Thursday, August 31, 2006
Over at Hollywood Elsewhere, Jeffrey Wells has refuted some of the ridiculous criticisms that Mark Evanier had made of my memorial tribute to Bruno Kirby, while also coming up with a fascinating theory about some of the signs that a speaker – as in, Billy Crystal – is lying.
(You'll see that Wells pays a vague compliment to Evanier, but Wells' specific comments regarding Evanier's article politely rip his head off.)
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
[Postscript, 9/2/12: Tonight, Peter Brimelow just published my VDARE Katrina update, “Revising Katrina for the Age of Obama.”]
By Nicholas Stix
Reporters Brian Thevenot, Gordon Russell, Jeff Duncan and Gwen Filosa; managing editors, news, Peter Kovacs and Dan Shea; and editor Jim Amoss, are the newest winners of the Duranty-Blair Award for Journalistic Infamy. The award’s previous winner was former CBS News producer Mary Mapes, who engineered what became known as the “Memogate” (aka Rathergate) hoax, shortly before the 2004 election, in an effort to swing the election toward Democrat challenger, Sen. John Kerry.
The Duranty-Blair Award is named for two of the most notorious characters in the history of journalism, Walter Duranty and Jayson Blair, both of whom were New York Times reporters. (See Jayson Blair I, II, and III.)
Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his feckless work as Stalin’s patsy, covering for the “iron man’s” tyranny and genocide, while Duranty was the Times’ Moscow bureau chief. Blair, a charming but incompetent affirmative action hire who already had a highly questionable past, wrote a series of stories in which he variously fabricated facts out of thin air, or plagiarized legitimate stories from reporters at other newspapers. After Blair resigned in disgrace from the Times, he was rewarded with a six-figure book deal for Burning Down My Masters' House: A Personal Descent Into Madness That Shook the New York Times (the title may be a play on Volunteer Slavery, by black former Washington Post staffer Jill Nelson).
Thanks primarily to the new Duranty-Blair winners, one year after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the general public knows less about what happened in New Orleans, that it did in early September of last year.
The two most influential stories on post-Katrina New Orleans were both by reporters at the Times-Picayune, the city’s only major newspaper.
In the September 6 article, “Bodies found piled in freezer at Convention Center,” Times-Picayune reporter Brian Thevenot wrote of visiting a room containing four corpses covered in sheets, and of the Guardsmen who accompanied him, reporting that 30-40 additional corpses were warehoused in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s blacked-out freezer.
“[Mikel] Brooks and several other Guardsmen said they had seen between 30 and 40 more bodies in the Convention Center's freezer. ‘It's not on, but at least you can shut the door,’ said fellow Guardsman Phillip Thompson.”
Thevenot’s article caused a national sensation.
(In a featured article by Thevenot in the October/November 2005 American Journalism Review, “Apocalypse in New Orleans,” he repeated his most dramatic stories.)
Apparently realizing after the September 6 story that they had violated the taboo against presenting black folks behaving badly, and/or because Times-Picayune staffers remembered, ‘Hey, we’ve got to live here,’ the newspaper literally reversed course, and “untold” the story it had broken.
Unlike Superman, however, the Times-Picayune staffers could not reverse time by flying against the Earth’s axis, at speeds greater than the speed of light, so they had to be more creative.
In a September 26 story, “Rumors of deaths greatly exaggerated; Widely reported attacks false or unsubstantiated; 6 bodies found at Dome; 4 at Convention Center,” four Times–Picayune reporters claimed to have followed up on the most dramatic stories, including Thevenot’s September 6 story, and shown them all to be based on wild “rumors.” This story caused a new, reverse national sensation.
The claims of the September 26 story notwithstanding, a great many of the reports of violence were based on eyewitness and victim reports.
Nowhere in the 3,383-word September 26 story, did the reporters admit that it was their own colleague, Brian Thevenot, who had written the Convention Center corpse story (or that it was a Times-Picayune story at all), or that Thevenot had written that the National Guard troops he had interviewed in the Convention Center had said they had seen the dozens of corpses they spoke of. Indeed, had anyone spoken of merely having “heard of” mountains of corpses, the story would not have had the power to shock.
The September 26 story was reported by none other than Brian Thevenot, and co-written by Gordon Russell, with contributions from staffers Jeff Duncan and Gwen Filosa.
(Brian Thevenot did not respond to an October 11 e-mail from this writer asking him to explain the conflicts between his September 6 and September 26 stories. On October 3, blogger Eric Scheie had reported that Thevenot responded to his e-mail asking the same question by insisting that he had publicly retracted his September 6 story. However, at the time, neither Schneie nor I could find any such public retraction.)
The September 26 story claimed, among other things, to be rebutting a “rumor” that 200 corpses were piled up at the Convention Center. I believe that that example functioned as a straw man for Thevenot, et al., to “debunk” the truth about the New Orleans violence.
(In a second revisionist story, “Myth-Making in New Orleans,” Thevenot “refuted” another “rumor,” according to which 300 corpses were warehoused in “Marion Abramson High School in Eastern New Orleans.” But to my knowledge, at the time, that rumor also never made it to the national media, and thus had no influence on national perceptions of New Orleans.
The mainstream national media immediately began uncritically promoting the new Times-Picayune story, just as they had uncritically promoted the old story. Socialists, libertarians, and neo-conservatives, albeit for different reasons, found the story useful. (See also here.)
Thevenot, who is white, was rewarded for his efforts with the 2006 “Award for Valor Courageous Humanitarian Deeds,” from NAMME, the National Association of Minority Media Executives, at NAMME’s April 27 “Celebration of Diversity” Awards banquet.
In “Who’s Killing New Orleans?,” in the Autumn 2005 issue of City Journal, Nicole Gelinas provided, to my knowledge, the most comprehensive refutation of the Times-Picayune’s revised (September 26), official story.
“The New York Times’s own Dan Barry, a longtime metro columnist with no history of lying, hallucinating, or repeating tall tales, witnessed the corpse of a murder victim that had been lying out for days smack in the middle of New Orleans’s central business district. ‘A Louisiana state trooper around the corner knew all about it: murder victim, bludgeoned, one of several in that area,’ Barry wrote on September 8.”
Gelinas also cited and quoted from stories from the Associated Press, New York Times, Weekly Standard, and, again and again, the Times-Picayune itself (August 30 and 31, and September 1, 7, and 8).
The stories detailed corpses seen by reporters in the streets of New Orleans from shootings and bludgeonings; people shot dead by police officers; one policeman who survived being shot in the head by a looter; a gang rape witnessed by Jake Staples, an official of the National D-Day Museum; of gunmen who randomly shot at displaced families trudging across town; the experiences of Vinnie Pervel, who was assaulted with a sledgehammer and carjacked one day, and who watched as two neighbors shot two looters the next (as reported in the September 7 Times-Picayune) afternoon; of civilians and police alike facing or hearing constant gunfire.
Thevenot & Co. have claimed that the widely reported stories of shots being fired at rescue workers, which held up the rescue, were also based on mere rumors. However, his own newspaper reported on September 7 that a man was arrested for “shooting at a relief helicopter from an apartment window.” First-responders Dr. Charles Burnell and paramedic Toby Bergeron, who were “tending to the sick and wounded” inside the Superdome, were reported by Ellen Barry, Scott Gold and Stephen Braun, in the September 2 Los Angeles Times (“New Orleans Slides into Chaos; US Scrambles to Send Troops”) as having said “several gunshots were fired at helicopters - military and commercial - during the 24 hours they spent treating refugees at the Superdome.” The Los Angeles Times also reported, “Stray gunshots and threats from evacuees led some rescuers to suspend boat searches along New Orleans’ swollen waterways. ‘In areas where our employees have been determined to potentially be in danger, we have pulled back,’ confirmed Russ Knocke, Department of Homeland Security spokesman.”
Considering the many eyewitness reports by first-responders, journalists on the scene, and officials of snipers firing on the predominantly white folks who sought to help the people left behind – doctors, nurses, and medics; rescue workers in helicopters and boats; contractors visiting the levee to survey the damage; and National Guard troops – the Times-Picayune’s attempt to rewrite history is obscene. One recalls the comedy routine by the late Richard Pryor, who when his wife had caught him in bed with another woman, shouted, “Who are you gonna believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?!”
The more decent and honest thing for the newspaper to do would have been to disprove the real lies spread by racist blacks who have charged whites with “genocide.”
As Nicole Gelinas wrote in the Fall 2005 City Journal,
The coroner’s early report implies that the murder rate among those stranded in Katrina’s aftermath was at least five times New Orleans’s normal murder rate [i.e., fifty times the national rate]. This real, not imagined, violence prevented New Orleans from getting the level of volunteer and professional help it needed after Katrina.
(And as Gelinas emphasized, in speaking of a “culture of murder,” savage levels of violence were already the rule in “NOLA,” before Katrina made landfall.)
In the weeks after the Times-Picayune’s September 26 article was published, ever more outraged New Orleans crime victims and witnesses came forward from all over the country, to denounce the published crime numbers, as did first-responders who had treated some victims in the Superdome, but who were forced to flee after only 24 hours. By mid-December, even NOPD officials were forced to back down from the phony crime numbers (e.g., only four rapes!) they had brazenly peddled following the anarchy, as dozens of since displaced women reported from around the country having been raped in New Orleans and environs in the days immediately following Katrina.
