MUSSO & FRANK RE-OPENS — Historic LA eatery Musso & Frank (100 years old!) and featured so prominently in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, will reopen – but, with a new set of rules:
** Before guests arrive, they will be asked to check themselves for COVID-19 symptoms. If they display any symptoms, they will be turned away.
** In the parking lot, Musso and Frank’s will have an assisted parking system rather than its traditional valet. One of Musso’s valets will help guide customers where to park. The valet will not take possession of each customer’s car unless asked to do so.
** If a guest enters the restaurant from the front door on Hollywood Blvd., they can expect one of Musso’s hosts to help check-in while maintaining physical distance, and offering each guest a single use face covering if they do not have one. Each guest will also find a hand sanitizer station there.
** A manager will also greet each customer at the back entrance via the Cherokee Avenue parking lot, and will provide a single use face covering to a guest if he/she does not have one with them. The manager will explain to guests the general face cover requirement while in the restaurant. Each guest will also find a hand sanitizer station for use at the back entrance.
** Customers will only be seated at every other booth in the Old Room, and at every other booth and at tables placed six-feet apart in the New Room.
** No groups larger than six people will be seated or served.
** 60% of the restaurant’s capacity will be permitted to dine at one time.
** In addition to stations at the front and back entrances, hand sanitizer stations will also be located throughout the venue.
** Managers will be stationed at both entryway doors to ensure the proper flow of people and to make certain they maintain a distance of six feet from each other.
** Employees will have to fill out daily online questionnaires to ensure their health is up to par prior to their arriving at the restaurant; employees will also be temperature tested once they arrive at the restaurant.
** Only customers wearing masks will be permitted to enter the restaurant. Guests will be asked to wear cloth face coverings at all times when away from tables.
** Server assistants will lay out table settings (silverware, glasses, etc.) only after each party has been seated at their table or booth.
** Only single-use menus, which will be printed daily, will be utilized. The menus can then either be taken home by customers as souvenirs or else they will be discarded.
** Bathrooms will be deep cleaned and sanitized every 30 minutes; social distancing will also be observed in both bathrooms.
** Musso’s air conditioning filters have been retrofitted to include hospital grade filtration.
Yes, the new normal has arrived. Sad for sure
NO TIME TO DIE REDUX? — Great item from our colleague Roger Friedman in his Showbiz 411 column:
Listen, we only live twice.
Over the weekend, I suggested that the Billie Eilish theme song to “No Time to Die,” the next James Bond movie, could be changed. There’s plenty of time for Billie and Finneas, her producer brother, to re-record it with a more lively setting. The song was not a big hit when it was released in February. Now the movie will come in late November. There’s no excitement about the single. Why not do something?
Well, it turns out it wouldn’t be a first. The James Bond theme song was changed in 1965. Shirley Bassey recorded the title track to a Bond movie that was going to be called “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” She cut it, but the studio didn’t like it. The studio also didn’t like the title of the movie. They changed it to “Thunderball.”
In the interim, they had Dionne Warwick record “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” In 1965, you couldn’t get a bigger star than Dionne Warwick. She had hit after hit with songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Didn’t matter. As the movie’s title changed to “Thunderball,” a new song was needed with the name of the movie in the lyrics.
Enter Tom Jones, also a mega star of the day. He recorded the new song for the newly titled movie, and it was a hit.
Warwick’s and Bassey’s versions exist today, they survived very nicely. Shirley had the title songs in “Goldfinger,” “Diamonds are Forever,” and “Moonraker,” so she didn’t mind. Dionne has more gold records than she knows what to do with. So Billie Eilish would survive if there were a change before “No Time to Die” is released. And her original version could always be used somewhere else in the movie.
It’s been done before. And everyone survived.
Roger’s right –as usual- as when the song came out, it was not a hit. I loved it, and it even reminded me a bit of Shirley Bassey. I say, as Roger has already suggested … bring back Adele!
TO BE, OR NOT TO BE? — “Never in my career have I heard ‘black music’ or ‘urban’ being talked about this much.”
Shawn Holiday knows the long-running ‘urban’ music industry debate better than most, not least as the phrase appears, twice, in his dual job title: Co-Head of Urban Music at Columbia Records and Head of Urban Music at Sony/ATV.
