Lunch With Ray Richmond
Hollywood Reporter TV columnist Ray Richmond took me to lunch Monday at Souplantation. He's dropped 35-pounds in the last few months. He stands about 5'8" and has bushy hair, an earring, and tiny hands.
How Did You Dumb Goyim Celebrate Your False Religion This Year?
Fred writes: Well, My fellow Druids and I built an idol, and sacrificed a goat, and then danced around naked and got drunk for a few hours. (Winter solstice, you know.) Then I went back to writing patent applications.
(Actually, took my ex-girlfriend to dinner on Christmas eve; went hiking on Christmas, had dinner at another ex-girlfriend's house; then gathered with my fellow Druids to sacrifice a goat.)
I Meet Actress XXX
I went to the home of a great Orthodox rabbi Friday night, late December, and sat next to actress XXX [name removed at the request of her manager, who thought this article was derogatory] during shabbos dinner. With her three-inch heels, she stood 5'9. Being a studly 6', I was not intimidated.
Helpful writes: Luke is what is commonly called a "Star -------." The fact that XXX has had a walk on in "The Drew Carey Show" makes her desirable to Luke. If she was the counter girl at Starbucks, he would not give her a second glance. It's embarassing.
BTW as an "actress" her gross income is probably less than Luke's. She's probably shopping for a Sugar Daddy (or Momma!) not a struggling orthodox Jew scribe.
Chaim Amalek writes: Big deal. Every morning I have breakfast in a deli at the same time as this fifty-something year old schizophrenic women who spends an hour or so arranging and rearranging hundreds of scraps of papers that she pulls from a shopping cart. And you know what? There is as much chance of the two of us [connecting] as there is of Luke and this person. Luke, you pretend to be jewish only to meet Hollywood folk. Get thee to a Yeshiva!
David writes Luke: Was there some solicitation in the column that I missed? Or does everyone just assume that the mention of any woman (other than Cathy Seipp and her perfects) is an inherent proposal to do hovel time?
Luke replies: The low level of my readers never fails to depress me, especially when I put in so much time to elevate them to a higher consciousness. I was only sharing a morsel from my delightful shabbos, with no intention of any sort of physical come-on. Anyway, I am "shomer negilla" - I don't touch the opposite sex.
Where, in my description of meeting XXX, did I ever indicate that I viewed her as an object? How did you guys read that into my note? Why do you always assume the worst about me?
Fred writes: Why do you think that viewing a female as an object is the worst? When was the last time you wrote about sitting next to a woman who was bright, witty, articulate, accomplished, friendly, smart, fat and ugly?
Helpful writes: My apologies. I questioned your interest in her before I discovered you were "shomer negilla." BTW do the Jews have a term for when the opposite sex does not want to touch you?
Luke says: Yeah. It's called, "Luke Ford."
Helpful writes: I assume that when a man "Googles" a woman it is an indicator of some sort of interest. So did you rent "XXX" and replay in slo-mo XXX's scene? Do tell.
Chaim writes: Luke, we were kidding, just as Hollywood reporters "in the know" used to kid around with Rock Hudson regarding his supposed conquests of women. For those of you not in the know, "Shomer negilla" = "I am homosexual."
XXX writes: I find it strangely sad that people feel it is important to make sweeping determinations about someone in order to make a point. It's not in my control or a reflection of me if an individual's mind works that way. I think, on a larger scale, that's where intolerance and wars come from.
Helpful writes: Jeepers! A war? Well, O.k. I apologize, but my point was and is that Luke is drawn to celebrity (no matter how minor) like a bee to pollen. I remain adamant that Luke wouldn't have given XXX a second glance or a column inch if she were a waitress, but a walk-on actress on The Drew Carey Show?? She's a star!!
What Happened To Starbucks?
A friend of mine ordered a cup of coffee at a Starbucks in Brentwood Sunday morning. It was awful. He asked for another cup. It was terrible. Something is wrong. An employee reveals the reason. "We don't grind it here any longer." All the coffee now at Starbucks is brewed from packets of pre-ground coffee, with the exception of the mild blend and the decaf blend.
Now, I don't drink coffee but I understand that the difference in taste is the difference between fresh squeezed orange juice and the stuff mixed from concentrate.
Cathy Seipp's College Roommate Recalls Girl Gone Wild
Nancy Lilienthal from Beverly Hills writes the New York Press: As Catherine Seipp's still-recovering-from-the-experience college roommate, I was particularly tickled with her recent article on housecleaning ("Letter from L.A.," 12/8). It seems that her habits have improved vastly since our nine month period of angst-ridden cohabitation. I can still remember the infamously mildewed shower curtain that I discovered when I moved into Cathy's apartment and her giddy delight after I scrubbed it clean. I didn't think that she realized that mildew was something that could be remedied. There was also an incident with the vacuum cleaner, but my memory is more vague on this. I remember that she had a vacuum but never used it and had no idea how to replace the bag. With a little instruction, she got the hang of it.
My most vivid memory of living with Cathy was how she used to traipse around our second-floor apartment at night with the curtains open and the lights on, wearing nothing but her panties. She had a wonderful figure, a "beautiful bosom," as my mother would put it, and wasn't the least bit self-conscious. The pimply boys in the engineering fraternity across teh street were very appreciative, and would sit slackjawed in small groups on their porch, passing a pair of binoculars from sweaty hand to sweaty hand. I, of course, moved about the apartment with my robe wrapped tightly around me, sullen as only a plump, self-righteous roommate can be. Cathy was oblivious to all. I think she and Susan Faludi may have more in common than she thinks!
Sandra Tsing Loh On Cathy Seipp
I tracked down author Sandra Tsing Loh to Seattle, Washington, where she's performing a one-woman show for a couple of months. Sandra has two small kids, age two years and nine months.
We spoke by phone 12/27/02.
Sandra met Cathy Seipp at Buzz Magazine in the early nineties. "She was secretly doing the Margo Magee column. The other female columnists did not know that she was doing it. Some people were spooked by it. Allan and certain members of the editorial side thought it was amazing but some of the female columnists were spooked that somebody had to be so nasty about the LA Times. If you were a hard-news person, you'd really enjoy it."