Another blow to the mainstream media’s revised, official Katrina story came on November 14, when reports on New Orleans’ dead were published by the State of Louisiana. The mainstream media had promoted the notion that those who suffered in the Hurricane’s aftermath were almost exclusively black. After all, over 90 percent of those stuck in the city were reportedly black, with the blacks predominantly stuck in the Ninth Ward and environs, where the levees had been breached. And the whites who remained reportedly lived above sea level on dry land, in the city’s tonier precincts. One was given to expect that the dead would be virtually all black. But in fact,
Of the 562 bodies (out of 883) that had so far been identified by race, 48 percent (267) were “African American,” 41 percent (230) were “Caucasian,” eight percent (48) were “unknown,” 2 percent (13) were “Hispanic,” 1 percent (3) were “Native American,” and zero percent (1) was “other.”
Photojournalist-fraud Adnan Hajj notwithstanding, journalists don’t need “photoshop” or any other new technology, in order to foist hoaxes on the world. Words alone will usually do just fine.
In the world of comic books, Superman’s father, Jor-El, gave the former a piece of advice regarding the reversing of time that reporters would do well to follow: “It is forbidden for you to interfere in human history.”
But they never learn.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
It was nothing personal, Billy. Strictly business.
A number of folks have discussed my sendoff to Bruno Kirby, specifically the rift between him and Billy Crystal, which wrecked Kirby’s, and severely damaged Crystal’s career. And some, whom I only discovered after publishing my essay, had discussed the rift, as soon as they heard the bad news.
At Hollywood Elsewhere, where Jeffrey Wells was kind enough to post a link to, and discuss my Kirby essay, many anonymous posters, all of whom claimed to be Hollywood insiders, weighed in on Crystal – all negatively.
At the Orlando Sentinel, , entertainment reporter Roger Moore (not to be confused with the eponymous actor) picked up the torch from Wells, linking to me and Wells, asking “Did the guy who ‘made’ Bruno Kirby unmake him?”
Moore wrote, “Here's what I remember about the City Slickers movie junket in New Orleans  years ago.
“Bruno Kirby was conspicuous by his absence. Billy Crystal made an effort to avoid chatting about his ‘pal,’ whom he had co-starred with in When Harry Met Sally, and Slickers. And he wasn't even in Slickers II.
“Now, Jeff Wells points out this piece [mine], by a New York muckraker, on the shape of their friendship.”
During or shortly after the making of City Slickers, Kirby and Crystal had a falling out, and not only would Crystal no longer work with Kirby, but neither would any of the many producers and directors associated with Crystal, or even friends of his friends.
“Guy doesn't really make his case that Billy killed Kirby's career. But at least it has traveled from whispers that everybody knew about, to something in print. Not that it matters, now. But you NEVER get a straight answer out of most of these Hollywood people, about anything. Even when they write their memoirs, they gloss over these little feuds, fights, etc.”
Well, what were the “whispers that everybody knew about” about? And if Crystal wasn’t to blame for Kirby’s problems, what or who was? There is nothing, not even “whispers” about drug abuse, alcoholism, insanity or unprofessional behavior on Kirby’s part. And it can’t be that Kirby lost his touch, because he was at the top of his game, when the roof fell in on him, and on the rare occasions when he got roles in major league movie and TV productions, he invariably gave striking performances. (Which isn’t to say that he gave inferior performances in his direct-to-video duds; I haven’t seen those pictures.)
Note for later, however, that Moore strongly suggested that the rift had already occurred by the 1991 release of City Slickers.
At Hollywood Elsewhere on Thursday, Jeffrey Wells wrote,
“This article by New York journalist Nicholas Stix (posted on Tuesday and updated today) could have been called 'When Billy Shafted Bruno.' It's not mentioned in the lead graph or the second or third graph, but the heart of the story provides indications and quotes supporting a thesis that Billy Crystal “made” the career of the late Bruno Kirby, who died last week, and then he un-made him.
“Or so the indicators indicate. Crystal certainly seems to have had an indirect hand in limiting Kirby's acting opportunities and may have been, in a sense, a "career- killing ogre" as far as Kirby was concerned. By all means read Stix's article, but in a nutshell it says the following….”
And Wells then gave a thorough, accurate summary of my article, after which his readers commented.
“That's a sad story. I wondered what had happened to Bruno (until I saw him on Entourage recently)-- he did seem to just disappear. And Jon Lovitz was NO substitute [in City Slickers II, N.S.], that's for sure….”
”Posted by: Decker at August 24, 2006 09:54 PM”
“Years ago during a junket for The Freshman which co-starred Bruno Kirby, I was at film school and working for the Village View, now defunct; I was assigned to interview Bruno Kirby and I can honestly say he was by far the nicest celebrity I ever spoke with. He was warm, gracious, and quick to compliment others (Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest and yes, Billy Crystal among them). He also spoke warmly about his dad, Bruce Kirby and answered questions on a wide range of topics, from the best makeout song to his favorite sports moments.
“When the interview concluded, Kirby turned to me and said ‘So do you do anything else?’. I told him I was at film school and he said, ‘Well you should do this for a living because you ask great questions and you know what you're doing. I mean that’. He was sincere and a nice guy and offered me even more encouragement which I never forgot. I was saddened to hear of his passing. As for Billy Crystal, if it's true that he helped sabotage someone's career, let alone a friend's, that is something he'll have to answer for one day...
“Posted by: Daviddb at August 24, 2006 10:58 PM”
“Billy Crystal may have ‘unmade’ Kirby's career but he didn't ‘make’ it.
“Kirby was a very talented character actor sicne the days of GODFATHER TWO and appeared in numerous films with great, juicy roles (GOOD MORNING VIETNAM, TIN MEN etc).
“I heard this story about Billy Crystal coming to London and demanding that an art gallery open during a sunday cause he wanted to examine pieces.
“I never liked Crystal and I never liked his Oscar routines either. He's one of those comics who has an evil form of neurosis that hirts people.
“I'm glad Crystal ain't doing that well now either.
“Posted by: Spacesheik at August 25, 2006 03:16 AM….”
“As I've said before, City Slickers is one of my very favorite nostalgia movies, and a pretty damn good movie in its own right.
“This makes me sad. I mean, I guess we don't really KNOW what happened between them, so I think judging Crystal is a bit unfair. But I think Kirby always came off as such a good, regular guy that it's natural to feel hostile towards Billy.
“Posted by: NYCBusybody at August 25, 2006 06:21 AM….”
“Kirby was excellent in Donnie Brasco. His dancing was a riot...
“Posted by: Merlyn at August 25, 2006 09:02 AM”
“Hey, it's not like Billy C's career has gone all that great after the City Slicker flicks either. I mean, that guy hasn't said anything funny in 15 years.
“Posted by: MASON at August 25, 2006 09:11 AM”
“Yes, he was great in Donnie BRasco, and his cameo as a singer in Hoffa is terrific and his great in this episode of Homicide:
“The Gas Man
“Posted by: jcal at August 25, 2006 09:40 AM….”
“Just saw an episode of the $20,000 Pyramid last nite with Billy Crystal as a celebrity player. Must have been at least 25 years ago. He has more hair now than then. Hmmm .. I wonder how that could be possible?!?!?
“But seriously ... Its a shame that Bruno and Billy couldnt make more movies together. They had great chemistry. Obviously, something pretty nasty must have happened to kill their friendship. Then again, in Hollywood, with all those eccentrics running around, it couldve been as simple as Bruno accidentally ate Billy's Corn Beef sandwich by accident.
“Posted by: rr3333 at August 25, 2006 12:24 PM”
“The few times I've run into Crystal he's been uniformly cool (as in not nice). One time I told him how much I had liked MR. SATURDAY NIGHT, a film which did not receive a lot of love either from critics or the public. His response: ‘Yeah, whatever.’ Way to take a compliment, Bill.
“Posted by: Cadavra at August 25, 2006 05:36 PM….”
“I hear ya, Cadavra. Met Crystal at a theater opening of a show I produced. Told him that, like him, I was from Long Island.
“He gave me a ‘I couldn't give a shit look’. Nice.
“Posted by: Dixon Steele at August 25, 2006 08:00 PM”
“I have worked with Billy onscreen and yes he has more hair now than he did then. Those are little sprouts of hair he glues in all over his head. I've seen them sitting in hair and make up. No one is allowed in the trailer when he is having his magic hair attached.
“But Billy is mean. Really mean. His MO is that everyone think he is this ‘great guy’ but he is terribly small inside and easily threatened by talent. He has a cruel streak. Very cruel. Deborah Winger quit acting after working with him in Forget Paris. He wants actors to make him look good (because he's not a great actor) but if you outshine him he will edit you to his favor professionally cut you off at the knees.
“I really appreciate the truth of him being aired.
“Posted by: sister at August 26, 2006 11:23 AM”
A skeptical reader might say:
1. Hey, the complaints are all anonymous;
2. Some anonymous posters argued that I was wrong about Kirby’s career gong downhill, in contrast to Crystal’s; and
3. While one said that what I wrote about the rift was “old news,” and was “just being rehashed” because of Bruno’s passing.”