‘Urban music’ got talked about a whole lot more in a fascinating (and at times fiery) conversation between some of the US industry’s most successful modern black executives this week, via a Zoom discussion featuring Holiday and hosted by Warner Records and its SVP, Head of Urban Marketing, Chris Atlas.
To put it mildly, not everybody was in agreement over Republic Records’ controversial decision to suddenly axe ‘urban’ from its professional verbiage (indeed, most execs on the call talked of their fondness for ‘urban’ and what it’s meant to their career).
Republic’s move, announced earlier this month, saw the Universal label slam the use of ‘urban’ as “outdated”, while encouraging other companies in the music industry to follow its example.
(Side-note: Republic parent company Universal Music Group – who didn’t have a rep on the Zoom call – doesn’t seem entirely on board with Republic’s move. The Financial Times reports that an internal email from UMG Task Force For Meaningful Change, headed by Jeff Harleston and Ethiopia Habtemariam, issued a company-wide memo this week which said that Republic made its announcement without the “notification or endorsement” of the Task Force. It added: “Moving forward we ask that labels, business units and companies consult and work with the [Task Force] on all initiatives relating to diversity, inclusion and equity prior to implementing or announcing a change in policy.”)
Republic’s banning of ‘urban’ was the central point of debate during the Warner Records-hosted Zoom discussion, which saw leading execs from the likes of Atlantic Records, Columbia Records, 300 Entertainment, Human Re Sources, the Recording Academy and CMNTY Culture contribute their thoughts.
One exec who is no great fan of the ‘urban’ descriptor is Rayna Bass, Head of Marketing at 300 Entertainment. Bass, who works for one of the few black CEOs in the blockbuster record business – 300 boss Kevin Liles – requested to have ‘Urban’ removed from her job title two years ago.
Bass said: “I feel like ‘urban’ is the politically correct way to say black. And, doing research, it seems it was formed as a way to make black music and black culture more palatable to white people… I do understand the need for it 40 years ago, but today I find it to be restrictive and outdated; I don’t need that [word] in my title to know that I’m black.”
She added: “When hip-hop became the No.1 genre, I was like; it’s not [about] a seat at the hip-hop table – [because] there’s one table now. We are leading this [industry] so I’m not going to be marginalized.”
Bass proudly explained that, in line with Liles’ genre-agnostic viewpoint, 300 has black woman currently working on rock, pop and hip-hop artists and “because of that I believe they’re going to have more opportunity”.
“In my experience,” said Bass, “‘urban’ has been used to keep black executives at a certain level [so] we’re not able to participate at the highest levels.”
Of Republic’s announcement, she commented: “My first reaction was, y’know, who’s black that works at Republic? I’ve [since] educated myself on that, but that was my first reaction to [try and] understand who weighed in on this decision.”
A different perspective on ‘urban’ was offered by Columbia and Sony/ATV’s Shawn Holiday.
Speaking on the Zoom discussion – entitled A View From The Frontline, which you can watch online – Holiday explained why he’s proud to have ‘urban’ in his job title.
“Now that urban’s more mainstream, I embrace the word,” he said. “I don’t want to shy away from it, or feel like I [shouldn’t] use the word anymore just because it’s the topic of conversation. I don’t think there’s anything personally negative about keeping ‘Urban Music’ in our title.”
He added: “Changing the word urban is really just a band-Aid to the real conversation. [The bigger issue] is about the way black artists and executives are treated – that we’re not just a personal of color in the room, that we have a real voice.
“I see the way [major music companies] spend money on white projects compared to the money invested in black music, the money they’ll spend at radio for an urban artist compared to a white artist, and those are real changes that need to happen. We need to keep putting the pressure on.”
Holiday’s co-Head of Urban at Columbia, Phylicia Fant, agreed. She made the point that, to her ‘urban’ is a label that represents “the expertise of the music we oversee and have the conversations with our community, [and] that we live and breathe”.
Of Republic’s decision to axe ‘urban’, and whether others should follow suit, Fant said: “I don’t think we [as an industry] should rush into any decision. Another label should not make me rush into my blackness.”
Another defender of the ‘urban’ term was a fellow Columbia exec, Azim Rashid (SVP, Head of Urban Promotion), who opened with the view that “urban is synonymous with blackness, and blackness is synonymous with greatness”.
