Where Are They Now?
On a sentimental journey Monday evening, I went on a Google tear, looking up most everyone I remembered and missed from my youth.
Scott Hamelin - was Placer High School's basketball star. He's now married with two kids and working for the IRS.
Joe Hamelin - Scott's dad. Former Sacramento Bee sports editor. Wrote the memoir of a WWII fighter pilot, "To Fly and Fight." It was called the "finest pilot memoire of WWII" by the USAF's official historian. They printed 20,000 hardcover, sold all 20,000, and decided not to have a second run. Joe now writes a sports column for the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
Breaking the Waves is Antisemitic - You Heard It Here First!
Amalek18: in addition to viewing "Crumb", you need to read the book "Heaven's Harlots" for its teachings on human nature. Amalek18: But first view "Crumb" and see if you can spot the obscure intersection with your life. It is in there, albeit perhaps in a form which you cannot yet know.
Amalek18: Anyway, such movies are antisemitic
Amalek18: Anything that protrays a world without jews in a positive light has the potential to feed the fires of antisemitism. We must be proactive in fighting such thoughts by suppressing even the thought that such a world is possible.
Luzdedos1: Not the married Orthodox Jews Amalek18: Consider Mercedes. By her age she ought to have born four children. Instead she has only a late model Merceded Benz to show for it
Amalek18: Too bad NOBODY will read these brilliant and prophetic words on your website.
Luzdedos1: what are pro-termite policies?
Amalek18: Only Israel can reverse this suicidal course of action.
Amalek18: Not bad, eh?
Khunrum writes: My god, déjà vu all over again. Fast forward to 2002 (next Monday to be exact) .....five (mostly) white men (three Armenian Americans, one Jew and yours truly) travel to Vietnam to fornicate with Asian women. No fighting....we weren't up for it when Nixon wanted to send us and we aren't up for it now. Make Love, Not War.... BTW I saw that "Making Waves" flic...Totally depressing with no redeeming social value whatsoever....May I suggest "Bangkok Dangerous...." A handsome young deaf-mute Thai hitman falls in love with a sweet and comely young store clerk...excellent.
Born and raised in Israel, movie producer Moshe Diamant fought in the Israeli Defense Force in the country's 1967 and 1973 wars for survival. He now lives in Los Angeles with his second wife and five kids.
We spoke by phone February 18, 2002.
"I'm an engineer by profession. In Israel in the late '70s, I developed equipment that was the first in the world to do subtitles directly on videos. I was offered a deal by Deluxe, which belongs to Fox, to open with them a company here in Los Angeles. And eventually I fell in love with production."
Luke: "You're best known for your action pictures. Why that niche?"
Moshe: "It's more of an international language than say political dramas or things that have to do with local culture. It's something that everybody in the world understands. Good guys killing bad guys after being hurt by bad guys. And then I found it more logistically challenging than any other type of movie."
Luke: "And a reflection of coming from a country constantly fighting for its survival?"
Moshe: "Probably, in the back of my head. The thing with action movies is that you have to treat it for what it is - a movie. We saw real action in our lives. It's not the same. I've never made a movie that feels the same as real action. I'm getting entertained. Action is entertaining.
"In the beginning, my company just did distribution. We opened a video company. And the prices we paid for finished movies were so high that I said, 'Why don't we try to make a movie on our own?' I met Bill Malone and he pitched me the story for my first movie Creature."
From Imdb.com: "A crew of scientists arrives on a far, cold planet to examine archaic artifacts of unknown origin. They discover that the German enemies have already a ship there. When they seek their help after a failed landing, they only find the German's bodies, obviously slaughtered by one of the archaic creatures, awoken to new life. Now the alien is after them."
Luke: "Why did you leave the Sony lot, the former headquarters for your production company?"
Moshe: "I left two years ago and they've been my most productive years. I've made three studio movies (The Musketeer, The Extremists and Fear Dotcom) and we're in pre-production for two more movies.
"Sony had expectations for me to deliver Jean-Claude Van Damme action movies [of which he's made seven]. And new management came in and Jean-Claude Van Damme movies were not their cup of tea. I didn't find that I was able to make the movies there that I really wanted. All they offered me were scripts that, I don't want to insult anybody, were not something that I would make a movie out of...
"I ended up sitting [at Sony] for a while doing nothing. The last movie I made there [Simon Sez, 1999] was a compromise. They released a cut version of the interesting movie I made. I wanted to make a hyper-realistic movie. It was before Matrix. We would have this mysterious hero who will help whoever is in trouble.
"We shot something interesting but the movie as released didn't work. Sony made him [Dennis Rodman] an Interpol agent. I've never seen a black 7' feet tall man with orange hair and earrings who was an Interpol agent in the south of France.
"What was supposed to be a fantasy with action that is not realistic, was not here and not there. It was an action movie that tried to be realistic. It didn't make sense. But I am on good terms with Sony. They just bought the foreign distribution rights to Fear Dotcom. But being independent is more fun. I have total freedom. I've made three movies that I've wanted to make for a long time and all will get a studio release.
"We developed The Musketeer more than ten years ago. We wanted to make a classic period piece Chinese style. Not in the action, but in how it's shot, the pacing, the look... Universal decided not to do it and we ended up doing it with director Peter Hyams."
Luke: "How pleased are you with the result?"
Moshe: "I always love my movies. It's like your kids. You don't even like to criticize them.
"Double Impact  was my first box office smash. It gave Jean-Claude Van Damme legitimacy and was shot in Hong Kong on a modest budget. I've always been fascinated with the East. I shot my first movie with Van Damme in Hong Kong for the scenery and setting. Once there, I developed wonderful relationships with Hong Kong filmmakers like John Woo. We ended up bringing him to the United States to make his first American film, Hard Target . I've also brought Hong Kong directors Ringo Lam and Hark Tsui to the United States to make movies with me. On almost every movie I work on, I use a stunt team or cabling team from Hong Kong.
"My biggest budgeted film (around $40 million) was [1995's] Sudden Death. Van Damme's best film. It forced him to act. It didn't do well on the domestic box office but it did well foreign and ancillary rights."
From the Jerusalem Post: When Moshe Diamant first met Jean-Claude Van Damme, he befriended a young man he found to be likable, but doubted he'd ever become a big-time star. That was 10 years ago. Since then, the Israeli has produced the last seven of Van Damme's films, including The Quest, which has just opened in Tel Aviv. The Quest, which co-stars Roger Moore, and was made on a budget of over $30 million, was the most popular film in North America the weekend it opened. It's the first Van Damme has directed as well as starred in.
