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I got cornered by Steve Rubell at the Grace Paley reception up on C1 (how she got a good spot there, I’ll never know). He can’t shut up, Rubell.
This time, he’s telling me about the night Abe Rosenthal showed up at Studio 54 with what he said looked like “a gang of insurance underwriters” and was accidentally let in. This was in 1978. “He was gawking, literally,” Rubell says. “I was in the balcony doing lines with Dinkens when I see him wandering around like a lost conventioneer. I said to Dave, ‘Look at that. The geezers from the damn Times have discovered 54. Mark my words: Within two years, this place will be be good for nothing but bat mitzvahs.’ And I was right.”
I take him home for a little pickle and Astro and and while he’s setting his hair on fire trying to light a rock, I’m going through my email. There’s a note from Keller. Subject (get this): “WE ARE SO KEWL!!” I open it.
Typical Keller: There’s a big :) and a link:
The Quad: “…a new blog on the fierce competition and engrossing culture of college football. From the Bowl Championship Series and Heisman Trophy watch, to news and features about one’s alma mater or local collegiate team, The New York Times will take readers inside America’s great fall weekend ritual with interviews, insights and analysis from the tailgates to the sidelines.”
And a line that says, “Walt we are so into blogs!!!” And there’s like a list a foot long of Times blogs. (Note to Bill: Cavett and not me? WTF? And who writes this crap? “Necessary Steps: A Novelist’s Walk Through Summer. Will Self documents his walks in London, Paris, Toulouse and elsewhere.” Exciting as an AARP magazine article. People pay for that? No, Bill. They don’t. If you don’t believe me, believe Moody’s.)
Suddenly Rubell’s dropping his lower jaw over my shoulder. (Literally. Fell into my Gibson.)
“…news and features about one’s alma mater or local collegiate team…”? Rubell’s laughing that dry cackle of his. “That’s as hip as Norman Fell in love beads. You should tell him the truth.”
“What’s the truth, Rube?”
“Nobody under the age of 130 wants to read a Times blog,” he says. “There’s not a single Times writer who could get past that fedora-freak, Roger Simon, long enough to get a gig at Pajamas Media. That’s the first thing.”
Yeah, says I. OK. What’s the second thing?
“The second thing,” says Rubell, “is that in two years that freaking paper’s going to be good for nothing but bat mitzvahs.”
The expert speaks, Bill. Listen up.
(Besides, I think my work is done. Now I just wait for Apogee to send the check, right?)
Don’t get me wrong. I like Bill and I’m always glad to give him and Pinch the benefit of my wisdom. My complaint is about how this is done. I prefer email. Keller and Pinch both like dream manifestation. “No paper trail,” as Bill says. Pinch says he just likes the dreams.
Two things wrong with that from my end. First, it means I have to get dressed in a way that introduces me into their dreams most easily. With Keller, that’s simple. I have a Mo mask just for the purpose: The minute I put on my Dowd face, he’s ready. With Pinch, it’s trickier. Why? Because finding a pair of fishnets down here isn’t easy, especially since the lifespan of one pair is exactly one dream. I also hate being called “Warren.”
One other thing: I always feel slightly soiled after entering one of Pinch’s dreams–as I found out a couple if nights ago when Pinch started screaming “Shank her!” over and over while I was giving him the same top line I’d given Keller only moments before:
The Vietnam parallel only works for the quagmire bit. Don’t use ‘Nam for anything else, and especially not for post-surrender scenarios.
Anyway, Pinch. I just didn’t get the shank thing, but whatever. From the way he was humping the pillow, I thought he was channeling Austin Powers (or maybe even Austin Bay) and getting it wrong again. All I could think was, I shaved my leg for this?
So was I happy when I saw Thom Shanker’s item in the paper this morning? Only smiling ear to ear–and since I’d left my right ear on circle four last night after Leona talked the damned thing off at the reception for Dan Brewster, that’s quite a grin.
Hey everybody. Lots of travel. This week, I’m with Bill Miller on C6 at Ken Lay’s investment seminar and wanted to pass along a great tip from one of Robert Mugabe’s advance team members. Ready?
It’s a no-brainer (or, as Harry Thaw quipped, a “no grainer”): A hundred loaves of whole wheat in Zimbabwe will return more than 10 years of Enron common stock growth every day. Think about it. Every dollar invested in a loaf of sliced today will be worth more than $7500 next month.
