Monday, July 31, 2006

Guardian Unlimited
Chatrooms may be banned in US schools to combat sexual predators

· Bill seeks to limit MySpace and other websites
· Opponents say proposed law casts the net too wide

Julian Borger in Washington
Tuesday August 1, 2006


Chatroom websites including MySpace, Facebook and Friendster could be banned in America's schools and libraries under legislation aimed at sexual predators that is working its way through Congress.

The deleting online predators act (DOPA), which was passed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives last week, had been expected to go before the Senate this week, but opponents appeared yesterday to have postponed the battle there until next month. The bill identifies "social networking websites" as hunting grounds for paedophiles, and requires federally funded schools and libraries to limit access to them.

"This legislation is the first of its kind to address the growing use of social networking sites by sexual predators," said Michael Fitzpatrick, a Republican congressman and the bill's sponsor. "My bill will help parents protect their kids when they are not home."

The FBI estimates that one in five of the country's 24 million child internet users have received sexual approaches, and that as many as 50,000 sexual predators are prowling for children online.

The ban is not aimed at particular sites, but defines the kind of sites the Federal Communications Commission would be obliged to ban as: commercial entities that permit users to create online profiles with highly personal information and their own online journal, and which enable communication among users.

Opponents of the bill say it casts the net too wide and could cut young people off from a huge range of websites. There are thought to be as many as 300 social networking sites that could fit the law's description and more than half of all Americans between 13 and 17 belong to at least one.

"We think it is a very unwise bill," said Rick Weingarten, director of information technology at the American Library Association. "The definition that they tried to cobble together covers an enormous range of very beneficial applications. By blocking access to those applications only in libraries and schools what they have done is to block access to those kids who have no other way to get access."

He added: "People join these virtual groups for all sorts of beneficial reasons, including getting information or joining support groups ... You get in a morass every time you try to block technology."

But in both the US and in Britain many schools have already banned the use of online social networks because of fears about the amount of personal information users post online.

Some MySpace users have set up an online petition to rally opposition to the act. The petition, Save your Space, aims to gather more than 1m signatures in a month. The petition says: "Many of our nation's leaders are not intimately familiar with how social networking websites operate, and none of them have had computers and internet all of their life."

That point appeared to be underlined by Senator Ted Stevens, who lectured the chamber last month on the true nature of the web. "The internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck," Mr Stevens, the chairman of the Senate commerce committee, explained. "It's a series of tubes."

CNN Asks Audience For Help
Louis Hau 07.31.06, 12:01 AM ET

As part of an effort to incorporate more user-generated content in its news reports, CNN said Monday that it has created a Web site where viewers can send in video and audio clips pertaining to breaking news.

CNN Exchange ( will serve as the online center of the Time Warner network's interaction with viewers and Web surfers, highlighting e-mails sent in response to news stories and providing links to blogs maintained by CNN anchors and correspondents.

But the Web site's most important new feature will be a central place for people to upload audio and video files to the network. CNN has solicited user-generated content before, but only for specific news events and without designating an area of its Web site for file uploads. All submissions--or "I-Reports," as the network is dubbing them--will be considered for possible use on CNN's TV and online news reports.

In a statement, Mitch Gelman, executive producer and senior vice president, said that "user-generated content has the potential to play a pivotal role in journalism, whether it's online or offline.''

The New York Times

July 30, 2006

The Untucked Country Club


THE archetypal country club wears its old-money pretensions on its blue-blazered sleeve. Whether it dates back a century or months, its prevailing spirit tends to be the same: aristocratic and genteel. The clubhouse is likely to be august — a shingle-style megacottage or a fake gothic castle — and the dress code steeped in tradition: Men are to wear jackets in the clubhouse, women’s shorts may be only so short, and out on the golf course any guest so impudent as to allow shirttails to flap freely can expect a polite rebuke from an anxious caddy master before the end of the front nine.

Not so at the Bridge, a golf club principally owned by Robert Rubin, a former commodities trader and self-styled maverick, which is nearing completion on the site of the old Bridgehampton Motor Racing Circuit. Here, the prevailing spirit of casual chic seems to owe as much to Malibu as to Greenwich, Conn.

The clubhouse — glassy and aggressively futuristic — looks more like a contemporary art museum in Berlin, which is not inappropriate, since it will feature, upon its completion this fall, art from Mr. Rubin’s collection. A satirical piece called “Arthur Negro I,” a life-size statue of a black revolutionary in an argyle sweater and plus fours, by Charles McGill, a black artist, will stand in the pro shop.

The 18-hole golf course gets an arty, postmodern treatment: ruins of the old racetrack, including guardrails and flag stations, pop up around the lush fairways. Discarded tires line the cart paths.

And forget about blue blazers. At the Bridge backward ball caps, jeans and even tattoos or face piercings (typically on guests in the music business) attract no steely stares.

In short, the Bridge — despite $600,000 membership fees, which make it one of the most expensive clubs in the country — is an anti-country club of sorts. It is not just the first high-end club in America that dares to be hip but, seemingly, the first one that cares to be hip. Hipness, after all, is not a sensibility typically associated with the sort of middle-aged Gulfstream-flying plutocrat who can write a half-million-dollar-plus check to join a private club. To many a traditional mogul, joining a country club is a statement that he has arrived on the inside. Who would want to spend all that money to look like an outsider?

In the view of Mr. Rubin, a 52-year-old son of an appliance repairman, from Perth Amboy, N.J., the ideal Bridge member would be like himself: a proudly self-made man, young at heart, adventurous, who sets his style compass toward downtown Manhattan — and is, well, very rich.

“The words ‘country club’ make me nervous,” said Mr. Rubin, who left Wall Street in 2000, seemingly to sample from the entire right-hand side of the menu of midlife crisis fantasies: golf club owner, collector of art and vintage cars, Columbia grad student (he’s all-but-dissertation for a doctoral degree in architecture theory and history) and world-traveling 18-hole duffer. “I have felt unwelcome at some of the great clubs in the world,” Mr. Rubin said. He added, “I vowed no one would feel unwelcome at the Bridge.”

Roger Ferris of Roger Ferris & Partners in Westport, Conn., is the architect of the clubhouse and has been collaborating with Mr. Rubin on the look and personality of the club for a decade. Mr. Ferris said the sort of person who will feel most welcome at the Bridge is a new generation of Hamptonite. This generation tended to make its money on Wall Street during the freewheeling 1990’s or in the hedge fund or real estate explosions of recent years but lacks the pedigree or connections to join, say, the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, the National Golf Links of America or the Maidstone Club on the South Fork (although several Bridge members hold memberships at multiple local clubs, Mr. Rubin said).

“There are a whole lot of guys who make a hundred million a year, but they are anonymous,” Mr. Ferris said. “So they look for ways to reinforce their presence in the world.” Joining the Bridge, he said, is “another way to say to the world who they are, because most of these guys work at 4-foot-wide desks.” He added: “It says ‘I’m hip. I’m out there.’ ”

The artist Richard Prince is a member, and so is Lyor Cohen, the hip-hop mogul, who has taken a steady stream of his rap artists around the course, the work of the designer Rees Jones. Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and Smokey Robinson have played there as guests, and so have Larry Gagosian, the art gallery owner, and Peter Morton, a founder of the Hard Rock Cafe.

David Patrick Columbia, the editor of, said the Bridge fills a need in the Hamptons as a sexier and slightly more conspicuous alternative to traditional clubs.

“The thing about the Maidstone is that you can have all the money in the world, and it won’t help you,” Mr. Columbia said. “They care about your last name. The Bridge is different. Bob Rubin is an eccentric kind of guy. The Bridge is an eccentric golf course. The comparison I would make is, it’s the thinking man’s Ferrari.”

(Another club that seems to cater to this clientele is the Sebonack Golf Club, soon to open officially in Southampton, N.Y. While less out-there in style, the Sebonack, with its sweeping views of Great Peconic Bay, costs $650,000 to join. Mr. Rubin pointed out, a bit defensively, that his was actually the first club in the country to charge more than $500,000 for membership).

Despite the Bridge’s embrace of the casual, not all members are likely to explore the perimeter of the club’s fashion boundaries. Alan C. Greenberg, the chairman of Bear Stearns, is a member, and so are Stephen M. Ross, the chairman of Related Companies, the real estate developers; Howard W. Lutnick, the chief executive of Cantor Fitzgerald; and Ira Rennert, the financier.

The most starkly unconventional visual element of the club is its $15 million clubhouse, which will be completed in the fall. (The golf course itself opened in 2002.) The clubhouse features not just the traditional dining room, bar and locker room, but also has a Pilates studio.

One sun-soaked July afternoon, the deeply tanned Mr. Ferris, 50, turned proudly toward the fan-shape building, inspired by the blades on a race car’s turbocharger. The building, whose picture windows will provide a 280-degree view of the craggy 300-acre site, emerges from one of the highest hills in the Hamptons like a glass-and-concrete lotus.

