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Monday, July 27, 2015

How Vanity Fair Got the Caitlin Jenner Scoop

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

The birthday boy takes the cake after the serenade by the guests.
"This past Saturday night, my birthday, I had dinner with several old friends at Swifty’s. JH and his wife Danielle were there, and he got a shot of the birthday boy being presented with Swifty’s famous vanilla cake which has an icing/frosting that is three inches thick and as light and sweet as cotton candy. The cake itself is really just there whole hold the icing. Irresistable. It was a great evening for a birthday party." (NYSD)


"The Financial Times is a rare media property: a global, long-established brand combined with a successful — although unfinished — digital transformation. Such uniqueness explains why Nikkei paid £844m ($1.3bn, €1.18m) for it. It takes less than ten people to assemble the famous pink printed edition of the Financial Times. The “carbon-based” team recycles the editorial produced all day long by the 600 people newsroom – with some deadlines adjusted to fit the newspaper’s closing.
The Financial Times has gone much further than many of its peers in the digital transformation. That fact paid a critical role in the stunning premium paid by the Nikkei. When discussions started, Springer came with a first bid around £600m ($930m, €848m.) The German media conglomerate later sweetened its offer to £750m ($1.16bn, €1.05bn) before being outbid by the Japanese group.
As Ken Doctor noted in his NiemanLab piece, based on the estimated operating income of the FT Group, Nikkei paid 'a 43x multiple, or a price 10 times what average US daily, large or small, would sell for today' (the actual ratio, though, is closer to 35x, but Ken Doctor removed the profit made by the Economist which is not part of the deal). Jennifer Saba in Breakingviews also notes that publicly traded European media companies trade at 12x EBITDA and that Nikkei shelled out roughly twice the amount paid by Jeff Bezos to acquire the Washington Post in 2013. While such ratios might be above the assumed price of news properties, they’re still way below the multiples observed for tech companies (in many instances, there is no ratio at all because there is no profit, sometimes not even revenue). Then let’s give a closer look at the two components of FT’s valuation: Its digital reach and the power of its brand." (Monday note)

China’s Elegant, Flawed, Grand Strategy
Image Credit: REUTERS/China Daily

"China is a country with more than a billion people, but as Ross Terrill observed, when we ask what China wants, we are really attempting to discern the goals of the nine 'male engineers' who make up the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party. This clarification makes the answer straightforward: Like any bureaucracy or interest group the CCP wants to ensure its survival, which depends on maintaining legitimacy with the Chinese people. To meet this goal, the CCP under President Xi Jinping has articulated a strategy of peaceful development; however, increasing Chinese military capabilities and strategic coercion will cause other states to balance against China, making it harder for the CCP to protect its core interests and continue its economic and strategic rise. China’s Long-Term Goals The CCP considers foreign policy directly related to maintaining domestic stability and regime survival. Chinese Scholar Ye Zicheng expressed the nationalist sentiment: 'If China does not become a world power, the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will be incomplete. Only when it becomes a world power can we say that the total rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has been achieved.' This has become widely accepted among both common and elite Chinese citizens. To maintain control of Chinese nationalism, and to channel it as a source of legitimacy for the regime, the CCP has established the two concepts of 'core interests' and a 'new type of great power relationship.' The 2011 Chinese White Paper 'China’s Peaceful Development,' lists the six core Chinese interests as 1) state sovereignty; 2) national security; 3) territorial integrity; 4) national reunification; 5) China’s political system established by the Constitution and overall social stability; 6) basic safeguards for ensuring sustainable economic and social development. The concept of core interests is how the CCP signals the issues it is willing to go to war over. In the past, Chinese spokespeople have referred to both contested South and East China Sea territorial claims as core interests, but officially at least, the CCP has maintained ambiguity about their status. Still, the CCP has been clear that it considers its territorial claims to be sovereign Chinese territory, so maintaining these claims would fall under the core interests listed in the 2011 White Paper. In addition, in contrast to the ambiguity of its maritime claims, the CCP has been clear that Taiwan is a core interest, and it is unwilling to rule out the use of force to reunify China. China’s pursuit of its core interests has the potential to trigger great power rivalry or conflict with the United States and other regional powers. This is why in 2010 then Chinese President Hu Jintao told U.S. President Barack Obama that 'China and the United States should respect each other’s core interests and major concerns. This is key to the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties.'" (TheDiplomat)