Luke: "Do you think she made too many enemies and this hurt her career?"
Sandra: "That's a philosophical question and your answer depends on what you want your career to be. Cathy has written about me that I can criticize the LA Times but still have a feature article run on me for a theater show or book. When I criticize something, I try to criticize the institution and not name the individual people. That has a glow that somebody can imagine it is not them I'm criticizing. Cathy names names and says personal things about them. She's searing. People who know her call it her "scorched-earth philosophy."
"If you think writing for the LA Times is the be-all and end-all of everything, yes, they may not hire her for a juicy spot for a long time. But she is so remembered by so many for writing on the LA Times."
Luke: "Does she have no fear?"
Sandra: "I think she doesn't. She says what's on her mind. I don't know where she got that. She has judgements about things. We'll agree to disagree. She can drop it. She's oddly polite. She's the most graceful person. She has a certain sense of decorum that she will follow to the letter."
Luke: "She delights in skewering other people who lack decorum."
Sandra: "She has a weakness, a soft spot, for really abrasive women. She and I have a whole list of women we disagree on. She has a soft spot for women I think should be clubbed over the head with a polo mallet.
"I cherish Cathy as a friend. She's loyal. I would be so afraid to come under her laser."
Luke: "Were you ever intimidated by her?"
Sandra: "No. From early on, from the first five minutes, I just felt that I was on her safe side and she has always been so gracious to me. In print, she has been careful to remember things exactly or to make a comment that has not damaged me. She's always been kind to me."
Luke: "Do the fierce reactions her writing engender ever get her down?"
Sandra: "I think sometimes she's a little surprised that somebody feels so badly or has burst into tears at their desk reading something she's written. Recently she and Amy Alkon played a trick on someone at the LA Times, calling him a boob or something... She keeps going so probably not.
"I soft pedal things. I hesitate to make certain kinds of pronouncements. It's not in my nature. I'm overwhelmed with two small children. I'm in a profession where I try to not read any media. I'm a solo performer so I try to not know what is going on. I hide from the media."
Samantha Dunn On Cathy Seipp
I speak by phone 12/27/02 with author Samantha Dunn. She was raised in northern New Mexico and spent years in Australia and France. She's published two books - the autobiographical novel Failing Paris and the memoir Not by Accident: Reconstructing a Careless Life. She's the West Coast health and fitness editor for Glamour magazine.
Sam: "I met Cathy at Buzz magazine. We ran in the same circles. How do you know her?"
Luke: "By reading Buzz... I was intimidated when I first met her at one of her writer parties."
Sam: "You expect people like Cathy in New York, but in Los Angeles she's one of a kind. I've always described Cathy as the antidote to pack journalism. When you see all the happy news, the Access Hollywood type of reporting, you look at Cathy and she's the penicillin to all that."
Luke: "Were you intimidated when you first met her?"
Sam: "Yeah. I like to think of myself as a smart cookie, but Cathy has a way of wading through bullshit and contradiction and being confrontational. Even though I now know her, you never quite know what you're going to get. Now I just have a healthy respect. You better be on your game when you talk to Cathy. She'll put you straight if you're suffering any delusions."
Luke: "How did you notice your friends in the media reacting to her Buzz columns?"
Sam: "I had a lot of friends at the LA Times and people were always outraged by her stuff, but couldn't stop reading. Some people secretly cheered her on even if they were publicly dismissive of her. Cathy hits close to the bone on things. She did a piece recently on Ms. Magazine. I had a friend who was up for one of the editorships. I sent her Cathy's column. She was outraged. 'Well, who is this person? She has maybe 10% right but the rest is just so off the mark.' But I think the reason my friend was so perturbed was that Cathy was a lot more than 10% accurate. That Cathy is willing to ask these questions and say the things people think silently makes her Cathy. All of us would like to say some of the things that Cathy says. I don't know what gives Cathy her bravery and strength."
Luke: "It seems effortless on her part."
Sam: "I'm guessing it has taken its toll on her."
Luke: "Do you think it has hurt her career?"
Sam: "I don't know. What do you feel about that?"
Luke: "I'm sure it has hurt her with Southern California media entities like the trades and the Los Angeles Times. I assume that Southern California media is clubby and that she is largely excluded and largely writes for organizations out of state."
Sam: "I'm thinking about her writing for the pink ghetto of women's magazines. I write for those magazines. I know they're a girls club. Cathy is not willing to make nice. I respect her for that. I can't imagine her writing those pieces you need to write for those magazines."
Luke: "How long were you with Buzz?"
Sam: "I wasn't with Buzz. I was a chronic hanger-on. I think I held the record for having the most pieces killed by Buzz."
Cathy Seipp and Amy Alkon threw a wrter's party for Sam Dunn in March 2002 to honor the publication of her memoir Not by Accident: Reconstructing a Careless Life. It was at that party that I first met Cathy.
Sam: "We were just about to leave. Cathy introduced me to a journalist [Emmanuelle Richard] from the French newspaper Liberacion. I said, "Oh, Cathy, I didn't know you were friends with anyone from Liberacion.' She turned to me and said, 'Yes, Sam, I know French people.'
"Most people realize that Cathy is a ballbuster but she's also incredibly generous and giving to the people she likes. She's not gushy. Her actions speak louder than her words."
Luke: "Do you ever feel when you're writing something, oh, I better not write that, becaues I will anger someone who will hurt me?"
Sam: "Yeah. I've written about my personal life and people have really been hurt. I didn't mean to be hurtful. I just meant to be analytical and emotionally honest. God, people flee from you in droves when you do that. Cathy does it all the time. Once you've been stung like that, it does make you more cautious."
Luke: "I'm just coming out of a phase where for a year, I couldn't write anything honest because I was so shell-shocked."
Sam: "That happened to me after my book Not by Accident came out. I thought I was measured but it ended up hurting people. It's only now that I've gotten back to writing. I've taken refuge in the soft celebrity stuff that doesn't require any analysis. I've been licking my wounds."
