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March 26, 2007

Fox News report.

About two years ago, Maia Lazar had a journalism advisor at Ribet Academy named Eliot Stein, a resident of the San Fernando Valley.

Mr. Stein says that when his journalism class revolted against Maia their Editor, he called her at home to try to resolve the situation.

Maia became upset. She had various issues with Mr. Stein.

On the advice of her mother Cathy Seipp, Maia did not go to Mr. Stein to try work things out with him, but instead she complained to the school and blogged about her teacher (without naming him).

There was a big fight.

When Ribet tried to suspend Eliot Stein for one day, Mr. Stein walked away from the school.

"The clash was not with the teacher, it was with the students," Mr. Stein told me March 26. "The students found Maia condescending and arrogant. They loved me."

Mr. Stein says he's ready to give up the domain name cathyseipp.com and to abandon this feud if both sides to it (he and Maia) will sign a non-disparagement agreement.

I believe people, even 14 year olds, should always try to work out their problems directly with the person who's causing the problem, before they go to those in charge.

If you are old enough to blog, then you are old enough to learn that whenever you blog something negative about somebody, that person may devote the rest of his life trying to make you miserable. Even when you are right in hurting someone (exposing their bad behavior to protect the innocent) through your speech, you are usually going to be hurt in return.

When you go over someone's head, there's a high likelihood that that person is going to lash back at you and hurt you, even if you are in the right.

I don't agree with infantilizing teenagers and treating them as incapable of resolving their own problems. I've always despised kids who ran to the teacher or to the principal to complain about another kid without having first tried to resolve their problem with that kid.

Eliot Stein bought the domain name cathyseipp.com and used it to write negative things about Cathy, Maia, me and our friends.

"What do you expect?" I said to Cathy when she solicited my opinion. "You got rid of him. Of course he's going to be angry. Yes, it sounds like he did things that made Maia uncomfortable, but it makes sense to me that he would want to attack you and your daughter. It's your fault for not owning your own domain name."

Cathy was disgusted by my view and I didn't bring it up again.

Over the past week, there's been a concerted effort by friends of Cathy to shut down cathyseipp.com and the anti-Cathy, anti-Maia writings of its owner Eliot Stein. My friends have gone to enormous lengths, called in their friends in the media, law and investigation for help.
I disagree.

It's wrong to memorialize one First Amendment warrior by shutting down another's writing.

Elliot Stein's website about Cathy Seipp and Maia Lazar and me and others is free speech. We as journalists/bloggers/writers should be the last people to try to shut down someone's mockery of Cathy. The site was not nice, but so what?

Maia and Cathy probably contributed to Stein leaving his job. It is not surprising that Mr. Stein would want to lash back at Cathy and Maia. I don't think Maia deserves special legal protection against internet mockery just because she is in grief.
It is Cathy's fault for not registering her own name as a domain name. Mr. Stein saw open property and he bought it and that is fair and it should now belong to him to do as he wishes.

I think I oppose all libel laws.

Yes, on moral grounds, I think that much of Mr. Stein's anti-Cathy, anti-Maia writings were objectionable. They were a little too cruel. But Eliot Stein has every legal right to be cruel to Cathy and Maia, to be cruel to Cathy and Maia on cathyseipp.com (or any dotcom) and to be cruel to Cathy and Maia on cathyseipp.com on the week Cathy died.

I similarly disagreed with Cathy on the Sandra Tsing Loh - KCRW affair when Sandra got fired for saying "fuck" on the air (it was the engineer's fault for not blanking it out of the pre-recorded segment). If I had been in charge of KCRW, I would not have fired Sandra, but if KCRW wanted to fire her for it, they should have every legal right to do so (perhaps Sandra should've listened to the segment before it was to be aired to make sure her obscenity was bleeped). Sandra can find other outlets for her talents.

Harriet emails:

Hello,

I started reading Cathy's World after her diagnosis--although I didn't know it at the time--when I was anticipating a move to Los Angeles. From her blog, I was able to glean some really valuable insights into my soon-to-be adopted home, and for that I am grateful.

