Regan was among the most famous, and most polarizing, people in publishing. For years, she was the book industry’s very own P. T. Barnum riding dishy tell-alls by Howard Stern (“Private Parts”) and Jose Canseco (“Juiced”) to the top of the best-seller list. By 2000, New York magazine had written that she was the “most successful editor in the book business.' Her own story began in the suburbs of Boston and then Bay Shore, N.Y., where she moved when she was 10. Her parents were schoolteachers, bright people who had their children young and never really got to fulfill their dreams. “They did the best they could,” said Ms. Regan, who after high school went to Vassar.
There, she spent a year living in a house earmarked for financial aid students, earned her degree in English and art history, then went to work at The National Enquirer, chasing stories about con artists, arms dealers and corrupt Hollywood movie producers.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"A still-classified section of the investigation by congressional intelligence committees into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has taken on an almost mythic quality over the past 13 years — 28 pages that examine crucial support given the hijackers and that by all accounts implicate prominent Saudis in financing terrorism. Now new claims by Zacarias Moussaoui, a convicted former member of Al Qaeda, that he had high-level contact with officials of the Saudi Arabian government in the prelude to Sept. 11 have brought renewed attention to the inquiry’s withheld findings, which lawmakers and relatives of those killed in the attacks have tried unsuccessfully to declassify. 'I think it is the right thing to do,' said Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts and an author of a bipartisan resolution encouraging President Obama to declassify the section. 'Let’s put it out there.' White House officials say the administration has undertaken a review on whether to release the pages but has no timetable for when they might be made public. Mr. Lynch and his allies have been joined by former Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was a leader of the inquiry. He has called for the release of the report’s Part 4, which dealt with Saudi Arabia, since President George W. Bush ordered it classified when the rest of the report was released in December 2002. Mr. Graham has repeatedly said it shows that Saudi Arabia was complicit in the Sept. 11 attacks. 'The 28 pages primarily relate to who financed 9/11, and they point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier,' Mr. Graham said last month as he pressed for the pages to be made public. Relatives of those killed on Sept. 11 as well as plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against Saudi Arabia have also demanded that the pages be made public, seeing them as the vital link that they believe connects an important ally of the United States to the deadly attacks. They say the pages, Part 4 of the report, could also help in determining the source of current funding for terrorist activities. 'If we stop funding of terrorism and hold those people accountable, wouldn’t it make a dent in the financing of terrorism today?' asked William Doyle, whose son, Joseph, was killed in the World Trade Center. Mr. Doyle said that President Obama personally assured him after the death of Osama bin Laden that he would declassify that section of the report. Proponents of releasing Part 4, titled “Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain National Security Matters,” have suggested that the Bush and Obama administrations have held it back for fear of alienating an influential military and economic partner rather than for any national security consideration. Others familiar with that section of the report say that while it might implicate Saudi Arabia, the suspicions, investigatory leads and other findings it contains did not withstand deeper scrutiny. Philip D. Zelikow, the executive director of the national commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks after the congressional panels, said the commission followed up on the allegations, using some of the same personnel who wrote them initially, but reached a different conclusion." (NYT)

Lasting Consequences

"Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced Jan. 26 that she would reform her country's civilian intelligence organization, the Intelligence Secretariat (SI). Soon after, the office of the president said it would submit a draft law to reform the SI to the Senate on Feb. 3. In addition to changing the organization's name to the Federal Intelligence Agency, the reform is expected to significantly weaken the SI by limiting its ability to gather signals intelligence, revealing a wider political dispute. Fernandez's motivations for reforming the SI are not completely clear, but concerns that criminal charges could be brought against her and other members of the government once they leave office might have been a factor. Moreover, though the reform appears to be immediately motivated by concerns over the SI's loyalty to Fernandez, it may significantly affect how the Argentine security apparatus functions long after her term in office ends. Although the Fernandez government has not released the details, the reforms would drastically alter the way the SI functions. Previously, the organization could engage in domestic intelligence collection after obtaining a federal judge's approval, but the new reform will likely require more steps and more oversight. A federal judge would have to request a warrant to conduct intelligence gathering from the prosecutor general's office, and the actual collection process would be either conducted or overseen by that office. The president appoints the prosecutor general, and approval of the reform would grant this post, currently filled by Gils Carbo, significant intelligence collection abilities for the remainder of Fernandez's presidency and likely into the next presidency. The planned reform follows a mass reshuffling of the SI's top leadership. On Dec. 16, Fernandez ordered the removal of Secretary of Intelligence Hector Icazuriaga and Deputy Director Fernando Larcher, both longtime ruling-party allies. Icazuriaga and Larcher had been appointed to the positions more than a decade earlier, and according to unconfirmed reports, had worked closely with former President Nestor Kirchner, the late husband of Fernandez. Under the direction of Icazuriaga and Larcher, the SI provided the government with intelligence on political opponents, including labor organizations and members of rival political parties. The reshuffle also claimed Director of Operations Jaime Stiusso, who had served in the organization since 1974. The Argentine government filled the leadership positions with individuals closely tied to the ruling party. ​Oscar Parrilli, Fernandez's former chief of staff, was named the new director of the organization, and Juan Martin Mena, a legal official closely linked to current Justice Minister Julio Alak, was named deputy director. Moreover, unconfirmed reports indicate that Fernando Basanta, an official loyal to Fernandez's son Maximo Kirchner, is now in direct control of the SI's finances. Basanta is part of La Campora, a political patronage network crucial to securing political support within the government for the ruling Front for Victory party. Kirchner has direct control over the network that has significantly increased its presence in state ministries and companies over the past several years." (STRATFOR)