“It’s the most outside-the-box club in the United States, without question,” Mr. Ferris said proudly, wearing copper and turquoise Pumas, his silver locks tickling his shirt collar. “I’ve seen guys meditating up there,” he added, pointing to the grassy expanse just beneath his creation, which has a commanding view of Sag Harbor and Shelter Island.

Several members said they found this nonconformist aura a refreshing change.

Bruce Beal, 36, a partner at Related Companies, joined the Bridge partly because it was “almost the antithesis” of a traditional club, within this insular world, almost egalitarian. “Unlike some of these other clubs, it wasn’t like there had been members there forever, and you were the new member,” Mr. Beal said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Don’t even think about teeing off in front of this guy.’”

Neil Barsky, 48, a hedge fund manager, recalled playing as a guest at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y., a few years ago, when he ran into the father of a friend, who was a member: “I stuck out my hand, said, ‘Hi, Mr. So-and-so.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Tuck in your shirt, young man.’ I don’t think that would happen at the Bridge.”

To gain entry prospective members need not submit a family tree to a lockjawed membership committee, still a common feature at the majority of high-end clubs. Instead, they must simply pass muster with Mr. Rubin, who is the membership committee. While he has a partner — Gary Davis, his old Wall Street partner, who has a 25 percent stake in the club — the Bridge is largely a one-man show.

Mr. Rubin’s main criterion for admission is that the applicant is a “good guy,” who “gets the vision,” he said. A bad guy is someone he suspects “is going to act like Rodney Dangerfield in ‘Caddyshack,’ a super Type A person who doesn’t get that the Bridge is supposed to be a sanctuary from all that.” More than a few have been denied. “I’ve turned away people,” he said. “I do it differently. I say, ‘You’re not for the Bridge, and I’m doing you the courtesy of telling you to your face, so that you don’t agonize over it.’ ” Celebrity wattage counts for little, Mr. Rubin said. All members pay in full, and he grants no discounts to movie stars, although he has fielded more than a few entreaties.

So far, 110 “good guys” have made the cut with Mr. Rubin, who said he plans to keep the membership rolls below 150, so that no one ever need call ahead for a tee time. This alone is a reason moguls who care little about high style may find themselves reaching for their checkbooks.

Not everyone in the Hamptons, however, accepts the notion that style is why people are joining the Bridge. Andrea Ackerman, the manager of the Brown Harris Stevens real estate offices in Southampton and Sag Harbor, said that the Atlantic Golf Course in Bridgehampton “was the answer to every golfer’s prayer who wanted to belong to a great golf club and couldn’t,” but now even the Atlantic is full, and moneyed golfers are simply clamoring for the next open spot they see. “The Bridge is more of an overflow from Atlantic than Shinnecock or Maidstone,” she said.

Mr. Rubin has no problem with the new-money aura of the Bridge. Even though some of his members also belong to the Shinnecock and the National, he seems to exercise a form of reverse snobbery against the old-money elites that set the tone at the more traditional clubs. To Mr. Rubin, who last weekend was strolling the hilly sun-dappled grounds of the Bridge looking unshaved and a bit rumpled in baggy navy shorts and sky-blue Chuck Taylors, some of those people probably aren’t quite right for the Bridge, either.

“People who haven’t made their money are very hesitant to spend $600,000 to join a golf club, and for good reason,” the self-made mogul said. “They have to be careful with their money.”

Tom Cruise's Studio Pact Is in Question

Paramount Pictures is said to be in talks with the actor and his business partner to slash the price of their production arrangement.
By Claudia Eller
Times Staff Writer

July 31, 2006

For many years, Tom Cruise has enjoyed the richest production deal of any A-list star in Hollywood. But in the latest sign of the industry's increasing obsession with fiscal responsibility, that era may be coming to an end.

Paramount Pictures, where Cruise and his producing partner, Paula Wagner, have been based since 1992, currently has a commitment to pay the pair as much as $10 million-plus a year to cover overhead, project development and other costs at their movie company, according to two sources with knowledge of the arrangement.

But that sweet deal, which is at least four times what stars such as Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt and Tom Hanks are assured by studios to fund their film outfits, was due to expire today. And Paramount Chairman Brad Grey has told representatives of Cruise-Wagner Productions that the studio would not renew it at anywhere near the current terms, sources said.

Instead, Paramount has offered Cruise and Wagner just a fraction of what they've been used to: $2 million plus a $500,000 discretionary fund each year for two years, said informed sources, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

Cruise's attorney, Bertram Fields, said Friday, "We received an offer and we are digesting it. We will sit and talk about it." Asked whether Paramount left any wiggle room on its terms, Fields said, "It is not the case that they said this is a take-it-or-leave-it offer. I don't think my friends at Paramount would ever talk that way."

Wagner, reached on vacation in Italy, declined to divulge the dollar amount Paramount paid each year to the production company. But she denied that Cruise-Wagner — which employs about 10 people and occupies two floors of the Lucille Ball Building on the studio's Melrose Avenue lot — was as lavishly funded as sources had said, noting that in Hollywood's complex accounting practices, there's often a big difference between what is allotted and what is actually spent.

"We don't receive $10 million or $11 million a year. We do not see anything near that," she said Sunday, declining to be more specific. "We, Cruise-Wagner, do not negotiate in the press. They have made what we would consider a generous offer."

Paramount spokeswoman Janet Hill said, "We have the utmost respect for Tom Cruise and Cruise-Wagner Productions. We are currently in discussions to renew their deal."

Cruise-Wagner's production deal actually had expired in January, but both parties agreed to extend it until after "Mission: Impossible III" was released. It was then extended again until today.

This is not the first time Grey has played hardball with Cruise. Last summer, not long after the former talent manager took over the studio, he threatened to pull the plug on "M:i:III" unless the film's budget could be trimmed and Cruise's lucrative profit participation deal could be tweaked to protect the studio from losing too much money if the film underperformed.

The action sequel is likely to gross close to $400 million worldwide at the box office and is projected to earn an additional $200 million in DVD revenue. Still, Paramount expects only to break even after Cruise gets his share of the profit, which two informed sources estimate could be as high as $80 million.

The business has changed a lot since 1992, when Cruise and Wagner (who was his agent for 11 years before they became partners and who is married to his current agent, Creative Artists Agency's Rick Nicita) were first brought to the Paramount lot by the studio's then-chief, Stanley Jaffe. Jaffe had produced Cruise's first movie, the 1981 drama "Taps," at 20th Century Fox.

Cruise has made Paramount hundreds of millions of dollars over the last two decades with such hits as "Top Gun," "The Firm," "Days of Thunder," the "Mission: Impossible" series and "War of the Worlds."

"Tom Cruise has made more money for Paramount Pictures than any actor in history has made for any single studio," Wagner said.

But in recent years, the movies Cruise has produced but not starred in, including "Elizabethtown" and the low-budget films "Narc" and "Ask the Dusk," have bombed at the box office.

Wagner said any active production company would have its hits and misses. And in contrast to many actors' so-called vanity deals, which often exist more to stroke egos than to make movies, Cruise-Wagner is the real deal.

"We are a full-blown production company," Wagner said, adding that to hold Cruise and her solely responsible for flops isn't fair because Paramount has the ultimate say in what films are produced.

"It's the studio's job to decide what movies Cruise-Wagner makes," she said, noting that sometimes Paramount has passed on movies that went on to make loads of money for a rival studio.

For example, the 2001 thriller "The Others," which cost less than $18 million to make, grossed $210 million in worldwide ticket sales for Miramax's Dimension Films.

"While it is important to us to make films that make money, we're also in the business of supporting the artistic vision of filmmakers," she said.

Wagner pointed out how she and Cruise were responsible for bringing such in-demand talent as writer-directors Cameron Crowe and J.J. Abrams to Paramount, where each has overall movie deals.

If Cruise and Wagner wind up leaving Paramount, they might be hard-pressed to find another studio willing to match their current arrangement. Sources at rival studios including Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and 20th Century Fox said that deal was out of sync with current economic realities.

All the studios are taking a hard line on cost cutting, slashing overhead to improve their bottom lines. As production and marketing costs continue to soar, studios' box-office returns have been erratic and the growth of DVD sales has slowed.

Over the last year, the movie business has been seeing a dramatic contraction as studios cut hundreds of jobs, restructure operations and scrutinize producer deals that they can no longer justify.

In addition to the changing business climate, Cruise has another problem.

Though he is still considered one of the biggest stars in the world, his high-profile off-screen antics have hurt his public image and popularity, particularly with women.

Cruise made headlines last year for a now-infamous couch-jumping episode on "Oprah," when he professed his love for actress Katie Holmes.

Cruise then drew fire for criticizing actress Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants to treat her postpartum depression. The Church of Scientology, which counts Cruise as one of its most famous members, opposes the use of drugs to foster mental health.

