Saturday, May 19

Gentlemen, Burn Your Blue Blazers and Neckties: An Ode to Working From Home

The Times has some pointers for those of us who work from home — including setting alarms to remind ourselves of certain tasks we need to get to. Personally, if I had bells going off all times of the day, I'd have to check myself into a loony bin. It seems to me that if you have a work ethic and a measure of self-discipline, it ought to make no difference whether you work in a cubicle surrounded by other drones or at Starbucks or on the wing of a 757 — or in your own home. And it doesn't much matter, despite advice to the contrary, whether or not you have a devoted workspace in your domain. I've had deadlines that got met just as timely and efficiently from the kitchen countertop next to a boiling chicken as they did the quiet second bedroom I call an office. That said, there are clearly those personalities that require the structure, procedure and camaraderie that come with office jobs. I am definitely not one of those people. During my years as a working journalist, I have been my own boss from time to time, and while it's not for everybody, I have always found it to be a productive, creative and largely happy predicament. Meanwhile, the same does not apply to all the 9-5 jobs I have had in between. (My ambivalence about my fellow man, rubbing elbows with him and breathing his second-hand air is well documented.) As a freelance person, there is tremendous satisfaction in setting your own hours, wearing t-shirts and flip-flops all day (I've saved a small fortune in dry cleaning), and being free to say yes to working for certain people and no to others. I for one don't miss languishing in pointless, unproductive staff meetings where I'm forced to pretend an unctuous CEO's stream-of-conscience blather and steaming pile of corporate-speak amount to pearls of wisdom. In office life, as in life in general, so much time is wasted listening to other people who like to hear themselves talk but say nothing. Ah, bosses. One particularly awful one even had his charges (including me) take personality tests to determine whether they were compatible with him and were, in fact, "company material." You know, there was once another group that exercised strict rules determining whether people were in or were out based on certain identifiable and perceived inferior characteristics: the Nazis. Now, there's only one person my personality has to suit: me. And I don't even own a pair of jackboots. I think I shall keep it that way. As for this week, you can find me out in my garden finishing another deadline. If it ever stops raining.

Tuesday, April 3

Great American Kathy Griffin Is Finished Apologizing: She's Too Busy Going on Stern, Selling Out Carnegie Hall and Radio City

The fearless Kathy Griffin announced this morning on "The Howard Stern Show" that, after selling out Carnegie Hall in a single day, she is doing a second show in NYC, at Radio City Music Hall. (I've already got my tickets. How about you?) The Stern interview was entertaining, inspiring and informative — we learned that basically everybody in Hollywood turned their backs on Kathy after her Trump photo stunt, even (as we already knew) her supposedly close friend, former New Year's cohost, and embarrassment to journalism and gay men everywhere Anderson Cooper, and (as we just learned today, sadly) her onetime bestie Cher. (If you didn't catch the show this morning, find a way to listen to it after the fact on the SiriusXM app or YouTube or wherever. Listening to her talk the tweets she gets from Trump supporters — I won't spoil the fun here, but, oh boy — is alone worth the cost of a Sirius subscription.) Look, you are absolutely entitled to not like what Kathy did, or to think whatever you want about it, or to hate her guts. But the thing is, surely you agree that, in retrospect, considering what a shit show this administration has turned out to be, a celebrity photo shoot is pretty small potatoes. Understood, saying what you think does not always come without consequences, but I — and I'm not alone — don't think this woman deserved to have her life ruined over it. (I find it interesting that, on the topic of free speech, people like the CEO of Barilla pasta and the grand wizard or whatever he is of "Duck Dynasty" certainly never had to pay for their hateful homophobic comments. Donald Trump, who said the most vile things about President Obama, and encouraged even worse from his fans, was not subjected, as was Kathy, to an investigation by the Department of Justice but, rather, was rewarded with the presidency. And isn't it funny how the right demonized Roseanne Barr back in the day for her supposedly vulgar and disrespectful rendition of the national anthem at that baseball game, but now suddenly she's their poster girl, her show has been renewed by ABC and she's been praised by the president himself — all because the Roseanne the character and the person is a Trump supporter. Thinking about all the double standards are enough to make your head hurt.) The full-on assault Kathy Griffin has been subjected to — from the Hollywood "community," the media and the Trump administration, which apparently has nothing better to do than use the full powers of the U.S. government to torment a comedian — fits the very definition of the punishment not fitting the crime. But happily, just like the Dixie Chicks and others before her, she's coming back and is going to be bigger than ever. With everything else going on in the world, why am I ranting and raving about Kathy Griffin? I am a longtime fan and admirer, yes, but more importantly, I find the way she has been dragged through hell to be particularly ugly, unjust, egregious, infuriating, un-American — and familiar. Surely on some level all of us know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of, as Kathy would put it, a falling wall of shit. (I know I do.) As a journalist, I am supposed to remain neutral, but about Kathy Griffin I am and will always be totally and unapologetically biased. She is an American treasure, a heroine and a very funny lady. Do your patriotic duty and support her:

