What Is She Thinking?
Chaim Amalek writes: "Who knows what she thinks? The truth is that women are hormonally driven creatures whose incapacity for reason was well understood by the creators of the Talmud, who did not count the testimony of a woman as being equal to that of a man. But yes, clearly she feels ...... "irritated" by you."
Chaim Amalek Meets Miss Journalist - Is Anti-Amalekism The New McCarthyism?
Chaim Amalek writes: Dear Miss Journalist:
Luke Ford has written me to ask that I make myself available to you for an article that you are preparing on his life and struggles within the worlds of Hollywood, pornography, and Judaism. While I admit to having had a small measure of influence over his moral and political development in recent years (it was I who urged him to leave pornography), Luke is his own man, and my views cannot be taken as his (notwithstanding the opinions of others to the contrary). We lead separate lives. Still, I am always willing to help out a Jew struggling to make it in the world of media, so feel free to ask your questions.
Chaim Amalek, Liberal Upper West Side Jew
Journalist writes: Dear Chaim: Thanks for your offer of help. Some have characterized you as a bitter cynic prone to anti-semitic rants. Luke himself has said that some of your more extreme statements about Jews express his ugliest innermost thoughts and ideas -- that you function, in some sense, as the id that his superego cannot always successfully tamp down. What is your response to this?
Chaim replies: Dear Miss Journalist:
I do not believe in the division of the mind into id, ego, and superego. These concepts were the invention of an apostate jew of a hundred years back with little or no understanding of basic neuroanatomy or cognitive science. Hence I do not accept that I serve any of these functions for another.
Which brings me to your (and the kehilla's) accusations of antisemitism, which I take it is the crux of his problems in winning acceptance in the Jewish world. You assert, without any evidence, that I am guilty of some measure of this. An accusation of conduct as extreme as antisemitic ranting should be made with specificity, so please be specific. Just what is it that I have said that you would characterize as an antisemitic rant? Who makes this accusation against me? Is it based on reason, or a reflexive and unthinking reaction to my name? Tell me, and I will respond in full.
PS Where do you stand on the issue of "diversity" (AKA "multiculturalism") - can a nation ever have too much of it, quantitatively speaking? Is it, like clean air or good money, something one can never have too much of? Do you treasure it endlessly, as you must profess to, if you are to continue your work as a journalist?
Miss Journalist replies: You are correct that Luke Ford's current problems with the shul appear to stem with anti-semitic writings that appear on his site. Luke has said about you that "'Chaim Amalek' is but an expression of my forbidden thoughts that I am too frightened to publish under the moniker 'Luke Ford.'" Indeed, your name suggests as much, does it not? My understanding is that in the Bible, the Amalekites were anti-semites, a tribe that the Jews were instructed to abhor and destroy. The name Amalek is synonmous with evil incarnate and yet it is also the pseudonym you have chosen for yourself. Surely that choice is a purposeful one . . . .
Chaim replies: Dear Miss Journalist: Thus far the only argument you seem to have with me is that you do not like my name. Surely you can do better than that?
Miss Journalist replies: My legal acumen tells me that I am dealing with a reluctant witness. Too bad -- I had you figured for a straight shooter.
Chaim replies: Dear Miss Journalist:
In your first email to me, you began this correspondence by accusing me of antisemitic rants. When asked to buttress this very serious accusation with some facts, you refused - again and again (calling me names does not count). This is McCarthyism in its pure sense. ("Mr. Amalek, we take it as a given for which no further evidence need be provided that you are an antisemite. Tell us how this has affected Mr. Ford's thinking so that we can better understand our condemnation of him....")
I like to think that I am indeed a straight-shooter, but only with those who are honest in return and willing to make the effort that clear thought requires. You seem not to be there yet. Write back when you are prepared to think and write with greater rigor, and then maybe we can have an interesting discussion.
Chaim writes Luke: "Beware. This journalist person is lazy and sneaky. And she is going to knife you in the back."
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, formerly with the Chabad Hasidic sect of Orthodox Judaism, interviews on Beliefnet.com Playboy's Miss October, Jewess Lindsey Vuolo.
Khunrum writes: A couple of thoughts. The Rabbi seems to be a bit rough on Miss Jewess Playmate. The poor girl is obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed. Were she, I suggest she counter with a comment that a man of the yarmulke should not be so closely associated with (alleged) Kiddie Kornholer Michael Jackson. That should shut the blowhard up for a few minutes.
Putative Marc writes: The rabbi and michael apparently had a falling out. If luke runs into that aussie jewess who ghost-writes all shmuley's stuff maybe he can get the real lowdown. I have a hunch she might've actually written the rabbi's interview questions as well. But assuming the exchange is a true transcript and he was putting on the gentle rabbi voice, there's no reason she need to have paid him any more attention than if he was discussing this week's torah portion, or anything else that rabbis talk about that put people in a sleep-like state, listening politely.
Asia Carrera Kvells Over Her Mention In Reuters
Asia Carrera writes on AsiaCarrera.com: "I've been FLOODED with traffic from this Reuters' news writeup on my Vegas appearance - I FREAKED when I checked my stock portfolio on E*Trade last night, and at the bottom of the page under "related news articles" was a story about ME!! (I own AMD stock, so my news article came up under E*Trade's 'related news' because I happened to mention my AMD Athlon computers in the story - how cool is that??) I never thought I'd see the day when a pornstar's words would be quoted on stock-trading and business sites everywhere! Wow!! Don't pinch me, 'cause if it's a dream, I don't wanna wake up!!"
Fred writes: "I get the impression that she intensely desires validation and affirmation of the public persona she seeks to create for herself. I think the intensity of her reaction is excessive. I don't know if I ever mentioned this, but for a while I was a member of Mensa. My assessment of my fellow Mensans was this: the dregs of the top 2%."
Luke Gets Mail
Aaron writes from Israel: Dear Luke, Judaism is what you make it -- you can try to confirm to other people's conventions or you can try to live up to the Shulchan Aroch without all the excess social baggage - for example, black, black, and more black . . . Wearing the black garb and fur hat's of 17th Polish gentry (Chassidic gard today) does not make anyone more holy -- working on oneself does. If you choose to go your own way, you can expect social flack -- but that's true of every similar situation where someone bucks the herd instinct in man. Did you ever try a Reb Shlomo Minyan?
I find the fact that you reviewed the porn industry hilarious -- and you could pray in my minyan in Jerusalem if you wanted too -- I promise not to tell the rabbi or Sephardic working class congregation what work you do (or once did). "Shtuping" is a Jewish national pastime, but it usually involves Shikshes and Shageses as partners. What we are lacking is a Jewish erotic sense of humor. Too many psychologists and shrinks and not enough righteous whores. When are we going to stop copying the Goyim and say that Jewish is beautiful? Yeh, give me those hot steamy dark Jewesses with overtly semitic features (a cute ass helps, too) and spare me those skinny, pale & bleached out Shikes. Blair Segal for Miss Jewish America! Black girls are alright, too (Wait, I'm saved! We have the Ethiopians!).
Did you know that there is a paragraph in the Shulchan Aroch that permits a man to jack off, if he feels that he can not hold out, rather than to commit a sin by having sex with an off-limits or off-time (her period) woman. This is not, mind you, a Mitzva, just a rather realistic view of the average man's limitations.