  "John Oliver has tackled the prison industrial complex from multiple sides — including bail and the elections of judges. On Sunday night, he went after mandatory minimum sentencing. Oliver noted during 'Last Week Tonight' that mandatory minimums helped explode the American prison population since the war on drugs that was started in the 1970s by President Nixon. Now one out of every 100 adults is in lock-up, which Oliver said, is unsustainable. 'We have 2 million people incarcerated. If we keep going this direction, we’ll soon have enough to populate a new country with prisoners. And trust me when I say this is not a good idea,' Oliver said while a map of Australia appeared next to him. 'Literally the only good thing to come out of that experiment was Hugh Jackman and it took 180 years. It was worth it, but it took a long time.' Mandatory minimums have torn families apart and ruined lives for small amounts of drugs, Oliver said. 'Circumstances make a huge difference,' Oliver said." (TalkingPointsMemo)

"I’m in Belgrade, Serbia for the summer. I will never give up on Key West, but I am glad to escape the heat. However, turns out it’s hot here too. Hot during the days of searing azure skies and hot at night. The days are easy as I slump beneath the a/c, usually in a comfortable deep sleep. The nights I fill with walks through the city, under curves of an orange moon, passing by late games of basketball where shirtless sweating men scatter about, and tiny kids mimic on the sidelines with mini basketballs. Speaking of sweating, not to gross you out, but it’s steamy here. On these evening walks I feel myself glueing to my clothes. A gathering of drips trickle from my nape down the furrow of my spine. Belgrade is an ancient city and it is fascinating to me. Obviously, I have my mother’s side of the family to thank for that. I am constantly running into fresh information on long dead relatives who did a variety of intriguing activities. Some deviant, some daring, all interesting, at least to me.
This old town is full of dusty stories and as I stroll I collect motes, my ankles are plied with soot. When I get home I am a clammy mess. Which makes me laugh because many nights in Key West, after dancing at the Green Parrot until closing time, it was the hot shower at the end that was often the best part of the night." (Christina Oxenberg)

"It’s been a big summer for European royals, what with Kate Middleton and Prince William welcoming baby Charlotte, Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia tying the knot, and Princess Caroline of Monaco’s son’s wedding this month. Meanwhile, Prince Alexander of Serbia celebrated his 70th birthday at his palace in Belgrade, hosted by Princess Katherine. Spies said guests included King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Prince Albert of Monaco and Spain’s Queen Sofía. There were also royals from Bulgaria, Romania, Montenegro, Jordan and Baden, plus Prince Pierre d’Arenberg, Prince Karim Aga Khan and (our favorite name) Princess Ira von Fürstenberg. During a toast, the birthday boy said, 'For someone who, by a twist of fate and history, was born in exile, who was declared an enemy of the state as a 2-year-old . . . the fact that I am celebrating my 70th birthday . . . in my homeland, in my home . . . is an emotional moment.'
Civilians there included Susan Gutfreund, Bill Sclight and Cheri Kaufman." (P6)

Another view from the same vantage point, looking to the north where the harbor opens up.

"On Thursday I went up to Martha’s Vineyard to visit an old friend, flying JetBlue to Edgartown. The weather up there was perfect; didn’t feel any humidity, and by sunset it was just a sweater side of getting chilly. I get out of town so infrequently, and especially to real countryside environments, that I was surprised at the silence of the night out where Mother Nature continues to call the shots on comfort for us humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.This was my first trip to Martha’s Vineyard since I was a kid just out of college and had a girlfriend whose family summered in West Chop. In those days, we’d take the ferry from Woods Hole on the Cape, across to Vineyard Haven. It was about a forty minute ride across to the island. Now, being a long time New Yorker, Woods Hole is, of course, a five or more hour drive from Manhattan. The trip from JFK, once aloft, is about 35 minutes. I’m not an enthusiastic traveler at this time in my life and as readers know I prefer the quiet of Manhattan on weekends, especially in the summertime in my neighborhood where many people leave the city: it is quiet. Yes! However, I made this trip so as to take the opportunity to see someone I cared for and whom I hadn’t seen in many many years. It is an unusual opportunity in life to re-connect with another whom you last saw a lifetime ago." (NYSD)

New York Magazine Cover: The Bill Cosby Accusers

New York Magazine's photo.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Numerologist Dezia Restivo.