To which I say, in reverse order:
3a. Duh! If Kirby hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have chosen to write about his life, and thus done the research that led me to the rift story. If you’re writing about a great actor whose career suddenly tanked when he was on top of the world, then you’ve got to explain why it tanked. Thus, that story was essential to the article, and was important to anyone who cared about Bruno Kirby, ore simply about good reporting. And if everyone knew about the rift, how come I could only find one story about it, from 2001, and an insider wrote to congratulate me on being the first journalist to report on it, since Kirby’s death?
If a rift from 1991 or 1992 is “old news,” then what about When Harry Met Sally (1989), not to mention Good Morning, Vietnam, This is Spinal Tap, going back to The Godfather, Part II? Why talk about Kirby at all? People tend to dismiss reports as “old news,” when they are miffed that they were reported at all.
Thus did the anonymous poster try to turn a positive into a negative.
2a. Those posters obviously did not read my article, or do the comparisons, or they would have seen that although post-Kirby, Billy Crystal made trash, it was very trash for which he was very well compensated. Since 1991, Crystal has typically been paid more for a single movie, than Kirby was paid for the entire past fifteen years. And though Crystal is entertaining, Kirby was a much better actor.
1a. Of course, they are all anonymous. If these people really do work in Hollywood, attacking Crystal, even in his present shape, would be career suicide. One must know one’s place. Besides, the posters who attacked me, also did so anonymously. But if you check out the comments at Hollywood Elsewhere, you will find that spite of years of Crystal’s efforts with journalists to promote a nice-guy image, no one, not even the posters who put me down, had a single good thing to say about Billy Crystal.
On Saturday, Jeffrey Wells posted a blog about a “Career Chiller Top Ten -- a rundown of the best actors and actresses of the last 15 or 20 years whose careers suddenly stalled for no apparent reason.” Although he never mentioned Bruno Kirby, the idea clearly came from my Bruno Kirby story.
At Jonathan Potts’ blog, The Conversation, there was a discussion about Crystal and Kirby, as soon as the bad news came down (i.e., days before my article appeared). Again, no one had anything nice to say about Billy Crystal. In fact, Sean McDaniel told the two nastiest Crystal-Kirby stories I’ve yet to come across.
“don't forget about him in the freshman. he certainly wasn't a leading man, but he always held his own with the big boys. but i never really heard the story behind his bitter falling out with billy crystal. the estrangement also seemed to keep him out of hollywood...and off screen.
“i seem to remember him calling crystal a back stabbing rat... considering BC's nearly invulnerable nice guy reputation, the insinuations seemed totally bewildering.”
And even better:
“according to the internet scuttlebutt, the crystal flap started when kirby offered a tip to BC on the city slickers [set]. supposedly BC told BK not to tell him how to ‘act’ and BK replied... ‘I was acting before you were an unknown.’ who knows it the quote is true. but it's a great one….”
A certain Mark Evanier devoted a 926-word article, “Crystal Clear,” in which he never mentioned me by name, or linked to my article, trying to unman me.
Evanier once made a living writing cartoon movies and TV shows so bad, that with the exception of Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo, they aren’t even shown on the Crappy Cartoon Channel (aka Boomerang), and even at the nadir of Bruno Kirby’s career, the later refused to stoop that low.
I mention Evanier’s sordid past, because it seems to be the basis for his setting himself up as the jealous guardian of Hollywood secrets. I have no idea what his current profession is; I only know that it isn’t “journalist.” He has a handsome-looking Web site, an air of omniscience, and is pc with a vengeance, fancying, as he does, that citing New York Times columnist Frank Rich is a sign of erudition.
Against me, Evanier claimed variously (my resposnes are in brackets):
“Ricocheting around the farthest crannies of the Internet at the moment is a ‘controversy’ that strikes me as being based on absolutely nothing. People [that would be me in the plural] who never met Bruno Kirby or his occasional co-star Billy Crystal have taken an unsourced rumor that they had some sort of falling-out and have added a lot of speculation and a great many leaps of logic. The end-product is a theory that Crystal, apparently out of some sort of anger, ‘destroyed’ Bruno Kirby's career. Even if the two men did have some sort of quarrel, that does not lead to the conclusion in articles like this one. (Note if you will that its source is a weblog by someone who has had no contact with Crystal and no inside info, and admits to an ‘animus’ towards him.)”
[That’s me, again. Evanier was so unprofessional, not to mention cowardly, that not only did he not name me, but he linked to Jeffrey Wells’ article discussing my article, rather than directly to my article, to make it as cumbersome as possible for readers to find out what a pathetic liar he is.
First of all, the falling out story isn’t an “unsourced rumor,” but a fact. In my original article, I quoted extensively from USA Today reporter Susan Wloszczyna’s (aka Suzie Woz’s) 2001 interview with Crystal, when she asked him about it, and he practically peed his pants. I had revised my article a second time before Evanier attacked it, with material that came from a very solid source supporting the fact that Crystal and Kirby had had a falling out. Not to mention that every Hollywood-watcher but Evanier seemed to know about this falling out; only its exact origin remained murky.]
“I would first argue with the premise that Bruno Kirby's career was destroyed. You can look over his Internet Movie Database listing and see that he worked at pretty much the same volume from when he broke into the field in 1971 until his death this year. [What a whopper! Evanier assumed people would be too lazy to hit his link, and do the comparison. He also knew that I had already anticipated and demolished that claim in my original article, which is reason 1,009 that he didn’t link to it or so much as name me.] He was in hits now and then, flops now and then. It looks like a pretty typical career arc to me. One successful film does not automatically earn you another, especially when you're working in supporting roles, playing the best friend….
“There's always an enormous crapshoot involved and sometimes, it doesn't go the way you want, or the way you'd wish the system would work. One of the people [me again!] arguing that Crystal sabotaged Kirby's career noted that “Kirby also won acclaim on Broadway, replacing Kevin Spacey as the male lead...in Neil Simon's memory play, Lost in Yonkers, which had won four Tony awards. At that point, Kirby's career was on a trajectory that was leading inexorably to Oscar nominations, and perhaps even a golden statuette.”
“That's a completely illogical conclusion. First off, even starring Broadway roles often do not lead to anything beyond Broadway...and rarely does a replacement get any notice at all. (I'm not sure why the guy mentioned the show's four Tony awards since they were won long before Kirby was even in the show. By the way, more than a dozen other actors were replacements in that show over its Broadway run and none of them got important movie offers as a result. Lucie Arnaz, who was one of them, won even more acclaim than Kirby. See any good Lucie Arnaz movies lately?) In any case, no one's career leads "inexorably" to Oscar nominations. Which is why the vast majority of talented, working actors go their entire careers without getting one.”
[Dumb, dumb, dumb. He’s arguing that acclaim on Broadway (in Lost in Yonkers) following a string of acclaimed performances in some of the most prestigious and successful movies of the time, would not “guarantee” Kirby more work. Kirby was already a big success in pictures; Broadway was merely the icing on the cake!
Right. Big producers must have said to themselves, “This guy is dynamite! Let’s not hire him!”
Evanier’s counter-example of Lucie Arnaz is irrelevant to Kirby’s case, because she was 12 years past her big Broadway success in They’re Playing Our Song, and had never had a successful career in theatrical movies.]
“For the sake of argument, let's assume Billy Crystal and Bruno Kirby had some huge fight...and let's really stretch logic and say Crystal had some reason then to want to nuke Kirby's career. Yeah, I know. It doesn't make sense. Crystal's a huge star whose every live appearance sells out and who's begged each year to host the Oscars. In no way is he ever in competition with Bruno Kirby but just play along. Let's pretend Billy decides that Bruno Kirby's career must be terminated.
[As I pointed out in my article, Crystal has only had two successful movies in the past 15 years – City Slickers and Analyze This – and one of them featured Kirby.]
“What could he possibly do? I mean, how might that be accomplished?
“A successful career is based on a lot of different producers and directors wanting to hire you. You need a lot because there are always some who don't like you. Perhaps Billy Crystal blocked Bruno Kirby being cast in City Slickers II and subsequent Billy Crystal movies. It was probably within his power to do so...but how could he stop Spielberg from hiring Bruno Kirby? How could he stop Cameron or Howard or...well, name the top fifty directors in the business these days. If one of them decided Bruno Kirby was the best actor for a given role, would that director say, "Let's go with our second choice. I want to help Billy Crystal destroy Bruno's career."?
[According to Evanier, no prospective employer would ever refuse to hire someone based on what a former employer said about him. So, according to Evanier’s “logic,” when you’re out of work, and a prospective employer calls your previous employer, who hates your guts, and tells him you’re a thief and a child molester, the prospective employer will then say to himself, “I’m not going to pay attention to what Joe Shmo’s previous employer said about him. I’m going to hire the guy!”]
“And it's all based on speculation about some things we know nothing about. Maybe Kirby wasn't in City Slickers II because the writers, producers and/or director didn't want him or his character back. Maybe he had a schedule conflict or he held out for an outrageous sum of money. Who knows? Certainly not the folks [That’s me, again!] spreading the Crystal Conspiracy Theory.”
In fact, the producer of City Slickers II didn’t want Kirby back – because the producer was named Billy Crystal! But then, Evanier didn’t even need to look up that fact; I’d already provided it in my article. The director, Paul Weiland, was a Crystal figurehead, whose career was largely limited to “Mr. Bean” TV episodes. As were writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, who had also scripted the original City Slickers, and the bomb, Mr. Saturday Night, and would go on to script two more Crystal duds, Forget Paris and Father’s Day.