His lucrative linkage with Diamant began when Van Damme walked into Diamant's office in Milan 10 years ago and announced he was going to be a star. Diamant, previously a co--owner of a lab called Film Technique in Tel Aviv where he says he developed the first video subtitling system for Israeli television, had set up a similar company in Los Angeles before becoming a producer. He says he told Van Damme he didn't have star quality, but they nevertheless became friends.
"I liked him as a person. Jean-Claude is an immigrant to the US, and he's more comfortable with another immigrant. And we Israelis are warm. Though I didn't believe in his future, and I was open in telling him, I helped him buy his first house.
"Then when his film Kickboxer came out, my son and I went to see it with him. The theater was packed. What surprised me was all the women and children cheering whenever he did the splits and took off his shirt. When we walked out, nobody recognized him. He was totally unknown. I said to him: 'You know, I never saw it on the tape you showed me, but you're right, you have a chance to be a star. Let's find a way to do it.'
Diamant, who has five children, three born in Israel, two in the US, says it's because "Jean-Claude is accessible; he's not Superman. He is a hero who is still vulnerable... and smart, the way kids think they can be."
Luke writes: Diamant's two favorite movies are ones he lost control over - 1990's Bad Influence, directed by Curtis Hanson and starring Rob Lowe and James Spader, and 1993's Carlito's Way, directed by Brian DePalma and starring Al Pacino.
"Carlito's Way was based on two novels by a judge in New York, Edwin Torres. It took years to produce and eventually we sold it to Universal. It's interesting how Hollywood can take a project you've developed for years and make something you don't like. The minute we had Al Pacino, he wanted to bring in this other producer. We started to lose control as Pacino started to call the shots. We found out we had to use director Brian DePalma who had a totally different vision from what we wanted to do. I learned a big lesson. If you love a project, don't ever lose control. Lose the star before you lose control."
"David came to me with the script. I read it and I loved it. It was difficult to put together because it is a dark movie."
Luke: "Didn't you discover Jean-Claude Van Damme?"
Moshe: "I hate that word, 'discover.' He discovered himself. He made a bunch of low budget movies for Menahem Golan's Cannon before we worked together on Double Impact. The distributor Columbia only wanted to spend $4 million and I wanted $11 million so we could do it with Van Damme. Eventually they went with it, and it worked out for everybody. Double Impact sold a record 400,000 videocassettes."
Luke: "Why don't you guys work together today?"
Moshe: "He went back to doing low budget action movies and I decided to stay more in the mainstream. I lost myself making Van Damme movies. I was looking for scripts for Jean-Claude rather than a variety of scripts that I really liked like Bad Influence, Consent of a Woman, Full Moon and Blue Water, and Carlito's Way.
"Jean-Claude was so demanding that I had to spend all my time [for seven years] looking for projects for him."
Luke: "You did two movies with Dennis Rodman, Simon Sez and Double Team."
Moshe: "I love him. He's a character. There are two Dennis Rodmans. There's the one that the media knows and then there is the real Dennis."
Luke: "Is he a good actor?"
Moshe: "He's not an actor. Dennis Rodman is Dennis Rodman. You have to bend the movie to accommodate Dennis Rodman. He's not going to act different than Dennis Rodman. But he's disciplined. He works hard for many hours and rarely complains.
"I did Double Team with Dennis Rodman, Mickey Rourke and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Columbia told me I was a lunatic to put those three in one movie. They're considered difficult. Actually, Dennis Rodman was the glue. He made everybody work harder by not being spoiled. Those guys are spoiled, needing a big trailer and specific hours."
Luke: "Do your children have a favorite movie of yours?"
Moshe: "Many of them they are not allowed to see. I'd say there favorite movie is The Musketeer. I'm married a second time."
Luke: "If we were to make a movie about your life, what would the character arc be?"
Moshe: "It would be a boring movie. Since I've come to the United States, my life has been monotonic. I've been running around the world making movies. I'd say it's a story about how you can survive against all odds. It's difficult being a foreigner, from Israel, coming to Hollywood at a time when Israelis were much criticized by Hollywood because of Cannon, owned by Menahem Goland and Yoram. Because of Menahem and Yoram [and their shady business practices], they think we're all alike. They don't trust you. It took me years to convince people that I could be trusted. That I read scripts and that I don't mind developing good scripts. Now it's easy because I've developed relationships with agencies and financial institutes and studios. The last 11 years, all of my movies have been distributed by studios. I have access to the right people. But it was a long difficult journey. Many times you want to give up and go back to Israel. But I don't like to be a quitter."
Luke: "Many people in Hollywood think Israelis are fast talking con men."
Moshe: "Which is not true. What's left in Hollywood of Israelis is Arnon Milchan, David Matalon who are not con men. There's Avi Lerner. I won't say anything about him because he doesn't help our reputation. Menahem Golam and Yoram Globus [former Israeli paratroopers] are now in Israel. Yoram runs a big theater chain in Israel and Menahem has retired. Despite the criticism, they invented the independent business."
Diamant says he never read a 1996 Fortune magazine article about Italian thug Giancarlo Parretti which mentioned Diamant. Under a section titled "Special Effects In Hollywood - How To Make Bad Loans Disappear," David McClintick writes:
The article read in part: "Another troubled borrower to which CLBN gave fraudulent help was Empire Entertainment, producer of such dreck as Crash and Burn, Crawlspace, and Ghoulies. Empire had borrowed $26 million from CLBN and by 1988 was in default and nearly bankrupt. Georges Vigon, head of European lending for Credit Lyonnais, feared that if Empire failed, the Dutch central bank and other regulators might force CLBN to call its growing number of shaky Hollywood loans. That would destroy the bank's entertainment business, possibly ending Vigon's career.