"I met Dezia Restivo back in the late 70s just before I was making a major move in my life out to Los Angeles. I was told that she read the tarot and did numerology as well. If it should sound like I have knowledge of such: I didn't and I don't. Some friends of mine had given me a "reading" by Dezia as a going-away present. I went to her apartment on the appointed day with no expectations. Dezia is a diminutive lady with a jolly personality and an easy charm. We sat down immediately face to face across a small table, and she shuffled a deck of cards, spread them out in a row face down and told me to pick out five and hand them over to her. Which I did. Then she began talking to me about myself in a very casual way. She did know I was making this major move out West. She began with comments about my likes and dislikes, as if she knew me. Then she said: 'You're going to meet a royal lady who wears rose-colored glasses and has houses on three oceans ...' Perfect: 'You're going to meet ...' in this strange land I was headed to. Frankly, I can't remember much more of that reading, although she taped it so I could listen again later (I never did). I remembered the bit about the lady with rose-colored glasses and houses on three oceans because it sounded like a scene from a novel. I don't recall her telling me much more about it except to comment that 'she'll be very good for you.'Soon after I moved to Los Angeles and began a new life-changing adventure. I forgot about Dezia's reading entirely until one night several months later, I was invited to a cocktail party in Beverly Hills at the home of a woman named Lady Sarah Churchill." (NYSD)

Big Fat Greek Weddings

"Tempus sure fugit, and how. Twenty years ago today, Thursday, July 2, 1995, monarchs from around the world descended on London for the wedding of Greek Crown Prince Pavlos to Marie-Chantal, daughter of the duty-free magnate Bob Miller. I remember it well, especially the hangover. Never have I seen so many royals under one roof. The Greeks had treated King Constantine, father of the groom, very badly, managing to convince the press, and in turn the people, that the first man to resist the military takeover and stage a countercoup against the colonels was in fact one of them. Leave it to the Hellenes to say black is white and vice versa. I’ll come back to the Greeks a bit later, but first the royal wedding. Both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip attended the wedding ceremony and all the bashes, as did Prince Charles. At one point the heir to the British throne sent Selina Scott to my table to fetch me. He asked me a direct question and I answered him and he wasn’t too pleased. Something to do with race and three men who had tried to mug me in Cadogan Square. It was not an auspicious beginning. That evening, I spotted a tall lady with an ample bosom and asked my neighbor, Prince Michael of Greece, if I should take her for a whirl. Go for it, was his advice. Once the lady stood up, I realized it was going to be tricky. The Queen of Denmark towered over me, so I tried to bury my face in her poitrine, but she expertly pushed me away. Worse was the reaction of the mother of my children. She and a bunch of wise guys were pointing at me and laughing. I have felt more embarrassed in my life, but right now I can’t think of when. Nevertheless it was a great party and I was the last to leave. I gave Selina Scott a ride back to Cadogan Square and asked her in for a drink. It was past 5 a.m. and the sun was coming up. 'I’d love to,' said Selina, but then pointed at somebody next to her. The wife. I was up front with the driver. Second faux pas of the night. But Selina and I are still friends, which shows women do have a good sense of humor." (Taki)

By Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

"On  Monday, the Associated Press obtained 2005 court documents that Bill Cosby’s lawyers had attempted to keep sealed. The records chronicle a deposition in the sexual assault case filed by Andrea Constand, the first woman to take legal action against the comedian and former family-sitcom star. As previously reported, the documents show that Cosby admitted to giving women drugs before having sex with them. But after reading through the 66 pages of legal documents—now available online—we've found other clues to the disturbing Cosby puzzle. Cosby testified that he obtained seven prescriptions for quaaludes. If there is one surprise in this dense deposition dialogue—during which the plaintiff’s lawyer alleged Cosby’s lawyer 'openly coached the witness,' 'interrupted the questioning with long-winded and repetitive speaking objections,' and 'ultimately improperly terminated the deposition'—it’s that quaaludes were mentioned a lot. In fact there is a whole section devoted to the sedative in the paperwork entitled “Questions related to Quaaludes.'" (VF)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