But all along, I knew something was amiss in Cathy's world. The total opposition to differing point of views, the dressing down reserved only for those she disagreed with--it all rankled. And the sicker she got, and the stranger things sounded (that bizarre fight over Maia leaving out some teabags), the more heartsick I felt.

I know something about parents who insist on strict adherence to a "truth" that they've determined, and I feel some anxiety for Maia, surrounded by people who--seemingly, at any rate--hold one, uniformly positive perspective.

So from my distant observer's point of view, I am grateful to you for exploring the contradictions inherent in Cathy's personality. When I am gone, I would much rather be known for both my flaws and my strengths (the more impressive for my having overcome the flaws), than only for some fabricated, falsely positive mask, and I think you do Cathy a service.

If it calms Elliot Stein's nerves at all, you can tell him that at least one of your readers had already assumed much of the Cathy's version was deeply flawed. His response was embarrassingly over the top, but I suspect his judgement is warped from interacting with the bizarro rules of Cathy's World.

March 27, 2007

Maia Lazar's former journalism advisor has launched eliotstein.com which links to this bio.

I talked to Eliot for almost two hours Tuesday evening about his career on the internet.

Part One Audio Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six Part Seven

Pics: Eliot Stein with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys Eliot Stein with humorist Dave Barry

Eliot: "There was a time when I got a lot of press. I was on Entertainment Tonight. I was in USA Today. I was in numerous newspapers around the country. Magazines.

"I had a master's degree in Education Technology [from San Diego State, graduating in 1976 when Eliot was 22]. I was one of the first people who got my hands on a computer that had a screen on it.

"They had for many years these computers that had these processing batch cards. If you can imagine the horrors of having thousands of cards processing to do a simple test...

"San Diego State got one of the first computer screen systems with a terminal. You could write and see it on the screen.

"They started this master's degree in educational technology. They brought this computer into the department. It was connected to a few other colleges in California. Because of the education department, no teacher would go near it. They were scared to death of this little machine.

"I sat down and gave the thing a try. Within a few days, I was writing programs in the language of basic. 'Some day,' I said, 'this will be used in every library.' Those people laughed at me.

"I wrote this program where you could write in the name of the book you wanted and information would come back about where it was stored and it was due on this date... They said, 'This is never going to happen. People are always going to go to little card catalogues.'

"They decided I would write something that had never been done before. I would write the first program to teach teachers how to use a computer.

"You'd sit down, type in your name, and the computer would say, 'Hello, Mrs. Smith. How are you?'

"That was my master's project.

"I had done television and radio in San Diego. One summer, I had a local television show with rock bands. I was the host.
"I came up to Los Angeles in the late seventies. I did stand-up comedy. I got into SAG and AFTRA. I had a talking part on General Hospital.

"I was driving one day and I had an idea -- what if somebody could go to a movie and write a review coming out of that movie and everybody could see it instantaneously.

"I started checking around.

"I had an Atari 400. It played Pacman. It had Missile Command. And it had a programming cartridge in it. I got hold of this company called Compuserve. They had stocks and news and sports online. That's it. The service was basically for stockbrokers to get instant quotes.

"I sat down with somebody and came up with a program that could access Compuserve. I couldn't afford an expensive terminal. Soon there was going to be the Commodore 64 that could access it.

"I called Compuserve and made a proposal. 'How would you like entertainment news, movie reviews, celebrity interviews, showbiz games and anything entertainment instantaneously for these people reading the stock reports...'

"Some executives there said, 'I think they'd like that.'

"Within a few weeks, I had a business going called 'Hollywood Hotline.' It was in the black within two months. I was able to hire people. We had a guy in New York write reviews of stage plays.

"It was the world's first show business accessible system.

"Compuserve was really pushing. They had Rush Limbaugh do commercials pushing it. He'd talk about Hollywood Hotline.

"My business is getting bigger and bigger.

"I'd bring a little portable Atari 800 and a modem to studios. I'd set it up and I'd show this to publicity departments and the TV networks. The response was ho hum. 'This is never going to make it.'

"Time magazine came out with an article in 1983 saying, 'Hey folks, there's something happening out there and it's called Compuserve.'