"Vigon enlisted the aid of two Hollywood producers, Eduard Sarlui and Moshe Diamant, who also were longtime clients of CLBN. They created a new company, Epic Holdings, which acquired Empire. Epic in turn was owned by a shell company in the Netherlands, Formax, whose stock in turn was owned by a newly formed Panamanian corporation, Route of the Stars, or ROS. ROS's ownership was evidenced only by bearer certificates carrying no names. The bearers were Sarlui and Diamant, to whom CLBN (Credit Lyonnais Bank Nederland (CLBN)) loaned $200 million, some of which was used to pay off Empire's old loans. Empire's other creditors, however, were not paid. And, since the the new owners of Empire were hidden behind a cloud of anonymous shares at the top of a corporate pyramid in Panama, creditors had nowhere to turn. The structure was similar to Giancarlo Parretti's corporate structure, which had been used by some Credit Lyonnais officers to conceal bad loans at the Cannon Group."
Moshe: "We had a company, Epic, that was indirectly controlled by CLBN. It started as an innocent thing on our behalf and ended up as part of a bigger scheme than we imagined. The bank said they would increase our line of credit from $60 million to $200 million if you will get the assets of Empire. And instead of you paying off Empire's debts, you'll give us stock in the new company. And we left it to them to structure it. We assumed it was legitimate. It survived about seven months until we realized they were trying to hide bad debts from Empire and other companies. We sued them. They sued us. We ended up compromising.
"CLB were financing us for years. Of all the companies they financed, most of the companies disappeared when CLBN went down, including the individuals involved. When my problems started with them, I just moved on. I made a deal with Tom Pollock at Universal and kept on making movies. It didn't affect me like it effected others."
Luke: "Did you ever meet Giancarlo Peretti?"
Moshe: "Many times. It was so obvious that he was a crook. He didn't hide it. Our main vendor, CLBN, said he was great. We wouldn't sell him anything.
"The whole line of credit with CLBN started because Peretti made an offer to buy our company Trans World Entertainment and CLBN said no. Don't sell it. We'd rather use it to buy Empire. You'll have a bigger line of credit and you'll have a bigger company and you won't need to sell it.
"CLBN wanted us to put Trans World into Epic together with Empire's assets and Dino DeLaurentiis's assets. They had a plan that sounded good. Our library of about 200 films was sold to MGM for $280 million.
"The bank was corrupt. They made mistakes in every area, not just entertainment loans. They found out that people were stealing money and taking bribes. The bank's representatives that worked with us disappeared. We started a lawsuit against the bank and we couldn't find them. Georges Vigon is in jail.
"One day the bank stopped sending us money. So we went to Paris to see them. And we saw, wow, this bank is in trouble."
Luke: "Dino introduced Paretti around Hollywood."
Moshe: "Dino DeLaurentiis is not a crook. Despite being 80 years of age, he's naive. If you give Dino an opportunity to make a movie and lose money, he'll make a movie. Paretti gave him opportunities. Dino's public company [was bankrupt] and Paretti gave him the opportunity to make movies. Dino didn't care about anything but making movies.
"Paretti entered Hollywood by buying Golan's Cannon Pictures. Menahem knew he didn't want to deal with Paretti but Yoram stayed with him."
Luke: "Do you want to diversify from action flicks?"
Moshe: "Look at our three last movies. One is horror, one is action and one is an extreme skiing movie. And we're preparing a kids movie and a science fiction movie. I've got the label of action movies because of Van Damme. That's ok. I love action movies. You'll always find some action in my movies. The kids movie is about a monkey who does marshal arts. And the science fiction movie has a lot of action."
Luke: "You're as passionate about your work as ever?"
Moshe: "Always. That's my life."
Luke: "What do your family and friends in Israel think about you turning into a Hollywood producer?"
Moshe: "It's such a different world for them that they don't know what it means. I don't tell them too much about it."
Luke: Here are some highlights from the Fortunte article:
In less than a year , Parretti's Hollywood edifice [including MGM] would blow apart with epic force, and a shaky global empire constructed from the oldest building material known to man--the bribe--would topple. Parretti's fabled studio would be snatched away. The corrupt bank that had lent him over $2 billion, the august Credit Lyonnais of Paris, would shrivel and watch its grand dreams of global influence go up in flames.
California Superior Court Judge Irving Shimer, sifting through the wreckage, would observe in court that the French bankers who lent Parretti and other film executives billions weren't "interested in making movies. They were interested in getting girls on the yacht...That's why bankers come to Hollywood--lots and lots of pretty girls."
--Alan Ladd Jr., the veteran movie executive who worked for Parretti and praised him publicly as an important new force in Hollywood, only weeks before turning on him and taking his job in return for a $1 million bonus from Credit Lyonnais.
--Dino De Laurentiis, the Italian producer who introduced Parretti around Hollywood and whose daughter, the producer Raffaella De Laurentiis, punched Parretti in the groin when he ran his hand up her thigh at a Beverly Hills dinner party.
Between 1981 and 1988, [Frans] Afman's lending to Hollywood increased sixfold, to around $775 million. In addition to De Laurentiis, his clients included Alexander Salkind, who had made Superman; Hemdale Films, which had made the Academy Award-winning Platoon and the megahit The Terminator; Carolco Pictures, which had made some of the Rambo movies; and Gladden Entertainment, which made The Fabulous Baker Boys. (On Oscar night, 1987, the producer of Platoon, accepting the Academy Award for best picture, thanked Afman by name for "having the money in the Philippine jungle when I really needed it.")
Afman actually reported to the Dutch branch of Credit Lyonnais, called Credit Lyonnais Bank Nederland (CLBN), which had a checkered past, including allegations of laundering money for drug kingpins. In 1981, Credit Lyonnais appointed Georges Vigon, a rising star in its senior echelons, to straighten out the Dutch. One of Vigon's first moves was to create a new division of the bank exclusively for the movie loans. He named Frans Afman to run it.
Parretti decided he wanted to buy the distributor, the Cannon Group, which was run by two former Israeli paratroopers, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Cannon, based in Los Angeles and traded on the New York Stock Exchange, was the largest movie theater operator in Europe and made ninja and vengeance films with actors like Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris.
I opened a door on a closed set on Stage 14 at Paramount Thursday, February 14, 2002, and walked down a long dark corridor. Then I turned a corner and stumbled on to a live shoot of the TV show Sabrina The Teenage Witch.
I ducked back into the corridor, gathered myself, and then casually slipped behind the cameras. The director yelled 'Action' and the scene began.
Six years ago, when I was new to Los Angeles, I worked for about a year as an extra on TV shows like this one. Eventually I got into the Screen Actors Guild through my background work.
Today I find producer Bruce Ferber and pull him aside for a chat.
