Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Friday Buzzkills: The pattern is the test

It’s little wonder why we as humans have such a fascination with patterns—after all, it’s coded right there in our DNA. Deep within our bones are endless strands of repetition that somehow coalesce into the singularity that is us, which perhaps explains why we’re so attracted to the idea of seeing and doing the same things over and over again and hoping for a more satisfying result. (The definition of insanity, by the way.) But while movie heroes like Angels And Demons’ Robert Langdon look for patterns because they hold the keys to sexy, pope-in-peril adventure, those of us in the real world do so out of a basic need for comfort, as a means of assigning some orienting logic to the banal chaos that is our existence. But we at Friday Buzzkills can find no solace in repetition, because our eyes are trained to see an altogether different pattern: A chain of gloomy glyphs interlocking in a mosaic of execrable human behavior, impending death, flaccid rehashes substituting for original art, and fate rewarding the least worthy. It’s safe to say that unraveling all of that would make for a pretty shitty summer movie. (But as a weekly column, you know, it ain’t half bad.)

- Without question, this week’s all-time saddest story has to be the precipitous decline of Farrah Fawcett’s health, as the actress slowly—and very, very publicly—succumbs to anal cancer. As Fawcett lays dying, with a whole world of Cash Bundrens building her coffin right outside her window, and longtime partner Ryan O’Neal gives teary interviews to the Today show wherein he wishes that she would just go to sleep and never wake up already, Fawcett is gamely trying to put on a brave face: The two-hour documentary Farrah’s Story, airing tonight on NBC, offers an unflinching look at everything that fighting to stay alive has cost her, including graphic scenes of her writhing in pain from profusion treatments and being forced to shave her iconic hair. But hey, just because Fawcett is undergoing one of the greatest torments a human being can go through and O’Neal is stuck watching the love of his life die a slow, agonizing death is no reason not to slap them with a self-serving lawsuit, as producer Craig Nevius did Wednesday when he accused the actor, his business manager, and Farrah’s friend Alana Stewart of interfering with his rights to Farrah’s Story. After all, what’s more important, ultimately: That Fawcett gets to share her pain with the world and thus give her death a modicum of meaning, or that everyone out there in TV land knows that Craig Nevius called dibs on it first? I mean, who’s the real victim here? And of course, this isn’t what Nevius wanted at all: “I take no joy in this,” he says. “I tried to avoid this, but I am doing it for Farrah.” Because who’s to say Nevius reclaiming creative control over the story of her suffering isn’t the “miracle” she’s been holding out for all this time? Maybe it’s just like Lorenzo’s Oil! But with out-of-court settlements instead of, you know, oil.

And while we’re giving O’Neal something to really cry about, why not go ahead and publish the half-baked accusations of 20-year-old “family friend” Dania Marin, who alleges that O’Neal pestered her for phone sex, and who had to file a restraining order against him because she “was afraid that he knew where I lived”? Right, because clearly O’Neal doesn’t have enough to keep him occupied. He’s all too likely to sneak away from Farrah’s bedside, take that ever-present cadre of camera-toting ghouls with him round to Dania's place, and demand that she tell him what she's wearing in person so he can have a quick wank before getting back to the pesky business of grieving. Of course, given the sheer unlikelihood of that scenario, Marin probably could have just changed her phone number—or here’s an idea: Tell him to fuck off and attend to the dying mother of his children, already—without making a very public case out of it and giving everyone her name. But where's the profit in that? Best to get it out there when tabloids are still paying top dollar for anything remotely Farrah-related—rather than after she passes, when we’ll have to wait at least a month before all those inevitable “Secret Deathbed Confessions!” stories can safely run. And hey, speaking of which: While you’re busy teasing out all the angles, British press, why not put the whole thing in perspective by running this story with O’Neal’s mug shot? Kudos all around, everybody: Your ability to attach yourselves to a dying woman and ravage her from the inside has managed to one-up cancer.