Speaking to the Zoom call’s presenter, broadcaster Dyana Williams, Rashid added: “I do not think the term should be limiting. I understand how people can see it that way, and I also think we can have the best of both worlds. I live [urban], I breathe, it, I’m an expert in it, and it’s gotten me this far.”
Rashid later raised the important point that artists identifying as ‘urban’ – just like artists in other genres – can be elevated to ‘pop’ status when they break into the mainstream. But when their popularity inevitably descends again, knowing where they came from, genre-wise, can be a blessing.
He said that the moment a previously ‘urban’ artist who went ‘pop’ doesn’t have a hit “they go back to being black”. Rashid reasoned that “without shoring up that black base [beforehand], those artists could be a one hit wonder”.
He added: “One thing I always talk to our artists about is that popularity, the ‘pop’ space, that’s a vacation. You live in rock, you live in jazz, you live in hip-hop, alternative, you live there. But when you get that record, two records, in some [cases], ten albums, and you become a huge superstar [in pop], that’s a vacation.
“You don’t want that vacation to end, but sooner or later it does – for everybody – and you fly back to the ground and to your roots. That’s why it’s important for us to own the urban space.”
Marsha St. Hubert, Co-Head of Marketing at Atlantic Records, works with artists ranging from Lil Uzi Vert to Lizzo, Cardi B and Burna Boy. St. Hubert says she “couldn’t relate” to Republic’s decision to banish the word from its company.
“I didn’t understand it…. it isn’t for me,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with the word urban. Part of this conversation is the subtle whitewashing of the culture that’s continuing to happen now because [black music] is so successful. This wasn’t a conversation [in the past].”
She added: “I don’t subscribe to the whitewashing of our culture and removing ‘black’ and ‘urban’ because now [that music] is so financially successful in this country; it sits at the top of the charts. I don’t ever want to lose that so I can’t understand why that would be taken out of the conversation.”
Continued St. Hubert: “I don’t want to have to take urban out of my name to be able to grow out of my [current job level]. If I want it in there, I should be able to keep urban or black music or whatever it is… It’s like, in order to be bigger than the culture, you have to remove this thing. No, I don’t want to be bigger than the culture. The culture is actually bigger than you guys. And I want to take this culture with me as I go onwards and upwards.”
Towards the end of the Zoom discussion, St. Hubert summed up her thoughts: “I’m never going to trade my blackness in order to move forward. Whether it’s urban or it’s black, I’m taking that word with me no matter where I go.”
On St. Hubert’s point about hip-hop becoming a financially successful genre, Columbia’s Rashid commented: “[For] black people, specifically in hip-hop, because we’re the dominating economic force today, [this] becomes a complex conversation.
“Marsha hit it dead on: if hip-hop wasn’t running the world, what we call ourselves wouldn’t matter. Because of the economic power it brings and [the fact] it’s opened itself up to all people… this becomes a systemic conversation. And being the originators of the craft, and the proponents, for the most part, of the culture of hip-hop, we need a bigger stake.”
Chris Atlas, SVP, Head of Urban Marketing, Warner Records, said he took offence to Republic’s axing of ‘urban’ when he first heard about it because “it didn’t address the systemic issues”.
He reasoned that ‘urban’ is “not necessarily about an ethnicity” and that “a lot of people all make up the word urban – its black people, Latin people, Asian people, white people”.
Atlas suggested that, to him, the bigger issue at play is “making sure that we address the issues of opportunity for diversity and inclusion in all areas of the business, whether it’s relating to the urban department, or is black and brown people [who] want to work in the country department, the jazz department, the gospel department or whatever it needs to be.
“Removing a word doesn’t change the systemic problems in terms of: are we really creating opportunities? And if removing a word could actually limit opportunities because that specialization, you’re taking [that opportunity] away or diminishing it. That’s part of what we need to talk about as well.”
Atlas noted that he’d “never felt limited as an executive in the industry because I’m black”. He added: “At no point have I ever felt like I got passed over for an opportunity because my work ethic has always spoken and represented for me.”
St. Hubert commented in response: “I know a lot of people who didn’t work as hard as us who are sitting in corner offices that we’re not in.”
