Thursday, February 27, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Joe Manchin’s daughter Heather was looking for a job. The now-senator and one-time governor of West Virginia was only a state level rep when he ran into Milan Pushkar—the head of Mylan Inc., a Fortune 500 pharmaceuticals company—at a West Virginia University basketball game. Heather was hired for an entry-level position at the company soon after. Records show Mylan benefitted from millions of dollars worth of corporate tax breaks in the state during Manchin’s gubernatorial tenure. And these days, after stints as Mylan’s director of government relations and strategic development, Heather Bresch (née Manchin) is the company’s CEO, one of Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. All this without even an MBA—a 2008 investigation found that Bresch did not actually earn her degree from WVU as claimed. Officials had altered her official records and covered up for it, perhaps motivated by Mylan’s lucrative relationship with the University—co-founder Pushkar (Bresch’s business world fairy godfather) donated over $20 million and had the football field named after him. Connected children of political families catching a break is something we Americans are plenty used to—there would be no Kennedy or Bush dynasties without the public’s acceptance that some people just raise their kids up all square-jawed and rolled shirtsleeves, ready to run for office. But the nexus of private business and politics is always one that’s skated over lightly in high school civics classes. Perhaps that’s why there was so much consternation over the recent revelations that Wall Street banks had hired the children of prominent Chinese politicians with hopes of currying favor with those who wield power over business decisions in the rising economic superpower. The hiring of so-called 'Chinese Princelings' has been a widespread one in the banking community; JPMorgan Chase had a 'Sons and Daughters' program that separated applications of Chinese elites’ children from the wider pool and held them to less rigorous standards. (The Daily Beast) .
"You are a reasonable person, so you would never say that you 100 percentknow who is going to win all the major Oscars — but let’s be real, you pretty much know who is going to win all the major Oscars this year. This awards season, like many before it, has been mostly locked up since the Golden Globes back in January. Sure, there may be upsets, but let's face it: Cate Blanchett is smart to have been practicing her speech, and Jared Leto is not wasting his time by experimenting with his Winner’s Ponytail. The level of suspense is ... minimal. So if you are looking to inject a little excitement into your Oscar Night experience, here are five categories that are not totally foregone conclusions." (Vulture)

Rupert Murdoch Gave Tony Blair $100,000, Then Blair Fucked His Wife

"Last week, we learned that former British prime minister Tony Blair emailed disgraced News Corp. executive Rebekah Brooks in 2011 to offer his "unofficial" consulting services as she faced arrest over the company's metastasizing phone hacking scandal. And last year, we learned that Blair had also been allegedly fucking Murdoch's then-wife Wendi Deng in a bizarre love triangle. Today, we learned that, according to tax documents Gawker has obtained, Murdoch's News Corp. was paying Blair's private foundation while all this incestuous, wheels-within-wheels melodrama was going on." (Gawker)

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"Arguably the greatest book on political realism in the 20th century was University of Chicago Professor Hans J. Morgenthau's Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, published in 1948. In that seminal work, Morgenthau defines the status quo as 'the maintenance of the distribution of power that exists at a particular moment in history.' In other words, things shall stay as they are. But it is not quite that clear. For as Morgenthau also explains, 'the concept of the 'status quo' derives from status quo ante bellum,' which, in turn, implies a return to the distribution of power before a war. The war's aggressor shall give up his conquered territory, and everything will return to how it was. The status quo also connotes the victors' peace: a peace that may be unfair, or even oppressive, but at the same time stands for stability. For a change in the distribution of power, while at times just in a moral sense, simply introduces a measure of instability into the geopolitical equation. And because stability has a moral value all its own, the status quo is sanctified in the international system. Let us apply this to Asia. Because Japan was the aggressor in World War II and was vanquished by the U.S. military, it lay prostrate after the war, so that the Pacific Basin became a virtual American naval lake. That was the status quo as it came to be seen. This situation was buttressed by the decades-long reclusiveness of the Pacific's largest and most populous nation: China. Japanese occupation and civil war left China devastated. The rise to power of Mao Zedong's communists in 1949 would keep the country preoccupied with itself for decades as it fell prey to destructive development and political schemes such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. China was not weak, as the United States would discover in the Korean and Vietnamese wars and later turn to its advantage against the Soviets. But its revolution remained unfinished. The economy did not truly start to develop until the late 1970s, after Mao died. And only in the mid-1990s did China begin its naval expansion in a demonstrable and undeniable way. Thus the United States, in its struggle with the Soviets, got used to a reclusive China and a subordinate Japan. With these two certainties underlying the Cold War's various animosities, the United States preserved calm in its lake. But the 21st century has not been kind to this status quo, however convenient it may have been for American interests." (STRATFOR)