Monday, February 5

Madison Ave Takes on Trump: Could 'Diversity Bowl' Mean That Hate Is No Longer Winning?

If you thought the divisive blowhard with the orange hair and bloated ego would loom large during this year's Super Bowl, you'd be wrong. In fact, the most horrible person alive wasn't referenced even once during the parade of multimillion-dollar commercial spots — maybe because we're all sick of him, maybe because we've finally come to realize that the best way to deal with a pathetic bully and attention whore is to ignore him, and maybe, most vitally, his brand of proud racism, xenophobia and sexism is no longer to be tolerated, and the biggest advertisers in the world aren't afraid to say so. As CNN's Chris Cillizza writes: "The calculation was clearly made by several different ad agencies — and the corporations who hired them — that using their 30 seconds or one minute to provide a check on the vision of the country pushed by Trump was the way to go. That there are enough consumers in the country who flatly reject the way in which Trump sees and talks about the country to make it financially worth the companies' time to hang an ad on that sentiment." When I first saw the ads last night from Coke, T-Mobile and Kraft (see video above), I have to say, I thought they were a pretty sappy (and safe) effort from a creative point of view. (Toyota's take on the old "a priest and a rabbi walk into a bar" trope was a clever exception.) But seeing them fresh, and considering them collectively and through Cillizza's sharply focused lens, it occurs to me that it did take nerve for these advertisers to so boldly embrace multiculturalism — which is a seriously depressing sentence to have to write in the year 2018, but also a hopeful one, in that maybe it means that the tide is turning. This was "The Diversity Bowl" at a time of extreme antipathy (that's the nice term) toward anything or anyone "different" in this country, where the American public is being divided, bamboozled, gaslighted and scared shitless on a daily basis. You can only be so full of anger and bluster — before long, even the most spiteful among us must get exhausted from all that hate. It's a far cry from last year, when the CEO of 84 Lumber felt compelled to clarify that its terrific, and obviously anti-Trump, commercial in the Super Bowl was not, in fact, meant to be political — effectively yanking the fangs out of what was a ballsy, righteous statement. So far this time around, though, the world's most powerful consumer brands and their partners on Madison Avenue aren't backing down. They don't have to. Reasonable people of every persuasion — cultural, political, whatever — seem to have grown pretty weary of the hostility.

Thursday, January 18

LA Times Publisher Gets Called Out by NPR

A most distressing story today from NPR about my former boss Ross Levinsohn—currently the publisher of The Los Angeles Times—and an alleged history of sexual misconduct and what's being called "frat house behavior" at companies he's worked for. In the handful of months (just under a year, as I recall) he held the reins of the company that published The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and my old magazine, Adweek, all I can say is, I never witnessed such behavior. Of course, that's not saying much—I never witnessed him much, period. The company was in New York but Ross lives in LA, and as one of the senior most editors of one of the media properties he oversaw, I think I laid eyes on him two, maybe three times tops—usually when there were a red carpet and paparazzi involved. In fact, I remember one glitzy event where I snapped a picture with my own iPhone of Ross with a couple of our colleagues, along with our guest of honor Russell Simmons—a powerful man who's been the subject of some unfortunate headlines himself lately. As for Ross, he was one of a number of CEOs the company ran through in a few short years, before my magazine was spun off and eventually sold off to a group of foreign investors. Within a couple of hours of NPR breaking this story, it got picked up by sites like The Cut, Mediaite and the LA Business Journal, while The Daily Beast reported that the Times's guild called on Ross to be fired. But by 5 p.m. New York time, I'd yet to find anything about any of this on the Times's own homepage. Still, the Times itself has now become part of the news cycle, one in a long list of news organizations—including Fox, NBC, CBS and Vice—caught up in a seemingly bottomless mess of sexual misconduct scandals. And you thought Hollywood and Washington were of morally dubious character. If Caligula, Mussolini and Charles Manson were alive today, they'd probably run a media company.

