Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The New York Times

October 28, 2007

What Did You Call It?

THIS is the story of how a silly-sounding word reached the ear of a powerful television producer, and in only seconds of air time, expanded the vocabularies — for better or worse — of legions of women.

It began on Feb. 12, 2006, when viewers of the ABC series “Grey’s Anatomy” heard the character Miranda Bailey, a pregnant doctor who had gone into labor, admonish a male intern, “Stop looking at my vajayjay.”

The line sprang from an executive producer’s need to mollify standards and practices executives who wanted the script to include fewer mentions of the word vagina.

The scene, however, had the unintended effect of catapulting vajayjay (also written va-jay-jay) into mainstream speech. Fans of “Grey’s Anatomy” expressed their approval of the word on message boards and blogs.

The show’s most noted fan, Oprah Winfrey, began using it on her show, effectively legitimizing it for some 46 million American viewers each week.

“I think vajayjay is a nice word, don’t you?” she asked her audience.

Vajayjay found its way into electronic dictionaries like Urban Dictionary, Word Spy and Merriam-Webster’s Open Dictionary. It was uttered on the television series “30 Rock.” It was used on the Web site of “The Tyra Banks Show.” Jimmy Kimmel said it in a monologue. It has appeared in the Web publications Salon and the Huffington Post and on the blog Wonkette.

“The Soup,” which highlights wacky television and celebrity moments on E! Entertainment Television, broadcast bits called “Oprah’s Va-jay-jay.” One featured a clip from “The Oprah Winfrey Show” at the Miraval resort in Tucson in which Ms. Winfrey, attached to a wire and wearing a harness around the lower half of her body, swings through the air and announces, “My vajayjay is paining me.” A YouTube video set the clip to electronic music, with Ms. Winfrey as an unwitting M.C.

The swift adoption of vajayjay is not simply about pop culture’s ability to embrace new slang. Neologisms are always percolating. What this really demonstrates, say some linguists, is that there was a vacuum in popular discourse, a need for a word for female genitalia that is not clinical, crude, coy, misogynistic or descriptive of a vagina from a man’s point of view.

“There was a need for a pet name,” said Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, and the chairman of the usage panel for the American Heritage Dictionary, “a name that women can use in a familiar way among themselves.”

Acceptance of the word, however, also reignites an old argument, one most forcefully made by Eve Ensler in “The Vagina Monologues.” Over a decade ago, Ms. Ensler wrote that “what we don’t say becomes a secret, and secrets often create shame and fear and myths.” Vagina, her widely performed series of monologues declared, is too often an “invisible word,” one “that stirs up anxiety, awkwardness, contempt and disgust.”

Dr. Carol A. Livoti, a Manhattan obstetrician and gynecologist and an author of “Vaginas: An Owner’s Manual” (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2004), said vajayjay and other euphemisms and slang offend her and can render women incapable of explaining their symptoms to health professionals. “I think it’s terrible,” Dr. Livoti said. “It’s time to start calling anatomical organs by their anatomical name. We should be proud of our bodies.”

“It seems like a step backward,” she added.

In a voice-mail message left for a reporter, Gloria Steinem said she hopes the women using vajayjay are doing so because they think it is more descriptive than vagina, not because they are squeamish.

Technically speaking, the vagina is the canal that leads from the uterus to the outside of the body, a fact that has led both Ms. Ensler and Ms. Steinem to write that vagina — while not a word that should be stigmatized — is inadequate because it is not inclusive enough. It does not, they have pointed out, include the labia and clitoris, the nerve-rich locus of a woman’s sexual pleasure. “I’m hoping that the use of this new word is part of the objection to only saying vagina since it doesn’t include all of women’s genitalia, for instance the clitoris, in the way that vulva does,” Ms. Steinem said.

Another view was offered by John H. McWhorter, a linguist and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, who pointed out that the women associated with introducing the word — Ms. Winfrey, the Miranda Bailey character on “Grey’s Anatomy” — are middle-age African-Americans.

“The reason that vajayjay has caught on, I think, is because there is a black — Southern especially — naming tradition, which is to have names like Ray Ray and Boo Boo and things like that,” Dr. McWhorter said. “It sounds warm and familiar and it almost makes the vagina feel like a little cartoon character with eyes that walks around.”

“A very elegant, middle-aged black woman used that word in my presence last week,” he added. “It’s a very O.K. word.”

At the same time, it is a word that someone like Joy Behar, a white comedian and a host on “The View,” could not have popularized, Dr. McWhorter said.

There have been at least 1,200 terms for the vagina in the history of the English language, according to Steven Pinker, a psychology professor at Harvard and the author of “The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature” (Viking, 2007).

This is because sexual subjects are always “emotionally fraught,” he said, and each new euphemism eventually “gets contaminated” and prompts “the search for yet another euphemism.”

HE calls it “the euphemism treadmill.” Such words arise, he said, “because people want to make it perfectly clear to their listeners that they are not bringing up the topic for prurient reasons.”

The reduplication in “jay-jay” is childlike, he said, like “pee pee or doo doo,” and that “cleans up” the word.

Oprah Winfrey’s use of the term is the subject of a parody segment on “The Soup.”

As Joel McHale, the host of “The Soup,” put it: “It’s not derogatory. It’s not ‘You’re being such a vajayjay right now.’ It’s kind of a sweet thing.”

“Vajayjay,” he said, “is like your good buddy.”

Ultimately, what makes any word catch fire is a mystery, linguists say. “Who could have predicted that the term for bulk e-mail would be spam, from a 1970s Monty Python sketch?” Dr. Pinker said.

Long before “Grey’s Anatomy” set vajayjay on its course to being a T-shirt-worthy catchphrase, it was used by some circles of women, on blogs and, briefly, in Regena Thomashauer’s book about pleasure, “Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts” (Simon & Schuster, 2002).

Shonda Rhimes, the creator and executive producer of “Grey’s Anatomy,” who brought the word into full public view, never intended to promote a euphemism or slang term for the female anatomy. Rather, she fought to use vagina in the script.

“I had written an episode during the second season of ‘Grey’s’ in which we used the word vagina a great many times (perhaps 11),” Ms. Rhimes wrote in an e-mail message. “Now, we’d once used the word penis 17 times in a single episode and no one blinked. But with vagina, the good folks at broadcast standards and practices blinked over and over and over. I think no one is comfortable experiencing the female anatomy out loud — which is a shame considering our anatomy is half the population.”

Ms. Rhimes asked the show’s writers for alternative words, but it was an assistant, Blythe Robe, who volunteered her own alias: vajayjay. “As in ‘I’m off to the gynie to see about my vajayjay,’” Ms. Rhimes said.

David Fiske, an F.C.C. spokesman, said that the agency does not penalize networks for the number of times the words vagina and penis are spoken. But if the words are used in a graphic and explicit description of “sexual or excretory organs or activities,” he said, it might contribute to a finding of indecency. “Context is a critical factor,” he said.

Ms. Rhimes said it is an “absolute surprise” how a word she introduced to appease her network’s guardians of taste has taken off.

K. P. Anderson and Edward Boyd, executive producers of “The Soup,” think Ms. Winfrey is well aware she is promoting the word, based on the sassy way she utters it and how she looks into the camera when doing so. (Ms. Winfrey declined to be interviewed for this article.)

“It’s her ‘truthiness,’ ” Mr. Anderson said. “She’ll get it in the dictionary if it kills us.”