J. Erving, founder of distribution and services company Human Re Sources, encouraged those who wanted to further the black community in music to work with black-owned artist services companies. (Alongside his own, these include Troy Carter’s Q&A and Steve Stoute’s United Masters.)
Of Republic’s decision, Erving said: “To me it’s not about the word. It’s about the treatment [of] black executives. To me, it’s n***er, negro, black, African-American… if you’re still going to treat us like n***ers then that’s just what it is. I think the treatment’s got to change. Systemically, there’s issues that need to be fixed. There’s a lot of education that needs to happen.”
The Recording Academy, which runs the Grammys, has been a constant in the ‘urban’ conversation. At the Grammys last year, Tyler The Creator suggested the ‘urban’ descriptor was “just a politically correct way to say the N-word”..
And just the other week, the Grammys renamed its Best Urban Contemporary Album category as Best Progressive R&B Album – in order to “appropriately categorize and describe this subgenre”.
The word urban, whether we like it, hate it, embrace it or not, it’s just a word,” he said. “And it’s a pebble in the sea of the issues we have to face.”
Not to get technical, but two things I immediately wondered about were, one: why wasn’t Republic included on the call whenRepublic kicked off the whole fracas from the start, and, two, how come none of the indie-labels were represented?I would have loved to hear from Cory Robbins (Profile Records) ;Tom Silverman (Tommy Boy Records) or, Ray Caviano (RFC Records), each of whom made a mint off urban music.
The term urban has been around for decades (coined I believe by the late-and-much-missed Frankie Crocker) and to be honest, I never thought of it as a racist term – one way or the other. But, like NARAS still hunting for someone to run itself … this will talked about for years to come.
SHORT TAKES — I hear the new owners of The Palm restaurants, are going to systematically close most of their current outposts. Sad. We had some great times at Palm West here in NYC: especially their annual Celebrity Server events, which benefited cancer research, and, included the likes of Micky Dolenz; Mark Bego; Tony Danza; Gilbert Gottfried and Robert Funaro. All things must pass …
Big brouhaha last week at NY’s WOR where director Spike Lee -on air with Len Berman and Michael Riedel- discussed his new movie Da 5 Bloods, and praised Woody Allen, and, then a few hours later walked it back. Allen has never been proven guilty of the charges that will follow him forever, but still, in this day of #MeToo consciousness, you’ve got to be cautious …
Celebrity-scribe Mark Bego has his Eat Like A Rock Star re-released this November via Skyhorse Publishing. This was the excellent read that had recipes from the likes of Mary Wilson; Debbie Gibson; Micky Dolenz; Richie Sambora; Bill Wyman; Michael McDonald; and Joey Fatone (via The Fatone Zone) … RIP Ian Holm … Rupert Hine, the producer behind hit albums by Rush, Tina Turner, Howard Jones, Stevie Nicks, The Fixx and others, was also an accomplished artist in his own right. United Kingdom (June 8, 2020) — Rupert Hine, best-known for his work producing a vast array of rock and pop acts during the 1980’s and 90’s, died at home June 4, 2020 of undisclosed causes. The announcement was made on Twitter by The Ivors Academy, where he was a board member. Hine was 72. Born in Wimbleton in 1947, Hine started in the music business while still in his teens as part of the folk duo Rupert & David. Recording for Decca Records, the pair’s sole output was a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” in 1965, featuring a pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page on guitar, Herbie Flowers on bass and a 26-piece orchestra. As the decade wore on, Hine recorded acts like Camel, Murray Head and Kevin Ayers, as well as bands he was a part of, like Quantum Jump. It was the 1980’s emergence of synth-drenched new wave and pop, however, that cemented his reputation as a go-to producer, as Hine helmed a seemingly endless string of hit albums and singles for acts like Howard Jones, The Fixx, Thompson Twins, Bob Geldof, Saga, The Members, The Waterboys, Stevie Nicks, Chris de Burgh and Underworld. Prolifically writing as well throughout the period, he scored the cult John Cusack comedy Better Off Dead (1985) and additionally saw some of his co-writes recorded by Nicks (“Alice”) and most noticeably, Tina Turner. Working on Turner’s massive 1984 comeback album, Private Dancer, Hine co-wrote the track “I Might Have Been Queen” and produced one of the biggest hits of her career, “Better Be Good to Me.” It was the start of a long and fruitful collaboration, with the artist and producer working together on subsequent albums