Archive for the Media Category


Posted in Media, Music on September 29, 2011 by Miranda Wilding


Long before the success of FLEETWOOD MAC, when band founder MICK FLEETWOOD was a kid in the U.K. learning how to play the drums, he dreamed of having his own restaurant. His parents entrusted the then nine year old with the stable of the old farmhouse they lived in and young MICK turned it into something of a children’s speakeasy that he called CLUB KELLER.

Instead of booze, he poured Coca Cola.

“I used to serve up Smith’s crisps and fish & chips and stuff for other children to come round,” the bearded rocker recalled during a recent interview, his eyes twinkling at the memory.

“I had my radiogram and my drums in there and it was my world.”

Now, five and a half decades later, MICK is creating a new world for himself and his music: He’s opening a restaurant in his adopted hometown of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

FLEETWOOD’S ON FRONT STREET is set to open early next year and its namesake sees it as the next professional chapter in his life: A place where he can indulge his taste for fine food and drink (including his own MICK FLEETWOOD PRIVATE CELLAR wines), perform with his friends and run the whole show. He plans to showcase local musicians and artists and invite the occasional famous rock star. The new establishment is essentially a large scale souped up version of his old CLUB KELLER.

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” MICK said during a visit to his manager’s office in Beverly Hills.

“I’m like one of those weird Chinese creatures where you see something 30 years ahead. It’s petrifying and exciting and fulfilling because…if you keep focused, and it’s a corny thing, but if you visualize and visualize and visualize, a lot of stuff really does come to you.”

CLUB KELLER itself may actually be resurrected, said MICK’S business partner JONATHAN TODD.

“We have an option on a smaller place downstairs and – if we get it – I swear we’re going to call it Club Keller,” JONATHAN TODD commented.

Developing the restaurant is dominating MICK’S time. He helped choose the site (a historic building dating back to 1916 — the year his mother was born), select the décor and create the menu, but he insists “it’s not a shrine to Mick Fleetwood.”

“You’ll know that it’s my place but it will be very tastefully done. It’s not a museum for Mick Fleetwood. This is a real working restaurant.”

He said he’ll draw on the “heritage of Fleetwood Mac” to inform its atmosphere.

“All of this is a responsibility to do it properly and selfishly – a responsibility to something that’s very precious to me, which is everything I’ve done with Fleetwood Mac and my partners and the music.”

The restaurant has taken him away from music a bit and he expects that to continue, but that’s fine with him: “Now I will have a place to play when I want to or need to.”

Besides FLEETWOOD MAC, the musician has two other bands: THE MICK FLEETWOOD BLUES BAND and MICK FLEETWOOD’S ISLAND RUMOURS BAND. With or without his bandmates, MICK plans to play at the restaurant often — and there’s at least one more FLEETWOOD MAC tour planned.

“We’re going out next year. We’re all creatures of habit and we love what we do…Whatever has happened, we are together. The whole thing is powerful and all of that is somehow resonating into what I’m doing with the restaurant Fleetwood’s. It can’t help but have that filtering through it. It’s my place.”

But as his beloved band slows down (“Within the next five to seven years, I sort of doubt that Fleetwood Mac is going to be horribly active”), MICK said he’s excited to devote himself to his new endeavour.

“It’s a sense of plugging who I am and what I am into something…and for me it’s the perfect vehicle.”


Posted in Film, Journalism, Media on September 17, 2011 by Miranda Wilding


Phone hacking victim SIENNA MILLER said that she planted false stories with friends in an attempt to figure out why intimate details of her life were showing up in the British tabloids.

SIENNA, an actor and former fiancee of screen star JUDE LAW, told NBC’s TODAY show in an interview that aired Thursday that stories about her appeared in the newspaper that only her mother, sister, boyfriend and best friend knew about.

“At the time I was incredibly paranoid,” she stated.

SIENNA reached a 100,000 pound ($161,000) settlement with the tabloid THE NEWS OF THE WORLD, which had hacked into her cellphone messages.