Thursday, January 11

Underwear Brand Uses Leaked Nudes of Olympian Tom Daley as Marketing Tool

Well here's an all new and different marketing technique — but not one that'll win any awards. The racy men's underwear brand Andrew Christian — whose ads, even at their least controversial, are most definitely NSFW — has taken exploitation to a whole new level with a promotional email blast teasing leaked nudes of Olympic diver Tom Daley, as Queerty reports. The link was quickly taken down by the advertiser, but not before some people took to Twitter to slam the stunt:

But Calvin Stowell of The Trevor Project had the most spot-on take:

(Don't forget all those media and advertising blogs too, Calvin.)

From Refunds for Dead Christmas Trees to Designer Bath Towels for $5, Retailers Will Do Anything to Get You to Shop in January

There was a funny story in the Post about a lady attempting to return a dead Christmas tree to Costco, in January — and the store actually giving her her money back. As the piece points out, Costco is one of a number of retailers famous for their generous returns policies, with the discount store's employees reporting taking back stuff like an empty wine bottle, old fish, even a used chicken coop. The overlooked part of the story, though, is that while taking back virtually anything — even if it's used, even if the customer doesn't have a receipt —might seem like a dumb policy, especially considering how challenged the retail sector continues to be, it's actually a shrewd gimmick for luring shoppers and multiplying sales during the post-holiday doldrums. The Times reported the other day that retailers are doing more than ever to keep the holiday shopping season roaring deep into the winter — encouraging people to go ahead and return those ugly Christmas sweaters and the foot massager you got for Hanukkah. As the story points out, a woman went to the Galleria in White Plains to return a pair of $50 boots — and ended up spending another 300 bucks there. The windows of stores like Forever 21 are filled this glum month with brightly colored signs promoting "The Most Epic Sale EVER!" and "Buy One, Get One Free" offers. The troubled department store chain Macy's has become quite fond of advertising its "One Day Sale" via newspapers and TV spots — forget that the sale seems to happen every week, and usually goes for two or three days, not just one. This week, Macy's is promoting yet another "One Day Sale" — for Thursday and Friday. (I mean, I believe in creative license and relaxed semantics in marketing, but this is ridiculous.) My favorite: a set of sheets for $15 — but that actually ends up being free after a $15 mail-in rebate. Also from Macy's for those willing to hurry in now: $5 designer bath towels, free shipping on virtually anything, and an extra 20 bucks off your purchase if you come in before 2 p.m. But does the post-Christmas push really work? History suggests it does. Last January, according to the Commerce Department, U.S. retail sales beat analyst expectations, bested the prior January by a robust 5.6%, and were much-needed bright spot in first-quarter earnings reports. Now, excuse me while I load up my bald, parched Christmas tree and head to Costco. I'm sure it won't matter to them that I didn't buy it there.

Tuesday, January 9

Daily Mail Calls Lindsey Graham 'Senorita'

The Daily Mail's story about Juanita Broaddrick taking to Twitter to slam Oprah Winfrey for her passionate, headline-making speech at the Golden Globes contained an unfortunate typo referencing Sen. Lindsey Graham. The website noted that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough told viewers of his show this morning that some Democrats had confided to him that they believe Broaddrick's allegation, then added:

We think they meant Sen. Lindsey Graham. (There's the screen grab, lest the evidence be lost once someone at the Daily Mail gets around to fixing the faux pas.) The sexuality of the unmarried South Carolina Republican has been speculated about for years, should it have escaped your attention. Was the Daily Mail's oopsie a subliminal and totally innocent yet nonetheless homophobic slip on the part of some writer or editor? Or perhaps a more sinister, not-so-subtle dig at Graham? Or maybe (and most likely), it was simply another case of "ducking spell check" run amok.