Stop trying to be a saint and learn to enjoy Judaism. Make a l'Chaim with Chabad once in a while! Dance with Breslav! Leave sainthood for the black hats of Israel who keep the Ukrainian working girls here in cigarettes and mini-skirts through their undying patronage (Jewish worship of the blond goyishe sex goddess again). Knowing how closed the orthodox Jewish world can be, and regardless of how much I enjoyed your old site (dreadful sinner that I am), you probably are better off getting into a more respectable line of work, such as an undertaker. Also, it wouldn't hurt to mellow out for a while in northern California with a few hits of acid, until your true calling is revealed in a flash of DNA synapses collapsing insight. Come to think of it, why do you stay in L.A.?
Remember that more Amerikans get their jolllies from raw, unadulterated violence, than by watching people making babies, or by making babies themselves. It's the Amerikan way. Just ask the Afgans, or the Serbs, or the Somolis, or the Grenadans, or (how could I forget?!!) the Vietnamese . . . and keep America strong -- buy stock in the oil and defense companies (they are going to make a mint out of this whole mess). . .
By the way, I don't support Bin Laden or radical fundamentalist Islam, but I do support sanity. The way Bush Jr. is handling things is going leave both America and Israel much worse for the wear (not to mention such trifles as the American constitution, civil liberties, and basic human rights). Hail, Big Brother, and long live Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters! Shalom, (the world is a pisser) AARON
Dan Seligman reviews this new book in the Wall Street Journal:
* The New York Times runs a long, admiring article identifying Patrick Chavis, a black doctor in Los Angeles, as evidence that affirmative action in medical schools is working the way it was meant to, by bringing good doctors into minority neighborhoods. Later, after many botched operations and a patient's death, Chavis loses his license. The Times never reports it.
* Matthew Shepard, a homosexual in Wyoming, is brutally attacked by two thugs and left to die, tied to a fence in sub-freezing temperature. The story is, quite properly, a nationwide media sensation. Not long after, a 13-year-old Arkansas boy named Jesse Dirkhising is sadistically raped for hours, then left to die, by two next-door homosexuals. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC ignore the story entirely.
* Paul Teetor, an award-winning reporter at Vermont's Gannett-owned Burlington Free Press, is covering a local forum on racism. A young white woman tries to speak and is told by the moderator, a mayoral aide, that only "people of color" are allowed to speak. Mr. Teetor agrees with the woman that this is "reverse racism" and says so in his next-day news story. The mayoral aide says he will organize a march on the Free Press if Mr. Teetor isn't instantly fired. He is indeed fired, in a 90-second meeting at which he has no chance to defend himself. In the ensuing wrongful discharge suit, it emerges that the editor who fired him is under pressure from Gannett to improve his "mainstreaming" scores. That term refers to a program where editors are supposed to meet a variety of racial targets in hiring, in the use of sources and in positive news coverage. (After a few days of testimony, Gannett caves in and settles the suit.)
* In a major New York Times series on immigration, readers are told that assimilation -- the traditional melting-pot model -- is "seen as a dated, even racist concept." The Times has denounced proposals for reducing immigration totals as "rude inhospitality" and "racist or at least xenophobic."
As these examples suggest, William McGowan is especially tough on the New York Times (a point he concedes) in "Coloring the News" (Encounter, 278 pages, $25.95), his scathing report on media political correctness and its accompanying distortions of reality. But his abundant examples, drawn from many different directions, will persuade most readers -- possibly even some dug-in correctniks -- that something has gone seriously wrong in our country's newsrooms, now massively committed to the ideology of "diversity."
Fred writes: I strongly oppose affirmative action in college/university settings for the following reasons:
1. In any college, if you admit people who are 200 SAT points below the mean, you create a class of people who are at an extreme disadvantage. In some colleges, most affirmative action people drop out or fail. If you have SATs of 1200, you should be at a college surrounded by people who have SATs of 1200, not people who have SATs of 1400.
2. It creates pressure on the part of faculties to "dumb down" curricula to accommodate the affirmative action students. In objective fields, like science, math and engineering, affirmative action students are driven out and pushed into fields like sociology or the humanities, where it is easy to pass mediocre students.
3. The true worth of a Harvard degree is this: the admissions process is what weeds out the mediocre--not the courses and education itself. An affirmative action Harvard grad is simply not equal to a merit-based Harvard grad. Everyone knows this and reacts to the degree accordingly.
4. In the words of Harry Edwards, I would not go to an affirmative action dentist. (I certainly would not go near an affirmative action urologist or brain surgeon.)
5. Affirmative action people develop a siege mentality. They are under enormous pressure. When the propriety of their affirmative action privileges are questioned, they respond with fear, because they themselves question whether they can really make it in their new environment. In short, they have strong doubts about whether they can make it.
Phillip Roth vs Cynthia Ozick
Undoubtedly, Phillip Roth, the secular Jew, is the greater writer. And undoubtedly Cynthia Ozick, the Orthodox Jew, is a happier person. And while Roth produces superior literature, Ozick's writing produces greater happiness for the reader. Roth is poison to the soul. And I love Roth, but like John Updike and most of the great secular novelists, he is fundamentally depressing. The religious outlook, by contrast, believes in redemption (personal, communal and universal).
Yet, if Roth were Orthodox, he'd be an inferior writer. We'd be denied his great ouevre. Almost all the great Jewish writers are non-Orthodox. Why does Orthodoxy militate against artistic greatness?
* Lack of freedom.
What brought on my reflections? Reading this review of Roth in the New York Review of Books which contains this observation: "...Roth and Cynthia Ozick are done with their career-long cabalistic smackdown."
I remember hearing an Orthodox rabbi lament that Jewish comic Jackie Mason, an ordained Orthodox rabbi, left religious observance to be a comic. The rabbi lamented that Mason didn't use his comic abilities to bring Jews to Yiddishkeit (Torah observance). Yet if Mason remained in the religious fold, he would not have been afforded the room to be as funny. Most of his routine would've been ruled out of bounds.
Judaism is fundamentally a serious rigorous unfunny religion. If Woody Allen were Orthodox, he would not be the filmmaker and comic he is. Yet I'm sure he'd also be a finer person.
I realize that my destiny is to be fundamentally ill at ease with whatever society I choose. That way I must stay at home alone a lot and write. That's how God or nature programmed me. Same with Ernest Hemingway and Evelyn Waugh and Leo Tolstoy... I'm sure you see the resemblance.
Blacklisted Journalists - Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez And Her Amazing Rants
Khunrum writes: "I have been trading E mail with Al Aronowitz who has a website www.TheBlacklistedJournalist.com. Bitter is not the word for the way this poor guy feels. He was very big about thirty years ago. A music writer with The New York Post (remember reading him) and other publications. He hung with the giants of the day The Beatles, Dylan, Miles Davis every big name in the biz. Then crash and burn. Now he claims he is ignored by his contemporaries (true) and blacklisted (Not true I believe). Creative endeavors can take a lot out of a person I'd say."
Luke says: Here's the interesting case of journalist Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez who claims her hormones made her viciously lash out at her colleagues.
I don't get it. Women whine and scream to be treated just like men. Then when they're held accountable for loony behavior, they cry that their hormones made them do it. If women's hormones make them do loony things, then women should be discriminated against for certain jobs that require objectivity and self control.
Goddess writes: I hate to say this, but I actually *agree* with you on this point, Lukey baby. It's kinda like when people do incredibly hurtful things to others, then say "oh, sorry, i can't be held accountable...I'm emotionally retarded...no social skills whatsoever...."