like 1986’s Break Every Rule (the title track of which he also co-wrote) and 1989’s Foreign Affair. The Nineties didn’t see Hine slow down either, as he produced Rush (1989’s Presto and 1991’s Roll The Bones), Duncan Shiek, actresses Katey Sagal and Milla Jovovich and Stroke 9, while the 2000’s saw him produce the likes of Amanda Ghost, Boy George, Suzanne Vega and others. During this time, Hine additionally began working on sprawling passion projects, first with the 1990 multimedia effort, One World, One Voice, which brought together 300 musicians around the world for a “musical chain-letter” that was both released on record and aired on television to a worldwide audience of 200 million. Other projects included the compilation Songs for Tibet: The Art of Peace (2008) and Songs for Tibet II (2015) … Sad to see the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island suddenly shutter last week. Saw some great shows there; perhaps none more notable that the Eric Clapton/Santana show in 1974 when John McLaughlin came on as the encore special guest and seemingly blew circles around Eric and Carlos. What a night! … HAPPY 78th BDay to Paul McCartney
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Vic Kastel; Steve Walter; Ian Mohr; Richard Johnson; James Brady; Neal Travis; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Cindy Adams; Curtis Urbina; Craig Newman; Jason Elzy; Alison Martino; Andrew Sandoval; James Edstrom; Chris Gilman; Eppy; and, BELLA!
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: “Leading Lady; the Memoir of a Most Unusual Boy”…NEW autobiography of Charles Busch
Tony Award-nominated writer of The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife and the long-running hit Off-Broadway play Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, and a Sundance Festival award winner, Charles Busch has created a unique place in the entertainment world as a playwright, LGBT icon, drag actor, director, and cabaret performer, with his extraordinary gift for both connecting with and channeling the leading ladies of show business.
In wonderfully readable chapters, by turns comic and moving, Charles writes how ever since his mother’s death when he was seven, he has sought out surrogate mothers in his life. In his teens, Charles moved to Park Avenue in Manhattan to live with his Auntie Mame-like Aunt Lil, who encouraged and nourished Charles’ talents and dreams, and eventually he discovered his gifts for writing plays and performing as a male actress.
Busch also shares his colorful and sometimes outlandish interactions with film and theatrical luminaries including the hilarious comedian Joan Rivers (who became a mother figure to Charles after Aunt Lil’s death), Angela Lansbury (who attended her first Passover seder with Charles), Rosie O’Donnell, Claudette Colbert, Valerie Harper, Kim Novak, and many others.
Full of both humor and heart and featuring rare photos, Leading Lady is for readers of entertainment books as well as anyone who enjoys real-life stories of artists who break the mold, ditch the boundaries, and find their own unique way to sparkle.
We’re Here to Help – When Guardianship Goes Wrong
-Kent Walz, attorney & journalist
Diane Dimond’s book on the scourge of abusive adult guardianships is coming out very soon. It only took her 8 long years of investigation and countless interviews with affected people to get to the bottom of this extremely flawed part of the justice system.
People who have lived through this nightmare knows first hand what this “protective” part of the court system can do to rip apart families. But because it’s such a secretive system few Americans realize that they – or someone they love – could be guardianized without warning. It’s not just Britney Spears – up to 2 million people currently live under guardianship/court control.
All it takes is for someone (a vindictive relative, a greedy business partner, a former lover, even a landlord) to file a guardianship petition with the court saying someone is not competent to care for themselves. The judge usually agrees – often without ever seeing the targeted person – and the guardianship is established. Judges routinely appoint a total stranger as guardian to make all life decisions for the new “ward of the court.” All their civil rights are stripped away and, suddenly, the person has no say in their own life –they can’t even hire their own lawyer to fight it. There are many more horrific aspects to this “justice” system and Ms. Dimond spells it all out in the book.
We’re Here to Help – When Guardianship Goes Wrong not only reveals the predatory nature of the system (which controls a collective $50 billion in ward’s money every year!) but also tells what to look out for. It provides a guide for readers to protect themselves and those they love.
