We're short on time and long on prose today, so what do you say we skip the distraction and get straight to the sucker-punch? It's Friday Buzzkillsin' time.
- Hey, did you hear? Much like our interest in reading anything that can't be summed up with a quick "EPIC FAIL" and a YouTube link, print is dying! We know, we know: Pundits have been predicting the end of the written word since the radio was invented and somehow it's always muddled through, whether with titillating shots of buxom girls in angora sweaters or by eschewing all critical commentary for "We Rank 100 Albums In An Order Sure To Inspire Lots Of Angry E-Mails!"-style "listicles." (Yeah, yeah. Pot, kettle.) But take it from us: Lately it seems like print journalism ranks somewhere below "starring in a FOX sitcom" in terms of job security. Witness the slow, ignoble deaths of three former titans this week: First Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner spins the mag's incredible shrinking format as "embrac[ing] the idea of change"–you know, the kind of commitment to "change" that's inspired it to put Kurt Cobain's face on the cover at least once a year (and Barack Obama's for the third time in seven months).
Then there's TV Guide, once a lynchpin of the living room, which tried to fight its increasing irrelevance in a digital cable world by switching from its sentimental "pocket size" to a bland old 8" X 11" and cramming in as many features on Dancing With The Stars as the law will allow. Unfortunately that just wasn't enough: This week TV Guide's owner Macrovision agreed to sell its hemorrhaging enterprise for $1–meaning the entire company went for a full $2 less than the magazine's cover price–and voluntarily loaned its buyer $9.5 million to help run it for the next few years, just to be rid of it. And since we all know how what an excellent climate it's become for giant corporate loans, we're guessing it's about a year before TV Guide is offering "Cheers And Jeers" from magazine heaven.
But you really know times are hard when you can't even sell naked vaginas, and this week Playboy announced its deepest gash ever by cutting 80 jobs, trimming more than $12 million in expenses, and shuttering production on all future DVDs. Such cost-cutting measures have even affected founder Hugh Hefner, who was forced to replace exiting Girl Next Door Holly Madison with a 2-for-1 deal on desperate, semi-incestuous twins.
- As the belt draws tighter, even cable news powerhouse CNN has stooped to recycling: Recognizing that boring old "facts" are no longer cutting it in a culture where nearly everyone from the ages of 18-49 is getting their information not from the spittle-flecked maw of Larry King but through the satirical prism of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, CNN announced this week that they've drafted comedian-in-theory D.L. Hughley to anchor his own show "riffing on politics, entertainment, sports, and popular culture." As the network's Jon Klein put it in his press release, "The basic premise of the show is, what if a guy like him was let loose in the CNN building for a weekend after the lights went off?"–and if you can't already smell the stink lines of desperation wafting off that statement, allow Hughley to give you a little taste of the business end of his comedy lance:
"My show will reflect my views on things just as their shows reflect their views." For instance, as Hughley continued, "There have been six movies with a black man as the president, and in all those movies, the world was coming to an end. If this election isn't art imitating life, I don't know what is…"
"I'd like to know what Jesse Jackson is going to do for a living if Obama is elected," Hughley said, adding that he would invite Jackson to appear. "I'd like to know what Sarah Palin is going to do if she doesn't get elected." Ever notice that she does all the things a good waitress does when she wants better tips? You know, wink and smile."
Whoa! He can't really say that–can he? Who let this guy loose???
- Speaking of Sarah Palin, those of you with basic reading comprehension skills may already be aware of the prevailing opinion that–besides being a pandering moron, out-and-out liar, and living embodiment of how politics have finally abandoned all intellectual pretense and devolved into American Idol-levels of artifice–the gamine governor is also kind of hot in that "forbidden, fundamentalist fruit" kind of way. Naturally that's left plenty of diehard liberals feeling mighty confused as their ids square off against their ideologies, and they find themselves drifting from posting angry rants on the Daily Kos into a new tab, where they secretly Google the empty promise of "Sarah Palin +naked," pull up a hastily slapped together Photoshop, and conduct their own private vetting process. But fear no more, horny conflicted Democrats! Now you can release all of those shameful frustrations the same way you'd get over an ex-girlfriend: Guiltily masturbating to a porn star who vaguely resembles her, such as the bespectacled blow-job dispenser of the forthcoming Who's Nailin' Paylin? [Link is totally NSFW, unless you work for The A.V. Club.] And if you're looking for a more visceral experience, how about ogling that electoral body in the flesh at an old-fashioned, Las Vegas Sarah Palin look-alike strip-off? And if that's not doing it for you, break out some of that maverick-y bluster for the This is NOT Sarah Palin Inflatable Love Doll, which finally allows you to "cross party lines" and have a little reach-around across the aisle. Thanks porn industry! You've successfully proven that sexism is so totally not a factor in this new, enlightened age. By the way, can we spread this across a couple of credit cards? We're all just simple Joe the Plumbers over here looking to unclog some drains, if you catch our drift.