Chaim Amalek writes: "HOLY SHIT! What an epic and amazing personal rant! I would hire her JUST to hear her rant. (Luke, this is your chance to provide her with some much needed exposure AND boost your web site. Offer her a job as House Hispanic.) And her excuses - face it fellas, women have the best excuses for everything. When was the last time a man could blame a screw-up at work on hormones?"
Mary writes: "I do know from experience that it's entirely possible to endure months of throwing up and a difficult labor and post-partum hormones and calls from editors for rewrites three days after you're home from the hospital and still NOT write wacky, 3400-word resignation letters. What I wonder is where she got the energy. Still, poor Alisa. Yeeesh."
Nice Jewish Girl writes: Luke, you gotta be kidding! You mean Alicia hyphenated latin name went on welfare..*our* taxpayer dollars (she said she's medicare)....LOL. Why am I not surprised! Does anyone know how many Latins illegal and legal are taking our taxpayer dollars, what is the percentage?
As Ann Coulter says "If we're so cruel to minorities, why do they keep coming here?"
My answer, because they want our welfare, and to *take* from our tax dollars. They're lazy.
Check out Jim Romenesko's page. He first posted a link to this letter at the top of his page, then pulled it. I quote from Jim's earlier page:
"I got sick and screwed up -- and I'm sorry"
By Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
You've got me. I'm pinned, face to the mat, arm twisted up behind me, tight to the point of cracking. Your sharp knee is buried in my ribs, your angry onion breath suffocating me. And my heart? That's it, right there, Jell-O on the floor. You want to step on it? Get in line.
Two years ago I was a reporter at the Los Angeles Times, courted by the Washington Post, Miami Herald and People Magazine, and formerly on staff at the Boston Globe. Now my very name strikes terror in the souls of editors. Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez.
Once an award-winning reporter with, in the words of Matt Storin, a great future, I am now irresistibly destructible. Rumored to be off my rocker, difficult, pugilistic, ungrateful. Dangerous. Volatile. Untouchable.
Did I invent people and places, like Patricia Smith? Did I steal words from George Carlin, like Mike Barnicle? Did I write a column of lies as if they were the truth, like Liz Balmaseda? Did I invent a crackhead and win Pulitzer, like Janet Cook? No, no, no, no. So what did I do? I threw up a lot and quit my job.
Let me give you a little history, though apparently many of you won't need it. A year ago I quit my job at the Los Angeles Times. I wrote a long, arrogant, mildly obnoxious resignation letter that I now regret and despise. I gave it to four people. One of those four, I don't know who, sent it via e-mail to some other people. They did the same, and so on and so on. Eventually, bloodied bits and pieces of it landed on the computer of Mike Wilson at the St. Petersburg Times. He published unrecognizable scraps of it, without my permission and out of context. He never tried to contact me to see if I had even written it. He incorrectly said I was a "pop music critic" at the Times in his introduction to the piece, and incorrectly said I earned $80,000 a year. Where he got this information I do not know, but it's wrong. That should tell you how reliable the piece was. Nonetheless, it initiated the darkest chapter in my life.
Let me now give you the history no one knows, which I didn't want anyone to know because I mostly just wanted to crawl in a hole and die with a tub of ice cream, but which now I think people ought to know because the letter has apparently caused me to be blacklisted in the journalism world.
At the time I wrote the infamous letter I was several months pregnant and on extended sick leave due to a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum. This is a fancy way of saying I puked up everything I ate for months and months and had essentially no will to live. While this sounds quaint and cute to those who have never been there, it is not. Hyperemesis is not your average "morning sickness." It's a severe, debilitating illness most often compared to the feelings associated with deep chemotherapy treatments, and one that essentially ruined my life.
With hyperemesis, I had to be hospitalized for fluids. I couldn't work. I was ten days without food at the time I wrote the letter, frenzied, sweaty and crazy-eyed, wearing the same moldy nightgown for a week, smelly and sad and psycho in the loft of my condo, paranoid, the world spinning as it only does for people with frat-boy alcohol poisoning or, well, hyperemesis gravidarum.
I never wanted to talk about this, especially in front of all of you, because in our industry if there is anything worse than being an arrogant little snot who writes a stupid resignation letter at one of the top newspapers on earth it is being a whiny little woman who blames hormones for her behavior and derails her career to have a baby. But it's true, and I want to be judged fairly, if possible, in the future, if I have one in this business - and I hope I do.
There's more to it. I had just bought my first home, a condo in Orange County, on the second floor of a building. I hadn't bothered to see if the woman downstairs smoked. She did. If she was awake, she was smoking and screaming jokes about "Chinese" on the phone; when she wasn't doing this she was playing "Heart and Soul" on her out-of-tune piano with a drunk friend. To call her a chain smoker would imply she had cut back. Twice I staggered down the stairs, circles under my teary eyes, and begged her to stop. She took a long pull at her Marlboro, eyed me up and down, and replied, "I been smokin' for 25 years. I lost a fiancˇ over it and I ain't about to quit f' yous."
This, of course, did not help. Suddenly day was night, night was day, I was wailing in the loft, begging my magazine editor husband to leave work to come home and feed me peanut butter waffles just so I could hyperemesis them all over the cute little (smoke-filled) bathroom. He eventually quit his job because taking care of the disaster of me was a full-time job at that point. So I ruined his career too. And, right, I wrote the letter. Stupid letter.
In it, I inexplicably took aim at people who had been nothing but kind to me. People whom for two years had been like my family. People like Robert Hilburn who had had nothing but kind words and support for me. Anyone who knows Bob knows only a sick person would be mean to him. He's the sweetest man working in the business, and used to call me "pal." Pal! But me, I was a wild pit bill in the city animal shelter, caged by vomit and hormones and dizzy and ready to kill. I'd say I was foaming at the mouth, but whatever it was at my mouth smelled significantly worse than foam.
In this letter, I took issue with Chicano/Hispanic/Latino/Indian/Mexica/Aztecdancer/Godknowswhat identity politics, a topic that before and after hyperemesis bored me to death; I let petty identity politics, the nuances and tiniest meaningless pockets of semantics and description, lead my urge to purge myself of a career at the Times. So, so stupid.
Media hounds like Catherine Seipp descended upon my stupid, arrogant letter, which, I may have mentioned, was arrogant and stupid, and particularly so out of context, truncated and published in Florida without my permission. Seipp said she was sorry to watch me self-destruct. I responded by insulting her, too. Seipp said I was a good writer and she was surprised by my lack of diplomacy and self-preservation. I vomited all over her. Stupid.
The e-mails came, hundreds of them. Some in support, some wishing I would just be spanked and sent back to wherever women like me used to go 50 years ago. I became larger than life, a symbol of different things for different people. I ceased to be human and became a bonfide journalism pariah.
Cornered, I fought back - like an idiot. I engaged people in insult-fests on Romenesko's site that were neither productive nor kind. My letter was praised and lambasted in every corner of our industry. I watched as I, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez (what a damned memorably byline, God) exploded all over the Web and our insular little journo world like a watermelon at the hands of my old mallet-wielding buddy, Gallagher. Game over, stupid.
A year ago, I cried a lot about this. Agonized. Lay there in my bed, feeling the first stirrings of my son Alexander's little embryonic knees and elbows jabbing at me. Should I tell the world I did this because of a sort of steroidal version of PMS? That, in a fluke of technology, the whole world became privy to something I intended only a handful of supervisors to see? Did I dare try to save myself from being seen as a volatile weirdo by admitting I wasSa hormonal female? Which was worse?