Some people are not waiting for that formality.

“Now, vajayjay’s just a given for me,” Ms. Rhimes said. “It’s a word I use, a word my female friends use, a word I’ve heard women in the grocery store use. I don’t even think about where it came from anymore. It doesn’t belong to me or anyone at the show. It belongs to all women.”

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Royal Family member extorted in 'sex and cocaine blackmail video plot'

Scotland Yard have arrested two men in connection with blackmailing a member of the royal family

by GLEN OWEN - 28th October 2007

Scotland Yard is investigating an alleged sex and drugs blackmail plot against a member of the Royal Family, it was revealed last night.

The extraordinary plot was uncovered when the Royal – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – called in police after allegedly being approached by two men in August demanding £50,000 not to publicise a video which they claimed showed the Royal engaged in a sex act.

Detectives from Scotland Yard's kidnap and blackmail unit set up a sting operation at the Hilton hotel in London's Park Lane and claim to have arrested the two men as they played the footage.

The suspects thought they were showing the film to a member of the Royal's private staff.

The men are also said to have phoned the Royal's office claiming to have video evidence that the Royal had supplied an aide with an envelope containing cocaine.

Following a secret hearing before City of Westminster magistrates on September 13, two men aged 30 and 40 have been remanded to appear at the Old Bailey on December 20.

Nothing is known about what was said at the hearing.

It would be the first time in more than 100 years that a Royal has been the victim of a blackmail attempt.

In 1891, the Duke of Clarence, son of the future Edward VII, discussed the possibility of paying off two prostitutes he had met, in exchange for the return of two letters he had sent to them.

London Hilton Park Lane, where Scotland Yard set up a sting operation

The alleged new blackmail attempt began on August 2 when one of the accused allegedly called the Royal's office claiming to possess an envelope, embossed with the Royal's personal insignia, which contained cocaine.

It is alleged he then said that he had a videotape showing an aide giving someone – who he suggested was the Royal – oral sex.

It was claimed last night that one of the Royal's legal advisers had arranged with the caller to view the video before handing over the money.

A detective, posing as a member of the Royal's staff, then arranged the meeting in the Hilton suite on September 11, which was secretly filmed from an adjoining room.

A gagging order was issued preventing the identity of any victims or witnesses from being disclosed.

The move is often employed in blackmail cases to protect the victim from exposure.

Under Crown Prosecution Service guidance, courts should only exercise the power to hear cases in secret when the public's presence "would genuinely frustrate the administration of justice".

Because it goes against the basic British legal principle of open justice, any decision to sit "in camera" is not justified merely to save embarrassment.

In this case it is understood that the CPS made the application for the hearing to be held secretly.

Last night a Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "A 30-year-old man and a 40-year-old man appeared at the City of Westminster Magistrates Court on September 13 charged with one count of blackmail.

"They have both been remanded in custody to reappear at the Central Criminal Court on December 20.

"The entire hearing was held in camera.

"There are strict reporting restrictions in place banning the publication of anything that would lead to any victims, witnesses or companies involved being identified."

Details of the Duke of Clarence's indiscretions with a prostitute in 1891 did not come to light until incriminating letters were auctioned at Bonhams in 2002 for £8,220.

Writing at the time, the Duke confided: "I am very pleased that you have been able to settle with Miss Richardson, although £200 is rather expensive for letters.

"I presume there is no other way of getting them back. I will also do all I can to get back the one or two letters written to the other lady."

The price tag was a hefty sum for the 26-year-old Prince – equivalent to around £12,000 today.

Kim Kardashian December PLAYBOY Cover

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The New York Times
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October 28, 2007

She’s Famous (and So Can You)

TILA TEQUILA turned 26 on Wednesday, and the reader is advised to do whatever is necessary to forget that useless fact. Wipe it, as the metaphor goes, from the hard drive. Try also to obliterate the knowledge that Tequila is not, oddly enough, her real name (Nguyen is); that she is what Wikipedia — in an entry only slightly less extensive than that on Sigrid Undset, the Norwegian novelist and 1928 Nobel laureate for literature — refers to as an “American glamour model”; that she is a former performer on the Fuse cable TV show called “Pants-Off Dance-Off”; that she is the centerpiece of a hit MTV television series “A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila,” which made its debut early on Oct. 9 and was immediately, as the Hollywood Reporter noted, No. 1 in its time period in the network’s target demographic of people 18 to 34; and that the signal reason for this breakout success may also be the basis for Ms. Tequila’s unconventional fame, her boast that she has 1,771,920 MySpace friends.

Dispose of the information. You won’t need it for long.

How, one may ask, is it possible for a personality who great hunks of the citizenry never imagined existed to build up a social network more populous than Dallas? How can Tila Tequila have become enormously famous having done little of note beyond appearing as Playboy’s Cyber Girl of the Week? When exactly in the Warholian arc of fame did we arrive at a point where we create celebrities of people so little accomplished that they make Paris Hilton look like Marie Curie?

It’s routine to dismiss these people, to sniff from the sideline about the depths to which the culture has sunk. Misses Hilton and Tequila may represent, respectively, leisure-class and working-class variants of the same feminine caricature, a real-time Betty Boop. And yet each, in her own way, has divined truths about the marketplace that academics and industry are still laboring fully to comprehend. Each has understood the wacko populism of the cybersphere and pitched her ambitions to capitalize on what Joshua Gamson, the author of “Claims to Fame: Celebrity in Contemporary America” calls “a shift from top-down manufactured celebrity to a kind of lateral, hyper-democratic celebrity.”

“Because of new technologies, we get to see now what happens when people have the option of making up their own celebrity,” Mr. Gamson said. “We’ve gone from ‘Oh, my God, they’re so much better than I am,’ to ‘Oh, my God, they’re so good at making themselves up.’”

We’ve gone from dazed idolatry to another and more familiar form of identification. Fame, when not concocted by Hollywood and available to only the genetically gifted few, takes on softer contours. It becomes less an exalted state than a permeable one, available to those from classes and cohorts that, in the days of the studio monoliths, the gatekeepers of the star-making machine kept at bay.

By the standards of the new “Jackass” landscape, traditional stardom, with its career building stations-of-the-cross, its rigid talent requirements, its “Entourage” shtick, seems clunky and out of step with a culture so much more fluid now that a hit record — like the recent Internet sensation “I’ll Kill Him,” by Soko — could emerge from a young French woman’s bedroom and MySpace page.

Who says any longer that one must be able to sing or dance or emote in order to attract an audience or, anyway, a batch of new friends in the ether? Who says that only winners win? As reality TV, with its durable affection for flame-outs, car wrecks and actual losers, has made abundantly clear, even after the tribal council has voted you off their tropical island, you’re still welcome in our homes.

When Jake Halpern set out to write “Fame Junkies,” his book about what is now a universal obsession with celebrity, he was surprised to uncover studies demonstrating that 31 percent of American teenagers had the honest expectation that they would one day be famous and that 80 percent thought of themselves as truly important. (The figure from the same study conducted in the 1950s was 12 percent.)

“Obviously people have been having delusions of grandeur since the beginning of time, but the chances of becoming well known were much slimmer” even five years ago than they are today, Mr. Halpern said. “There are an incredibly large number of venues for becoming known. Talent is not a prerequisite.”