She accused some of the people close to her of selling stories to the press. She’d plant the false stories to see if they appeared in the newspaper and thus expose a person betraying her. But the false stories never appeared.

SIENNA said she also became suspicious when it became clear there were a large number of voice mail messages that friends said they’d left and she never received.

“Everything is compromised enormously. It had a huge impact on relationships, friendships and my career.”


Posted in Film, Media on August 18, 2011 by Miranda Wilding

This article is written by MARSHALL FINE at THE HUFFINGTON POST

MARSHALL FINE is a distinguished film critic with his own website: HOLLYWOOD & FINE

I read a piece earlier this month by VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN on THE NEW YORK TIMES website that struck a chord and kind of crystallized something I’d been thinking.

Simply put, I’m ready to concede that context and cultural literacy – the awareness of cultural history and its impact and influence on contemporary art, whether it’s literature, film, music or something else – don’t really matter to today’s audience. They still matter to me, but more about that in a minute.

Ms. Heffernan was writing about education and the fact that most current education models don’t take the digital age – and the way young people receive information today – into account. There is still this expectation that the old ways are the best, still have value – that the canon, as it were, still has importance. But, as she observed:

When we criticize students for making digital videos instead of reading Gravity’s Rainbow, or squabbling on instead of watching The Candidate, we are blinding ourselves to the world as it is. And then we’re punishing students for our blindness. Those hallowed artifacts – the Thomas Pynchon novel and the Michael Ritchie film – had a place in earlier social environments. While they may one day resurface as relevant, they are now chiefly of interest to cultural historians.

The examples she picks – THOMAS PYNCHON’S sort of unreadable postmodern novel from 1972 and MICHAEL RITCHIE’S cult classic from 1972 – are odd but not inappropriate. Both are the kinds of titles that critics still reference. Or, at least, critics who are old enough to be aware of them. And when you come right down to it, critics are cultural historians of a sort, trying to tie the present to the past.

Audiences, however, apparently don’t give a rip. Or, at least, the audience that seem to matter most now, people in their 30s or younger. Cultural literacy – as in, having an awareness of culture before, say, 1980 – is dying. Those values hold no sway with this audience.

Not that I don’t cling to the notion that taking a more global or historical view is important in reviewing films. But it also seems increasingly futile. I’m not going to change my approach; but I’m aware that there is a growing audience that simply doesn’t care about that stuff.

I knew this stuff but I guess I didn’t want to admit it to myself. For example (and this isn’t really news), most people don’t seek edification from popular entertainment – they just want something that lets them escape for a little while. The urge for knowledge, growth, quality and standards don’t really figure in most people’s decision when they’re seeking entertainment. Yet the critic tries to approach his job as if the opposite were true – that quality is what matters most to audiences, instead of least.

This isn’t new; the battle between art and entertainment is older than SHAKESPEARE. But the changes in attitudes about it have shifted sharply in the past 10 or 15 years – since the internet ate the world. When I started working professionally as a critic, writing about entertainment and being a critic were specialized pursuits. You had to have a job on a newspaper to practice them (or mimeograph or Xerox your own newsletters and zines). To get one of those jobs, you had to be able to demonstrate a level of knowledge that others didn’t have – and the ability to communicate it in writing.

The internet changed that. No judgment; it just did. Anyone can publish now; no qualifications necessary – just an opinion and a little digital know how.

Which is why we get the movies we get and why we have the critical landscape that we have: because this world does belong to the young. Those of us with experience are aging out, as it were, becoming increasingly irrelevant to the popular discourse.

But here’s the thing: Even if you’re a young genius critic, you’re still young. And when you’re young, your context is limited and your tastes are different.

I recall my college years and the decade or two immediately afterward – a time when, essentially, I craved sensation and valued it as artistic expression. It’s the roller coaster mentality: If it shocks me, it must be worthwhile. That was my primary attraction as a young critic to all sorts of gruesome horror and violent action films of the period.

My taste for sadistic violence in movies has dwindled as I’ve gotten older, as the level and graphic nature of that movie violence has grown; torture porn, I believe it’s called. At some point, that craving for sensation dissipates, as you find that your own life provides more than its share of jolts and shocks.