The negotiations with Paramount, which are expected to continue for days or even weeks, are just one indication that even Cruise is not immune to Hollywood's newfound fiscal consciousness.

LAPD Renews Search for Rapper's Killer

If new evidence is found in Biggie Smalls' death, it could help police fight his mother's lawsuit.

Notorious B.I.G.
By Chuck Philips
Times Staff Writer

July 31, 2006

Nine years after the slaying of rap star Biggie Smalls, LAPD Chief William J. Bratton has launched a task force of senior homicide detectives to hunt down the killer, a rare show of force for a cold-case murder with no new evidence.

The beefed-up Los Angeles Police Department probe comes in the wake of a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles by the rapper's mother, Voletta Wallace, and other relatives. Whatever new evidence the police turn up could bolster the city's contention that LAPD officers played no role in the rapper's death. Wallace maintains they did.

Biggie Smalls was gunned down March 9, 1997, after a music industry party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in the Mid-Wilshire district. The 24-year-old rap star, born Christopher Wallace and also known as Notorious B.I.G., was waiting at a stoplight in a sport utility vehicle when the killers pulled up in a dark Chevrolet Impala, opened fire and sped off.

The murder has spawned a cottage industry of books, documentaries and magazine articles exploring possible conspiracy theories involving Wallace and Tupac Shakur, the other leading rap artist of his generation, who was shot to death in Las Vegas six months earlier. No one has been charged in either killing.

The leading theory being pursued by the LAPD task force involves the possibility that Wallace was killed by a member of Compton's vicious Southside Crips gang as part of a bicoastal rap feud linked to Shakur's death, law enforcement sources said.

Another theory involves allegations that Wallace was killed in retaliation by a Blood gang member hired by rap impresario Marion "Suge" Knight, owner of Shakur's record label, the sources said. Knight denies any involvement in the murder.

Investigators are also closely examining a home video taken moments before Wallace was killed.

The Wallace family lawsuit alleging LAPD involvement had sputtered in court last year but gained new life after U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper declared a mistrial in July 2005, ruling that a detective had deliberately hidden transcripts of an interview with a police informant alleging LAPD involvement in the murder.

A new trial is set for early next year.

After Cooper's ruling, Bratton ordered a review of the LAPD probe, which had languished for years.

Bratton immediately removed Det. Steven Katz, the lead investigator on the case, who said he had overlooked the transcripts in a desk drawer.

Bratton installed a new captain, Kyle Jackson, to take over the probe and replaced Katz with a team of six veteran homicide detectives. The chief provided the task force with an office, budget and a computerized tracking system to organize the messy 72-volume "murder book."

This month, investigators fanned out across the nation, meeting with gang experts, contacting informants and interviewing witnesses from Compton to Brooklyn, reinstating a $50,000 reward for anyone who can provide information that leads to a conviction.

Bratton and other LAPD officials declined to comment, citing sensitivity to the pending Wallace family lawsuit.

City Councilman Jack Weiss, head of the council's Public Safety Committee, applauded the LAPD effort.

"It's very good that Bratton has brought renewed focus to this case," Weiss said. "Hopefully it will lead to identification of the actual killer or killers. At a minimum, it should provide some definitive reasons to rule out the more outlandish theories that have evolved over the years."

The Wallace family argues in its lawsuit that ex-LAPD officer David A. Mack conspired with Knight for the contract killing. The family contends in the suit that Mack arranged for a college friend, Southland mortgage broker Amir Muhammad, to carry out the ambush.

Muhammad was arrested Wednesday by Department of Motor Vehicle investigators on unrelated perjury charges connected to his possession of four false identifications. He was released on $50,000 bail.

Mack, Muhammad and Knight, owner of Los Angeles-based Death Row Records, have long denied any involvement in the slaying.

The hypothesis that the three conspired to kill Wallace was first advanced in 1998 by then-LAPD Det. Russell Poole, a junior investigator in the robbery-homicide division who worked about a year on the Wallace probe. He is expected to testify as an expert witness on behalf of the Wallace family when the wrongful-death lawsuit returns to trial.

Poole began scrutinizing Mack after he was arrested in December 1997 on suspicion of bank robbery. Mack was later convicted of robbery and is serving a 14-year prison term.

Poole did not interview Mack or Muhammad and he did not produce any evidence to support his theory. He quit the police force in 1999 after a series of disputes with his superiors about the direction of various investigations, including the one into Wallace's murder.

Seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages, the Wallace family and its attorneys continue to advance Poole's theory.

The transcripts found in Katz's desk quote a jailhouse informant as saying that another rogue LAPD officer, Rafael Perez, the central figure in the LAPD's Rampart scandal, was involved with Mack in Wallace's murder.

But the family has suffered numerous setbacks as it pursues the city in court.

Shortly before its first trial began last summer, the family dropped Mack and Muhammad as defendants. A paid informant who figured prominently in both LAPD and FBI investigations into Wallace's murder admitted that his identification of Muhammad as the gunmen was fraudulent. The FBI, meanwhile, closed its investigation of Wallace's murder, finding there was "no basis for prosecution" after spending 18 months investigating the possibility that Mack, Muhammad and Knight orchestrated the killing.

Now, as the LAPD investigates the possibility that Wallace was murdered as part of a bicoastal rap feud linked to Shakur's death, detectives are trying to determine whether Crips members carried out both killings.

Once tight friends, Shakur and Wallace became bitter rivals and began ridiculing each other at events. The threats exchanged by the rappers and their record labels, New York-based Bad Boy Entertainment and Los Angeles-based Death Row Records, escalated into a series of assaults and shootings.

Each label used gang members for protection, with the Southside Crips paid to provide security for Wallace in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Crips gang members told The Times that Wallace had promised $1 million to the Crips for killing Shakur. According to the gang members, Wallace and his associates paid the Crips only $50,000 and stiffed them for the balance. So the Crips killed him too, the gang members said.

A few months after Wallace's slaying, police seized a black Chevy Impala from the backyard of a Compton house linked to Dwayne Keith "Keefee D" Davis, a shot-caller in the Southside Crips.

Davis was the uncle of Orlando Anderson, a reputed Crips member who was named by Las Vegas police as a suspect in the killing of Shakur. (Anderson was killed a year later in a drug-related shootout at a Compton carwash.) Records show that Davis was among a group of Crips in Las Vegas on the night Shakur was slain and that he was also present at the Petersen museum on the night Wallace lost his life.

Law enforcement officials questioned Davis about both crimes but didn't arrest him. He was later convicted in federal court of drug dealing and sentenced to five years in prison.

Another theory investigators are pursuing involves information that Wallace may have been murdered by a Blood gang member at Knight's behest.

During the 1990s, Knight's Death Row Records was the top rap label in the music business. At its peak, the company generated $100 million a year in retail sales on the strength of rap stars who emerged from the gang culture, including Snoop Dogg.

Although Knight was in jail when Wallace was murdered, detectives are looking into claims by informants that one of Knight's associates paid $25,000 to a Blood gang member to shoot Wallace, law enforcement sources said.

The task force is also investigating a theory based on clues drawn from a home video taken moments before the shooting.

Parked on Fairfax Avenue directly across from the Petersen, three young tourists from Texas filmed hundreds of guests leaving the party there. The movements of many patrons, including Wallace's label chief, Sean "P-Diddy" Combs, are captured on film until about one minute before the ambush.

Last month, police traveled to Houston to interview witnesses and pursue leads about potential suspects, including rap entrepreneur Tony Draper, the owner of a blue 1996 Bentley captured on the video near the crime scene on the night of the shooting.

Draper has acknowledged that he was at the Petersen party but denied having anything to do with Wallace's murder.
The New York Times

July 31, 2006

Developer’s Son Acquires The New York Observer

Jared Kushner, the 25-year-old son of a wealthy New Jersey developer who was sentenced to prison last year, has bought The New York Observer, paying what one person familiar with details of the sale said was nearly $10 million for a majority stake in the weekly newspaper.

“I own The New York Observer,” he said yesterday.

Mr. Kushner said that he bought the newspaper because it was a marquee property in the media capital of the world, and that the opportunity to buy a newspaper did not come around very often. The paper’s relatively small circulation — 50,000 — belies its influence, particularly in New York’s media, political and real estate circles.

He also said The Observer was a good brand that could one day make a lot of money, though it now loses about $2 million a year.

Because every side of the transaction is private, it is difficult to precisely determine the financing behind the deal. It is not clear how much of a stake Mr. Kushner bought, but Arthur Carter, the current publisher of The Observer, is retaining some interest and will be offering the new owner strategic advice.

The Kushner name is well known to readers of The Observer and other media outlets, which have given thorough coverage to federal charges against his father, Charles B. Kushner, who was a major Democratic fund-raiser and contributor to James E. McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey.