"The battle for control of the U.S. Senate is where the action is this year in American politics. Right now all signs point to a near standoff in the U.S. House elections. Barring a major change in the political environment in the next few months, the 114th House is expected to closely resemble the 113th House with a slightly larger or slightly smaller Republican majority. In contrast, party control of the next Senate is definitely up for grabs this year. The main reason why Democrats are at risk of losing control of the Senate in November is not because of public discontent with the Affordable Care Act, continued weakness in the economy or President Obama’s mediocre approval ratings. All of these issues may have an impact on the Senate elections. But the Democrats’ biggest problem this year is that they were so successful in the 2008 Senate elections. While Barack Obama was capturing the White House in 2008, Democrats gained eight net seats in the Senate, winning 20 of the 35 seats at stake. Now Democrats must defend all of the seats that they won six years ago, including several in states that usually support Republicans. Of the Democratic seats up for grabs this year, seven are in states that were carried by Mitt Romney in 2012, including six that Romney won by a double-digit margin. In contrast, Republicans are only defending one seat in a state that was carried by Obama in 2012 — Sen. Susan Collins’ seat in Maine. And Collins is so popular that she isn’t a credible Democratic target. A simple model based on a large body of political science research allows us to make fairly accurate predictions of seat swing in midterm U.S. Senate elections. This model is almost identical to one that I have used to accurately forecast seat swing in midterm House elections. The three predictors are the results of the generic congressional ballot question in national polls in early September; the difference between the number of Republican seats and the number of Democratic seats at stake in the election; and a dummy variable for the president’s party." (CenterforPolitics)

"I went down to Michael’s to lunch. Michael’s was quiet, yet packed, unlike today’s lunch which will probably be vocal pandemonium and table hopping. Yesterday had its share of NYC and international VIPs. Lesley Stahl was at the corner table. Chris-craft  tycoon Herb Siegel was next door. Alexandra Trower, the Lauder VP, was on the other side. Gordon Davis was lunching with Diane Coffey and a man I didn’t recognize. Anne Fulenwider, the E-I-C of Marie Claire next door to them. Christy Ferer was hosting a table of very attractive ladies in the bay. Candia Fisher (Fisher-Landau Center for Art) was nearby, as was famous banking executive Sallie Krawcheck (former president of Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Bank of America; Dave Zinczenko, publisher/editor/tv personality was lunching with business associates; Nikki Haskell was with John Morgan and his wife Connie. Nikki heads out to the Coast today or tomorrow to take in all the upcoming Oscar parties." (NYSD)

The Two 007s

"In the movie business, conventional wisdom has it that to succeed at the box office a film must include profanity, obscenity, blood, gore, blasphemy, and, of course, lots of sex. There’s only one little problem with this theory. Empirical data illustrates that the opposite is true. Clean, wholesome family affairs generally do much better at the till. Yet motiveless violence and crimes committed at random continue to be the order of the day. The awful Quentin Tarantino leads the pack among the talentless directors now forming our culture. His dialogue is mostly mindless, he makes no distinction between right and wrong, and most of his characters wallow in violence and brutality. His point is slaughter for slaughter’s sake, and in slow motion to boot, in case we missed any of the gore.
The pattern of honoring ugliness, violence, and brutality in films is a recent phenomenon. The message seems to be that portrayals of cruelty and dementia deserve more serious consideration and automatic respect than any attempts to convey nobility or goodness. In the past thirty years the entertainment industry’s most influential leaders have demonstrated a powerful preference for the perverse. Even the stars have followed this pattern. During the golden era of Hollywood—the 1930s to the 1960s—stars were different from you and me. They looked, talked, and lived better, and had replaced the millionaire robber barons as the dream figures in the popular imagination. Now they look as grubby as the characters they portray on the screen—or better yet, like homeless people. They talk like thugs and act like drug dealers, menacing fans and waiters alike. Most are incapable of stringing a sentence together without the word 'like' repeated ad nauseam. Which brings me to the point of my story. I mostly live in Gstaad, Switzerland, an alpine village that turns ugly only during Christmas and the month of February. The rest of the time the extremely rich people who own chalets here are away screwing their fellow man elsewhere. Two men—both of whom I met and became friends with in Gstaad—have been knighted by the Queen. Both played 007 and both are gentlemen of the old school: Sir Sean Connery and Sir Roger Moore, the latter being a friend of long standing." (Taki)

"This past Monday night, Ward and Nico Landrigan of Verdura hosted a cocktail reception and a lively discussion of “Memos: The Vogue Years” about Diana Vreeland with the book’s editor (and the subject’s grandson) Alexander Vreeland, moderated by New York Magazine Design Editor Wendy Goodman. Memos: The Vogue Years, published by Rizzoli New York, is an amazing compilation of more than 250 pieces of Mrs. Vreeland’s personal correspondence, selected by her grandson.  Mr. Vreeland was on hand to sign books for those in attendance.
Sicilian Duke Fulco di Verdura began his extraordinary career in Paris as jewelry designer for Coco Chanel for whom he first designed his signature Maltese Cross brooches and cuffs. With a Hollywood connection through his friend and client Diana Vreeland, Verdura designed colorful jewels for stars of the era including Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich. Fulco di Verdura and Diana Vreeland enjoyed a lifelong friendship and years of collaboration.
" (NYSD)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

France 24: Heroin in Tanzania

It would appear that Vermont is not the strangest place that heroin has taken ahold ...