But some things – like that youthful lust for the sensational – don’t change. So I concede: Being a critic in the traditional sense is a losing battle.

I’m not going to change my approach. I’m just coming to terms with the level of interest that the larger audience has in that sort of thing. Hopefully, my experience and body of knowledge still makes my view and my reviews worth reading.

At least until reading is replaced by something else.


Posted in Feminism, Media, Phenomenons, Television on August 17, 2011 by Miranda Wilding

This article is written by ROSEANNE BARR at NEW YORK MAGAZINE

ROSEANNE BARR was a sitcom star, a creator and a product, the agitator and the abused, a domestic goddess and a feminist pioneer. That was twenty years ago. But as far as she’s concerned, not much has changed.

During the recent and overly publicized breakdown of CHARLIE SHEEN, I was repeatedly contacted by the media and asked to comment, as it was assumed that I know a thing or two about starring on a sitcom, fighting with producers, nasty divorces, public meltdowns and bombing through a live comedy tour. I have, however, never smoked crack or taken too many drugs, unless you count alcohol as a drug. (I don’t.) But I do know what it’s like to be seized by bipolar thoughts that make one spout wise about Tiger Blood and brag about winning when one is actually losing.

It’s hard to tell whether one is winning or, in fact, losing once one starts to think of oneself as a commodity, or a product, or a character or a voice for the downtrodden. It’s called losing perspective. Fame’s a bitch. It’s hard to handle and drives you nuts. Yes, it’s true that your sense of entitlement grows exponentially with every perk until it becomes too stupendous a weight to walk around under, but it’s a cutthroat business – show – and without the perks, plain ol’ fame and fortune just ain’t worth the trouble.

Winning in Hollywood means not just power, money and complimentary smoked salmon pizza, but also that everyone around you fails just as you are peaking. When you become #1, you might begin to believe, as CHER once said in an interview, that you are “one of God’s favourite children,” one of the few who made it through the gauntlet and survived. The idea that your ego is not ego at all but submission to the will of the Lord starts to dawn on you as you recognize that only by God’s grace did you make it through the raging attack of idea pirates and woman haters, to ascend to the top of Bigshit Showbiz Mountain.

All of that sounds very much like the diagnosis for bipolar disorder, which more and more stars are claiming to have these days. I have it, as well as several other mental illnesses, but then I’ve always been a trendsetter, even though I’m seldom credited with those kinds of things. And I was not crazy before I created, wrote and starred in television’s first feminist and working class family sitcom. (Also its last.)

I so admire DAVE CHAPELLE. You did right for yourself by walking away, DAVE. I did not have the guts to do it, because I knew I would never get another chance to carry so large a message on behalf of the men and women I grew up with…and that mattered most to me.

After my 1985 appearance on THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON, I was wooed by producers in Hollywood, who told me they wanted to turn my act into a sitcom. When Marcy Carsey — who co owned CARSEY WERNER with her production partner Tom Werner (producers of THE COSBY SHOW) — asked me to sign, I was impressed. I considered THE COSBY SHOW to be some of the greatest and most revolutionary TV ever.

Marcy presented herself as a sister in arms. I was a cutting edge comic and she said she got that I wanted to do a realistic show about a strong mother who was not a victim of Patriarchal Consumerist Bullshit — in other words, the persona I had carefully crafted over eight previous years in dive clubs and biker bars: a fierce working class Domestic Goddess. It was 1987 and it seemed people were primed and ready to watch a sitcom that didn’t have anything like the rosy glow of middle class confidence and comfort and didn’t try to fake it. ABC seemed to agree.

They picked up ROSEANNE in 1988.

It didn’t take long for me to get a taste of the staggering sexism and class bigotry that would make the first season of ROSEANNE godawful. It was at the premiere party when I learned that my stories and ideas — and the ideas of my sister and my first husband BILL — had been stolen. The pilot was screened and I saw the opening credits for the first time, which included this: CREATED BY MATT WILLIAMS. I was devastated and felt so betrayed that I stood up and left the party.

