July 14, 2007
A former editor at The Los Angeles Times tells me July 14:
Strange meeting last night between three writers at the LAT and 2 writers at NYT, plus an old editor at LAT.
Nikki Finke was profiled in the July 6 edition of Women's Wear Daily by Jacob Bernstein, the son of Nora Ephron and Carl Bernstein...
According to her website, Finke did not post from July 7 to July 11. She wrote on her website it was because of "personal business."
Kevin Roderick writes July 15 on LAObserved.com: "Searching in the WWD archives finds no mention of the piece. I'm told by a source that the electronic version was pulled after the story ran in the print paper. If true, that would suggest serious questions on the part of the editors. Until I get some clarification from WWD, I'm yanking the excerpts I originally posted here after the jump."
WWD's publicist Andrea Kaplan told me Monday afternoon, July 16, 2007: "We have no comment."
Born in 1953, Nikki Finke is a controversial journalist.
With great clips and resume, Finke writes well and has terrific sources. She's been known to butt heads with people (including her editors) in her aggressive pursuit of the story.
Since June 2002, she's had a column (DeadlineHollywood.com) in the LA Weekly.
Finke has a broad journalism background. She worked for the Associated Press for five years, Newsweek for four years, The Los Angeles Times for four years, the New York Observer for three years and New York Magazine for three years.
Nikki served as a foreign correspondent in Moscow and London. She reported from Washington D.C.. She's covered wars and political campaigns and the shenanigans of Hollywood executives.
Since the late eighties, Finke's specialized in the entertainment business.
I've heard many stories and criticisms of Finke, including:
* She's headstrong and difficult.
* Nikki is independently wealthy and does not need to write for the money.
* Nikki works from home, mainly by phone, and has times when she doesn't get out much because of health problems.
* An editor told me he didn't hire her because he feared she wouldn't turn in her copy on time without a lot of hand holding.
* "Finke owes her career to the Gay Mafia," says a studio executive. Whatever that means. It's a fun quote.
* She's an attention-seeking hotshot (though she never uses the word "I" in her articles, keeps the focus on her work and not herself, and refused all interviews regarding her lawsuit with Disney and the New York Post).
* She's litigious (though she's only once filed suit, and once, in 1993, had a lawyer write a threatening letter on her behalf).
A beautiful young woman, Finke was a "Jewish American Princess" says one journalist who knew her in the 1980s and was dazzled by her.
JAP is not an accurate term to describe Finke. She comes from more of a "society family" than a Jewish one. She went to snooty private schools all her young life, made her debut at the International Debutante Ball in New York City, graduated from Wellesley in a three-year accelerated program, and was married (announcement appearing in the New York Times) to an international businessman she'd known since childhood... Unlike the stereotypical JAP, Finke isn't materialistic, didn't take her husband to the cleaners in the divorce, and works hard.
Cathy Seipp described Nikki Finke in a 1993 Buzz magazine piece as "semi-sane," prompting a humorous letter to the editor by Finke.
Finke hosted a radio show from 1995-98 on the entertainment industry on Santa Monica public radio station KCRW. She had such guests as New York Times Hollywood reporter Bernard Weinraub, as well as screenwriters, producers, directors, musicians, authors, studio moguls, network honchos...
Burned out on entertainment journalism, Finke left New York magazine in 2000. She could see the handwriting on the wall: that none of these publications wanted anyone to write truthfully about entertainment.
Finke decided she wanted to become an editor somewhere and she interviewed at several large newspapers. But then the recession hit journalism - newspapers are the first to feel recessions because their classified ads are bellweathers -- and all the jobs dried up. It was across the board and it was horrible. This was early 2001.
Nikki decided not to leave LA and instead took an offer to become the executive editor of the Los Angeles Downtown News and expand it. Her plans were written up in a gushing 8/27/01 LA Times article.
Nikki dreamed of a kind of New York Observer filled with politics and business and culture. Everyone was excited. Finke took the job. There wasn't much money. It was hard work but she loved it. And then 9/11 hit and Nikki realized LADN could not fulfill her dreams for it.
According to Finke's lawsuit, she approached the New York Post with a scoop about Vivendi about to buy back Barry Diller's entertainment assets. (Stupid Edgar Bronfman Jr had sold them to Diller.) Her articles made a big splash, and the Post business section offered her the staff job of chief entertainment and media business reporter in New York. Finke and the newspaper arranged for her to stay in LA and have a contract covering showbiz. After she got more scoops, the Post again offered her a staff position.
Then suddenly she was fired by the Post in February 2002 after, according to Finke's lawsuit, Disney executives wanted Finke's head on a platter for her articles on Disney and its Winnie the Pooh royalties lawsuit.