Carol Joynt, DPC and Paxton Quigley; I don't remember when or where this was taken.

"Thursday, February 5, 2015. It warmed up a bit yesterday in New York. Forty degrees, melting the snow and slush which is still covering the travel path on the roads. The curbsides still remain piled with the dirty, grimy white stuff. A little more snow supposedly coming our way. And then some more cold. I went to Michael’s to lunch with Pax Quigley who is an old friend from Los Angeles and now lives here (and in Miami, still unable to withdraw from the Sun). Pax and I met over the phone, introduced by a mutual friend in 1980. We talked for the better part of an hour and that was it; we’re still talking. She was an executive with Playboy at the time. Playboy , namely the lifestyle of Hugh Hefner was always interesting conversation around Hollywood. For a lot of reasons having to do with (male) stars and the Bunnies. The talk of course was mainly about what went on in the Mansion, and there were lots of those stories, wild and crazy and none of which can be repeated in print without the risk of lawsuits, as well as predictable. Mr. Hefner was a philosopher/hedonist, and lived his life thusly. Plus Hollywood has that allure. It’s in the air and it definitely was on South Mapleton Drive in Holmby Hills. He lived the Playboy  fantasy and for all I know, he still does – although he’s getting up there, so to speak. But he always had a lot of acolytes admiring his tastes and surely we haven’t seen the last of those yet.Pax eventually left Playboy and subsequently wrote a book called 'Armed and Female' a kind of how-to-and-why handgun manual written specifically for women. You never hear about it but the book has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and continues to. She then wrote a second book, 'Not an Easy Target; Paxton Quigley’s Self-Protection for Women.' I interviewed her a few years ago (and wrote about it here) about this last book. She gives talks on the “How” part which are quite effective. For years she also conducted seminars and classes in shooting for women. I don’t doubt she’s saved a lot of lives with her teachings.This was back in the 1980s when she first pursued the idea. It came from an aha! moment she had in a sporting goods store in L.A. one day. I never liked the idea. I was never against it because it was none of my business, but guns mean something else to me for personal reasons. Pax’s argument was sensible: women buy guns for self-protection. Therefore they need to know how to use them so they don’t put themselves and their family and friends at any kind of risk. Teaching that was her job. She was quite successful at it.Pax has been out of the seminar business for quite some time. She’s now finishing her first novel. About a dominatrix ... Meanwhile, back at the lunch table.  It was Wednesday and Michael’s was busy, not roaring (thanks to the winter weather). There was Barbara Cirkva, VP Chanel; Don Degoklyer, of Novaris; Tom Goodman of Goodman Media; Cynthia Lewis, VP DuJour, with Diane Clehane; Lesley Jane Seymour and Jeannine Shao Collins of More magazine. Also: Jim Smith of Niche Media; Anthony Cenname, publisher of the WSJ (Wall Street Journal) Magazine; Frank McCourt, former owner of the LA Dodgers at Table One with a group of business people. Right next door was David Zinczenko, author/publisher, restaurateur, TV commentator." (NYSD)