Luke: "You started with Roger Corman?"
Bruce: "I graduated from NYU in 1974 with a degree in film, just after Martin Scorsese left. I didn't take one television course. Everybody wanted to be like Ingmar Bergman and Martin Scorsese. It was only when I came to Los Angeles, that there seemed to be so many more options in television.
"I worked in B movies. I worked for free as a production assistant on the Roger Corman film "Death Race 2000." From there, I segued to assistant film editing on such productions as "Cheerleaders to the Rescue" and "Black Shampoo," with the hopes of one day becoming a writer and feature director.
"I had a few friends who wrote for sitcoms. I'd written some screenplays but I'd never thought about getting into television. I'd always wanted to do movies. Back in the '70s, I don't think there were as many people coming out of film school wanting to write sitcoms as there are now.
"I wrote some spec scripts on the side. I gave one to a staff writer on a show at Paramount. He gave it to his friend. He gave it to Barry Kemp on Taxi... And soon I get my first freelance assignment as a writer for Bosom Buddies. I got my first staff job on the show House Calls. Then I worked on a car-wreck of a show, Star of the Family, that had some talented people on it like Brian Dennehy. He played a fireman, just like he did in his latest sitcom.
"I bounced around from show to show. It was hard to land anything on a quality show at that point. I did Webster, Jennifer Slept Here, Duet. Paramount signed me to a small overall deal. On Open House, I learned how to produce. I moved up through the ranks.
"I joined Home Improvement in 1991 and I worked on it for six years. That show changed my life. It ran eight years and went into syndication.
"As executive producer, you're the head writer. You're responsible for casting, editing, all aspects of the show aside from technical. Home Improvement was done before a live audience. That adds pressure. If you've got a joke that's been funny all week, and then you do in front of a live audience, and nobody laughs, you've got to come up with something on the spot.
"We used to have something we called 'The 50% makeup.' No matter what the joke was, if Tim Allen said it, they would laugh harder if it was a surprise. And the director would have to cut to reaction shots as the laughs rolled on.
"We used to get 20 people from the Universal tour on Wednesdays and bring them to the set. And we'd run through the whole show and see what they thought was funny. It was a sneak preview of how the bigger audience would react on Friday night when we taped the show."
Luke: "What was it like being brought on to Sabrina in its fifth year?"
Bruce: "It was weird. The show was in chaos. There were a lot of fences that needed mending. We had to move Sabrina from high school to college, which changed the whole feel of the show. We cast new people."
Luke: "It's a delicate process."
Bruce: "You have a million personalities in the studio and at the network that you need to make happy. Your star [Melissa Joan Hart] is used to a certain way of working and we want to make sure that she is happy. When I came in, I lightened her work load. They were doing five or six stories an episode and I do two. There were fewer scenes and fewer wardrobe changes. It was a more streamlined operation and she had more time to herself.
"We shoot 22 episodes a year. We shoot three days a week from August until February 15. The writers will come back in June."
Luke: "They say now that the best writing is on television."
Bruce: "If you look at the slate of drama pilots that have been ordered this year, and many of the writers are feature writers. Writers realized that you get more of a chance to tell your stories in TV. With features, they're working for Jerry Bruckheimer.
"It's harder than ever to get a show on the air but in terms of the subject matters you can write about, the boundaries are wider than ever. The problem is that when networks see a trend of what is doing well, they want to mimic it. The WB has a hit with Smallville, so now we have The Young Lone Ranger and The Young Batman. Chances are that imitations won't be as good as the originals."
Luke: "What part of your job grabs your interest?"
Bruce: "The writing."
Luke: "Do you ever burn out?"
Bruce: "Oh yeah."
Luke: "So what do you do?"
Bruce: "The good part is that you have three months to recharge every year. I took a year off after Home Improvement. What burns you out is producing the show week in and week out.
"For some people, they need the money. So that gets their interest. What should get you going is when you get an idea that turns you on."
Luke: "Are there any awards that you and your show have received that mean something to you?"
Bruce: "Yes, one for Home Improvement from an environmental foundation."
From Emagazine.com: A carton of recycled copier paper sits on the counter of the ER nurses' station. The cast of Friends pours milk out of a reusable glass bottle. Law and Order's Detective Briscoe asks his lieutenant to guess what the blue fleece found at the crime scene is made of. "Recycled plastic bottles," she responds. From props in your favorite star's hands to stories about energy conservation and pesticides, environmental products and themes are appearing regularly on America's most popular television programs.
It's not happening by accident. For 10 years, the Environmental Media Association (EMA) has been working to weave the environment into prime-time television programming. Created by and for professionals in the entertainment industry, EMA works with the stars in front of the cameras as well as the creative staff behind them to include environmental themes in scripts, show environmental products on sets, and make environmentally sound decisions in the studios.
"You can use popular television programs to get the word out, reach every group and every sector of the population," says Jennifer Love Hewitt, a Party of Five cast member. "If we backed the environment with the full force of the entertainment industry, I'm sure a lot of positive things could come of it."
Home Improvement won in the television comedy category for a story that included a description of emissions trading. It was an especially sweet victory for Home Improvement Executive Producer Bruce Ferber. "We had been nominated in a previous year for a segment where we put a brick in a toilet [to conserve water]. We were nominated alongside shows that had done episodes on real issues, like the destruction of the planet. It was embarrassing to be up there against them, so we were determined to come up with a real story line," says Ferber of his winning episode.
Luke: "Do you like to send messages on your shows?"
Bruce: "Yes. We send a lot of messages on Sabrina. Every show that we do tries to have a message about empowerment. We try not to be heavy handed. We do it funny."
Luke: "Is there a common thread through your work?"
Bruce: "Yes. As opposed to the Seinfeld ethic of doing shows about nothing, I do shows about something."
Luke: "If we were to make a movie about your life, what would the character arc be?"
Bruce: "A guy gets out of film school, thinking he's going to be a film director. He kicks around to the point where he's ready to leave because he's so frustrated. Then suddenly success comes [on TV sitcoms]. My arc is about realizing that I can do it."
The Late Shift
I just watched the same movie twice in a row. It was that good. That's the first time I've ever done that. THE LATE SHIFT about the ratings war between David Letterman and Jay Leno. Jay Leno has been winning the past five years.
Whatever Happened To...
