I sat down with producer Donald Zuckerman at Lulu's restaurant on Beverly and La Brea Blvds in Los Angeles Monday morning, January 21, 2002.
Donald ate salmon on bagel and I ate an eggless tofu omelette.
JRob writes Luke: "Oh, my god!! Why didn't you just pay the folks in the neighborhood to stone you? Isn't this sort of self-inflicted martyrdom viewed as prideful by the orthodox community? Have a real omelette for Yahweh's sake!! Have some Huevos Rancheros or Eggs Benedict!! "Eggless tofu omelette?" Punishing yourself will not get the ultra-orthodox to accept you. Lighten up on yourself!"
Donald: "There are a couple of major film markets each year - the AFM in Santa Monica, the Cannes Film Festival, Mifed in Milan and now the London festival has overtaken Mifed in importance. Apparently [the distributor which was originally slated to distribute Zuckerman's 2001 $8 million film The Man From Elysian Fields] didn't show up for the first two days of the London screening. We missed a big opportunity. The people at Gold Circle Films [financiers] were livid.
"We shot the movie during the last three months of 2000 and finished the editing July of 2001. Toronto was our big festival for selling it. I was in New York a couple of days before. I ended up waiting in line for three hours on September 12, and rented a car and drove to Toronto. When the planes hit the World Trade Center September 11th, I was on 86th St and Madison Ave in upper Manhattan.
"Roger Ebert writing January 17th called The Man From Elysian Fields the best film he'd seen at the Sundance Festival. Samuel Goldwyn will give the film a domestic theatrical release in October 2002. It's an ideal time because the Rolling Stones 40th anniversary tour is in the fall and Mick Jagger has a lead in the film. He plays the owner of an escort service."
Luke: "And you've got your foreign and video and broadcast rights sold?"
Donald: "No, very little has been sold because of the problems with [the initial distributor]."
Luke: "You work a lot with director George Hickenlooper."
Donald: "We're starting another picture April 1. I met George in 1994 at the New Directors series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He'd directed a short film called Slingblade which became the first act of Billy Bob Thornton's Slingblade.
"I'd come out to Los Angeles in 1990 to open a nightclub. I had a club in New York that I was going to clone here. I found a space, rented a space, went through the Liquor license process and ultimately decided not to do it. My friends suggested that I stay and become a movie producer. I asked, 'What does a producer do?' And they said, 'Exactly what you do.'
"I didn't know about the independent film world at that time. I optioned a book about [Mexican painter] Frida Kahlo and sold it to New Line. They developed it and almost made it. Miramax is making a movie now about Frida but not ours. I made two other deals with New Line and produced a play I sold to Columbia Tri Star. Then I did a deal with HBO. And nothing ever got made. For the first time in my life, I felt defeated.
"Then I went back to New York to produce the extreme fighting shows which got a lot of press. If it wasn't for Senator John McCain was all over us, following us all over the place creating problems with politicians... It's all over television today. We were a couple of years ahead... We kept on losing distribution.
"When I was in danger of getting kicked out of New York, I held a press conference. I hired 12 picketers, who I had hired but they didn't know they were working for me, carrying signs, 'Stop this blood sport. Somebody will die. Stop this before it is too late.' I knew two kids at Columbia who paid these other kids $100 each to come down and protest. I wanted to get as much press as I could."
CNN offers this profile of producer and star Andy Garcia.
FilmStew.com reports: Marking the first sale of the Sundance Film Festival, which kicked off last Thursday night, Samuel Goldwyn Films and Fireworks Pictures has purchased distribution rights to The Man From Elysian Fields for an undisclosed sum. Samuel Goldwyn Jr., who heads Goldwyn, has been eyeing the film with Fireworks for about six weeks, but just recently sealed the deal in time to make the announcement on the first day of the festival.
Despite the list of established actors, it's Jagger who steals the show. His performance as Tiller shows his diversity as an actor. Goldwyn told Reuters, "He's (Jagger) been trying to have a movie career for years, and this is going to give him that career."
TWO YEARS AGO, PRODUCERS Donald Zuckerman and Andrew Pfeffer received a spec screenplay from a television writer named Phil Lasker, who had once cranked out jokes for Bob Hope and produced The Golden Girls. In Lasker's script, titled The Man from Elysian Fields, a struggling novelist secretly takes a job at a male escort agency in order to support his family and becomes entangled with the wife of a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. The project, which Hickenlooper describes, in typical Hollywood fashion, as a cross between American Beauty and Being There, attracted the attention of Andy Garcia, who agreed to star in and produce the film for a fee of a million dollars if Lasker would tone down the sexuality.
Garcia asked Hickenlooper to direct the project after seeing The Big Brass Ring, his adaptation of an Orson Welles script, on Show-time in 1999. Hickenlooper tapped Levitt to cast it. The producers secured financing from Kronemyer's Gold Circle Films, a Beverly Hills firm backed by one of the founders of Gateway Computers.
Levitt, who had worked with the director and the producers on previous projects, agreed to do Elysian with the understanding that casting wouldn't be dictated by foreign market concerns. "That's where it gets really awful," she says. On Pfeffer and Zuckerman's last film, the as yet unreleased Beat, starring Courtney Love, Levitt felt her work was undermined by the producers' obsession with names. Nevertheless, she respected them for getting films made at all, and she especially liked Hickenlooper for being, in her words, "a very real guy." Besides, she says, sitting in her office before a meeting with the other principals, "I'm a softie."
Donald: "I decided that I would make a movie like I was going to open a nightclub. Make it small, get the money and do it. The day after meeting George, he showed me a screenplay, which we could make for $300,000. We made a deal a day later and six weeks later, we were in LA making the  movie The Low Life. George likes the theme of writers.
"Dog Town  turned out all right."
Luke: "It seemed like an interesting premise."
Donald: "It seemed like it when we started doing. Nobody sets out to make a movie that is not really good. But most movies aren't really good.
