The Faith Of Luke Ford
Chaim Amalek writes: I am in a position to support Luke's claim to Jewish orthodoxy, having corresponded with him for a number of years and having observed him in jewish ritual behavior. Honestly, is it not silly to examine his jewish bonafides in such an anal manner, when you doubtlessly know many born jews who do not do a hundredth of what Luke does to be Jewish?
There are many more important things to discuss, are there not? Such as your views on diversity and multiculturalism: can a nation ever have too much of either?
Months after his sudden disappearance, some light has finally been shed on Luke Ford's mysterious departure from the adult world. According to information gleaned from an FBI document obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, it is now believed that a $25,000 bounty was paid to a well-known porn producer/director team for successfully intimidating the boyish Ford into moving on to a more benign beat. Rumor has it that Ford was forced at gunpoint to sign over ownership of his successful website, lukeford.com.
David Lynch Party
I attended a party in honor of director David Lynch Saturday night at The Belmont restaurant at 747 La Cienega Blvd.
The party was called for 8PM. I arrived at 9PM and the place was jammed. Nicole Kidman spent much of the evening sitting beside David. Most of the stars from Lynch's latest film, Mulholland Drive, were in attendance including Laura Harring.
Laura says she flying to Vancouver for a movie Monday.
From her Imdb.com biography: "Lived the first ten years of her life in Mexico, before her family relocated to San Antonio, Texas. At age 16 she convinced her family to let her study in Switzerland. Upon graduating she travelled though Asia before settling down in El Paso, Texas. It was there that she decided to enter the world of beauty pageants, which lead to her winning the Miss USA crown, becoming the first Latina to hold the title. Laura has spent time working as a social worker in India, and exploring Europe. It was in Europe that she was exposed to the world of nobility when she met and married Count Carl von Bismarck, earning the title of Countess. A title which she still holds. Although the marriage did not last, she and Carl remain friends, and Laura's popularity in Europe continues. Laura currently resides in Los Angeles, and the little free time she has is spent practicing the Tango and relaxing with yoga."
I spent most of the night talking political philosophy with Gary Oldman's manager Douglas Urbanski, an orthodox Roman Catholic. He came with his Jewish wife, who produced the TV show The Nanny. Gary Oldman showed up later.
I also spotted Sting, June 2000 Playmate Shannon Stewart (ShannonStewart.com) and actor Matt Dillon. Rebecca Del Rio did a reprise of her song from the Mulholland Drive movie.
Heather Phares writes: "Rebecca Del Rio's Spanish a cappella version of Roy Orbison's classic "Crying," only sounds more vulnerable and heart-wrenching. More focused than the Lost Highway soundtrack and more traditionally Lynchian than the score for The Straight Story, Mulholland Drive is a mysterious and affecting soundtrack from one of the most consistently creative teams working in film."
From the Denver Post: In one "Mulholland Drive" scene, a director auditions actresses on a sound stage. They are asked to lip-sync Connie Stevens' "Sixteen Reasons" and Linda Scott's "I've Told Every Little Star," early 1960s hits.
Later, in the film's most audaciously transfixing scene - staged by Lynch to drop-dead gorgeous effect - a chanteuse named Rebecca Del Rio performs Orbison's "Crying" in Spanish in an eerie late-night theater.
"Rebecca Del Rio with "Crying' is a strange accident," Lynch said. "She was never going to be in the film. My ex-music agent called me one day and said, "Would you like to meet her and maybe she can sing for you?'
"I have a music recording studio, and she came over, and four minutes after she got off the street she was in the booth and sang what is in the film," he said. "But I didn't know it would be in the film then. That was a happy accident.
"Strangely, it was the song "Crying' that led me to "In Dreams' in "Blue Velvet' years earlier. I heard "Crying' on the way down to shoot "Blue Velvet' and that made me start wondering if that would work in the film.
"So I got "Roy Orbison's Greatest Hits.' Then I heard "In Dreams' and that was the one that married into that film."
Ian writes: "I was interested in your piece on the song 'Crying'. Over here in England we have an extremely popular comedy series called 'Only Fools and Horses', repeats of which are one of the BBC's mainstays. In one episode the hero, 'Del Boy', always on the lookout for a fast buck (or quid), signs up a singer he sees wowing a middle-aged female audience (rather like that character in Woody Allen's 'Broadway Danny Rose'). For reasons too complicated to go into, Del Boy selects the songs to be sung at his protege's entry to the big time, and only when it's too late does he find that the singer cannot pronounce his Rs (something which has kept him from the big time before). The climax is his mangling of the song 'Crying' ('Cwwying'!). It's very funny, and though the song was familiar I couldn't remember its origin. Now I know. Roy Orbison, eh?"
Rodger Jacobs writes: So, you are invited to attend a party in honor of director David Lynch with attendees including Nicole Kidman and Sting, yet your "journalistic" coverage of the event is primarily composed of cut-and-paste pieces from the Internet Movie DataBase and an article about Rebecca Del Rio from The Denver Post? What's wrong with this picture? Well, for someone who desires to be taken seriously as a journalist there's plenty wrong. Imagine tuning in to CNN's coverage of the war in Afgahnistan only to find that they don't actually have reporters in the field, just a series of clips from other news sources. Would you depend, in that case, for CNN to provide you with accurate information? Of course not. And then, to add insult to injury, you identify Douglas Urbanksi as "an Orthodox Roman Catholic" and his wife Nancy as "Jewish." Just how is this pertinent to anything? Let's imagine you were covering the Lynch party for The Hollywood Reporter: would you have identified Urbanksi as Catholic in a write-up for the Reporter? If you did you'd be out of a job. Where and how Douglas Urbanski and the rest of the human population kneels in reverence to their god is not relevant to anything you are writing about here, except to feed your own puzzling fascination with religious faith. Now, go back and read the Lynch piece slowly and with careful precision and try to tell me that it was written by someone who actually attended the event. You may as well have been standing outside the back door and peering in through a window -- no, no that's wrong because from that vantage point we would at least have the perspective from a voyeur. Consider yourself smacked upside the head.