Chaim Amalek writes: I note that poptune critic JD Considine has a rather lengthy review of somebody I had never heard of (and still do not want to learn anything about) in today's New York Times Arts and Leisure section. As much as I try, I can never get into any reviews of this kind. How about you, Marc - is it well written and informative?
(Luke, you should do a "What Ever Happened To" feature on all the interesting beings who passed across the web pages of LF.com. I had not heard anything from or about this JD person for a very long time, and there must be others. What has your Judas been up to of late?)
Joe writes: JD is writing about kylie minogue ... i thought it was a solid piece. constantine is a fairly clinical writer overall--for whatever reason, he *cares* about this music, which i generally do not. weirder still, to the best of my knowledge, he's also relocated to ... toronto.
J.D. Considine writes in the New York Times: Riding a series of polished, electronic grooves, Ms. Minogue purrs, growls and pouts, doing her best to seem wholesomely libidinous. Although the backing tracks range from retro disco ("More More More," which despite its title owes nothing to the Andrea True Connection oldie) to cutting-edge house music ("Burning Up"), the songs repeatedly equate dancing with sex. Not since the glory days of disco have the two been so enthusiastically linked.
Disco, though, was never the dirty word in Europe that it became in America, which may be why Ms. Minogue — whose 2000 album "Kylie" included titles like "Your Disco Needs You" — has for so long been ignored here. True, a few of disco's musical marionettes, like Donna Summer, became adult pop idols, but their moment in the limelight was brief. American audiences prefer self-defining divas on the order of Mariah Carey and Madonna.
Khunrum writes: I caught that movie Ron Jeremy Porn Star last night. I give it my highest rating. Khun Rum recommended. Was this flic conceived after your retirement Luke? I was looking for a L.Ford sound bite but you were no where to be found. All the usual suspects seemed to be in the film but you. May I suggest an interview with the producers of Ron's movie? It could be an interesting session....
The film "Ron Jeremy, Porn Star" arrived at my local "arte" cinema Friday. I went to see it with a date Saturday evening fearing it wouldn't be around long. There were about twelve people in the theater so I may be right. It is a documentary and very well done. I could use a lot of adjectives but let's just say it was extremely funny but also intense and sad ....Ron comes off as a likable shlub, a legend as it were and a lonely guy who craves attention. He desperately wants to give up porn and become a mainstream actor but his porn past both gets him work and keeps him back as well. He evidently has been an extra in many B flics. If it comes to your town don't miss it. If it doesn't come to your town (or has come and gone) rent it.
Fred writes: Although I never met Ron, your description of him in the documentary matches what I imagined him to be like. I also imagine that he is brighter than the average porn actor. I suppose there are advantages and disadvantages to the way each of us spend his life. Given the way Ron Jeremy looks (i.e. awful), he certainly got laid a lot more in his current career than if he had chosen other career paths. Also, it is doubtful that he would have been successful in mainstream entertainment even if he hadn't chosen a career in porn. Query: do you think he would have been a happier person had he chosen another career?
Khunrum writes: Actually he had another career. He has a master's degree and taught school for two years in Queens, NY. He wanted to be a mainstream actor but turned to porn when he couldn't find work. There are complex issues here....He is treated as a bafoon by his male porn peers. Hershel Savage in particular gives him a humiliating drubbing. However the female actresses seem to adore him. The public loves him. He is continually busy with his stand up act, and personal appearances. He did a video with Kid Rock. They say he is the only porn actor to have banked a couple of million bucks and has the first nickel he ever made. Ron is describing how difficult it is to get and keep a boner while being filmed. He said that new guy will come on the set full of confidence until the girl turns to him and says "Don't look at me like I am your girlfriend, fuck me so I can get out of here" That's it, no wood that day. A must see.
Fred writes: I don't see why an actress should go out of her way to make life difficult for her costar. After all, a line like that will clearly make the project take a lot longer, and make her life more difficult. And besides--why the hell should she care what's going on in her co-star's mind?
A former law school classmate of mine was a school teacher (6th grade). She went to a male strip show. One of the performers recognized her as his former teacher, and came over to say "Oh, hi Mrs. xxx." She was surprised to say the least.
Khunrum writes: I meant to write to Young W. two weeks ago when I took an Asian (naturally) friend to see a Heavy Metal concert. She indicated she had never attended a proper R&R concert except the small clubs we had been to. All I could find that week were Anthrax and Judas Priest.......I know nothing about the music of these two bands and after attending the concert I still don't. Personally I liked Anthrax the best. They were a bunch of motley looking guys whose leader repeated the F word throughout the 90 minutes or so..."Hey Fucking Houston, How the Fuck are you Fuckers?.....We haven't seen you Fucking Fuckers in this Fucking town since I don't know Fucking when". My friend asked why he kept saying Fuck so often. It was a legitimate question to which I don't have an answer'''....Judas Priest were the better dressed or the two. They were nattily attired in leather......But I have a question.
I think this could be an excellent investigative piece for Mr. W.. The Priest fellows all had long flowing blond locks (except the lead singer, short hair, half dollar sized bald spot) Throwing the hair side to side seems to be an important part of their ahhh! act?....whatever. So the question is, how do these heavy metal guys who all seem to be early middle aged reach that point in their lives with a dome full of curly hair? I suspect skullduggery.....(hair extensions)? Can you shed any light on this observation? Perhaps you could devote an entire article to full hair and heavy metal....
Producer Barnet Bain - What Dreams May Come
I met producer Barnet "Bain" Fishbein at Buzz Coffee on Sunset and Crescent Heights Blvds in Los Angeles on February 14, 2002.
He's tall and dark and healthy looking. He wears sun glasses. His hair is black.
Barnet grew up in Northern Quebec, an hour's drive north of Montreal, in the small town of Saint Agatha of the Moutains. The fulltime population was about 3000 people, largely Catholic. There were about ten Jewish families.
The town was located in a tourist district by a lake, surrounded by ski mountains, and on weekends the population swelled to 30,000. During summer, it would go to 60,000.
"There was a local synagogue that was affluent because it was supported by a membership that was non-resident," remembers Bain. "I, to my chagrin, was a beneficiary of all that largess because I lived up the street from the synagogue and next door to the rabbi. So from the day I turned 13, it was my misfortune to be conveniently accessed to make a minyan [prayer quorum]. So no matter how much earlier I arose from week to week, the rabbi was always standing draconian at the door, ready to pull me from the pleasures of being young to go make a minyan. My skis, my skates had to wait. Everything waited for the minyan.