"Thick as Thieves . This writer, Arthur Krystal, called me. He said he'd read this out of print book and that I could buy it cheaply and he'd like to adapt it. I called the writer's agent and struck a deal. A couple of days later, this kid John Steingart called me and said he wanted to option the movie. He took me to lunch in New York, said he had a director for the project, Scott Sanders, an unknown. The guy said he could bring Alec Baldwin to the part. Then he fessed up that they [Jon and Glenn Zoller] had already written [Scott Sanders] the screenplay but they didn't hold the book. They assumed that if the book was out of print, nobody would option it. I read the screenplay and it was good. So I made a deal with them contingent on Alec coming to the party.
"We had an agreement with October Films that if the film tested well, they would release it theatrically. So they tested it in Washington D.C. in a black urban audience where the film was a sophisticated caper movie that wasn't going to appeal to 18-year old urban kids. So it premiered on HBO.
"By then my partner [Andrew Pfeffer] and I were on to our next project, Big Brass Ring, based on the last screenplay by Orson Welles. We kept the offices, the same line producers, the same crew... I have mixed-feelings about the movie. I think the script is better than the movie. It has a complicated story and it was hard to tell."
Born and raised in New Jersey, Zuckerman attended the small private school Mount Claire Academy. He majored in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, "because it was an easy major. I wasn't a motivated student. There weren't many black people there either. Only one in my prep school, the son of a chauffeur. The blacks at college were Africans. Their fathers were royalty and presidents, or athletes. I didn't get to know black people well until I was a public defender for four years in the Bronx."
After graduating with a law degree from Boston University, Donald worked as a public defender. "I was a young liberal idealist who got mugged by reality. I got tired of getting guilty people off. And I was good at it. Then I went into private practice, but I didn't want to do anymore criminal defense. In 1980, I opened The Ritz, which became a famous night club. Almost every major band in the world played there - the Police, Genesis, Sting, Tina Turner."
Goddess writes: "Hey! I watch Lizzie McGuire all the time with the kids...mostly *without* the kids. I love Lizzie and Gordo and Miranda. It's a very creative show without any nasty language or sexually suggestive garbage thrown in."
Like most TV producers, Rogow had numerous hot looking young women working for him.
Upon entering his room, I'm jumped on by one of the two large dogs who nuzzled my neck and licked my cheek.
Stan: "I have an eight year old boy Jackson who is the principle reason I got involved with children's television. There wasn't much of my work that he could see. I started watching the stuff he was watching and I thought that I could do better.
"I sat that there was stuff people were putting into these [kids] shows that I got that he didn't get. There was an episode of Rugrats where a character drops his head into his hands and goes, "the horror, the horror." My son has not yet seen Apocalypse Now [nor read the Joseph Conrad novel which inspired it, Heart Of Darkness). And we in Lizzie McGuire do stuff like that on a regular basis. We did an homage scene from the Great Escape where Steve McQueen is in the cooler throwing a ball against the wall.
"I found an opportunity in children's television to do more adventurous material. Mainstream television was afraid of fast cuts, jump cuts, throwing an animated character in, having digital stills and doing adventurous storytelling. Part of the visual inspiration for Lizzie McGuire was the movie Run Lola Run which had cartoons and jump cuts... Nobody could do that in primetime television though now they've started to copy Lizzie's style in primetime. There's a show on the WB network originally called Maybe I'm Adopted that extremely close to Lizze McGuire. When people first saw Lizzie, they said, 'oh my God, what is this thing?' Because we were aggressive in our filmic style and every week tried to invent some new way to be aggressive while still telling fundamentally human relatable stories that kids respond to.
"Great television is really about connecting to the audience at some emotional level that they want to experience on a weekly basis. Kids today have grown up with MTV, Instant Messaging while listening to their MP3 players while talking on the phone. The information bombardment is easier for kids to accept that it is for grownups."
Luke: "Is syndication still the goal for shows like Lizzie McGuire?"
Stan: "It's different in our case because the Disney Channel usually end up not syndicating, holding, and then running again. Now we're going to do a Lizzie feature. We're now on ABC Saturday morning. Now it's more about the different platforms you can use to exploit the show. And within the Disney company, there are plenty of those."
Luke: "How did you come up with Lizzie McGuire?"
Stan: "I've known its creator Terri Minsky for years. He'd written a script seven years ago which I'd thought charming and appropriate for the Disney Channel. It started out as a soft low-concept show about a girl and her family. Originally it was just a voice-over where she'd talk her inner thoughts. The network asked for a higher-concept. I said we could visualize the voice-over with pop-up videos where words come up, or we could do an animated character. They said let's do the animated character. Then when we went into the production, we amped up the approach.
"That was something that children's television never seemed to care about. My point of view is that kids do not only watch kid shows. They watch $100 million features, primetime television, great special effects... They're used to seeing good stuff. I come from that world and I didn't want to diminish my level of production."
Luke: "What's the story behind State of Grace?"
Stan: "It was created by Brenda Lilly and Hollis Rich, loosely derived from their own experiences. I was good match for the project because I too grew up during that period from the 1960s. It's a story about a Jewish family that moves to the South during the 1960s. My family didn't move to the South but my father always traveled there. The show was intended for teenagers but we've broadened its appeal to women 18-54. We've discovered that we've made a show that kids can tell their parents to come watch with them and parents can tell their kids to come watch with them. This is a show that brings people together. It's true family programming.
"The show has an original tone. It's a comedy that makes you cry. It's a show that probably would not have been bought by a network. It started in the niche market of the Fox Family Channel now owned by Disney.
"I was born in New York in 1950 and grew up in Brooklyn. I went to college and law school in Boston. I never wanted to be a part of this business except when I was five years old and someone wanted to put me under contract at Paramount because I could sing and dance. But I would've had to move to LA and my parents weren't interested. The president of Paramount at the time told me, 'Son, if show business is in your blood. Don't worry about it. It will always be there.'