Leykis 101 For Picking Up Chicks
I surfed over to www.blowmeuptom.com and I read talkshow host Tom Leykis's rules for dating:
- NEVER, and I mean EVER...date a single mother. There are multiple reasons for this rule. 1) She's already made one (or more) mistake, and you could be next. 2) With the Feminist movement gaining so much influence, YOU could be stuck paying child support for being a "Father Figure" to someone else's child! 3) With a single mother, you will always be number 2. Kids will always come first.
- Follow the "three strikes and your out" rule. Which means if he/she hasn't put out in the first three dates, dump them.
- Never pick up your phone Friday through Sunday. Screen all of your phone calls.
- Never spend more than $40 on a date. And if she pays, all the better. - Pick out the women with the lowest self esteem. The lower the better. Beautiful women with a very low self esteem are the best partners possible.
- Women are attention whores and will do almost anything to get it. So keep that in mind when you see some woman dressed to kill.
- Men, never have coffee or lunch with a woman unless you want to be "friends". Women have dinner with the men that they bang, not lunch or coffee.
- Women, you have no male friends. Every male you call a friend wants to bang the living fuck out of you. If you don't believe me, then as a test...tell any one of your male friends that you want to sleep with them and see if they turn you down.
- Stay away from any women who says the words "All my friends are guys". That is trouble and should be avoided at all costs.
- If the person you are dating stops putting out, "Dump that bitch".
- Men, the reason why you are "friends" with a woman with the exception of having a past relationship with her...is that she doesn't find you attractive. The truth hurts. Move on.
- Men, the more confidence you show the better chances you have of getting the girl. Women smell a pussy (figurative term for a man with no self esteem) a mile away and they can also smell confidence. Women are attracted to confidence almost more than anything else.
- Don't ever tell a woman you love her unless you really do. Don't do it especially just to get in her pants. The consequences are many and get you in to big trouble. And if you really do love her, than Leykis 101 no longer applies here.
- If your girlfriend or boyfriend is spending a lot of time with a "friend" of the opposite sex (ESPECIALLY an "Ex"), dump that bitch.
- Do not get married until you are at least 25 years of age, and are done having "fun".
- Do not buy her flowers until the second year you are married.
- Don't do anything in the beginning of the relationship you wouldn't normally do later in the relationship. Because her expectations of anything you do for her will cause you problems later.
- Never hold her purse. Unless you are a pussy or have a pussy, you shouldn't be holding a purse.
- Never buy her Feminine Hygiene products for her. It is her way of testing how much she can "pussywhip" you. No self respecting man would do this.
- Always become unavailable during the holidays. Never pick up the phone close to holiday seasons. Especially Valentine's Day or Thanksgiving.
- Do not go to a concert with a woman if she invites you...ESPECIALLY if she has backstage passes or has a friend in the band she is going to see. She probably just used you for the ride there.
- Never buy a woman a drink. It's just another way of a woman getting something she wants for free while the man thinks she's interested in him. (applies outside of relationships)
- Eat before you go out on a date. Purpose is that a woman normally wouldn't be caught dead eating more than her date. So this results in a lower costing date by the end of the evening. You tell her that you are trying to eat healthy. "I'll just have a salad."
- Do not order a bottle of wine. And the reason you don't when she asks is because you want to make sure you get her home safely. And to ensure this to the best of your ability, you don't want to drink any alcohol.
- If your date picks up their cell phone, silently get up, leave the establishment and drive off without them. If they give you a lack of respect to pay attention to you on the date, you don't give them the respect of driving them home. And the Cell phone call is most likely her way of setting up her booty call after getting dinner out of you.
Rabbi Gadol Compares Torah High Schools With Modern Orthodox High Schools
Joe Flint On Ray Richmond
While chatting with Ray Richmond the other day, I asked him which fellow journalist would have the most negative things to say about him. Ray said without hesitation, "Joe Flint."
So I sent an email to Joe Flint at the Wall Street Journal and talked to him on the phone about Ray.
Joe: "Ray came to Variety [as a reporter covering cable TV] when we were having a lot of turnover in the TV department. The person who championed Ray's hiring, Jim Benson, quit a week later. It was weird that Ray was hired because he is more of a critic than a reporter. We never hit it off because we're two totally different personalities. I was driven by aggressive reporting, something Ray hadn't done since becoming a critic."
Joe chuckles. "Ray's lifestyle and approach to the job was probably more suited to that of a reviewer. He's not a guy you want reporting on a business story. On his first day at Variety, I got a tip on something that I passed on to him around 3:30PM to investigate. He said, 'Well, I have to go to my Lamaze class with my wife at 5PM.'
"I wasn't technically his boss. I was just a TV editor and he was one of the TV reporters. I have nothing against going to Lamaze classes, but on your first day? As a reporter, he never seemed interested in getting a keen grasp of the business. I don't think he had any great desire to make the transition to reporter and work the phones and pound the pavement. When you're working for one of the trades, you're writing inside baseball stuff. You have to know all the arcane details of business relationships and who's who. And either that interests you or it doesn't, and I don't think it interested him."
Joe Flint worked at Variety from 1994-97. He then worked at Entertainment Weekly for two years before moving to the Wall Street Journal.
LA Times Outs Richard Gere?
I'm curious why the media are so reluctant to report that homosexual photographer Herb Ritts died of AIDS?
Parterrebox writes on alt.showbiz.gossip: No, actually, people don't die of AIDS; they die of opportunistic infections associated with a weakened immune system (or, sometimes, from the side effects of medication intended to combat HIV.
A news report on a celebrity's death is supposed to follow the death certificate in listing the cause of death; in Ritts' case it looks like what the doctor wrote down was "pneumonia." It's not up to an obituary writer to speculate on complicating factors.
It's different of course if the subject of the story (i.e., the person who died) made clear his wishes that he wanted his HIV status mentioned in his obituary; some people do want to do that for political reasons, e.g. keeping the message in the public eye that HIV still does kill.
Dame writes on alt.gossip.celebrities: One of the worst-kept secrets in Hollywood is how openly gay photographer-of-the-famous Herb Ritts, who died today of AIDS-related pneumonia, and famously closeted gay actor Richard Gere [were close friends].
So here's a curious little item in today's LA Times obit of Ritts, just after talking about how he was openly gay:
"While in college, he told his parents he was gay. His sister, Christy, told the Los Angeles Times about her brother's announcement in a 1999 interview: "When I found out, it was, 'Is he happy? Is he OK?' Other than that, who cares?"