Not one person noticed.

I confronted Marcy under the bleachers on the sound stage when we were shooting the next episode. I asked her how I could continue working for a woman who had let a man take credit for my work — who wouldn’t even share credit with me — after talking to me about sisterhood and all that bullshit.

She started crying and said, “I guess I’m going to have to tell Brandon [Stoddard, then president of ABC Entertainment] that I can’t deliver this show.” I said, “Cry all you want to, but you figure out a way to put my name on the show I created or kiss my ass goodbye.”

I went to complain to Brandon, thinking he could set things straight, as having a robbed star might be counterproductive to his network. He told me, “You were over 21 when you signed that contract.” He looked at me as if I were an arrogant restaurant server run amok.

I went to my agent and asked him why he never told me that I would not be getting the created by credit. He halfheartedly admitted that he had “a lot going on at the time” and was “sorry.” I also learned that it was too late to lodge a complaint with the WRITERS GUILD. I immediately left that agency and went to the WILLIAM MORRIS AGENCY. I figured out that Carsey and Werner had bullshitted Matt Williams into believing that it was his show and I was his star as effectively as they had bullshitted me into thinking that it was my show and Matt Williams was my scribe. I contacted BERNIE BRILLSTEIN and a young talent manager in his office, BRAD GREY and asked them to help me. They suggested that I walk away and start over, but I was too afraid I would never get another show.

It was pretty clear that no one really cared about the show except me and that Matt and Marcy and ABC had nothing but contempt for me — someone who didn’t show deference, didn’t keep her mouth shut, didn’t do what she was told. Marcy acted as if I were antifeminist by resisting her attempt to steal my whole life out from under me. I made the mistake of thinking Marcy was a powerful woman in her own right. I’ve come to learn that there are none in TV. There aren’t powerful men, for that matter, either — unless they work for an ad company or a market study group. Those are the people who decide what gets on the air and what doesn’t.

Complaining about the created by credit made an enemy of Matt. He wasted no time bullying and undermining me, going so far as to ask my costar JOHN GOODMAN, who played ROSEANNE CONNOR’S husband DAN if he would do the show without me. (JOHN said no.) That caused my first nervous breakdown.

To survive the truly hostile environment on set, I started to pray nonstop to my God, as working class women often do and to listen nonstop to PATTI SMITH’S PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER. I read THE ART OF WAR and kept the idea She that cares the most wins upmost in my mind. I knew I cared the most, since I had the most to lose. I made a chart of names and hung them on my dressing room door; it listed every person who worked on the show and I put a check next to those I intended to fire when ROSEANNE became #1, which I knew it would.

My breakdown deepened around the fourth episode, when I confronted the wardrobe master about the Sears Roebuck outfits that made me look like a show pony rather than a working class mom. I wanted vintage plaid shirts, T shirts and jeans, not purple stretch pants with green and blue smocks. She bought everything but what I requested, so I wore my own clothes to work, thinking she was just absentminded. I was still clueless about the extent of the subterfuge.

Eventually she told me that she had been told by one of Matt’s producers —his chief mouthpiece — “not to listen to what Roseanne wants to wear.” This producer was a woman, a type I became acquainted with at the beginning of my stand up career in Denver. I cared little for them: blondes in high heels who were so anxious to reach the professional level of the men they worshipped, fawned over, served, built up and flattered that they would stab other women in the back.

They are the ultimate weapon used by men against actual feminists who try to work in media and they are never friends to other women. You can trust me on that.

I grabbed a pair of wardrobe scissors and ran up to the big house to confront the producer. (The big house was what I called the writers’ building. I rarely went there, since it was disgusting. Within minutes, one of the writers would crack an utterly tasteless feminine hygiene joke that would make me want to murder them. Male writers have zero interest in being nice to women, including their own assistants, few of whom are ever promoted to the rank of writer, even though they do all the work while the guys sit on their asses taking the credit. Those are the women who deserve the utmost respect.)