Absinthe Minded

"Last Wednesday, June 24, Pugs held a luncheon in honor of our first member to depart for the Elysian Fields, or that large CinemaScope screen up above, Sir Christopher Lee, age 93. Pugs club is now back to 19 members, the ceiling being 21. Our president for life, Nick Scott—I actually was the first chief but was overthrown in a bloodless as well as voteless coup by Nick—gave a wonderful address while breaking yet another custom, this one about having ladies present. Our guest of honor was Lady Lee, Christopher’s widow. Now, there’s nothing more that a poor little Greek boy can add to Sir Christopher’s obituaries, which were numerous, glowing, detailed, and well deserved. Except to say that he personified that smoldering restraint of a long-ago England, with his perfect manners and diction, and his ability to be interested in what other people had to say. The big ME was unknown to him. Christopher loved the members of Pugs, all 20 of us, and was equally loved in return. At last year’s annual lunch on an outdoor terrace of a Chelsea restaurant, he was recognized as he got up to leave and was given a standing ovation by the luncheon crowd. Here’s what fellow Pug and knight Sir Bob Geldof had to say about him: 'Christopher, what a bloke. What a Pug. Lives don’t come more lived than that.' What struck me was the fact that Christopher wore his Pugs club tie for his investiture by the Queen in 2009, and was outspoken about the increasing depravity of film. If ever there was a palimpsest of present and past, it was Sir Christopher." (Taki)

We Tried to Interview This Rich Guy About His Rich People Book

"This month, New York advertising man and chronicler of the wealthy set Richard Kirshenbaum (pictured) published a new book, 'Isn’t That Rich? Life Among the 1%.' We tried to interview him about it. It did not work out.
Kirshenbaum’s book first came to my attention in early June with the appearance of a goading New York Post story [headline: 'You should thank the one percent, you ingrate'] based on the book, which extolled the many benefits of trickle-down economics, concluding that 'NYC would still be a dump' without its ample and growing supply of zillionaires.
'This sounds like a provocative defender of the rich who would make for an interesting and contentious interview subject,' I thought to myself. On June 10, I emailed Kirshenbaum’s publisher about setting up a Q&A. I heard back immediately from his publicist, who was enthusiastic about the idea. I asked for a review copy of the book, and she agreed to send one over. On June 18, the publicist emailed me again asking about the interview. I told her I’d never gotten the book. She agreed to send another one. Still very enthusiastic! That same day, coincidentally, my copy of the book arrived. On June 24, the publicist emailed me again. 'Just checking in to see if you had a chance to crack open the book,' she wrote. 'I’d love to get your questions over to Richard ASAP. He is leaving for vacation soon and I want to make sure I get to him beforehand.' As it happened, I was just finishing up my speed-read of the book. We’d agreed on an email Q&A, so I sent her the following five questions to pass on to Kirshenbaum (bold added later, for reasons the astute reader will see in a moment!)" (Hamilton Nolan)

Both paperback and hardcover are now for sale on Amazon for $74. Click to order.

"I rarely read two books at once but I broke that habit briefly on Saturday when looking for a reference book, I happened upon a big paperback copy of “Chips; The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon,” published in 1996.  I’d read it when I bought it back then, not knowing anything about the man but having perused the names in the index, many of which were the leading characters in British society and politics and literature mid-20th century. Although I’d read most of it I found myself re-reading it with a different eye, as if it were new. What’s new?  The world we live in today, compared to only twenty years ago, is radically different from the world of the diarist sixty and seventy years ago. Channon, or Chips as everyone knew him, was an American, born in 1897, who grew up in Chicago, son of an heir to a Great Lakes shipping company. His parents started taking him to Europe when he was a child. By his late teens he was an expatriate, and would remain so. In London where he married Lady Honor Guinness, he became a member of House of Commons and led the life of a social gadfly extraordinaire, who had connections to many doors. His attitude is so British that there’s no reason to think he didn’t seem entirely British, including the accent – although I don’t know about that detail. He was a gregarious fellow who loved  society (better yet, royalty) and knowing all the right people. And in his case it was at the end time of the British Empire, and the 'right people' were the names that are now of history. He had a great eye for detail and an intelligence to write about it visually. " (NYSD)

DPC with Barbara Tober.