- Amazingly, this was only the second tackiest display of ghoulish opportunism as related to the death of a blonde actress to come out of Mother England this week: Taking a page from the Mr. Costumes school of “Hey, we’re just sayin’…” contextual advertising, British sports equipment dealer Skiwear4Less.com sent out a promotional e-mail newsletter to its subscribers telling everyone about Natasha Richardon’s fatal skiing accident, accompanied by an ad for discounted ski helmets. “As a ski retailer and ski enthusiasts, our thoughts go out to the family during this tragic time," it said. "We hope this doesn't discourage future skiers from participating in this exciting and invigorating sport. To encourage the wearing of ski helmets, we have reduced the prices of both kids and adults ski helmets and are offering FREE POSTAGE on all ski helmets." The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority subsequently banned the ad because “reporting the event in such a manner in order to sell ski helmets was likely to cause offence and be conceived as insensitive to recipients." Well yeah, ASA, but who knows when an opportunity like this will come along again to try to save some lives, at the slightest discount and in the most abhorrent way possible?


- Buzzards circling over a troubled sex symbol’s deathbed, celebrity misfortunes that double as segues to sales pitches—feels like we’ve been down this road before, doesn’t it? Indeed, Buzzkills seems to be entering the season of summer repeats, at least judging by the number of recycled plotlines we’ve seen popping up this week. (Told ya it was all about patterns.) For example: Remember when everyone was concerned about those Slumdog Millionaire kids being whisked from the red carpet of the Oscars and then deposited right back in the same old squalor, only without lots of jump-cuts set to spunky MIA music to hurry things along to their inevitably romantic conclusion? Remember also how director Danny Boyle and the film’s producers came swooping in to say, “Oh, of course we always meant to look after them. Here’s some trust funds and housing; Slumdog on DVD and Blu-Ray, everybody!”?

Yeah, that actually hasn’t panned out yet. Instead, Azharuddin Ismail—who played Dev Patel’s character as a little boy—just had his shanty bulldozed by the government, who sent bamboo-wielding policemen to the house and gave his family only moments to grab their belongings before razing it to the ground. Ismail, star of a movie that’s grossed over $300 million to date, reportedly lost his pet kittens in the chaos, and was latter spotted “picking through the shamble of broken wood and twisted metal sheeting” as he “forlornly asked, ‘Where is my chicken?’” Always with a keen eye for visual irony, the Associated Press adds, “a wrinkled movie poster of Slumdog Millionaire waved in the breeze. Scrawled in black marker was a message from the movie's director, Danny Boyle: ‘Azhar, with love and thanks, Danny Boyle.’” Indeed. Azharuddin’s trustees reportedly wrote to Boyle last week to tell him of their plight and see if he could help, but have yet to hear back. Meanwhile, one of India’s modern “national heroes” is just trying to find some shade in the rubble and dodging rats. It’s the underdog story that keeps on giving.

- “Second verse, same as the first” is another great way to sum up the plight of Paste Magazine, who this week resorted to openly begging for its readers to save it from following other faltering music magazines like Blender into the Great Top-Ten List In The Sky. In an impassioned e-mail sent out to subscribers—as well as seemingly everyone even tangentially related to media and/or the music biz—Paste asked its readers to “invest” (quotes are theirs) in the magazine’s future by donating money via a Paypal account, which they will then reward with downloads of rare and exclusive MP3s put toward the cause by artists like She And Him, Rogue Wave, and Robyn Hitchcock. The company calls this a “short-term crisis,” and assures everyone that they’ll never ask for a handout again once the recession clears and print media comes back healthier and more robust than ever (um, which it’s going to do, right?). In hindsight, as Idolator shrewdly pointed out, maybe that whole “pay what you feel” strategy the magazine adopted to drive up new subscriptions last year wasn’t such a good idea. Here’s hoping they’re right to be so optimistic. After all, we’d hate to have to resort to similarly desperate measures just to drive traffic and keep our own music-media-related company in the black Adam Lambert Megan Fox nude photos Star Trek Blink-182 tour dates Oprah free KFC chicken.

- But hark! What unfairly maligned angel descends from her heavenly kingdom of everyday folks to save the beleaguered written word? None other than noted bibliophile Sarah Palin, who recently signed a deal dooming some poor HarperCollins editor to harvest her acres of wiggling, orphaned dependent clauses for a book due out next year. “There's been so much written about and spoken about in the mainstream media and in the anonymous blogosphere world, that this will be a wonderful, refreshing chance for me to get to tell my story, that a lot of people have asked about, unfiltered,” Palin said in a recent telephone interview, giving the public just a small taste of the wonderfully, refreshingly disjointed prose that will eventually be the bane of some struggling, moonlighting novelist who can’t get so much as a short story published while Palin rakes in millions of dollars for stringing together some folksy aphorisms and anecdotes about the time Piper wanted to know how Jesus killed all the Satan-lizards at the museum. While Palin is mum on specific details, a representative did say that the memoir “will emphasize Palin's Alaskan upbringing, and the governor will talk about her ‘unpretentious’ lifestyle,” which is a story that we seriously just can’t get enough of, really. Remember the time she killed a moose at hockey practice or whatever the fuck? Now you'll be able to Xerox it and put it on the refrigerator for whenever you need some extra inspirin'.