"We had soap opera stories. People were joining up so they could get their soap opera summaries.

"One day in 1985, I got a call. 'Hello Eliot, my name is Steve Case. I have a business called Quantum Link.'

"You could only get on to it with a Commodore 64 computer.

"'We want you to provide us with all the entertainment stuff that you're providing Compuserve, however, we are going to give you more money and you are going to provide more stuff for us.'

"Sure, Steve.

"I started asking about stock and the word was no. 'You're an independent contractor. It's your company and we're hiring your company to handle all the entertainment content.'

"People say to me, 'If you were from day one with Compuserve and AOL, why aren't you living in Bel Air?'

"The answer is, I asked them and the answer was no.

"In three years, we are on AOL and Compuserve and we are it. We are the whole online instantaneous entertainment service.

"Calls start coming in from competitors. Western Union started a company that you could pull off their teletypes. Delphi.

"Then a big company came along called General Electric and they started GEnie. They pumped millions of dollars to compete. They called us and we set up on their systems...

"We hear from NBC and CBS about secret projects -- NBC Teletext. CBS Extravision.

"You know how on your tv if the picture starts rolling you have a black bar? They figured out how to take that black bar and put information in it, open it up all the way as big as the picture on your TV. They started giving this to hundreds of people around the United States. They were sending news, weather and sports and guess who was handling all the entertainment? Hollywood Hotline.

"NBC said to me, 'We're setting up a little box for you. You come down here and pick up our information. We can't afford the postage.'

"I'm in my thirties. I was very good looking in my thirties. I'd go down there every day and all the women, young and old, would start flirting with me. They'd stop what they were doing and hang around me.

"NBC decided to cut me off from coming down. 'There's too much chaos when you come down here.'

"We had all these hot items we'd send out every day and we'd have all these radio stations using our items and not giving us credit.

"We started syndicating our items to radio stations.

"We put out our thing late one day and Entertainment Tonight called and asked, 'Where is your service today?'"

"I've been using email since 1982. I showed it to people and they said it was stupid. Until about 1995, they were telling me that nobody was going to use email."

"Compuserve was given the chance to buy AOL and turned it down.

"In 1994, Compuserve asked me to go exclusive with them and I said goodbye to everybody else."

"I've been a visionary. The things that everybody takes for granted now online -- movie reviews, celebrity interviews (whether text or audio), I did that first, interactive games, movie promotions (I did the first one for 1992's Sneakers with Robert Redford, we had the director and some of the cast online, I proposed it to Universal)...

"I asked Compuserve early on to go audio. They got a department to start working on it. A company called broadcast.com was working on that and we linked up with them for the first major live celebrity interviews -- steinonline.com.

"It was the thing I'm most proud of. It was a daily 90-minute to two hours live radio interview show from a little studio I built in Burbank. You could pick up almost any newspaper and see the listings for the guests coming on. I was doing Larry King on the internet."

"My company keeps getting bigger. We're getting press."

"I was the first person to put a movie review online. It was for Gandhi."

"People were constantly calling and kissing up to me to try to get them on the front page, to do promotions."

"I said, let's all watch the Oscars around the world on Compuserve and comment... For four hours, people wrote the funniest, most sarcastic comments... We did give-aways.

"I started an interactive forum which most people call a blog these days. The Showbiz Forum. It was the only place online to discuss entertainment. You'd leave messages and people would respond. We could put up pictures and documents.

"Within a few years, Roger Ebert came on. Ed Asner. Jerry Brown. Buddy Epsen. Bob Denver."

"In 1994, the internet becomes a challenge to Compuserve and AOL."

"AOL out-marketed Compuserve. By 1997, AOL went past Compuserve in subscribers."

"When the internet starts, there are few websites. I was under an exclusive contract. I could only provide services to Compuserve. I could not open up my own things on the internet. I gave my loyalty to this company. I'd been with them since 1982. They were going to take care of me forever. They paid me well and gave me any equipment I wanted.
"The day I got real worried was in 1998 when Yahoo added the news to its home page. I called up executives at Compuserve and said I was very concerned. We don't have a presence on the internet. What's going to prevent Yahoo from adding sports, weather and entertainment? An executive snapped at me. 'We know what's happening with the internet. We are not worried about the internet. We know how to handle this.'