As Ken told us, “If I’d known about the Mugabe market, I’d have dumped all my energy holdings and bought all the burgers in Bulaweyo.” Nothing beats an African Marxist for sheer genius.
One thing I learned from my Italian colleagues: The best weekends come in the middle of the week.
So I thought my work was done when I left Sunday night to go to the annual Conspiracy Film Festival Hiss throws every year down on C9. Everybody who’s ever worked for the Guardian–except that ass Muggeridge, of course–was there to see the Bourne Ultimatum, since they all knew that secretly the movie was about them, the brave few who stood up to the CIA’s legendary machine-like efficiency which, under the neo-cons, has made Amerika into the world’s rogue state. Think North Korea with money (and food and water and everything else).
And I thought I was leaving on a good note. I’d worked with New York long into Saturday getting ready for the paper’s next big push in Afghanistan. The plan: Sunday’s paper leads with a huge front-pager about how the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable. Marketing figured that was good for a 12 percent revenue bump counting deferred effect on ad sales.
It’s part of the long-range business plan I helped Pinch create: We make money by pronouncing wars “unwinnable”–so what was unwinnable last month in Iraq is now unwinnable in Afghanistan. By the time we have to run an op-ed saying maybe the war’s winnable after all blah blah blah, there’s another war for us to help lose–at least long enough to pump up page views and newsstand sales. You have to think ahead in this business.
When I get back, what do I see? This–NYT shares closing in on a year low. I sent a memo upstairs to Pinch and Bill telling them to knock off the peace-at-any-price crap. We need more wars to lose, not less. They won’t listen.
My gripe: We’re losing too many journalists to upstairs. First, we lose Tom Snyder. If he doesn’t belong down here, who in hell does? He must have killed a hundred guests with that second-hand smoke of his. Now, I’m told, we’re losing Bill Deedes. In fairness to the Gatekeepers, we probably never had much of a chance getting the guy, but still–you’d think they’d have paid more attention to his career in journalism than to his qualities as a human being.
I was not awake this morning when Bill Hearst called in a panic.
“What?” I couldn’t make sense of what he was saying. “Fake bourbon? How awful! Criminal!”
No, no, he says. “I said, ‘Fake pork buns’!”
Right, well. Here it is:
A Chinese court on Sunday sentenced a reporter to a year in jail for faking a television story about cardboard-filled meat buns, state media reported, in a case that drew widespread attention to China’s poor food safety record.
Zi Beijia, 28, pleaded guilty to charges of infringing on the reputation of a commodity during his trial at Beijing’s No. 2 Intermediate Court, the official Xinhua News Agency said. He was sentenced to a year in jail and a fine of $132, it said.
“It’s a terrible precedent, Walt. ‘Infringing on the reputation of a commodity’! Do you know what that means? Do you?”
“Tell me, Bill.”
“I’ll tell you what it means. It means no more Paris Hilton stories! No more evil-genius-Rove stories! We create commodities then we infringe on their reputations. It’s called journalism, Walt! That’s what it means. If they start throwing us in prisons just because we’re doing our job, why…”
“They’ll have to build more prisons?” Trying to put the brakes on the man’s rant.
“Not just that,” he says. “They’ll have to lock up the whole ‘Dateline’ crew, half the Times staff, a bunch of guys from The New Republic, John Simpson, Mary Mapes and even”–here he stammered–“even Dan Rather.”
Hearst–always in a panic. Been that way since 1895, really. I’ve got one of his front-page illos pinned up on a woman in in my closet:
Anyway, I did what I could to calm him down. “Dan’s not going to prison,” I said. “The important thing is that Dan tells the truth about the narrative. It’s just the facts he gets wrong.” I was reading straight out of my Evan Thomas playbook, of course. Besides, it’s a molehill! Everybody knows that if you want a superior news product, you hire trained professionals to make up some better quality news. What am I missing here?
But Bill had other fish to fry. His thing is bunking with Dan, a fantasy he’s had since Sevareid got here with a pocket full of locker-room shots. “Really? He’s not going to prison?”
“He’s going to hell though, right?”
“Faster’n a hound with a cracker in his poop shoot,” I said. He hung up happy.