Now give me 500 words on why nice Christian boys from Australia will never be true members of the tribe. And write it from a typewriter, not the computer, because I don't trust you to not cut and paste someone else's well-considered thoughts on the topic.
Robert writes: How did our hapless hero secure entry to this star studded shindig? Was he ... Invited as a respected journalist? Jay Bernstein's date? Or most likely, there in his thread bare undertaker suit in his new position as a food service worker. "More crab puffs, Mr. Speilberg?"
Luke, Please Come Home
Chaim Amalek writes: Luke, you bastard! Why would you choose to go to a party with that Miss Universe woman (if all Mexican women looked like that I would want to erase our southern border) or hobnobbing with the stars WHEN you might otherwise have been chatting with ME via computer under dim light about Pierce's latest warning to the Jews? What sort of "man" are you, anyway? There is more to life than rubbing up against large-breasted beauties and meeting men who are in a position to help you in life.
By the way, I have visited you several times now, and not once did you offer to let me tag along to any such social occasions. Instead, you palm me off on groups of morbidly inbred Jewish men (and the occasional odd woman who is not attracted to them) gathered to listen to this or that rabbi talk. You NEVER take me places I want to go Luke, NEVER. So I just sit at home, cooking up new material for you to post to your website. Is it because I am fat? Do you think you are better than me, with your fancy new friends? Are you two-timing me yet? Luke, please come home ......
PS Have you seen "Mulholland Drive"? I have to give Lynch credit (for many things, actually) - he can pick 'em. Every Lynch project that I can think of (maybe not "Eraserhead") is jammed-pack full of stunningly beautiful women, the sort whom one does not find in porn or in Jewish temples or in meetings of the Ethical Culture Society. I have no doubt that even as I type these words, somewhere out there a mullah is preparing his followers to kill themselves while slaughtering us by promising women as fair as the two stars of Mulholland Drive come the afterlife.
TV Movie Producer Kenneth Kaufman - In The Line Of Duty
Movie producer Kenneth Kaufman grew up in a suburb of New York City. He attended public schools. He went to college at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania where he received an undergraduate degree in Economics. Then he took an academic approach to film and television in graduate school at the Annenberg School of Communications at Penn.
"I made a film in my second year," Kaufman told me by phone 2/25/02, "and it was looked at by producer/director Otto Preminger. Mr. Preminger hired me to be his assistant [after completing his Masters degree in 1973]. It was a terrible film, a typical student film without much money spent. Looking back at it years later, it was about the worst thing I've ever seen in my life.
"Preminger was working on his second to last film at the time, Rosebud. I stayed with him for three-and-a-half years. It was a remarkable experience. I traveled all over the world with him. His memory was starting to fail. He had the beginnings of Alzheimer's Disease. I became a bit of his memory. Otto tended to be larger than life. The kind of things that a young person could learn from him were not necessarily the technical things but more the idea that everybody was equal in his eyes. For example, whether it be the driver who drove him to the set or the head of the studio, they were all equal to him. They were all idiots to him. And they were all subject to his wrath. I was never scared by anybody after that, or overly impressed by anybody because he managed to cut them all down to size."
Luke: "What is it with the rageaholics in this business? I mean, the type of behavior that you couldn't get away with in any other type of business seems normal in Hollywood."
Ken: "Power does that. I've never found that the best way to the finish line. Otto was a guy who was used to getting his way. He had a huge power of personality. There wasn't a day on a movie or a play when everybody else didn't talk about him at dinner. Everybody talked about what he did that day and how he acted that day. That shows his power of personality. It had nothing to do with his talent."
Luke: "How would you rate him as a director?"
Ken: "If you look at his films now, he was an old fashioned director. He came out of the theater. In today's world of fastcutting and moving cameras, he would not have fit in. He would set up a scene and photograph it. It was more of the actors moving than the cameras moving. He was however a remarkable producer. He produced almost all the films he directed in the latter half of his career. He went after controversial material. He understood that breaking barriers got publicity. He had a tremendous knack for publicity and promotion. He had excellent artistic taste. He had a good sense of casting and was able to attract the biggest stars. "
Luke: "At what point in your life did you decide to dedicate yourself to movies?"
Ken: "When I was a senior in college. I was fortunate enough to go to college at a time, the '60s and early '70s, when you could decide what you wanted to do and go ahead and do it. Until that time, people who were fortunate enough to go to college, often did what they thought they should do - attorney, businessman - or what their parents told them to do. I fell in love with movies and decided to give it a try.
"I wanted to make documentaries that changed the world. Preminger would say, 'Why would you want to make documentaries? In a fiction film, you can do anything you want. You can write it, hire the actors, and set them up the way you want. You don't have to go photograph what is actually happening.' It's ironic that I've become known for making docu-dramas."
After Preminger, Kaufman moved on to a series of jobs in New York including one year as story editor at Casablanca Filmworks and one year at Warner Brothers where he realized he didn't like working for a large corporation. In 1982, Ken was asked to become a partner in the company Telecom Entertainment, which was owned by an ad agency.
"Michael Lepiner ran the company and wanted a partner to move it forward. My first film appeared around Christmas 1983 on CBS - The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story starring Angela Lansbury, Lee Remick and Polly Holliday. We made ten TV movies over the next six years and received many Emmy nominations. The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank (1987) was nominated for six Emmys.
"It was possible to make that kind of material in those days. As time wore on, it became more difficult to make material we were proud of."
Luke: "It became more disease-of-the-week and women in peril fads."