Ron writes www.laexaminer.com 11/21/02: "Within the inner circles of magazine and print journalism, many a disparaging story about Finke has been circulated/continues to circulate. But that probably has more to do with the way her fearlessness and dedication expose the lazy work ethic of other scribes, rather than with her admittedly larger-than-life...personality. Her kindred spirit is the filmmaker Michael Moore, but whereas he is all about "Roger & Me," she in many ways is all about "Michael & Me" (as in either Michael Ovitz or Michael Eisner.) She is to entertainment journalism what Moore is to political commentary, calling a David Spade a David Spade. Opinionated, entertaining, sometimes questionable. Keep it up, Ms. Finke."
Gina Piccalo writes in The Los Angeles Times:
Few people outside downtown Los Angeles know of the area's weekly newspaper, a free publication that reads like the hometown gazette for the nation's second-most populous city.
David Poland vs Nikki Finke
Luke says: It was the New York Post statement that they had a number of problems with the accuracy of her reporting that caused Nikki to file suit. There were no retractions, clarifications or corrections by the Post to any of Finke's stories, which may be why she's winning her legal battle at every turn.
Finke served as West Coast editor and Hollywood business columnist for both the New York Observer and New York Magazine. These jobs were eliminated after Nikki left. She was never replaced.
Luke says: Finke's Oscar story was amazingly accurate. All her Oscar predictions came true.
David Poland writes about Nikki Finke's columns in the LA Weekly.
What happened to Nikki Finke's book on Hollywood agents?
An entertainment journalist tells me: "In 1992, you could get a lot of [media] real estate writing about Hollywood agents. These cool guys who wear black. Michael Ovitz at CAA was able to create a mystique that dragged a lot of people with him. Then he disappeared and people woke up that agents were salesmen. What's so interesting about people who sit around in an office all day kissing clients asses? So the cool Hollywood agent could not go to New York and sell. You've seen it die."
S. Holliday from Los Angeles writes the LA Weekly: Re: “Throw the Bums Out” [Deadline Hollywood, August 30–September 5]. With a major Screen Actors Guild election imminent, it would have been nice to find a professionally written, balanced article in the Weekly outlining the differences between the opposing campaign groups. Instead we got Nikki Finke’s rambling, poorly informed, one-sided tirade.
No one seems to remember that the recent strike against the ad industry was the result of the ad-industry reps presenting an ultimatum to the Guild: “No more residuals — take it or leave it.” When SAG insisted on negotiating the matter, the ad people walked out, leaving SAG no alternative but to capitulate or to strike. Yes, the strike took its toll, both financially and emotionally. But, in the end, it not only preserved the actors’ rights to residuals, but strengthened SAG’s support within powerful organized labor entities such as the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO. Oddly, the entertainment press continues to characterize the commercial strike as a disaster, when in fact it was a tremendous accomplishment.
As for Ms. Finke’s smug implications that 1) only agented actors should vote on the agents’ franchise agreement and that 2) only working actors should vote, she has obviously not thought these ideas through. In the acting world, an 18-year-old babe with a nice silicone job has very little trouble getting signed by an agent; a 40-year-old Shakespearean actor with a Ph.D. and 20 years of experience may be out of luck. Besides, if only working actors could vote, the agents and the producers who control which actors work and which actors don’t would be able to guarantee that no actors who opposed their terms would ever work again. They would then have absolute control over the outcomes of all SAG elections.
Finke quotes the usual unnamed “union insider” to bolster her invective against the Guild, and singles out for her derision those who speak out loudly against Guild complacency. Well, I know many of these people whom she refers to as a “gang” and “the Taliban.” To be sure, though some of their rhetoric may become shrill from time to time, it’s clearly because they believe so strongly that actors have a right to fair and honest treatment from their guild.
Susan Savage in Beverly Hills writes: Finke’s article does not even begin to separate the wheat from the chaff, and probably for good reason — she doesn’t seem to know the difference. Take, for example, her allusion to runaway production, and her dismissal of SAG’s policy on runaway production as "do-nothing." I assure you that is not SAG’s current policy. We at the Guild have been fighting to get "tax incentives," both in Sacramento and in Washington, D.C., to encourage production here in the U.S. And at the risk of being labeled as "the Taliban," a few more "bums" in the current boardroom have been trying to implement a plan to investigate Canada’s trade practices. In May 2002, after a long, hard fight in the boardroom, SAG announced that "Global Rule One" had passed, and more important, would be enforced. Such SAG strategies could ultimately help to curtail runaway production, they’re a far cry from "do nothing."
Luke says: There were also about 20 letters praising Finke's SAG column but I prefer to quote the negative. After Finke's column appeared, SAG voting saw a lessoning of the influence of the so-called Taliban element and SAG's deadline on agents was postponed.