Diane Dimond is the author of four books including the upcoming, “We’re Here to Help: When Guardianship Goes Wrong,“ published by Brandeis University Press, released Sept. 19, 2023
Keith F. Girard’s The Curse Of Northam Bay
Author Keith Girard says, “The idea for this book, literally, came to me in a dream. I was anxious to write a horror story since I’ve long admired Stephen King’s work and wanted to challenge myself. Once I got the idea, I put aside a dystopian science fiction book I was writing and devoted myself to this project. But I have to confess, while it started out as a macabre tale, it morphed into something else. I quickly strayed from the standard horror genre. I was intrigued by the Salem witch trials, which were supposed to be the basis for this story. But the more I looked into it, the more I became fascinated by the political, sociological, and religious factors that gave rise to the hysteria.”
Girard has a fascinating background as a writer: The Washington Post; Billboard; and this book, the follow-up to his Heidelberg Conundrum, is as richly rewarding as you’d want.
We sat with Keith for an exclusive T2C-interview:
G.H Harding: Give us a little bit on your background
Keith Girard: I grew up in a family with two brothers and a sister. My mother was English and met my father while he was stationed in England during World War II. After the war, they married and she came to the U.S. to live. My father was in the Air Force and after his military career ended, he worked for aerospace companies. I grew up as a military brat and we moved almost every two years. It was hard at times but also gave me a unique perspective on life, and having an international background also helped broaden my horizons. I’ve always had an interest in history, science and current events, because we lived them daily. Two of my siblings are, literally, rocket scientists. But I was drawn to writing at an early age. It came very naturally to me, and I decided to pursue it as a career, although it was against my father’s wishes. So, I guess I was a bit of a rebel, too.
G.H Harding: What was your first book The Heidelberg Conundrum about?
Keith Girard: The Heidelberg Conundrum contains all the elements that I mentioned above. At its root, it’s science fiction novel about time travel, but it’s also a historical novel that touches World War II, the atrocities that took place in Germany and their connections with the present day. It focuses on a young physicist who gets his “dream job” that turns out to be something quite different. He’s hired to solve the “Heidelberg Conundrum,” a 400-year-old mathematical equation that is thought to be the key to time travel. Think “The Da Vinci Code” meets “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with a science fiction twist. The book is a dark journey that takes readers back to the last days of the war and Nazi decadence and into interstellar space.
G.H Harding: What do you think makes a good novel?
Keith Girard: I personally like science fiction because the limits are boundless and because it lends itself so easily to political and social commentary. The Heidelberg Conundrum has all three. For contemporary fiction, I think Tom Wolfe’s writing embodies what I mean. Also, writers like Joseph Heller; “Catch 22” is one of my favorite novels, and almost anything Wolfe has written. I love Hunter Thompson’s singular writing style and biting satire. But I also admire the great science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and Frank Herbert. I grew up reading them.
G.H Harding: Billboard was the music industry’s go-to trade paper; what did you discover about the music industry during your time there?
Keith Girard: Billboard was a fantastic publication with a long history, but it was failing because of demographic and technological changes in the music industry. I was hired to turn it around, because I had a successful track record turning around two previous publications. If it ever had a chance to succeed, Billboard had to leave behind its legacy past, embrace technological change sweeping the industry and broaden its reach. Billboard was always a trade newspaper. Its readership base was made up of thousands of independent music stores across the country. It was the most economical way for record labels to market to them. But record stores fell by the wayside as big box retailers moved into that space. The MP3 revolution and streaming was the death knell. Talk about disruptive technology! The record industry was thrown into turmoil because it lost two important segments of its business – production and distribution. Any kid with a computer could reproduce identical copies of a song, over and over, and distribute it over the Internet to thousands of other kids. I saw Billboard as a great opportunity to reinvent itself. But legacies, especially as strong as Billboard’s, die hard, and the resistance to change, in the end, was too great.
G.H Harding: What do you think about Billboard’s decision to become a more of a consumer book?