I hoped people would forget the damn letter and I went away to have a baby. I hoped by the time I was no longer pregnant I might be able to humbly start over again.
I had him, the baby. He was so enormous, at nearly 10 pounds and 22 inches tall, that I had to have a C-section. The C-section led to nearly fatal blood clots in my legs. I was hospitalized for that, too, then finally sent home with blood thinning shots I had to give myself in the blubber of my post-baby tummy, and orange pills that made it life-threatening for me to so much as get a cut for six months.
I'm only mentioning these horrors so you will all see how I paid for this extreme medical care: Medicaid. That's right. I fell so low after freaking out that I could not afford health insurance. I became a loser. One month I was a condo owner in Orange County, highly paid, happy, surrounded by kind colleagues. The next I was riding the bus in Albuquerque, the largest city in the poorest state in the union, a city my friend's husband recently and accurately described as a hick town with a thyroid problem. I was shopping at Wal-Mart in the middle of the night, hearing Lynard Skynard on the speakers. I asked myself, what the heck happened? Hyperemesis happened.
Alex is a joy, by the way. I've never known a baby to smile so much. He's happy and beautiful and has a laugh that makes the world stop. I feel great now that I've healed. I will never have a child again, as it might kill me, but the one I have is everything to me. Not that you care, of course, but I just don't want him to see this years from now and feel responsible for mommy's career tanking. It's not your fault, sweetheart. It's mine. All mine.
I bragged in my arrogant, stupid letter that I would write books in the mountains, like some kind of frolicking, literary Julie Andrews. Yuck. That might have been appealing when I was 15, but now it feels like slow death. I miss the newsroom. It gets in your blood like a neighbor's cigarette smoke. It changes you. Once a journalist, there is really very little else you are qualified or happy to do.
I prayed that people (meaning all of you) had forgotten about my little letter. I put together beautiful packages for newspapers like the Denver Post and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Then I waited and stared at the phone and watched as the state took away my Medicaid and my bank balance went to zero. Nothing.
I put together beautiful, strong packages for newspapers like the Albuquerque Journal and the Oregonian, for the Associated Press and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for the Indianapolis Star, Arizona Republic, Miami Herald - anywhere and everywhere. I got a couple of calls back, mostly from recruiters and editors wanting to know why I thought I could possibly be qualified to work in a newsroom after publishing that letter.
I tried to explain it. I hadn't published it. I wrote it, regrettably, for only four people, and wished I hadn't even done that. It was changed, as messages are, in a giant game of Internet "telephone." I had apologized to those people I'd hurt, begged, literally begged, forgiveness, and, in most cases, got it. I wasn't a bad person, just an unlucky woman who got really sick and stupid. Nothing.
The last thing I wanted after all this was to put more personal babble out there for all of you, especially those of you who are hateful to the core, to read and revel in. But I had to let you know. I regret it. You win. Uncle. I suck at writing books. I'm only good at one thing, and that thing is journalism. I miss you.
Regret. I never really knew what it felt like. It's the orangest of emotions, sickly and 70s, a Brady kitchen orange that glows and won't leave the inside of your eyelids when you try to sleep. I shouldn't have. I shouldn't have. Shouldn't have self-destructed like that. What an idiot. Shouldn't have. But did.
I didn't want to have to continue this conversation, the one about my arrogant resignation letter, but I have no choice. I want to work as a reporter again, but no one can get past what they think is my letter, and no one knows the whole story behind it, or how I feel about it now.
I guess I feel the need to explain myself. I wish I didn't. But I do. I'm not a bad person. I'm actually pretty nice when I'm not pregnant. I have had the worst year of my life, borrowing money from family like some college student down on her luck, shamed and sad.
I don't want you to feel sorry for me, exactly. I'm not trying to be, oh how do you say, obsequious. I just want you to know I am filled with regret. That I've finally learned why so many people along the way used to take me to quiet corners and pat me on the back and say, you know Valdes, you're pretty good, but you gotta learn to pick your battles, you gotta learn it don't matter as much as you think it does, you gotta learn to let stuff go. I learned.
The hard way.
I am now the nicest and most diplomatic person you'd want to meet. And I will never, never, do something this stupid again.
The Denver Post recruiter just called. She thinks I am talented, loves my work. But, she tells me, many editors in her newsroom fear that if hired I would, I don't know, be this horrible, difficult, nasty person. It's the letter, she tells me.
The letter. Ah, the letter.
She also tells me there is a rumor circulating on the Web that I used to publish unedited versions of my Times articles on my own Web site. This is a complete lie, and it is the first time I have heard it. I tell her it terrifies me that an industry based on truth telling actually believes everything it reads on the Internet. The only unedited things I ever published on my now-defunct personal Web site were passages from my really bad novels, for critique by people like my mom.
Tom Harmon of the Albuquerque Journal also saw the letter. He was all set to interview me for an assistant features editor position until he saw it. Then he never wanted to speak to me again. Not only that, but also he, or someone pretending to be him (he denies it) phoned Brad Hall, who had hired me to teach journalism at the University of New Mexico, and told him he was crazy to hire a loose cannon like me. Mark Oswald, also of the Journal, used to write back when I e-mailed him. After seeing the letter, he doesn't.
Ann Scales, recruiter for the Boston Globe, also called me back. She and I spent some time together on Martha's Vineyard one summer chasing Bill Clinton as he chased, well, I think we all know what he chased. Anyway. We had a good time. Laughed a lot. She said she followed my stuff in the Times and thinks I'm one of the best writers in the business. (Not trying to be arrogant, just reporting.) She suggested I apply for a couple open jobs. I queried editors. Peter Canellos, Scott Heller, Fiona Luis. Some who used to be my friends and asked me not to go to the Times. Now, nada. Peter tells me he discussed my letter at a symposium at Columbia, that everyone found it very interesting, but that it had upset enough people at the Globe that, even though he would like to hire me, I would pretty much never work there again.
I hate that friggin' letter.
Many of you think I asked for this. I think of the guy, I apologize because I don't remember your name, who wrote and said he hoped I like waiting tables because I'd never work in journalism again. It looks like he's right, I guess. He's probably really happy right now, and that's fine. I don't blame you. From where you sat back then, it certainly seemed that I asked for it. In our journalism ethos, there is joy in punishment, in justice meted out, in holding the microscope over the evil ant until she burns like a bacon bit in the sun. We are gossips and storytellers stuck on good vs. evil, we are avengers, and all that is our particular calling. Trouble is, I'm one of you, I born that way.
I don't ask you to forgive me, to feel sorry for me - though I will welcome both responses. I ask you to be fair. To learn the whole story before jumping to conclusions. To meet me and look in my eyes before deciding I'm nuts. I ask you not to believe gossip and rumor, to not let Web-crap half-truths and untruths about me color the way you deal with me now and in the future. I beg you to believe hyperemesis is the hell on earth it actually is.
Did I make a mistake resigning from the Times? Huge one. Did I make a mistake resigning with an e-mail that could be easily passed on and tampered with? Really big. Biggest one of my life. Do I regret it? Oh, yeah. Should I be punished for the rest of my life, or have to switch careers for it? Probably not.