- The endless retelling of the Palin myth—which we can only imagine is somewhere being woven into an elaborate tapestry or chiseled into sarcophagi so that future generations may know of the Bright-Lipped Woman With The Head Of A Fierce Dog, Who Slew Wolves And Antlered Cows While Birthing Many Warriors From Her Womb—goes to show that you just can’t keep a good story down, particularly when it’s an extremely simple one. And as we’ve pointed out week after week (patterns!), it’s far cheaper than taking a chance on something original. You can see this philosophy at work behind the scenes of the seriously-happening-for-real Cliffhanger “reboot,” which aims to do what J.J. Abrams did for Star Trek (that’s a direct quote from the producer, by the way) for Renny “You Want To Give Me How Much?! Are You Sure?” Harlin’s last film that wasn’t out-and-out despised. The new Cliffhanger will reportedly ditch Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, and anything else that made the original remotely notable for an all-new “group of young climbers,” who will get into dangerous, sexy, dangerously sexy situations on “multiple cliff-face locations,” thus extending the life of a franchise that no one was aware even existed by putting it on CGI life support.

The obvious question of why they couldn’t have simply written a wholly new script about mountain climbing without trying to link it to a 15-year-old film that time had nearly forgotten might also be a good query to pose to the makers of the new Fright Night, which could have just as easily been called You Kids, Uh, Like The Vampires Now, Right? But as we all know by now (patterns!), brand recognition does half the work for you, hence Fox’s decision to cut snarky bloggers off at the knees and change the name of its upcoming “supersized dating series” More To Love—a dating show that combines The Bachelor’s cold commodification of love with The Biggest Loser’s excoriation/exploitation of overweight people—to The Fatchelor, but only after its contestants had already completed filming. While the participants will surely be shocked (shocked!) to learn that the network had intentions other than helping them find true love, we’re actually quite enjoying this “make fun of yourself before everyone else gets a chance to” strategy. Can’t wait to see this summer’s I’m A Celebrity Whose Only Recourse To Remaining Famous Is To Submit Myself To Repeated Humiliation, Which Is Sad When You Think About It… Luckily I Can’t Afford To! Perhaps once we become self-aware and begin to out-and-out acknowledge our patterns like that, we can begin to make choices that will change it? Or did we just totally steal that from The Matrix: Reloaded? Fuck. Never mind!


- Wayman Tisdale was a musician who became a basketball player rather than the other way around, but it was his legendary turn as an Oklahoma Sooner and a 12-year NBA career with the Indiana Pacers, Phoenix Suns, and Sacramento Kings that made his other life as a respected jazz bassist all the more notable. Two years before his 1997 retirement from the game, Tisdale released his first album, Power Forward, which debuted at No. 4 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart. Tisdale landed several radio hits like “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” “Can’t Hide Love,” and “Don’t Take Your Love Away” over the course of eight albums, including the No. 1-charting Way Up! and last year’s Rebound, which was written after Tisdale discovered he had cancer in his knee. Tisdale had part of his leg amputated last summer, after which he made several proclamations that he believed he had beaten the disease, even making plans to start work on a new album next week. Tisdale died today at the age of 44.

- A “songwriter’s songwriter” and favorite studio guitarist for artists like Bonnie Raitt and Willie Nelson (who—along with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Jimmy Buffett—also recorded several of his songs), Stephen Bruton wasn’t much of a household name beyond the Austin city limits, but his distinctive, evocative playing and broad knowledge of musical styles has colored many an album over the years. A child prodigy who won banjo contests before he was even a teenager, Bruton got his first big break playing in Kris Kristofferson’s band, a collaboration that would last over 40 years, including Kristofferson’s forthcoming Starlight And Stone. Bruton was also an actor, turning up in films like Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid, Heaven’s Gate, A Star Is Born, and Miss Congeniality. Most recently he was working with T Bone Burnett on the score for the upcoming Jeff Bridges film Crazy Heart while battling with throat cancer. Bruton died this week at Burnett’s home at the age of 60.

Have a super weekend!


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