Ken: "Which we avoided... Over the years, I made a dozen films in the NBC cop series In the Line of Duty. They were one of the few groups of films that appealed to men.
"We made the first one [in 1988]. It was called The FBI Murders and was about an infamous day in FBI history when a number of FBI agents were shot in Miami. Two were killed. The head of movies at NBC movies at the time, Tony Mesucci thought we should add a handle to the title. 'How about: In the Line of Duty: The FBI Murders.' We said, 'Ok, fine.'
"It turned out to be a great idea he had. We were able to make another ten or so in the series. Luck plays a huge part in producing films. We had a good story. We took it to ABC and ABC passed on it. Then I called NBC about the story and they said, 'Don't even bother to bring it here. We're really not buying anything that is male oriented.' I said, 'I hear you. But it's really a great story. Let me come in to talk to you about it.' And the executive said, OK, but it's going to be a waste of time.'
"We made an appointment for three weeks hence. And on the day of the appointment, he called me to say, 'Good thing you're coming in today. You're going to sell this to us. We just had a meeting and we need to buy some male oriented stuff.' So I walked in and they weren't even listening. They were ready to go. So we wrote a script and made it and its ratings were high.
"Then they called and said, 'Let's make some more.' And we did, including one that was their highest rated film in four years - about Waco."
Luke: "How were you able to turn out so much quality material while at Telecom?"
Ken: "We were a subsidiary of the ad agency and part of the job was to help service the client. If the client wanted to make a movie, they let us do it. General Foods at the time was in the business of making one or two movies a year under the General Foods Golden Showcase umbrella. Proctor & Gamble, also a client, made a bunch of movies."
Luke: "When you have one sponsor behind a program, it tends to have a higher quality."
Ken: "Yes. They will want to make something where their brands will feel comfortable residing."
Luke: "We had more of this in 1950s television."
Ken: "That's when the advertising agencies really controlled it until things went another way. We might circle back to that because of the difficulties networks are having financially."
Luke: "If we returned to that model, I bet we wouldn't have as much crap on television."
Ken laughs. "It depends on who the advertiser is. An advertiser tends to spend more because they know they're going to be identified by the movie and they want it to be excellent. Some of the best movies of all time were made by advertisers."
In 1988, financier Michael Lepiner died and his production company Telecom Entertainment went out of business. In December, 1988, Ken Kaufman and his friend Tom Patchett formed Patchett-Kaufman Entertainment. Tom was the co-creator and executive producer of the popular NBC series Alf. He'd also written and produced The Bob Newhart Show (CBS) and Buffalo Bill (NBC).
Ken: "When I was Telecom in the mid '80s, I developed a couple of comedy shows including Best Legs in the 8th Grade, a one-hour comedy showcase for HBO. Tom Patchett was a successful writer-producer-director in comedy and we had him direct our show. Then I developed a political satire series for Showtime called Washingtoon, based on a political comic strip. And Tom directed the pilot and we became friends.
"Tom decided to retire from the television business at age 51 in 1991 and devote himself to collecting, and writing about art. He's created an arts complex called Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. His gallery is called Track 16. He's active on museum boards. But he's still writing and now we're in the midst of casting a feature film he wrote."
In 1989, CBS ran nine episodes of Tom's TV comedy Baghdad Cafe starring Whoopi Goldberg and Jean Stapleton.
Luke: "Was working with Whoopi Goldberg the trauma that sent Tom fleeing into retirement?"
Ken: "No comment."
Luke: "Tell me about your 1989 NBC movie Howard Beach: Making the Case for Murder."
Ken: "That was a fabulous thing to do. I felt strongly about the themes of that story. I'm a huge fan of Joe Hines, the special prosecutor brought in to the case, who is now the Brooklyn DA, but at that time was an ex-fire commissioner attorney for New York City, who was brought in to prove that this was not an accident but really a murder motivated by race. He did such a brilliant job that he became the main character of the movie. It was a complex and cerebral case and not easy to make a movie out of. We couldn't afford to shoot in New York so we recreated Brooklyn in Chicago."
In December, 1986, three black men ran into car trouble in Howard Beach, a middle-class neighborhood in New York City. Unable to start their car, they sought refuge in a nearby restaurant. They were driven out into the street and one man was run over and killed by a car.
Ken: "I have always been a news junkie. The late '80s was a time before the explosion of news magazine like Dateline, 48 Hours, etc. We had an opportunity in television movies to get behind the headlines and tell the human side of the story. And the movies had the built-in promotion of nationally known stories."
In 1992, CBS televised Kaufman's A Woman Scored: The Betty Broderick Story .
Ken: "Betty was a wealthy San Diego housewife. Her husband was a successful attorney. They had a rocky marriage and a bunch of kids. They got divorced. He ended up marrying his assistant after having an affair with her. Betty could not cope with it. She got up in the middle of the night, drove 20 minutes to his house, with keys stolen from one of their daughters, let herself in, went upstairs and shot both her husband and his new wife while they slept. She killed them.
"It became a huge event in San Diego. Oddly, much sympathy was on the side of Betty because he married his secretary. Even though this woman premeditated a murder, there were all these women's groups lining up behind her. We were fortunate enough to obtain an LA Times magazine piece by a brilliant journalist named Amy Wallace. And we had the aid of a Pulitzer Prize winning researcher working with us, Sonny Rawls.
"We got Meredith Baxter to play the part. Meredith was at the age where she could relate to the issue of younger women in mens' lives. We made a film that was not only widely watched, but it became a tremendous talking piece. So we made a sequel about her trial: Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, the Last Chapter . Her first trial was a mistrial, and then ultimately she was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
"It was a perfect example of a news story that was fascinating and an ability to get behind it and explore what it was like for a woman in her early 40s, with kids who were teenagers, whose husband falls for a younger woman. Betty was a bit loony. There was every reason in the world for her husband to turn away from her. Amy Wallace exchanged correspondence with Betty. We always try to tell both sides."