David Zinczenko Is Back at Men's Health

It would appear that David Zinczenko has more lives than your average editor—and that Hearst, the new owner of Men's Health, is somewhat fonder of the magazine's most famous steward than his former boss was. It was revealed today that Dave Z is coming back home—joining Men's Health as interim editorial director now that Rodale's sale to Hearst has been finalized. And it is Dave who has the last laugh—again. You may recall that five years ago, former Rodale chief exec Maria Rodale infamously bounced the longtime Men's Health editor, saying his contract was up and that it seemed "a good time for a change." Zinczenko is a Pennsylvania native who'd spent his entire publishing career, over two decades, at Emmaus, Pa.-based Rodale and who, in 2010, even gave the eulogy at a well-attended hometown memorial service for Maria's mother, Ardie Rodale, which I happened to attend. (As I recall, Dave was the only employee of the Rodale company and the only non-family member invited to speak that day.) As someone who'd apparently fallen out of favor at Rodale, Dave found himself in good company—he was one in a long, messy string of editors, publishers and other top executives the company would run through in the years after Maria took over the family business. And yet, no one had deeper roots at the company than Dave—nor had anyone else there risen as high, become as famous, or come to earn a bigger paycheck. As Maria noted in her acidic sendoff in the New York Post, Dave had fashioned quite the "high-profile life" for himself since he'd joined the company as a mere kid and budding journalist, having in the years since made his name in Manhattan social circles as a restaurateur, author, fitness expert on morning TV, sometime paramour of minor celebrities, and best friend and business partner of Dan Abrams, a pairing of bros about town that was once profiled in the Times and that Graydon Carter was fond of comparing to the two hapless dudes in "A Night at the Roxbury." (Until they became investors in their own restaurants, Dave and Dan were regulars at Carter's Waverly Inn in its heyday. It was there that, some years ago, I was dining with Dave when the Grand Poobah himself entered the room and, upon seeing Dave playing with his iPhone, signaled to the help—in what he must've thought was a discreet gesture—to order him to put it away at once. Graydon hated cell phones at the table, and it wasn't something he was shy about letting offenders know.) When they parted company, Maria hinted that Men's Health had, perhaps, become a little too aligned with its star editor—who I selected as Adweek's Editor of the Year in 2009, back when I was running that magazine's special issues. We recognized Dave for dramatically expanding the Men's Health brand into a post-print empire—something that has become all the more urgent as magazine ad revenues continue to tank. Maria's take on Dave's tenure? She commented that the magazine was not, in fact, "Dave's Health, it's Men's Health." (Meow.) It wasn't long before Dave had his revenge—jumping over to Men's Health's chief rival, Men's Fitness, part of Trump pal David Pecker's stable of media brands, including The National Enquirer. (When he left Men's Health, he agreed to a noncompete that precluded him from joining ranks with a range of men's magazines, including GQ and Esquire, but not, weirdly enough, the most logical destination, Men's Fitness.) A year ago, the tables would turn again, and Dave would exit AMI following another yet shakeup there—not that anyone expected a marriage between Zincenko and Pecker, an odd couple if there ever was one, to last. Think Beauty and the Beast. (I've got a good story about Pecker and Trump—one that happens to involve first daughter Ivanka—you should remind me to tell you sometime.) In the year since he left AMI, Dave has been writing his fitness books and going on the Today show to talk about wellness for dudes. But no matter what a bon vivant he aspires to be, Dave is a guy who's got ink in his veins and who seriously loves magazines. So don't be surprised if that interim gig at Hearst turns into a more permanent one.

Tuesday, January 2

President Trump Rings in New Year By Wishing Times Publisher All the Best

A couple of points: Firstly, as has been pointed out numerous times by many sources and despite the president's persistent fantasies, the Times is far from "failing." As Business Insider reported last month, the paper now has 130 million monthly readers and 3.5 million paid subscribers—more than double its digital subscriptions two years ago. Also, as MSNBC producer Kyle Griffin pointed out on Twitter this morning in response to Trump's tweet, if the Times is failing so hard then why, Mr. President, do you continue to do interviews with it?

Tuesday, November 21

What Happened to the Jann Wenner Story?