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

"The uprising in Kiev has apparently reached its conclusion. President Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition reached an agreement, negotiated by the Polish, German and French foreign ministers. The parliament is now effectively in charge, deciding who will be ministers and when elections will be held, whether to dismiss judges and so on. It isn't clear whether the parliament can fire the sitting president without impeachment and trial, but all of this is now moot. What is interesting is that the Polish, French and German foreign ministers negotiated an outcome that, for practical purposes, ignored the Constitution of Ukraine. It sets an interesting precedent. But for Ukraine, the constitution didn't have the patina of tradition that a true constitution requires, and few will miss Yanukovich. The question now is whether all of this makes any real difference in Ukraine or the world. There is a new temporary leadership, although it is still factionalized and the leaders of the factions have not fully emerged. The effect of hostile gunfire will forge unity in Kiev for a while, but in due course, ideology, ambition and animosity will re-emerge. That will make governing Ukraine as difficult as in the past, particularly because the differences among the neo-Nazis, the liberals and groups in between -- all of which manned the barricades -- are profound. A government of national unity will be difficult to form.Another issue is what will happen the next time crowds storm government buildings. The precedent has been set -- or rather, it was set during the 2004 Orange Revolution -- that governments and regimes can be changed by a legalistic sleight of hand. At some point a large crowd will gather and occupy buildings. If the government opens fire, it is run by monsters. I don't mean that ironically; I mean it literally. But if the government allows itself to be paralyzed by demonstrators, then how can it carry out its constitutional responsibilities? I don't mean that ironically either. The Ukrainian Constitution, new or old, is meaningless because Ukrainians will not endure the pain of following it -- and because foreign powers will pressure them to deviate from constitutional democracy in order to create a new one. There should be no mistake. The Yanukovich government was rotten to the core, and he will not be missed. But most governments of Ukraine will be rotten to the core, partly because there is no tradition of respect for the law and because of the way property was privatized. How could there be a tradition of law in a country that was reduced to a province of another state and that numbered among its rulers Josef Stalin? Privatization, following the fall of the Soviet Union, occurred suddenly with vague rules that gave the advantage to the fast and ruthless. These people now own Ukraine, and however much the crowd despises them, it can't unseat them. The oligarchs, as rich people in the former Soviet Union are called, are free; they can eliminate their critics or bribe them into silence. The only thing that is more powerful than money is a gun. But guns cost money and lives. The idea that what will follow the Ukrainian revolution will be the birth of a liberal democracy reminds me of the Arab Spring. In the West, there is a tradition of seeing a passionate crowd massed in a square as the voice of the people. Reporters interview demonstrators and hear that they want an end to a corrupt and evil regime and subliminally recall the storming of the Bastille, the founding myth of the revolutionary tradition. A large crowd and a building anger at government evil points to the millennium. " (STRATFOR)

"Across the dim expanse of the Musso and Frank Grill, a landmark Hollywood steakhouse frequented by Fitzgerald, Bukowski, Garbo, Clooney, and Pitt, the blogger Tom O’Neil waves from a red leather booth. 'I brought show and tell!' he says in a voice of fine gravel. Standing by the bread basket are a Golden Globe inscribed with the typo HOLLYWOOD ­FOREING PRESS (Ben-Hur, 1959) and a wobbly, half-blackened Oscar (Best Set Decoration, Anna and the King of Siam, 1946). O’Neil, who owns the 14-year-old awards-prediction site Gold Derby, looks like a caricature you’d find on the wall at the Palm: laugh lines, swept-back hair, pug nose, impish squint. 'What I love about it,' he says, gesturing to his Oscar, 'is that Hollywood is fighting over a merely gold-plated statuette that tarnishes easily. Is it meant to be ironic?' Note that Oscar is plunging a sword into a reel of film. 'Is it just to cover up his genitalia,' or is he literally skewering the industry? 'Hi, honey,' yells Sasha Stone, approaching our booth. 'White man’s burden, Lloyd, white man’s burden. That’s a quote from The Shining,' she explains—a reference to the ghostly grandeur of Musso and Frank at 4:30 p.m. She has long, feathery hair, a gray blazer, and a wry smile. 'Tom and I are like family.' 'We cling to each other,” says O’Neil, 'like orphans in the storm.' Stone, who founded in 1999 (it became Awards Daily after the Academy sued), is Eve to O’Neil’s Adam in a strange new world that barely existed ten years ago. Today there are at least a dozen 'Oscar bloggers,' writers who make a living gaming out the prospects of awards contenders. Some, like Stone, own their blogs and personally solicit voter-targeted 'For Your Consideration' ads for the same movies they evaluate." (VF)

"A friend's birthday is coming up, and as her mother was one of Frank Sinatra's best friends, I thought to give her some Sinatra books she isn't likely to have seen. I found two. One is 'The Sinatra Treasures: Intimate Photos, Mementos, and Music from the Sinatra Family Collection,' and it's exactly that — four pounds of beautifully packaged memorabilia ... The second book is 'Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra,"' written by George Jacobs, Sinatra's live-in valet from 1953 to 1968, with veteran LA journalist William Stadiem ... Which would you rather read about?  Thought so. But be warned. You want dish, you're gonna get it. So what about Mia Farrow? Jacobs presents her as a darling 19-year-old hippie — and very much an operator. Ava Gardner, Sinatra's greatest love, was less charitable. Mia, she said, was 'a fag with a pussy' ... Sinatra, we learn, had a weakness for Sweet Irish Rose hookers who looked as if they'd graduated from Catholic school. He was not only a frequent customer but a goodhearted one — he didn't degrade his women, he paid them well and had Jacobs drive them home. (No one, even his girl friends, spent the night. And he had the sheets discarded — not just changed — as soon as his sessions ended. As long as we're on this subject, let me tell you what was widely known in Hollywood: Sinatra was massively endowed, requiring special underwear to keep audiences at his concerts from being distracted." (NYSD)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Though the show has movie-star charisma, it reeks of macho nonsense.