"I was a radical lawyer in the '70s working in the ghetto in Boston doing poor-people law. I thought that would be my life. Bill Kunstler was an inspiration to me. But I discovered that I was changing the community and I wasn't changing the world. I became frustrated because poverty was so institutionalized. Nobody really want out of the institution, they just wanted the institution to work better for them. I would say, 'Wait, you can take control of your lives.' And they'd say, 'We don't want to take control of our lives. We've got you. You can straighten it out and get us more money.' There was no perception of a legitimate way out. And back then, there wasn't a way out. By the time you've frittered away most of your elementary and high school education, it's done. Unless you want to go back and do a lot of pick and shovel work and get your high school diploma. That's why there are more colored people in jail than there are in college.
"While living in Wellesley, Boston, there was a 15-room mansion with a ballroom to rent. The people moving out were video freaks who were using computer graphics and doing documentaries and taping rockn'roll groups. I hooked up with them. I did three movies with them including 1980's Playing For Time about the Oxford Auschwitz starring Vanessa Redgrave."
From the IMDB.com: "This is not your usual stereotype Jewish holocaust movie: It goes much, much beyond any ideological rhetoric, to deal with the human condition. You have the Concentration Camp as a background for one of the best contemporary playwrights to create and develop his masterpiece. Arthur Miller persisted in his demand to put Vanessa Redgrave in the the leading role, in spite of all the threats and protests of JDL. Here, she presents one of her most magnificent performances as an artist trapped in the most dehumanizing conditions one could imagine. The dialogue is absolutely superb, and the actings are quite decent. A must see."
Stan: "That was incredibly controversial because of her anti-Zionist statements at the Academy Awards."
Luke: "Did you know about her anti-Zionist statements?"
Stan: "Absolutely and we also knew she was a great actor. The day I closed the deal, I called my parents. I said, 'Guess what? Today we closed the deal with Vanessa.' They said, 'Which movie?' I said, 'Playing For Time.' They said, 'Are you crazy?' I said, 'What do you mean? She's fabulous. She's the best actress on the planet.'
"They said, 'Apparently you don't understand.' Apparently not. 'Nobody is going to like this.' It hadn't dawned on us. She's an actor, who cares about her politics. At the end of the day, she certainly isn't anti-Semitic. Why would she take this role if she was anti-Semitic? She has issues with how Zionism is playing itself out but that is not the whole of Judaism. So the movie became infamous and we had our offices attacked by the JDL. They came up to our offices and threw paint all over our offices. And I was standing there saying, 'Now wait a second. I understand. I used to be the guy who broke into offices in college and do all this but I've never been on this side of the thrown paint.'
"The final answer to that one was that Vanessa won an Emmy, Jane Alexander won for Best Supporting Actress and Arthur Miller won for Best Screenplay. The other two were Hardhat and Legs and Mayflower: The Pilgrims Adventure. Then I moved out to Los Angeles and produced the pilot of the TV show Fame. I wasn't interested in doing series television. I wanted to do movies. I was a snob and I didn't watch much television. During a good hunk of the 1970s, I didn't even own a television.
"I asked John Sayles to write the 1986 movie The Clan Of The Cave Bear. I optioned the novel by Jean M. Auel. John had the ability to write with simplicity and meaning. The people in the movie weren't able to talk so the voiceover that guided us through had to be economical and to the point and touch the same chords as the book touched.
"I started watching episodic television and saw there was some good stuff. I called John Sayles one day and proposed that we do a series together. Brandon Tartikoff at NBC heard we were cooking something up.
"John flew out here and I spent all day talking about my experiences as a lawyer for poor people who never wants to go to court because he knows he will lose. And we invented a different back story than mine about a guy who had done the corporate world and done some horrible things like representing people on the wrong side of the pollution issue and gambled away his life, his family and his career. And we find him down at the bottom starting over again.
"We did a two-hour movie Shannon's Deal which got great reviews. It was called the best show on television."
From the IMDB.com: "I remember seeing this show when I was a kid. I was just starting to get into books written by Nelson Algren and the films of Martin Scorsese. This show really reminded of those great storytellers. And since I was living in Chicago at the time, I could really relate to the gritty urban environment and the hard boiled but sympathetic characters. I was disappointed as hell when they cancelled it after something like 10 episodes. It was the first of a long string of series that I fell in love with only to have them yanked by the bloated, greedy, scum-sucking networks ("EZ Streets" and "Under Suspicion" among many others). If you can find the pilot episode on video(written by the great John Sayles) I encourage you to see it. Then you could see what American TV could be like if it wasn't under the tyranny of the networks."
Stan: "The television critics nominated us for best new show. It was my first experience with episodic television. Then when Brandon left NBC, his successor cancelled the show. I went to Paramount with Brandon and did his first movie, (1991's) All I Want For Christmas. I stayed at Paramount for six years. I did another show Middle Ages.
"I came to Brandon's office one day and he said, 'Let's do a show about guys our age.' It was the first television show a spec script was written on. Brandon said, let's not sell it to anyone. Let's just write it and then we'll go out and sell it.' We wrote the first two episodes and sold it to CBS. It was a great show and a personal show. William Russ played me and Peter Riegert played John Byrom. We took our lives and threw it up on the screen. The critics embraced it but the audience didn't show up.
"Then the network came to us and asked us to do a genre show, which was the 1993 PI show South of Sunset starring Glen Frey. It was a fun show but I didn't know what we were doing. It didn't have the heft I was used to. I'll never do that again. It'll have to be something that makes me want to wake up in the morning.
"In 1994, Disney and I took over Nowhere Man. The network didn't renew us because they thought they could do a lot better than a seven share at UPN. As history has indicated, I think they would take that seven share today."
Luke: "Though you've worked through the network system, you don't seem terribly cynical?"
Stan: "I'm realistic. It is what it is. It doesn't necessarily bring the best out in anything. Do I have a collection of unbelievably stupid notes I've been given over the years [by network executives]? Yes, and they're all the same because they are all based on not knowing how to make anything. As Brandon Tartikoff taught me, all you can ask of a network is at bats. Maybe I'll strike out. Maybe I'll hit a single or a double or even get lucky and hit a home run. Most stuff fails. If we only knew how to make hits, we'd only have hits. Please, just let me take my best swing and if I fail, I fail. But at least you will have the benefit of my vision, and that might just be the thing that works. But I don't know if a collective group of people ever made great anything. Certainly not great art, if we pretend we are doing art. And I keep some illusion that that is what we're doing. There are moments when I want out of the business and go back to New England and teach.