The latest Rolling Stone cover, featuring Elon Musk — one of
the few public figures not accused of sexual harassment 
It took less than a day for Charlie Rose to lose his CBS morning gig, his late-night PBS perch, and his long, respected career as one of TV's premier interviewers. He's the biggest media figure to date to get snagged up in this sexual harassment hideousness, joining disgraced colleagues from The New York Times, NBC News, Vox Media, E! News, The New Republic and Artforum on a list of purported pervs that's become so challenging to keep track of that it's being updated in real time on the Times's website. One accused offender the Times has opted to not include in its Hall of Shame, oddly, is Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner, who was accused by a writer of offering him a job in exchange for sex, a story BuzzFeed broke back on Nov 10. While the revelation did get a little pickup in the immediate aftermath — Wenner's photo was included, alongside shots of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and others, in the New York Daily News's front-page "Perv Nation" roundup, and his accuser was interviewed on CNN — it's been pretty much ignored ever since. Besides the Times leaving Wenner off its running list, there was the Recode piece this week speculating on potential suitors for what's left of Wenner's publishing company but mentioning nothing of the alleged sexual harassment against its founder, even though there is no bigger story right now than the deluge of alleged sexual offenses by powerful men. Most of the articles about Wenner lately have had to do with a new biography about him, called Sticky Fingers — while charges of his alleged behavior seem to have been swept under the rug. (It is also interesting — though not at all surprising — that the Rolling Stone homepage features stories on sexual harassment charges against Al Franken and the cofounder of Pixar, but no mention of the accusations leveled against its own proprietor.) If Wenner is getting a pass, he shouldn't be. His accuser's story is every bit as disturbing and as credible as those about other alleged offenders. And while he's not nearly as important as he used to be, Wenner is still as much a boldface name as his fellow reported reprobates — and much more relevant than some of them (Andy Dick comes to mind). It may well be that nothing sinister is afoot (other than Wenner's alleged behavior) and that he simply got lost in the news cycle, what with there being a new bombshell and another perp dominating the headlines every day. If that is the case, then Jann Wenner owes Charlie Rose, Roy Moore and the other recent entrants to this contemptible club of creeps a steak dinner.

Monday, November 6

YOU Get a Shotgun, and YOU Get a Shotgun!!

Advertising weaponry in the Sunday paper is always of questionable taste, if you ask me. But the fact that this particular promotion, from Dick's Sporting Goods, arrived on this especially awful Sunday, where another mass killing dominates headlines, definitely falls under the category of unfortunate timing. Still, what better way for red-blooded Americans to celebrate the birth of their Lord and Savior than by gifting a loved one a marked-down semi-automatic? This country kills me. Let's hope not literally.

Wednesday, November 1

There Is Actually Just One "Never" in Fashion (Or in Life), Donna: Never Suggest That Harvey Weinstein's Victims Had It Coming

At a time when Harvey Weinstein defender Donna Karan has made her notorious slut-shaming even worse with an awkward morning-TV apology, Ad Age's Barbara Lippert looks back at this ad depicting the first female president from the formerly influential fashion designer, back when she believed in empowering instead of blaming women. But I wonder how many of you remember Karan's brief, pre-fame career as a deoderant pitchwoman?

Tuesday, June 27

Who Says People Don't Care About Print? Magazine Covers Dominate the News Cycle

Magazines still matter, of course. If not, then why did three separate stories about magazine covers dominate today's news cycle? Vanity Fair kicked off things early this morning when it tweeted this eye-catching cover of a pregnant Serena Williams, photographed by Annie Leibovitz:

Vanity Fair has a way of making headlines with its covers. Remember two years ago when its Caitlyn Jenner unveiling became not just the year's most talked about magazine but the most buzzed-about media event period? That bombshell image, like the Serena cover, was announced quietly, with just a simple tweet, meaning that the most arresting and impactful images don't require a press conference to get attention or to become iconic. Speaking of icons (to me anyway), here's another, much-chatted-about cover of the day — unexpectedly belonging to Delta's in-flight magazine:

Bustle noted that social media just couldn't quit talking about this cover featuring Canada's ridiculously appealing leader. My personal favorite among the reactions:

Finally, even though we're breaking with our daily ritual of ignoring him in the hopes he will disappear, our president is once again making headlines, this time by placing fake magazine covers featuring himself throughout his golf clubs. Here's one:

It's a story The Washington Post broke that got picked up by AOL, Business Insider, The Telegraph and everyone else, including The Hill, which had the headline of the day:

If this guy thinks the media suck so hard, then why is he fixated on what's written about him and on magazine covers in particular — including fake ones? A Time spokeswoman confirmed to the Post that the above is not, in fact, an actual cover, despite the fact that Trump has appeared on real covers of Time. On top of all the other lawsuits he faces, wouldn't a copyright infringement case brought by Time Inc. against the media's greatest tormentor be especially delicious?

