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Archives: September 2005

United Talent Agency? A Little Less So This Morning: Aloni, Lotsa directors to CAA

FISHBOWL L.A. EXCLUSIVE: Hollywood’s talent agents have a rich tradition of trying to nibble the competition to death, rather than swallowing it whole. Today, Creative Artists Agency took another bite out of United Talent Agency, luring over it UTA’s motion picture literary department head and agency partner, Dan Aloni.


Aloni is bringing to CAA a squadron of bigshot directors and writers, many from the comedy world, including Tom Shadyac (“Bruce Almighty,” “Patch Adams” etc.); “Wedding Crashers” director David Dobkin, “Batman Begins” helmer Chris Nolan, Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) Dean Parisot (“the upcoming “Fun With Dick and Jane”).


Aloni also represents Judd Apatow (“The Forty Year Old Virgin”), though it’s not yet clear if Apatow will decamp UTA for CAA as yet. Certainly, a fire-offering of several UTA mailroom interns is being sacrificed on Apatow’s front lawn even as we speak.


It’s the second Creative Artists foray into UTA’s henhouse in as many months, and it’s clear what CAA is up to: Breaking the stranglehold UTA has enjoyed on comedies: Back in July, Daily Variety reported that UTA film agent Jason Heyman and UTA television talent head Martin Lesack left for CAA, taking with them comedy superstars Will Ferrell and Dave Chappelle, as well as numerous sitcom actors as clients.


Jon Stewart Kills the Magazine Business

We’re blogging this from our bedroom this morning, so keep hitting the F5 key for more. This is ONE LONG POST. We have 15 pages of notes to fit into this tiny web space. There will be lots of typos and lots of things wrongly reported. SORRY. In advance. You try scribbling in the dark as a bunch of comedians rips apart your beloved magazine industry…..

The audience was atwitter last night at what was probably the coolest-ever ASME/MPA event. It was held at Jazz at Lincoln Center, for a sell-out crowd of what looked like 3,000 people in stadium-style seating. Keep in mind, this event was packed with not only the cool kids who are heading to Puerto Rico next month, but all those juicy advertising industry folks who the publishers are out to impress. It is Advertising Week in NY, after all.

Here’s how it was billed on the web site:

Inside the Covers – Laughing Matters: Magazines Celebrate Humor featuring Jon Stewart

This special event is sure to be one of the highlights of Advertising Week 2005, featuring Jon Stewart interviewing a panel of four leading magazine editors. This invitation-only event is part of the magazine industry’s “Inside the Covers” forums, a series of timely and provocative discussions.

Note how they didn’t even mention the magazine editors (Kate White, Jim Kelly, David Zinczenko and Graydon Carter) — and that was a sign of things to come. Watching Jon Stewart impishly pummel some of the preeminent magazine editors in our business was at times amusing, at times hilarious and horrifying all at the same time. This was no roast, it was a vivisection, a live vivisection (redundant, we know, but it still sounds right).

But, heck, anyone would be intimidated before JS’s meandering, wrecking ball wit.

We’ll start from the beginning, because you wouldn’t want to miss anything. First Nina Link (MPA chieftainess) got up and did her bit for the betterment of magazine-kind. “Magazines touch us in so many meaningful ways…help us try new things….fill our minds and hearts with inspiration…make us laugh.”

Then, Mark Whitaker (Church) and Tom Ryder (State) did their bit. Ryder, the ceo of Reader’s Digest Association, gestured toward the audience and said something about it being the largest collection of advertising minds in one room: “so much advertising talent…so much MONEY… We love these guys.” Whitaker recounted how Kate White, upon hearing that “God” was the word that sells the most Newsweek covers, had emailed him to say “Thanks for giving me this fab new cover line for Cosmo. ‘God, that was great last night!’”

Enter Suzie Essman (Curb Your Enthusiasm) with a raucous raunch routine, delivered in a heavy New Joisey accent. As Ryder and Whitaker made their way offstage, she shot over her shoulder: “I think I know that guy from years ago (referring to Ryder)… I had never met him before and he said “whore” to me…and I got up off my knees and marched right out of the men’s room…

Read more


Judith Miller outside.jpgIncarcerated NYT reporter Judith Miller was released from prison today after reaching an agreement with federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to testify before the grand jury — 85 days after her stubborn refusal to do so sent her to jail.

Miller’s source was Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff. Although Libby claimed to have released Miller to disclose their communications a year ago (to her former lawyer Floyd Abrams), according to the Times Miller was not convinced that the release was genuine and uncoerced. After weeks of negotiations between Miller, Libby, their lawyers and Fitzgerald, she apparently thinks so, and is set to testify tomorrow.

Wow. So, the truth is tantalizing close then; we’ll soon learn what Miller knew, and hopefully what Novak knew and what was in those eight redacted pages of the Appeal Court decision. And when Fitzgerald finally has Miller’s testimony — which he has said is the last piece of the puzzle he needs — perhaps we’ll actually find out what the hell Fitzgerald has been so doggedly pursuing in the first place.

It occurs to me that Judith Miller is coming out to a different reality; the post-Katrina reality of a weakened and foundering administration beset with scandal (DeLay, Brownie, Condi’s shoe shopping extravaganza) and an emboldened press. We know that she didn’t get to watch much CNN while in the clink, and despite her visitors and the printed material she was given, she’s probably going to find a lot to digest (God, holy information overload). Wonder how long it will be until she starts writing again, and about what; we still don’t know exactly what she knew or why she knew it (or if any deals were brokered with the prosecutor to secure her release). Let the mysteries unfold! In the meantime, welcome back, Judy Miller. Enjoy the freedom.