"I was lucky enough to make a series of TV movies based on the classic TV show The Defenders, which was the show that made me want to be a lawyer. I remember lying there with my father and want to be like those guys. I got to sit next to A.G. Marshall reprising the role he did 30 years ago. It was the last thing he ever did."
Luke: "How long have you been married?"
Stan: "Nine years."
Luke: "First marriage?"
Stan: "I was kinda married in law school."
Luke: "A lawyer says kinda married?"
Stan: "Back then, it was so uncool to be married. We were just living together, in the '70s in Boston. Our parents started getting on us. So we said, 'For their sake, let's get married. But let's not tell anybody' because it will be a colossal embarrassment to tell anyone we're married. So we got married and didn't tell anybody. Then people started hearing we were married. And we said, 'No, no, no. We only did it for our parents and we got divorced.' And quickly we did get divorced."
Luke: "Is it tough staying married and raising a kid in Hollywood?"
Stan: "I think it is tough staying married and raising a kid, period. I'm fortunate that at this stage of my career, I get to be home for dinner. I don't partake in the Hollywoodness of it all. I like my job. I get to live a mundane life with soccer games, basketball games. I've also made it a point to shoot in Los Angeles. Everything else comes second to my being a husband and a father.
"A couple of weeks ago, I was channel-surfing. And The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit was on, which is all about can you have both family and career. And it is difficult. It's why I was a selfish bachelor for all those years. For Clan Of The Cave Bear, I was mostly away for three years. We were scouting locations around the world. I couldn't do that today. I couldn't attempt to be this good of a husband or a father 15 years ago."
Luke: "Did you have a Bar Mitzvah as a kid?"
Luke: "Is your wife Jewish?"
Stan: "Brenda has an interesting background. She was born Jewish and ended up going to Catholic school, which is exactly what happens in State of Grace, a Jewish girl ends up having to go to Catholic school. What is she? She doesn't know. But Jackson's Jewish. He knows he's Jewish. We certainly celebrate Chanukkah. We celebrate Christmas and Easter. We celebrate everything.
"My Bar Mitzvah was such a mixed thing. I learned more about Judaism in college when I took a class in the Old Testament than going to Hebrew School learning for my Bar Mitzvah. If it is something that he wants, he can be Bar Mitzvahed. If he doesn't want, he doesn't have to. I struggle to find a way because we've never belonged to a temple. The rabbi that married, Don Singer, in Malibu... It's Judaism meets Buddhism. I called him right before 9/11 to say that I've got to find a way to get Jackson some information about his heritage.
"My mother kept a kosher home. My father was much more secular like me. We went to an Orthodox synagogue for the high holidays. I went to Hebrew School four days a week from age eight to thirteen, and was thrown out almost on a daily basis. For being a wiseass... It was fine with me so I could get out and play stickball. My parents would always get called in and the rabbi would complain, 'He's trying to kill me.'"
Luke: "Is the Jewish girl in State of Grace going to have a Bat Mitzvah?"
Stan: "We're talking about that. In 1965, there won't Bat Mitzvahs, at least not in the South."
LukeFord.net Launches Gay & Lesbian Havurah
I'm following the lead of my new temple and have created my own friendship society for gays, lesbians and the transgendered. This havurah comes with its own backdoor entrance. Now you too can skip the homophobia and go right to the good stuff!
Golden Globe Awards
An ex-studio publicist tells me about Sunday's Golden Globe Awards: "At the studio, we were told about the Hollywood foreign press, take them out to a nice hotel, order the best bottle of champagne, and you'll get whatever you want from them. I always laugh when I watch the Golden Globes [given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association]. Nobody understands out there in middle America what really goes on in Hollywood."
Christine writes: Dear Luke, I have enjoyed your site immensely. What a subculture! I did feel the need to respond to a posting on your web site. Towards the end of your piece on JFK, JR., which focuses on his cousin, Rory, and the goings on at Brown, Saffy from the Is She Gay? site questions Amy Carter's sexual orientation. To assume someone is a lesbian because she went to Brown and shunned make-up is exactly how unsubstantiated rumors start circulating.
I knew Amy during high school. We did go to boarding school ironically. I can't prove that she is not a lesbian but from the opinion of someone in her closest circle which was tiny, I would say she showed few tendencies towards lesbianism. I've always had many gay and lesbian friends and pride myself in having good gaydar for a breeder.
She was and still remains one of the most impressive people I have ever met. Highly intelligent, she had traveled the world and knew herself like few accomplish in a lifetime. She was confident, independent and mature far beyond her years. She was the kind of kid that makes stupid adults feel uncomfortable. Her three great loves were music, reading and politics. Her parents had instilled in her a responsibility to her community, her world and especially herself. The Carters' were a fascinating family to me. They had everything my family lacked. The most important gift the Carter children received was intellectual freedom. The freedom to think independently and have a differing opinion is not abundant in most rich families. The Carters gave their children the security of knowing they could choose to be whatever they wanted and would be supported wholeheartedly.
The key to her was that she didn't give a shit what anyone thought of her. Remember this is a kid that got raked over the coals by the media during her father's presidency. At the age when most girls are morphing from riding bikes to training bras, she was dealing with the best the bullies could deal out to her. In high school, it was no different. We were the school freaks. We loved punk rock while everyone else was talking Madonna and Van Halen. We read Kirkegard at mandatory Pep Rallies and would rather have attended a protest than a football game. Although our politics were liberal, I don't remember any lesbian slant to it. The only "gay" issue I remember us focusing on was Reagan's refusal to contribute to AIDS research which turned out to be an "everybody on the planet" issue.