Keith Girard: By and large it was a pretty significant strategic mistake. Billboard had a unique niche as a business newspaper focused on music. There was a lot of discussion about turning it into a consumer publication while I was there, but I opposed it. The consumer market was already saturated, and Rolling Stone dominated. When I joined Billboard, it had a circulation of about 26,000; Rolling Stone had a circulation of 3 million. There’s no way, Billboard could ever dent that, and it made no sense to give up a niche that Billboard owned. So, my efforts turned to broadening its audience. There was plenty of fertile ground. Plus, it was a way to build circulation and attract new advertisers. So, I greatly expanded coverage of touring, music management, music technology and musical instruments, all from a business angle, not just records and the record industry. Because Billboard readers were mostly affluent music professionals, it was also an untapped sell-through for luxury goods, from BMW to Rolex watches. We also made great inroads with guitar makers like Gibson, which loved the idea we were writing about musical instruments. Under my tenure, our Music and Money conference expanded and we launched an East Coast touring conference. But I didn’t ignore the consumer market. Our outreach to consumers was through our main website (billboard.com). We supplemented that with mini-sites focusing on business (billboardbiz), and the professions, agents, lawyers and managers. I think another big mistake was turning Billboard into a consumer magazine format. I spoke to dozens of music people at all levels and they wanted the kind of hard news Billboard was known for, and they liked seeing their artists on the front page. I could go on, but strategically that’s were Billboard went wrong in my opinion.
G.H Harding: The Salem Witch trials were always a hotbed of controversy; what did you discover in writing the new book?
Keith Girard: As you know, early Colonial America was a very dark period in our history, riven by superstition, fear and a belief in a literal God and Devil. But the more I looked into it, the more I discovered the period was marked by many of the same social and political undercurrents that exist today. That’s why I wrote the book in two parts, one focusing on 17th century New England and the other on contemporary society as it evolved in the same quaint fishing village over time. The Salem witch trials were fueled in large part by petty jealousies, religious differences, intolerance, greed and money. Often land disputes were at the root of witch craft allegations. Not surprisingly, those same forces are still embedded in our civic and political culture, today. That’s where I saw the parallels that make this story intriguing.
G.H Harding: How would you best describe Northam Bay?
Keith Girard: Northam Bay is a microcosm of everything that’s tearing at the seams of our society, today. There are class distinctions and disruption caused by new technology and new residents that have both a positive and negative affect on the town. I spent years as a reporter writing about small-town politics and graft, and Northam Bay is infected with schemers and grifters who will use everything, including murder, and stop at nothing to get their way. When you get down to it, it’s a tale about the growth of suburbia, and corruption in high places that shape our modern-day world. Plus, it’s generally a nice place to live, except, of course, for a curse that’s existed since the 1700s. And, it has a healthy dose of satire.
G.H Harding: What can you tell us about the Washington Post that would surprise us?
Keith Girard: Well, I worked as a reporter for The Washington Post in the mid-1980s. It was a decade after it rose to national prominence because of Watergate, and from the outside, it looked like this impenetrable colossus of infinitely brilliant people. I grew up reading the newspaper in high school. My father hated it, so I had to pay for my own subscription. I literally dreamed, one day, of working there. The odd thing was, once I was a reporter, my whole perspective changed. Let me first say, the 1980s was the golden era of newspapers, before the Internet and social media. The paper was huge; 500 reporters, a newsroom as big as a shopping mall and a huge cross-section of people. But there was one thing, it didn’t lose when it became a national newspaper. It was still a family business and felt that way. Kay Graham was still running the company along with her son, Donnie, and they were totally accessible. I saw them often when I was in the newsroom. The legendary Ben Bradlee was still the executive editor. If there ever was an imposing figure, it was him, a Harvard educated Boston Brahmin who hung out with Jack Kennedy. But as a boss, he was the most down-to-earth, relatable human being I’ve ever worked for. The Post had its share of eccentric characters, effete editors and genuine jack-asses, but it truly felt like a family to me, even it was more like The Royal Tenenbaums than Leave it to Beaver.
G.H Harding: As an astute journalist and editor, what do you read on a daily basis?
Keith Girard: I still read The Post and The New York Times daily and have online subscriptions to both. I also subscribe to Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Otherwise, the nice thing about the Internet is that it gives you access to so many publications. I’m constantly surfing dozens of newspapers and magazines, looking for great reads. For some odd reason, I’m particularly drawn to British newspapers: The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Guardian, The Times of London, and so on. Maybe it’s just the British in me.
