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Nikki Finke Cranks Out Her Best New Story Yet

JeffBlakePicWhy did Nikki Finke return to the Internet airwaves, under threat of litigation from her former boss Jay Penske? So she could continue sharing stories like this one.

Finke’s behind-the-scenes account of what led to this week’s forced exit of Sony Pictures Entertainment vice chairman Jeff Blake (pictured) expertly triangulates his fate with the politics of a conglomerated studio lot, the machinations of Dan Loeb and the actions of Blake’s scrambling, fearful bosses (Amy Pascal, Michael Lynton). It’s a must-read and, best of all, is only Part One.

Finke reveals that Blake was almost scapegoat-fired last summer following a secret July 4 meeting. She notes that when it all, almost came crashing down last year, Blake, a longtime box office source, came to her with an unusual request:

I loathe those calls I sometimes have to make telling Hollywood bigwigs they’re in danger of getting axed. To my surprise, Blake verbally shrugged it off except to say “Water rising here”.

But he also asked for a favor, something he’d never done in all the years I’d known him: to “take a beat” before writing about the studio and him at least until after Elysium opened on August 9th. Rightly or wrongly, I agreed.

Early reader comments are full of praise for this Finke article. Like a number of these readers, we also can’t wait for Part Two:

Anonymous: Best entertainment article I’ve read in 2014 by a country mile. Thanks Nikki, you are, in my book, officially back.

Sony Stooge: This is what Nikki does better than any other showbiz reporter. She reports the ugly truth and provides facts with her snark and cynicism. Amy is a spoiled brat she’s always been a diva and a selfish bitch and she should have been fired a year ago. Michael is a putz and for them to blame marketing is disgraceful…

Anonymous: This article is exceptional. The kind of thought out business reporting young writers only interested in breaking casting news should learn from…

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Freelancing 101

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Hardcore Pawn Stars: ‘We’re Not Actors’

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Viewers of reality TV often want to know if they’re watching actors or real people.

Recently, we got a chance to ask the people who might know, the starts of truTV’s Hardcore Pawn Les and Ashley Gold.

While Les told MediabistroTV he’s an actor inasmuch as a good salesperson needs to be an actor, the two assure us what you see on the show is real.



Part Two: Why are Pawn Shop Shows so Popular?

Part One: Five Weirdest things Pawned

Bill Maher Sees Dead Cable People

SteveDoocyPicPer a guest column in this week’s Hollywood Reporter, the host of Real Time has a bad, sick-sense feeling about the possible takeover of Time Warner by News Corp. What’s good for the Doocy, the acerbic TV host imagines, will not be good for the Maher:

There’s a terrible price to pay for this. (I mean besides the terrible price I personally will pay when Rupert takes over HBO and my show becomes Paste-Eating Time With Steve Doocy.)

Maher may have it wrong. It seems to FishbowlNY that the more likely Fox News morning show host to be gifted with some extra Friday Real Time would be Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

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Maria Russo Rejoins the New York Times

RussoHeadshotAfter a long run in Los Angeles, veteran journalist and editor Maria Russo is headed back to New York City. Starting August 4, she will be the children’s book editor for the New York Times Book Review.

Here’s the memo from TBR editor Pamela Paul and deputy editor David Kelly:

Maria is a veteran of TBR, having filled in as a preview editor under Chip McGrath, and a native New Yorker. She was first brought in as a freelance book reviewer by Dwight Garner, whom Maria succeeded as books editor at Salon. Maria is also a former features editor at the New York Observer.

Despite all her New York cred, for the past 10 years, Maria has been working in Los Angeles, where she was most recently the editor in chief of Pasadena magazine. Before that, she was an editor in the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times. Maria has also published widely as a freelancer, writing for the Magazine and the Book Review, among other venues.

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AFAR Media’s Trajectory: Self-Funded, Bi-Coastal, Profitable

In 2009, AFAR Media was launched with a focus on travel and a combined $20 million investment from Joe Diaz, Greg Sullivan and Ernie Garcia. This summer, at the five-year anniversary mark and with the August/September issue having just hit newsstands, AFAR has arrived at profitability.