"In 2000, steinonline.com (after three years) came to an end."

"The greatest moment for me was Brian Wilson."

"I had on a woman who was part of the French resistance in World War II.

"Annette Funicello. She had trouble talking [because of her MS]. I was in tears by the end of that interview."

"I've done over 10,000 interviews in my life. It's one thing I'm good at. I can get very funny, very clever and I can get dead serious. I know how to get information out of people."

"I had people who were in the first wave at D-Day."

"In 2000, AOL purchased Compuserve. I got a letter saying we want you to continue providing your services to Compuserve but we're not going to pay you anymore. They were afraid of the media picking up on AOL getting rid of Compuserve people who'd been there a long time.

"I had a staff of about 15 people. I turned it over to an assistant. They paid him a few hundred dollars a week.

"I spent about a year working out a deal with Yahoo to put out the biggest audio entertainment program out of Los Angeles that the world had ever seen. Then Terry Semel came in and he changed the model of Yahoo."

"I started the world's first interactive forum devoted to oldies music."

"We weren't that controversial. Our news service that went out daily was pretty much positive information. We didn't get into gossip until the interactive forum.

"I broke the story on Hollywood Hotline that Rock Hudson had AIDS. A day before [Amy Archerd in] Variety. We knew we were taking a chance with that. We did it anyway."

Luke: "What were the smartest things and the dumbest things you did?"

Eliot: "The smartest thing was to stick with it."

"My favorite idol, Paul McCartney, produced a 1984 movie called, 'Give My Regards To Broad Street.'

"When my wife and I got there, there were thousands of screaming girls. Paul McCartney steps out of a limo with his wife Linda. He brushes by me. He sits in front of me in the theater.

"When the movie ended, and it wasn't all that great, and people didn't know what to do. I started applauding wildly and everybody else followed. I made Paul McCartney feel good."

In 1989, Eliot got his P.h.D. from the American Institute of Hypnotherapy.

When he ran out of money in 2002, Eliot became a high school teacher (History and English).

"I plan to get something else going with interviews."

Luke: "What's the story with you and Roy Masters?"

Eliot: "I used to syndicate celebrity interviews. He used to purchase them for his magazine New Dimensions. I heard him on the radio. He seemed sincere. He helped people.

"He's up in Grants Pass, Oregon. They said to me, 'You've got to come up here one weekend. You'll see this and you'll want to stay.'

"I go up there with my wife and my child. I had never seen anything so beautiful.

"A few months later, in 1989, we packed our bags and moved up to Grants Pass. I could run things electronically.

"I find out Roy Masters owns this 100,000 watt FM talk radio station. Roy buys time all over the United States.

"I host a show."

"Over the next few weeks, I see more deceit than I've ever seen. Roy goes on the radio and he's one personality... You think he's the most honest man on earth.

"He had a show in Philadelphia for ten years...and Roy was not on the air [one day]. Roy told me, 'We decided that that station is not good enough for us.'

"I accepted that. Then I saw a letter on the podium from a lawyer from that radio station in Philadelphia. It said, Mr. Masters, we don't care how long you've been on this station, we don't want your show anymore.

"It was just the beginning.

"I continued to give celebrity interviews to him and he fell behind in paying me.

"They buy the Art Bell Show and decided to start a radio network. Roy said, 'Eliot, you will have one of the biggest radio shows in the nation.'

"Finally, we sat down. I said I didn't want my own daily show. I want the Saturday and Sunday Art Bell show. They said fine.

"I turned to Roy and said, 'What is the status of the money owed to me by your magazine?'

"Roy Masters looked me in the eye and said, 'We've never had anything to do with that magazine.'

"Mr. Honesty wants to get out of having to pay for something. He'd just sold the magazine.

"Roy and his son David got mad at me.

"I filed in court.

"The day before we were to go to court, somebody who had nothing to do with this said, 'I want you all to be friends. I'm going to pay you out of my pocket.'

"When people found out I was off the station, they told me things about Roy Masters.