Sunday, June 25

Sweet Home Alabama? Food & Wine's Southern Move Another Loss for NYC

Time Inc. has announced it is moving Food & Wine's operations from New York to Birmingham, Alabama. The magazine's leadership stressed in media reports that this is really no big deal, since foodie culture exists everywhere — including, coincidentally, in places where it costs a fraction to run a media company (or any business) versus Manhattan. Hunter Lewis — the editor of Cooking Light who now takes over Food & Wine since its awesome and highly respected editor, Nilou Motamed, refused to relocate — told the Times: "You can create and do business in food anywhere now." Meanwhile, Forbes proclaimed that the move is "more proof that the South now rules American dining," noting that Birmingham has joined the likes of New Orleans, Atlanta and Nashville as one of the South's "food cities." I do not argue those points, nor do I fault the financially struggling Time Inc. with doing whatever it can to salvage its business. Still, this development is further, somewhat sad evidence of the end of New York as the media and cultural capital of the country. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if Time Inc. eventually moves virtually all its operations to Alabama — or if other publishers follow suit bolting the city. It simply costs too much to run a legacy media business out of New York, even with whatever generous tax breaks the state and city are giving these companies to stick around — which is why places like Birmingham, Charleston, Knoxville and Jersey City have become mini media capitals. In a way, this trend is a reassuring thing — in a modern world, we can do virtually any kind of business from anywhere, of course, notably from places where the cost of living is not nearly as crushing as it is in New York, and where the overall quality of life is arguably better as well. Not to mention where the tax burden is less onerous. Alabama collects only a nominal income tax on its residents, while other places — including Texas, Florida, Washington and Tennessee — have no state income tax at all. Meanwhile, if you live and work in New York, you have to pay income tax not only to New York State but also to the city — hardly a formula for attracting and retaining people who don't happen to be millionaires. Of course, if you happen to live outside New York in this digital era, you get the same Netflix and HBO shows as people who live in the city, you can get the same stuff shipped to you overnight from Amazon, you can watch Pornhub, you can take an Uber home, you can stay in a boutique hotel, you can shop at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, you can eat awesome, locally sourced food at cool restaurants, and you can produce a kick-ass magazine or website — all without going bankrupt. Still, there is, again, something quite unfortunate about it all, at least for those of us who cling to nostalgia. (Some of us still are not over Time Inc. moving out of the iconic Time-Life Building on Sixth Avenue in midtown.) I mean, sure, Birmingham might have a lot going for it, or L.A. or Atlanta or Miami or Jersey City — but that doesn't mean I want to see the Metropolitan Opera or the Whitney Museum move there. OK, so one magazine is moving out of the city — big deal. But with every institution that does that — and there's an alarming number of them — the city loses a little chunk of its soul. And that is definitely not a good thing for New York. Then again, sometimes media people leaving the city can be a good and welcome thing — take Rush Limbaugh, who years ago forsook New York for Florida, with its ample sunshine, favorable tax climate and virtually endless supply of cheap, trailer-park pharmaceuticals. And that, my friends, was a very good thing for New York and the people who love it.

Monday, June 12

Forbes Magazine Ranks the Highest-Paid Entertainers — aka, "An Enemies List"

I've done my share of magazine profiles on celebrities and otherwise brushed up against a few boldface names in my time, and Forbes's list of the highest-paid entertainers features a handful of so-called personalities who bring back personal memories — some fond, some bad, and one in particular I am about as wistful for as that unfortunate tummy issue I once experienced in the Cartagena airport toilets.

So, let's play a little game of "Friend or Enemy?"...

Which seemingly nice but actually quite awful, very rich and popular celeb says "no" to absolutely everything — every magazine cover, every magazine profile, every top-10 list, every event, everything — she is invited to be part of, even if promised everything short of being called god in print?

Which leading man once graced underwear ads but who in person turned out to look like a homeless person, and a short one?