I walked into this woman’s office, held the scissors up to show her I meant business and said, “Bitch, do you want me to cut you?” We stood there for a second or two, just so I could make sure she was receptive to my POV. I asked why she had told the wardrobe master to not listen to me and she said, “Because we do not like the way you choose to portray this character.”

I said, “This is no fucking character! This is my show and I created it — not Matt and not Carsey Werner and not ABC. You watch me. I will win this battle if I have to kill every last white bitch in high heels around here.”

The next battle came when Matt sent down a line for me that I found incredibly insulting — not just to myself but to JOHN, who I was in love with secretly. The line was a ridiculously sexist interpretation of what a feminist thinks — something to the effect of “You’re my equal in bed, but that’s it.”

I could not say it convincingly enough for Matt and his hand picked director walked over and gave me a note in front of the entire crew: “Say it like you mean it…That is a direct note from Matt.”

What followed went something like this: My lovely acting coach ROXANNE ROGERS (a sister of SAM SHEPARD) piped up and said, “Never give an actor a note in front of the crew. Take her aside and give her the note privately – that is what good directors do.” She made sure to say this in front of the entire crew. Then she suggested that I request a line change. So I did.

Matt, who was watching from his office, yelled over the loudspeaker, “Say the line as written!” I said, “No, I don’t like the line. I find it repulsive and my character would not say it.” Matt said, “Yes, she would say it. She’s hot to trot and to get her husband in bed with her and give it to her like she wants it.”

I replied that this was not what she would say or do: “It’s a castrating line that only an idiot would think to write for a real live woman who loves her husband, you cocksucker.”

ABC’s lawyers were called in. They stood around the bed while the cameras filmed me saying, very politely, over and over, “Line change, please.” After four hours of this, I called my then lawyer BARRY HIRSCH and demanded to be let out of my contract. I couldn’t take it any longer — the abuse, humiliation, theft and lack of respect for my work, my health, my life. He explained that he had let it go on for hours on purpose and that I had finally won.

He had sent a letter to the network and CARSEY WERNER that said, “Matt wasted money that he could have saved with a simple line change. He cost you four hours in production budget.”

That turned the tide in my favour.

BARRY told me Matt would be gone after the thirteenth episode. Which didn’t stop him from making my life hell until then. Some days, I’d just stand in the set’s kitchen weeping loudly. The crew would surround me and encourage me to continue. CJ, one of my favourite camera operators — an African ­American married to a white woman — would say, “Come on, Rosie, I need this job. I have five kids and two of them are white!”

I was constantly thinking about my own kids being able to go to college and I wrote jokes like a machine — jokes that I insisted be included in the scripts. (Lots of times, the writers would tell me that the pages got lost.) But thanks to BARRY, my then manager ARLYNE ROTHBERG, ROXANNE, my brave dyke sister GERALDINE BARR, the cast of great actors, the crew — who became my drinking buddies — the wardrobe department and the craft services folks, I showed up and lived out the first thirteen episodes, after which Matt left. Without all of them, I never would have made it.

(Most of the crew now work for Chuck Lorre, who I fired from my show; his sitcoms star some of my costars and tackle many of the subjects ROSEANNE did. Imitation is the sincerest form of show business.)

Matt stayed just long enough to ensure him a lifetime’s worth of residuals. Another head writer was brought on and at first he actually tried to listen to what I wanted to do. But within a few shows, I realized he wasn’t much more of a team player than Matt. He brought his own writers with him, all male, all old. Most of them had probably never worked with a woman who did not serve them coffee. It must have been a shock to their system to find me in a position to disapprove their jokes.

When the show went to #1 in December 1988, ABC sent a chocolate 1 to congratulate me. Guess they figured that would keep the fat lady happy — or maybe they thought I hadn’t heard (along with the world) that male stars with #1 shows were given Bentleys and Porsches. So me and GEORGE CLOONEY [who played ROSEANNE CONNER’S boss for the first season] took my chocolate prize outside, where I snapped a picture of him hitting it with a baseball bat.