- Yes, times are tight, and what better way to address our economic situation than with a thought-provoking examination of how we got in this mess–or, we could just put Michael Douglas in suspenders again, throw some references to Lehman Brothers around, and call it a day. Let's hope there's more to this proposed Wall Street 2 project than that, but something rings a little hollow about the fast-tracked sequel, and it's not just the fact that Allan Loeb, writer of the so-slick-it-should-come-with-a-bottle-of-Immodium card-sharp contrivance 21 is penning the screenplay. Does anyone really need to see a newly freed Gordon Gekko's search for redemption in a "much more tumultuous financial world than the one he once lorded over"? The original certainly wasn't without its flaws (*cough*DarylHannahisfilmdom'sgreatestpracticaljoke*cough*), but this version doesn't even offer the promise of seeing a crying Charlie Sheen led away in handcuffs. What's the point?
- Of course, you'll remember that [SPOILER ALERT FOR A 20-YEAR-OLD MOVIE] Sheen eventually gets off by turning stool pigeon on his former mentor, which provides a flimsy segue to this report that famed Eastern European novelist Milan Kundera has been accused of being a Stalinist-era squealer by a Czech research group. According to the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (band name still available, by the way), the future author of such works as The Unbearable Lightness Of Being and The Joke was just a 21-year-old student when he ratted on a guest staying at his dormitory. The man, supposedly a spy for a group of U.S.-backed anti-communists, was immediately arrested and served a 14-year sentence doing hard labor in a uranium mine. Kundera has strenuously denied the allegations, but the entire affair speaks to the way the Czech Republic feels about the expatriate writer (who has lived in France since 1975), and the New York Times notes that this could "diminish Mr. Kundera's moral stature as a spokesman, however enigmatic, against totalitarianism's corrosion of daily life." Lucky for him, as we've already pointed out, nobody reads anymore.
- Besides, unwelcome as such accusations are, it takes a whole lot more to damage one's reputation than accusations of acting according to a skewed sense of patriotism nearly 60 years ago. (Now, if it had come out that Kundera had, say, engaged in a torrid love affair with Jan Trefulka, obviously no one would be getting any work done today.) Look at Jenny McCarthy, who's been clinging to the spotlight by positioning herself as an advocate for autistic children after her son Evan was diagnosed with the disorder, and has spent the last few years earning the enmity of eggheads who believe in "science" by spreading the misinformation that vaccines caused the whole thing. As if that weren't presumptuous and dangerous enough, now McCarthy is avowing that she's "cured" her son of autism with a dairy-and-gluten-free diet and a whole lot of prayer–yet somehow she's on the cover of US Magazine sharing this "miracle" with the whole damn world, instead of just with other paranoid housewife shut-ins who get all their learnin' from The Morning Show With Mike And Juliet. But Jenny, now that you've cured your kid of autism, how ever will you manage to stay in the news? Oh, I see… By confusing your kid with Christian dogma but also letting him fondle your breasts, until he grows up so sexually confused that he's a candidate for rehab before he hits 18. See you soon, pal.
Still, that's nothing compared to this week's other expert on autism: Denis Leary–who at least exhibits some of the symptoms, considering he's long occupied his own inner world where he's not a tired, joke-stealing hack–came under fire this week for comments he made in his new book Why We Suck: A Feel-Good Guide To Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy, And Stupid, wherein he wittily opines in the chapter entitled "Autism Schmautism":
"There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can't compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don't give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you - yer kid is NOT autistic. He's just stupid. Or lazy. Or both."
Nice. But of course, Leary now claims that he was totally taken out of context, issuing this backpedaling statement to US Should-Really-Change-Our-Name-To-Celebrities-Saying-Dumb-Shit-About-Autism Magazine:
The people who are criticizing the "Autism Schmautism" chapter in my new book Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy And Stupid clearly have not read it. Or if they have, they missed the sections I thought made my feelings about autism very clear: that I not only support the current rational approaches to the diagnoses and treatment of real autism but have witnessed it firsthand while watching very dear old friends raise a functioning autistic child. The point of the chapter is not that autism doesn't exist - it obviously does - and I have nothing but admiration and respect for parents dealing with the issue, including the ones I know. The bulk of the chapter deals with grown men who are either self-diagnosing themselves with low-level offshoots of the disease or wishing they could as a way to explain their failed careers and troublesome progeny.
Indeed, it's regrettable that people are so quick to point fingers that they can't see a statement like "You're kid's not autistic, he's just stupid" as the call for rationale and understanding that it so clearly is. How easily such things are misinterpreted! I blame the Internets.