Looking at the sunny side, Evanier cites me as if I were at least four different writers!
There was a time during the mid-to-late 1990s, when I use to write under three different names, both to protect my teaching career (a lot of good that did!), and to make it seem as if there were multiple men who were experts on things like college remedial education, all of whom were eviscerating it. But usually, someone who wants to make you look bad, portrays you as an isolated crank. So, that’s something to be grateful for.
Again assuming that his readers would be too lazy to examine Crystal’s career, Evanier also misrepresented its post-Kirby trajectory. And since he doesn’t permit comments, his readers would in any event be unable to point out his falsehoods at his site.
And if Evanier had taken the time to see what people wrote about Kirby, and honestly reported on it, he would have had to say the opposite of what he did about Kirby’s influence on the movies he was in. You can agree or disagree with those posters’ judgments, but a lot of fans thought Kirby was the best thing in movies like The Freshman, When Harry Met Sally, and City Slickers, and that he was central to those pictures’ success. Or are all actors, as Evanier implies, interchangeable?
Finally, Evanier says that I had no contact with Crystal, and that I had an animus towards him.
True and true. But he leaves out that I had mentioned contacting Crystal’s publicist more than once. There is no rule that you cannot write about someone, unless he cooperates with your piece.
As far as animus is concerned, when you read a rip job by a writer on a public figure, the writer usually had an animus towards that figure. However, such writers will almost never admit to having an animus towards someone they’re ripping. Thus, Evanier is taking my honesty, and using it against me.
Besides, it cuts both ways: Evanier clearly had an animus against me. Is his animus the disqualifying factor, or his dishonesty?
If I had to write the article over again, I would have added that I had felt no animus towards Crystal when I initially heard of Kirby’s death, and decided to write a tribute to the latter.
When I wrote a series of brief reviews for the best pictures of 1989 for my magazine, A Different Drummer, I waxed theological about Crystal, saying that but for him, God would have demolished Crystal’s (and my) hometown of Long Beach, NY. (And no, I’ve never crossed paths with Crystal, who is eleven years older than me.) It was only through researching Kirby’s career, that I discovered that Crystal was the key to its post-1991 collapse. That, and that alone, caused me to harbor animosity towards Crystal.
When I write about murderers and child rapists and corrupt politicians and lying journalists, I also have an animus towards them, and that animus drives me to expose them, while others maintain silence. Ideally, a journalist speaks for the voiceless, and ultimately, like homicide detectives and historians, he speaks for the dead. There is nothing wrong with having an animus, as long as it does not cloud one’s judgment, and is not used as an excuse for becoming dishonest and/or lazy.
Following Evanier’s “logic,” only sycophants could ever write about anybody. Or rather, about anybody famous, since Evanier has no problem ripping me. But in neither case – celebrity or civilian – would a reader ever learn the truth.
Unfortunately, sycophants like Mark Evanier are all too typical of what passes for writing on Hollywood. In today’s information tidal wave, no one has to settle for that anymore. But readers must be ever vigilant against hacks like Evanier, who, once the truth has been uncovered, seek to re-cover it.
And yet, for all of his pathetic, dishonest attacks on me, on behalf of Billy Crystal, Mark Evanier did not say a single nice thing about Crystal.
Billy Crystal and Bruno Kirby.
I was riding tonight with a cabby I've been with before. He was talking about problems car services have, that make them less lucrative than you might think. For one thing, it's hard getting guys who will come in every day, to work 12 hour shifts. I suggested that while in many parts of the country, you might find lots of native Americans willing to work that hard, in New York, the native-born are a bit, shall we say, work shy. He agreed, adding,
“Like I always say, in the Rockaways, there are four jobs: policeman, fireman, sanitation man, and workmen's comp.”
Monday, August 28, 2006
Sports guru Mike Francesa has a problem. How to delicately put this? He’s a Yankees-Sniffer.
Francesa hosts Mike’d Up: The Francesa Sports Show in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut (“tri-state”) area, on NBC affiliate WNBC, immediately following the 11 O’Clock News.
In previous seasons – the show has been on the air since 2003 – Francesa’s baseball malady was not obvious. The Yankees were rightfully the toast of the town, and so it was understood that they would get the lion’s share of attention.
(Full disclosure: I am a Mets fan, and have been since 1968, when they were still lovable losers. However, except for when they play my beloved Mets, I have nothing against the Yankees, whom I have also watched, on and off, on TV since 1968. I support them, and have even, on two occasions, attended games in The House That Ruth Built, and That the New York City Taxpayer Rebuilt. I believe that Joe Torre is the best manager in the game – although Mets’ skipper and Torre-protégé Willie Randolph is rapidly gaining on him – and am a huge Derek Jeter fan. Back in 2001, I called Jeter, a la Lou Gehrig, “the Pride of the Yankees”; his only mistake in baseball is to play for the wrong team.)
Just before this season began, Francesa wondered aloud whether the retooled Mets, coming off their first winning season in four years, and with newly acquired veterans, slugging first baseman Carlos Delgado, set-up man Duaner Sanchez, and stopper extraordinaire Billy Wagner added to the mix, might be able “to knock the Yankees off the back pages.”
Well, they did, but not in Francesa’s parallel universe.
While the Yankees staggered out of the gate, the Mets roared off to their best start, 10-2, in club history. Still, Francesa led with the Yankees, and stayed with the Yankees.
He even started doing shows from the Yogi Berra Museum, for cryin’ out loud!
At one point, in early or mid-June, the Yankees had a hellish week, in which they couldn’t do anything right, while the Mets were virtually unbeatable. So, who does Francesa lead with? The Yankees, of course.
Francesa talked about the Yankees. And talked. And talked. It had to be seven or eight minutes long. And then he devoted about sixty seconds, as an afterthought, to the Mets.
That was it, for me. I’ll consider watching the show after the baseball season is over, but I haven’t tuned in since.
In spite of his undeniable talent, Francesa’s always been problematic, uneven, and overrated.
The first time I ever saw him was around 1989 or 1990, when he co-hosted a weekend TV sports show with Andrea Joyce.
They made for quite the odd couple. Francesa was a slovenly 300+ pounds, with a huge head of dark hair, and big, horn-rimmed glasses, while Joyce was a ravishing, slim (but not too slim), light-haired beauty. The beauty and the beast.
But Andrea Joyce was more than mere eye candy.
Francesa would stand around in professorial mode, while letting Joyce do all the heavy lifting. She would zip through all the scores – and there were a lot of scores – while he would chime in, now and then, with a “sage” observation. Except that his observations weren’t all that sage – he just said them in a pompous manner. Meanwhile, Joyce would somehow manage to be able to think and to breathe while zipping through all that information, and occasionally sandwich in brilliant observations … for which Francesa got the credit!
I remember once during that time, reading the favorite sports writer of my childhood, Newsday’s Stan Isaacs. Isaacs was talking about the previous weekend’s Francesa-Joyce show, specifically, a brilliant observation Joyce had made – only Isaacs gave Francesa the credit!
(I’ve noticed a number of local female TV broadcasters in New York, who appear to outwork their male counterparts: UPN’s Monica Pellegrini and WABC’s Janib Abreu come to mind. And anyone who’s read me knows that I do not pander to women. Just keep ‘em out of the men’s locker room.)
Francesa is best known in the New York area via the talk radio sports show, The Mike and the Mad Dog Show, that he has co-hosted with Chris “Mad Dog” Russo since September 5, 1989, on WFAN-AM. Francesa and Russo kibitz and argue with each other, and with listeners who call in.
I have never tuned into the show, though I think I have caught a minute or two, while riding in a cab. The idea of spending four hours straight, cold stone sober, listening to people argue sports (or anything else), without being paid to do so, smacks to me of cruel and unusual punishment. On the other hand, if I had a job like driving a taxi 12 hours a day, the punishment of listening to sports talk might offset the punishment of driving. Choose your poison.
I did tune in on cable a few months ago. One of the New York channels carries Francesa and Russo’s radio show on TV. So, instead of just listening to them on the radio, you get to watch them talking with headphones on in a radio studio.
There were only 15 minutes left, and Russo was jabbering away, repeating himself like crazy – anything to fill air time.
During the late 1990s, a controversy swirled around Francesa, due to his friendship with then “New York” (read: New Jersey, since the team has played in the Garden State since the 1984 season) Jets coach Bill Parcells. Francesa was being paid to, among other things, cover the Jets. However, he announced that his friendship with Parcells came first, and that he would therefore never say anything critical about Parcells.
Francesa should have been cashiered for such unprofessionalism, but his job was never in danger. In what passes for sports “journalism” today, you can get away with just about any outrage, as long as you avoid screwing up and saying anything true about race or sex.
Francesa’s cronyism can get downright silly at times. When his TV show was relatively new, he would supposedly go through reader’s e-mails, and read the best ones on the air. But that sham soon became transparent, when almost all of the e-mails, week in and week out, were from the same Francesa radio fan, “Vince from Garwood” (New Jersey). The NBC suits apparently had Francesa cut out that time-filler. After all, the TV show only runs thirty minutes, including commercials; it doesn’t need any filler.