"The story goes that Ritts and his close friend, a young actor named Richard Gere, were driving through the desert on their way to a weekend in Palm Springs when the Buick Le Sabre they were driving had a flat. Sweaty from changing the tire, Gere agreed to an impromptu photo session, posing in front of the car, his hands behind his head and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. 'It was fun,' Ritts was quoted about that time in 1979 when he used a Miranda camera with a 105-millimeter portrait lens. His friend Gere was an unknown then. But a year later he was a star, and Ritts' photos showed up in magazines in the United States and Italy.
"Ritts also published several books, among them 1989's "Men/Women" about the beauty and sensuous aura of both sexes; 1991's "Duo," a nude study of gay couples..."
Sweet writes: I couldn't help laughing when I read the "arms over his head" part....reminded me of how Howard Stern always says gay men dance with their arms over their head.
So What If Kikes, Dykes and Faggots Make Movies To Their Liking?
It's a great day when Ole' Ygg is writing anew. I'm reading up on the Christian Martys of Britain, slaughtered by the lunatic Papist Mary. John Rogers, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley. Do not these names speak to me from their graves? I'll bet THESE men would not be running a gossip site if they were alive today.
Shame on me for trying to stir up trouble between the homosexuals and the Jews on one side, and the goyim on the other. Or is it the other way around.... I forget.
I need to get right with God. Well, just look at what a mess my life is. Might there not be something very important missing from my life? Instead I go from jewish singles "event" to jewish singles "event", hang out with bachelors, and know not the company of fertile women.
Maybe my sojurn into the world of the Black Hat was meant only to help me do outreach to the disaffected among them? Time for me to wear a white hat. Time for me to get right with God. I could do worse than earn a divinity degree. Rabbi Luke Ford. Does this not sound wholesome?
I need to turn, turn, turn round to where I ought to be. Tis a gift, you know. I should return to Australia or to Christ's Church, NZ and live the life of a country squire, full of tales of Babylon. Eat sheep, drink ale, know women. Would that be such a bad life?
A Very Smart, Likable and Considerate Los Angeles Film Publicist writes Jeffrey "Man of the People" Wells:
"The lead piece in last Friday's column ('Chick Flick Conundrum') was just a touch on the sexist/homophobic side, and I feel like I need to comment. I speak for my homosexual brethren when I say that assuming that our (apparently collective) taste is somehow lighter or less valid than that of the straight white majority is, quite unfortunately, patriarchal and presumptuous. Your comments slight what I feel is credible, insightful, breathtaking work. I haven't seen THE HOURS but I loved both FAR FROM HEAVEN and CHICAGO.
"I have noticed that your taste is often guided by your ability to identify with the characters or themes of a movie (as evidenced by your Top Ten List from this year). You love movies about straight white guys, which is fine. It's your perspective, it's your experience, and that's cool. That said, you've got to throw me and the ladies a bone every once in a while. If, for once, critics and academies are both digging a movie that isn't about some middle-aged, straight white guy struggling with some sort of inner turmoil, then please don't fault them for it.
"This year's awards race is the proverbial breath of fresh air [for me and mine]. The last big movie to even mention AIDS was PHILADELPHIA, wasn't it? This is incredible and exciting."
Jeffrey Wells to Publicist: I knew someone would say this to me. I'm not faulting anyone for liking THE HOURS, FAR FROM HEAVEN or CHICAGO. In writing it I was merely wondering, in part, why no critic has taken note so far that THE HOURS, to judge not only by its themes and its characters but also its list of creators, is obviously informed by a gay perspective? Let me suggest a possible reason. Because it would be considered vaguely homophobic to say this, and so no one does out of fear of being pigeonholed as the new Bill O'Reilly.
Let's say a group of five extremely talented chipmunks managed to figure out how to work a digital video recorder and made a movie about their experience gathering nuts for the winter, and then took it to Sundance and found a distributor. If a critic were to then come along and say, "This movie was made by chipmunks, and is obviously about the chipmunk experience," would he then be considered chipmunk-phobic?
THE HOURS is based on a book by a gay man, and is partly about a British writer, Virginia Wolff, who certainly had strong gay leanings, although she apparently never consummated them in real life. It was directed by a gay man, and is concerned with a '50s housewife with obvious lesbian longings, a contemporary lesbian couple, and a gay man dying of AIDS. None of this amounts to an interruption in the final analysis because THE HOURS is a quality piece, and yet no one has so far been willing to call a spade a spade.
FAR FROM HEAVEN is obviously partly about a gay issue, to some extent (i.e., the closet), and it was produced by a gay woman and directed by a gay man....and again, nobody mentions it. And all gay guys love musicals, and especially ones with sexy women and cool vintage clothes and great dance numbers. You know that, I know that, and my mother knows that.
All I was saying in the piece is that we've basically got three gay-friendly chick flicks at the top of the Oscar heap right now, and what about those with a somewhat broader, Joe Schmoe, common-emotional-current thing going on? Especially considering the limited reach of these three? CHICAGO is sexy and "entertaining," but hasn't a remotely intelligent thought in its head. HEAVEN is an emotionally earnest visual statement that exists mainly as a reflection of Douglas Sirk's films, and THE HOURS is a good film to watch if you're considering suicide and need that final little nudge.
David "The Jew" Poland, always sticking up for the homosexuals and sticking it to that rock-ribbed shaygetz Wells, writes Jeffrey: The first letter is dead on. It's not about gay people or women. It is about you. And while it's reasonably selfish criticism, it's shitty journalism and shows an absolute lack of patience for anything outside of your immediate realm. Nothing wrong with that if you are a moviegoer choosing a movie. As a person who covers the industry, it suggests the beginning of the end of your career.
If you don't have the patience for politics, you had better not be on that beat. It's not than a consistently outraged point of view isn't refreshing. But any illusion of a lack of bias disappears and with it, any journalistic credibility.
The trouble you are having is that you are trying to live the lie that you are objective. You are not. And you aren't regular. You are your own unique being. And that's fine. So long as don't try to fool us by suggesting that you are objective.