She loved music and had healthy crushes on Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Adam Ant and especially Joey Ramone. Although she could never be described as a boy crazy girl, she did have desire for different boys throughout high school. In boarding school, you frequently hear rumors of same sex dalliances. I never heard one about Amy.
Finally, the best proof I have is that if Amy were a lesbian, the last place she would be is in the closet. Amy had no fear of anyone she cared about rejecting her and since she values dirty toilet tissue more than whatever fame people perceive she has, she couldn't care less what the press or anyone she doesn't know thinks.
Your website repeatedly says people in porn look at their fans as losers. That's exactly what she thought of the general public's interest in her. If Amy were gay, she would be out and would happily spearhead the causes of the movement. I can actually imagine Amy enjoying her snub at American Puritanical Culture by being on the cover of Time with, "Yup, I'm Gay," in two inch high letters.
Lastly, Amy spent most of her two years at Brown not at Brown. I have not seen Amy since High School so most of this is from articles I have read over the years. Excuse me if my memory fails. She became extremely active in politics, particularly of South Africa and their use of Apartheid. Also in this time she became friends with Abbie Hoffman who fueled her desire to change the world. She was finally asked to leave Brown because her teachers rarely saw her. About three years ago she married and in the last year she had a child. I cannot imagine the Amy Carter I knew packing herself so far back in the closet. It just doesn't make sense.
It's your website and I've read enough to know that you run it the way you choose. I also know from your website that you regret misinformation and try to avoid it. I would like you to consider either a Luke Ford note afterwards stating the great uncertainty of this unsubstantiated rumor or removing those two sentences regarding Amy. I appreciate you taking the time to read this and hope you have even more time to think about it. Keep up the good work. I haven't read your bio yet so I'm fascinated by what a nice Orthodox Jewish boy like yourself is doing in a place like this. However it happened, I'm glad you're here. Best of luck to you.
Richard writes: Good luck finding a single example of Amy Carter being raked over the coals by the media. The girl was adored. She was even off-limits to the folks at "Saturday Night Live," who were desperate to push and tear the envelope when it came to lampooning public figures.
Hollywood Liberal Bias
Nice Jewish Girl writes: Luke, As one of the few readers left reading you (I think you get less hits than I do) I have a few observations about these producers. They've got a liberal agenda a mile long.
Read the gay guy producer. I *knew* he'd be gay. How? Because the movie was about a gay guy, the famous movie he did. My grandmother, the liberal jewish woman loved it. Years ago, she would hate it. That's how much the homosexual agenda has enveloped our society.
They are in our public AND private schools as well teaching *acceptance* and *tolerance* - BLAH, I can't TAKE it anymore AND it's inappropriate.
Then, Judith James, who I suspect is another Hollywood Jewish woman who is so liberal her eyes literally fall out. She glorifies Winnie Mandela who is a MURDERER! She says on your website how she "admires" Winnie! This is part of the reason S. Africa is a horrible hell hole.
You should read Bernard Goldberg's book "Bias" - it will open your eyes and ears to the liberal bias in the media. This is exactly what is going on here. Bias and manipulation of our feelings as Americans. I can't believe these people. Especially after 9/11. They all make me sick.
Khunrum writes: Luke, For once I agree with Nice Jewish Girl....Her take on the liberal bias of Hollywood is dead on. And as for the "new" Luke vs. the "old" Luke, you were never better than when you were writing about the Tinsel Town "Lavender Mafia" on Luke.com. The new Luke is an interviewer who never asks a tough question. Booooorrrrriiiinnggg zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Luke, who have you sold out to? The Rabbis, The Gays, or Hollywood in general? And what do you hope this will get you? A job? For shame. I like the old offensive Luke much better. We all did. Even Rabbi M. probably does. Come back Old Luke, wherever you are.
Chaim Amalek writes: The latest shockingly homophobic declarations of the formerly NJG on Luke's mini-site really do shock. I understand that she chooses to live in the transgendered capital of the world, San Francisco. For a homophobe to live there makes as much sense as someone who hates mexicans choosing to live in Laredo, Texas, or for a jew to live in Gaza.
Messianic Chabdnik Visits Los Angeles
Shmuley Nerdsky, a Messianic Labovitcher Jew from Brooklyn who patiently awaits the ressurection of melech moshiac, will visit me in Los Angeles next week. Early Wednesday evening we had this conversation:
Shmuel Nersky: You know, JimmyD is right. Why don't you return to lf.com?
Please Pray For Jim DiGiorgio's Mom
Director James DiGiorgio, who lost his dad last year, has his 72-year old mother going into open-heart surgery Wednesday night, the evening Luke will be at the Anti-Defamation League lecture by Hollywood producer Mike Medavoy.
I spoke with Jim Tuesday afternoon.
Jim: "You don't know how many people told me at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas that this business is no fun anymore since Luke Ford left. That's a direct quote from people like Michael Raven, Robert Lombard, Mike South and others. We don't have a clue what anyone is doing. I think you need to come back. Come on, the Jews don't want you."
Jim: "I was at the Bellagio this week and I saw a lot of those kind of Jews [Orthodox] at the Bellagio. With the hats and the sideburns. I'm not talking about some Jews in a Hawaiin shirt and a beanie."
Luke: "Were they at the Adult Entertainment Expo?"
Jim: "I don't think so but what were they doing in the casino. Is gambling ok?"
Jim: "Vegas was good. I won two awards from AVN. Succubus won Best Supporting Actress for Ava Vincent and it won for Best Group Scene for my scene in hell - with Nakita Denise, Ava Vincent, Bridgett Kerkove and Herschel Savage. Last year I got nominated for Best Screenplay for a movie that didn't have a screenplay - The Sopornos. This year I got a nomination for Succubus which you say I stole from Michael Raven's desk."
Luke: "I knew Naughtia Childs, that starlet who committed suicide."
Jim: "A beautiful but whacky girl. I would never have thought... There's so much dirt these days in the biz and you're not there to scoop it out. You could've had a field day with Extreme. They boycotted the AVN show and put their own little show on across the street at Treasure Island but then they got kicked out of Treasure Island. The business is wilder than ever. People are doing bodacious things and you know why? Because you're not around to hold them in check."