Am I a better prospect for hire now than I was before? I think so. For one, I've learned to pick my battles (preferably none anymore, thank you) and I've come to appreciate the life and opportunity I so arrogantly pooh-poohed before. I've come to miss the newsroom so much it literally hurts. Where else are you surrounded by so many bright, curious, articulate and clever people? Nowhere. There is no profession like it in the world.
So, I cry uncle. I'm conquered. You win. I was wrong. I'd buy all of you flowers and a box of chocolate if I had any money. But I don't. And I guess that's the point.
Some of you will no doubt roll in my misfortune like cats in warm dust. But I write this in the hopes that some of you have a shred of compassion left in you, empathy perhaps. I write hoping there's one recruiter or editor out there who has actually had hyperemesis gravidarum. I write hoping all of you who knew and liked me before remember me the way I was and am, and not the way I became with child.
I'm a journalist. I got sick and screwed up. And I'm sorry.
TO: Supervisors and selected colleagues of Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
FROM: Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, staff writer
This is my resignation from the Los Angeles Times. My reasons for leaving the Times range from the personal to the political, but in the end it is all political. Even the personal. The following are my reasons for leaving.
I came to this newspaper as part of something called the "Latino Initiative." At the time, I was not awake enough as a person to understand the horror of such a thing. I was not enlightened enough to realize that in the name of "diversity" the newspaper was committing an atrocity.
Now I am.
In the process of covering so-called "Latino" issues, I have stumbled upon a simple and disturbing fact: There is no such thing as a Latino. I have also seen this newspaper - and most others - butcher history and fact in an attempt to create this ethnic group.
When the Los Angeles Times writes of "Latinos" it often characterizes them as brown. It happens several times a week, usually. Most people in this area accept this interpretation. I do not. After all, my Navajo cousins from New Mexico are often approached on the street and spoken to in Spanish. They don't speak Spanish. They are brown, and, I am sure, would "look" Latino to most of my colleagues at this newspaper. But recent colonial history dictated they be born north of the Mexican border. They, like most of the people we call Latinos at this paper, are Indians. . . .
After extensive study of history, I believe "Latino" - as used in the Los Angeles Times - is the most recent attempt at genocide perpetrated against the native people of the Americas. I also posit this new genocide is far more dangerous than the old fashioned murder and relocation efforts.
Now, we simply rob people of their heritage, and force a new one upon them.
They are no longer Indians, with a 30,000 year claim to these lands; they are now immigrants, and "Latinos." . . .
By referring to the brown Indians in the U.S. who happen to come from Spanish speaking nations as "Latinos" we eradicate their ethnicities entirely, and pin to them a new set of stereotypes and expectations that in most cases simply do not fit. By perpetuating the myth that Indians who bear Spanish surnames are simply "Latino" - and that Latino does not refer to anyone else - we also deny Indians from Latin America a natural kinship to American Indians. DNA testing and blood type have shown most of the "brown" people in the Americas - whether they live in Montana or Mexico City - are descended from a small band of people who came here from Asia tens of thousands of years ago. Yet the Times has convinced itself and the general public that there is a "Latino" race of brown people, separate from this nation's Indians. It's idiotic. . . .
When I attempted to write a commentary about the animated film The Road to El Dorado in order to address its misrepresentation of the genocide committed by the Spaniards against the native people of the Americas, I was told by the film editor my comparisons to the German holocaust were unjustified. (By some estimates, the Spaniards killed 10 times more people than the Nazis did - most of it documented in the Spaniards' own journals.) He told me "holocaust" was too strong a word to use when talking about American Indians, and told me the word pertained only to the German holocaust. Any dictionary would have shown him that "holocaust" refers to any genocide committed against any people. The Los Angeles Times is located in perhaps the nation's largest Indian city, yet we deny there are Indians here. . . .
I am now carrying a child whose father is a Native American. His ancestors hail from the U.S. Southwest and from Northern and Central Mexico. I cannot in good conscience work for an institution that denies my child's inheritance to this land. I will cringe to see my child labeled "Latino" or "Hispanic" by virtue of a colonial last name and a brown skin color. I can no longer pretend to believe in the existence of "Latinos" when common sense and logic and an understanding of history point out there is no such thing, especially not in the way the Times uses the word.
Race. . . . Every day the Los Angeles Times runs an article about races of people the dominant class consider to be "other": Blacks, Asians, Latinos. Even as several other newspapers and news magazines make strides towards thinking of "race" in a new way, the Times is stuck in an outdated modality. The Miami Herald and the New York Times now make an effort to state regularly that "Latinos" may be of any "race"; while not an ideal portrayal of humans, in my opinion, it is still light years ahead of the racialist view of "Latinos" perpetuated by the Los Angeles Times.
To me, it is telling that the Times rarely, if ever, writes of those people categorized as "white" while identifying them by "race" for the heck of it. While we endlessly profile "Asian" authors and "Black" celebrities, we never classify the "white" people we write about as "white" unless they have committed a hate crime, or are being compared in a poll or study to "others." . . .
I cannot continue to lend my brain and efforts to an institution that so readily and shamelessly discriminates, stratifies and needlessly classifies people based upon what I - and many social and physical scientists - believe to be a false paradigm.
I love my salary. My benefits. I love the prompt response I get from people when I call and say I am a writer with the Los Angeles Times. But I do not love any of these things enough to sell my soul any longer in order to get them. I have tried to inspire change and enlightenment from within the newspaper, and have been met with confusion and snickers at best, and fierce opposition at worst. So, as long as the Los Angeles Times paints a daily portrait of the nation in terms of race, I cannot work there.
Lack of support. At risk of sounding boastful, I can say I am regarded among my peers an excellent writer. Yet I do not feel I have been embraced at the Times for the talents I have. In fact, I feel an effort has been made in some instances to squash the one thing that sets me apart in this field: my voice.
Daily, I read columns by people who are simply not smart enough or talented enough to write them. . . . I read about these people's personal lives, the foibles of their children, their narrow and uninspired views on race and ethnicity - and nowhere do I find Los Angeles, or the nation, or the world, nowhere in this newspaper's columns do I find insight, or epiphany. . . .
I am not an idiot. And I know a hopeless battle when I face one. To stay at the Los Angeles Times and hope that my talent and ability and accomplishments will be fairly acknowledged and rewarded is unrealistic. This newspaper continues to reward mediocre men while insisting outstanding women jump through more and more hoops before ever getting similar reward. To stay under such circumstances would be to set myself up for failure and battle, two things I am no longer interested in. . . .
Mortality. How does the cliche go? Life is short.
At 31, expecting my first child, my life has suddenly come into brilliant focus. Since I was 15 years old I have written in my diaries of my dream: To write novels and live in the mountains outside of Albuquerque. For 16 years this dream has never changed. . . .
Is it vain to say I was born to write? To say journalism, daily journalism, has nearly beaten the innocent sort of love for the craft from me?
I wrote my first poem at 8, my first short story at 9. I stumbled onto journalism because writing was the only thing I did well enough to be paid to do it. And now, every time I write a profile of a celebrity who doesn't need the publicity, simply because that's how things are done, or every time I write about record sales or the Grammy awards or "Latino" artists, I pimp the very most sacred part of me.
Will I get paid to write novels? Maybe. Maybe not. But at this time in my life, I would rather get paid to do something completely unrelated to writing - say, wait tables - and write for the pleasure of it, than to be paid to write the way the dominant class believes I should write, about a world I don't see but they do.