Chaim Amalek writes: Of course Hollywood is a queer town, and every thinking man knows it. Now get your head out of that unholy place and consider the latest additions to the library of Yggdrasil. (These days, especially, with the passing of Dr. Pierce, Yggdrasil is THE "must read" for jews and others with high IQs.) Read with care the Atlantic Monthly article, and Ygg's piece on The New Feudalism (which I do not entirely agree with). And for the goyim among you, where Ygg uses the term "inner partyhe means Jews(biological like menot wannabes Luke or Madonna):
By the way, so what if queers, dykes and faggots make movies to their liking? Rootless, secular, cosmopolitanite Jews do it all the time; negroes do it when they can get financing from the Jews, even Muslims do it when it does not involve depictions of The Prophet. The deeper answer as to why this is troubling to some is found in the Atlantic Montly article. People stick to their own kind often enough for segregation to win out over those who prefer "diversity".
Paz Haynes wrote Jeffrey Wells: I don't think Christ encouraged people to live on their knees when he said render unto Caesar what is Caesars. I think his point was to render such things secondary to the more important goals of spiritual development and salvation. Remember, this is the person who also said that one should sever body parts if they are offensive and that one commits adultery by even looking at someone the wrong way. He also said, basically, you either stand with me or you burn in hell. Jesus did believe in forgiveness, and his words were comforting, but his words and his ideas were never truly compromising. With all due respect, it's hard for me to believe that a man who was willing to die on a cross for his beliefs was a moral relativist.
Jeffrey Wells replies: "Render unto Caesar" is saying you can back off on the political stuff because it doesn't matter compared to the spiritual. That's what's generally known as a relativist rationale. I stand with the Christ wth a large heart as represented by Willem Dafoe in The Last Temptation of Christ. The one you describe sounds like a pain in the ass to have around. Cut off your dick if you commit adultery, he said? Looking at a girl is the same as going down on her? Either you're with me or you burn in hell? The hell with that. I grew up with this extrmist dogma in Sunday school and it's the main reason I turned to agnoticism in my early teens and then Hinduism (i.e., the Baghavad Gita) in my early 20s, and why I still think most hard-core Christians are dangerous wack jobs.
Remembering Edgar J. Scherick
I spoke by phone 12/26/02 with Michael Dains, a former assistant to the late producer Edgar J. Scherick who now works as a line producer.
Michael: "I came to Los Angeles from New York in 1992 as an actor. After a year, I started working for producer David Brooks, who worked with Edgar. They had a project together - Passion for Justice: The Hazel Brannon Smith Story, A. It was shot in Atlanta and the film was sent to LA and I helped David on the post-production side. I was in Edgar's office a lot.
"I'd take Edgar to editing sessions and watch dailies with him. Edgar had an assistant leave. Hugh Taylor, who was running Edgar's operation at the time, asked me around 1994 to work for Edgar and I agreed.
"Much of my job was being his driver and accompanying Edgar to meetings. I was with him from the early morning until late at night. He could drive. He always did a lot of business on his car phone. I heard that he once got in an accident while trying to do business on his car phone.
"It was impossible to get Edgar to stop what he was doing to go to meetings. We would start giving him warnings well in advance. He also could not stand to be 30 seconds late. He had to be places on time. That's a real challenge in LA.
"If I was ever going to take Edgar somewhere, I'd drive the route first. You never wanted to be lost with Edgar.
"Edgar believed he always knew the best way to go, which was not always true. I went my way. He said, 'If we're late, you're fired.' I laughed. He said, 'No, I'm serious.' We arrived on time.
"Being his assistant meant being part of his brain. He was so busy, and had so much on his mind... When you're talking on the phone [in the entertainment industry], you usually have an assistant listening in and taking notes. If you're in the car, you're only hearing half the conversation and you're driving. You can't take notes.
"Edgar was uncomfortable with me being his assistant. He said to me once, 'You driving me around is like a thoroughbred pulling a garbage scow.' I just wanted to learn as much as I could from him. Some of his assistants didn't pay attention.
"Michael Barnathan told the story at his memorial service that when he was hired by Edgar, Edgar told him to just sit there. Michael thought he was supposed to do something but all he was suppposed to do was listen and learn.
"I recall sitting with Edgar in an editing session for Passion for Justice with the director and editors. Edgar had a photographic memory. We were looking at a scene when Edgar said, 'Wasn't there another shot of this?' There was. There was one reaction shot. Edgar suggested using it. It changed the whole scene and made it better.
"Edgar was willing to fight for things and it was fun to watch him fight and to see when he would back down.
"Roone Arledge told the story of walking in to Wide World of Sports and seeing Edgar's partner pinning Edgar up against the wall. They turned to Roone and said, 'Oh, it's ok.' Edgar told me about throwing furniture around the room.
"Edgar yelled. One assistant just before me quit because she couldn't take being yelled at.
"I felt like my relationship with Edgar was a father-son relationship. I saw assistants who'd come and go because they'd get pissed off with him and wouldn't deal with it. There was one time I was ready to quit on the spot but he came back and apologized. It was a moving moment. He realized that he had gone too far."
TV Critic Ray Richmond
I speak by phone 12/23/02 with longtime entertainment journalist and Hollywood Reporter TV columnist Ray Richmond (born 10/19/57) of Hollywood Pulse.
Ray: "My mother Terri Richmond was once a leading manufacturer (Product Promotions) of sex aids and toiletries. She created these lubricants and lotions called Joy Jel and Emotion Lotion. She helped invent the sex aids business in the late sixties, based out of LA. When I was a little kid, I was packaging dildos. I have a script in me about this at some point.
"My mother claims to be the first person to give fruit scents and flavors to lubricants. She made a killing as a manufacturer of things like Hap-Penis and Joy Jel. She's now an 81-year old Jewish mother living in Studio City. You would never know. She sold her business in 1999 to a couple of people working for her. They have a factory off Alvarado in East LA.
"As a kid, I would fill jars of Joy Jel and bottles of Emotion Lotion. When I'd ask my Mom what they were for, even though I knew full well at age seven, she would say, 'For chapped lips. Do this.' And she would demonstrate just how well this petroleum jelly would help chapped lips.