"The city seemed quieter – maybe because of the heat, where there were fewer people on the street because of the high temperatures. I went down to Michael’s to have lunch with my friend Barbara Tober. This was a lunch talking about the books we’re reading, the places and events we’ve been to lately, and theatre. Barbara and her husband Donald who really make an effort to get around the city, have been seeing a lot of Broadway shows. Actually, it seems like they’ve just about everything that’s playing right now. It is a phenomenon that there are so many great shows on right now. Most recently they saw 'It Shoulda Been You.' What was it like? Well, there were moments when they were sitting there thinking: “what is this, nothing’s happening. And then suddenly they’d find themselves laughing so hard tears were streaming down their faces. Needless to say, they loved it. Barbara and Donald Tober are two very active philanthropists in New York. When I say 'active' I mean they are involved in several major charities in which they are not only principals in terms of financial contributions but also players in terms of hands-on participation. Donald, for example, was in on the founding of CityMeals-on-Wheels with James Beard and Gael Greene. Donald was the guy who had the corporate connections that could contribute to this fantastic organization that delivers tens of thousands of meals annually to the elderly, to the ill and infirm and people in need. It’s a perfect charity to describe their personalities: helping  in the quality of life of their fellow citizens in the community." (NYSD)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Media-Whore D'Oeuvres

President Obama with Marc Maron.
Courtesy of the White House.

"Say President Obama was making his way in a motorcade over to your house for an hour-long interview in your garage. How would you prepare? For Marc Maron, the comedian and host of the popular interview podcast WTF with Marc Maron, getting ready for Obama involved cereal and a guitar. On Friday morning, hours before the unprecedented POTUS podcast, crowds had already begun lining the streets surrounding Maron’s Highland Park, California, home with handmade posters. Secret Service had essentially annexed Maron’s property to ensure Obama’s safety, positioning snipers on a nearby roof, and a tent over his driveway. (The bomb-sniffing dogs had already swept the house in the days prior.) As the clock ticked closer to conversation time, Maron did his best to tune out the exterior chaos. 'I kind of hunkered down in my house with notes and coffee and my bowl of cereal and tried to find my own space,' Maron told us by phone on Friday afternoon. '[I was] kind of making sure I had as focused of a one-on-one experience with him as possible. . . . And I stayed kind of detached. I wasnÆt answering e-mails or texts or anything. I just wanted to stay focused to sort of be present with the president.' As WTF listeners know, the comedian also enjoys 'noodling' on his guitars, occasionally playing snippets of his jam sessions during podcasts. And in the moments before Maron’s presidential summit, jamming was also integral to finding his zen. 'I was playing my Gibson 335, not plugged in, but was playing it intensely and furiously.'" (VanityFair)

Sunday Story ~ Indian Rose

"She awoke feeling woozy and blamed it on the scary nightmare. She often had nightmares, everywhere she lived, and she had lived most everywhere. People called her impulsive. She thought of herself as a wanderer. She sat up and shook out her long hair. She wrapped her body in an orange sarong and brewed coffee. Suddenly she couldn't remember anything. Where was she, she wondered? She hoped it was somewhere exotic. Unseen he watched her. He’d been waiting for her. Hers was a life of impetuous traveling which meant relentless packing and unpacking. How many times had she done this she couldn't even count. Coffee mug in one hand, box cutter in the other she sliced straight lines down the binding tape. Debussy filled the background. He was a patient man, if he was a man at all. She didn’t feel it when she cut herself, but she saw the smudges on the cardboard; ochre orange fingerprints, ‘Pretty!’ she thought, and then she noticed the scrawled address on the side of the box. Jaipur. It wasn't a dream, she almost laughed out loud from relief. All day she retrieved belongings, slipping clothing onto hangers and into closets. Closets that smelled of disuse. Her fingertips hurt from the many tiny cuts." (Christina Oxenberg)

Yanna on stage at 54 Below.

"Last Thursday night I went over to 54 Below on West 54th between 7th and 8th, where Yanna Avis was performing her program of cabaret. Yanna, who is French, was married for a long time to Warren Avis, the rent-a-car tycoon. I can’t remember if we first met in Los Angeles or here in New York, but we have a lot of mutual good friends and have known each other a long time.Yanna had been an actress before she married Warren, but she put that away to have time to spend with her husband. Warren died at the ripe old age of 92 eight years ago this last April. It was about that time that Yanna began to focus once again on her love of performing. I call her The Chantouze. I’d never been to 54 Below before. Because of that, and because I’d never been in the cellar of Studio 54 in the old days (where all the wild druggy stuff allegedly happened), so I had only an idea of what it looked like. A cellar below a nightclub? Dark, grubby, damp, dank? I doubt it looked like it looks now: it’s a beautiful room for cabaret. I don’t know what you’d call the interior design style but it’s perfect for a first class cabaret. And there’s not a bad seat in the house, plus there’s enough space that you’re not packed in, and with a stage adequate enough to hold four or five musicians, a piano and the performer. The service is excellent, quick and attentive." (NYSD)