So, one month from today, I will no longer work for the Los Angeles Times. I will work for my conscience, my soul, and my heart, and my child. If that means I live in a small room in the back of my father's house, so be it.
I will be happier there, writing my truth in "fiction," than I am here, writing your truth in "fact."
Posted November 10, 2000
Which paper will Valdes-Rodriguez slap next?
Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, a feature writer and a member of the staff for four years, said the decision means that a newspaper in the business of telling the truth has learned the fine art of evasion.
"People will beat around the bush here, but the facts, to me, are obvious. I think Barnicle was not fired because it would have been too expensive in terms of advertising. He was not fired because it would have cost us subscriptions. As much as people believed Pat Smith was given a job because of the color of her skin, I believe that Mike Barnicle was allowed to keep his job because of the color of his skin. A lot of us believe this. Not many of us are stupid enough to say it in print. I am one of the few who puts my integrity above my paycheck."
Valdes-Rodriguez flatly called the Globe "a racist institution" that pays "lip service to diversity."
"There is a cost to all of this that the paper seems to have not considered," she said. "There are many of us here who take this very personally. There are many of us here who know that if it had been us causing lawsuits . . . or just generally screwing up in the paper, we would not have made it. We are generally darker than Mike, or we have Spanish surnames, or our families come from Haiti or Vietnam, or we are female. Not only would we not have made it, we would have been held up as fine examples of why affirmative action is wrong."
Don't make him scream
Posted November 12, 2000
In search of racists under every footstool?
What I didn't know when I wrote my column, but I think is worth noting as long as we're talking about integrity, is that she's one of those reporters who don't mind putting direct quotes around words someone didn't actually say. The Boston Globe had to run a lengthy correction to a piece Valdes-Rodriguez -- then Alisa Valdes -- wrote about a speech given by Mass. state Board of Education chairman John Silber. Obviously, she had an agenda, and it wasn't Silber's:
BOSTON GLOBE CORRECTION, March 4, 1997
Valdes-Rodriguez: Here's more on my "tampered" resignation letter
Second, she said I was a talented writer who was sadly sidetracked at the Times by my undying desire to write about race. Huh? I never wrote about race at the Los Angeles Times. My beat was the Spanish-language music industry, also known as "Latin music." That was my official beat, Ms. Seipp. The two pieces she cited of mine as ones she liked were two of the three I ever wrote off my beat; I suspect she liked them because they were about people she had actually heard of.
I think Seipp probably looked at a few headlines, saw the word "Latin" in them, and decided I was writing about race. Fact is, Latin music is simply the term used by the Recording Industry Assn. of America to describe music with more than 51% of the lyrics recorded in Spanish. The L.A. Times is the only mainstream English daily with a Latin music industry beat.
Besides, even if I WAS writing endlessly about "Latinos" I would still not have been writing about race, as Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race. Don't believe it? Check with the census bureau. They invented the word Hispanic in the 1970s, and have always said Hispanics can be of any race. This was a central thesis in my resignation letter, in fact. Amazing how poorly media reporters seem to understand the written word, man.
What is really fascinating to me is how Seipp, Romenesko, Wilson and everyone else who has seen fit to edit and publish my private document overlooked the only real "ism" I ever accused the Times of: Sexism. [I never edited and published your private document. I linked to a newspaper that excerpted your memo. Romenesko.] They paid a less-qualified man (he only has a high school diploma) who was the only other pop music writer at the paper more than they paid me. Much more. Until I complained about it. Then we made the same for a while, until they gave him another raise. For some reason, no one thinks this is news.
Seipp and others do think saying I'm "crying race" is news, though, even though I never did it. In fact, I wrote that no self-respecting anthropologist believes in the notion of race, because it is scientifically impossible to prove where one group of people begin and another end. Why would I be obsessed about writing on a topic I think is false to begin with? Oh, and for anyone who is interested: It would have been impossible for me personally to suffer at the hands of racism as it is understood in this country anyway, as I am what people like Seipp would call "white." If we lived in a matrilineal society, my last name would be McGrath, and we wouldn't be having this discussion. The Valdes side were the white Cubans who owned slaves. The only points I've ever made about the media and issues of race have to do with my desire to see journalists be smarter about how they label people.
What else? Seipp also says I took my personal web site down. I never did. What was taken down was the Romenesko link to my web site, after I added text about how disturbing I found all of the media coverage of a tampered, dinky little resignation letter to be. Seems Ms. Seipp forgot to write the URL address for my site down, and then, when she was unable to find the link on Romenesko's site she decided it was because I had taken my site down. Ms. Seipp, a little advice: It's called reporting. You should try it.
Seipp also implied I got my teaching gig thanks to nepotism. Wrong again. My dad works at the same university, yes. But it's the only large university in the town where I grew up and want to live. The good people who hired me in the communications department did not know my father taught in another department. I didn't tell them, and neither did he. It did not matter.
Finally, she and everyone else in the world seems to think I made $80,000 a year at the Times. I did not. I had a figure of $80,000 up on my web site as what I was leaving behind in Los Angeles in order to move to New Mexico to try writing books. The $80,000 was a combined income from the Times job, teaching at UCLA extension school, and freelance articles for in-flight magazines and others. Again, all any of these "reporters" had to do was ask. But they would rather slam what they see as an uppity colored girl who made more than they do. Sad thing is, none of it is true.
Posted November 15, 2000
The Seipp and Valdes-Rodriguez feud, con't.
Subj: Re: This letter is only for you and off the record
You mention four facts I got wrong:
1. That you took your website down. I said "apparently" you did, which is perfectly accurate, because for a few days I could not access it anymore -- after typing in the URL address, trying it various ways from search engines etc. So apparently you did indeed, perhaps to update it, because now I see you changed the "scum of the earth" part to "a so-called media critics," etc.
2. That you gave up an $80k a yr job: that's what you said on the website, and that sounds about right for just the Times job (not including freelance, teaching etc) although a bit on the low side for them actually, so I can see why you're mad about the unnamed male writer with the high-school degree.
3. That you "never wrote about race or racism" at the Times. The one piece I remember (and which was cited by many who emailed me) -- besides the Woody and Gallagher ones -- is the first-person feature story you wrote about your reluctance to desribe your missing friend to the police as Hispanic, because that's not a race, etc., etc., etc. It doesn't matter if Latino is a race or not: you write about it in the context of racism. Then there was the "Road to Eldorado" incident you describe in your resignation letter. So yes, it appears you did get sidetracked. I'm aware your beat was Latin music, but only those who are interested in Latin music read about that. What most people remember is what you wrote off your beat.
4. That you have indeed contacted the Nat'l Writers Union. According to them -- and I checked 3 times -- you hadn't.
"Sweetheart" used to get him rewrite
Why she won't go through Seipp's articles archive
Catherine Seipp, after royally botching her column about me with no fewer than five factual errors in it, responds by saying lots of people have been following my "troubled" career for many years. She then cites John Higgins (whoever the heck that is) as a reliable such source. Oh, yeah, He's a great source. The dude didn't even spell my first name right when he wrote a letter about me to this web site. He called me "Lisa."
Then, perhaps sensing everyone might figure out she is actually Liz Smith with a thesaurus, Seipp drudged up the only major correction that has ever had to be run in a story I've written in all seven years of my "troubled" career -- a correction that ran in 1997! I guess to her that balances the fact that she made five major mistakes in one column last week. It's almost...sad.