Charles Kushner was sentenced last year to two years in prison after pleading guilty to 18 counts of tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign donations. He also admitted to hiring a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law and having a videotape of the encounter sent to his sister, the man’s wife, in an attempt to get back at her for cooperating with a federal investigation into his business activities.

The elder Mr. Kushner now lives in a halfway house in Newark run by the Department of Corrections and is expected to be released in late August. A spokesman for his real estate company, Kushner Companies, said that the son, Jared, had worked for the company until recently.

Jared Kushner said he was proud of his father, but that he was his own man.

“I love my father,” Mr. Kushner said, “but I have worked to develop a separate and distinct identity in different projects I have worked on. The only difference is that this is far more public,” he said of his purchase of The Observer.

Mr. Kushner pledged to stay out of the editorial process and focus instead on improving the paper’s bottom line.

“I am here to help build the paper in a way that will lead to the best and most honest reporting, regardless of who is involved,” he said. “It is up to the editors and reporters to decide what should be in the paper. The headline in everything we do should be integrity.”

Peter W. Kaplan, the editor of the paper, said that Mr. Kushner had no agenda, adding, “He told me that he will not interfere with the paper, that editorially, the paper is ours.”

Mr. Kaplan said Mr. Kushner had told him that he had three objectives: to market the brand name of The Observer; to build its Internet traffic; and to provide resources for more news beats so that the paper could have what Mr. Kaplan called “a stronger paper with more constituencies and more advertising.”

He said that Mr. Kushner represented the 21st century in the newspaper industry. “In that sense,” Mr. Kaplan said, “his 25-ness is a huge asset. He is not weighed down by the debris of conventional wisdom.”

Mr. Kaplan said yesterday that he would be confirming the news of the sale to the newspaper employees on Sunday night and Monday.

“It’s a large part of my task to convey to them that Jared is very much a guy building a new business,” he said. “I’m not going to put the weight of any history on his shoulders.”

At least one staff member, Tom Scocca, a senior editor and the Off-the-Record columnist, said he was sanguine about Mr. Kushner owning the paper. “I don’t think that there’s any great sense of dread or fear about this,” he said. “I think Arthur has had the paper these many years because he cares about it, and I’d be very surprised to discover that he had sold it in a way that’s rash or ill-considered.”

Mr. Scocca also said that Mr. Kushner was not particularly tainted because of his father.

“Every pile of money that is enough to buy a newspaper is disturbing if you look closely enough at it,” he said. “But I don’t think he has any reason or need to protect the existing press barons from scrutiny. This is an exciting move.”

The New York Times

July 31, 2006

Ashlee’s Nose Job Is Last Straw for New Editor of Marie Claire

Ashlee Simpson appeared on the July cover of Marie Claire magazine extolling the virtues of appreciating one’s body as it is — then she had a nose job.

Marie Claire readers erupted in fury at what they said was Ms. Simpson’s hypocrisy and the magazine’s “cluelessness.” They wrote 1,000 letters in protest to the magazine, according to Joanna Coles, the new editor of the magazine. And she agreed with them.

In the first issue (due Aug. 15) over which she exercises full editorial control, Ms. Coles gives expanded space in the letters column to readers to vent against Ms. Simpson. Ms. Coles adds in a note: “We’re dazed and confused — and disappointed — by her choice, too!”

Rare is the day when the editor of a women’s magazine will openly criticize a celebrity. But Ms. Coles is planting a flag: A new Marie Claire is in town and it is making a clean break with its past. No girly goo, no teeny-bopper covers, no blind obedience to the traditional rules of the road.

“It has always been the smart girls’ book,” Ms. Coles said last week in an interview in her airy perch in the new Hearst building in Midtown Manhattan. “But it drifted off-brand, partly due to the assault on the newsstand from celebrity weeklies. It happened to everyone, not just Marie Claire.”

The magazine’s paid circulation was up 3 percent, to 970,000, in the last six months of 2005 compared with the same period in 2004. But the number of copies sold on the newsstand has been flat, an indicator that the magazine is not winning over impulse-buyers, who pay full price, as opposed to home subscribers, who pay discounted rates.

Marie Claire announced in April that it was seeking a “fresh perspective” and was not renewing the contract of its editor, Lesley Jane Seymour. Instead, it hired Ms. Coles, who was the executive editor of More magazine, which is geared toward women over 40.

Ms. Coles, who was a foreign correspondent for The Times of London and The Guardian, is hoping to revitalize Marie Claire by giving it attitude and orienting it toward confident, professional women.

For example, she said, a growing number of women are earning more than their husbands, and she wants Marie Claire to be a place where women discuss such matters. Maggie Gyllenhaal, an actress who Ms. Coles said was not typical magazine cover fare, is the subject of the September cover.

Inserting attitude and offering higher-end articles could be risky for a magazine that many women turn to for fashion and beauty information.

“It’s not easy to get at that market,” said Robert S. Boynton, director of the magazine program at New York University. “In the women’s category, we haven’t seen any new magazines that are ambitious editorially in that way in a long time.”

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Gibson's Anti-Semitic Tirade -- Alleged Cover Up

EXCLUSIVE: MEL GIBSONTMZ has learned that Mel Gibson went on a rampage when he was arrested Friday on suspicion of drunk driving, hurling religious epithets. TMZ has also learned that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department had the initial report doctored to keep the real story under wraps.

TMZ has four pages of the original report prepared by the arresting officer in the case, L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy James Mee. According to the report, Gibson became agitated after he was stopped on Pacific Coast Highway and told he was to be detained for drunk driving Friday morning in Malibu. The actor began swearing uncontrollably. Gibson repeatedly said, "My life is f****d." Law enforcement sources say the deputy, worried that Gibson might become violent, told the actor that he was supposed to cuff him but would not, as long as Gibson cooperated. As the two stood next to the hood of the patrol car, the deputy asked Gibson to get inside. Deputy Mee then walked over to the passenger door and opened it. The report says Gibson then said, "I'm not going to get in your car," and bolted to his car. The deputy quickly subdued Gibson, cuffed him and put him inside the patrol car.

TMZ has learned that Deputy Mee audiotaped the entire exchange between himself and Gibson, from the time of the traffic stop to the time Gibson was put in the patrol car, and that the tape fully corroborates the written report.

Once inside the car, a source directly connected with the case says Gibson began banging himself against the seat. The report says Gibson told the deputy, "You mother f****r. I'm going to f*** you." The report also says "Gibson almost continually [sic] threatened me saying he 'owns Malibu' and will spend all of his money to 'get even' with me."

The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: "F*****g Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"

The deputy became alarmed as Gibson's tirade escalated, and called ahead for a sergeant to meet them when they arrived at the station. When they arrived, a sergeant began videotaping Gibson, who noticed the camera and then said, "What the f*** do you think you're doing?"

A law enforcement source says Gibson then noticed another female sergeant and yelled, "What do you think you're looking at, sugar tits?"

We're told Gibson took two blood alcohol tests, which were videotaped, and continued saying how "f****d" he was and how he was going to "f***" Deputy Mee.

Gibson was put in a cell with handcuffs on. He said he needed to urinate, and after a few minutes tried manipulating his hands to unzip his pants. Sources say Deputy Mee thought Gibson was going to urinate on the floor of the booking cell and asked someone to take Gibson to the bathroom.

After leaving the bathroom, Gibson then demanded to make a phone call. He was taken to a pay phone and, when he didn't get a dial tone, we're told Gibson threw the receiver against the phone. Deputy Mee then warned Gibson that if he damaged the phone he could be charged with felony vandalism. We're told Gibson was then asked, and refused, to sign the necessary paperwork and was thrown in a detox cell.

Deputy Mee then wrote an eight-page report detailing Gibson's rampage and comments. Sources say the sergeant on duty felt it was too "inflammatory." A lieutenant and captain then got involved and calls were made to Sheriff's headquarters. Sources say Mee was told Gibson's comments would incite a lot of "Jewish hatred," that the situation in Israel was "way too inflammatory." It was mentioned several times that Gibson, who wrote, directed, and produced 2004's "The Passion of the Christ," had incited "anti-Jewish sentiment" and "For a drunk driving arrest, is this really worth all that?"

We're told Deputy Mee was then ordered to write another report, leaving out the incendiary comments and conduct. Sources say Deputy Mee was told the sanitized report would eventually end up in the media and that he could write a supplemental report that contained the redacted information -- a report that would be locked in the watch commander's safe.

Initially, a Sheriff's official told TMZ the arrest occurred "without incident." On Friday night, Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore told TMZ: "The L.A. County Sheriff's Department investigation into the arrest of Mr. Gibson on suspicion of driving under the influence will be complete and will contain every factual piece of evidence. Nothing will be sanitized. There was absolutely no favoritism shown to this suspect or any other. When this file is presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney, it will contain everything. Nothing will be left out."