"It wasn't pornography, per se, but there were always these sexually suggestive novelties hanging around. It was the ultimate sexual candy store for a little kid growing up."
Luke: "How did it affect you?"
Ray: "I'm a drooling pervert at this point. How it affected me initially is that I went completely in the other direction and was this horrible prude for the longest time because I couldn't handle the idea that my mother was doing this. It wasn't like she was a prostitute but it was very disturbing.
"To the question, 'What do your parents do for a living?' Well, my father was unemployed and my mother made sex better for the world. I asked her at age ten what I should tell people. Mom told me to tell people she was in the mail-order business, which was technically true. She mailed out these things to distributors and wholesalers."
Luke: "Did you use your Mom's products?"
Ray: "My fellow scribes are going to be reading this... I have used the products on occasion but sparingly because it is like taking my mother into the bedroom with me."
Luke: "You find that unerotic?"
Ray: "Yes. I've had mates say, 'I'm sorry, I can't handle this. It's like your mother is in the bedroom with us.' My wife is fine with it but there were sex partners in my past who were uneasy with it."
Luke: "Were they good quality products?"
Ray: "Absolutely. Just like momma used to make. If one's mother gives a stamp of approval, whether one wants to think of that in a sexual context or not, yes, they were of good quality."
Luke: "Did she give out free samples when guests came to the house?"
Ray: "No. But I do remember staying at a friend's house for a week when I was eleven when my mother went on vacation. As a gift, my mother had given them a four-pack of Joy Jel that I handed over innocently and naively. It was a bit uncomfortable for my friend's parents.
"I grew up all over the place, in and around Hollywood primarily. I went to Hollywood High School."
Luke: "Did your parents have a good marriage?"
Ray: "My parents divorced when I was six months old. I was shuttled between many places. I had a strange childhood. Neither of my parents remarried. Each realized, 'God, I wouldn't want to try that again.' I was put in an orphanage for a couple of years from age seven to nine because neither of my parents could take care of me. Then my mother started building her sex empire and I returned to live with her. You could say I grew up with 'abandonment issues.' I make light of it now, but yeah, it was pretty sh----.
"I have some horror stories. You had to eat what they made you eat. I loathe potato salad to this day because they made me eat potato salad. I hated the consistency. They made me sit at the table until I finished. Then I vomited it up all over myself. The other boys would beat up and humiliate the more defenseless kids like myself and then they'd threaten to kill us if we told the house mother. It was a charming place to be with all these kids with all these anger issues who'd been abandoned by their parents.
"I don't have great anger anymore. I just work out regularly.
"To this day, there are some of those kids who, if I ran into them, I would beat the shit out of. I would just attack them. I've never seen them but I do occasionally check the phonebook. I remember the full names of about half a dozen of them. Again, I understand that their hostility was well-founded. I understand they had their own issues and they took it out in the wrong way.
"I have two siblings, both older -- a brother, Len, 59 (from my mother's first marriage, different father) and a sister, Romi, 49. (I'm 45.) My sister is a homemaker in Seattle with two kids. Husband is a lawyer. My brother is a screenwriter/journalist who lives in Santa Monica. He did most of his more renowned writing while living in England in the 1980s.
"My childen are a son, Joshua, age 16 (turning 17 on Jan. 31). He's a high school senior. I also have a 14-year-old daughter, Gabi, and a 6-year-old son, Dylan. My wife, Heidi, is a stay-at-home mom. I'm a stay-at-home freelance writer.
"Even after my parents divorced, my father would continue to live in the house. The only way my mother could get rid of my father was to get rid of us first. After she put us in the orphanage, and he moved out, she realized, 'Hmm, this is pretty good. Fulltime childcare. I think I'll start working now.' Orphanage was like 24-hour childcare. I'm sure it had permanent negative consequences on my personality but I've adopted (Ray goes into his therapeutic voice) a heavy sense of humor to cover up whatever hurt and pain I continue to harbor.
"Yeah, I drank a little too much booze at one point in my life. Things like that. I haven't taken a drink in two years. I was starting to like it a bit too much. And I didn't like some of the feelings I had when I woke up in the morning. I miss it sometimes."
An aspiring jock in high school, Richmond developed an interest in journalism. "I wasn't good enough to be an athlete so I wanted to be a sportswriter so I could write about it. Once I got out of college, there was an opening at the Los Angeles Daily News in the features department. I worked there from 1978-85 (I wrote features and in my last year was a TV critic, then had a second go-round from 1992-96).
"I graduated from Cal State Northridge with a degree in journalism in 1980.
"I met Cathy Seipp at the Daily News. She wrote a column called Hot Tips. She was a breath of fresh air. I thought, Wow, she's as cynical and nasty as I am in her writing. I was impressed. We've had a mutual admiration thing the past 20 years.
"She's completely fearless as a journalist. When you meet her, you expect to get something different - this old cynical cigar-chomping bitch and she's completely not that way at all. She's very feminine in her way and gentle and dainty. It's like this whole other creature comes out in her writing.
"She has journalistic integrity. She knows that if you get too cozy with someone so that you can't write something negative about them when it is true, then you shouldn't be a journalist.
"I remember one time when I wrote a radio column in the Los Angeles Daily News. I said something nice about KIIS-FM in 1983 and the general manager Wally Clark sent me a case of Dom Perignon champagne. I'm in my early twenties, and suddenly this $800 gift arrives on my doorstep. I had to accept it but I felt so guilty I gave every bottle away and took to writing nasty things about them as often as possible to prove that I wasn't bought."
Luke: "How would you gauge the reactions to Cathy's columns among your media friends?"
Ray: "There's a mix of awe and confusion and hostility in equal measure. I don't know that many people now who read her UPI column. I'm on her email list. It's a shame that column doesn't go out to more people. UPI has been dying for 25 years. She gets paid so little compared to how good she is. She's the smartest and snappiest column-writer I've ever met. I've never met anybody whose prose so perfectly matches their conversational ability. She'd rather make less money and write the way she wants, even though she's a home-owner and mother."
Luke: "She turns out a lot of copy?"
Ray: "Yeah. She'll tell you too that it is never easy. It's not like she just whacks it out. She still feels it's like pulling teeth."