The easiest thing to say about Ms. Tequila is that she lacks talent. In a review of “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila”— whose flimsy premise offers 16 straight men and 16 lesbians the usual chance to swill alcohol, hang around in board shorts and bikinis (and, let’s not forget, heels) and compete for her affections — a New York Times critic said she would rather watch a dating show starring Danny DeVito than endure another second of psychodrama with Ms. Tequila’s sad-sack entourage.

Yet if Ms. Tequila is no Julie Harris, if she is not stereotypically stellar, she is still a hypnotic presence on the screen. Perhaps it is how her large head sits atop a pert pneumatic torso. Perhaps it is the way her wide-set eyes give her the look of a figure from an anime cartoon. Perhaps it is the steeliness of her will to succeed on whatever terms and the insistent sincerity she brings to the task.

With Ms. Tequila’s hardscrabble upbringing, her story certainly contains elements of the classic show-business redemption narrative. Her family emigrated from postwar Vietnam to Singapore and later moved to Houston, where they lived in public housing and where, as she once said in an interview with Import Tuner, a car magazine, she became deeply disoriented about her identity: “I was really confused then, because at first I thought I was black, then I thought I was Hispanic and joined a cholo gang.”

To judge from myriad Internet snapshots with captions like “Tila in Red Bikini,” though, it is not the Emma Lazarus dimension of her tale that made Tila Tequila a social-network-magnet on MySpace or, for that matter, impossible to look away from on even the tiniest of hand-held screens.

It has been said many times of the Internet that it radically subverts the traditional relationship between high and low, in terms both of culture and class. Yet Meg Whitman, the chief executive of eBay, did not get her career start posing for the video game “Street Racing Syndicate” and, absent a miracle, Tila Tequila’s chances of taking the helm of eBay are nil. Some structures remain rigid, and so it’s worth pointing out that the primary purpose of trash entertainment may not be to provide critics with opportunities to take potshots, but to hold a mirror up to a constituency for whom Tila Tequila is more home-girl than pole-dancing oddity.

People watch her show and mob her on MySpace because, in some sense, they already know someone like her and are looking to participate in a trajectory that has vaulted her out of the projects, away from gangs and into an echelon of the “entertainment industry” that, while it will never include invitations to the Vanity Fair Oscar party or drinks at the Ivy with Demi Moore, still manages to give her recognition, limousine service and a shot at “love” with 32 brand new friends.

“Whether you think Tila Tequila is corny or not, she already has a certain legitimacy to her name,” said Roger Gastman, the editor of Swindle magazine, an indie journal and Web site. Its most recent issue has Death and Fame as its theme. Tila Tequila may have “started out very niche, but she has crossed over to the mainstream,” said Mr. Gastman, citing what he termed “a body of work” including a Maxim cover, a hit show, a MySpace page that now links to a site offering guidance on how to become like her. “Tila could probably do signings at comic book conventions forever if she wanted to,” Mr. Gastman said.

And this would undoubtedly suit Ms. Tequila, for whom fame, she said, was never actually so much the goal as was fulfilling her love for acting and dancing and stripping and modeling and singing and, not incidentally, escaping the limited career growth available to someone who not long ago was posing half-naked on car hoods.

“The press and the media have glorified the celebrity thing and brainwashed people to live in that world,” Ms. Tequila said. “People try to stand out for nothing and they end up getting quote-unquote famous. I’m not into that at all. If you’re just into fame for fame, I’m like, ‘O.K., but what are you good at? What can you actually do?’”


Hollywood braces for a strike

If writers walk out Thursday, thousands of others' paychecks will be at risk. The timing is especially bad this year.

By Claudia Eller and Richard Verrier
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

October 28, 2007

Film and TV writers, actors and crew members are canceling vacations, working overtime and squirreling away savings while they still can.

Talent agencies, postproduction houses and equipment rental shops have drawn up plans to cut costs and payrolls while caterers and special-effects houses scramble to find jobs that reduce their dependence on the entertainment industry.

All over Hollywood, people are bracing for a strike.

Writers could walk out as early as Thursday if their union can't hammer out a new three-year employment contract with the studios to replace one that expires at midnight on Halloween. The two sides were huddled Friday at the Writers Guild of America West offices in the Fairfax district in an effort to wrangle a deal but, after four hours, had made little headway. They agreed to meet with a federal mediator Tuesday when talks resume, people involved said.

It would be the first writers strike in 20 years -- and more painful than the last one, in 1988, which lasted five months, economists say. Hollywood is a more dominant force in the region today, with studios and networks part of media giants such as Time Warner Inc., Walt Disney Co. and News Corp. that have bulked up to feed an entertainment-hungry world.

The timing would be unfortunate, given the already disruptive housing downturn and, lately, the wildfires.

"If it [cost the industry] $500 million in 1988, a slowdown of that length would have over a $1-billion impact today. I'm very concerned," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in an interview.

Because of the scores of businesses that rely on the entertainment industry, a long walkout would inflict pain beyond Hollywood's studio gates.

"It would affect everyone: the people who mow your lawn and those who serve you at restaurants," said former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, who worked to avert a Hollywood labor dispute when he was in office in 2001. "It's not just the wealthy that are going to get hurt."

The entertainment industry contributes nearly 7% -- an estimated $30 billion annually -- to the county's $442-billion economy, supporting not only studio jobs but companies tied to the industry, including hotels, restaurants, florists and even dog groomers.

Though tourism and international trade employ more people, entertainment remains L.A.'s signature industry, accounting for about 250,000 jobs and as many more that are indirectly tied to the business. That is up from about 69,000 in 1985, although certain jobs counted now were not included then.

If a strike were to occur, one of the hardest-hit sectors would be the tens of thousands of technical workers who toil behind the scenes on the sets of movies and TV shows. Electricians, camera operators and other blue-collar crews work under separate contracts and don't have a say in whether writers walk.

No one can predict how long any strike might last. Although the film and TV writers are not discussing their plan of attack, picket lines probably would go up at select studios around town.

Production would not come to a complete halt. Writers for commercials, sports programs and reality TV would be free to work because they are not covered under the guild contract.

Filming on movies with finished screenplays would continue. Television programs with a stockpile of scripts would still be made. Networks appear to have enough shows to carry them through most of the fall TV season. Some series, however, could run dry as early as December.

The networks have been sorting through their libraries looking for reruns and various unscripted programs such as game shows that they could use in the event of a prolonged strike.

The danger is that TV viewers, without their favorite shows, would turn to the Internet and other forms of entertainment that are increasingly grabbing younger audiences. "Moonlighting" never recovered after going off the air during the 1988 strike.

"Look what happened during the baseball strike," said former Warner Bros. Chairman and Dodgers CEO Bob Daly, now retired, who is no stranger to labor disputes. "Attendance was down and didn't come back right away."

In this case, he added: "The average person doesn't pick sides. They just say, 'Why can't I watch "Law & Order" and "Desperate Housewives?" ' "

The writers guild and studio representatives have made little progress since they began negotiating in July. The two sides are far apart on several issues, including extra payments when guild members' work appears on home video and is distributed via the Internet.

Further fueling labor tensions are upcoming contract talks with two other unions -- representing actors and directors -- whose contracts will end concurrently June 30. Although the Directors Guild of America probably will negotiate an early deal with studios, as it has in the past, the Screen Actors Guild -- which shares many of the writers' concerns -- is expected to engage in contentious talks.