Cynthia Cotts writes in the Village Voice: Imagine an aggressive reporter interrogating Rupert Murdoch and Michael Eisner under oath, accusing them of unsavory attempts to control media coverage, including her own. This scenario is not a Hollywood fantasy. It's a reality that beckons to Nikki Finke and her lawyers.
Finke is the media and entertainment reporter whose stories about the Walt Disney Company got her fired by the New York Post, after which she sued Disney and the Post for $10 million. The odds that she will get her day in court have been increased by a California judge who recently rejected motions by both companies in which they claimed that her lawsuit threatened Disney's First Amendment rights.
Los Angeles Daily Journal reporter Garry Adams, who has followed the case from the start, told the Voice, "Disney and the Post failed to convince the judge that the case is about corporate free speech and not about firing a reporter for Mickey Mouse reasons. It's always possible that a case will settle, but this one looks like it will be hard-fought every step of the way."
As I go about journalist gatherings, I hear endless bashing of Nikki Finke.
I've written some vicious things about her myself before coming to my senses and erasing them.
Nikki Finke is a great reporter and a great writer.
Disclaimer: She's to the left of me politically. I've never met the woman. She's never done me any favors. I owe her nothing.
In this week's LA Weekly, she produces another absorbing column. She's just racking up scoop after scoop. I love it that the LA Weekly is jumping into the Internet age with updates when they happen, not just stuff for the weekly paper.
I read Nikki this week and I wish I could be this good. I understand hating her for being so good. I understand jealousy.
Nikki has a gift for getting the inside information and the telling anecdote. I think she's better at this than anyone writing on entertainment.
My yarmulke's off to you Nikki, and I pull out my fringes as well and wave them around. And I'll drink a glass of wine and say "L'Chaim."
Subject: LA story
Dear Nikki, You may not remember me [...] I've now landed at GQ, and something came up in a meeting earlier today that I thought I should give you a heads up about. We were talking about a L.A. story in our upcoming September issue, a fairly intense, anonymous as-told-to by a Hollywood agent that's all about how he poaches other agency's clients. I thought it might be something you'd want to see early, and if you're at all interested, I can have Nora Haynes, the publicist working on the story, give you a call and run through the particulars. It's fairly juicy stuff, might give you a nice item for a column.... ************************
Subject: Re: LA story
I fear I totally scared off your poor publicist. Because as she told me what she was calling about, I began to rail rather mercilessly about what-the-f*ck has happened to magazines like GQ and others who purport to cover the entertainment business. I've seen VF totally abandon any responsibility, The New Yorker covers it from an apartment in Brooklyn. And now this. You think having an unnamed Hollywood agent talking about poaching unnamed clients is a "get"? I have 300 interviews with real live Hollywood agents ON THE RECORD talking all about stealing clients and naming names, dates, places, etc. not to mention a whole bunch of even juicier stuff. But do you people ever think to actually call me to do an article for you? Noooooooooooooooooooooo....
Because I'm not 24 years old...
Because I'm not making up stuff.
Because I don't live in New York.
Because I don't kiss up to the idiots who decide which stars magazines like GQ can and can't put on their covers.
Because I actually know something about Hollywood.
Here's a thought: Why not ask me to put together the juiciest Hollywood stories I know for your magazine. Oh, you're running late for lunch at Michael's? How come I'm not surprised.
Subject: RE: LA story
Wow, what a peculiarly overwrought reaction to a simple gesture. I have no problem with your turning down our idea, but there's no reason to get in a huff about it. We're all professionals. Or are we? Your insulting response makes me wonder. [...] Despite whatever experiences gave you your impressions of GQ, your caricature of what goes on in this office is sadly off the mark. More to the point, I find it extremely off-putting that you'd refer to me as "you people" and tar me with some ridiculous stereotype when you don't even know me. That's just intolerable. Who knows, perhaps we could have worked on a feature together. But then I doubt that you'd ever want to write for GQ, given the sneering tone of your e-mail. [...] Let's just forget that I ever contacted you, ok? You go your way, I'll go mine. Good luck.
Subject: Re: LA Story
You clearly think the best defense is a good offense. You dare insult me personally? I insulted an article, and the way NYC magazines find their writers and their article subjects, not you personally. [...] As for GQ, a once mildly interesting magazine has been dumbed down to the point of idiocy, yet it still thinks it reinvented the wheel. As for Hollywood coverage, it was bad enough GQ always hired toadies who heaped lavish praise on those people least deserving of lavish praise. Now this agent piece is considered journalism. Too bad you're so busy insulting me that you can't even engage in an interesting discussion about what GQ should be covering, and why, and in what way. That was the point of my email. To provoke editorial worthy of wrapping around a Huge Boss ad. Right now, the clothes are a lot better than the words in GQ. Sad.