From Entertainment Weekly 10/30/92: "The cast and crew, however, have always taken sides. On the first production, they split along gender lines, with most male crew members and Baxter's costar, Stephen Collins, who played Broderick' s ex (he's not in the sequel), backing doomed Dan. An outraged Collins would angrily debate Baxter and anyone else who called Betty a victim. "She got $16,000 a month," Collins said then, "and she called herself abused. Please. She's insane." Today Baxter, who was divorced from actor David Birney in 1989 after 15 years of marriage, says sheepishly, "Maybe Stephen was more right than I was willing to admit."
"When approached about the sequel, she says, she "started reading transcripts of the second trial, and I saw a totally different picture. I still think Dan had to be more of a bastard than we ever portrayed. But I saw the disparity in what Betty said and what actually happened. Honestly, now I think she has a personality disorder." Judith Ivey (Designing Women), who plays the prosecutor who nails Broderick, says she too was captivated by Betty at first. "I saw her on Oprah, and she was so compelling, fascinating. I thought, 'Why would I want to play the woman who prosecutes her?' And the director (Dick Lowry) told me, simply, 'Because this is the truth.' The way I see it now, this woman snowballed America.""
"You may read about a 31-year old FBI guy who's shot by a bank robber. Yes, and then you move on. But these people are usually interesting people and the bad guys are often more interesting than the good guys. With 'In the Line of Duty,' we try to make it equal. We try to tell both sides of the story. We get to know the cops who passed away and we get to know the bad guys."
Luke: "How much creative license do you give yourself to fictionalize for dramatic effect?"
Ken: "We try as best we can [due to the limitations of the medium] to stick to the facts. You always have to do some reordering and compressing. You have to composite characters. If there were three investigators, we made them into one character. I had a couple of rules I always followed. One - never fictionalize the dead cops. Two - do not buy one side's rights so we were not forced into taking a position. Rather, we worked from public records, books, and articles that were evenhanded."
Luke: "Is there a common denominator in the movies you've made that haven't worked?"
Ken: "You work as hard on the bad ones as the good ones. You think they're going to be fine and sometimes it just doesn't turn out that way. Often the ones that attract the biggest audiences are not the ones I like the best. They may be the most simplistic or the easiest to promote.
"The common denominator in bad movies is cast. You just made the wrong choice. Often times, those choices are made by committee. The network has a point of view and you give in because you want to get the film made.
"In 1991, we made In the Line of Duty: Manhunt in the Dakotas starring Rod Steiger. It was supposed to star Robert Mitchum but a week before it started, he backed out. And Rod Steiger was brilliant.
"Our most controversial film was 1993's In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco. February 28, 1993 was the day when the ATF and the FBI attacked David Koresh's compound. That began the siege which lasted until April 19, when the FBI went in there was a conflagration.
"On February 28, NBC called and asked if we wanted to make the movie. And the siege had just begun. I said, 'I'm not really comfortable. Why don't we wait a year?' Then NBC said, 'We're not waiting. We want to make this right away. Either you're going to do it or someone else is going to do it.' I asked for 24 hours to think about it. I called a bunch of people, we had a team making these movies, and asked them if we could pull it off. NBC wanted it on the air in May. I called Sonny Rawls and asked him to come on board. He said yes.
"We began the project on March 1. We knew we had to start shooting within five weeks. We didn't have a script. We didn't know what the story was. We didn't know where to shoot it. And the siege was still going on. So the ATF and FBI wouldn't give us any information. They wouldn't let us talk to anybody. Luckily, Sonny Rawls had the ability and the sources to get inside law enforcement. We got information that nobody else got because they knew we wouldn't be out until May. We got floor plans. We got interviews with the wounded law enforcement people. We decided that we weren't going to take any sides. If people had information, we were going to pay $500.
"Everybody was trying to sell us rights but we wouldn't buy any rights. We got a lot of information and we structured a script. The writer left blank the law enforcement scenes because we didn't know the exact facts of what went on.
"We decided to shoot in Tulsa, Oklahoma because it has the same topography as Waco, Texas. I was friendly with actor Tim Daly, who was on Wings at the time. I described the David Koresh role to Tim and he took a flier [committed to the project], even though we didn't have a script. He was enormously instrumental in crafting his role. He studied Koresh and the Bible and the type of [Biblical] quotes that Koresh used. And he ended up looking remarkably like Koresh.
"At the last minute, we were able to get a couple of key interviews with people involved in Waco. That enabled us to answer such key questions as, 'Why did the FBI go in when they did? And how did they know where Koresh was?
"We were 14 days into shooting [on April 19th] when the FBI moved into [Koresh's compound] and there was the tragedy of all the people killed. We had to stop shooting that day because our actors were so freaked that the people they were playing were just killed. It was the most surreal experience.
"I was in somebody's trailer working on the script when the production manager ran over and turned on the TV. And here was this structure [going up in flames] that looked exactly like our structure 50 yards away. Our [movie] story ended February 28 [the day of the initial assault on the compound] so this was never going to be in the movie.
"The press descended on us. They went directly from Waco to Tulsa. And at the same time, there were hearing in Washington about violence on television. And our trailer for Ambush in Waco got to the Congress subcommittee. Warren Littlefield, head of NBC at the time, told us we had to take some specific shots out of the picture. It was the highest rated movie of the year for NBC."
Shado writes on Imdb.com: "Watch the outstanding documentary, Waco: The Rules of Engagement, and then watch this insulting inane dreck. If you are like me, you will want to slap the perpetrators of this ignorant, hateful, pro law enforcement propaganda. People who deny the Holocaust will love Ambush in Waco."