"For example, before I moved there, Roy had applied for a gun permit. When he was asked if he had been arrested, he said no.

"They arrested him on the spot because he'd been arrested several times in his life. When he was a young man in Florida, he beat up his uncle on the beach. Arrest number two was in Houston, Texas. He was arrested for doing hypnotism. They said he was practicing medicine without a license. The third time was the gun permit. Almost the fourth time, his daughter-in-law, married to David, said Roy Masters slugged her, Lisa, and hit the children. She said this on Extra."

"I can tell you some sad stories of wives and husbands giving up everything they own to become a part of Roy's community.

"I was a business associate of Roy. He trusted me because I was not what he called a Roy-bot. I used to babysit his grandkids.

"He had a little cult in Grand Pass, Oregon. People who'd moved there to be a part of his organization.

"People would call me with thing after thing done by him and his sons of a despicable nature.

"He had a sugar daddy who gave him millions of dollars. That's why he had a radio station to start a network. He told me about it.

"He has four sons. Three of them are high school dropouts. All of them were given huge amounts of money by Roy's followers to start various businesses.

"His politics became so much to the right, particularly religiously, that I could not stand him.

"I used to be a strong conservative. When I saw the conservative movement say, 'Either you accept all the philosophies of our movement or you can't be a part of it,' I started drifting away. I'm a conservative Democrat. I'm what John F. Kennedy used to be.

"Everything I've written about him is true. He tried to send lawyers against me. He finally gave up. He realized it is my opinion.

"I got out of there in 1993.

"People have written to thank. Their husband or son got involved with Roy Masters' cult... I've been doing it as a public service."

"How did I deal with people not hearing my point of view when Cathy came out with that? With my parody and satire. I'm very good at parody."

"She and her daughter defamed me. They're good writers. They used their abilities to do things that were unfair. They know how to manipulate in their writing and show only one side and leave everything else out. When Cathy left things out, people responded exactly as she knew they'd respond. They deleted all my comments. It was not fair. They accomplished what they wanted to do but it hurt a lot of people. It hurt my wife, it hurt my son, it hurt my family, it hurt my friends."

"They had their fun. I had my fun. It grew into a satirical battle.

"People should be glad it was a war of words. There are nuts who go out there and settle things in other ways. She writes her biting stuff and I write my parody. There's never any thought of going beyond that.

"I don't like some of her politics. I never saw her being a theocrat like Mr. Masters. She's more like a neo-con.

"Did I have a political agenda? Yes. That was part of it."

"By the way, there is nobody else dot com."

"Is there anything I did that she found funny?"

Luke: "No."

Via email before the interview, Eliot provided these highlights:

*Can you imagine having the ONLY (and first) interactive forum about showbiz on the Internet? When directors started sending me letters thanking me for my positive reviews, it was incredulous.
*Both NBC and CBS had SECRET over-the-air internet projects. Millions spent--with only a few hundred test terminals connected to people's TVs. After a couple of years they decided, "nobody is interested in getting additional data on their TV screens." THEY could have been AOL.
*Around 1990, I was removed from the 20th Century Fox press kits/screenings/releases list. I called to find out what had happened. The President of publicity of 20th publicity said to me: "What you do is not viable."
*A publicity executive at Disney screamed insults at me when I asked why we had not been invited to a certain movie.
"WE KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING HERE. YOU CAN'T COME!!!!." A few years later, when Disney called and begged me to put them on the front page of AOL and CompuServe (as I had done for other studios), you can guess how I responded.
*Johnny Rivers was the first musician to do a live audio interview over the Internet. With me of course. It was very exciting.
*I had a fantastic daily showbiz news service that was available online. We scored numerous "firsts" (we called everybody in town asking for tidbits). We soon found out that other media was using our daily leads. One day, a guy calls from "Entertainment Tonight." "How come your service is late today?" "We're just a little behind," I said. "Well we really love it. We access it everyday." We found out that lots of media (especially radio stations nationwide) were getting all these hot headlines--never crediting us--and as just part of their subscription to AOL or CompuServe. (We eventually got a radio syndicator to send it out and charge them)