R.J. Smith writes in Los Angeles magazine September 2004 issue:
Back When the Plaza Was the Plaza
Nikki Finke writes in The New York Times March 20, 2005
THE Plaza put me off marzipan forever. The hotel and I were formally introduced in the late 1950's by my mother, who, holding securely to my white-gloved hand, regularly led me under the portico, up the stairs and into the lobby for afternoon tea at the Palm Court.
...We removed our gloves, wiggled in our Mary Janes and wolfed down petits fours, though I'd be sick from the sugar rush later.
This part heavenly, part torturous tradition continued through the 1960's and early 70's. I still took tea at the Palm Court, but wearing Mary Quant striped jersey minidresses that my mother, fearing scandal, kept trying to tug down to my ankles.
When I saw the headlines that the Plaza, as I had known it all my life, would be no more come April, I was immediately awash with weepy nostalgia. The hotel played host to so many of my significant moments: my first date, my first drunken evening (on Samoan Fog Cutters at Trader Vic's), my first prep school make-out party, my first solo hotel stay, my family's first wedding and eventually my first assignation.
But for a native New Yorker like me, who once ran in an Upper East Side social stratum - one that viewed Whit Stillman's "Metropolitan" as a documentary not a drama - the loss I feel is less for the storied landmark on Fifth Avenue between 58th and 59th Streets than for a piece of my past.
My cliquish world consisted of the ladies and gents from Manhattan's exclusive private schools and preppies down from New England boarding schools who played bit parts on weekends and holidays. Walking anachronisms, we continued traditions handed down from previous privileged generations: we met under the clock at the Biltmore, kissed on the St. Regis roof, came out at the Waldorf-Astoria and married at the Pierre. Yet we did all that and much more at the Plaza, because the hotel was woven into the fabric of our upbringing, as seamlessly as the tartan plaids of our school uniforms.
Because of our family travels, I, too, felt at home in Grande Dame hotels - like the Biltmore in Palm Beach, where a toque-topped chef personally brought a glass of milk to my room every evening of my stay. My father always claimed that, like Eloise, my first words were "room service."
My first make-out party was at the Plaza. The prep school boys would always reserve the same suite, on the same floor, so everyone would know where to go without too much fuss. It was during that unfortunate fashion era of hot pants. Mine were sienna suede, paired with a satin foulard blouse. This was the first and last time I and my Hewitt classmates summoned the courage to go out in short-shorts at night. When we saw the way those boys, from single-sex schools like Groton, stared at us and our outfits, we had the good sense to exit the Plaza as quickly as our Gucci's could carry us.
The Plaza played host to another rite of passage in my world: the pre-deb Gold and Silver Ball. Along with other elementary school graduates of Barclay's dance classes, I segued into this annual formal dinner that kicked off the start of Christmas vacation for teenagers from every decent Northeast day and prep school.
I never had a big affair at the Plaza. I made my debut at the International Debutante Ball in the Waldorf-Astoria, and my wedding took place at the Pierre.
But I did have a small affair, my first assignation, at the Plaza in 1983. He was a well-known person and famously (if unhappily) married, so a certain amount of secrecy was called for. The Plaza proved the flawless demonstration of total discretion. No one ever looked you in the eye. In the lobby, the elevators, the hallways, the rooms, everyone cast their gaze downward, as if on constant alert to avoid tripping on a stray Louis Vuitton.
I've long thought that Cathy was too harsh on Nikki. I just couldn't account for my friend's venom and I chalked it up to meanspiritedness on Cathy's part.
The two disagreed so strongly about their past interactions it was clear that somebody was lying.
Until it was spelled out in Cathy's blog, I never knew what the phrase "See You Next Tuesday" represented. C-U-N-T.
Nikki Finke responded (and Cathy has long contended that Nikki left anonymous posts on Cathy's blog) under her own name:
Davidlo then wrote: "Ms. Finke just won by a knock-out."
Legal Eagle writes:
Cathy Seipp then notes that the IP address for Legal Eagle, Davidlo and Nikki Finke is identical: IP: 126.96.36.199. So while Nikki claimed she never commented anonymously, it is clear that she does. Cathy writes:
In an exchange of emails, Cathy wrote me: "I don't know why it wasn't perfectly clear to everyone before that Nikki is an obvious liar. I mean, claiming that we'd never met -- when she's known me for years and once made me buy her an extra chicken salad (to go, for dinner later) at lunch? What was that all about? She didn't bother denying it after I reminded her, but admitted "How rude," and then added that really, I have to understand -- she once lived with a man for six months and didn't recognize him later. Which means she's either very forgetful, or a liar, or both -- not exactly reassuring qualities in a journalist. I don't trust her and never have."