"At one point, I thought I was going to be a rabbi. But I think this period of my life when I was tyrannized by the constant quest for a minyan drove me from it.
"Being a film producer is exactly the same job. The food is better. You're always trying to get a minyan together. Seriously, it's an opportunity to steward a private set of values and to explore values and perception and conception in myself and others. And then to share those explorations with those who matter to me. Which attracted me back then when I thought about leading a religious life. And now is an opportunity to do it on a canvas that is worldwide. That is non-sectarian. I now make a distinction between a religious life and a spiritual life.
"Values and ethics are moving targets. There's no such things as ultimate values. Values are a trail of bread crumbs. You follow them, you pick them up, you digest them and you move on. As a producer, it's only about story telling and ritual. Ritual being the performance side of story telling. I am interested in stories that will open me and others to greater intimacy with ourselves so that we have greater self-knowing and the ability to access a larger domain of personal choice.
"I had a couple of unfortunate years of college at Carlton University in Ottawa. I went wild. I flunked out of my first year and repeated the year and flunked out again. I met an old time producer Reg Daugherty at the National Film Board of Canada who invited me to work on the campus television station.
"I then went to what is now the University of Westminster Film School in London. I got a fine arts degree in film and photography. I then worked a series of jobs in UK, running the gamut from waiting tables to selling jeans. I didn't have a work permit.
"I wrote and sold some spec scripts. I moved to New York and worked in advertising. In 1980, I was asked to adopt the Gospel of Luke as a script for Warner Brothers."
Luke: "Why did they turn to you as an expert in Jesus?"
Barnet: "Producer John Heyman, father of who produced Lord of the Rings, hired me because I was around and available and cheap. John told Warners he already had a script. And when they asked to see it, he said, 'It's not very good. He'll start over.' And they said, 'We'd like to see the script anyway.' So he said, 'I'll go back to New York and I'll punch it up.'
"I get a call. John says, 'I'm going to hire you to do this and I'm going to pay you an obscenely small amount of money.' For me, it was a king's ransom. He said, 'I'm going to pay you this a week to adapt this movie. You will have exactly one week to do it.'
"I went off and wrote the script in three weeks. Warners called him up and said the script was fine. 'We'll shoot this.' He hired me just to produce a bunch of pages. He had no expectation that I would produce a script they would shoot.
"In the summer of 2001, I saw an article in Forbes magazine that that movie Jesus is the most widely scene piece of film on the planet. It's been seen by a billion-and-a-half people. More people than who saw Titanic and Gone With the Wind. It's been translated into over 450 languages. It's been used as an evangelical tool. It was financed by the Hunt brothers of Texas silver fame.
"I made $8750 from the film. Agents get a bad rap. Where are they when you need them?
"Last summer, I was stuck overnight in Rome. There was a youth jubilee. There were kids wall-to-wall marching through the streets. And they were all clutching these bags that had these little cassettes of this movie. The box had an endorsement from the Pope. My 12-year old daughter never had any idea that I had anything to do with this movie. "My God, dad, there's the pope and there's you. That's you.'
"I wrote a few more scripts [after Jesus] and discovered development hell [the hell of trying to get a movie made]. I moved to LA in 1982. I met my future [Jewish] wife on Thanksgiving, 1982. We spent the next afternoon together and we've never parted. We married in August, 1983. We had a daughter in 1988.
"I wrote for years for everyone and never had another movie made. I sold a lot and I worked a lot and I never had another movie made. It became difficult, lonely and bitter."
The first film Barnet produced was the undistinguished 1996 TV movie The Conspiracy of Fear.
Bain met producer Stephen Simon, who shared his metaphysical interests. In 1995, they formed the company Metafilmics to make spiritual films. Their biggest production was the $70 million What Dreams May Come (1998) starring Robin Williams.
"We wanted to make mainstream popular entertainment that spoke to spiritual issues and looked for what was magnificent in people. It wasn't about making goody goody movies. They could be difficult, even violent, movies. But they should be movies where you came away feeling that you understood more about who you were, why you were.
"I wish one could make a movie about big metaphysical themes and market it as a movie about metaphysical themes without relying on big special effects. Stephen and I would've liked to have made the movie for half the money without the special effects. We would've had the same audience and it would've been more profitable.
"New Age has proved to be the most successful niche of publishing in many years. I hope a similar niche emerges in film. The film business looks to leverage everything so they can deliver to the widest possible audience.
"Somebody once said that being with Robin Williams is like travelling with a Shriners' convention. It's like being with all of the Shriners in one guy. Robin lives in his heart. His heart is not just on his sleave, it is all over. That he had the courage to step into a performance like that..."
Luke: "What did you think of Ron Bass's script?"
Barnet: "I loved it. The first time I read it, it brought me to tears. It was powerful, wise and insightful. And it either moved people or made them feel uncomfortable. If you show a story about people who are numb to their emotions, I can't recall any criticism. But you don't make films that deal with spirituality and emotional literacy without raising the temperature.
"Ron is probably the most successful screenwriter alive today. He understands the power of diving into people's emotional states. As Ron taught me, movies are not about what is said from one person to another. They're about what's going on unsaid between people. And unless you can conjure up states of heightened emotion, there's no subtext for a camera to read in a scene. It just becomes the lines that people are throwing at each other. That does not create a state of heightened reality.
"Ron knows how to conjure a state of heightened reality. And it is not in the words that he puts into the mouths of his characters. It is in the climate that exists between the characters around the words. And sometimes that climate spills over in ways that are uncomfortable for the audience. And they react with either curiosity, exploration and humility and rewarded deeply. Or they react with cynicism and denial.
"Stephen and I did the first Hollywood motion picture developed exclusively for worldwide internet distribution."
Luke: "How many copies of Quantum (2000) sold over the internet?"
Barnet: "Not a lot."
Luke: "It got tremendous press."
Barnet: "Not a lot bought it."
Luke: "A concept ahead of its time."
Barnet: "It was very much ahead of its time. A lot of people tried to buy it.
"I don't watch any television. I'm not interested in computers. I'd rather read a book."
Luke: "Tell me about The Linda McCartney TV movie."