"'True Detective' is five episodes through its eight episode run, and although the show has received excellent reviews, several critics have taken issue with Matthew McConaughey's character, Rust Cohle. (Is there a more manly name imaginable?) Cohle and his partner, superbly played by Woody Harrelson, are investigating a bizarre and gruesome murder, and also facing questioning from two other detectives, 17 years later, for reasons that remain unclear. The show thus largely consists of flashbacks, with occasional scenes of the two protagonists reflecting back on what occurred.
I think the show is the most compelling and striking thing I have seen on television since 'The Wire' and "The Sopranos" stopped airing new episodes. The direction is startlingly good—each episode has a few shots that take the viewer's breath away—and outside of David Fincher's best movies, I can't recall any show or movie so creepily atmospheric and so filled with foreboding. Cary Joji Fukunaga, the director, uses music to build tension with the skill of Christopher Nolan at his best. Last Sunday's episode, meanwhile, ended with a tracking shot that must be seen to be believed. (James Poniewozik has a good rundown here.) My favorite shot, from an earlier episode, is from inside the detectives's car as a group of men run towards them with unclear intentions. It turns out to be for a completely banal reason, but far from being a throw-away, the image sticks in the viewer's mind. But back to the criticisms. The most common one appears to be that McConaughey's character spouts mouthfuls of bad dialogue. Rust is clearly on the edge—he has lost a daughter, and his police career has been filled with hardship—and consequently he is borderline insane, prone to ruminating on existence and faith and, yes, the meaning of life." (TNR)

Shail Upadhya and Karen Bass.

" There was a piece in Saturday’s New York Post by Julia Marsh about two people I’ve been seeing around the town for the last decade or maybe two but never knew. I never met either individual. I would see them at parties, at events, openings, at the opera. We’d probably nodded hello to one another in acknowledgement but there was otherwise never a word between us, let alone a conversation, that would have led to some kind of acquaintanceship. It’s not unusual in this great city to frequently see people you never quite meet, not unlike a familiar face in your neighborhood, a neighbor, you’ve seen forever but never talked to. One of the two is someone I’ve written about HERE. She is the Baroness W. Langer von Langendorff, who has been a fixture in the tonier environs of Manhattan for many a day, long before I ever stepped on the terra firma with my byline. I’ve never seen her in the light of day although she lights up the night with her flaming tresses and her baubles – always tastefully displayed – and reminding one of a real life diva. The baroness’ fashion choices reflect another age and another era when women of fashion and (independent) means wore a lot of that stuff all the time ...The other character in this unfolding drama, according to the Post, is Shail Upadhya. Mr. Upadhya was also a man whose presence was immediately noticeable in any crowd. He dressed for all occasions in his own style. He loved colorful suits that often looked like he’d had them made up strictly for himself. I’d see him everywhere. He didn’t seem to be socializing so much as standing about and around. I’d wonder what the pleasure of the company was for him. I often concluded he liked dressing up for parties and milling about. To each his own; it is New York after all.From the Post article, I learned that he was a longtime companion of a real estate broker named Karen Bass. He had been her boyfriend for 30 years.  Ms. Bass died two years ago, and she left her friend a small fortune of several millions in real estate. According to the Post, she stated in her will: 'My dearest Shail…I have always loved you and I will watch over you always.' Evidently Mr. Upadhya took his friend’s death very badly. Friends said that his health went downhill after that and this past January, he died at age 79. I should add that Mr. Upadhya was a very youthful looking 79. He was a slender man, not big, small but wiry and moved around energetically. He had been a disarmament expert at the United Nations. He then began a career as a 'fashion designer.'" (NYPost)

"Saturday’s Page 3 dealt with the late dear gentle UN official cum designer Shail Upadhya, my friend since I visited his native Nepal in 1961. The Post alleges he was bilked by 'evil . . . scheming . . . scary' Baroness von Langendorff. I know this beefy heifer who shows at every NYC event swathed in emeralds. Always emeralds. In the loo, she’d squat in emeralds.What she did or didn’t, I don’t know. I do know where the feds or fuzz can find her now. In a Palm Beach suite with her current sheik on a reinforced bed at the Colony Hotel. She swans by the pool in emeralds." (Cindy Adams)

"'Do you think women feel humiliated by the act of penetration?'  ~ This was all long ago in NYC. My friend Jill called to say her Boss wanted to interview me for his ‘book’. 'No way!' I said. I already knew about this book as Jill had been whining about it for months.  'Please!' Jill mewled and whined until I buckled. Unenthusiastically I dragged off to a glass tower overlooking the Hudson, to a spare affair on a high floor in dark leather and chrome. In an armchair by the window reclined a lanky aging fop in business attire, with a foulard of canary silk to compliment his canary socks. I disliked him on sight. The Boss pointed to the empty seat across from him as he leaned languidly forward and fingered a small device on the glass table dividing us. 'I’m going to tape our interview,' he said, by way of introduction, and he thumbed a red button, pressing until it hummed. The interview began with banal questions, mere prelude. After a few minutes of inanities the Boss presented his frightful question, 'Do you think women feel humiliated by the act of penetration?' I pursed my mouth. I was instantly enraged. I felt certain this was ‘off topic’ on a sinister level. And it sunk in this ‘book’ was strictly a vanity project, the purpose of which was a means for him to meet whomever he liked. A distinct glitter sparkled in his night dark eyes, like perhaps he was excited to get at the information. 'Am I embarrassing you?' he said, inappropriately coy. I pictured smacking the contempt from his face, knocking him and his hubris to the Persian carpeted floor. To mask my fury I watched the little machine on the table, with its tiny tape rolling around, capturing nothing.'Embarrassed?' I spat up an involuntary chuckle. I sat straight, at the lip of my chair, and stared into his face and felt a sense of serenity come over me. 'Tell me,' I began, in a steady tone, a smirk already on my face. 'If a girl strapped on a dildo and fucked you up the ass would you feel humiliated?' We stared at each other for a microsecond and then the Boss stood up bellowing, 'Are you insane! Are you crazy!' He grabbed at the recording device and smashed it in the palm of his meaty hands. Bits flew." (Christina Oxenberg)