The prospect of one or more strikes would come at a bad time for Southern California, where the local economy has been squeezed by a downturn in the housing market and the financial services industry. That helped to increase Los Angeles County's unemployment rate to 5.1% in September, up from 4.6% last year, economists said.

Even without a strike, L.A.'s economy is expected to slow next year, growing by 0.9%, down from 1.1% in 2007, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

"It's not the best of times for something like this to happen," said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the development organization. "If a strike lasts a few weeks, it will be a blip. If it lasts several months, it would definitely have a significant impact."

Making matters worse is the fact that Los Angeles has lost hundreds of feature film productions over the last decade to countries such as Canada and Britain and more recently to other states -- including New Mexico and New York -- that offer tax incentives.

A prime-time TV program employs hundreds of people. Take Fox's popular spy drama "24," filmed in L.A. About 350 people work on the show and most of them are not in the writers guild. Beyond nine writers and 11 actors who are series regulars, the crew includes 35 set builders, 14 security guards, 27 people who work in transportation, 17 lighting technicians and riggers, three medics, 14 set decorators and 25 directors, production managers and others.

A drawn-out strike could throw thousands of such workers onto the street and have an immediate trickle-down effect.

David Offer, a real estate broker with Prudential California Realty in Brentwood who specializes in high-end sales on the Westside, said: "At a time when the mortgage market is a mess and there are depreciating home values, we don't need any other outside forces impacting us."

Companies such as Burbank's 24/7 Studio Equipment Inc., which leases forklifts and aerial equipment to film crews, are girding for the worst. "It would be devastating for us," co-owner Lance Sorenson said. "I couldn't survive unless I changed my business plan."

In preparation for a possible strike, the studios have accelerated projects, scrambling to shoot as many episodes of existing series before any work stoppage. They have imposed an Oct. 31 deadline for writers to submit scripts, creating a mad rush.

A strike next month would be most disruptive to midseason programs that will begin airing in January and to next year's TV pilot season. A prolonged walkout could force networks to cancel series in advance of the February sweeps period, when station advertising prices are set. As for movies, studios are shooting some sooner than they would have, mainly to get them completed before a possible actors strike. The studios have enough films in their pipeline to fill theaters in 2008.

Still, some feature productions have been derailed or stalled. Michael Diersing, a construction coordinator, was preparing to work on "Creature From the Black Lagoon" in Brazil and Los Angeles when he got word that Universal Pictures had postponed production, in part because the script couldn't be shaped up before Oct. 31. The decision affected about 200 crew members, Diersing said.

"I've got a couple of hundred people that were all counting on being able to support their families," he said. "Everybody was pretty shocked."
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Craig: Sex sting arrest was unconstitutional
ACLU agrees, says senator’s foot-tapping in stall was protected speech
The Associated Press
Updated: 6:52 p.m. MT Oct 26, 2007

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Idaho Sen. Larry Craig will argue before an appeals court that Minnesota's disorderly conduct law is unconstitutional as it applies to his conviction in a bathroom sex sting, according to a new court filing.

This is the first time Craig's attorneys have raised that issue. However, an earlier friend-of-the-court filing by the American Civil Liberties Union argued that Craig's foot-tapping and hand gesture under a stall divider at the Minneapolis airport are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.

Craig has been trying to withdraw his August guilty plea to disorderly conduct. A judge turned him down earlier this month, and now Craig is taking his request to the state Court of Appeals. The conservative Republican at one point said he would resign from the U.S. Senate but now says he will finish his term, which ends in January 2009.

Craig's legal arguments are previewed in a "statement of the case" filed late Thursday. In addition to the constitutional argument, it says the judge erred by not allowing Craig to withdraw his plea and that the judge who sentenced Craig to a fine and probation never signed anything saying he accepted the guilty plea.

Craig was arrested in June by an undercover police officer who said the senator moved his foot next to the officer's foot and tapped it in a way that indicated he wanted sex. He was also accused of sending a signal by swiping his hand under the divider between the stalls. Craig said the officer misconstrued those motions.

Craig's attorneys are due to file formal briefs on the matter by mid-December, and they asked to make an oral argument before the appeals court judges in St. Paul. No hearing has been scheduled.

Guardian Unlimited

Ban this Sixx filth !!!

Thought Mötley Crüe's biog The Dirt was the ultimate rock read ??? Pah! Ian Gittins helped bassist Nikki Sixx write his gruesome journals. Those of a nervous disposition, look away now ...

Ian Gittins
Saturday October 27, 2007


On Valentine's Day 1986, I interviewed Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe for now-defunct music magazine Melody Maker. Both were wasted, and Sixx was particularly incoherent: by the end of the day, he had OD'd on heroin and been dumped in a wheelie bin by a panicking dealer before miraculously recovering.

Nearly 20 years later, I was to receive a phone call out of the blue from Sixx that led to one of the most surreal biographical commissions since Boswell latched on to Dr Johnson. "Dude", the bassist asked me, "will you help me tell the story of how I died?"

I flew to Los Angeles and spent the next few weeks sitting with the tattooed, intense-but-likable Sixx by his swimming pool, poring over old journals and yellowing scraps of paper. The story they told was remarkable, disturbing - and, ultimately, utterly bizarre.

In the late-80s, Mötley Crüe were stadium-filling heavy metal colossi and a major influence on the emerging Guns N' Roses. Yet at the band's heart, co-founder and sole songwriter Sixx was an abject junkie, a melancholic depressive... and an idiosyncratic and obsessive diary-keeper.

His diary entries chronicled a dual and scarcely feasible life. In the throes of addiction, the troubled Sixx would stumble from the stage of Madison Square Garden or the LA Forum to the walk-in closet of his bedroom, where he would spend all night hallucinating as he injected heroin and cocaine into his arms, his neck or, frequently, his penis.

"I feel like my skin is rotting off me," he noted on November 18, 1987. "I smell like shit and my shit has more and more traces of blood in it. I feel like I'm about to burst into tears at any minute." His entry of May 15 was even more direct: "I have a pile of clothes in the closet with shit all over them."

This was harrowing stuff - and yet the tone was not always so morbid. There were copious moments of unintentional comedy: "I called the hotel front desk last night and complained about our fans banging on my window," Sixx noted in Tokyo as the Crüe toured Japan. "Fuck - I'm on the 26th floor."

Sixx's hideous 1987 diaries were utterly compelling, but my role was not limited to helping him render them legible. The bassist asked me to talk to his former friends, lovers and musical peers so that their barbed memories could punctuate his book.

Crüe drummer Tommy Lee was my first point of call for vintage tales of narcotic heroism, and he did not disappoint.

"I was a party animal back then, sure, but Sixx was out there," Lee reflected, from the rare personal vantage point of the moral high ground. "He always wanted to try to mix up drugs to see how far out there he could get.

"I'll never forget being in a hotel in Canada with him. We ran out of blow and stayed up all night shooting up Jack Daniel's. We were so fucked, we totally forgot we could just drink it."

Now sober for many years, Sixx was determined that his drug-fuelled transgressions should be painted in the most candid and harshest light. Luckily, his family, friends and ex-lovers were happy to oblige. Mötley Crüe's 1987 manager Doc McGhee recalled frenzied early hours phone calls as the wired bassist suffered paranoid, freebase-coke-induced panic attacks.

"Nikki was always seeing Mexicans and midgets running around his house," he told me. "Or the LA police department would call me because his neighbour had phoned them to report that he was crawling around his garden in the middle of the night with a shotgun. It would be bad enough if it happened once, but this shit was going on twice every week."