On Saturday, Gibson released the following statement:

"After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed. I drove a car when I should not have, and was stopped by the LA County Sheriffs. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person. I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said. Also, I take this opportunity to apologize to the deputies involved for my belligerent behavior. They have always been there for me in my community and indeed probably saved me from myself. I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry. I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health."

Click to see portions of the original report.

Filed Under: Mel Gibson


A few words from Mel Gibson:

"I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested. I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry. I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. [I am taking the] necessary steps to ensure my return to health. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person. I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable."

Did Gibson Get a Break After Arrest?

Officials will see if a deputy's report, which described abusive behavior, was changed.

By Andrew Blankstein, Stuart Pfeifer and Jeffrey L. Rabin
Times Staff Writers

July 30, 2006

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's civilian oversight office said Saturday that it will investigate whether authorities gave Mel Gibson preferential treatment when he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and tried to cover up alleged offensive comments and behavior by one of Hollywood's most powerful figures.

The probe was begun after a celebrity news website,, published portions of the arresting deputy's handwritten report, saying the star was abusive, shouted anti-Jewish slurs, attempted to escape from custody and boasted that he "owned Malibu." A source close to the investigation confirmed Saturday that the pages posted by the website were authentic.

On Friday, a Sheriff's Department spokesman told reporters that Gibson had been arrested that day in Malibu "without incident." But the website alleged that evening that supervisors at the Malibu-Lost Hills sheriff's station tried to downplay the actor's behavior by omitting his most offensive actions in an abridged version of the arresting deputy's report, which has yet to be made public.

"All that stuff about favorable treatment is something that needs to be looked at," said Mike Gennaco, who heads the Office of Independent Review, which investigates allegations of officer misconduct and monitors the department.

"I'd like to see if there was a legitimate law enforcement reason for asking that the report be altered," Gennaco said. He said his investigation will be wide-reaching, looking at Gibson's ties to the department. In the past, Gibson has actively participated in a charity created by Sheriff Lee Baca.

Baca on Saturday defended the way his department handled the case and said the actor's behavior after his arrest is not relevant to the criminal charges.

"There is no cover-up," he said. "Our job is not to [focus] on what he said. It's to establish his blood-alcohol level when he was driving and proceed with the case. Trying someone on rumor and innuendo is no way to run an investigation, at least one with integrity."

Gibson issued a statement Saturday apologizing for his "despicable" behavior.

"I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested," the statement reads, "and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said."

Gibson said he has battled alcoholism as an adult, adding, "I … profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health."

Baca said he has not seen the official arrest report and would not comment on what it contained.

"People say stupid things when they are drunk, and they later regret it," Baca said. "You don't convict him on what he said. People aren't convicted for saying stupid things."

In the written pages posted on , the arresting deputy — identified as James Mee — wrote that after cooperating at first, Gibson became "increasingly belligerent as he took stock of his predicament."

The deputy said he told Gibson "that if he remained cooperative, I would transport him without handcuffing."

Instead, he said, Gibson tried to flee back to his car. After he was subdued and handcuffed, the actor told the deputy: "You're going to regret you ever did this to me."

Gibson, the report continued, then said he "owned Malibu" and launched a "barrage of anti-Semitic remarks."

Those remarks included Gibson's statement that "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," the report said. After that, Gibson allegedly asked the deputy: "Are you a Jew?"

Gibson has had a close relationship with the Sheriff's Department. He served in 2002 as a "celebrity representative" for the L.A. Sheriff's Department's Star Organization, a group that provides scholarships and aid for the children of slain sheriff's deputies.

Gibson donated $10,000 to the stepdaughter of a deputy shot and killed in the line of duty and filmed public service announcements for Baca's relief committee dressed in a sheriff's uniform.

"My heart goes out to the people … the families of the men who are killed while actually doing their job," the actor said at the time. "They put their lives on the line every single day."

Gibson was pulled over about 2:30 a.m. Friday on Pacific Coast Highway after a deputy observed him driving his 2006 Lexus LS at more than 80 mph, nearly twice the posted speed limit.

A bottle of tequila was found in Gibson's car. The deputy administered breath and field sobriety tests, said Steve Whitmore, a Sheriff's Department spokesman.

Gibson's blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.12%. The legal limit for driving is 0.08% in California. Gibson was taken to the sheriff's station, where he was booked on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and released at 10 a.m. on $5,000 bail.

Department of Motor Vehicles records show that Gibson had no previous driving-related convictions or accidents in California.

Hollywood was speculating Saturday on what effect, if any, statements attributed to Gibson would have on his career, although few would comment on the record. Studio executives noted that Gibson has made enough money that he doesn't really rely on the studios as much as he once did because he can finance his pictures independently. They even question whether Gibson wants to act, noting that he has turned his talents to directing in recent years.

This is not Gibson's first brush with controversy. He came under fire from some Jewish groups with the release of "The Passion of the Christ," which he co-wrote and directed. Jewish leaders said they found it painful, offensive and capable of stoking anti-Semitic response. Gibson disputed the allegations, saying the film, about the final hours' of Jesus' life, was meant to inspire, not offend. In an April 2004 program on CNN, the actor denied he was an anti-Semite.

Gibson told ABC's Diane Sawyer in 2004 that the movie grew from a spiritual rebirth he experienced in 1991, as he struggled with alcohol and other addictions.

"Drugs, booze, anything. You name it," Gibson said during the interview. "Coffee, cigarettes, anything. All right? I'm just one of these guys who is like that. That's my flaw."

Contributing to his controversial image was his affiliation with a traditionalist Catholic movement, which inspired Gibson to build a house of worship in Malibu. That church is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Gibson's father — a leader of that traditionalist movement — has also provoked controversy. A March 2003 New York Times Magazine article quoted his father, Hutton Gibson, as dismissing historical accounts that 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust.

Gibson was the highest paid celebrity in 2004, earning $210 million, according to Forbes magazine. The next year, he earned $185 million more, thanks largely to DVD sales of "The Passion of the Christ," a worldwide blockbuster. As a filmmaker, Gibson has taken many other risks that have usually paid off. He earned a best director Oscar for his 1995 film "Braveheart."

The Australian-raised Gibson became one of Hollywood's highest paid actors playing good-natured action stars, notably in the "Lethal Weapon" series. In promoting his movies, the actor has cultivated an image with fans of a witty practical joker who does not take himself too seriously.

He's taking another chance on his upcoming release, "Apocalypto." The film, about the decline of the Maya empire, features dialogue in an ancient language. It is set for release later this year by Walt Disney Co.

Disney officials on Saturday referred calls to Gibson's publicist, who would not comment. But Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Inc., said success at the box office often compensates for personal missteps.

"In Hollywood the main currency is currency. It's about box office," he said. "If someone says something offensive but the movie makes a lot of money, it seems all is forgiven. We've seen people recover from just about everything in Hollywood."

The Website With the Gibson Case Documents

Question: What is, the website that published the report about Gibson?

Answer: The celebrity news and gossip website is a joint venture by America Online and Telepictures.

Q: What are the documents?

A: The posted documents are marked "pages four through eight." They were handwritten by the deputy who arrested Gibson and describe his behavior. The Times verified their authenticity through a source.

Q: Who runs the website?

A: Harvey Levin is the site's managing editor. He's a longtime local TV news reporter and consultant to "The People's Court." He and a team of 25 have an office in Glendale.

Q: What does TMZ stand for?

A: "Thirty-Mile Zone," an entertainment industry term referring to the area around Hollywood.

Q: What are the ramifications of the documents' release?

A: The Sheriff's Department said it has launched an investigation into the leaking of the internal documents to
Mel Gibson

Transcript of Gibson Arrest Report, a celebrity news website, published a four-page portion of Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputy James Mee's handwritten report of actor-director Mel Gibson's arrest on suspicion of drunk driving on July 28, 2006. The Los Angeles Times confirmed the authenticity of the posted pages.

Here's a transcript of the arrest report, with profanities redacted and unreadable words in parentheses:

Page 5 of 8
Gibson performed the above sobriety test with the above results. Gibson also completed a preliminary alcohol screening test with result of .12% B.A.C. (see attached).

I then formed the opinion Gibson was intoxicated and had been driving (unreadable) of 23152 (unreadable), drunk driving.

Gibson was cooperative with the field investigation. His conduct began to change when I advised him he was being detained/arrested for drunk driving. Gibson became increasingly belligerent as he took stock of his predicament. Gibson angrily stated "Everything's (profanity redacted)," "My life is (profanity redacted)." Gibson became fixated on his notoriety and concern that this incident was going to be publicized.

In order to calm Gibson's concerns, I directed Gibson to the back seat of the patrol car, telling him, if he remained cooperative I would transport him without handcuffing. Gibson quickly turned and bolted toward his own vehicle, as he said, "I'm not going to get into your car." Gibson attempted to escape arrest.