A view of three of the five volcanoes surrounding Lake Atitlan

"In last week’s installment of Guate-Hollah! we were at the black sand beaches of Monterrico. This week, on the way to Chichicastenanga, I bring you Panajachel, on the shores of Lake Atitlan.
I was skeptical of Panajachel at first as it has long been a hippie hangout – and man are hippies annoying! – but I was quickly won over. I mean, come on – look at that Lake! It’s actually a huge caldera formed millions of years ago and is now surrounded by three active volcanos. The lake has a bunch of villages on its shores but there are no roads connecting them so everyone has to take boats to get anywhere. The Mayan religion is also really active in this area and there are a lot of ruins to check out. and you know me – any chance to play Indiana Jonesette, I’m game! If you ignore the hippies and the smell of patchouli, Panajchel is amazing… there are three different indigenous markets and a ton of cobblestoned streets to wander down. But you have got to go eat (and stay at) the Hotel Posada de Don Rodrigo. Located on a cliff above the lake, the Hotel Don Rodrigo has lawns to relax on, a crazy swimming pool with flumes (!) and a restaurant that makes homemade sausage and the yummiest Chile Relleno I’ve ever had. The only issue with Panajachel (and it’s actually an issue with Guatemala in general) is the Pan American highway, which is crammed full of chicken buses (with names like Juanita, Sally and Esmerelda) and drivers who may or may not be a. drunk, b. blind. c. have inner ear balance issues, d. suffer from insanity or e. all of the above. I was popping Dramamine like Pez and found religion real quick on those drives." (PaulaFroelich)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

SMWNYC: AOL and Twitter Party


This Thursday at AOL's offices at 770 Broadway, AOL and Twitter threw a social media bash. The DJ took requests via social media -- a nice innovation -- and the harder liquors and the good champagne were unlocked only after a certain critical point had been reached on Twitter requests. A clever way to engage a crowd or an even cleverer way to keep the supply lasting among a thirsty crowd -- we will never know.

There was some dancing, which tells me that techies aren't THAT geekish. Spotted among the revelers: StyleSocietyGuy, writer Evelyn von Gizycki, AOL's Social Media Marketing Manager Laura Carlucci, Jasmine Yook, Matt Yurow, Veronica de Souza, Chelsea Long, Patrice Callender and some dude from Buzzfeed.

Bloomberg: Joe Hyrkin, CEO of ISSUU, the world's largest online magazine aggregator

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

An illustration of Dries Van Noten

"In the fashion world, where power is often expressed in relation to time (the more important you are, the later you can be, or the later your show can start – unless you are Anna Wintour, in which case you demand everyone be prompt to the minute), Van Noten has reached the point where he can make people wait. Yet here is the 55-year-old standing patiently outside the Sir Anthony Van Dijck restaurant in Antwerp, in a blue chalk-striped jacket and navy crew neck over khaki trousers and brown shoes, a black scarf twisted around his neck just so – despite the fact that I arrive 15 minutes early. 'I didn’t want you to get lost,' he shrugs. 'Besides, I was working anyway. I am very nervous.' He is talking about his exhibition, not our interview, but it doesn’t really matter. In his approach to a lunch date, as in his approach to many things, (Dries) Van Noten is an anomaly. He is, for example, the only big fashion name not to do pre-collections, those non-catwalk inter-seasonal lines that now make up the bulk of most brands’ sales: he does four collections a year, two women’s, two men’s, because 'it would be impossible to develop any sort of interesting fabrics if I did more'. He does not sell his collection during the main shows in New York and Paris, but from his showroom in Antwerp, a good two weeks before, and many miles from, the official show circuit. Van Noten is both chief executive and creative director of his eponymous company, one of the few major designers to hold both roles (last October’s announcement that Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative officer, would also take the corporate reins this year was greeted with shock in the industry). He does not advertise, or really play the celebrity/red carpet game, or have much of an ecommerce presence, or engage in any of the marketing strategies that are now considered de rigueur for a fashion brand. He has not even succumbed to the pressures to make himself into a brand – with his short grey hair, perennial jacket and clean-cut mien, Van Noten resembles a banker on casual Friday more than any stereotype of a fashion person. So you might think (or I might think) that the Louvre exhibition is a vindication of such outsider behaviour. Or that our meeting place – a restaurant named after one of the great Flemish master painters – is a subtle hint of the same idea. But if you thought that then you, like I, would be wrong. " (FT)

Swedish monarchs arrive in NY to meet newborn grandchild

"King Carl and Queen Sylvia of Sweden arrived here Friday to visit their new granddaughter, born to Princess Madeleine and banker hubby Christopher O’Neill. We’re told Madeleine and Christopher, who was showing off a tiny footprint on his arm, are 'beyond happy and emotional,' and were visited by the king and queen at New York­Presbyterian Hospital. Madeleine, fourth in line to the throne, and Chris wed in Stockholm on June 8 and live on the Upper East Side." (P6)

