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Lit 101

Phil Jackson Holds Court at the Alex Theatre

At one point during last night’s Live Talks Los Angeles event at the Alex Theatre featuring Phil Jackson and the coach’s former locker room charge John Salley, a Lakers fan sitting directly behind FishbowlLA bellowed, “Fire Jim Buss!” Never mind that the heckle-target is A) one of the team owners and B) a likely future Jackson brother-in-law.

First and foremost, Los Angeles still loves Phil, a sentiment on full display at last night’s sold-out Glendale Q&A. The talk was part of the zen coach’s very active media tour for his new book Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success and benefited from interviewer Salley’s humorous, insider approach.

For example, Salley led off with an anecdote about being hauled into Phil’s office and learning he was being released from the Lakers. Leading him to declare a change in that summer’s plans to smoking lots of marijuana.

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Lynda Obst Decries Hollywood’s ‘New Abnormal’

Twenty years after shepherding the classic 1993 rom-com Sleepless in Seattle, producer Lynda Obst is sharing something called Sleepless in Hollywood. Her second book arrives Tuesday and, befitting a treatise that regularly references gargantuan tentpole productions, has a prominent main pillar of its own.

Obst’s thesis is capitalized in the sub-title and solidly contextualized in the first chapter. The author uses the short-form of Scene rather than Chapter; so, from Scene One: The New Abnormal:

How did this happen? How did it become easier for someone who knows no one to make a movie for $150,000 than for someone who knows everyone to make one for $20 million? Or for a guy who made a movie for $100,000 to make his next movie a superhero tentpole for $100 million? Nothing makes any sense…

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UCLA Extension Novelist Glad She Didn’t Listen to Mom

Mom had different hopes for LA journalist and author Alison Singh Gee. As the writer recalls in a delightful Q&A with the South China Morning Post, for whom she wrote extensively in the 1990s and still freelances occasionally today, it was all about TV and airborne glamour:

“My mother wanted me to be either the new Connie Chung, a contestant on Wheel of Fortune or a stewardess. Really. My father was a stifling patriarchal sort who never really gave us much of an audience. So I decided that if I couldn’t talk freely, I could write my feelings and ideas out instead.”

“I wrote my first “book” as a child, an illustrated book about dogs. I always kept journals full of tortured thoughts and so when I graduated from university and graduate school in London it seemed logical for me to pursue journalism.”

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From Ross the Intern to Ross the Author

It’s kind of funny that Ross Mathews‘ May 7 memoir Man Up! has Chelsea Handler and Jay Leno‘s fingerprints all over it. Because the 33-year-old multi-media star is the rare exception to the general rule that Handler’s talk show is now the vehicle that mints fresh-faced young comedic talent, rather than the place Johnny once ruled in that manner.

Handler’s eye for stand-up and quirky talents that will stick and grow with the public is uncanny. Mathews has been making the publicity rounds for his upcoming literary debut, including a CNN.com Q&A. Here’s what he told network intern Tess Gilbert when asked to back up his book-claim that one person can change the world:

“Listen, I know it’s true because I’ve lived it, and I’ve done it, OK? I brought butternut squash back. There was a restaurant, they took an item off, I fought, they brought it back, and they named it after me, OK? And I’m just one person. And of course it’s silly to say that it’s changing the world, but it’s just an example. It’s the little things you do to say, ‘No I’m not going to stand for that! I’m not going to stand for it!’ Those little things add up.”

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How William Friedkin Gunned His Way to The Exorcist

One of the most enjoyable anecdotal aspects of William Friedkin’s new autobiography The Friedkin Connection involves the late Blake Edwards. In 1966, when Friedkin was just getting started as a director on the TV side, he had the privilege of being asked to read the script for a planned feature film version of Edwards’ earlier TV series Peter Gunn. But it’s what happened at a subsequent Monday morning breakfast meeting that really made the difference:

“So what do you think?” Edwards asked.
I chose my words carefully, but I had to say what I felt and accept the consequences. “Blake, I think the script is a piece of sh*t.”
He looked up in shock, his English muffin poised in midair. “What?” He set his muffin down and looked at me directly, not so much mad as confused. “What did you just say?” A bitter smile crossed his lips.