Poor Seipp. In another lifetime, I might have started digging through her writings the way she has dug through mine. But I won't. For one, her writing is too awful and needy to read for more than two minutes. And two, one of the reasons I don't much want to be a reporter anymore is this: It's not fun to pick apart other people's lives. It's much more fun to live one of my own.
Roger Gimbel has produced at least 50 TV movies. I sat down with him at his Brentwood office November 9, 2001.
Roger: "I had no relationship to film as a teenager. We went to pictures rarely. There was no television. I didn't know what a film buff was. I joined the Air Force at age 17, in 1942. My father was already over in England in the Air Force. Everybody was trying to get in at that time. My mother said, 'Get your ass in gear. Your father's over there. Get going.'"
Luke: "How would you compare the atmosphere of the country during World War II to today?"
Roger: "It's nowhere near as intense today. WWII was considered a glorious cause and we couldn't wait to get in. If you were able bodied and you didn't go in, you were looked down on. If you were a soldier, you pulled out your draft card. That's not the case now. The military is all volunteer.
"I got married (Teddy) when I was 19. My father disowned me because I ran away and got married to a showgirl. I didn't tell anybody. I just did it. I'm the oldest of seven children. I came back from the war to a wife I hardly knew. I had to take her to Yale where I studied Economics. I thought that would enable me to have a business career. I was married four years. For most of that time, I was overseas.
"I've always been in the communications business. I was in radio in college and wrote my thesis in advertising. After college, I was a reporter in Dayton, Ohio, and then worked in advertising. That was a good move. I learned from advertising what people want."
Gimbel married for a second time (to Nancy) in 1956. The marriage lasted 16 years before his wife died. Since 1976, he's been married to actress-director Jennifer Warren, born 8/12/41.
"I had six children, two died. And I brought up one of my wife's children. So I've looked after seven. My eldest child is 40. They're all artists working around the entertainment industry."
Luke: "How did your parents feel about you devoting yourself to entertainment?"
Roger: "They were delighted that I was working. I was at a much higher level in advertising. I was the advertising manager at RCA Victor. I had a whole agency of people, writers and artists, working for me. Then I moved to NBC (in the late 1950s) and I had to start all over again. Nobody knew anything about television then.
"I made my first movie in 1970 - The Glass House, based on Truman Capote's story.
"General Electric had commissioned this man Tom Moore to come out to California and do big screen concerts. They had tremendous success with these big projection ten by twelve feet screens and they wanted to put them all around the country. I went to work for Tom Moore. I came out to try to get the Rolling Stones to do a concert but it was stopped instantly when all the music managers decided they wouldn't cooperate. 'We want better sound, we want better picture. Live concerts are the way to go.'
"Suddenly, we had all this money and the project was dead. So we decided to make movies for television. I met Truman Capote and took him in to see the head of CBS.
"I grew up in a time when you fought like hell to get a producer credit. In television, it wasn't given easily. You had to become an associate producer and you had to give a good reason why you deserved the credit. It was hard to become a producer in those days because you couldn't get the job without certain qualifications.
Roger Gimbel gives me a booklet entitled "Rules for Producer Credits in Television." I assume it comes from the Producer's Guild. It reads:
An Executive Producer supervises, either on his own authority (entrepreneur executive producer) or subject to the authority of an employer (employee executive producer) one or more producers in the performance of all of his/her/their producer functions on single or multiple productions.
A Producer initiates, co-ordinates, supervises and controls, either on his own authority (entrepreneur producer) or subject to the authority of an employer (employee producer) all aspects of the motion-picture and/or television production process, creative, financial, technological and administrative, throughout all phases from inception to completion, including co-ordination, supervision and control of all other talents and crafts, subject to the provisions of their collective bargaining agreements and personal service contracts.
An Associate Producer performs one or more producer functions delegated to him/her by a producer, under the supervision of such producer.
Rules For Producer Credits In Television
1) Producer credits in television shall be restricted to those who, in fact, perform producer functions, either as an individual, or as an established or contractual team.
2) The performance of producer functions shall be defined as active involvement in:
A. The determination of final shooting script.
3. Producer credits in Long Form, Mini-Series and Episodic Television shall be restricted to the title's "Produced By", "Executive Producer", "Producer", and "Associate Producer". No other producer titles shall be granted.
4. The credit "Produced By" shall be granted only to an individual who, in fact, actively supervises and coordinatesall aspects of the television production process throughout all phases, from inception to completion, including direct active involvement in all producer functions.
5. The credit "Producer" shall be granted only to an individual who, in fact, actively performs a substantial number of producer functions.
6. The credit "Executive Producer" shall be granted only to an individual who, in fact, actively supervises the performance of multiple producer functions by another producer or producers acting under his/her supervision.
7. The credit "Associate Producer" shall be granted only to such individual, if any, who actually performs one or more producer functions delegated to such individual and performed under the supervision of a producer.
8. Performers, writers, directors, agents, managers, attorneys, financiers, production company executives, current or prior copyright owners, and any and all others who do not, in fact, actively perform substantial producer functions, shall not be credited as "Executive Producer", "Producer", or "Associate Producer", or with any other title whatsoever, incorporating the word "producer."
9. The title "Supervising Producer" is prohibited. Where an individual, in fact, actively performs multiple supervisory producer functions over other producers, such producer shall be credited as "Executive Producer."
10. The title "Coordinating Producer" is prohibited. An individual who, in fact, actively performs supervisory producer functions in coordinating separately produced elements of a television production into a coordinatedwhole shall be credited as an "Executive Producer". Otherwise, any title granted must not incorporate the word "producer".
11. The title "Segment Producer" is prohibited. A producer of a segment of a segmented television program on which he/she has actively performed producer functions shall be credited as "Producer" of the segment, and not as "Segment Producer".
12. The title "Line Producer" shall be prohibited and any individual credited as "Unit Production Manager" or "Assistant Director" on a television program, shall be ineligible to receive an "Executive Producer", or "Producer" or "Associate Producer" title on the same production, or any other title whatsoever, incorporating the word "producer."
Roger: "You have to be to create the project and know all the parts of it or how else could you supervise it?"
Luke: "When was the credits explosion?"
Roger: "In the early '90s. The Producer's Guild has started making basic requirements. Until deregulation in the 1980s, the networks couldn't produce their own shows. But once the networks could own their own shows and distribute them, then they were in control and the producer became unimportant. They could produce themselves and they liked that.
"The 'Executive Producer' credit in television has always meant something. It means nothing in feature films... But the proliferation of credits is a big big problem for everybody. If you come in here with an idea that I like and you say, 'Look, I'd like a producer credit.' You used to be able to say, 'I'm happy to approve you but the network won't approve you [for that credit].' Now a lot of people become producers while having no background whatsoever."
Luke: "I understand the world of television filmmaking as more staid and disciplined than feature film. Fewer drugs and sex and wild budget overruns."
Roger: "It's not as flamboyant because you couldn't get away with it on television. Don't forget that many of the flamboyant people have big studios behind them. No matter what they did, the studio was going to finish the picture. The television networks were always different. They were younger. They started a different way. Now I see better stuff being done in television than I do in the pictures. I've been looking for pictures to see over the weekend and there's a lot of crappy pictures. And a lot of good television drama."
Luke: "Many writers now prefer to work in television."
Roger: "Yes. This is a new thing."
Luke: "Have drugs been a problem on sets?"
Luke: "With people coming to work high."