"On Saturday, as Ukraine's tumultuous week drew to a close, protesters seized President Viktor Yanukovych's office and took control of Kiev. In a televised statement from the country’s Russian-speaking East (where he fled after signing the new, restored constitution on Friday), Yanukovych called the events a coup and annouced that he would not step down, even as parliament voted to oust him by holding an early election in May. 'Everything that is happening today is, to a greater degree, vandalism and bandits and a coup d'etat,’ he said.From the Associated Press: '[Yanukovych] said decisions made by parliament Friday and Saturday 'are all illegal' and compared the situation to the rise of Nazis in the 1930s. He said he would not sign any of the measures passed by parliament, which include trimming his powers and releasing his jailed arch-rival, ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.' (Tymoshenko, who spent two years behind bars, left a prison hospital on Saturday morning. She gave an interview and was seen boarding a plane to Kiev.) Meanwhile, outside the capital, members of the opposition and some journalists paid a visit to Yanukovych's suburban home, Mezhyhirya." (NYMag)

"Elaine Stritch, the unmitigated queen of Broadway, evoked this Bette Davis saying more than once in her night at the Paley Center in the East 50's. Stritchie was back in town from her 'retirement' in Birmingham, Michigan, to celebrate the kick-off of the coming HBO documentary on her life and times, made by the popular Chiemi Karasawa. It's called 'Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me' and the audience, crammedinto an over-flowing little auditorium (they needed Lincoln Center for the phenomenon that is my longtime friend Elaine) went wild over and over for the film clips — past and present — of their favorite. THE audience boasted at least two of theater's greatest directors, George C. Wolfe and Jack O'Brien, and there may have been more. Hard to tell in the crush but there were also talents galore who all glory in Elaine's fame and longevity. HBO airs this in the spring. To add luster to this enterprise, one of the producers — named Alec Baldwin — was there in person to open things up. (Need I add that Mr. Baldwin is the paparazzi-gossip column's favorite target these days and an actor of note himself. Elaine won an Emmy playing his horrible mother in TV's late lamented '30 Rock.'  Also noteworthy was an appearance in the film of the late James Gandolfini, speaking and showing his amused and sexy appreciation of Elaine. The film also offers Tina Fey, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, Paul Iacono, Cherry Jones, Nathan Lane, Ramona Mallory, Tracy Morgan, John Turturro and the great producer Hal Prince." (NYSD)

Lord Edward Somerset

"'On ne touché pas une femme, meme avec une fleur,' says an old French dictum, one not always adhered to in the land of cheese or anywhere else, for that matter. However hackneyed it may sound—don’t you hate it when a hack declares an interest in order to gain Brownie points for honesty?—I nevertheless will declare one. I’ve been a friend of the Somerset family for about fifty years, starting with the father, David Beaufort, whom I met sailing around the Med back in 1963. He was then David Somerset and is now the Duke of Beaufort, and his four children are all close friends. His second son, Edward Somerset, was recently sentenced to two years in jail for mentally and physically abusing his wife of thirty years. Now, after I went bonkers over Saatchi grabbing his wife by the throat, it might sound a bit hypocritical defending Eddie Somerset, so hear me out first and then make your decision." (Taki)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dream Hotel Cocktail Party: USA TV's Chrisley Knows Best

I got to go to a swishy cocktail party for USA TV's new reality show Chrisley Knows Best, which airs Tuesday, March 11 at 10pm EST.

I am not really a fan of the reality TV genre, but Chrisley Knows Best was a pleasant surprise. As I was introduced to Todd Chrisley, the patriarch, his voice -- genteel and gracious -- struck me. The trailer -- see the above -- is pretty hilarious. And when he is "on," Todd is quite the witty force of Nature, quipping up a storm. But, and this is what is interesting and gets to the heart of why I like this show, Todd is also a loving father and family man. This is sort of new human quality in the reality genre. Take, for example, the Real Housewives franchise in which all involved come off as buffooons incapable of higher emotions. Avarice, rage, greed, gluttony -- all of these lower emotions are on display in the housewives franchise. So why, I asked myself, would USA Network want to get into the reality TV ghetto?

Yes, Todd Chrisley is outspoken. That much of the reality genre is in this series. And he is quite funny. But the humor comes not from a place of malice -- as in, say, Bad Girls Club -- but in the fact that Todd loves his wife and his children. Large personalities thrive on reality TV, and Todd's is ginormous. He clearly loves his wife, Julie, who was also at the cocktail party, and appeared tickled at the whole spectacle. He loves his children so much -- too much? -- that he spies on their internet habits and has the ability to track (and stop) the movements of the family car.

Alicia Quarles, the E! Entertainment New York correspondent, interviewed the family. Todd clearly loves his family more than anything -- the money, the possessions and the lifestyle. That is quite frankly a refreshing change from the usual "Reality" fare. If he has any fault, Todd, a bit of a micromanager, loves his family too much. But, is that a fault?