Barnet: "She was half of one of the great popular love stories of our time. A story that has magical seductive elements. It's well known that these lovers have never spent more than two days apart in their entire marriage. There was a mythology to the story that appealed to me. Love stories are only as good as the challenges they meet. In the case of What Dreams May Come, we had the ultimate obstacle - they were dead.
"In the case of McCartneys, they struggled with the demands of fame. They put under the microscope the seductions we all have. We lead fast paced lives and are pulled away from what is really valuable."
Luke: "If we were to make a movie about your life, what would the character arc be?"
Barnet: "It would be about a man who looked for meaning and connection. But he has meaning and connection and doesn't know it. He comes full circle to where he began - a connection with the divine and a sense of being in dominion with all the forces around and beyond us. A man of God. I acknowledge my talents as a father, a husband and as a lover. I mean that in the sense of giving and receiving safety and security and value and making people feel known and visible for who and what they are."
Barnet was last in synagogue a year ago - for a Bar Mitzvah. "But I feel powerfully connected, most of the day, to the mystery. My daughter did not have a Bat Mitvah. She identifies with being Jewish but I am not sure what she has hooked up to it. She didn't go to Hebrew school. We talked about some of the esoteric energies around Judaism. She's familiar with that in an experiential way. She's familiar with conjuring those energies of Shechina [the divine presence] even though she doesn't do it as a Friday night ritual. But when she wants that kind of intimacy and connection, she knows exactly how to do that.
"We don't instruct her in that manner. But she has many connections to kabbalistic [mystical] Judaism."
"I have to hussle every day of my life," TV producer Phil Gurin told me from his car phone February 13, 2002.
Luke: "Are you driving around with your top down, your shirt unbuttoned to your navel, and wearing gold chains?"
Phil: "I'm so not like that. I'm just a short dark intense Jewish guy."
Luke: "Didn't you do two one-hour specials 18 months ago about the dark side of skating?"
Phil: "We exposed stuff that goes on in the skating world on the amateur and professional level. On the ice and off the ice. We used some of the same footage that you've been seeing on the news. I was at the figure skating competition in Salt Lake City Monday night. Unbelievable. I think that what happened [Russians getting gold over flawless Canadians] was just awful. The Canadians were emotional and they skated to perfection. You could feel the energy through the whole arena. When they stopped, the whole place stood on its feet because you knew you had seen an amazing performance. Their scores were a little low. Then when you saw the Russians come on out afterwards and made at least one technical mistake but got a higher score, it was unbelievable. Such a crime."
Luke: "What sorts of things did you uncover in your two specials?"
Phil: "It's not that we uncovered anything new because I don't come from the news division. We talked about crooked judges and payola and skaters who had to hide their sexuality. And a stalker. It was all public record. We just put it in a Fox kind of special."
Luke: "That would be particularly interesting to look at now."
Phil: "If Fox was smart, they'd pop them on the air immediately."
Luke: "This kind of fixing is rampant in ice skating?"
Phil: "I don't know if it is rampant. I'm not an expert on skating. It's certainly interesting. It's a world where I would say, mom and dad, don't let your kids grow up to be skaters."
Luke: "What was Stalkerazzi?"
Phil: "The title was changed to 'When Cameras Cross The Line.' It aired on Fox. It was a documentary about paparazzi and celebrities and the interesting bargain the two have with each other. The paparazzi needs the celebrity and the celebrity needs the media attention. But when do they cross the line? When do the famous have the right to tell somebody that you can't report on me? At the same time, you need to be covered in the media to be a star. Second. When is it fair journalism for somebody to take pictures of somebody and follow them into their personal life. We raised a lot of questions. It was a gripping visual compilation of footage and interviews.
"My partner on that was Edward Wessex, the youngest brother of Prince Charles. It was his idea. He has a production company in England. We were introduced through the William Morris Agency."
Luke: "How has your show The Weakest Link evolved?"
Phil: "The British first developed it as a happy feel-good show where somebody just got voted off. With Anne's personality, they discovered it would be fun to have her as a mean character. That's how we started it in primetime. And then it evolved into more of a comedy mean show."
Luke: "Which of your shows would you have liked to go on as a contestant?"
Phil: "I'd love to go on The Weakest Link. I think it would be so much fun to go toe-to-toe with Anne. I think Double Dare on Nicklelodeon and MTV's Remote Control would've been fun. All my game shows have been fun."
Luke: "What did you think of that Fox show Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire?"
Phil: "The good news is that it did well for them. They're all my friends who work at Fox. I think I might've approached it differently with the research for the contestants. I didn't watch the show. As for the fallout after the fact... There are a lot of people throwing stones who shouldn't. It's unfair to criticize a network for an innocent mistake. At the end of the day, we're all only human, just trying to make good television shows. They were good honest hardworking people trying to put that TV show together under enormous pressure."
Luke: "Would you be willing to exchange the notoriety for the ratings that show achieved?"
Phil: "I don't know. I don't really know what that means, to exchange the notoriety for the ratings. You make it sound like they sold their souls to the devil to get a rating one night. I'm not sure that that was an accurate representation of what they were trying to do. I'm sure they were trying to put a show together that was fun and that people would talk about the next day around the water cooler."
Luke: "It was the ultimate water cooler show. It transfixed people."
Phil: "We've had Darva Conger and Rick Rockwell on our newsmaker shows. It's a combustible combination when we give Anne, with her acerbic wit and journalistic slant, a chance to go toe-to-toe with newsmakers. On our show, it's all done in good fun. We're not trying to hurt anybody or embarrass anybody."
Luke: "Have there been any shows you've done on Weakest Link that are most memorable to you?"
Phil: "Our newsmaker shows were terrific. Our Brady Bunch reunion show was fun. We did shows with comedians and I laughed my ass off. I was a big fan of LA Law when it was on the air. We've just taped an LA Law reunion show that will air in the Spring. We did a Startrek reunion. That I got to shake William Shatner's hand was a thrill."
Luke: "I ordered your novel Adventures With Dangerous Women from Amazon.com."
Phil: "I was doing a lot of development for movie studios at the time. So consequently I'd read a novel a day. I wanted to try it. I wrote the novel in nine months. It was a fun experience. I loved writing it. I have't read it in 13 years. I'm sure it has all the flaws of an innocent ignorant first novel. It's a document of where I was creatively 13 years ago. I do want to write more novels.
"It's a spy thriller spoof about a guy who complains he has no adventure in his life and then he gets more adventure than he ever bargained for. It starts slow. It's got some good passages."