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Visually Impaired Readers Can Now Fully Enjoy Blind Lesbian Detective Series

There’s so much going on here, it’s hard to know where to start. Diane Anderson-Minshall, executive editor of The Advocate, and her husband Jacob, started out as a lesbian couple. They are currently working on a memoir titled Queerly Beloved, about their 22 years together including eight with Jacob as a successfully transgendered male.

The married duo have also co-authored a trio of San Francisco mystery novels featuring a blind lesbian detective protagonist. For years, visually impaired readers have been asking for audiobook versions and these are now finally available via audible.com for $7.49 each, with narration by actress Aiko Nakasone.

The installment Blind Curves, for example, starts with the discovery of the body of a murdered lesbian magazine publisher. The prime suspect, Velvet Erikson, a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle, hires said private investigator (and former lover) Yoshi Yakamoto to help clear her name. Here’s how Audible editor-at-large Susie Bright describes the three-book “Blind Eye” series:

“It’s like Veronica Mars meets San Francisco meets lesbians… The novels poke fun at lesbian clichés, while at the same time pulling you in with authentic drama.”

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Slake is Still Alive and Kicking

With founding editors Laurie Ochoa and Joe Donnelly landing jobs at the LA Times and the Santa Barbara start-up Mission and State respectively, the fate of their LA-literary magazine Slake seemed to be in doubt. That was until today, when Donnelly sent around a link to a GOOD magazine grant campaign–which Slake hopes to be the beneficiary of.

Looks like it’s one of those social media, most votes gets the cash deals. So if you want to see Slake in print again, like we do, vote here.

Nia Vardalos Has the Skinny on Adoption

Get ready to see and hear a whole lot of Nia Vardalos. In support of the April 2 release of her book Instant Mom, the actress-writer will be making a variety of appearances next week including The Today Show, Katie, BRAVO’s Watch What Happens Live and, perhaps most promisingly, Frank De Caro’s SIRIUS XM radio show.

Vardalos got a couple of nice advance blurbs from comedienne friends for her book about what went into her and husband Ian Gomez’s 2008 foster-care adoption of a three year-old girl. Kristin Chenoweth says Instant Mom is “pure, beautiful honesty” while SNL alum Rachel Dratch raves that she “certainly didn’t expect to laugh and cry on the same page.”

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Harold Robbins’ Cheeky World View Comes Alive in Wife Grace’s Tell-All Memoir

Much like a Harold Robbins novel, the first few pages of Cinderella and the Carpetbagger, Grace Robbins’ recollection of what it was like to be the wife of the mega-best-selling author, reach out and grab you by the shirt collar.

Robbins explains that back in the day, she and Harold threw two kinds of parties. The first were in the grand old Hollywood tradition, packed with A-listers and well-covered by the press. The other were secretly convened bachanals, often abetted by the bartending of Scotty Bowers and a large crystal bowl full of cocaine. It is one of these parties that anchors Robbins’ prologue and helps launch her fantastically entertaining throwback memoir:

“Here” was the master bedroom of our ten thousand square-foot mansion in the famous hills overlooking Beverly Hills – a bedroom so enormous most apartments would easily fit within its space…

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‘Bombastic Bushkin’ Reveals the Man Behind The Tonight Show Curtain

There are so many great anecdotes in A Hard Act to Follow, attorney Henry Bushkin’s February 19 book about his deeply invested professional and personal relationships with Johnny Carson, that it’s difficult to know where to start. But from an LA perspective, here are a few stories to whet the appetite.

Bushkin recalls the night Carson first used the term “Bombastic Bushkin” in a monologue, right after Tonight Show writer Pat McCormick coined it during a Beverly Hills poker game. Although the talk show host made sure to double check that Bushkin would be OK with the gag, the attorney’s mother was aghast, calling within minutes of the joke being delivered on-air to ask her son if he was about to be canned. The next day, Carson insisted on calling mom personally to reassure that all was well.

Then there’s the first major business deal engineered in LA by Bushkin. Together with several other investors, Carson purchased independent Las Vegas area TV station KVVU (now a FOX affiliate) for $1,000,000. Some ten years later, Bushkin says the station was flipped for $25,000,000.

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