Luke: "Are there types of journalists who react to her differently?"
Ray: "The people who are hostile to her work have either been the recipient of her poison pen or they are uncomfortable with her brutal honesty. There are a lot of people in journalism who like to tiptoe around the minefields. She doesn't tiptoe. She stomps. She doesn't carry on a double-life. I respect someone who is the same way to your face as they are in print."
Luke: "What distinguishes her from the typical mealy-mouthed media criticism?"
Ray: "She isn't afraid to say what she feels in her head. She doesn't have a self-censor button. She takes pride in ruffling feathers. I have more fears in my writing than she does. I know that I sometimes tread carefully. Cathy says what is in her heart and then lets the chips fall where they may."
Luke: "Do you think this has come back to hurt her career?"
Ray: "I'm sure it has hurt her. I'm sure she can't get hired to do much at the LA Times because of that. I think there's something so wonderful about being able to speak your mind even if you are laying in the gutter with a bottle of Ripple because no one will hire you anymore but you know did the job as honestly as you could. That would be a career well-served and a life well-lived. There are few persons like her who will be able to look back and say, I followed what was in my heart and in my head.
"There are few people who I think are my equal in being able to write and she's unfortunately much better than me. I aspire to be as good as Cathy."
Luke: "Normally the way to play the game is to kowtow to those who can help you."
Ray: "Yes, and shift over to writing scripts. Entertainment writers are humping the leg of people they talk to."
Luke: "Doesn't (New York Times correspondent) Bernie Weinraub have scripts floating around? Peter Bart."
Ray: "Bill Carter at the New York Times. He wrote The Late Shift on HBO and Monday Night Mayhem on TNT. And he's the chief TV reporter for the NY Times writing about the institutions he has written movies for. It's mind-boggling.
"There are no sacred cows for Cathy. If she did have sacred cows, she couldn't be nearly as free and lively as she is. I have had sacred cows. I'm not proud of that. There have been forces I have kowtowed to. I have a column called "The Pulse" in the Hollywood Reporter every Tuesday. I was able to trash the sh-- out of Jennifer Lopez three weeks ago. I wrote what a media whore she was, what a marketing-created nothing she was. It was a trade saying she was a phoney, a Julia Roberts wannabe. I just thought, goddamn that's good. Cathy has those victories regularly.
Luke: "You have different constraints. You write for a trade. You're in-house."
Ray: "If there's anything you can do to not toe the company line of Hollywood promotion, you're a success. I throw the bodies around when I'm writing reviews. You're supposed to use kid gloves because the people who did the thing are reading it.
"Cathy likes me because I'm semi-fearless. She would've been like [gossip columnists] Dorothy Kilgallen of 50 years ago. Cathy's got this way about her that you want to tell her things."
Luke: "After the Daily News?"
Ray: "In 1985, I went to work on the Merv Griffin Show for ten months as a talent coordinator and segment producer. Those are fancy terms for being an in-house PR guy for Merv. I'd interview the guests in advance and write up vignettes about them and sample questions and answers and show them to Merv in meetings before the show to make sure there was absolutely no spontaneity whatsoever.
"I ended up with the Los Angeles Herald Examiner toward the end of Jim Bellows' tenure as editor in 1986. For 18-months, I wrote on television. In October of 1987, I moved to the Orange County Register as a TV critic for five years. After a four-year stint with the Daily News, I went to work at Variety (1997-99) as a cable and local TV reporter. I was clearly out of my element. I wasn't good at it. You have to care about the people you're covering to thrive on a beat like that and I didn't care enough. I wanted to be the people I was writing about."
Luke: "Don't most entertainment journalists want that?"
Ray: "Probably. I left Variety in 1998 to write a book about Andy Kaufman with his right-hand man Bob Zmuda. Bob ended up being a total jerk though I'm barred by our agreement from talking about the settlement I got."
From Publisher's Weekly, this review of Zmuda's book, Andy Kaufman Revealed: Best Friend Tells All: " Andy Kaufman got the friend he deserved in his lifetime, but this is not the biography he deserves; it is written in a well-meaning though hackneyed and hard-to-digest style. Simple points are made again and again, as if the two(!) authors were attempting to fuse a poorly-written college essay with a USA Today article. And Mr. Zmuda makes the mistake of assuming that his own history will be of much interest to the reader, who is ostensibly reading a tell-all about Kaufman, not his best friend. There are tremendous anecdotes here; about half the book is filled with glorious tales of artful mischief, hijinks, pranks, and funny stuff that Zmuda and Kaufman pulled on friends, crowds, and strangers. Fans will undoubtedly want to pick this one up, while those with a more casual interest are cautioned to perhaps look elsewhere for a less clumsily written tome."
Ray: "I feel like it's my job as a TV critic at a trade to really sing someone's praises if they're good to make sure they continue to get hired and colorfully point out deficiencies if they're not very good to make sure they don't have an opportunity to keep making bad television. But I honestly don't think that TV critics influence things as much as film critics. You have to make a night of it to go see a film. If you're a parent, you have to hire a babysitter, have dinner, and plunk down $20. TV is a two-second investment. You click the remote. TV is the package of gum at the check-out line.
"I still take the job seriously. It's not fair to the people who make television to have a burned-out critic who hates television."
Luke: "You're talking about Howard Rosenberg of the LA Times."
Ray: "I think Howard's done some great stuff."
Luke: "A long time ago."
Ray: "Maybe. I'm not a regular reader of his."
Luke: "What are the common obstacles to doing good entertainment journalism?"
Ray: "Treading carefully to make sure you continue to have access. There's always a great dance you have to do between telling the truth and keeping your access. You can get blackballed easily if you are perceived as a hostile witness."
Luke: "Have you seen people effectively blackballed?"
Ray: "Not specifically. I think the LA Times has done that to Cathy Seipp. Anyone who worked at the New Times LA doesn't stand a chance of setting foot in the LA Times after all the things that [New Times editor] Rick Barrs did.
