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Archives: July 2008

Billboard Editorial Director Jumps From Frying Pan to Fire

christina_aguilera2.jpgTamara Conniff, Billboard‘s group editorial director, is leaving the magazine to take a position at Front Line Management Group. Conniff will be president of music services for manager Iving Azoff‘s company that represents acts including The Eagles, Christina Aguilera, Neil Diamond and Guns N’ Roses.

Conniff started at Nielsen Company, which owns Billboard, 10 years ago as music editor for the Hollywood Reporter.

Billboard executive editor Bill Werde will takeover for Conniff until a replacement can be found.

Nielsen — previously known as the struggling VNU — has had a rough year. Of course, it’s not like the music industry has fared any better.

When Good Twitters Go Bad

painkillers.jpgThe media loves Twitter (including FishbowlNY). We’re becoming okay with this. Slowly.

Twitter has many uses but what’s always bothered us is the potential for inane overuse. We’re fine with oversharing as long as it’s interesting. We don’t need to see a link to every article someone posts. We stopped following Huff Po’s feed for just this reason.

For another example of Tweeting gone horribly wrong, we turn to a story about a Minnesota man trying to Twitter while under “conscious sedation” at the dentist’s office. While the beginning is funny, we quickly begin to feel bad for his followers. A brief selection of his Tweets:

Three pilso
Thtre pilldlsbv and I csvzzzz
Meati tobbtsirv I mr-tobsatmn iysbnivrbnjnlvbbnb. Okay A moo

If we were this man’s friends, we’d be a) worried he was kidnapped or b) wonder where he got his drugs. Either way, when the Vicodin comes out, let’s agree to just put the iPhones away.

Gen Art Banished to Siberia

Kate Mara.jpgGen Art‘s screening series in L.A. landed in Santa Monica with Brad Anderson‘s new film, “Transsiberian” at the Laemmle Theaters. Anderson didn’t make the screener, nor did stars Ben Kingsley, Woody Harrelson or Emily Mortimer. The only “star” to show up at the party at South on Wilshire was Kate Mara, who raved on and on about Anderson and the film.

“He was great and it’s great,” she lauded, while fending off offers of free Saki and bad white wine.

The thriller, shot in various parts of Eastern Europe and possibly Russia, had some amazing footage of the train that runs the TransSiberian express route from China to Russia. Not quite sure how Anderson was able to scrounge this together on what we’re sure is a limited budget. But the result is a fascinating, invigorating look at an Americanized view of life behind the former steel curtain. And the film includes a torture scene of the aforementioned Mara that is so vividly sickening, it makes even the most hardened viewer squirm.

An unusual film for Anderson, whose earlier efforts like “Next Stop Wonderland,” were less brutal and dark-toned. But his “Machinist” was very much in the Transsiberian vein. Tough stuff from a nice Boston boy.

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Lunch: Where the Magic Happens



I thought I’d seen just about everything from my regular perch at Michael’s during my weekly visits, but today topped all. They were serving up sides of card tricks with the Cobb salads today and the gang was just eating it up. When I arrived, illusionist JB Benn was standing at the bar shuffling a deck of playing cards for Frank Gifford as his pals Hunter Millington — yes, Steve‘s brother — and Chris Graham looked on. He asked the gridiron great to sign a card and place it back in the deck. After a great deal of slow-mo shuffling, he finally pulled out the very same card from a sealed envelope in his jacket pocket.”I better make sure I’ve still got my watch,” quipped Frank. JB then drafted me into service asking me how many dollar bills he was holding in his hands. Frank and I both agreed he had four single dollars. Literally, right before our eyes the bills turned into hundreds. Within minutes, a crowd had gathered and there were gasps all around. I wouldn’t be surprised if JB is now booked between now and 2010 as the entertainment at parties from the Upper East Side to Easthampton as result of his impromptu performance this afternoon.

The utterly charming and adorable Mr. Benn (“He looks like a better-looking Tom Cruise,” said one smitten diner) made the rounds in the dining room eliciting applause all around. When I saw how wowed Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb were after the illusionist worked his magic on them, I suggested they might want to have him on the show to make ‘Sam the Cooking Guy’ disappear. In case you haven’t heard, Sam caused quite a stir on Today last Wednesday’s show in a segment during the fourth hour when he basically told the co-hosts to shut up and let him talk about his salad when he thought they had gotten too chatty. Sam clearly didn’t know what to do when he realized he had actually verbalized what he was thinking. He then sputtered out the ingredients of his salad while Kathie Lee and Hoda just watched him squirm — a classic TV moment. But, says Kathie Lee, Sam isn’t banished from the set. “I’m big on second chances,” she says. But be warned, Sam. “I forgive — but I don’t forget.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Woody Johnson (sporting a discreet ‘McCain‘ button) and a squadron of suits. Just asking: Is the Jets’ owner advising Michael’s on personal seat licensing?