In private, Sixx was a sorry mess. In public, he was a monster. Photographer Ross Halfin told me of a 43-man gangbang of a willing Crüe fan after a Toronto show: "For some reason, Nikki wanted to be nice to me, so he let me go before him."

Mötley Crüe's A&R man, Tom Zutaut, talked of taking his new girlfriend backstage to meet the band before a gig. "Within three minutes, Nikki had bent her over a table and done her," he said. I asked Sixx to confirm this had happened. "I'm sure it did," he nodded. "But I can't remember."

"I just took a handful of pills. If I'm lucky, maybe I won't wake up," Sixx wrote in his diary on November 23, 1987. His smack- and coke-fuelled debauchery was to end exactly one month later when he OD'd in LA. Paramedics pronounced him dead before, somehow, the defibrillator rebooted him one last time.

"I was there when Nikki died and I couldn't see what all the fuss was about," Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash told me. "I used to do it all the time."

"After I died, when I got home I went straight to my answering machine and changed my message," Sixx laughed as we sat by his pool in the LA sunshine. "I said, 'Hey, it's Nikki. I'm not here because I'm dead'. Then I shot up again"

"Do you know what? Thinking back on things, I think that I had definitely been overdoing it".

· The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx with Ian Gittins is out now

The joy of Sixx

Choice entries from Nikki's journal

February 17, 1987

"Today I didn't drink, mostly because I'm pissing blood again. I think I've done pretty good today."

March 4, 1987

"My arms are fucked and it's getting harder and harder to find a good vein in my feet. Tonight I sat in my closet injecting into my neck with a shaving mirror."

March 19, 1987

"I just took a shit and realised yet again that I haven't bought toilet paper in weeks..."

April 8, 1987

"Here I sit. Alone again. Needle in my arm. Playing the fucking victim yet again - or is it the martyr?"

October 14, 1987

"People... everywhere... there seems to be nowhere to hide, not even on the inside..."

November 20, 1987

"Slash and me sat at the hotel bar and got smashed. He threw up spaghetti all over the bar then ordered another drink."

Waiting for Netflix's Plot to Advance

By Mike Musgrove
Sunday, October 28, 2007; F01

"It's like a three-act play, and we're in the opening minutes of the second act," says Steve Swasey, vice president of corporate communications at movie-rental Web site Netflix, as he gives a tour of the company's Rockville processing center.

Act 1, as far as the company is concerned, was getting people used to renting DVDs over the Internet. Act 3 is "no more DVDs and everything is online."

As the curtain rises on Act 2, the world is somewhere in the middle. Tech companies, including established retailers such as Amazon.com and start-ups with names like Vudu, have been tripping over themselves to figure out how to hook up the living-room TV to the home's high-speed Internet connection.

None of these products has been a hit, and some executives seem bent on keeping expectations low. Apple chief executive Steve Jobs called his company's entry in this product class, called Apple TV, a "hobby."

Online music sales took off because it became faster and easier to download a song than to go to the store, said Stephen Baker, an analyst at research firm NPD Group. The idea is to make movies go that way, too, though the technology isn't quite there yet.

"The technology industry knows what people want," he said. "They just haven't been able to deliver it in an easy-to-use, affordable format yet."

Netflix is experimenting, too. After all, the by-mail business model that made it a success could disappear as quickly as the old mom-and-pop video store, particularly if Apple or Amazon figures out a more appealing approach that doesn't rely on the U.S. Postal Service.

As a Netflix subscriber -- I've checked out more than 80 discs this year -- I'm sort of fascinated with the company, as are many subscribers I know. A recent test drive of Apple TV was interesting but wasn't enough to lure me away from Netflix. But I also doubt I'll be dropping those red Netflix envelopes in the mail forever.

To nudge the digital revolution a little further along, the company in January made about 5,000 of the 85,000 titles in its library available for instant online viewing. So far, subscribers have watched 10 million programs online. Compared with the company's core business, handling the mailing of about 1.6 million DVD rentals a day, that's still a relatively small number: about 40,000 online viewings per day, by my math. Act 3 is years away, Swasey said.

With 7 million subscribers, the service is popular enough that it has helped more than one movie find an audience that didn't turn up at the box office. About as many people have checked out "Hotel Rwanda" from Netflix as saw it in the theater.

The company has even become a producer of films, descending on film festivals and snapping up movies that the studios didn't pick up.

It offers 100 or so independent films that sometimes aren't available elsewhere, thanks to deals struck by its division called Red Envelope Entertainment. One indie movie PR executive jokes that he doesn't know if Netflix is a video store or a network these days.

Last year, for example, Netflix had a six-month exclusive on "This Filthy World," a film about a one-man show by Baltimore director John Waters.

Waters, who might be most famous at the moment for his flick "Hairspray," gave his parents a subscription to Netflix for Christmas last year and said he counted himself as a fan of the service even before the deal.

"When I was born, you had to go to L.A. or New York to see good movies," he said. "Now you don't have to leave where you were born to be cool."

The director, who is currently working on a children's film, said the selections at some theaters are low. Netflix is "making available films that you cannot see in your local theater, and that's incredibly important," he said.

Netflix's Washington area hub is tucked into generic-looking office space; it's possible to walk around the outside of the building without realizing you've arrived at the Netflix processing center, one of 46 such hubs across the country.

The company keeps the location low-profile because it doesn't want people wandering in to try to return the movie they just watched, which is exactly what I tried to do at the start of a recent visit.

On a typical day, the Rockville hub processes about 85,000 DVDs; Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the busiest because people tend to watch movies on the weekends. If a movie goes too long without a rental, it gets sent back to a central warehouse. But if a Washington area subscriber has a movie in his or her queue, it stays. The system relies on bar codes, machines and 60 or so fast-moving workers.

For Netflix to be able to offer films such as Waters's one-man show, it has to get the word out to members who might be interested in the film. Its ratings system collates 2 billion user-submitted reviews to predict which movies its subscribers will like.

It isn't always perfect. To show off some of Netflix's features, Swasey opens a laptop and connects to his own account. Based on his enthusiastic rating of "Champion," a moving documentary about character actor Danny Trejo, Netflix has recommended that Swasey check out a disc called "Ultimate Fighting Championship: Liddell vs. Ortiz 2."

"Interesting," he says. "I don't think I'm going to like this movie at all."

Which reminds me, for some reason, of behavior I've noted among some of my Netflix-using friends; sometimes you check out the movie you think you should see, even if it doesn't turn out to be the light entertainment you actually feel like watching when Friday night rolls around.

"Hotel Rwanda," for example. I had it on my coffee table for a few weeks before I ever got around to watching it.

"I've had it for eight months," Swasey confessed. "I just can't bring myself to watch it because I know it's going to be depressing."

Sex Pistols reunite for sweaty L.A. club show

By Dean Goodman
Fri Oct 26, 2007

Anarchy and punk rock nostalgia reigned on the Sunset Strip on Thursday as the Sex Pistols played a rare club show in Los Angeles to warm up for a brief reunion tour in Britain next month.

About 500 sweaty fans packed the Roxy Theatre for the private show, the group's first public performance in four years. The English foursome played almost all of their songs during the hour-long set, including their best-known tunes "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen."

The show was predictably a little rusty, with singer John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) forgetting the words to the first song of the night, "Holidays in the Sun." But he added some bonus lyrics along the way, notably "Paris Hilton, kiss my arse" in "Stepping Stone."