Luke: "I almost have a moral obligation..."
Jim: "You do. People wouldn't pull the bodacious stuff they're pulling now when you were around because they didn't want the publicity then. You held pornographers in check."
Luke: "It's almost your Christian duty to come back."
Jim: "I think 100% it is your Christian duty. And it is your Jewish duty too because it is all Jews who run this business and you need to keep these Jews in line. They need a shepherd. You just had a bigger stick than most shepherds do. Your stick was a stick of truth. A stick of journalistic integrity. I think you have moral, social and theological duties to come back to this business."
Luke: "It's like that Trey Stone movie Orgazmo about a Mormon missionary who becomes a porn star."
Jim: "A lot of people at the show said it's just not the same without Luke. It was fun to read him. Even though you knew that half of what you read was BS, you still got an idea of what other people were doing. The little fake battles were hysterical.
"Rob Spallone had real wiseguys at the show from New York. You would've loved it. [Mike Gambino and company.] They just happened to have been in town. You could've finally been around real wiseguys. But because you had to take it personally what the Jew church did to you, thinking you could get back in if you quit... Didn't I tell you that once you were shunned, you were shunned? That no matter what you do now, you're not going back? You could've stayed. It wouldn't have made any difference. They're not going to think your Hollywood connections are any better. Just because you've traded in X-rated for R-rated... Unless you suddenly become a jeweler and start importing and exporting precious gems, they'll take you back in a nanosecond. Become a tailor or become involved in the garment industry. But as long you have anything to do with entertainment, it isn't in the cards. It isn't what you did. It's that they feel you lied to them and misrepresented yourself.
"And when you told me they gave all your donations back. It's tough for a Jew to refund anything. When that happened, I knew you were done forever."
Luke: "Did you see the Steve Hirsch - Ginger Lynn story in the LA Times?"
Jim: "I didn't read all of it. It didn't make Steve look too good. I didn't hear much talk about the article around the biz."
Luke: "How's Russell Hampshire, VCA owner?"
Jim: "Happy that he won Best DVD for the fourth year in a row. VCA won ten obelisks."
Luke: "You and Rob were going to make a mainstream pic?"
Jim: "We're still working on that. The boys from New York say they will put some money in but we don't necessarily want to take their money. We're nervous about taking loans that way because if the movie doesn't do well... We'd rather find some nice Jewish kids to take money from.
"My daughter came in this morning. She's editing something for a car racing organization."
Luke: "Do you ever have her help you edit the smut?"
Jim: "No, I wont even allow her to look at it. I won't even have a boxcover around.
"I can't believe you're referring people to your therapist. You're not exactly a poster child for mental health.
"My mother's artery is almost 100% blocked. She's got diabetes and high blood pressure..."
Luke: "And a lot of heartache from you."
Jim: "We would've had John Ashcroft all over this business if it had not been for the terrorists."
Luke: "What a difference a year makes. A year ago everyone was hysterical about the new attorney general."
Jim: "Yeah, and now everyone's doing pissing movies again. 'A long time until they get around to us.' That's the attitude."
Producer Daniel H. Blatt chooses his words carefully, like a lawyer.
We sit down at his home on Monday, January 7, 2002, and talk about his life and work.
Blatt has a younger sister Ruth Blatt Merkatz (who's got a Ph.D. in nursing and started the female section of the FDA), and younger brother Philip (a doctor).
Daniel stands 5'8" and walks with a severe limp due to nerve damage in his right leg. He still plays golf regularly (handicap 11).
Born in 1937, Blatt attended Philips Andover Academy from 1951-55. In 1959, he graduated from Duke and in 1962 from Northwestern University School of Law.
He then worked for various law firms in New York City as well as served on the civil rights group Lawyers' Constitutional Defense Committee in Jackson, Mississippi in 1964. The LCDC recruited and dispatched attorneys to represent freedom riders and civil rights protesters arrested in the Deep South as well as supported the ACLU's amicus brief in Loving v. Virginia, the landmark case in which the U.S. Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.
After serving on a thousand legal cases, Blatt burned out on his profession and moved into entertainment. From 1970-75, he was Vice President of Palomar Pictures, overseeing 1972's Sleuth, 1972's The Heartbreak Kid, 1974's The Taking of Pelham 123 and 1974's The Stepford Wives.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1976, Blatt independently produced seven feature films (1985's Let's Get Harry, 1983's Cujo, 1982's Independance Day, 1980's The Howling, 1977's I Never Promised You A Rose Garden) and almost 30 TV movies including 1999's The Virginian, 1995's Kissinger and Nixon, 1989's Common Ground, 1987's Sworn To Silence, 1986's A Winner Never Quits, 1984's V- The Final Battle, 1983's Sadat, 1977's Raid On Entebbe, and 1976's A Circle Of Children.
Judy Brownstein Blatt of Los Angeles divorced Daniel in 1991. They have two daughters, Jessica, 22 years old, and Chelsea, 18. A graduate of George Washington University, Jessica, now works at the Endeavor Talent Agency.
Judy received an M.A. in psychology in 1994 after a TV/film acting career, now works in the mental health field in Santa Monica.
I walk up to Blatt's home at 9:50 AM. His garage is filled with trash from the extensive remodeling going on inside. I knock on the door and when it opens, I'm jumped on by a friendly red dog. Blatt's beautiful blonde assistant brings me in and I wait on the couch for 20 minutes, playing with the dog.
Daniel finishes his phone call to Germany and we sit down at his table while workmen labor around us.
Luke: "Has your background in criminal law helped you deal with Hollywood?"
Daniel: "Not really. Though I've done a lot of lawyer shows."
Luke: "Which projects have had the most meaning for you?"
Daniel pauses for 30 seconds and looks through his resume. He speaks in a low voice. His words are few initially until he gathers steam.
"I like them all. The first one I really produced, The Raid On Entebbe, had a lot of meaning to me.