Luke: "Tell me about working with Fred Silverman on the show 21."
Phil: "I'm still reeling that you dug up a copy of that book. Working with Fred was great. Fred is a legend and I unabashedly love Fred Silverman. He is a good friend and one of the smartest television minds I've ever met. He was responsible for getting some of television's all time greatest shows on the air. As a scheduler, I don't think anyone ever was as good. Here's a guy I studied when I was in college studying communications, and five years ago I had the opportunity to meet him through a pitch. We just instantly liked each other. We just started developing projects together, some game shows, some reality shows, some music shows. Nothing ever took off.
"Then we ultimately did 21. Fred remembered that NBC owned the rights to 21. When Millionaire picked up, NBC realized it wanted to get into game shows. Fred brought me in. We did 19 episodes. We gave away more money in 19 game shows than any other game show in the history of television. We were a top 25 show with strong ratings but we were way too expensive.
"It was a crazy rush to get that show on the air. Between Christmas of year 2000 and the first week of January, 2001, we rushed 21 on the air, without a pilot. I went three months with only three days off, tweaking that show. I liked the drama of the big money. You could answer two questions rights and get $100,000.
"I got close to some people at NBC. I'm sure my positive experience with them on 21 helped when Weakest Link came around. They remembered Phil was a nice enough guy, low stress, let's bring him on with Weakest Link.
"But sharing 'Executive Producer' credit with Fred Silverman was probably the biggest thrill I've ever had in television. The show 21 in Germany is in its third season with the format we created."
Luke: "Did you see Robert Redford's movie Quiz Show?"
Phil: "I studied it. When we got into 21, I studied almost every frame of that movie. I think it is a brilliant film. Because of the scandals that came out of it, we were so careful about security and the questions and the integrity of the game. I was always concerned about fairness and honesty. Then you do a show like that and you even heighten that. Now I bring that to every game we do."
Luke Gets Mail
Director James DiGiorgio writes: Hey Lukey. Just thought I'd throw in my two cents worth.
Aaron: You are so right! I've been telling Luke forever that he's not a Jew, and that no "real" Jew will ever accept him as one. Why do you think he spends all his money on therapy? He is so conflicted it's scarey. Someday, maybe, Luke will understand who and what he is, and his demons will evaporate (at least his Jew demons).
Jim: You are so wrong! The LAST thing Luke's site needs is more Jew content. The only thing adding more jew content will do is guarantee his site gets no more than 7 or 8 hits a day. Jim, use your noodle, dood... Luke's NOT a real Jew! Real Jews have no interest in what non-real-Jews have to say, unless what they're saying is anti-Semitic, at which time they become plenty interested.
JMT: I can't comment on your comment because I don't know what 'pederasty' means, and I'm too lazy to look it up.
Khunrum: Ye of so little faith! I'm pretty sure I recognize your cyber-name as a long-time Luke Ford reader. How can you not see what he's doing? Luke is merely engaging in these banal, vanilla interviews in order to get the producers' collective guards down. Once he's sure they all believe he's writing the most boring book on Hollywood ever, the real Luke Ford will reveal himself and he'll be going for the journalistic jugular! Have faith, Khun... Luke's gonna do them like he did the heathens in Pornoland.
Well. I'm done I guess. JimmyD P.S. Watch for simplyjimmyd.com coming soon.
Mike Medavoy's Book - Your Only As Good As Your Next One
Wall Street Journal assistant managing editor Laura Landro writes a provocative review of producer Mike Medavoy's memoir 'Your Only As Good As Your Next One' in the February 15, 2002 issue.
During the 1970s, Hollywood transformed a small business controlled by a few men to a large business controlled by multinational corporations.
Mike began in the mailroom around the same time as his more famous peers Barry Diller, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner.
The book's thesis is that the "corporatization of Hollywood has killed its creativity. But he is especially keen to let us know that he is just as important as those more famous guys. Everywhere he goes in the world, he tells us, "I can turn on the television and see a film being broadcast that I had some hand in getting made."
"Mr. Medavoy manages to insert himself, Zelig-like, into nearly every important creative and corporate event during the past three decades in the movie business.Mr. Medavoy's self-aggrandizing saga is as much as anything a plea for recognition and a settling of old scores."
Medavoy appeared on the cover of the New York Times Sunday magazine in 1977 under the headline "The New Tycoons of Hollywood." But from there it was largely downhill, writes Landro.
Mike doesn't say much about his personal life. He's been married four times. He never mentions his third wife "who shared his passion for Mr. Clinton, the notorious Democratic hostess Patricia Duff."
"While screenwriter William Goldman famously said that no one knows anything in Hollywood, Mr. Medavoy's book proves that some know even less than others do. As a talent agent, Mr. Medavoy tells us, he fired a young Steven Spielberg as his client because the fledgling director wouldn't abandon his loyalties to Universal Studios. Years later, he was thrilled to get Mr. Spielberg to direct a movie for TriStar -- but that movie, "Hook," ran disastrously over budget and helped seal Mr. Medavoy's fate at TriStar. Though Mr. Medavoy takes some credit for Arnold Schwarzenegger's success, he first suggested O.J. Simpson to star in "The Terminator," a tidbit he offers us without a trace of irony."
Medavoy relates how Madonna secured her part in "Desperately Seeking Susan" (she shows up at the office, sinks to her knees and purrs: "I'll do anything to get this role").
"Mr. Medavoy understands how the business works -- he just has never seemed able to make it work consistently for him. Among the movies he passed on: "The China Syndrome," "Good Morning Vietnam" and "All the President's Men.""
Medavoy blames others for most of his failures. He derides Hollywood practices such as the "high concept" film perfected by Disney and Paramount. Mike says he's never interfered with the director's vision.
Barry Diller's regime at Paramount began "movies-by-committee syndrome that pervades Hollywood to this day." In this approach, studio executives get in early with the script, hold story meetings and make their own suggestions to filmmakers. The men behind this system - Diller, Katzenberg and Eisner - "spread it like cancer across Hollywood over the course of the eighties and nineties until it became the accepted way to develop, make and market a film."
Laura writes: "Though the business of making movies remains as unpredictable as it ever was, someone has to at least try to treat it like a business. Mr. Medavoy, on the other hand, sticks to his "life-long philosophy of not tinkering," even as millions of dollars of other people's money go up in smoke."