He also struggled with sound problems and the heat.

"It's hotter than (expletive) hell up here," said Lydon, 51, clad in a traditional Indian kurta, tartan pants and blue vest and guzzling red wine from the bottle.

The combustible singer was in cheerily sarcastic form for much of the night. When a young woman bounded onto the knee-high stage and hugged guitarist Steve Jones, 52, in the middle of a song, Lydon quipped: "Steve Jones always gets the fat ones!"

Towards the end, Lydon took an unscheduled bathroom break and emerged a little later "15 pounds lighter."


But Lydon eventually lost his temper after he was hit in the face with a drink. He threatened to kill the "coward" if he caught him. The fan, 21-year-old Manuel Vasquez, told Reuters he snuck into the show.

The Sex Pistols, rounded out by bass player Glen Matlock and drummer Paul Cook, both 51, are scheduled to make two television appearances in Los Angeles next week before heading to Britain for a four-night stand at London's Brixton Academy, beginning November 8, followed by a show in Manchester.

The latest tour coincides with the 30th anniversary of their album "Never Mind the Bollocks ... Here's the Sex Pistols" -- considered one of the most influential albums of the rock 'n' roll era.

The Sex Pistols formed in 1975, four layabouts united by limited musical ability, mutual disdain and a vague belief that they had an alternative to the pompous music of the day.

Matlock, a key songwriter, was ousted in early 1977. He was replaced by Sid Vicious, who could not play bass at all but is considered the band's best-known member.

"Never Mind the Bollocks" topped the U.K. charts in October 1977. But Lydon quit the following January during a disastrous American tour. Vicious died of a drug overdose in 1979.

The band first reunited in 1996 and then again in 2002 and 2003. Lydon and Jones live in Los Angeles, the others in London. Jones has perhaps the highest profile of the lot, hosting a popular Los Angeles midday radio show.

The Sex Pistols were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year but refused to show up, sending a rude, handwritten note instead.

Job Centre seeks women to strip as £8-an-hour 'webcam performers'

27th October 2007

A Jobcentre has provoked outrage after it was found to be advertising for women to strip for web cams on Internet sex sites for £8 an hour.

According to the advertisement, the role involves "explicit dialogue" and "performing for clients' or customers' fantasies".

Astonishingly, the Department for Work and Pensions insisted that it is legally obliged to carry the advertisements.

However politicians and family campaigners lined up to criticise the policy last night - claiming it legitimises the sex industry and encourages women to work in it.

The controversial advertisement was posted in a Jobcentre Plus branch in Cardiff, south Wales and nationwide on the agency's website.

It offered an hourly wage for women to work 15 to 40 hours a week, between 9pm and midday. There is no pension.

Placed by a company called Cybtrader, the advertisement - which remains within legal boundaries - is unshamedly brazen when it comes to describing exactly what the role entails.

It reads: "Duties include performing to a web cam for clients or customers fantasies. Duties involve explicit sexual dialogue which may cause embarrassment for some people."

The advertisement cautions applicants that the job is not suitable for under 18s but adds: "No experience needed as training can be provided."

The would-be employer adds: "There is no obligation to consider making an application for this vacancy. However, if you feel it is suitable for you, please discuss it further with an advisor.

"This vacancy meets the requirements of the National Minimum Wage Act. Tax Credits could top up your earnings."

Yesterday family campaigners lambasted the Jobcentre's decision to carry the advertisement.

Adrian Rogers, of the Conservative Family Institute, said: "It is outrageous that this kind of work is advertised in Jobcentres. It is very important that we do not legitimise the sex industry like this."

Hugh McKinney, of the National Family Campaign, said: "There is a real danger that impressionable young adults will be forced into these amoral, degrading and inappropriate jobs. "

Elsa Hill, a manager at Eaves, a charity that houses women trafficked into prostitution, said: "It is wrong. The Jobcentre should have and could have rejected the advertisement.

"There are grades of work in the sex industry, but appearing on an internet web camera on a sex site is ultimately indistinguishable from prostitution.

"Whatever the myths around the sex industry, the reality is very different: it is abusive, degrading and humiliating.

"It is the Government's responsibility to do something about this: they should be looking at criminalising the buying of sexual services, not advertising it and encouraging it."

Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe said: "People who are very vulnerable and desperate coming into Jobcentres. They shouldn't be exposed to that sort of thing. It is quite wrong."

2007/10_04/jobcentre_228x384.jpgJob Centre: Just the place for securing a sex-industry job

It is not the first time that Jobcentres have come under fire for offering sex work.

Earlier this year, Jobcentre branches were discovered offering work as £100 an hour "escorts" working for a company offering "no-strings adult fun".

The Department for Work and Pensions, which runs the Jobcentre network, insists that it is legally obliged to carry the advertisements after a test case brought by the Ann Summer sex shop chain in 2003.

Then a High Court judge ruled that Jobcentres must carry advertisements for legal work in the "sex and personal-services industries."

A spokeswoman for the DWP said: "Our advisers always check on the full details of any vacancies notified to us."

She added: "We thoroughly investigate complaints about employers including those in the adult entertainment industry and service. We have safeguards in place to ensure customers are fully aware of the nature of these jobs."

When the Daily Mail called Cybtrader's number yesterday afternoon it went to an answer phone. Romantic music played in the background as a woman with a husky voice claimed she would "love to talk" but was busy.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Times Online Logo 222 x 25

Making the campaign into a running joke

undefinedStephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert says that he is running for president because “the junctures that we face are both critical and unforeseen, and the real challenge is how we will respond to these junctures, be they unprecedented or unforeseen, or, God help us, critical”.

His entry into the 2008 race for the White House – announced last week “after nearly 15 minutes of soul-searching” – is, of course, part of an elaborate joke to promote his late night TV comedy show and bestselling book I am America (And So Can You!). A group set up in Colbert’s honour on Facebook, the social networking website, signed up its millionth member yesterday, making him by far the most popular presidential hopeful on the internet.

The slow-dawning realisation that he is serious about being a candidate has caused some grinding of teeth from the sometimes pompous American political and media Establishment that he satirises with such effect.

An opinion poll this week suggested that he would get 2.3 per cent support in Democratic primaries – more than Bill Richardson, the Governor of New Mexico, Senator Chris Dodd, Congressman Dennis Kucinich and former Senator Mike Gravel.

Tom Reynolds, the spokesman for Mr Richardson, responded in po-faced fashion. “This is a serious election with serious consequences and we are not going to comment on this ridiculous exercise,” he said. “The country has seen eight years of a joker in the White House, and look where it got us.”

There is no chance that Mr Colbert will become president. He plans to stand only in his native South Carolina, on both the Republican and Democratic party ballots, so that “I can lose twice”.

Katon Dawson, the state’s Republican party chairman, has advised that Mr Colbert would be better off spending the $35,000 entrance fee to “buy a sports car and get a girlfriend”. He added: “Running for President of the United States is not something that you can really have a lot of fun with, because of the federal election laws.”

But Comedy Central, the cable TV channel that hosts Colbert’s faux news show, has hired a top Washington election law firm to navigate the legal minefield that lies ahead on questions about election expenses and whether TV channels can be used to promote a White House bid.