Katelyn Maziekien, Tonight Show, Sid Lipsey, HLN, Ron Mwangaguhunga, IFC. (image via EastVillageLive)

Also spotted in the crowd: HLN's Sid Lipsey, Nojan Aminosharei, Details Magazine; Emily Spitale, USA Network PR; Larissa Kilough, NBC Universal; Channon Vacca, NBC; Natasha Charles, NBC Universal; Andrea Morabito, New York Post;, Chris McCumber, USA Network; Hillary Smith, SVP Communications USA Network; Lisa Xavier and David Barish

Media-Whore D'oeuvres

"I went down to Michael’s for the Wednesday luncheon media melee. It did not disappoint, filled with media mutts and moguls as well as a healthy mix of bankers, lawyers, writers and such. Joe Armstrong the Mayah of Michael’s was at Table One in the bay hosting three people from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Joe’s a Texan, if you didn’t know, and he knows just about everybody who hails from down thatta way, especially if they’re in media (or politics). The late great Ann Richards was a good friend of his. His guests from Austin were Steve Wilson, Jennifer Tisdale, Alicia Dietrich; and Diane Clehane, Michael’s 'Brenda Starr.' The Austin group are here because of Gone With the Wind, without question one of the greatest American films of the 20th century based on one of the best selling American novels. For a long time, up until the advent of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, no other American film grossed as much. Now it’s pittance in modern day grosses. But it still remains a favorite that people have seen three, four, five times over a lifetime, sitting through the 3 hours always rapt and enchanted by this great film. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the release of the film to American audiences. The publicity machine that David Selznick, its producer, rolled out was a marketing genius’s dream. Margaret Mitchell’s novel is set in Georgia during the Civil War and the Reconstruction. It was published in 1936, and was on the best seller list for two years. Eventually it has sold more than 30 million copies and continues to remain the great read that it was to its first readers. Selznick and his production partner John Hay 'Jock' Whitney acquired the screen rights from Miss Mitchell for $50,000 --  a very pretty penny in those days (when the dollar had the buying power of thirty times that number). Whitney actually put up the money and came to it first through his associate, and Selznick took it from there." (NYSD)

"As the standoff in Independence Square continues in Kiev, the western part of Ukraine has added a more serious element to the country's internal struggle. On Wednesday, several administration buildings were taken over by protesters in the west, including in Khmelnytskyi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Uzhhorod and Ternopil. Meanwhile, demonstrators from an opposition group called People's Rada in Lviv, the largest and most important city in the west, said on Wednesday that they want to declare independence from Ukraine.  Though the declaration may be little more than symbolic, it presents an important new dynamic to the political evolution in Ukraine and also underscores Lviv's traditional significance to the country. Indeed, Lviv's history -- both as a hub for national movements and for its distinction from the eastern part of the country as a truly European city -- has been crucial in the history of Ukraine. But Lviv's own evolution is a complicated one influenced by numerous powers, all of which play a large part in shaping Lviv's opposition to the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and its latest attempt to break free of this rule. Lviv was, from the 16th to the 18th century, part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, when it was known as Lwow. The partition of the commonwealth at the end of the 18th century placed it under the control of Habsburg Austria, and the city was then referred to as Lemberg. Following World War I, it went back to Poland, then the Soviets took over after World War II and renamed it Lvov. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine became an independent state, giving the city its current name of Lviv.This dizzying complexity of political shifts, name changes and accompanying cultural influences is reflected throughout the city and can been seen in several key landmarks in central Lviv. The Lviv Opera House, set in a Baroque and neo-Renaissance style and ornately decorated with Corinthian columns and figures of muses atop a triangular roof, was built by the Austrians. Opposite the opera house is a monument to Adam Mickiewicz, the 19th century poet who wrote in Polish and is equally celebrated in Poland. Nearby is another monument -- this one a large, daunting statue of Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine's foremost literary hero. Shevchenko not only made Ukrainian into a literary language (before his time, it was mainly used by rural peasants), he also was a staunch nationalist, and his poems created a strong sense of national identity in Ukraine where little existed beforehand. It was in Lviv -- not Kiev -- that Ukraine's national movement was strongest, both in its emergence in the late 19th century and during the final years of the Soviet Union that produced Ukrainian independence in 1991. Now it is in Lviv where opposition to Yanukovich -- who hails from the eastern Donbass region, which is politically and culturally at odds with western Ukraine -- is strongest." (STRATFOR)

"No, I haven’t been everywhere… and some places I don’t go to because I’m a conscientious objector (Zimbabwe and Uganda, anyone?)… but I can still dream. And plan. Because dictators, xenophobia, and me being broke wont last forever! Besides – what better way to spend a slow, freezing Saturday than to dream about unending travel possibilities? That, and I think there’s something really good about writing down your dreams. It makes them come true faster. I swear.  And so, I present to you my dream list of places to go (and why). 1. Mongolia (above): there is just something so poetically lonely in this landscape… It sounds lame to say, but it calls to me. And I’ve always wanted to see the famous wild horse races…2. The Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo: Ok, fine – Tokyo too. And Kyoto. But, as I’ve mentioned before, I cant scuba dive… and I have a thing for fish markets. And this one is supposed to be the best in the world. Besides, who doesn’t love Toro right out of the ocean at 3 am?" (Paula Froelich)

Falcones holding up-to-$250K per couple fund-raiser

"Phil and Lisa Maria Falcone have dealt with some difficult times recently, but the hedge-fund billionaire and his wife will host a dinner at their home May 19 for a worthy cause, the Youth Anxiety Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Tickets per couple range from an amazing $50,000 up to $250,000, but that could put attendees in the company of a founding committee that includes Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, Tommy Hilfiger and Oscar de la Renta." (P6)