"In November of 1992, Roseanne's then-husband had a TV show called "The Jackie Thomas Show." There were some negative reviews of the show. Roseanne sent faxes to three different TV critics - Howard Rosenberg, Matt Roush (USA Today) and me. I had five people carrying the fax to my desk at the LA Daily News. She made fun of me and finished it with "You're a f---head." I didn't think anything of it. Suddenly, I got a call from the LA Times about it. I learned Roseanne had questioned the sexual orientation of Howard and Matt and had called them "faggot." She didn't question my sexual orientation.
"The LA Times interviewed me about it. The piece runs and that morning I come to work and there are messages from Entertainment Tonight, CNN, Newsweek, US News. I had ten messages. I was on the interview circuit. 'How does it feel to get dissed by Roseanne?' I'm thinking, is this what I'm going to get famous for? The guy who got dissed by Roseanne?
"I was asked, 'Are you going to write better about her now?' Yes, please say that I am officially intimidated and I will only write wonderful things about Roseanne and her husband and any relative or friend of her. Sometimes the sarcasm got lost. Camera crews are coming in and out of the Daily News to interview me.
"I sent Roseanne flowers thanking her for putting me on the map. She then sends two thank-you cards back, saying, 'Thanks for the flowers but you are still a f---head.' So that starts a whole new round of publicity. It was frightening to see the whole media machine in action.
"This is around the time I met my wife and I'm getting all these phone calls at my house from CNN and Larry King Live. She was convinced that I was famous.
"When Roseanne sent the notes back, I thought she was in on the joke. She understands we're just playing. I ran into a couple of years later in Las Vegas. I walked up to her and asked her for a quote. She said, 'No, I'm not going to talk to you. You're a f---head.' I was disappointed because I thought she was being cool about it. It turns out that she's nuts.
"I get surprisingly little hate mail compared to some of the nasty things I've written. When it's in print, people tend to think it has the ring of truth and they are not apt to question it. People tend to give TV critics too much credit for being smart and sophisticated.
"I remember when James Woods called and left a five-minute thank-you on my voicemail after I'd written a nice review of a TV movie he was in."
Luke: "Who are some journalists who've crossed over into entertainment?"
Ray: "Robert Palm who used to write for the Herald Examiner and now produces. Jack Burditt was a copy editor at the Daily News in the early eighties and became an executive producer on Frasier."
Ray's brother's uses the name "Len," which is short for "Lennard," a name he loathes and never uses. Len is most famous for writing an acclaimed TV comedy in England called "Agony" (1979-80) and was writer-director of an independent comedy feature called "Merchants of Venus" 1998) about the marital aids trade (wonder where he got that idea). Starred Michael York. Ray's mother financed the whole film for about $300,000.
Len now lives in Santa Monica and is trying to write novels.
Ray and I talk about the parties Cathy Seipp throws with Amy Alkon.
Ray: "I've never gone. I hear they are good parties. I've got three kids. I'm a big family guy so it's hard for me to get out to parties. It's also probably held back my career a little bit. I don't really do the meet and greet thing that much but I admire people who are good at it."
Luke: "What's your relationship like with Peter Bart?"
Ray: "We left on good terms. He's the godfather of trade journalism."
Luke: "He got nailed in that Los Angeles magazine piece."
Ray: "Yes he did but Peter's a survivor. He could survive nuclear war. He knows how to play the angles. He's changed entertainment journalism. Variety was a complete old-boys network before he got there and cleaned up a lot of it. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter play favorites on occasion but there's a lot less of the glad-handing and backroom deals now. It's more above-board. There's some real journalism taking place and some real nailing of people who need to be nailed. It's not just fluff, thanks in part to Peter's influence."
Luke: "What do you think of Brian Lowry?"
Ray: "Brian is the best TV reporter in the country. A nice guy, gracious, smart, knows all the right people. He's effortless in the way he covers the industry. But canny and clever and aware."
Los Angeles Times TV columnist Brian Lowry writes Luke: "I've always felt Ray was a terrific critic -- smart, funny, biting -- who has struggled to find the right venue. I actually lobbied for him to get the job at Variety, as I recall, but he was right, it wasn't an especially good fit for him as a reporter. I also remember when he sort of gave it up to work on books, giving him that sort of Willie Wonka "Wait. Stop. Don't" warning, because that's a helluva hard way to make a living without some sort of day job.
"I would disagree on one point (though I think it's yours, so it's probably not particularly relevant to your question), which is the assumption that EVERYONE who writes about entertainment harbors a desire to get into it. While that's too often true, there are people out there (I'd like to think I'm one of them) who are genuinely committed to journalism and not necessarily starstruck by the money, perks, etc., they encounter on the other side of the wall. You can visit the mansion, as it were, without wanting to live in it."
Cathy Seipp writes Luke about Ray: "He's an extremely smart, funny writer, and one of the few here in L.A. who make me think, especially when I read something he's written on TV, "Darn, I wish I'd thought to say that." Unlike many people who write about TV, he not only has a deep understanding of how the business works -- much more than I do, really -- he's clever and observant enough to notice which particular absurd glitches in the pattern will make a good column. That's Ray as a writer. I should add that as a person, he's decent to the core, and I don't say that lightly, because it's really not all that common a quality."
Ray Richmond wrote in the 3/9/02 Los Angeles Times: My East Coast-based partner on HollywoodPulse.com, Tom Comi, was bemused on Feb. 22 to find a message in our site's contact e-mailbox from a producer at Fox News Channel, who was wondering if one of our representatives might have time to submit to a taped interview for a planned [Paula Poundstone] story.
A researcher probably entered the words "Poundstone" and "court" into the Yahoo! search engine. Positioned at No. 17 on the resultant list is a HollywoodPulse.com story from Nov. 17, 2001, headlined, "Paula Poundstone Plays Dumb After Violation." The utterly fabricated piece found the comedian expressing purported shock and outrage that a recent liquor-drinking, pot-smoking, coke-snorting binge represented a true violation of her probation.
How else to explain that Fox News had a full workweek to blow the whistle after I taped my interview with reporter Trace Gallagher on Feb. 25? The story didn't run on the network's 4 p.m. edition of "The Fox Report" until March 1. And when it aired, there I was, my frightfully jowly mug weighing in on the subject, with my name and HollywoodPulse.com affiliation gloriously emblazoned on screen.