- So, after some relatively slow weeks for celebrity deaths, the Grim Reaper finally pulled himself away from Rock Of Love: Charm School to play catch-up, culling a bumper crop of notable names in one fell swoop. Strap on your spurs, cowpokes–it's respect-payin' time.
Over nearly two decades, the charismatic Jack Narz hosted game shows ranging from '60s skeins like Video Village and Now You See It to the 1970s update of Beat The Clock, but it was his role in the 1950s quiz show scandals that garnered him the most headlines: Narz helmed the late-'50s connect-the-dots contest Dotto, which became the first target of federal investigators looking into the industry after a contestant accused it of supplying answers to another contestant. Despite the show's cancellation, Nanz went on to a career that lasted many more years; he died yesterday at 85.
- Actress Edie Adams was the blonde beauty who captured the heart of many a stogie-sucker in commercials for Muriel cigars, but her heart belonged to innovative comedian Ernie Kovacs. After auditioning for his groundbreaking sketch show, Adams and Kovacs fell for each other immediately, spawning a long and fruitful partnership that lasted until his death in 1962. In between, Adams struck gold on her own with a Tony Award for her portrayal of Daisy Mae in the Broadway version of Li'l Abner, and turned in memorable performances in movies like The Apartment and It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. (More recently she played Chong's mother, Mrs. Tempest Stoner, in Up In Smoke.) Adams died this week at 81.
- Jazz composer Neal Hefti got his start crafting tunes for Count Basie and arranging two Frank Sinatra albums, but he truly found his calling in the realm of soundtracks: In the '60s and '70s, Hefti scored more than a dozen feature films that included Barefoot In The Park, How To Murder Your Wife, and Harlow, as well as, most famously, Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. He would later adapt that for the 1970s TV show of the same name, which would easily be his most lasting legacy were it not for Hefti's "half-silly, half-serious" theme for the campy Adam West version of Batman, one of the most recognizable, most covered tunes on the planet. Hefti died this week at the age of 85.
- Actor Robert Arthur spent of most of his career playing earnest, college-boy types opposite stars like Bing Crosby and Ronald Reagan in dozens of movies including Twelve O'Clock High, Ace In The Hole, and Hellcats Of The Navy, but it was in his later years that Arthur arguably had his biggest impact as a gay rights activist for senior citizens. Arthur established the non-profit Project Rainbow and was an active member of the Log Cabin Republicans before his death earlier this month at the age of 83.
- Photographer William Claxton was renowned for his surprisingly sunshine-filled portraits of jazz musicians like Chet Baker, Duke Ellington, Sonny Rollins, and Thelonious Monk, which took them out of the usual smoke-filled supper clubs and put them in the great outdoors in an effort to create "jazz for the eyes." His iconic images adorned several famous album covers, but arguably his most important work was with the actor Steve McQueen, a notoriously camera-shy subject who allowed Claxton to get closer than anyone else and capture some of his most famous moments over their six-year friendship. Claxton died this week at the age of 80.
- Guillaume Depardieu, the son of actor Gerard, seemed destined for great things in 1996 when he claimed "most promising newcomer" at France's Cesar awards for his role in Les Apprentis. Unfortunately his seemingly charmed life was fraught with tragedy, and he often found his career overshadowed by his tempestuous relationship with his famous father: The two had a very public falling out after making several films together, with Gerard once accusing his son of treating him like a "trash bin where one dumps anything one wants." Despite all this, Guillaume had finally started to emerge as an esteemed actor in his own right when he was forced to have his leg amputated following a motorcycle accident; three months later he was arrested for threatening a man with a gun. He had turned his life around and overcome his handicap with several well-received performances in the past few years–and was working on another one in Romania–when he fell ill with pneumonia and died this week at the age of 37.
- In the annals of soap opera history, no show was ever as consistently crazy as Passions, a completely insane, nonsensical, rape-filled saga of witches, dolls that come to life, zombies, serial killers, lesbian soldiers, love affairs involving orangutan nurses, and a hermaphrodite who becomes pregnant with his own father's son. Seriously, it was great. And the man we have to thank for bringing so much awesome into the world is show creator James E. Reilly, who died last weekend at the age of 60. Thanks for the fucked-up memories, Mr. Reilly. You're a special kind of guy.
- Finally, this is only tangentially related to pop culture, but it's sad all the same: Carmen Rocha, a former waitress at L.A.'s El Cholo Mexican Restaurant (where she befriended many an actor, including Jack Nicholson, so okay, there's your connection), has died at the age of 77. Why do you care? Because in the 1960s, Rocha introduced a Mexican recipe to the kitchen–a simple layering of tortilla chips, melted cheese, and jalapenos known as "nachos," also known as one of the few things that make life worth living. For you Carmen, we shed spicy tears.
Have a super weekend!