I sent that to ABC.

Not long after that, I cleaned house. Honestly, I enjoyed firing the people I’d checked on the back of my dressing room door. The writers packed their bags and went to join Matt on TIM ALLEN’S new show HOME IMPROVEMENT, so none of them suffered at all. TIM didn’t get credit either.

But at least everyone began to credit me.

I was assumed to be a genius and eccentric instead of a crazy bitch and for a while it felt pretty nice. I hired comics that I had worked with in clubs, rather than script writers. I promoted several of the female assistants — who had done all the work of assembling the scripts ­anyway — to full writers. (I did that for one or two members of my crew as well.)

Call me immodest — moi? — but I honestly think ROSEANNE is even more ahead of its time today, when Americans are, to use a technical term from classical economics, screwed. We had our fun; it was a sitcom. But it also wasn’t The Brady Bunch; the kids were wiseasses and so were the parents. I and the mostly great writers in charge of crafting the show ­every week never forgot that we needed to make people laugh, but the struggle to survive and to break taboos was equally important. And that was my goal from the beginning.

The end of my addiction to fame happened at the exact moment ROSEANNE dropped out of the top ten, in the seventh of our nine seasons. It was mysteriously instantaneous! I clearly remember that blackest of days, when I had my office call The Palm restaurant for reservations on a Saturday night, at the last second as per usual. My assistant HILARY, who is still working for me, said — while clutching the phone to her chest with a look of horror, a look I can recall now as though it were only yesterday: “The Palm said they are full!”

Knowing what that really meant sent me over the edge. It was a gut shot with a sawed off scattershot, buckshot loaded pellet gun. I made HIL call The Palm back, disguise her voice and say she was calling from the offices of TOM CRUISE and NICOLE KIDMAN. Instantly, HIL was given the big 10 4 by The Palm management team. I became enraged and though she was uncomfortable doing it (HIL is a professional woman), I forced her to call back at 7:55 and cancel the 8:00 reservation, saying that ROSEANNE — who had joined TOM and NICOLE’S party of seven — had persuaded them to join her at Denny’s on Sunset Boulevard.

The feeling of being used all those years just because I was in the top ten — not for my money or even my gluttony — was sobering indeed. I vowed that I would make a complete change top to bottom and rid myself of the desires that had laid me low. (I also stopped eating meat for a year, out of bitterness and mourning for The Palm’s bone in rib eye steaks.)

As inevitably happens to all stars, I could not look myself in the mirror for one more second. My dependence on empty flattery, without which I feared I would evaporate, masked a deeper addiction to the bizarro world of fame. I had sold my time and company at deflated prices just for the thrill of reserving the best tables at the best restaurants at the very last minute with a phone call to the maître d’ — or the owners themselves, whose friendships I coddled just to ensure premium access to the aforementioned, unbelievably good smoked salmon pizza.

I finally found the right lawyer to tell me what scares TV producers worse than anything — too late for me. What scares these guys — who think that the perks of success include humiliating and destroying the star they work for (read Chuck Lorre’s personal attacks on CHARLIE SHEEN in his vanity cards at the end of TWO & A HALF MEN) — isn’t getting caught stealing or being made to pay for that; it’s being charged with fostering a hostile work environment. If I could do it all over, I’d sue ABC and CARSEY WERNER under those provisions. Hollywood hates labour and hates shows about labour worse than any other thing. And that’s why you won’t be seeing another ROSEANNE anytime soon.

Instead, all over the tube, you will find enterprising, overmedicated, painted up capitalist whores claiming to be housewives.

But I’m not bitter.

Nothing real or truthful makes its way to TV unless you are smart and know how to sneak it in and I would tell you how I did it, but then I would have to kill you.

Based on TWO & A HALF MEN’S success, it seems viewers now prefer their comedy dumb and sexist. People do what they can get away with (or figure they can) and CHARLIE is, in fact, a product of what we call politely the culture. Where I can relate to the CHARLIE stuff is his undisguised contempt for certain people in his work environment and his unwillingness to play a role that’s expected of him on his own time.