Colbert has shown quick feet in getting around such difficulties, telling his 1.3 million nightly audience that they must use a new campaign website rather than one linked to Comedy Central to sign a downloadable petition seeking to get his name on the South Carolina Democratic ballot. Last week he deftly skirted questions over whether Doritos could sponsor his campaign by appearing in split screens to talk about his candidacy and then lavish praise on the fast-food snack.

Playing the character of a blowhard right-wing pundit Colbert has popularised the term “truthiness,” defined as preferring facts one wishes to be true rather than those known to be true. He has even tested out truthiness in action by coining the phrase “wikiality”, by which if “enough people agree with a notion, it becomes the truth”.

He told viewers to silence the endangered-species lobby by claiming that the population of African elephants had increased threefold in the previous six months. Within hours so many changes had been made to Wikipedia that its administrators had to restrict access to its “elephant” and “Stephen Colbert” entries.

Stephen Colbert poses during the launch party for

The Gospel according to Stephen Colbert

“Sorry, but retirement offends me. You don’t just stop fighting in the middle of a war because your legs hurt. So why do you get to stop working in the middle of your life just because your prostate hurts?" (on old people)

“Marriage is the basic building block of society. And if gay men get married, that threatens my marriage immediately because I only got married as a taunt towards gay men because they couldn’t." (on gay marriage)

“I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things; he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers, and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world." (on President Bush)

“I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq." (on President Bush)

“We’ve learnt John Roberts is a nonosense guy, prefers a half-Windsor knot for his tie, is not fan of cufflinks. And, most tellingly, he parts his hair on the left, which very well might raise some hackles on the Right"

Sources: I am America (And So Can You!); speech to the White House;

William Shatner saddened that his Capt. Kirk isn't aboard for new 'Star Trek' movie

LOS ANGELES — The original Capt. Kirk is disheartened he won't get to boldly go anywhere with his old pal Spock in the new "Star Trek" movie.

While Leonard Nimoy is reprising his role as the pointy-eared Vulcan in next year's science-fiction flick, William Shatner is not on board as Kirk.

"I couldn't believe it. I'm not in the movie at all. Leonard, God bless his heart, is in, but not me," Shatner, 76, told The Associated Press on Thursday. "I thought, what a decision to make, since it obviously is a decision not to make use of the popularity I have to ensure the movie has good box office. It didn't seem to be a wise business decision."

Director J.J. Abrams announced last summer that Nimoy would reprise the role he originated opposite Shatner in the 1960s television show and played again in six big-screen adventures.

Abrams said Shatner probably would have a part in the film, which is due in theaters in December 2008. But while Shatner said he had a couple of meetings with Abrams, nothing came of it.

Abrams' Trek film, whose plot is being kept under wraps by distributor Paramount, recounts an early adventure for the crew of the starship Enterprise, with Chris Pines as the young Kirk and Zachary Quinto as the young Spock.

The cast includes Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy, Simon Pegg as engineer Scott, John Cho as helmsman Sulu, Zoe Saldana as communications officer Uhura and Anton Yelchin as navigator Chekov, roles respectively originated by DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig.

Past Trek films presented an obstacle to the revival of Shatner's Kirk, who died at the end of 1994's Star Trek: Generations.

But in science fiction, you can never truly say die. Spock was killed off in 1982's Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan then resurrected in 1984's Star Trek: The Search for Spock, with Nimoy's Vulcan living on to co-star in three more films, two episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and now Abrams' new movie.

"I've got a lot to do," said Shatner, whose current work includes the TV show Boston Legal, narration for the Christmas spoof Stalking Santa due on DVD on Nov. 6, and the prequel Star Trek: Academy — Collision Course, a novel chronicling Kirk and Spock's first meeting.

Shatner says of "Star Trek": "Having been in on the creation of it, I was hoping to be in on the re-creation."

Barbara Wlaters & Diane Sawyer are Obsolete !!!

Owen Wilson Tells-All Post-Suicide to MySpace


In a savvy bit of News Corp synergy, The Darjeeling Limited's star Owen Wilson tonight at midnight airs his first interview since his September suicide attempt on MySpace.com. owenmyspace.JPG

This was the result of a marketing brainstorm by Darjeeling's studio Fox Searchlight, which approached fellow News Corp.-owned MySpace.com with the idea for the interview by Owen's friend and Darjeeling director Wes Anderson.

It's a 5- to 10-minute pre-taped piece: Anderson and Wilson set the agenda themselves, and Anderson directed, edited and produced the whole thing.

Hilariously, there's a really angry article about this on ABC News, which just happens to employ both Barbara and Diane.

Headlined, "Tell All Or PR Ploy?", ABC News complains how fallen stars now have a far more appealing option than the ABC interview divas:

"Cut the pesky journalist out of the mix and tell all, on their own terms, on the Internet. It's the ultimate form of image control."

But ABC News defends the use of journalists for celebrity interviews, claiming the TV newsosaurs have integrity.

What B.S.

Owen Wilson's Interview: Tell-All or PR Ploy?

Owen Wilson Opens Up Online, on His Own Terms

Owen WilsonOwen Wilson's forgoing the primetime sob-fest for an Internet interview where he's in control.


Oct. 26, 2007 —

Forget the prime-time sob-fest with a marquee journalist: The new place for celebrities to talk after a traumatic event may be (where else?) on the Internet.

Owen Wilson's first interview since his September suicide attempt is set to post on MySpace.com Friday at midnight. Will he tell all? Probably not: His interviewer is filmmaker and friend Wes Anderson, who directed Wilson in "The Darjeeling Limited" and stood up for the actor when the media pried into his personal struggles.

Fox Searchlight, the studio that released "The Darjeeling Limited," currently in theaters, told ABCNEWS.com that it approached MySpace.com with the idea to do the interview. Both Fox Searchlight and MySpace.com are owned by the same parent company, News Corp.

Considering all that, Elyane Rapping, a professor of American studies and pop culture at Buffalo University, doubts that Wilson and Anderson will talk about anything but "The Darjeeling Limited." She said it's likely Fox Searchlight is using Wilson's suicide attempt as a way to drum up press for the independent film and preserve its reputation.

"I wouldn't put anything past any of those people," she said. "And I think that they have to do this because otherwise it puts it a really dark taint on the movie, that this movie was being made while someone was suicidal. If they don't say anything, then it really does call into question the ethics of the people who made this movie."

A spokesperson for MySpace.com said that the pretaped interview will be between five and 10 minutes long. According to the spokesperson, Anderson and Wilson set the agenda themselves, and Anderson directed, edited and produced the whole piece.

Picking Out the Pesky Journalist

It used to be that controversy-saddled celebrities sidled up to big-name reporters when they were ready to tell their tales, revamp their public image and revive their careers. Gary Condit came clean to Connie Chung, Monica Lewinsky cried to Barbara Walters, Britney Spears sobbed to Matt Lauer, Paris Hilton pledged philanthropy to Larry King.

Now that Internet video has come into its own, thanks to the popularity of YouTube and the advent of highly produced shows on sites like MySpace, fallen stars have a far more appealing option: Cut the pesky journalist out of the mix and tell all, on their own terms, on the Internet. It's the ultimate form of image control.

Wilson's interview will be part of MySpace.com's Artist on Artist series, which turns the traditional celebrity interview format on its head. Instead of talking to a reporter, pop culture personalities sit down and interview one another. Past pairings include Nobel Prize winner Al Gore and hip-hop artist Mos Def; filmmaker Michael Moore and R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe.