The above may sound as if I think Francesa is a blowhard with nothing to say. Au contraire. While he had little of value to say, back in his days with Andrea Joyce, that may have been because he was new to the medium. He has done excellent work, at times, on Mike’d Up, showing great intelligence and eloquence in discussing sports and individual athletes, and he does intelligent watchable interviews of local sportswriters. But during the spring and summer, the show’s title needs to be changed to Mike Francesa’s Yankees and Golfing, or Mike Francesa’s Anything But the Mets.
(Postscript: The last thing I discovered while re-writing and researching this column is that, like Billy Crystal, Mike Francesa grew up in my hometown of Long Beach, NY. However, to my knowledge, I never crossed paths with Francesa, who is four years older than I am. That I should have devoted two consecutive columns to guys who grew up in the same small town, was pure serendipity. I know of only three other famous people who grew up in Long Beach: Basketball player and coach Larry Brown, Hollywood producer David Brown, and the late producer-director-screenwriter, Alan J. Pakula. I do not plan on writing about any of them in the immediate future.)
Mike Francesa, Andrea Joyce, and TV Sports.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
In a dramatic development, the heads of the American Sociological Association, American Psychological Association,
American Political Science Association, American Economic Association, American Anthropological Association and Linguistic Society of America all resigned their academic posts and disbanded their organizations, and all of the organizations’ members resigned their faculty positions at thousands of American institutions of higher education.
In a joint communiqué, signed by Gerald P. Koocher, the president of the American Psychological Association; Frances Fox Piven, the president of the American Sociological Association; Ira Katznelson, the president of the American Political Science Association; Alan Goodman, the president of the American Anthropological Association; George A. Akerlof, the president of the American Economic Association; and Sally McConnell-Ginet, the president of the Linguistic Society of America, the organization presidents wrote,
“For many years, critics within the social sciences and among the general public have criticized the use of ‘stereotypes,’ emphasizing that people ‘are all individuals and their beliefs and motivations are quite complex.’ Reflecting on the power of such critiques, we concluded that since social science cannot proceed without stereotypes (aka 'generalizations,' aka 'ideal types,' aka 'types'), we cannot in good conscience continue in our jobs and organizations. To do so would be to perpetrate scientific fraud and unconscionably immoral stereotyping on the American and world public, and in particular, on students and the American taxpayer who must pay or subsidize exorbitant tuition and fees. We apologize for every dollar we have been paid, and will seek in every way possible to repay our debt to society.”
American Sociological Association, American Psychological Association, American Political Science Association, American Anthropological Association, American Economic Association, Linguistic Society of America, Frances Fox Piven, Gerald P. Koocher, Ira Katznelson, Alan Goodman, George A. Akerlof, Sally McConnell-Ginet, and Satire.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
By Nicholas Stix
Apparently, Israel has for years been shelling towns in Southern Lebanon, killing people, and occasionally kidnapping Hezbollah terrorists. At least that’s what would have to be the case for Doug Bandow’s tirade, “Chutzpah Squared,” over at 4 Pundits to make any sense. But then, it’s a recycling of something he’d previously written for AntiWar.com.
Okay, let me get this straight. Israel attacks Lebanon and reduces much of the south and parts of Beirut and elsewhere to rubble. In doing so, it increases, as if that was possible, hatred of Israel (and the U.S.) in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Mideast. Israel's attack unifies most Lebanese behind Hezbollah, which proves better able to stand up to Israel than have most Arab governments. The assault also demonstrates the impotence of the Lebanese government and leaves Hezbollah as that nation's best organized and most effective organization. The ugly aftermath--homes wrecked, jobs destroyed, crops ruined, unexploded ordnance sitting about--leaves Lebanese desperately in need of assistance.
Which means, ta da!, Hezbollah can step forward, bankrolled by Iran and Syria, to fill the void. The end result then would be an even more influential Hezbollah with greater ability to do harm to Israel in the future. So it is everyone else's responsibility to fix the problem by dropping bombloads of cash on south Lebanon.
Returning to the real world from The Twilight Zone, the areas from which Israel has for years been daily shelled, have for just as long been under Hezbollah control. Israel doesn’t destroy too many jobs, because Hezbollah maintains much of the populace on welfare, so that they will be loyal to it. But what if that were not the case, and Israel were destroying Lebanese jobs, left and right? That’s a novel defense of terrorism: Fighting terrorists destroys jobs. America destroyed jobs in Afghanistan, and she is presently destroying jobs in Iraq.
And why limit the "job destruction" criticism to those figthing terorists. I wonder how many Japanese, German, and Italian jobs America destroyed during World War II. And I'm sure that only made the Japs, Gerries, and Italians (there was no wartime phrase, that I'm aware of, referring to the Italians) hate us even more, or just started them off hating us.
I guess this killer "job-destruction" criticism is the replacement for the "disproportionate response" talking point, since Hezbollah's Green Helmet Corpse Distribution Program was exposed.
To the uninitiated, AntiWar.com is, like so many “pacifists,” not at all against war, just against certain people defending themselves against Raimondo & Co.’s favorite war-mongers. The site could be renamed, “Die, Jews, die!” without missing a beat. (Expected response from my anti-Semite and neo-Nazi fans: ‘There he goes, with the anti-Semitism smear! These damned Jews can’t take constructive criticism, without playing the victim, and smearing their critics! There was no Holocaust – the damned Jews just made that up, to look like victims – and I wish Hitler had finished the job!’)
Stick to economics, Doug. You’re not quite as bad at that. Conversely, I’m a much more gifted Jew-baiter than you are. (‘Oh yeah? Prove it!’)
Israel, Hezbollah, Lebanon, Doug Bandow and Pacifism.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Today's New York Times carries a story by Duff Wilson and Jonathan D. Glater, "Files From Duke Rape Case Give Details but No Answers."
The story seeks desperately to cover for accuser Crystal Gail Mangum and for DA Mike Nifong, and early on draws the following conclusion, which seems more appropriate to an editorial than a news story.
By disclosing pieces of evidence favorable to the defendants, the defense has created an image of a case heading for the rocks. But an examination of the entire 1,850 pages of evidence gathered by the prosecution in the four months after the accusation yields a more ambiguous picture. It shows that while there are big weaknesses in Mr. Nifong’s case, there is also a body of evidence to support his decision to take the matter to a jury.
The “reporters” also insist that Mangum was not a prostitute; strongly insinuate that the Duke lacrosse players gave her a date-rape drug; omit the statement of her partner that night, Kim Roberts Pittman, that the two were never apart for more than five minutes, and exert themselves in seeking to paper over contradictions in her story, such as her initial police report that she had been with three other “dancers,” as opposed to one.
Wilson and Glater also omit statements by DA Nifong that undermine his case: His lie that the lacrosse players were stonewalling him, when in fact they had been very cooperative; his claim that the alleged attackers might have given the alleged victim a “date rape drug,” when in fact, there was no evidence of such, and Nifong had avoided the opportunity to do a drug tox screen, to determine what in fact was the case; and Nifong’s early claim that the case would rise and fall on the DNA evidence, a claim that he contradicted, just as soon as it was determined that there was no DNA evidence. And while the reporters mention the complaint by the defendants’ defense attorneys that the accuser was only shown pictures of lacrosse team members, they refrain from mentioning that in typical police practice, for each picture of a suspect, six pictures of people who could not be suspects are typically mixed in. Wilson and Glater write as if they were working as spinmeisters for Nifong’s office: “Outside experts say it is possible for a rapist to leave no DNA evidence. But they say juries often expect to see such evidence.”
“Possible for a rapist,” but not bloody likely. And not possible for three rapists. The reporters also insinuate that another lacrosse player, who has not been charged, also raped Mangum, and seek to spin exculpatory evidence into incriminating evidence, by mentioning it in a sinister manner.
The police recovered semen from beside the toilet — about the same spot where the woman said she had spat out semen from someone who orally raped her. It matched the DNA of Matt Zash, a team captain who lived in the house and has not been charged. His lawyer said the semen had come from other, innocent sexual activity. Investigators also found a towel in the hallway near [defendant David] Evans’s bedroom with semen matching his DNA. The woman had told the sexual assault nurse that someone had wiped her vagina with a rag. Mr. Evans’s lawyer said that this towel had nothing to do with her accusation, and that the semen came from other activity.
Wilson and Glater insinuate not only that Matt Zash is an additional rapist, but that the towel they cite is evidence against David Evans.
Not even out-of-control prosecutor Mike Nifong went so far as to indict Zash. And as for the towel, if one searches the sleeping quarters of a healthy, single, 23-year-old man on any given day, one is almost sure to find semen-soaked towels, t-shirts or tissues. In fact, such “evidence” is so commonly found in young men’s sleeping quarters, that in his “Zuckerman” novels, Philip Roth made a running joke of the matter.
Had Wilson and Glater been serious about crime reporting, as opposed to writing propaganda for Mike Nifong, they would have added that had the towel with Evans’ semen been used to wipe Mangum’s vagina, it would also very likely have contained her DNA, as well.
Wilson and Glater seek to weave incriminating evidence out of whole towels, where there is none.
Led by "reporter" Cash Michaels, black media outlets that have long insisted, in the face of mountains of exculpatory evidence, that DA Nifong has been holding back damning evidence against the defendants, will surely trumpet the New York Times reporters' insinuations as part of that "evidence."
Apparently, the Times seeks to re-create the pro-prosecution echo chamber that operated early in tghe case, and was then drowned out by the defendants' attorneys and the blogosphere, before Judge Titus issued his notorious gag order last month.