I chased after Gibson, catching up as he reached the driver's side of his vehicle. I (unreadable) onto Gibson's (unreadable) from his back side with my hands and turned him a quarter turn so he was facing his vehicle's left side. Gibson offered no resistance. I placed Gibson's hands behind his back and handcuffed him without…
Page 6 of 8 (Facsimile distorted)

Gibson's belligerent attitude (unreadable). Gibson (unreadable) out profanities (unreadable), calling me, "You mother (profanity redacted)." Gibson repeatedly threatened me, saying, "I'm going to (profanity redacted) you. You're going to regret you ever did this to me."

While en route to Lost Hills Sheriff's (unreadable), Gibson's conduct remained (unreadable). Gibson almost continually threatened me, saying he "owns Malibu" and will spend all his money to "get even" with me. Gibson blurted out a barrage of anti-Semitic remarks about "(profanity redacted) Jews." Gibson yelled out, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked, "Are you a Jew?"

Gibson's conduct concerned and frightened me to a point, I called ahead to the station requesting a sergeant meet the arrival of my patrol car in the station parking lot. Sgt. T. Palmer, #264317 and Sgt. J. Benning, #292797 met with me as I had requested. I briefed them about Gibson's conduct before directing him out of the patrol car. Sgt. Palmer began videotaping Gibson….
Page 7 of 8
to capture any continued belligerent conduct… Sgt. Palmer tape-recorded the chemical test, breath test Gibson performed (unreadable) the booking that followed. Gibson displayed continued belligerent conduct and mood swings, in which he cooperated by completing the breath test, but refused to provide booking information or sign any document.

I stored Gibson's vehicle prior to transporting him to the station…. While conducting an inventory search of Gibson's vehicle, I found, EV-1, a 750 ml bottle labeled, "Cazadores Tequila," that was approx. ¾ full of liquid contents, concealed in a brown paper bag, on the right rear floor guard of the vehicle. EV-1 placement in the vehicle was within easy reach of Gibson while he had been driving. Gibson merely had to reach over the front center console separating the two front bucket seats.

I advised Gibson (unreadable) EV-1. Gibson asked, "Was it in a brown paper bag?" When I answered, "Yes," Gibson quickly replied, "It's not mine." I determined Gibson was driving a vehicle in possession of an open container of (unreadable)….
Page 8 of 8
beverage in violation of 23202(A).

Gibson was booked on the indicated charges with the approval of Watch Sgt. Benning and Watch Sgt. (unreadable), # 213438.

I tape-recorded the field investigation. I did not place the tape into evidence because it also contains (unreadable) of other traffic (unreadable) and may be evidentiary in those instances.

The Huffington Post

Ari Emanuel Blog Index RSS

The Bottom Line on Mel Gibson's Anti-Semitic Remarks

I wish Mel Gibson well in dealing with his alcoholism, but alcoholism does not excuse racism and anti-Semitism. It is one thing when marginal figures with no credibility make anti-Semitic statements. It is a completely different thing when a figure of Mel Gibson's stature does so. Even when he sobers up and apologizes.According to the handwritten report of the deputy who pulled Gibson over, published by, after he was arrested Gibson launched into an anti-Semitic tirade, saying: "Fucking Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"

At a time of escalating tensions in the world, the entertainment industry cannot idly stand by and allow Mel Gibson to get away with such tragically inflammatory statements. When The Passion of the Christ came out, Gibson was quoted as categorically denying any anti-Semitism attributed to him: "For me, it goes against the tenets of my faith, to be racist in any form. To be anti-Semitic is a sin. It's been condemned by one Papal Council after another. There's encyclicals on it, which is, you know -- to be anti-Semitic is to be unchristian, and I'm not."

Now we know the truth. And no amount of publicist-approved contrition can paper it over. People in the entertainment community, whether Jew or gentile, need to demonstrate that they understand how much is at stake in this by professionally shunning Mel Gibson and refusing to work with him, even if it means a sacrifice to their bottom line.

There are times in history when standing up against bigotry and racism is more important than money.

Critics Find Voice in Gibson Drama

By Claudia Eller and Claire Hoffman
Times Staff Writers

August 1, 2006

On the heels of Mel Gibson's reported anti-Semitic tirade during his drunk driving arrest Friday, several prominent Hollywood figures broke the industry's silence Monday by publicly condemning the star.

Meanwhile, Walt Disney Co.'s ABC television network said it had abandoned plans to make a miniseries on the Holocaust with Gibson's production company, although it stopped short of saying his behavior was the reason.

Those who did admonish Gibson on Monday called his purported remarks reprehensible and particularly inappropriate while fighting rages in Israel and Lebanon.

"It's incredibly disappointing that somebody of his stature would speak out that way, especially at this sensitive time," said Sony Pictures movie Chairwoman Amy Pascal, the only studio chief who spoke to The Times on the record.

Hollywood was largely founded by, and the studios are still chiefly run by, Jewish executives such as Pascal. Still, dozens of Jewish executives, producers and agents contacted Monday would not go beyond expressing their outrage in private. In typical Hollywood fashion, they refrained from publicly criticizing — and potentially alienating — a powerful star and director who could make them a lot of money.

But Gibson's alleged profanity-laced remarks, including the statement that "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," stirred an industry that has honored him with its most prized award — an Oscar for directing "Braveheart" — and has given him the opportunity to reap hundreds of millions of dollars.

"To make all of your money from Jews in Hollywood, and then have a few drinks and say you hate Jews, is shocking," said "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" producer Arnon Milchan, an Israeli citizen. "If you are so upset with the Jews, don't work for them."

Gibson apologized Sunday, blaming his long battle with alcoholism. But apparently his regrets had little effect.

"It's like throwing a nuclear bomb and saying, 'I didn't know the damage it was going to cause. I'm really sorry,' " Milchan said.

Even the head of the International Creative Management talent agency, which has represented Gibson for 18 years, felt compelled to speak out.

"I hate what he said, and so does he," said Chairman Jeff Berg. "His remarks have created a first-class mess, and he has owned up to it. You cannot spin this. This is a question not of how low you can sink, but how you can dig yourself out of this hole."

After a call from Gibson, Berg said he was trying to communicate the actor's remorse to his staff and clients.

"We're not going to back away from him in a moment of need," Berg said. "Our goal is to help him, not judge him."

Gibson's publicist, Alan Nierob, said the actor was seeking help. He has not checked into a rehabilitation facility, but "is fighting for his life" in his struggle with drinking.

Gibson is one of the most powerful people in Hollywood, with the clout to make his own projects. He has starred in such hits as the "Lethal Weapon" action series and "Ransom."

His self-financed "The Passion of the Christ" was a global blockbuster but was criticized by some as anti-Semitic. Gibson denied that and also distanced himself from his father's remarks dismissing accounts of the Holocaust.

Hollywood's silence on the Gibson controversy was shaken loose Sunday night by one of Berg's chief competitors, Endeavor partner Ari Emanuel, who wrote a scathing blog entry on the Huffington Post website. Emanuel said the actor's alcoholism "does not excuse racism and anti-Semitism."

"People in the entertainment community, whether Jew or gentile, need to demonstrate that they understand how much is at stake in this by professionally shunning Mel Gibson and refusing to work with him, even if it means a sacrifice to their bottom line," Emanuel wrote.

Within hours of the posting, Hollywood insiders expressed dismay with Gibson's character.

"He's an old friend of mine," said veteran producer Jerry Weintraub, who rarely speaks to the media. "I am so sad, so hurt and so disappointed. I don't have words to express it. I really feel bad for him as a human being. I never knew this side of him."

"Spider-Man" producer Laura Ziskin, who is Jewish, echoed the industry's anger. "I think it's appalling. In a world in which there is so much hatred, and there is so much violence, to harbor those kinds of feelings … it is so sad."

Asked about ever working with Gibson, Ziskin said: "I don't see that in my future."

Veteran talent manager Bernie Brillstein also said he would not work with him.

"If he calls me tomorrow, would I represent him? The answer is no. That doesn't make me right. I just don't like bigots."

Another longtime Hollywood figure, former MCA Inc. President Sidney J. Sheinberg, remarked: "If he said it, he's at best a putz."

Neither ABC nor Disney, which plans to release Gibson's "Apocalypto" film Dec. 8, directly addressed the star's statements, with the exception of a show of support by the studio's new production president, Oren Aviv, in a story on the Slate website.

Disney said the movie release date remained in place. ABC, however, said that if it continues with the languishing Holocaust miniseries, Gibson's Icon Productions won't be involved.

"Given that it's been nearly two years and we have yet to see the first draft of a script, we have decided to no longer pursue this project with Icon," the network said.

The miniseries is based on the memoirs of Flory A. Van Beek, an 81-year-old Dutch woman who said in an interview that Gibson himself had not been involved.