Roger: "I guess so. I'm not the best judge of that. I have asthma. I can't use drugs easily. I have a problem with joining in.
"There was a tremendous peak of drug use in the 1970s. I worked with the Smothers Brothers and the Glen Campbell musical series. Those were big shows with a lot of stuff going on. It was a time when everybody wore different clothes. It was a flamboyant era and out of that came a lot of eccentric people and eccentric shows."
Luke: "Would you encounter directors who were coked to the gills?"
Roger: "A director in live television, working in the control room, it's hard to do when high. You've got to be on the ball. You can have a drunken producer.
"TV movies are movies. That's the way they started. They were pictures that could be done for very little. They became the place to be. Everybody wanted to be in a television picture. It was a hot field. Several of the picture I did went on to theatrical distribution (The Glass House, Birds of Prey, S.O.S. Titanic).
"The way we approach it when we started was that we were making a picture. We didn't worry where the commercials were or things like that. We put that in afterwards. Now TV pictures are made in seven acts."
Luke: "When did this seven act formula take over?"
Roger: "The networks gradually assumed control and added more commercials. The first pictures were several minutes longer than now.
"When we started, we felt like we were making movies. We showed them in a theater. We never looked at them on a small screen. We tried to make them as much like any other movie as we could. It was only when the small screen came about and you could have video cassettes to take home with you that things changed. The TV movie has become formulaized. In 1972, I got an Emmy for making A War Of Children in Ireland. Nobody wants to go to Ireland today to make a picture about the Irish civil war.
"Ten years ago I made a picture about the nuclear explosion at Chernobyl. We shot it in Russia. Filming it where it happened made a big difference. The atmosphere would direct you as much as anything else. I got better pictures that way. The networks don't make many TV movies anymore.
"I came in when TV movies were peaking. I learned on the job. And a movie was a movie and everybody treated it as such."
Luke: "Did you still encounter actors who didn't want to work on a movie for television?"
Roger: "Of course. We weren't paying as much. A lot of actors would not do television movies. There's a whole stigma about it. It's snobby. 'Oh, that's a television movie.' The difference is that I was making movies while they were just talking about it. And I'm still making them.
"And the people who I think are good today don't think they're making a television movie. They think they're making a movie. They hope it will get released theatrically.
"The moment the networks got control. Say, they found that the highest rated shows were ones about women in jeopardy. So let's do those. The commercial people will be happy if you give them a little lead into their commercial. That corrupted it.
"The producers did it to themselves. Once they admitted people who were not producer material, then the networks felt they had to step in."
Luke: "You had to arrange financing for your movies?"
Roger: "It depends on whether you own the movie. Sometimes the network will finance the whole movie. Today I am not interested in financing television movies at all. Traditionally we'd use deficit financing and make up the gap through foreign sales. Now when you sell a picture, they take the foreign rights."
Luke: "Which of your projects have had the most meaning for you?"
Roger: "We've got 18 Emmys for the shows we've done so all of those. I'd say particularly The Glass House. And A War of Children. I love Birds of Prey. It was the first helicopter chase picture. One helicopter chased another through the Grand Canyon. Visually it was fabulous. I'd come off a lot of successes. They asked me what I wanted to do next. I had this idea about a guy who robbed a bank and is seen only from above by a television weather guy. I'd watched the prison riots in 1971 where they used helicopters. The picture ended with a dogfight between two helicopters in an airplane hanger.
"I enjoyed the Chernobyl picture which took me to Russia. You had a chance to improvise. I'm a seat of the pants type of person.
"Making a picture from a book is a real luxury. An awful lot of pictures, I've had to come up with the ideas and work with writers to creat a picture.
"The book The Amazing Howard Hughes was written many years before Hughes died. The author Noah Dietrich was extremely helpful. Nobody knew at that time what Howard died from. They didn't know what kind of a person he was. They didn't know if he was crazy and have bottles of urine sitting there or if he was just sullen and staring the wall. He was either nuts or depressed. Thanks to the people I met through the author, from the guards around Hughes, I took the psychological profile to doctors and found out he was a paranoid schizophrenic. Then we knew how to write the movie and how to make the decisions. Nobody else was as sure of that as we were. And it turned out we were right.
"I'm working on a TV movie based on this book about Maria Callas, the opera singer. These subjects fascinate me. You get into them and soon you know everything about that subject there is to know.
"I've signed Glenn Close to play Rachel Carsons, the author of 1963's Silent Spring. The whole idea of somebody who doped it out way ahead of time, what the effect of pesticides and poisons were, and how they spoiled life on this planet, interested me. She felt she had the solution - to not spray DDT. And she changed the world. A few thousand words from Rachel Carson and the world wasn't the same."
Luke: "Is there are a message you want to send?"
Roger: "No, I don't begin with that. I don't believe in messages. I've been accused of that. I start out trying to tell a story. And if at the end of it, it turns out to have something to say, I'm lucky. Usually when you start out making a message picture, the message is clear from the beginning and people get bored. I don't want you to know what the picture is about. If it comes to you after two or three days, that you agree with what's in the picture, that's great.
"I'm not selling Rachel Carson. But how she achieved things in her fight to get that book out, despite the fact she's dying, is a great story.
"I'm also working on the story of Sinnanon - a 1970s drug rehabilitation concept started by a Charles Dieder. He was an alcoholic. He got infuriated when they wouldn't treat dope addicts. So he started a place that took care of them and built an empire that went around the world. It turned into a cult."
Luke: "What's your favorite part of producing?"
Roger: "The thing you like about it is the power. Power is inebriating at times. Going on the set when you know you're in charge and dozens of trucks are lined up is a nice thrill. After that's over, I'd just as soon not be on the set because it is full of intense problems. I like the post-production work because I feel I have the instinct to change a lot of things after they're done. I dislike the drudgery of financing films."
Luke: "What's it like to grow old?"
Roger: "So far it's been great. I know that I'm going to croak before long. I'm having a great time. I sailed a boat around Cape Horn not long ago. I'm starting to feel old."
Luke: "Do you find the synapses firing as fast as ever?"
Roger: "No. That's a problem. That does slow you down. Sometimes I will look at you and forget what I'm saying. It drives you nuts. I was complaining to my wife that I can't walk as fast as I used to. She walks faster than me and it pisses me off. I'm bringing in a guy to teach me to walk faster. My eyes and hearing are going, eventually I won't be able to do any work.
"I still hear from my first wife every once in a while. She sends me pictures of when we were together."
Steven Spieldberg owns the 2.8 acres nextdoor to Gimbel and he wants to build a massive horsering for his actress wife Kate Capshaw, something that Gimble and neighboring producer Brian Grazer oppose.
From the Los Angeles Times 1/3/01:
Los Angeles-Director Steven Spielberg, facing a firestorm of publicity and opposition from neighbors, has yanked his zoning application to build a massive indoor horse ring in Brentwood for his wife, actress Kate Capshaw.
Neighbors, including film producer Brian Grazer and TV movie producer Roger Gimbel, have retained veteran land use lawyer John Murdock to fight the proposal. Murdock said Tuesday that he views the retrenchment by Spielberg as a partial victory.
"It's still a special privilege issue," said Gimbel, who lives next door to the Spielberg land. "If I wanted to put an ice skating rink in my backyard, it wouldn't be allowed."
"Even if they reduce the size, it would still be an eyesore," Gimbel said. "I don't want to go out to my driveway and see a five-story building staring down at me."