But, again, I’m not bitter. I’m really not.

The fact that my fans have thanked and encouraged me for doing what I used to get in trouble for doing (shooting my big mouth off) has been very healing. And somewhere along the way, I realized that TV and our culture had changed because of a woman named ROSEANNE CONNER, whom I am honoured to have written jokes for.


Posted in Media, Relationships on July 20, 2011 by Miranda Wilding


For an OSCAR winner who has been in his share of high profile hits, MATT DAMON happily lives life low key.

He can’t say that for some of the famous people in his circle.

“I have friends who are like prisoners. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, for instance,” MATT told German television TELE 5 over the weekend.

“They can’t just go someplace. If they go for a walk, it turns into an international incident.”

In contrast, stated MATT, “I’m really lucky, because I have the best of both worlds. I do the work that I love and need, but don’t need paramilitary troops to protect me when I walk out my front door.”

Besides, fame just isn’t his game.

“Ever since I found my wife [Luciana] and we had children, my whole life revolves around that. It gave my life a dramatic change in direction.”

Married in March 2003, they have four daughters.

“I’m not as crazy as most of the other stars. I don’t really know why, probably because I married a woman who isn’t an actress. And we live in New York.”

“As long as we don’t show up in typical tourist spots, we can walk the streets without being noticed. New Yorkers are very cool. They don’t flip out if they see me.”


Posted in Media on July 15, 2011 by Miranda Wilding

This article is written by BARRY LEVINSON at THE HUFFINGTON POST

I am going to tell you a story. It happened two years ago, but I thought it too strange a tale to tell at the time.

But now I wonder.

It was a chance meeting. In a diner. The type of eatery I love. He sat at the counter, a tall man, several days of a light salt and pepper stubble, otherwise well dressed. I sat next to him and periodically he laughed to himself, a telling sign to me. Beware of the crazy one, or so I thought. Avoid eye contact at all costs. But as I reached for the sugar our eyes met and he began to talk as though we were mid conversation.

“It’s just like in Dr. Strangelove, except the General didn’t go far enough.”

“What?” I asked, knowing I was making a mistake by encouraging him.

He added, “The General in the movie said fluoride was destroying our essence, our bodily fluids. He said it was a commie plot. Introduce a foreign substance into the water supply without our knowledge and let it get into our bodily fluids. But he didn’t go far enough.”

I knew I was in for the long haul so I asked, “What do you mean?”

And he answered quickly.

“The commies knew they could never destroy the U.S. in a war; we’re too powerful militarily. They couldn’t beat us economically. We are too inventive. A capitalistic country spinning like a shiny top. But they could with the fluoride.”

And then he went into the whole story…

He said the Soviets worked a deal where they not only added fluoride to the water supply through various water companies but put another ingredient that over time would make us dumber. Slowly it would dumb us down year after year and in that way the USSR would be able to defeat us. Make us too dumb to know better. A Cold War technique unrivalled in the annals of dirty tricks.

“Year after year you can track the results if you so choose. Test scores have steadily fallen among students. The level of debate has collapsed. No one can debate an issue anymore with any clarity. The media muddles stories, filled with inaccuracies and Congress is incapable of any logic whatsoever. But the Soviets were methodical; they put a higher dose of the dumbing down drug in Washington. That is blatantly apparent.”

I thought I had him on a logic question and I confronted him aggressively. “OK, that was the plan, but you left out the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War is over. We won.”

He smiled. Sipped his coffee. Then said, “That’s what makes it so Machiavellian.”

“What? I don’t understand.” I was intrigued and confused.

“They handed over the secret plans to high government officials here and they loved the idea. Then they quickly discussed it with some large corporations who also thought the idea was fantastic. And now they have continued the stupidification of America.”

“Why? What’s the benefit?”

And then he got enraged.