"I've never met him, I've never heard from him," she said. But she added that it would be a "good thing" for his company to sever its ties to the project.

The New York Times

August 1, 2006

Mel Gibson: The Speed of Scandal

LOS ANGELES, July 31 — Almost as stunning as Mel Gibson’s anti-Jewish tirade when arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in the early hours of last Friday was the speed at which the scandal unfolded, doing serious damage to one of Hollywood’s most valuable careers along the way.

In a little over 24 hours, Mr. Gibson’s arrest and subsequent behavior in Malibu had already prompted talk of a claimed cover-up, an exposé, worldwide news coverage, an apology and then a full-blown push for alcohol rehabilitation, even as his representatives and executives at the Walt Disney Company rushed to catch up with the event’s effect on the filmmaker’s movie and television projects with the company.

On Monday, Hope Hartman, a spokeswoman for Disney’s ABC television network, said the company was dropping its plans to produce a Holocaust-themed miniseries in collaboration with Mr. Gibson.

“Given that it’s been nearly two years and we have yet to see the first draft of a script, we have decided to no longer pursue this project with Icon,” Ms. Hartman said, referring to Mr. Gibson’s production company.

She did not connect the project’s termination to Mr. Gibson’s remarks. But his statements had already attracted sharp criticism from some who argued that he should be disqualified from moving ahead with the series, despite having apologized for several anti-Jewish statements.

“I don’t think he should be doing a film on the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who had previously criticized what he saw as anti-Semitic overtones in Mr. Gibson’s hit, “The Passion of the Christ.” “It would be like asking someone associated with the K.K.K. to do a movie on the African-American experience.”

Heidi Trotta, a spokeswoman for Disney’s studio unit, said the company still expected to release Mr. Gibson’s feature film “Apocalypto” on schedule in early December. Mr. Gibson’s publicist, Alan Nierob, said he believed the movie would be released on time and by Disney, though he acknowledged that postproduction work would be interrupted by Mr. Gibson’s planned program of rehabilitation for substance abuse.

Meanwhile, those who make a business of managing crisis were already gleaning lessons from the breakneck pace at which the incident had gone from unfortunate encounter to career threat.

“The pervasiveness of the Internet has caused a dramatic increase in the dissemination of news,” said Michael S. Sitrick, chairman of Sitrick & Company, who specializes in crisis communications. The message was that there is no such thing as a minor incident among those for whom celebrity is an asset. “I would have reacted very quickly — even if had just been reported in The Malibu Times,” he said.

In Mr. Gibson’s case, it was not The Malibu Times, but a Time Warner-owned celebrity news Web site,, that set off the media storm. On Friday evening, TMZ posted four pages of a sheriff’s report describing what the arresting officer said was Mr. Gibson’s belligerent behavior and a series of noxious remarks, including several deeply offensive comments about Jews.

In an accompanying article, the site said the officer had been told by superiors to withhold the pages containing the anti-Semitic and other inflammatory remarks from the report that would eventually be made public, reserving them for a separate portion that might escape widespread notice.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department disputed the notion of a cover-up. “The district attorney has the entire case now,” said Steve Whitmore, the spokesman. “We gave them everything we have.”

By late Saturday, however, Mr. Gibson had issued a statement apologizing for his remarks. And the next morning, The Los Angeles Times — in a report that carried no fewer than 11 bylines — reported that a civilian oversight office had already decided to investigate whether Mr. Gibson had been given favorable treatment because of his celebrity status or long-time friendship with the county sheriff, Lee Baca.

“Mel Gibson is an important person in Hollywood, a key player in one of Southern California’s most important industries,” the Los Angeles Times’s editor, Dean Baquet, said in a statement explaining the paper’s mass deployment over the weekend. “Gibson also happens to be someone whose religious views have been the subject of debate since he produced a movie on the subject that is one of the highest-grossing movies of all time. But mainly, it’s a good story.”

A winner in all this was clearly TMZ, a celebrity news site that began operations just last November. “This was huge for us,” said Harvey Levin, the site’s managing editor and something of an expert in celebrity scandal, having created the now-defunct television show “Celebrity Justice.”

For Mr. Gibson, things began their disastrous turn Thursday night, when he spent time drinking and posing for pictures at Moonshadows, an oceanside restaurant and watering hole in Malibu, where he has been a familiar fixture in recent weeks.

When an obviously inebriated Mr. Gibson announced his intention to leave, employees offered to call him a cab or drive him home, according to a person who was involved with events that evening but spoke on condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation.

Mr. Gibson declined the assistance and instead jumped into his Lexus, and was quickly pulled over for speeding on the Pacific Coast Highway and then arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

According to the report by the arresting officer, James Mee, Mr. Gibson demanded to know whether the deputy was a Jew, and said he would “get even with me.” In an obscenity-laced tirade, which included “a barrage of anti-Semitic remarks,” Mr. Gibson boasted that he “owns Malibu.” At one point, according to the report, the filmmaker tried to break free and had to be handcuffed.

The deputy asked that he be met at the station with a videocamera, according to the report. Mr. Whitmore, the sheriff’s spokesman, said over the weekend that full details of the incident would ultimately be disclosed.

Mr. Nierob strongly challenged the notion of a cover-up. “This report was leaked within minutes of its happening, and it’s anything but a cover-up, and certainly anything but preferential treatment,” Mr. Nierob said Monday of his client. “He’s been held to a much higher situation. You show me the cover-up.”

Mr. Gibson spent much of the last year shooting “Apocalypto,” an idiosyncratic film shot in Mexico that used local actors to tell an epic story of warfare among the ancient Mayans. The film was originally set for release in August, but was delayed when heavy rains complicated the shoot.

Disney is distributing the movie in the United States, but did not directly finance it. Rather, Mr. Gibson’s company, Icon Productions, engineered the financial backing, much as it did for “The Passion of the Christ.”

Segway's Centaur Concept
The Centaur concept.

Like the mythical half-horse, half-man of Greek lore, Concept Centaur combines the best of several technologies to create an innovative whole. The result of exploration by Segway Inc.'s product development team, Concept Centaur will challenge the way you think about four-wheeled transportation.

From time to time Segway's product development team devotes days, or even weeks, to creating new product concepts with the goal of finding a prince among frogs. It's a product exploration process they call "frog kissing." During this time, engineers and designers are encouraged to use any available materials in a very short time frame to prove a concept will work.A sketch of the Centaur concept.

Recently, the product development team demonstrated that Concept Centaur was a prince—a concept that passed this initial feasibility test, but is not yet ready to become a product. Concept Centaur demonstrates Segway's continued commitment to breakthrough innovation and the innumerable possibilities for the future of personal transportation.

View the Concept Centaur Video:
Windows Media

What is the Centaur?

Concept Centaur combines proprietary dynamic stabilization technology with advanced propulsion and suspension systems, and an intuitive user interface to create a unique four-wheel device that is easily controllable on two or four wheels. Its full suspension and aggressive rider positioning provide an exhilarating ride for one or two people while maintaining control over a variety of terrain. Its rugged performance, zero emissions, and quiet operation make it a good low-impact way to explore the world. Its power and versatility make it suitable for a variety of indoor and outdoor recreational and commercial applications.

Whose video is it, anyway?
YouTube's success has opened Pandora's box of copyright issues
By Heather Green
BusinessWeek Online

Updated: 12:56 a.m. MT July 28, 2006

When YouTube was sued on July 14 for copyright infringement, the shock wasn't that the video-sharing service was being yanked into court. Questions had been swirling for months about whether the upstart, which now dishes up 100 million daily videos, was crossing copyright boundaries by letting its members upload videos with little oversight.

What was surprising was that it was an individual who fired the first shot — Robert Tur, an independent photographer famous for filming the 1992 Los Angeles riots — instead of a big Hollywood studio or major music label.

The dustup spotlights the role the Internet increasingly is playing in letting artists and other individuals reach out and control media. But more to the point, it shows how YouTube is evolving into a sort of eBay for video: the first place you go to find a clip, but also a place where more folks are itching to get rewarded for supplying it. A growing group of creative types is furiously producing clips, video blogs, and animated shorts with the hopes of making money through advertising or selling DVDs.

While YouTube promises huge distribution, the site and its users are just starting to sort out how to apportion the power they've suddenly acquired. Some indies are becoming wary of YouTube, which doesn't share ad dollars with them, unlike rival services.

"The exposure is great, but with all the copyright issues and the lack of potential ad revenues, it seems like something that we're not going to get into right now," says Orrin Zucker, co-creator of It's JerryTime, a popular animated cartoon series that is shown, for now, on the artists' own site.

No clear boundries
Tur's lawsuit shows the fine line that YouTube is walking as it attempts to build its business model. Tur is suing because his videos of the riot and other events were uploaded without his permission. Although lawyers agree that YouTube should be protected by copyright law as long as it responds to content owners' requests to take down their works, it entered uncharted territory when it recently began adding ads next to search results.