Branded content currently accounts for a third of AFAR’s revenues. In the latest print issue, starting on page 19, there is for example “Artisans Inspired.” Part of a year-long partnership with The Ritz-Carlton, the three-page feature is anchored around quotes from surfer Loni Klein, New York Botanical Gardens curator Karen Daubmann and international travel excursions leader Sean Nelson.

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“This is a multi-dimensional, multi-platform branded content program that lives in print, mobile and on desktop,” says Diaz during a recent telephone conversation with FishbowlNY. “How we try to approach branded content is – it’s really all about what is the core idea. What are the hooks, what are the elements that are going to get people excited.”

“We don’t care if it’s paid [content] or if it’s editorial,” he adds. “Our philosophy is that the content always has to be good. And we’re not shy about making sure everybody knows that this is paid for. The whole idea of the campaign is that artisans inspire and let’s help bring those rich values and characters to life, through the eyes of the people on the ground.”

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GQ Interviews Kanye West

GQ went full Kanye for its latest issue. The 37-year-old artist graces the glossy’s cover and was interviewed for an accompanying feature.

In the piece, West is typical West — meaning he says a lot of things that don’t make sense, makes a few comments that are truly insightful, and continues to take himself way too seriously.

Below are some of our favorite quotes from the interview. Try using some at the next party you attend and see how many people politely suggest that you stop drinking.

I’m fighting with the way I line my words up together and the way I place a sweater on top of a T-shirt.

The concept of Kimye has more cultural significance than what Page Six could write.

Even “Bound 2,” when the video came out, I think people’s apprehension—I mean, it’s the same as any other Kanye West video. You just have colorful bears running around. It was completely morphed and weird and psychedelic and really druggy. I would have just liked to have had more nudity in it. That’s the only thing. I just want to do crazy, colorful shit like that that has more nudity.

CBS Outdoor Buys Van Wagner’s Billboards

CBSOutdoorLogoSo how much is one of those big advertising billboards worth in the open market? Well, if you do the math – dividing the $690 million paid by CBS Outdoor for 1,100 Van Wagner billboards – it works out to a little over $672,000.*

Per AP, the deal is subject to regulatory approval and won’t take effect until 2015. The transaction involves prime impression-real-estate from coast to coast:

About 600 of the billboards are in Los Angeles and 294 are in New York. The rest are in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington.

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In Praise of Philip Seymour Hoffman

PhilipSeymourHoffmanAMostWantedManReaction to John le Carré‘s essay in this Sunday’s New York Times is cascading forth on Twitter.

From San Francisco, Nelle Engeron opines that the piece is “the brilliant and heartbreaking obituary he [Philip Seymour Hoffman] deserves.” In Madison, Wisconsin, Dave Martin dubs le Carré’s “Staring at the Flame” the “best read of the week.” And from London, singer David Albury calls the article: “Touching and honest. And sad.” They’re all correct.

From le Carré’s essay:

No actor had ever made quite the impact on me that Philip did at that first encounter: not Richard Burton, not Burt Lancaster or even Alec Guinness. Philip greeted me as if he’d been waiting to meet me all his life, which I suspect was how he greeted everyone. But I’d been waiting to meet Philip for a long time.

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Closer to Home, American Psycho Musical Will Be Closer to the Film

PatrickBatemanStillIn one sense, New York’s Second Stage Theatre is the perfect place for the American-side debut of a musical based on the movie American Psycho. The company was founded in 1979, just ahead of the 1980s era during which Patrick Bateman commits a series of finely tailored “murders and executions.”

In separate emails to the New York Times, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who will write the modified American book for the musical, and Second Stage artistic director Carole Rothman promised this version will be gorier than the production staged last winter in London:

Aguirre-Sacasa: “We’re going to put a bit more ‘psycho’ in the text and production, a little more horror and suspense.”

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RIP: Elaine Stritch

Broadway World has one of the first and best comments about the passing of the 89-year-old stage and film legend. It comes from Stritch’s agent Joel Dean:

“Elaine was truly one-of-a-kind. She was feisty, irascible and at the same time very vulnerable. After first meeting her she was very protective and hard to get to know but once I did she would be a friend forever. I learned not to be intimidated when she yelled at me which was very often.”

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