"My parents (Kurt and Trudy) fled the Nazis in Germany in 1934. I grew up in a household where persecution of the Jews was drilled into my soul overtly and inovertly.
"My father was a doctor working at a Jewish hospital. Shortly after the Nazis took over, he noticed regulations for Jewish doctors. He took my mother to Paris for their honeymoon for two weeks and then met his brother Max in Barcelona. Then they came to America.
"After my parents arrived, they brought my mother's side of the family over to Buenos Aires, Argentina. My mother didn't see her family for 17 years.
"My father brought his side of the family to America. They didn't have any money. Travel wasn't easy. There was a depression.
"The Raid On Entebbe represented the Jews reacting to victimhood in a positive way. I grew up in a very Jewish house. Then after I was Bar Mitvahed, I said 'enough of this' and I moved away from it. And then suddenly to be brought back into this thing was almost like a gift, a circle that I'd completed. Also, Sadat was part of that cycle."
Luke: "Did working on that Entebbe movie affect your Jewish identity afterwards?"
Daniel: "Yes, that's what I was trying to say."
Daniel: "It was coming back to my roots."
Luke: "So did you start keeping shabbos?"
Daniel laughs. "Let's not go that far."
Luke: "Have you visited Israel?"
Daniel: "A couple of times.
"The raid on Entebbe happened July 14, 1976. We started shooting in October. And it aired on January 14th, 1977."
Luke: "Did you have to buy the rights?"
Daniel: "No, it was a big thing. Everybody wanted this story. Every studio. There were three Entebbe movies made."
Marvin J. Chomsky directed the first Entebbe movie to air - 1976's Victory at Entebbe which was shot in four days.
"The bargain-basement production values that mark this quickie shoot-em-up, filmed and released literally months after the dramatic Israeli commando raid," writes John Barnes on IMDB.com, "would be enough to consign this turkey to the dustbin of TV history. But it gets worse. The audience can play spot-the-star as Hollywood legends Liz Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Helen Hayes etc., turn in embarrassing cameos. Unintentional hilarity is the only possible response to the scene in which Linda Blair offers a box of chocolates to the flight crew and the terrorists holding them at gunpoint. Mirth gives way to anger, however, when the film depicts unruly hostages being deliberately shot down by Israeli soldiers during the rescue scene! With rescuers like these, who needs hijackers? Raid on Entebbe which came out a year later with Charles Bronson is much the superior account of this operation."
Raid received glowing reviews such as this one at IMDB.com: "This was a superb account of the Israeli raid to rescue Jewish hostages held at the Entebbe airport after a hijack in 1976. The dilemma facing the Israeli government as it tried to decide on a course of action was believably portrayed, the plight of the hostages seemed very real, and, even though one knows what the outcome will be (this, is, after all based on an historical event) I was glued to my seat watching. The cast was excellent (I thought Yaphet Kotto did a marvellous job of portraying Idi Amin.) Even Charles Bronson (whom I have never considered a particularly good actor) did a creditable job as the Israeli officer in overall command of the operation."
Menahem Golan directed 1977's English/Hebrew Entebbe movie Mitzva Yonatan.
Daniel: "The Sadat miniseries was difficult to make. We shot it over 42 days in Mexico. The Egyptians didn't like it for three reasons. One, it was obviously pro-Israel. Two, they felt it didn't portray them accurately. Three, Sadat was a hero to the world but not to them."
Luke: "Have you ever been to Egypt?"
Daniel: "No. I could never go now."
Luke: "You'd never get out."
Daniel: "I thought my 1989 miniseries Common Ground was good. It was adapted from Anthony J. Lukas's Pulitzer Prize winning book."
From IMDB.com: "Fact based story about the racial tensions that occurred in Boston in the 1970's because of court ordered busing to end desegregation. The story focuses on an African-American mother determined to get her children a quality education and a white lawyer trying to deal with inner city problems."
Daniel: "It's a story of America trying to deal with its racism and failing."
Luke: "How would you feel if a bunch of blacks suddenly moved into your neighborhood?"
Daniel smiles with the recognition of a painful truth. He chuckles. "It would reduce the property values."
Luke: "Did you come to any personal conclusions on bussing because of this project?"
Daniel: "Yes, that it doesn't quite work."
Luke: "Another beautiful liberal ideal that doesn't work."
Daniel: "I did a lot of these stories about real people who believed in something and tried to effect change."
Blatt's proud of several movies he made with Christian themes like Miracle On The 17th Green, A Town Without Christmas, and Tecumseh: The Last Warrior.
Luke: "In your Kissinger and Nixon movie, did you deal with Kissinger?"
Daniel: "Only when he was trying to sue me."
Luke: "Why did he threaten to sue you?"
Daniel: "Because he said that what we were saying about him wasn't true."
Luke: "Wasn't it based on the book by Walter Isaacson?"
Daniel: "Yes it was."
Luke: "Why didn't he sue Isaacson?"
Daniel: "A book is read by a few thousand people. A TV movie is seen by millions of people.
"Our movie had two terrific performances by Ron Silver and Beau Bridges. Kissinger grew up in Washington Heights which is where my Aunt Gretchen lived. When I watched Ron Silver portray him with the little belly and the ferocious temper. He couldn't suffer fools gladly. It was like watching my father.
"When you're telling stories about people, I've realized that the cradle to grave approach doesn't work. When I did Tecumsah, it was cradle to grave. They made a mistake in Ali in trying to cover the whole story. And you wind up with no story. You don't get a sense of the character. Kissinger and Nixon was them negotiating the peace treaty in 1972. And if you do it properly, you will learn everything there is to know about the characters."
Luke: "What did Kissinger deny?"
Daniel: "In the original script, there was a lot of stuff about wiretapping between him and the president. Kissinger said he'd never behave like that. He wanted to be portrayed as a man who only wore white clothes and a white hat."
Luke: "Because of his legal threats, you changed the script?"
Daniel: "We made some changes because of fear of a lawsuit."
Luke: "If Isaacson had documented it, how could you get sued?"
Daniel: "It came down to how far the corporation wanted to go taking a legal risk."