The law prohibits a site from benefiting financially from infringement, but the company argues that it's protected since it doesn't sell ads against individual videos. Still, the courts haven't set clear boundaries.

"There has to be some way to make money with advertising that doesn't deprive you of the safe harbor. But where that line is, no one really knows," says Fred von Lohmann, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Major media companies are executing a delicate dance with YouTube. The 17-month-old site now accounts for an astonishing 60 percent of all videos watched online. NBC and E! Entertainment are working with YouTube to promote select clips.

And NBC has set up communications with YouTube to expedite the removal of its copyrighted material. Meantime, the music industry is pairing takedown notices with licensing discussions. Barring success there, however, lawsuits are still a possibility, says a music executive.

Instant hit
Indie video producers who don't have a battery of lawyers are learning just how freewheeling YouTube can be. They complain that removing clips is onerous. The time lag whittles into an audience that can rapidly build — and disappear — for short clips. It took eight months for Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz to mastermind a now iconic Web video that shows them creating intricate fountains of soda by dropping 500 Mentos into 100 2-liter bottles of Diet Coke.

The video became an instant hit after it was published in June on Revver, a service that shares ad revenue. Within days, bootlegs showed up on Google and YouTube. Voltz, a civil litigation lawyer, figured out the process for getting the videos removed. But as copies kept reappearing, Voltz learned that he had to keep contacting YouTube to take down each new version.

The Mentos/Diet Coke video was seen 5.5 million times on Revver and made Grobe and Voltz $30,000. But Voltz estimates they lost another $30,000 to pirated copies. And for several days recently, blogs buzzed with attempts to sort out the rights of artists to control uploaded videos. As the prospect grows for making money online, what started as a lark for many is becoming all too serious.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Lohan Chided in Leaked Studio Letter

Frustrated with problems on the set, a furious executive gave it to the starlet with both barrels in a letter sent this week.

By Geoff Boucher
Times Staff Writer

July 29, 2006

Hollywood stars who behave badly usually can rely on politely coded coverups (hangovers are "the flu," blood feuds are "creative differences"), but when problems surfaced on the set of "Georgia Rule," a furious executive gave it to Lindsay Lohan with both barrels in a letter sent this week.

Telling the 20-year-old starlet that she has "acted like a spoiled child," James G. Robinson, the chief of Morgan Creek Productions, wrote in the letter that he sees through Lohan's alibis of illness and fatigue, which have hampered the filming of the Morgan Creek project.

"You and your representatives have told us that your various late arrivals and absences from the set have been the result of illness; today we were told it was 'heat exhaustion.' We are well aware that your ongoing all night heavy partying is the real reason for your so-called 'exhaustion,' " Robinson wrote in the letter that was posted Friday on the Smoking Gun website.

The letter, authenticated by a spokesman for Morgan Creek, is dated Wednesday and addressed directly to Lohan at the Chateau Marmont. Also on Wednesday, Lohan's publicist, Leslie Sloan Zelnick, told "The Insider" television show that her client had been taken a day earlier to a local hospital to be treated for dehydration and overheating. Zelnick didn't return phone or e-mail requests for comment.

"Georgia Rule" is being filmed at Sunset Gower Studios and also stars Jane Fonda and Felicity Huffman. In it, Lohan plays a rambunctious, troubled teen who is dragged by her mother (Huffman) to spend a summer with her grandmother (Fonda). In his letter, Robinson told Lohan she has "alienated many of your co-workers and endangered the quality of this picture" and that "your actions have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage."

Robinson, 70, is known for his strong and maverick personality ("He's as subtle as an anvil," one admirer said with a chuckle on Friday), and Hollywood insiders said the scolding tone and the fact that the letter was addressed directly — it starts off "Dear Lindsay," as opposed to an agent or other intermediary — was in keeping with the exec's brand of business. Others noted that it might be the first shot in a legal war, which could also explain its covert dissemination.

Greg Mielcarz, a spokesman for Morgan Creek, confirmed that the letter is genuine and said he believes that the Smoking Gun has a copy on letterhead, not a facsimile. The letter has six names on the bottom of people who received it, including agents, producers and others involved in the project. Regardless of its origin, the letter was greeted with groans, giggles and fascination in Hollywood, where Lohan has become as notorious for her tabloid life as for her filmography. The star's weight, claims about her nightlife and brashness have made her an irresistible figure to the gossip-minded. On her last three films, Lohan has missed time on the set and each time cited health ailments and medical care as the reason.

Lisa Stewart, co-producer of the 2005 Lohan vehicle "Herbie: Fully Loaded," declined Friday to discuss the letter or the type of behavior it describes ("I'm not as bold as James Robinson," she said), but she did say that Lohan is costing herself career opportunities with her current talent for trouble.

"She's got a lot of talent, and it's being overshadowed by her reputation, and it's a shame," Stewart said. "Right now Lindsay can't seem to stay out of the press. She has ability as an actor; the camera loves her."

The main topic in Hollywood circles on Friday though was the delicious candor of the letter. It also cuts against the edict that studio execs shouldn't bad-mouth talent in public for reasons of project preservation and the ever-changing winds of personal fortunes.

"It's a letter that has people saying, 'Finally, someone is saying what they think and not letting some young star dictate what is acceptable,' " said one New York-based publicist who works with film stars. Another called it "a wake-up call" for Lohan and a signal that she has "run out of polite lies and chances to act like a grown-up."

Perhaps, but those insiders also spoke on condition of anonymity, suggesting that Lohan is not washed-up enough that they would risk her ire. One publicist who did speak on the record was Dale Olson, whose long career included work for Rock Hudson, Steve McQueen and Gene Kelly. He said celebrity has completely trumped craft in the current era.

"He is slapping her hands, and I found it refreshing that he was direct and didn't go through an agent," Olson said. "It's impossible really to have a secret in this town these days, but still, many people will never say what they think or be honest about what's going on. Many of the young stars today don't take their craft seriously — if it is craft — and they make too much money and don't know how to behave."
Lohan's mother scolds exec over letter

Producer says actress has been 'irresponsible'

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- A studio executive was "way out of line" for scolding Lindsay Lohan for her absences from the set of her new movie, the teen actress' mother told "Access Hollywood" in an interview set to air Monday.

Last week, James G. Robinson, CEO of Morgan Creek Productions, chided Lohan in a letter for her behavior on a movie set and doubted her absence was related to heat exhaustion.

"You and your representatives have told us that your various late arrivals and absences from the set have been the result of illness; today we were told it was 'heat exhaustion,' " Robinson wrote. "We are well aware that your ongoing all night heavy partying is the real reason for your so-called 'exhaustion.' " (Read the full letterexternal link.)

Dina Lohan said the wording of the letter was "ridiculous."

"I feel when you are 19 (years old) it is way out of line. ... Maybe he has personal issues with whomever and it came out with my child," she said in an interview with Billy Bush. "I don't know him. I can't judge him. I don't think it was a smart thing to do to a young girl."

Lohan acknowledged that Lindsay has been late to the set on occasion and that the production once had to be scheduled around her to accommodate her lateness.

But she defended her daughter's most recent absence.

"Lindsay was in 105 (degree weather) saying, 'Mommy, I feel sick; like I am going to faint.' She took herself to the hospital. She has asthma and in extreme cold or heat you can't breathe."

Lohan plays a troubled teen in "Georgia Rules," which also stars Jane Fonda and Felicity Huffman. Robinson said in the letter that Lohan has been frequently late for filming and has been "discourteous, irresponsible and unprofessional."

He said that if Lohan does not honor her commitments, the studio will pursue "full monetary damages."

Lohan, the star of "Freaky Friday" and "Herbie: Fully Loaded," was treated at hospitals twice in January -- in London for a cut on her leg and in the Miami area for an asthma attack. In 2005, she was hospitalized for exhaustion and lost a noticeable amount of weight.

Lohan was back on the set of "Georgia Rule" without incident Thursday according to the trade publication The Hollywood Reporter.


LATEST: LINDSAY LOHAN has reportedly been fired by her UK record label Island Records after she failed to travel to London for a planned promotional campaign for her album SPEAK. The disc, which was recorded last year (05), ended up being shelved by the furious pop bosses, who are now snubbing her completely.

An industry insider tells British newspaper The Sun, "A single was a huge flop over here because Lindsay couldn't be bothered to promote it. "In the end they didn't even bother releasing the album in Britain. She didn't bother to come over to the UK to do interviews or make TV appearances to help sell the album.

"Island have now decided not to do another one with her."

The flame-haired party girl was also left red-faced last week (ends31JUL06) when she received a scathing letter from the studio head of her latest movie JAMES G ROBINSON detailing her spoilt behaviour and lack of professionalism.
01/08/2006 02:06