"I have the BRCA gene mutation, the curse of Ashkenazi Jews—and Angelina Jolie. It means I am likely to keep getting cancer if I don't do something to stop it, so instead of having a lumpectomy, I am having a double mastectomy with reconstruction. It is quite amazing. They do both at the same time. You go in with breast cancer and come out with stripper boobs. And by law, insurance pays for the Park Avenue plastic surgeon. Good Lord, even Medicaid must pay for breast reconstruction with someone or other. We have come a long way, baby. All those pink ribbons and half-marathons paid off. We live in quite a world. I always felt I was a 34D trapped in the body of a 34B. At long last. The surgeons all minimize the pain, which is just an occupational hazard. Surgeons think a beheading is no big deal. I disagree. I imagine recovery from a double mastectomy might be quite unpleasant. The surgeons are like, 'Tylenol might be enough, and by week two you will be dancing Swan Lake, just like before.' I expect I will be eating only Vicodin for a while. The BRCA mutation hits 0.25 percent of the population and 2.5 percent of Ashkenazi Jews, so it is ten times as likely to affect the 2.2 percent of people who make up 25 percent of a class at Harvard. That must be why they have figured out what to do about breast cancer. If this mutation disproportionately affected Presbyterians, they would solve it with too many martinis, and women would still be dying of breast cancer. How fortunate that is not the case. I realize I am dealing with cancer, which is complicated and kills people. It may yet kill me. I still don't know if the disease has spread. I still don't know many things." (Elizabeth Wurtzel)

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Untitled Magazine: Nature/Nurture

Annika Connor The Peacock Forest Oil on Linen 36"x24"

Last night The Untitled Magazine celebrated Human/Nature, and exhibit featuring 20 artists honoring nature. A portion of the proceeds benefit Pure Earth, and representing that worthy organization was Angela Bernhard and Kira Traore

Also in attendance was Indira Cesarene, editor of the magazine, and artist Annika Connor, who presented The Peacock Forest, a ravishing homage -- all blues and browns and greens with a dusting of light yellow -- to the mysterious layers of nature. The amazing afterparty was held at Cafe Noir, next door.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean, has a prominent position at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico, separating access to the gulf into two choke points: the Yucatan Channel and the Straits of Florida. It is also situated on the sea-lanes between the U.S. East Coast and the Panama Canal, the shortest route for naval traffic between the two coasts of the United States. Cuba thus has been pivotal to the U.S. strategy to safeguard economic activity in the Gulf of Mexico and naval transport routes beyond that. The evolution of U.S. naval capabilities, however, has changed the part that Cuba, and thus the base at Guantanamo, has played. The United States began extending its ambitions into the Caribbean, challenging the classical European colonial powers and arguably starting its ascent to the rank of a global power, with the Monroe Doctrine in 1823. Named after then-President James Monroe, the doctrine sought to prevent intervention by European powers — most notably Spain and Portugal — in their former colonies as the colonies achieved independence. The doctrine largely was a hollow statement at first because the United States did not have the naval power it would need to enforce it and establish the hegemony that it sought to put in place with the doctrine. However, the United Kingdom, which at the time had considerable naval capabilities, supported the Monroe Doctrine and committed to enforcing it because it also secured British access to the markets in these former colonies as long as they were not recovered by their former rulers. Although it was a notable shift in U.S. foreign policy toward the Western Hemisphere as a whole, the Monroe Doctrine did not affect Cuba directly. The doctrine did not seek to meddle in the affairs of existing European colonies, and the Spanish ruled Cuba and Puerto Rico until the Spanish-American War in 1898. At that point, after the Monroe Doctrine had set the stage, U.S. military capabilities were catching up with its foreign policy intent. It was during the Spanish-American War that U.S. naval power entered the global stage and eventually resulted in the United States' taking Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines from Spain." (STRATFOR)

"Saudi Arabia has been trying to pressure President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to abandon his support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, using its dominance of the global oil markets at a time when the Russian government is reeling from the effects of plummeting oil prices.
Saudi Arabia and Russia have had numerous discussions over the past several months that have yet to produce a significant breakthrough, according to American and Saudi officials. It is unclear how explicitly Saudi officials have linked oil to the issue of Syria during the talks, but Saudi officials say — and they have told the United States — that they think they have some leverage over Mr. Putin because of their ability to reduce the supply of oil and possibly drive up prices. 'If oil can serve to bring peace in Syria, I don’t see how Saudi Arabia would back away from trying to reach a deal,' a Saudi diplomat said. An array of diplomatic, intelligence and political officials from the United States and Middle East spoke on the condition of anonymity to adhere to protocols of diplomacy. Any weakening of Russian support for Mr. Assad could be one of the first signs that the recent tumult in the oil market is having an impact on global statecraft. Saudi officials have said publicly that the price of oil reflects only global supply and demand, and they have insisted that Saudi Arabia will not let geopolitics drive its economic agenda. But they believe that there could be ancillary diplomatic benefits to the country’s current strategy of allowing oil prices to stay low — including a chance to negotiate an exit for Mr. Assad. Mr. Putin, however, has frequently demonstrated that he would rather accept economic hardship than buckle to outside pressures to change his policies. Sanctions imposed by the United States and European countries have not prompted Moscow to end its military involvement in Ukraine, and Mr. Putin has remained steadfast in his support for Mr. Assad, whom he sees as a bulwark in a region made increasingly volatile by Islamic extremism. Syria was a major topic for a Saudi delegation that went to Moscow in November, according to an Obama administration official, who said that there had been a steady dialogue between the two countries over the past several months. It is unclear what effect the Jan. 23 death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia might have on these discussions, which the Saudis have conducted in secret." (NYT)