Which pop star came by the house for Thanksgiving, pre-fame, and was so apparently stoned that the rest of my guests and I were forced to listen very hard to understand anything the person was saying over the course of an entire evening?

Which overexposed beauty seems like she'd be a diva but is actually one of the nicest and most professional people you'd ever hope to work with?

On the other hand, which dubious "celebrity" turned out to be an absolute terror, ultimately walking off a very expensive photo shoot because of not "feeling it," resulting in weeks of negotiations and ultimately the whole thing getting scrapped and costing my employer a small fortune?

Which movie star's publicist lobbied hard for a magazine cover for her client — then proceeded to be so difficult negotiating the simplest of terms that we pulled the plug, sending said publicist first into fits, then threats before launching a full-blown, ultimately unsuccessful campaign of begging and pleading?

Which sexy star, despite our most earnest appeals, would not consent to a photo shoot (even though she'd be lucky to be the subject of any magazine profile) — so we ended up getting her back by writing about her anyway and Photoshopping her head onto a model's body?

Which queen of her own entertainment empire/idol of mine confessed to me that she is an insomniac who gets almost no sleep and begins each day by around 4 a.m.?

Which singer did I always hate but got to see perform during a small, invitation-only show at last year's Cannes festival — and ended up so wowing me that I became a megafan in an instant?

It's More Like Watergate Than You Think

In his column today, the Times's Jim Rutenberg makes some excellent points about how Russiagate is different from Watergate—its central point being that the rise of the right-wing media has made it all that more difficult for actual facts to rise to the top. He won't get any argument from me on that. But it bears remembering that back in the 70s, despite the creation of Fox News still being decades into the future, there was a very real effort afoot, especially early on, to discredit The Washington Post as it peeled back the layers of Nixon's stinky onion, a fact that is underscored in the late Kay Graham's excellent, Pulitzer-winning autobiography, Personal History. The book is 20 years old now, but this Trump mess and its echoing of Watergate inspired me to revisit as an early-summer read what remains one of the best-written memoirs of a public figure I ever read—and its passages on the paper's takedown of Nixon are especially riveting, timely, and often prescient. Compare the current, unrelenting attacks on the press in the wake of FBI chief James Comey's firing with Graham's recounting of the daily shit that was being hurled at the Post—even following the infamous "Saturday Night Massacre"—and her increasing annoyance of it:

Yet the Post remained under attack—and the attack was becoming much more public. By this time I had warmed up to a degree of toughness of which I probably wouldn't have been capable the year before. ... For example, whereas earlier I might have been somewhat sympathetic with readers who wrote about the sharpness of Herblock's pen, in the later stages of Watergate I had no patience with those who complained he was being unfair to the president. To one scathing letter, I responded, "We have been heavily attacked for biased reporting by many individuals who, when confronted with the facts, have since resigned from the government." I wrote to a man in Florida on October 1973, facetiously thanking him for sending me a copy of an ad from the Miami paper suggesting that we belonged in jail and asking him, "If we are exaggerating minor peccadillos, why has the majority of the White House staff had to be unloaded?"

The Post was routinely accused of making a mountain out of a molehill throughout its Watergate coverage, much as the mainstream media is now being trashed by the conservative political machine over its reporting on Russiagate. (Newt Gingrich this weekend called for GOP leaders to "abolish" the Russia probe, suggesting that the heretofore universally respected Special Counsel Robert Mueller is now somehow biased and his investigation suddenly tainted. When Newt Gingrich starts trying to interfere, you know you're onto something.) Donald Trump and his fans, as we all saw, took to Twitter after Comey's testimony last week to declare the whole thing a "witch hunt" and the president himself vindicated. Seems like a good moment to consider Kay Graham's summation of Watergate:

Even today, some people think the whole thing was a minor peccadillo, the sort of thing engaged in by lots of politicians. I believe Watergate was an unprecedented effort to subvert the political process. It was a pervasive, indiscriminate use of power and authority from an administration with a passion for secrecy and deception and an astounding lack of regard for the normal constraints of democratic politics. To my mind, the whole thing was a very real perversion of the democratic system.

Let's see now, who does that remind us of?

Saturday, May 20

Make Up Your Own Caption For This Bizarre Pic From Trump's Traveling Circus Overseas

Something about Saudi men whispering about contrasting cultures and putting women in veils and abayas versus large, constricting gold belts.