Luke: "How did Kissinger like the final product?"
Daniel: "I don't know. He certainly didn't call me."
Luke: "I thought the movie was sympathetic to Kissinger. He came across far more admirably than did Nixon."
Daniel: "Yeah. Kissinger engineered that great peace treaty. But he was questioning our portrayal of his methods. 'I never told a lie. I never wiretapped. I never misled the president. I never told a lie to the North Vietnamese. I didn't leave the South Vietnamese hanging in the wind. I totally trusted Haig.'"
The New York Times review of Isaacson's biography says: "Mr. Nixon's Presidency was pathological, and Mr. Isaacson's book abundantly shows that Mr. Kissinger was part of that pathology. Their psychological excesses set precedents for some of the country's most ignoble humiliations. As Mr. Isaacson points out, the wiretapping of colleagues and friends that was secretly authorized or abetted by Mr. Nixon and Mr. Kissinger "ultimately led to the plumbers, which led to Watergate.""
Luke: "Was Kissinger a big womanizer or did he just like to be seen with women?"
Daniel: "I didn't follow him to the bedroom. He certainly liked to be seen with women."
Luke: "Who are some of the most difficult actors you've had to work with?"
Daniel: "You'll get me in trouble."
He motions to me to turn off my tape recorder and then gives me a few names. When he's ready to list off which actors were great to work with, I turn my tape recorder back on.
Luke: "Were you disappointed with any of your movies?"
Daniel: "They were all disappointing. Initially I see all the things that could've been better. Then I look at them later and I realize they weren't bad. You get too close to a picture."
Luke: "How do you measure whether a picture was a success? By an internal or external barometer?"
Daniel: "If you consider yourself an artist, you do it for yourself. But in today's world, you have to measure your audience. We don't operate in our own world, we operate in a commercial world."
Luke: "Are there any critics you respect?"
Again I must turn off the tape recorder.
Daniel: "If my family and friends like my movie, they call. If they don't like it, they don't call."
Luke: "What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job?"
Daniel: "I like working on scripts and on post-production. Shooting is not my favorite."
Luke: "Working on scripts and post is where you have the most control. Is that why it is your favorite? Because there are fewer variables?"
A workman asks Daniel for permission to squueze past to grab a garden hose.
Daniel: "You can do whatever you want. This house is now your house, not mine."
Blatt turns back to me. "When you're shooting, you're dealing with limited time. You've got to be careful. You're limited in how many times you can ask to do it differently. Egos, tension, time and money."
Luke: "Why can you tweak a script and make it better than the professional screenwriter can?"
Daniel: "First, I've made all these pictures. I've got a track record. For a good screenplay you need a good plot, a story that keeps moving. Scenes have to have conflict. And in each scene, you should learn more about your characters. In the end, it's about your characters. When you think about all the great movies, it's about the characters. When you think about all the great movies, you don't think of the plot. You think of the characters. You need characters that are interesting, unpredictable, faulty."
Luke: "What do you think are your strengths as a producer? Finding good material?"
Daniel: "Yes, and that I am a leader. And I'm not afraid to work. And I have a lot of enthusiasm."
Luke: "What makes a good leader in producing a movie?"
Daniel: "It's like playing sports. If you grew up playing sports, you saw what it was like to have a good coach or a bad coach. First thing, you have to be honest and knowledgeable. You have to see the entire picture and be able to get the best out of every person. Every person who works on a picture is an artist in his own way whether it is a costume designer, prop guy, writer, DP... Each person has to be treated to be differently. Some people you have to be tougher on and some people you have to encourage. And if they're not doing a good job, you have to get rid of them."
Luke: "What sports did you play as a teenager?"
Daniel: "Football, basketball and golf. I played quarterback at Andover."
Luke: "Do you think Hollywood is the greatest business in the world?"
Daniel: "It's not boring. I don't know if it is the greatest."
Luke: "What's it like raising kids in Hollywood?"
Daniel: "It's tough on a marriage because you're not around much."
Luke: "Your sister was such a driven woman."
Daniel: "We were all driven. That's what we were taught. 'You've got to work hard.'"
Luke: "You didn't like the sight of blood. That's why you went into law?"
Daniel: "When I was a five year-old kid, I followed my father as he made housecalls. When I was six, I had already seen dead people. The office was in the house. He was a GP (General Practitioner) - he did everything except real surgery. I still remember the sign - $3 for a doctor's visit, $4 for a housecall.
"I grew up in the little town of 2500 people, Halvestol, New York. It's 60 miles outside of New York City. It was a tough blue-collar town."
Luke: "Aren't German Jews regarded as the elite of American Jews?"
Daniel: "They'd like to think that. I grew up thinking that German Jews were the smartest. Then they sent me to Andover. And there I was told we were the cream of the crop."
Luke: "What do you remember about The Stepford Wives?"
Daniel: "It's had an interesting afterlife. It's had a greater afterlife than it had an initial run. It's a famous film now."
Luke: "What did you think of the content of the film. It was an angry feminist film."
Daniel laughs: "Maybe it was in front of its time. I went to visit a friend in Woodland Hills. She says, 'Come up here and visit us. We're in Stepfordville.' I thought it was an interesting concept."
Luke: "Could you make a film you passionately disagreed with?"
Daniel: "I couldn't."
Luke: "So your films are a reflection of your sensibilities?"
Daniel: "Unless you're independently wealthy, you have to make a living. There are some things that you do to get by. But if someone has done more than five films, you can look at the body of work and see the humanity of the person behind it."
Luke: "Some people then really scare me. Like Director Martin Scorsese and his bloody violent vision."
Daniel: "He's got a dark violent view. If a person has had the opportunity to have a say in what he's making, and then you look at the pictures in totality, eventually you will see a common thread. I'd like to think that my pictures reflect my belief that one person can make a difference. If people are passionate about some issue, they can effect change. Tecumseh was about one man who wanted to unite all the Indian tribes and drive the white man out of North America. Tecumseh was a Christ-like figure. He was born under a sign."