That Mangum worked for at least one, and possibly three prostitution services (Bunny Hole Entertainment, Allure, and Angel’s Escorts have been named in different reports) has not been disputed by anyone, although the media insist on using the euphemism, “escort service.” But early on, Mangum told a local reporter that she did “one-on-one” sessions with clients, and did not deny (or affirm, for that matter) that they involved prostitution. Perhaps it is theoretically possible, in a parallel universe, for a woman working for a prostitution agency to give paying customers “one-on-one” sessions without engaging in sex, but in this world, the likelihood is nil.
(While it is certainly possible for a prostitute to be raped, it is for some reason very important for Wilson and Glater and others seeking to railroad the Duke Three, to insist that Mangum was not a prostitute. Perhaps they fear that if people believe that Mangum was a prostitute, they will be less likely to believe her story of gang rape.)
The New York Times is trying desperately to help DA Nifong win election this fall, to support Mangum, and to railroad three white men against whom no credible incriminating evidence, but much exculpatory evidence has been adduced. Crystal Gail Magnum has undoubtedly had a hard, sad, life, and very likely was gang-raped – ten years ago, by three black men. But railroading three white men today, will not exact punishment against three black rapists of yesteryear.
Duke Rape Case, New York Times, Crystal Gail Mangum, Mike Nifong, Duff Wilson, and Jonathan D. Glater, David Evans, and Matt Zash.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Posted at 8:00 a.m., Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Updated at 12:40 p.m., Thursday, August 24, 2006
Last update at 2:58 p.m., Friday, August 25, 2006
I guess the moral of the story is, never disagree with your “best friend” in Hollywood, if you’re the second banana, and he’s the star/producer. Apparently, what Harry Truman said about friendship in Washington, applies to Hollywood, as well: “If you want a friend … get a dog.”
Character actor Bruno Kirby died on August 14 of leukemia at the age of 57, according to an announcement by his wife, actress Lynn Sellers.
Born Bruno Giovanni Quidaciolu, the son of actor Bruce Kirby (who was best known for playing Bassett hound-faced Det. Sgt. Kramer on the original Columbo), and brother of acting coach John Kirby, Kirby also performed early in his career as “Bruce Kirby Jr.”
Kirby had been diagnosed with leukemia only shortly before his death. Sellers asked “that contributions be made in Bruno Kirby's name to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at 6033 West Century Blvd., Suite 300, Los Angeles, CA 90045.”
Sellers and Kirby married in 2004; Kirby is also survived by his father, brother, stepmother Roz Kirby, and stepbrother Brad Sullivan.
Bruno Kirby generally played characters who were either working-class, or whose working-class roots were visible in their voices and mannerisms.
Prior to Kirby’s death, millions of people knew his name, but millions more knew his face and his irritating, high-pitched, nasal voice. Now the numbers match much more closely. Last Wednesday, I googled under his name and came up with only 262,000 entries, a paltry number for a contemporary Hollywood actor. As of 6:54 a.m. on April 24, the number was up to 6,300,000. (At the same time, Billy Crystal had 2,010,000 entries.)
Dozens of fans, and people claiming to be friends, relatives and colleagues posted fond remembrances of Kirby both as an actor and as a man, at Web site tributes to him, such as at Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch. Some posters claimed to have crossed his path, either working with Kirby as theater ushers before his breakthrough, or having later served him in some capacity on a job where he was a customer. The message was always the same: Bruno Kirby was a regular guy, who never stood on ceremony, or tried to make ordinary people feel small.
Of all the memories I read, I found Phil Oropesa’s the most moving.
Mr. Kirby was sheduled to appear on Letterman, shortly after "Good Morning Vietnam" opened. I was trying to make ends meet and moonlighting as a limo driver in New York City. I was assigned to pick up Mr. Kirby at JFK and drive him downtown. His plane was delayed by over two hours due to a fierce snowstorm, even by NYC standards.
Needless to say that he was relieved to find me waiting for him as he stepped of the plane. All the way to the car he kept thanking me for waiting. When I opened the car door for him he asked if it would be OK for him to sit up front with me. I told him it was going to be a long slow drive in the snowstorm and that I would welcome the company. As we were driving away from the Airport, he asked if there was any liquor in the back. I told him there was a bottle of scotch, a bottle of vodka and mixers in the mini-fridge. He climbed through the divider window and came back with the bottle of scotch and two glasses (I know, a very un-PC thing nowadays but a very cool guy thing to do). As we slowly drove through the blizzard into Manhattan, we drank scotch and talked about sports but mostly we talked about me. We talked about what I did for a living, my pregnant wife (our first), living in New York in general and life in the cosmic sense. To this day, looking back at the experience I can only recall him talking about himself just once when he said he was a little nervous about being on the Letterman show because Letterman was so unpredictable. When we arrived at his destination (his mothers apartment)he shook my hand, wished be all the best and gave me a $100 bill "for the baby...".
I drove many "stars" in those two years, but Mr. Kirby is the only one that I look back on with genuine affection. Beyond that one brief meeting I didn't really "know" Mr Kirby. However, from that one experience, I feel "genuine" is the word that describes him best. He will be missed.
By the way Mr. Kirby if you are out there listening, my firstborn is enrolled in NYU studying theater and acting. Maybe a little of you rubbed off on that C note!
Phil Oropesa | Aug 19, 2006 12:55:44PM
In a characteristically humble quote attributed to Kirby at IMDB.com, he said, “I've been very lucky. And in this business, you have to have a certain amount of timing and luck because I know, right now as we're sitting here talking, there's a guy driving a cab in New York City who can put me away.”
Also at IMDB.com, the writer of movie and TV profiles, Gary Brumburgh observed, “Native New Yorker and Italianate Bruno Kirby tended towards assertive, pushy streetwise characters and had a highly distinctive scratchy tenor voice that complimented his slim eyes and droopy puss, often accentuating his deadpan comedic instincts on film and TV.”
By 1991, the then-42-year-old Kirby was one of the hottest character actors in Hollywood.
His first big break came playing the young “Clemenza” in The Godfather, Part II (1974), in the section of the picture in which Robert DeNiro plays the young “Vito Corleone” in New York’s Little Italy. Corleone makes the acquaintance of Clemenza, who takes him to a “friend’s” luxurious home. Except that this is no friendly visit. Corleone finds himself in the middle of comical burglary, in which Clemenza also enlists an unwitting cop. Clemenza gets Corleone to help him roll up and steal an expensive living room rug.
Kirby made an immediate, indelible impression. And well he had to. “Clemenza,” as played by Richard Castellano (1933-1988), was one of the most beloved characters in The Godfather.
(Castellano was in The Godfather early in a blossoming movie career, but by making extravagant demands of director-screenwriter-producer Francis Ford Coppola for his participation in The Godfather, Part II, he cut that career to the quick. Coppola wrote Castellano out of the picture, and the latter’s career never recovered.)
Before Kirby was in The Godfather, Part II, he had become acquainted with the Reiner family, which led to his greatest successes. In 1972, he had played, ironically, Richard Castellano’s son in the TV show, The Super, about a building superintendent. The Super ran for only one season, but it was produced by a very young Rob Reiner, who was then playing son-in-law, “Mike ‘Meathead’ Stivic,” on All in the Family.
Reiner, the son of Carl Reiner, the legendary writer-producer of The Dick Van Dyke Show, would eventually become, for approximately eight busy years (1984-1992), one of Hollywood’s best directors. (Steve Sailer has speculated that Reiner’s decline as a director has been due to his investing too much of his time and energy in political activism.)
In 1984, Rob Reiner cast Kirby in a small role in Reiner’s first theatrical movie as director, the cult classic rock “mockumentary,” This is Spinal Tap, where Kirby worked with Billy Crystal for the first time.
Most of Kirby’s role, as a Sinatra-obsessed (which Kirby actually was) limo driver, was cut from the movie, but it was added, as part of the extras, to the 2000 DVD version.
Kirby came to the notice of director-screenwriter Barry Levinson, who cast him in 1987’s Good Morning, Vietnam and Tin Men. In Good Morning, Vietnam, Kirby impressed critics and audiences alike, as the humorless heavy, a polka-loving, would-be comedian who maligns the free-spirited DJ-comic played by Robin Williams. (In retrospect, the movie, a simple-minded, pc morality play about a persecuted, saintly, non-conformist, anticipated Patch Adams, but was redeemed by Williams’ brilliant improvisations.)
In 1989, Kirby performed in two more Reiner family pictures. He had a more substantial role in Carl Reiner’s Bert Rigby, You're a Fool (1989), and in Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally, he played the male second banana as the sportswriter-best friend of Billy Crystal’s character. When Harry Met Sally would prove to be one of the greatest romantic comedies ever made, and the high point in the career of everyone involved in the production.
The following year, Kirby had a pivotal comic role in The Freshman, with Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick.
In 1991, Kirby’s macho role in City Slickers, his second great picture as Crystal’s second banana, was even more substantial than his role in When Harry Met Sally. City Slickers, a dramedy about the mid-life crises of three men (including Daniel Stern) who go on a modern-day cattle drive for yuppies, was a commercial and critical success.
That same year, Kirby also won acclaim on Broadway, replacing Kevin Spacey as the male lead, playing the smallest of small-timers, would-be gangster “Uncle Louie,” in Neil Simon’s memory play, Lost in Yonkers, which had won four Tony awards.