Marvin Kitman writes in Newsday 5/23/93: "In the rush to get the story on the air, NBC has missed a rather important part of the story - the end. What happened to producers Kenneth Kaufman and Tom Patchett in the line of duty is a headline-chaser's wildest nightmare come true. In their haste to throw a movie on the screen, to show their devotion to the great god Mammon, and be first with the worst, they missed the socko-smash finish, the apocalypse of TV movies, a climax that dramatists would sell their souls to be able to get away with. (Forgive the seeming insensitivity, but this is fiction I am talking about here.) What "Ambush at Waco" does in context of the overall, very well-known story is like doing a movie about Jonestown that focuses on how Jim Jones brushes his teeth. The movie tells the story of the first phase, the rise of Vernon Howell and the ATF's first attempt to serve a search warrant. Daly ("Wings") is convincing as the musician-turned-nutcase and his mission to convert the inconvertibles. It goes into some depth - this is sweeps month - on his theories and reasons for being able "to plant his seed" in anybody who his God tells him to. There is also much about his building an arsenal that made him the fourth largest power in North America, and the ATF's concern about its public relations campaign.
"Ultimately it even points the finger at who is responsible for alerting the Davidians that the ATF was coming. The media. A cameraman at a local TV station (who had been shooting everything as if it were another episode of "Cops") is shown telling a mailman who tells Koresh. The only trouble with all of this is that it is a docudrama. It's not a documentary, or a news report. It's fiction, done in great haste by the fiction people at NBC. They make up all the conversations. Facts may or may not be true. You need a license to go fishing but not to write a story that the whole country will be watching. There is no requirement that a docudrama tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God. They tell the truth as it fits into their story. Doing a documentary with the ink on the headlines still wet goes beyond the evils of normal docudramas, which are bad enough. This plays like a re-creation, a faked car test on a news magazine. It is so close to the news reports, just ending. Viewers, who have a hard enough time knowing the difference between what is real and what's not, will be totally lost on where the line is on this one. It's hard to argue with "In the Line of Duty." It all sounds so vaguely true, it's easy to take "Ambush at Waco" for the gospel truth. What I especially hate about this two hours of pure faction is that as hard as it tries to be as objective as a news story, a lot of people are going to be cheering for David Koresh to win tonight."
From Entertainment Weekly 5/7/93: "Filmed outside Tulsa last month and airing 34 days after the inferno at the cult's Texas ranch incinerated its 86 inhabitants, the two-hour TV movie sets a chilling new speed record for turning true-life tragedy into the stuff high ratings are made of. It's a video-age transformation so dizzyingly-and disturbingly- instantaneous it could raise even Amy Fisher's eyebrows. "Sure, some people might accuse us of exploitation or bad taste, " allows Ambush's Emmy-winning executive producer, Kenneth Kaufman (In the Line of Duty: Siege at Marion and A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story). "But this isn't one of those quick, piece-of-crap movies that someone just slips on the air to capitalize on the headlines. This is a very complex, very rich, very interesting film.""
Ken: "We dodged a bullet. I was on the hook financially. If I knew now what I didn't know then, I would never have made the project. We were playing with fire. We were making a movie without having enough information, not having the script done. It could've bankrupted our company. And we could've made a really terrible movie. I think the movie holds. It's interesting and factually, it's about 98% correct. A couple of things we got wrong that nobody could've known until five years later.
"Our movie ended February 28 when the FBI agents were killed in Waco. Our movie was about how did Koresh get all this power and how did the FBI track him. What was the FBI doing that day.
'While we built our replica structure, we had to plant our explosions. That came before the words on the page. I was asked to do a bunch more quickie crime stories afterwards and I said no.
"I took a lot of heat for the violence issue. Congress was very excited. Every few years they get into the violence on television issue. We're the pornographers of our era. And they used as an example the 'In the Line of Duty' series because it was about violent issues. In fact, in our films, you always see the consequences of violence. That's the point of them. I'm against gratuitous violence.
"Our first [in the series] FBI Murders movie [in 1988] did set precedents for explicit violence. But compared to what is on TV now, it is not even close.
"The other movie we did, which I would not have done if I knew then what I know now, was In the Line of Duty: Smoke Jumpers . It was about the guys who jump into forest fires to put them out. And a bunch of these terrific guys were killed horribly in Colorado.
"We had to recreate forest fires and I had no idea how difficult it was going to be. We had the cooperation of the fire protection people in Northern California. We found an area near Placerville where they were going to do a controlled burn anyway. We shot in the first week of the film all the fire we had to shoot.
"And I didn't realize the danger until two weeks before we started shooting. I didn't realize that if it rained, we couldn't shoot. I didn't realize that if the humidity was too low, we couldn't have shot. And unlike feature films, where you can wait and shoot three months later, a TV movie has a small margin of financial success. You're only going to get X amount of dollars.
"We spent as much money on safety as we did on actors for that film. It was lucky that we got away without any problem. We ultimately had to do some of our aerial photography in Southern California and we ended up losing money on the movie. It could've been a true disaster financially and safety-wise.
"We shot on the week after Thanksgiving. They'd just had a heatwave and they didn't have any rain and they didn't have low humidity, and they were able to burn down a forest. We had prisoners working for us. We had the California Department of Forestry working for us. We were lucky."
Luke: "You made a feature film in 1999, Borderline Normal."
Ken: "We shot a little film in Canada. It did not receive a theatrical release. It will premiere on the USA Network. Total Stranger is another small feature we did that did not get a theatrical release. But they were structured financially so that we can still make out.
"The television movie has changed dramatically. Four years ago, a producer would make a film and retain all ancillary rights. Now the networks demand domestic rights and there becomes little reason for me as an entrepreneur to make those pictures. I need to keep my [film] library fresh. If I don't get domestic rights, then I have to make other kinds of movies.