“Why? Why? Because a stupid electorate votes against its own self interest. It doesn’t know up from down. You can sell an ill informed public anything! You would think alarm bells would be going off, but no, nothing is being done. Recent tests show that kids in high school don’t even know the 13 colonies were in the east! Half of em don’t know what century the Civil War took place in or whom we fought in World War II or what the Cold War even was. And math? Science? Dumb and dumber. And who is taking the blame? It’s the teachers’ fault. They get paid too much!”

And then he started to laugh so hard he was choking himself.

“We feared the rockets and bombs…and this is how we are taken down.”

He got quiet for a few minutes and I didn’t want to encourage him to continue, unsure what to make of his wild tale. And then he quietly said, “This is the second time a great civilization destroyed itself.”

I wasn’t following him. “Rome poisoned itself with fluoride?”

“Not fluoride!” he yelled. “Lead! The elite class, the movers and shakers, were driven crazy by lead poisoning. The wealthy installed indoor plumbing and the pipes were made of lead. Over time they went crazy. Lead poisoning. Their behavior got stranger, more irrational. They started waging useless wars and overextending their empire until it completely crumbled.”

He pulled out some money to pay his check. Then turned to me. “How much water do you drink?”

“I don’t drink from the tap. Bottled water only,” I replied.

“Bottled water?”

And he laughed loudly as he walked away.


Posted in Glamour, Media on August 16, 2010 by Miranda Wilding

This article is written by TORY BURCH at THE HUFFINGTON POST

This summer, how many times have you been asked: Are you Team Jacob or Team Edward? Team Bill or Team Eric?

Honestly, I’m Team Dracula.

At the risk of alienating the female population of the world, I still think the original Dracula – the broody, moody, mysterious titular character of Bram Stoker’s literary classic – is the quintessential vampire.

He may be a distillation of European folklore and the scheming 15th century Romanian prince Vlad Tepes. But, as pop culture antiheroes go, Dracula sets the standard.

Think of Bela Lugosi in 1931’s DRACULA or GARY OLDMAN when he reprised the role in 1992.

What is it about vampires that we find so fascinating? They’re scary, but also charming, sexy and sophisticated when not playing into the cliché of flowing capes and slicked back coifs.

They’re supposed to be evil, but that much more attractive when they fight their natural instinct on behalf of good. This explains the current craze over modern characters like Edward Cullen, Bill Compton, the Vampire Diaries crew or Amy, the little vampire girl from Iowa who holds the fate of the world in her hands in Justin Cronin’s The Passage (a great summer read).

Like clockwork, every few years, we fall under the spell of vampires.

This latest obsession, fueled by Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga and HBO’s True Blood, is particularly gripping – New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently confessed her undying crush on Dracula. Even iTunes has succumbed to Vampire Weekend.

In fact, vampires make for great drama. Some of the most seductive characters in literature and on screen have been vividly embodied by these immortal creatures.

While my boys all said their 123s with Sesame Street’s Count von Count, I watched reruns of THE ADDAMS FAMILY and THE MUNSTERS.

MORTICIA ADDAMS and LILY MUNSTER played both vamps and sixties homemakers to perfection while siring an elegant form of goth chic from the slimming, plunging black ensembles to pin straight hair and dramatic makeup.

(Decades later, the look still crops up on fashion’s runways every few seasons in the form of black lace, sexy severe silhouettes, crosses and enticing red lipstick.)

The latest Hollywood buzz is that JOHNNY DEPP signed on to play Barnabas Collins in Tim Burton’s remake of the sixties soap Dark Shadows. But he is just one of many Hollywood heavyweights who has slipped into that kind of dangerously compelling territory.


While the undead clearly make for great drama, they also make for great romance.

Love is, after all, the reason Dracula became Dracula – why Twilight’s Bella is so ready to lose her humanity in favor of vampirehood. Blogs are alive, discussing True Blood’s current Bill/Sookie/Eric triangle.

It mirrors Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s Angel/Buffy/Spike triangle, from the powerfully resilient righteous blonde caught in the middle to how passionately fans have picked sides.

Yet here again, I think back to the original Dracula’s doomed love. You know he’s no good for Mina, but you still root for them to live happily ever after.

No matter what.