At that point, Kirby’s career was on a trajectory that was leading inexorably to Oscar nominations, and perhaps even a golden statuette.
And then his career tanked.
A couple of years ago, I checked out Kirby’s credits at imdb.com. Following City Slickers, his career took the sort of nosedive typically associated with drugs, alcohol, or a nervous breakdown. But there was nothing wrong with Kirby. And yet, the names of most of the pictures he was in, after City Slickers, were so forgettable – obscure, direct-to-video duds that I had never even heard of – that I instantly forgot them.
The Billy and Bruno Show: Cancelled
During or shortly after the making of City Slickers, Kirby and Crystal had a falling out, and not only would Crystal no longer work with Kirby, but neither would any of the many producers and directors associated with Crystal, or even friends of his friends. As a result, while Kirby continued to work, he was cast in fewer movies, and the ones he was cast in were, well … take a look for yourself:
Golden Gate (1994)? Heavenzapoppin'! (1996)? A Slipping-Down Life (1999)? History Is Made at Night (1999)? One Eyed King (2001)?
Kirby’s career reached its nadir, when he was billed 21st, in a William Baldwin vehicle called, One Eyed King. The act of merely referring to William Baldwin as an “actor” constitutes a felony in 22 states.
While at some Web sites, fans and the occasional reviewer mentioned a break between Kirby and Crystal, details were lacking, and any journalistic dispatches seemed to be lost in pre-Internet newspaper morgues. There was nothing in the New York Times archive, including Times Select.
A cached, anonymous, undated entry at the no-longer-functioning O Inquirer states,
“Kirby was slated to co-star in City Slickers II , but a falling out with producer-star Billy Crystal led to his role being given to weight-gaining Jon Lovitz. The details of the feud have never been spelled out. More recently, Kirby, always stocky, appears to have packed on some weight.” (The "O" in O Inquirer appears to stand for "overweight.")
Finally, I found a USA Today story, dated July 12, 2001. Reporter Susan Wloszczyna interviewed Crystal, along with Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones and John Cusack, as part of a press junket for the actors’ just-released movie, America’s Sweethearts. For the set-up, Wloszczyna had asked the performers for their worst junket story.
Wloszczyna: The press has been maybe a little too invasive, I would say, with some of you. But I never really read that much dirt about you, Billy.
Crystal: That's good.
Wloszczyna: The only thing I could come up with is that when you were making City Slickers II, you and Bruno Kirby had a falling out.
Crystal: He wasn't in City Slickers II.
Wloszczyna: Yeah, I know, but there was some reason that he didn't do it. Are you guys still friends?
Crystal: I haven't spoken to him — I think we are. I haven't seen him or spoken to him in a long time.
Wloszczyna: That's the best I could come up with.
Roberts: I've talked to Bruno.
Cusack: I talked to him this morning.
Crystal: This is a perfect situation. We're here to talk about the movie, and you're talking about something personal or whatever it is that happened, I don't know, eight, nine years ago.
Wloszczyna: But it's about the movie, because the subject of the movie is the press and famous people.
Crystal: So now you're my worst junket story.
“I think we are” still friends? With a guy you went from being practically vaudeville partner with, to not seeing or speaking to “in a long time”?
Had it not been for Susan Wloszczyna’s questions, and Crystal’s flustered, transparently dishonest responses, you could wonder: Did Kirby somehow screw up? Was it just one of those things? Or was this a case of a star who let his stardom go to his head, and iced a guy’s career, just because he could?
I guess the moral of the story is, never disagree with your “best friend” in Hollywood, if you’re the second banana, and he’s the star/producer. Apparently, what Harry Truman said about friendship in Washington, applies to Hollywood, as well: “If you want a friend … get a dog.”
Kudos to Susan Wloszczyna for what may seem like a minor attack of journalism. Celebrity interviews, whether of movie or sports stars, are typically the most sycophantic media form, with the journalist displaying an adulation more appropriate to a TV interview with a genocidal dictator whose bodyguards are aiming .357 magnums at the interviewer’s head, from behind the cameras. The only difference is that a big movie star will often have a contractual agreement, rather than .357s, to guarantee that no journalism takes place. (E.g., those notorious, Vanity Fair puff pieces.)
As for Julia Roberts and John Cusack’s statements, a solid source tells me that they were actually mocking Crystal, by acting as though they had had rifts with Kirby, and patched theirs up.
Crystal’s publicist, Craig Bankey, politely declined my interview requests, on behalf of his client.
The writer of a lovely Washington Post/Los Angeles Times obit that ran, oddly enough, without a byline on August 20, got three words more out of Crystal than I did. Crystal called Kirby’s death “a terrible loss.”
In case you think it would have been foolish for Crystal to talk to me, given my animus towards him, you’d be amazed how someone can soften a journalist’s attitude by the magical act of merely talking to him. But anything Billy Crystal could have said to make him look more like a mensch, and less like a career-killing ogre, remains his secret.
Kirby managed to pick up a couple of decent paychecks working on TV movies, and in 1995, Barry Levinson cast him as the guest heavy in the season-ending episode, “Gas Man,” of Levinson’s critically acclaimed show, Homicide: Life on the Street. Levinson, who served as one of the show’s executive producers, also directed the episode.
In “Gas Man,” which first aired on May 5, 1995, Kirby played Victor Helms Sr., a convicted killer (manslaughter?), just paroled after six years in prison, who stalks “Det. Frank Pembleton” (Andre Braugher), the man who had put him away.
With no training or license, Helms, a classic screw-up, had misrepresented himself as a licensed plumber. On a plumbing job, he left a gas pipe disconnected, causing the death of an entire family, from carbon monoxide poisoning. When he was convicted, he swore that he would kill Pembleton, as soon as he was released.
As a fan, “Ken,” recalled in a post at Pop Watch, Kirby “brought his usual edgy borderline humor approach to the role as he stalked one of the detectives night and day.” (Aug 16, 2006 9:39:21 PM)
In a just world, Kirby would have been nominated for an Emmy for that guest turn, but in the fickle world of the Emmys, that too was not to be.
Kirby also gave performances that were noted by public and critics alike in small roles in The Basketball Diaries (1995), Sleepers (1996), and Donnie Brasco (1997).
1997, he co-starred with Paula Cale in Bunny, Bunny: Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy, Alan Zweibel’s autobiographical story about his long friendship with the Saturday Night Live comedienne, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989, at the age of 42.
Kirby’s last performance aired only six weeks before his death, on the satirical HBO series, Entourage. In the episode “Guys and Doll,” he played a neurotic producer who takes to bed, when someone steals his Shrek doll.
While Billy Crystal may have been successful on Broadway last year, in his one-man show, 700 Sundays (for which his wife won a Tony as producer), and has had some high-paying roles in Hollywood A productions, nothing he has done in pictures since cutting Bruno Kirby loose has come remotely close to the quality of When Harry Met Sally or City Slickers. Excepting the shlocky success of Analyze This with Robert DeNiro, and the animated feature Monsters, Inc. (2001), most of Crystal’s post-Kirby pictures have bombed: Mr. Saturday Night, City Slickers II, Forget Paris, Father’s Day, My Giant, Analyze That.
Karma, baby. Or call it the Kirby Curse.
A more prosaic explanation, is that Billy Crystal needs an earthy sidekick, in order to click with audiences, and Bruno Kirby was by far the best such sidekick he ever worked with.
Crystal did excellent work with David Paymer, who played his long-suffering brother in Mr. Saturday Night (1992), and for which the latter was nominated for best supporting actor. But the picture bombed. Paymer is an excellent actor, but due to his face and voice, he specializes in whiny sorts of characters. Crystal and Paymer are a match made in box-office hell.
The closest Crystal came to recapturing the chemistry he had with Kirby was when he did voice work with the similarly earthy John Goodman in Monsters, Inc..
Thus, in wrecking Bruno Kirby’s screen career, Billy Crystal also did irreparable damage to his own. When he cut Kirby loose, he was about 45, and running out of time. Today, at 59, Crystal’s ship has sailed.
Although unlike so many of the posters I’ve cited, we never met, Bruno Kirby also touched me, when I saw him on a mid or late-1990s appearance on The Late Late Show, hosted by the great Tom Snyder.
Among other things, Kirby talked about when he was a little boy living in midtown Manhattan during the mid-1950s. His father, the actor Bruce Kirby, once came home at midnight from work (Bruno didn’t say if it was from an acting or non-acting job), woke up his son, and said, “Buddy, would you like to go see a movie?”
Of course, the little boy said “Yes,” and so the father bundled up his son and took him to a midnight screening in a movie palace, the likes of which New York once teemed with.
As strange as this may sound today, in those days, a man could safely carry his child through late night New York streets to a movie house.
A few years later, when my son was born, thinking of Bruce and Bruno Kirby, one of the first of many nicknames I gave him was “Buddy.”
Thanks for the memories, pal. R.I.P.
Bruno Kirby, Bruce Kirby Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner, Hollywood, and movies.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
A reader at VDARE sent along the following "poll."
Latest telephone poll on whether or not people in the U.S. think illegal immigration is a serious problem:
41%: "Yes, it is a serious problem."
59%: "No hablo ingles."