"Foreign rights, which used to finance the pictures, have dropped in value dramatically. And the pictures are more expensive to make. So the independent producer has been in a position of tight margins...
"Lifetime movies are owned by Lifetime. So as a producer for Lifetime, you're making films for a fee. The company that I built was built on making films and owning rights."
Luke: "You've moved away from docu-dramas."
Ken: "They're not getting made anymore. The networks aren't interested. The television movie form may be a dinosaur. The only films that seem to be working are entertainment oriented films like showbiz biographies."
Luke: "How are you adjusting to the changing times?"
Ken: "I'm developing small feature films about subjects that I care about.
"Independent producing is getting tougher every year. I'm glad that I got into this business 20 years ago and not today, because independent producing of TV movies is barely alive."
Luke: "I don't understand why foreign rights to independent movies has declined so dramatically?"
Ken: "Number one - there was a tremendous oversupply. Number two - there's been a move outside the United States for independent national productions. They're not as reliant on American product. And number three, there's a worldwide recession. Advertising revenues are way down and people aren't spending as much money. When you have a fragmented marketplace, like you have here, there's not enough money generated by any one channel to pay for new television movies. Foreign rights were driven before by German rights, and the German rights market has gone down dramatically."
Luke: "Yes, the market is far more fragmented, but aren't there more places to sell your projects to?"
Ken: "Yes there are more channels but fewer owners. About six entities own almost everything. And they have their production arms and they can afford to hire their own people to produce for them. And it is not in any of the big six's interest to keep that outside producer alive. In fact, the outsiders are competitors who are easily squashed.
"I've seen the writing on the wall for many years. I had a project that ultimately got made by somebody else. It was a book called Strange Justice about Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas. I acquired the book to be made at TNT. We had a fantastic script and it was waiting to go and there were political reasons within the Turner organization that related to politics and court decisions..."
Luke: "Clarence Thomas being able to cast a vote on deregulation which affected the fortunes of TNT's parent company."
Ken: "Ahh, you're into it. You understand. TNT waited and waited to make the movie and ultimately they didn't make the movie. I don't know why but it appeared to be political reasons. I couldn't take the project to HBO because it was owned by the same people. Two years before, when TNT and HBO wasn't both owned by Time-Warner, HBO was very interested in the book. Now they weren't interested at all. TBS (Turner Broadcasting Service), I couldn't go there. There were all these places I couldn't go any more with this project because they were all owned by the same people. That's the problem for the independent producer. If one [powerful] guy doesn't like it, that's going to close off a lot of outlets. Or if somebody does like it, they will say, 'We'd love for you to make it, but we're going to own it.' What do you mean? 'If you want to play it on our air, we have to own it.'"
Luke: "From your economics background, you know that big business tends towards monopoly."
Ken: "You don't have to go to graduate school to know that."
Luke: "Adam Smith said that businessmen seldom gather to eat and drink without making deals that will defraud the public."
Ken: "We're certainly seeing it in today's headlines."
Luke: "Where do you think you and your peers will be in five years?"
Ken: "Television movies thrived when the networks played two or three TV movies a week. During the 1970s and '80s, despite the wide-ranging subject matters, the audience knew that if they turned into the NBC Sunday night movie, they'd get a certain quality of cast, etc... Then they became a series in another sense. The Monday Night Movie became 'movies that mothers and daughters could watch together.' And that worked in a fragmented market. The TV movies became another kind of series. I think the next phase is that movies are going to be special events. And as special events, I think they will continue to thrive. But special events don't create enough volume for a business. They are one-time events. I don't think the independent producer of TV movies will exist five years from now unless there's a dramatic change - government regulations, a breakup [of the leading oligopolies]."
Luke: "And on the feature level, I've heard that it is virtually impossible to make money unless you get a theatrical release."
Ken: "True. Unless you're in a niche situation with a cable release.
"I've made about 40 movies for television. Now I'm exploring new business models. With Tom, I'm helping bring back the character Alf. He's been doing commercials for MCI. We're preparing a new Alf show and we're involved with new merchandising."
Catching Up With James DiGiorgio
Director James DiGiorgio writes Martin Brimmer of Lukeford.com: For some reason, I've persisted in logging onto this site since Luke left. I guess it's been habit. After all, for years I logged on daily (as did half the people in the business). And while it wasn't always an informative or exciting read, there were those times when Lukey set the whole industry on its ear with just a few words! Cell phones and beepers screamed into action: "Did you read Luke? Did you read Luke?" The big and powerful, and the nobodies and wannabies alike, tried to get into the act. There were calls to crucify Luke for his lack of integrity, for his willingness to print just about anything about almost anyone without checking a single fact.
I was maligned on this web site on more than one occasion. But also, on more than one occasion, this web site provided me some excellent, free publicity. So you know what? Whether the words about JimmyD were good or bad, I really didn't give a f---! You know why? Because it was fucking fun! And in this business, fun is a much rarer commodity than the whole rest of the world suspects. Lately, however, this site has become even more painful to read (given its history).
I suppose what I've been hoping for is some news, some gossip, some fucking story with real balls. This morning, there were some tidbits posted that brought a mischievous smile to my lips. Right there, right in front of that too too pat review by Wanker Wayne of Slayne Wayne's movie, there was some stuff--not enough stuff mind you--but some stuff that sounded like the LukeFord.com of old. I thought, "Whoa, here we go!" But tonight, as I log on again (yes, it caused me to log on twice in the same day), I see that the lead paragraph in question is gone--vaped--morte! And when I ask myself how this happened, I have to believe that some sort of cyber-castration was administered on someone by somebody. Man. That sucks.