Hail the Conquerors

"Thick snow is falling hard and heavy, muffling sounds and turning the village from picturesque into postcard-beautiful. I am lying in bed listening to a Mozart version of 'Ave Maria,' with a heavenly soprano almost bringing tears to my eyes with the loveliness of it. This is the civilization of our ancestors, one that gave us Mozart and Schubert and Beethoven and built cathedrals all over the most wondrous continent in the world—and it is now being replaced by a higher one, in which distinctions of ethnicity and religion will no longer be tolerated. The human race has a limitless capacity for self-improvement, and it shows where architecture, the arts, and music are concerned, not to mention literature. You might think me jaundiced, but the Parthenon’s perfection is less impressive than the Trump Tower’s glitz, and Cellini’s Narcissus raises fewer eyebrows than Hirst’s Shark. And what about the 'Ode to Joy'? Can one really compare it to the rap that blasts 24 hours a day among those who are with-it? Nah, of course not; anyone who disagrees must be getting old. Just as 'Ave Maria' was coming to an end, I opened the papers and felt proud to see Prince Charles and David Cameron kissing Saudi ass, to be followed by Obama couple of days later. Oswald Spengler came to mind. What did he know that we don’t? Three thousand years of civilization took an upward swing when TV was invented, and taking drugs became de rigueur, and popping pills and pop music became one and the same. Those ancient Greeks were bores, and I’m not referring to myself but Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, not to mention Aristophanes. So were the wops—the Titians and Tiepolos—and the frogs. The latter built a few churches that now lie empty. Give me Norman Foster any day ... This is Simon Cowell time, as well as Wendi Murdoch. Sodom and Gomorrah is a myth, so stick to Simon and Wendi. Better yet, to the Kardashians. Watch as many reality shows as you can, and try to emulate the accents and the topics they discuss. Ditto for sci-fi and zombie movies. Encourage modern professional athletes to be more violent—nerds like Jesse Owens and Stanley Matthews should have their names removed from memory. Oscar Wilde died in disgrace, and no wonder. He dared say this: 'Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming.' Which means things were getting better even back then. And this brings me to beauty and an article in Vanity Fair about Dudley House in London’s Park Lane. It was written by a man I know and like, Jim Reginato, with pictures by Jonathan Becker, another friend. The house has been purchased and redone by a 33-year-old Qatari by the name of Al-Thani, who, according to the article, is now a leading member of English society, frolicking with its golden youth, and his circle includes the Queen." (Taki)

Amanda Vaill. Susan Fales-Hill.

"I went to lunch at Michael’s with Judy Price who used to be my employer when she owned Avenue magazine (which she started back in the mid-'70s). Mrs. Price sold it after more than a quarter century, and started the National Jewelry Institute. The ultimate objective is to create a jewelry museum. She’s still ahead of her time. But that’s all right because Mrs. Price is nothing if not industrious and focused and hardworking. Actually I discovered Michael’s through her about seventeen or eighteen years ago. Last year at at the NJI’s first annual gala, a dinner held at the Morgan Library, it was announced that NJI had gone into partnership with Parsons on jewelry and jewelry design. This year, the second annual gala will take place in Paris on the first weekend in July. It’s already sold out with guests coming from all over the world. It also marks the launching of the classes in the National Jewelry Institute’s collaboration with Parsons School of Design ... On Wednesday evening (last) the House of SpeakEasy, producer of thrilling and witty literary cabarets that the Wall Street Journal has described as “think-y entertainment for New York’s book-loving crowd,” celebrated its first anniversary with a gala event at SoHo’s City Winery ..Temperatures hovered in the glacial 20s, but SpeakEasy’s founders, historian Amanda Foreman and editor Lucas Wittmann, warmed up the audience of 260, which included Uma Thurman, Gayfryd Steinberg and Michael Shnayerson, Mercedes Bass, Don and Catie Marron, Shelley Wanger and David Mortimer, Waris Ahluwalia, Shirley Lord and Peter Haywood, Leila Strauss, Sir Mark and Lady Sheila Lyall Grant, Vicky Ward and Richard Cohen, Lucy Sykes and Euan Rellie, Marina Rust and Ian Connor, Hugh and Maya Dubrulle, George Lane, Fred Iseman, Danielle Ganek, Samantha Boardman, Lisa Fine, Christopher Mason, Caio Fonseca, Daisy Soros, Nick McDonell and many others." (NYSD)