Learn About The Disney Revolt: The Great Labor War or Animation’s Golden Age
Soon after the birth of Mickey Mouse, one animator raised the Disney Studio far beyond Walt’s expectations. That animator also led a union war that almost destroyed it. Art Babbitt animated for the Disney studio throughout the 1930s and through 1941, years in which he and Walt were jointly driven to elevate animation as an art form, up through Snow White, Pinocchio, and Fantasia. But as America prepared for World War II, labor unions spread across Hollywood. Disney fought the unions while Babbitt embraced them. Soon, angry Disney cartoon characters graced picket signs as hundreds of animation artists went out on strike. Adding fuel to the fire was Willie Bioff, one of Al Capone’s wiseguys who was seizing control of Hollywood workers and vied for the animators’ union.
Using never-before-seen research from previously lost records, including conversation transcriptions from within the studio walls, author and historian Jake S. Friedman reveals the details behind the labor dispute that changed animation and Hollywood forever.
The Disney Revolt: The Great Labor War or Animation’s Golden Age is an American story of industry and of the underdog, the golden age
Authors Night In The Hamptons: Part 3 Steve Madden, Sol Rivera, Jann Wenner, Ángel Santamarina and More
We attended the East Hampton Library 19th Annual Authors Night fundraiser. In the second part we had Ballet Star Misty Copeland and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
First up was Sol Rivera and her book Restrict: A Poetic Narrative. Her father Geraldo Rivera showed up to support his lovely daughter whose book on eating disorders, body image, puberty, and self-worth is much needed.
Steve Madden one of the most iconic brands in footwear wrote The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell from Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever.
I was thrilled to meet Ángel Santamarina & Erica Broberg Smith and learn more about their book I See Better with My Eyes Closed: Conversations with Spiritual Healer, Angel Santamarina. Angel has had the gift of Spiritual Healing for many years. He has worked with doctors in interdisciplinary practices, and regularly sees people from various countries around the world. Over the last 20 years he has worked with over 2,000 individuals. He has written two books about his healing experiences, “Vivencias de un Sanador Espiritual” and “I See Better with My Eyes Closed”. He has been the keynote speaker at several conferences and co-hosted a radio program for several years. Look for Angel to do a column for T2C.
Robert Hofler’s The Way They Were: How Epic Battles and Bruised Egos Brought a Classic Hollywood Love Story to the Screen talks about the blacklists. Hofler is the author of: The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson, a 2005 biography of agent Henry Willson and many more. Hofler has served as entertainment editor at Life, executive editor at Us, managing editor at Buzz, and a senior editor and theater reporter at Variety. He’s currently the lead theater critic at TheWrap.
Jann Wenner’s Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir was sold out. Wenner is the man who revolutionized music journalism. He founded, edited and published Rolling Stone magazine.
Ethan Chorin’s Benghazi!: A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink is a book I will be reading and reviewing. Chorin was in the Middle East and Africa as an American diplomat, oil and ports executive and advisor to senior government officials. But for many years, the focus of his professional work has been the oil-rich North African country of Libya, where he was posted as one of a small number of US diplomats sent to open a proto-Embassy following the US’ shotgun reconciliation with Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi in the early 2000s. Chorin returned to Libya in 2011, as the Libyan revolution was underway, to work on healthcare infrastructure. In that context, he became a witness to the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, which killed former colleague Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Jane Ferguson’s No Ordinary Assignment: A Memoir. Ferguson is a Polk, Emmy, Peabody, OPCA and DuPont award-winning foreign correspondent for PBS NewsHour, contributor to The New Yorker, and McGraw Professor of journalism at Princeton University. For over thirteen years of experience living and reporting in the Middle East and reporting from the Arab world, Africa and South Asia. Her work focuses on US foreign policy and defense, conflict, diplomacy, and human rights. With an emphasis on in-depth, magazine length broadcasting.
And last but not least John Lazzaro: A Vanishing New York: Ruins Across the Empire State. Lazzaro is an author, photographer, and documentary filmmaker. Lazzaro draws upon his experiences from documentary filmmaking in order to create a realistic, visual, and thought-provoking dialogue of the macabre. His main focus is capturing abandoned buildings and vanishing architecture throughout the US.
Halloween Delights with Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
My View: Barrington Stage Co. on 42nd Street Oct. 30 For Its Gala at Green Room 42
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