"Almost every actor craves a role in one of Wes Anderson’s movies but working for the Texan auteur is no picnic according to the cast of The Grand Budapest Hotel who spilled the secrets of Hollywood’s most uncompromising “general” to The Daily Beast. Whimsical and playful by the time they reach the big screen, Anderson’s projects are created in a surprisingly autocratic style. The actors who star in his latest, possibly greatest, film revealed the truth about working for the filmmaker at the Berlin film festival in Germany. Admiration and affection are never in doubt but the cast said it’s the tenacious approach that makes Anderson unique. 'He’s so specific in what he sees and what he wants that you better give it to him,' said Willem Dafoe. 'He’s tough.' Giving Anderson what he wants isn’t easy, though. 'He does a lot of takes,' said Jeff Goldblum. Every prop, every actor’s mark must be precise. There is no improvising, no tinkering with the script and very little room for actors to suggest improvements. Saoirse Ronan, who plays Agatha the female lead, said she had never seen anything like it. 'There was one shot… It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,' she said. 'It took 35 takes or something. We just did it over, and over, and over, and over again.'Like much of his earlier work, The Grand Budapest Hotel is visually stunning with each shot framed like a perfectly conceived photograph." (TheDailyBeast)

"While it’s possible that 2014 will be a wave year, it’s also possible that it will feature a milder climate. In recent history, those have been years where there have been some harder-to-categorize, Gilligan-like gubernatorial outcomes. For instance, 1998 was a relatively stable election year: There was no net change in the Senate, and Democrats netted four House seats. But two incumbent Republican governors lost:  David Beasley of South Carolina and Fob James of Alabama. Their losses can be explained, like Gilligan’s, by local considerations. Despite a strong Palmetto State economy, Beasley lost in part by picking the wrong enemies: Video gambling machine interests spent heavily to defeat him after he tried to ban the games, and he proposed removing the Confederate flag from the Statehouse. James, meanwhile, had a brutal primary that exhausted his campaign coffers, and he was on the wrong side of a popular issue pushed by then-Lt. Gov. Don Siegelman (D), a lottery to provide college scholarships. Lou Jacobson, an astute observer of statehouse politics and a contributor to Governing magazine, also ascribed poor campaign skills as a partial explanation of James’ defeat. (For more, check out Jacobson’s excellent look at why incumbent governors have lost elections in recent years.) The Democrats who replaced Beasley and James — Jim Hodges (SC) and Siegelman (AL) — ended up losing in 2002, a better Republican year nationally than 1998.(Siegelman, now incarcerated in a controversial case, was also dogged by corruption allegations.)President George H.W. Bush’s (R) lone midterm, 1990, was also a rather sleepy, waveless year at the national level. Yet six incumbent governors lost in the general election that year, the most in any year since 1966. Perhaps a lack of drama in federal elections that year focused voters’ minds on state politics, and in many cases the voters didn’t like the status quo. The incumbent losers’ list that year was bipartisan: Bob Martinez (R-FL), Mike Hayden (R-KS), James Blanchard (D-MI), Rudy Perpich (D-MN), Kay Orr (R-NE) and Edward DiPrete (R-RI). Observers at the time suggested abortion played a big role in the defeats of the very pro-life Martinez and the very pro-choice Blanchard. Ethical issues plagued DiPrete, who was crushed by almost 50 points and later served jail time for bribery and extortion. Controversy ranging from tax changes to a proposal to store nuclear waste in the Cornhusker State contributed to Orr’s very narrow loss to future Sen. Ben Nelson (D); so too, potentially, did an Election Day snowstorm that might have hurt Republican turnout. Orr was the fourth straight Nebraska Republican gubernatorial incumbent to lose reelection, although later Republican governors Mike Johanns and Dave Heineman easily won second terms.This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all recent incumbent gubernatorial defeats. Rather, it’s just to point out that local factors are critical, and can lead to some results that the national political mood, or a state’s federal partisan habits, wouldn’t necessarily suggest." (CenterforPolitics)

"Set aside for a moment everything you’ve read about the $45 billion bid Comcast made for Time Warner Cable last week. Blank from your mind Paul Krugman‘s prediction that the deal will result in a Comcast monopoly. Pretend you didn’t read the New York Times piece about the acquisition presaging further consolidation in the cable market, with Charter Communications picking off Cox Communications. Thump yourself with a neuralyzer, if you can, and remove from your memory the protest against the transaction by Michael Copps, former Federal Communications Commission commissioner. Finally, purge from your bile ducts the seething hatred you hold for Comcast and Time Warner Cable, those hurtful memories of rising bills, rotten service, and phone-tree purgatory and allow me to persuade you that we’re having the wrong telecom argument when we quarrel about mergers and acquisitions. Instead of blocking mergers or beating concessions out of the telecom giants, let’s give them the treatment they really fear: Policies that encourage the entry of competitors, which are the bane of every monopolist. If you hate your cable television company — to simplify a half-century of history — blame it on the government. In the founding days of the industry, local municipalities mistakenly insisted that cable TV was a “natural monopoly” that must be regulated like telephone service. In nearly every case, the selection of a cable operator was a political one, with the most flattering supplicant winning the right from city councils to string wire on utility poles and cross right-of-ways to sell cable service. The municipalities collected franchise fees from the cable companies, shook them down for sweeteners like municipal channels and public access studios, regulated their rates, and required the operators to wire all if not most of their jurisdiction.
Of course, cable TV wasn’t a natural monopoly but a government-made one." (Jack Shaeffer)