So I'm thinking now, and this could be tricky because lately I've become accustomed to a mellower life, but I'm thinking that this industry maybe needs some f---ing-with again. Some real, in-your-face f---ing with. It certainly isn't going to happen at InsideAVN or AVNInside or whatever it's called dot com. Gene Ross has no choice but to shill for Extreme if he wants to continue receiving a paycheck. Although I love reading much of his non-Extreme reporting. Qusarman retired from the porn gossip biz, and frankly, he wasn't there so much to stir s--- up, but rather to live out his fantasy of being a public wit, albeit one who toils under other men's sweaty balls.. The other guys, like StunningCurves, Mike South, Porn News Daily, well, they're mainly just about making a buck...not that there's anything wrong with that. And apparently this site, LF.COM is happy to be an advertising vehicle for the California Pimp, Sin City, or anyone else who'll buy a banner, or to just kick back and ride out the accidental notoriety you stumbled over with this p--- stars on ice gimmick. I mean, whatever. So, like I said, I'm thinking now, and what I'm thinking is this: Maybe a jimmyd.com site could work? Hey, if someone was willing to shell out $--,---.-- for Luke's site and then run it into the ground, what's the worse that could happen? Maybe someone will buy me out and run my site into the ground?
I don't know, I haven't really made up my mind about this yet, and I certainly haven't thought it all out. But I know that this business if way f---ing boring these days. And there is that group of people who are encouraging me and are willing to subsidize the effort. So what I'm hoping for is to get some feedback from any long-time readers of LF.COM who might remember me either from the site or as co-host of the Luke Ford radio show. Is there room for another porn gossip site? Well, actually, given what's available now, is there a place for "A" porn gossip site? Email me at email@example.com (and "'no," there's no site there yet).
Luke says: Arriving home from an online journalism conference at USC Thursday night, I called Jimmy.
Jim: "I'm surprised you're getting all these interviews. Nobody ever wants to interview producers, I guess. Only directors and actors. They figure, hey, it's my time.
"That guy Edgar J. Scherick saw right through you. He was sharp. That's an impressive resume he's got there - particularly for a guy you've never head of. He had your number."
Luke: "I've got a stack of six books on the floor with significant sections on him.
"At the journalism conference, I saw this guy Rob Curey. He's the director of New Media for this killer website in Kanas, CJOnline.com. He gave a killer presentation of all the innovative things his company is doing on line. And then he tells me that I'm his journalistic hero."
Jimmy: "You never to hype your interviews. Don't just throw them up there, like you're throwing stuff against the wall.
"Brimmer loved my letter. He called me the next day. But the California Pimp dude didn't want him to run it. Why would he want to print something from a potential competitor?
"I hear they got a couple of death threats over things they published. I say, if the industry didn't kill Luke, they're not going to kill anybody."
Luke Gets Mail
Tim writes: Greetings... just had a few questions. I was reading an article about you on Salon.com, which linked to Lukeford.com, which ultimately indicated that you were now on Lukeford.net.
In reading all your various writings its seems that your overall message is one of your own fame, at the sacrifice of coherent writing. Of course it is late, I am sleepy, and no great writer myself. So take this with a grain of salt.
What interested me was the fact that you were simultaneously attracted to the world of porn, but repulsed by it, seeking refuge for your soul in the realm of the Orthodox Jewish tradition and community.
As a Christian, an African American, and a conservative, I oft find myself pulled between opposing forces and inclinations.
And as I read through some of your writings (and granted, I did not read through the bulk of your thoughts) I feel somewhat shortchanged. I feel as though the issues you outline, the pull between the earthly and divine is a struggle that so many are going through, and yet you fail to fully explore it.
As a Christian I am daily trying-mentally at least- harmonize what the Bible actually says one should do, with what the church says you should do, and with what the world offers to you and suggests you partake of. And it is grueling to say the least.
You begin to wonder if perhaps the God you serve does not so much care about the details and the rules and just wants all of us to "love each other". But then again, something inside tells you that such is rather simplistic.
As a person of the Jewish faith you are especially faced with some daunting issues. I know in my mind as a Christian I have always question the role of Judaism as it relates to Christianity (since the Christian tradition is so derivative of Jewish teachings). And I wonder too, how do Jewish people harmonize their beliefs with the world at large. For example, if one is a reform Jew, or an non practicing Jewish person, how does one define one's Jewishness? If a strict understanding of God via the Torah and Talmud is removed from a level of importance, one indeed makes a person Jewish and not simply... well, Arab or white or just another semitic individual?
I read of the battles of Jewish people to define themselves all the time. Indeed there was a big broo ha ha in Israel over identity cards and how people would be labeled (If I recall correctly, it was the largely Orthodox community there that was hoping to define Jews as only those who had converted via Orthodox blessing, hence offending half the American Jewish community).
The point being that there are a host of issues regarding Judaism and Jewishness that need to be explored at length, and by someone who has seen enough of the world, it pleasant side and its dark side, to draw a clear picture for a large audience. I think you should, when you can, devote more of your attention in a complete manner to creating such a website. Not just logging thoughts, or quoting quotes that refer to you or what you said, but presenting complete thoughts and arguments out of your own head that explore what it is to be a modern day Jewish person. Because so much hinges on that definition. What is a Jew.
Christians base whole theologies on whether the Jewish people are still chosen or not, or whether they missed the form of G_d in the form of Jesus and thus have lost that sacred covenant. There are Christians who will pretty much support Israel nuking half the planet under the assumption that the Jewish people are chosen of God and therefore, God's friends are your friends and beyond blame.
Oh gosh, you could go off on so many interesting tangents in terms of Judaism, and even, Christianity and its encounter with Judaism. Or Judaism as it relates to blacks. In many cases blacks feel like the suffering of the Jews is more than compensated for by the color their skin and the fact that in every nation that ultimately wrongly persecuted them, including Egypt, Jews had retained or managed some form of success. Well you can explore these ideas, rightly or wrongly.