So if celebrities can craft their own interviews and broadcast them on a Web site that gets millions of hits each month, does that mean all star-chasing entertainment reporters, this one included, should pack up their belongings and go home? Not exactly.

"Whatever you think about the big network journalists, they do for the most part adhere to certain journalistic standards. With MySpace, we have no idea what this is going to be," said Bob Thompson, Syracuse University professor of popular culture. "From the sounds of it, [the Wilson interview] will have about as much credibility as any other MySpace posting."

In other words, Thompson thinks there will always be a need for tried-and-true reporters to pry into the personal lives of those in the public eye. And it's not likely that the people who relished Spears' cringe-inducing 2006 interview with Lauer will back away from their TVs anytime soon.

"You need only look at the recent Nielsen statistics that show that for the amazing year the Internet had last year, television viewing went down by exactly one minute," Thompson said.

And even if Wilson chose to open up on the Internet rather than on television, it's clear that Fox Searchlight and MySpace.com still realize the importance of TV and celebrity journalism. They gave "Entertainment Tonight" exclusive first rights to broadcast a clip of the interview on their Friday show, though they declined to let ABCNEWS.com view the interview in advance for this story. One look at the show's Web site, ETonline.com, shows that they're billing the Internet clip as a big scoop.

"It's ironic, but it makes absolutely perfect sense," Thompson said. "When all is said and done, if one does an innovative thing on the Internet, the most effective way to spread that is still the old fashioned way -- television."

In the end, whether on TV or on the Internet, celebrities do interviews for the same basic reasons: to enhance their image and promote their latest project (in Wilson and Anderson's case, "The Darjeeling Limited). Thompson said to expect nothing more or less from the MySpace interview.

"If you really wanted to get to the bottom of the story of Owen Wilson, if you really cared, you'd want an investigative reporter to do the digging," he said. "This is not real journalism. It is a combination of movie PR, damage control and image reconstruction."

Britney Spears takes on the downtown LA courthouse

britneycourt102607_6.jpgbritneycourt102607_7.jpgbritneycourt102607_8.jpgbritneycourt102607_9.jpgIn case you missed our live coverage, here's the video of Britney's chaotic arrival to court this afternoon!

Britney appeared calm and cool, even smiling for a few photogs before trying to pull into the employee parking lot with Alli Sims by her side.

But the swarm of media around her car prevented her from entering, and she had to go around the block.

After waiting for about 10 minutes for security to decide where to direct her (popping M&Ms and giggling with Alli as she waited) until she eventually drove around to another door.

Britney, looking gorgeous with her long hair done, sporting some new bling and a new dress, appeared confident as she entered the courtroom.


FEMA Meets the Press, Which Happens to Be . . . FEMA


By Al Kamen
Friday, October 26, 2007; A19

FEMA has truly learned the lessons of Katrina. Even its handling of the media has improved dramatically. For example, as the California wildfires raged Tuesday, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy administrator, had a 1 p.m. news briefing.

Reporters were given only 15 minutes' notice of the briefing, making it unlikely many could show up at FEMA's Southwest D.C. offices. They were given an 800 number to call in, though it was a "listen only" line, the notice said -- no questions. Parts of the briefing were carried live on Fox News, MSNBC and other outlets.

Johnson stood behind a lectern and began with an overview before saying he would take a few questions. The first questions were about the "commodities" being shipped to Southern California and how officials are dealing with people who refuse to evacuate. He responded eloquently.

He was apparently quite familiar with the reporters -- in one case, he appears to say "Mike" and points to a reporter -- and was asked an oddly in-house question about "what it means to have an emergency declaration as opposed to a major disaster declaration" signed by the president. He once again explained smoothly.

FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker interrupted at one point to caution he'd allow just "two more questions." Later, he called for a "last question."

"Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" a reporter asked. Another asked about "lessons learned from Katrina."

"I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far," Johnson said, hailing "a very smoothly, very efficiently performing team."

"And so I think what you're really seeing here is the benefit of experience, the benefit of good leadership and the benefit of good partnership," Johnson said, "none of which were present in Katrina." (Wasn't Michael Chertoff DHS chief then?) Very smooth, very professional. But something didn't seem right. The reporters were lobbing too many softballs. No one asked about trailers with formaldehyde for those made homeless by the fires. And the media seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA's greatness.

Of course, that could be because the questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters. We're told the questions were asked by Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy director of external affairs, and by "Mike" Widomski, the deputy director of public affairs. Director of External Affairs John "Pat" Philbin asked a question, and another came, we understand, from someone who sounds like press aide Ali Kirin.

Asked about this, Widomski said: "We had been getting mobbed with phone calls from reporters, and this was thrown together at the last minute."

But the staff did not make up the questions, he said, and Johnson did not know what was going to be asked. "We pulled questions from those we had been getting from reporters earlier in the day." Despite the very short notice, "we were expecting the press to come," he said, but they didn't. So the staff played reporters for what on TV looked just like the real thing.

"If the worst thing that happens to me in this disaster is that we had staff in the chairs to ask questions that reporters had been asking all day, Widomski said, "trust me, I'll be happy."

Heck of a job, Harvey.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino condemned FEMA for staging a phony news conference

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House scolded the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday for staging a phony news conference about assistance to victims of wildfires in southern California.

The agency — much maligned for its sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina over two years ago — arranged to have FEMA employees play the part of independent reporters Tuesday and ask questions of Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the agency's deputy director.

The questions were predictably soft and gratuitous.

"I'm very happy with FEMA's response," Johnson said in reply to one query from an agency employee.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said it was not appropriate that the questions were posed by agency staffers instead of reporters. FEMA was responsible for the "error in judgment," she said, adding that the White House did not know about it beforehand and did not condone it.

"FEMA has issued an apology, saying that they had an error in judgment when they were attempting to get out a lot of information to reporters, who were asking for answers to a variety of questions in regard to the wildfires in California," Perino said. "It's not something I would have condoned. And they — I'm sure — will not do it again."

She said the agency was just trying to provide information to the public, through the press, because there were so many questions.

"I don't think that there was any mal-intent," Perino said "It was just a bad way to handle it, and they know that."

FEMA gave real reporters only 15 minutes notice about Tuesday's news conference . But because there was so little advance notice, the agency made available an 800 number so reporters could call in.

And many did, although it was a listen-only arrangement.

On Thursday, FEMA employees had played the part of reporters. Johnson issued a statement Friday, saying that FEMA's goal was "to get information out as soon as possible, and in trying to do so we made an error in judgment."

"Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received," he said. "We can and must do better."

Officials at the Homeland Security Department, which includes FEMA, expressed their concern.

"This is simply inexcusable and offensive to the secretary that such a mistake could be made," Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner said Friday, referring to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.

"Stunts such as this will not be tolerated or repeated."

Keehner said senior leadership is considering whether a punishment is necessary.

FEMA Faces Firestorm for Phony Presser

FEMA: Click to Watch!It's certainly one way to avoid the tough questions.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is getting serious flak after it let staffers pose as journalists and lob softball questions at one of its top officials at a hastily organized "press briefing" on the California wildfires.

Deputy administrator Harvey Johnson took "questions" from four people identified by the Washington Post as three directors and a press aide, who then didn't allow any questions from the actual journos in the room.

The White House strongly criticized FEMA, and the agency apologized for its "error in judgment." FEMA, of course, was once run by Michael Brown, whose qualification for the job was his experience in running the International Arabian Horse Association. He later resigned.