2. Three members of the ‘Imber Gang’: Dr. Gerry Imber, Andy Berger and Jerry Della Femina. I had a great chat with Jerry about AMC’s runaway hit “Mad Men.” (If you haven’t tuned in, check it out on Sunday nights at 10 p.m. It’s the best dramatic series on television right now — seriously) Turns out the legendary ad man was one of a select few that got an early look at the script for the series’ pilot because creator Matthew Weiner wanted to make sure he got every detail right, from the Brooks Brothers suits worn by the execs to the nonstop smoking that helped fuel the creative fire on Madison Avenue in the early sixties. Jerry, who had a “four pack a day” habit back then, says the show has been a boon for business. “For the longest time nobody wanted to be in advertising. Everybody wanted to be an investment banker. Now, because of the show, people are talking about advertising again. It’s revitalized the industry. I’m back in fashion again!” Indeed.

3. ‘Mayor’ Joe Armstrong, producer Joan Gelman and marketing strategist and frequent CNN contributor Robert Zimmerman (glad to hear you’re a ‘Lunch’ fan!). Before my good pal Joe — who is jetting off to Europe this week for a much-deserved vacation — and his fellow Democratic boosters settled down for lunch they, too, were dazzled by Mr. Benn’s sleight of hand. Before they could dash off to their table I asked Robert, who is privy to the inner workings of the Democratic party, for his thoughts on who will be Barack Obama’s running mate. The suddenly taciturn strategist demurred, but offered his thoughts on who it should be — “Joe Armstrong, of course.” Remember, you heard it here first.

4. Gerald Schoenfeld and Carnegie Hall head Clive Gillinson

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Commenters: An Early Favorite For Person of the Year

At this point we’re almost as tired of writing about the demise of journalism due to commenters as we are about Barack Obama. And yet, we soldier on. At the moment the one thing both subjects have in common is that we’re betting they’re early favorites for Time‘s ‘Person of the Year’ award. James Poniewozik seems to agree with us, on the commenter front, anyway. He also says that ability to use the caps lock key will not in and of itself sink the Times. Lewis Black, however, says that commenters are worse than ultimate fighting (see video below). Still, Time crowned Vladimir Putin last year, and George W. Bush twice, not to mention, You, so we figure all you commenters at least have a shot at the title.

Is Coverage of the Online Glass Ceiling Just Reinforcing It?

02_24_47_Orr_Judith_Through the glass ceiling.jpgLots of talk today about women and blogging, much of it kicked off by the NYT‘s coverage of the annual BlogHer conference in San Francisco last week-end. The article was widely criticized by women in the blogosphere and many questioned whether the NYT was merely reinforcing the glass ceiling that BlogHer was set up to combat by running the piece in the Style section and by focusing on particularly feminine things like the bathroom setup, the lactation room, child care. Meanwhile, the Netroots gathering in Austin, which took place on the same week-end, received far more extensive coverage, and not just because Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi made appearances. Notes Jezebel’s Megan Carpentier: “A cursory search of the Times’ archives shows no less than 10 stories filed with the paper or its blogs during Netroots Nation…This weekend’s story on BlogHer was the first the Times had filed about the event.” Says Salon‘s Rebecca Traister,

The problem is not simply with the placement of one story, but with a newspaper that does not take “women’s stories” — in this case one that could have also been about business, technology, politics or gender as a social, economic or professional impediment to success — seriously enough to give them other, more newsy space in its pages.

Another publisher who apparently isn’t taking their online women’s stories very seriously is Conde Nast. The Observer is reporting that the publisher has a series of online “‘girl’-illa blogs” that it does not seem terribly interested in promoting. And why would they when print is so profitable these days! In the meantime, and until everyone else catches up, there’s always Jezebel.

Barack Obama is Rubber, Everyone Else is Glue, Etc.

SenatorggBarackObama1.jpgBarack Obama is turning us all into arm-chair analysts. What is it about him anyway? How is it possible for a man to run for president (and run and run) and never have anything anyone ever throws at him stick. Surely there is a explanation for Obama’s teflon-like existence. Jack Shafer‘s latest take is that he is slick “to the core.” Is this also what makes him unfunny? Better yet, how did Obama manage this slickness without turning into Mitt Romney?

Actually, Shafer doesn’t come up with many answers either beyond the fact that Obama seems to have a knack for taking difficult situations and using them to his advantage, also known as, not running scared. There’s also the matter of his preempting what might have eventually developed into damaging stories by publishing them in his memoir Dreams of My Father (Obama was perhaps an early adapter to the benefits of over-sharing). That said, maybe there is no answer. Maybe over the course of the next one hundred days the press will come full circle and decide Obama just is. At which point he’ll become our next President and nothing destroys a good teflon coating like winning an election.

These are Austere Times, Or, It’s Only Wednesday

Via Radar.

Comic Con: The Fans

comiccon01.gifComic Con is seriously crowded. It’s maddening. But there were no fights that we saw or heard about. No shootings. No stabbings. Under that amount of stress and heat, the fans were generally happy and eager to be a part of it all.

Here are a couple of our favorite fan questions/things said to celebrities:

To Judd Apatow from a fan, “Thank you for adding me on myspace.”

Also to Apatow from a fan, “I have a gift for you.” Apatow’s response, “Is this the last thing I hear before I’m shot dead?”

To Seth Rogen, “My twin sister thinks you’re like really hot.”

Also to Rogen,” You look a lot like my friend’s boyfriend.”

We also learned that Rhona Mitra was the original model for Tomb Raider and that Rogen co-wrote an upcoming Simpsons episode.

If these people were ever into anything important — they’d be dangerous.