Times Reporter Free From Jail; She Will Testify [NYT]

Media odds and ends

- Not to harsh on anyone’s poignant realization of their own mortality, but the last sequence of the ‘Six Feet Under’ finale that everyone keeps talking about as the greatest moment of television, ever? It was a Prius product placement. Hey, it made me cry, too.

- The WSJ profiles local blog Go Fug Yourself, which is about clothes and the bad celebrity choices they make.

- Speaking of dubious marketing ploys

Behind Geffen’s froth hides the real question about SKG

Lost in the myriad coverage of news that NBC Universal won’t pay
a billion dollars for DreamWorks is any discussion of how a triumvirate of arguably the most powerful Hollywood guys of their generation could have failed so utterly to build a successful conglomerate.

Spielberg remains a director for hire. Katzenberg is the Spielberg of animation. And Geffen’s business acumen, when focused and present, is legendary.

And yet: Dreamworks’ reality has not matched it’s hopes. Just drive around Playa Vista You’ll find marsh grass – not the 350,000 sq. ft. of DreamWorks motion picture, television, interactive and music studios that were to anchor a million square feet of development.

Drive through Santa Monica, and you won’t find, the long-forgotten, abortive DreamWorks web venture that sucked down millions.

Stop by Nashville, Tennessee where you won’t find DreamWorks Records Nashville – it’s being shuttered this month by its parent company, Universal Music Group. Not that it much matters: Toby Keith has just left the label to launch his own company, Show Dog Records (so much for man’s best friend) leaving what was left of DreamWorks Nashville with a handful of wannabe acts.


Of late, DreamWorks Television has been a wrecking yard of expensive, failed shows: “The Contender” bombed almost as quickly (though not as expensively) as “Father of the Pride” – making NBC Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly even more ashen-faced than usual.

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No, seriously, Google really does want to rule the world — and beyond!

Google just signed a deal with NASA.


According to the press release, they’ve signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU; same thing as a Letter of Intent) in which they plan to to “collaborate on a number of technology-focused research-and-development activities that will couple some of Earth’s most powerful technology resources.” This, of course, is separate and distinct from their other plans to rule the world, detailed in the post below.

Areas of planned collaboration include (but are not limited to): “large-scale data management, massively distributed computing, bio-info-nano convergence, and encouragement of the entrepreneurial space industry. The MOU also highlights plans for Google to develop up to one million square feet within the NASA Research Park at Moffett

NASA Ames Center Director G. Scott Hubbord says he wants to bring “entrepreneurs into the space program”; Google CEO Eric Schmidt is happy, too, as long as you keep your damn nose out of his business (we kid! He’s an open book!).

The point is, Google just signed a deal with NASA. Its hegemony of the Earth and stars is complete. I reiterate: MARRY ME, SERGEI!

What is the legal status of dwarf-tossing?

Esquire‘s A.J. Jacob’s knows where to look, even if he doesn’t know how to write about it: Wikipedia, the online open-source encylopedia edited for the people by the people and stringenly self-regulated by same. Jacob’s had the rather meta idea of posting his original article on Wikipedia on Wikipedia and then letting the wikis have at it. Michael Kinsley would be proud; Andres Martinez would probably roll his eyes in bemused annoyance.

Jacobs started out with a deliberately crappy entry (though the know-it-all couldn’t resist beginning with a reference to Diderot’s Encylopedie) and then left it up on Wikipedia to be tinkered with by the obsessives monitoring its accuracy. The final version was locked last Friday. If you want to know the answer to the dwarf-tossing question, you now know where to find it (like I know. Please. I barely understand that Google post this morning).

In other news, A.J. Jacob’s enjoys watching Gilmore Girls and, now that Rory is of age, is not ashamed to admit it. (From this month’s Esquire, which also offers readers the chance to put music to some excruciatingly bad lyrics by John Mayer. A hilarious and unrelated John Mayer correction here.)

Wikis edit wiki []

LAT editorial page: Michael who?

An attentive reader points out this sentence in today’s LAT DeLay editorial:

But the real scandal in Washington, as someone once said, isn’t what’s illegal, it’s what’s legal.

Just who is this ‘someone’? Well…

From Slate:

Michael Kinsley once noted that the scandal isn’t what’s illegal, the scandal is what’s legal.

Bring me your dissipated, burned-out masses

From today’s NYT, in an article about people who use craigslist to buy home furnishings:

A Turkish kilim ($75) came from a young woman who told Ms. Cullerton she was poised to reinvent herself in Los Angeles. She had been making party gift bags for 10 years. “The party’s over,” she said.

Every surface of her tiny apartment near the Holland Tunnel was sanded, stenciled, wallpapered or otherwise worked over – as distressed as its occupant. “She really seemed at the end of her tether,” said Ms. Cullerton, who noted bookshelves filled with self-help primers on anger management and toxin removal.

Welcome! You’ll fit in just fine.

Martinez gets Finked

martinez.jpgNew LAT editorial-and-opinion editor Andr&#233s Martinez (to whom I would like to apologize on behalf of the blogging software we use, which does not allow me to put the accent on the ‘e’ in his first name thanks, Choire!) sits for a Nikki Finke profile in the LA Weekly. Finke calls him “the personification of a riddle wrapped in an enigma when it comes to the right-versus-left political maelstrom that’s sucking subscribers out of the newspaper,” but what I think she really means is that, as befits an editorial-page boss, his world view is complex. Finke’s interview transcript is online along with the profile. Martinez has thoughtful things to say about the nature of editorial pages, and while the wild days of Kinsleyan experimentation and argument-bating appear to be over, it doesn’t sound like the LAT editorial page will revert to the boring gravitas of eras past. You have to admire a guy whose writing career includes a book about losing $50,000 in Vegas (and I’ve read it– it’s funny) as well as a series of well-researched editorials arguing against farm subsidies in the US. Because range is a good thing.