Again, and to sum up as I am sure you are busy... I just think you can do more with your intellect than simply be Luke Ford. The idea must be bigger than the man. We are both about the same age and before long the wait of age will grow heavy, where the path before us is shorter than the memory behind. You can use your talents to create a website that is not afraid to ask the serious questions about Judaism and everything it touches. A totally non pc forum where you can delve into all those issues that cause pause.
JMT writes: What they're saying about Luke Ford's new book, "I Sat Down With . . ."
"I don't think your book is going to be too interesting based on these questions you're asking." -- Edgar J. Scherick
Seriously, this was a pretty interesting interview. I hadn't heard of this guy before. Seems like if you put a little work into editing and fleshing it out a little, you'd probably end up with a piece that you could get published in some entertainment-oriented magazine.
"Jack" writes: Could you call me to further discuss. Upon further reflection, I am concerned that "the transcript" of our two hour conversation does not properly reflect my opinions and I would like to correct some of them to preclude my sounding like a negative complainer. Further I don't want to damage my relationships with either Brad nor Arnold. While they certainly have a different business style (including success) than me, they have both been generous to me over the years and I would prefer not speaking negative of either.
I spoke by phone to writer-producer John Bunzel February 26, 2002.
John: "I was an actor from a young age. I was born in New York, and grew up in Seattle and Los Angeles. I went to [an elite private school] the all-boys Harvard School. It is now Harvard-Westlake. I was a year behind the so-called Billionaire Boys Club [led by Joe Hunt]. They were the geeks and losers of their class. They were members of their debate team. Then they ended up this band of killers. At one time I was approached to write a TV movie about them.
"I had a drama teacher at Harvard named Susan Dietz, now a well-known theatrical producer, former theatrical director of the Pasadena Playhouse, who runs the Canon Theater in Beverly Hills. She was my mentor. I was accepted into the Juilliard School where I began to write. It was a great training ground because there was such an emphasis there on language and the spoken word and the value of sounds.
"After four years of the best acting training in the world at Julliard, I couldn't act. Juilliard has a way of doing that with certain actors. They teach you at that school how to walk and talk and breath and sit. I became self conscious, which is the death of an actor. Many of the better known actors left after their third year. They felt stifled. There's a saying that when you see actors who are not trained, you can't understand what they're saying, but you want to. But Juilliard actors, you can understand every word but you don't give a shit."
Luke: "Is the Juilliard method inside out (working from your inner feelings to expression) or outside in (the British method of controlling your expression to shape your feelings)?"
John: "It's both, but when I was there, there was more emphasis on the outside in. There was great emphasis on voice and speech.
"I started at 18 years of age, after being an actor working on instinct and talent and an organic approach to things. Then when you get thrown this rigid outside-in training, it's hard to assimilate that.
"By the time I graduated, I was more interested in writing than acting. A year after I graduated, I had a play done in New York called Delirious. Then there was a production done out here in 1985, which got a lot of press and ran for nine months at the Matrix Theater in Hollywood.
"I got an agent from that and a movie deal, and that got me into the writing business.
"Producer Danny Arnold [1925-1995] read a dark-comedy script of mine called Death of a Buick. He wanted to make this TV series Stat as a TV version of the movie Hospital, written by Paddy Chayefsky. A sitcom with a feature feel. My agent of the time, Frank Wuliger, who now run the Literary Department at the Gersh Agency, talked Danny into letting me write a pilot script of Stat. Danny had a couple of writers attempt it and he wasn't happy with what they'd done.
"Danny loved my script and asked me to help produce the show along with Chris Hayward, one of the producers of Get Smart. So I was 30 years old, and working with these two guys in their 60s. Danny lost sight of what he wanted to do and the show became too much of a sitcom. Danny wanted the show to be done without a laugh track and allowed himself to be talked into one by ABC and Disney. Danny was a megalomaniac. He was generous but then he wanted to control everything. He laid in the laugh track and Danny was hard of hearing. And he would never wear a hearing aid.
"He came in the next day after it aired on television all pissed off. 'Who the fuck did the laugh track?' We all looked at him and said, you did. It ended up hurting the show. When you look at the success of a show like Scrubs, Stat was there first and could've had that kind of success. An emergency room in a hospital is a great setting for a comedy. ABC wanted to do another season of Stat but Danny wouldn't budge on the licensing fee and so ABC said, 'It's too much of a pain in the ass dealing with this guy. We just won't renew the show.'
"I worked on two other shows with Danny but neither of them made it to air.
"My script Death of a Buick got developed at the Sundance Institute, which was the best experience I've ever had as a writer. You go to the resort at Sundance for five days and they have a creative board of advisers who are the best in the business, like Walter Bernstein, Larry Brezner... There's no emphasis on the commercial aspects like, who's the star? Are there any pre-sales? It was really about the art and the writer.
"Often in Hollywood the writer gets treated as a replaceable entity. The writer does his work and then people take over. It's different at the Institute where it's all about the writer and the writer's vision with people know how to talk to writers. When I ran the Los Angeles Playwrights group for eight years, we developed about 200 plays. That ability to talk to writers and develop material was crucial for my transition to producing.
"I wrote Born to be Wild for Warner Brothers. It's not a terrific movie. My kids enjoy it, but then they're six and eight [years of age]. As a writer or an actor, after a period of time, you have to be involved in something successful if you're going to be able to have a successful career, get access to the good projects, and make a significant amount of money. There are a couple of years where you can fail, but after a while, if you haven't been involved in something that has broken out, it becomes harder and harder to get work.
"I moved into production because that's where the opportunities were for me. I had fewer and fewer opportunities as a writer.
"I left Alpine Entertainment January 1 to build a $150 million company. I've moved from the guy asking for a yes to the guy who says yes. That's why so many writers and directors become producers and start their own companies. That gives them more control."