Technorati tags: immigration, illegal aliens, reconquista, bilingual education.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
I just came across a U.S. News essay,
“Spurning America,” by Michael Barone on transnational elites that appeared in last October 24’s issue. I was googling under “transnational elites” and “Samuel Huntington,” because I had tied Huntington, as well as the late Christopher Lasch, to the term in a draft of something I was working on, and wanted to confirm that I was right to do so.
Transnational elites are well-to-do, powerful people, who feel no loyalty to their fellow Americans, and in fact feel loyalty to foreigners, though the foreigners in question differs, form one transnational elite to another. George W. Bush, for instance, feels more loyalty to Vicente Fox and Mexican businessmen than he does to the families of men dying in Iraq. Conversely, Hillary Clinton and her ilk feels more loyalty to the brown wave communists of Latin America.
Barone gently chided the transnational elites who vote overwhelmingly Democrat, as being out of step with the American people.
… not all of us cherish ties to past traditions. “America's business, professional, intellectual, and academic elites,” writes Samuel Huntington in his 2004 book Who Are We? have “attitudes and behavior [that] contrast with the overwhelming patriotism and nationalistic identification with their country of the American public. . . . They abandon commitment to their nation and their fellow citizens and argue the moral superiority of identifying with humanity at large.” He believes that this gap between transnational elites and the patriotic public is growing. Huntington knows whereof he speaks: He's been at Harvard for more than half a century.
New elites. This gap is something new in our history. Franklin Roosevelt spoke fluent French and German and worked to create the United Nations, but no one doubted that his allegiance was to America above all. Most Harvard professors in the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s felt a responsibility to help the United States prevail against its totalitarian enemies. But in the later stages of the Vietnam War--a war begun by elite liberals--elites on campuses began taking an adversary posture toward their own country. Later, with globalization, a transnational mind-set grew among corporate and professional elites. Legal elites, too: Some Supreme Court justices have taken to citing foreign law as one basis for interpreting the U.S. Constitution.
This gap between transnational elites and the patriotic public has reverberations in partisan politics. Americans in military service and those with strong religious beliefs now vote heavily Republican. Americans with strong patriotic feelings are more closely split between the parties, but the growing minority with transnational attitudes vote heavily Democratic. Which doesn't necessarily help the Democratic Party….
“A nation's morale and strength derive from a sense of the past,” argues historian Wilfred McClay. Ties to those who came before--whether in the military, in religion, in general patriotism--provide a sense of purpose rooted in history and tested over time. Secular transnational elites are on their own, without a useful tradition, in constructing a morality to help them perform their duties. Most Americans sense they need such ties to the past, to judge from the millions buying books about Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, and other Founding Fathers. We Americans are lucky to live in a country with a history full of noble ideas, great leaders, and awe-inspiring accomplishments. Sadly, many of our elites want no part of it.
The odd thing about Barone’s essay, is that he is himself a member of the transnational elite. He tries to make the issue of the new elite a partisan Republican/Democrat issue, but it isn’t. Transnationalism of one brand or another is powerfully represented in both parties: In the GOP by the neoconservative/libertarian supporters of open borders, cheap labor, and global labor arbitrage’s absolute advantage, and by the transnationalism of racist Third Worldism in the Democrat Party. Michael Barone is in fact a member in good standing of the GOP’s transnational elite, which exploits the Party’s conservative, nationalistic base. And so, one must ask whether Barone seeks to fool his readers … or himself.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
It seems that that world-famous lefty windbag, German Nobel Prize-winning novelist Günter Grass, served in the Waffen-SS during the War. Those are the guys who murdered over 100 of our boys, whom they had taken prisoner, during the Battle of the Bulge. David Orland has the story, "Schadenfreude Saturday," over at faute de pire.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Maybe we ought to make jurists wear see-through robes. There’s something about the combination of wearing a black robe, sitting high above the rest of us, and being addressed as an institution (“the court”), that tends to go to judge’s heads.
One must always keep in mind, when talking about judges, that they are a class dominated by the grimiest political hacks, most of whom owe their positions to party machines and backroom deals, even as they hold forth about “the (political) independence of the judiciary.” They couch the most corrupt and politically partisan decisions in the language of moralistic sanctimony, as if they were speaking from Mount Olympus, rather than from the sewer.
In Friday’s issue of The Australian, a national newspaper down under, the subhead for an op-ed is, “Courts have to depend on lawyers being honest in order for the courts to function properly writes Ysaiah Ross.”
So much for that idea.
When my sister graduated from liar’s school 12 years ago, I congratulated her on stepping up from being an amateur to a professional liar. As a graduation gift, I presented her with the foundation of all contracts: A baseball bat. (It was a miniature bat, for symbolism’s sake.)
Which brings me to Australian Judge Marcus Einfeld.
Einfeld, a former Federal Court judge who is also “an Officer of the Order of Australia and was voted a Living National Treasure,” has in recent years made a profession of lecturing public officials on honesty and ethics.
Judge Einfeld is what Harry Truman used to a call a “high hat.” A “high hat” is someone who’s got money and influence, and who publicly lectures everyone else on morality, but in private is the best customer at the local bordello. (Those are my words, not those of the old Missouri dirt farmer and failed haberdasher, but I believe they capture Harry’s sentiment.)
In January, Judge Einfeld’s Lexus was photographed speeding, and incurred a ticket for 77 dollars Australian ($100 U.S.). But Judge Einfeld had no intention of paying the ticket. What’s the point of being a judge, even a retired one, much less a Living National Treasure, if you can’t beat a traffic ticket?
Judge Einfeld insisted to Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court that he was not the driver at the time; he’d lent his car to a “friend.” But even if the story were true, it would be irrelevant. If you lend your car out to a girlfriend, and she gets a speeding ticket, you pay the ticket, and then take it up with her. The one thing you may not do is say, ‘Your Honor, the ticket isn’t my fault. You see, I lent my car out, and my girlfriend, she went speeding, and she got the ticket, because she’s a lousy driver, and so, I shouldn’t have to pay the ticket.’
Judges and lawyers hear dumb, convoluted stories like that all the time. Hell, they trade ‘em for laughs at dinner parties!
In 1992, I published a wonderful short story, “Morning in Bond Court,” in my since long-defunct magazine, A Different Drummer. The story, which perfectly balances cynicism, wry humor, and poignancy, by retired Cook County cop Paul Pekin, is based on Paul’s experiences on “the job.”
The narrator is a Cook County cop who spends a day taking various small fry back and forth from the jail to the courthouse for bond hearings. One small-timer in court is a “young black man, greasy upright hair. He stands before the bench, hands behind his back. Maybe he thinks he still has the cuffs on….
“The young man with the ugly hair is charged with stealing eighteen packages of spark plugs from an auto supply shop. Even worse, he failed to appear at his last court date, failed to appear at the date before it, failed to …
“‘I can explain all that. They told me courtroom B and I went there and they said it was someplace else …’
“‘You’re saying you went to the wrong courtroom?’
“Only the young man with the ugly hair fails to be amused. He is led away, frowning. Five thousand dollars bond. That’s a lot of spark plugs.
“Next, we get a redheaded guy with no teeth. Charged with battery.
“‘It’s all her fault, your honor. She makes me go with her to her sister’s, it’s about the money they got for the car, and this guy her sister sold it to gets arrested and his old lady wants her purse back, and that’s when it turns out she’s the one with the …’
“‘You seem to hang out with complicated people,’ the judge says.
“Yes sir, I certainly do.”
“‘Well, you hang around with complicated people, you get complicated results.’
“Bond is twelve hundred dollars and the redhead is taken away.”
Judge Marcus Einfeld has complicated friends, and he tells complicated stories.
His first story was that he had lent out his car to a visiting American professor named Teresa Brennan.
Professor Brennan was hunted down, and found to have died in February 2003, almost three years before she had gone speeding in the judge’s car. Now, that’s one complicated girlfriend.
When the little matter of Prof. Brennan’s being dead was brought up to Judge Einfeld, he had a ready answer: No, no, no, not that dead American Prof. Teresa Brennan, it was a different dead American Prof. Teresa Brennan!
The good judge insisted that his dead American Prof. Teresa Brennan was alive long enough to go speeding in his car, but died shortly thereafter. (From grief over the ticket? Out of shame for having besmirched the ethical jurist and Living National Treasure’s driving record? Due to guilt over having dragged the first dead American Prof. Teresa Brennan’s name through the mud?)
In the meantime, in his scorched earth campaign to beat a 77 dollar traffic ticket, Judge Einfeld is now up to four different stories, with no end in sight. After the Judge pays his legal fees, that may ultimately be the most expensive 77 dollar ticket in vehicular history.
Judge Einfeld went into the wrong field; he should have been a ditch digger, because he sure can dig himself a hole.
How many times does a judge, in the course of a year’s cases, see someone who, in trying to evade the long arm of the law, turns a minor infraction into a major felony? You’d think they’d learn from experience, and not want to come across like the spark plug thief with the bad hair or the hot-tempered, toothless redhead.
It doesn’t look as though Judge Einfeld is going to be prosecuted for perjury; such prosecutions are for “the little people” who have to obey the laws, not for jurists and ethics lecturers. However, legal observers in Australia are concerned that the Judge’s travails might tarnish the reputation of the judiciary. I say, the judiciary’s bad name is in no danger from Judge Einfeld.
I think this is one of those rare cases in which the wheels of justice can’t grind slowly enough.
In the meantime, the judge might want to get some help for his necrophilia problem.