Daily Archives: September 9, 2004

Fait Divers: Rise

The L.A. Observed item couldn’t be more cogent. Or more cozy :

Seipp vs Finke Goes National

Romenesko links today to a Cathy Seipp “From the Left Coast” column at National Review Online where she repurposes her blog takes on old nemesis Nikki Finke, the LA Weekly columnist. The piece, headlined “Nikki’s L.A.”, opens with the recent Los Angeles magazine profile of Finke and revisits the two women’s bizarre public disagreement over whether they have in fact lunched together. It’s Seipp and NRO, so of course it’s all wrapped in the usual attempted object lesson about left (bad!) and right (good!).


Everyone loves a good catfight. Especially in this post-feminist era. But it’s not much fun when only one cat shows up. . .at least so far

Los Angeles magazine is usually pretty boring, but R. J. Smith has a highly enjoyable piece in the current (September) issue about the L.A. Weekly’s Nikki Finke, Hollywood’s most histrionic showbiz columnist. The well-connected but famously difficult Nikki has been bouncing around the media world as a freelance Hollywood correspondent these past few years — from The New York Observer to Salon to New York to the New York Post “and anybody else willing to put their head in the hornet’s nest,” as Smith noted — before landing at the Weekly two years ago.

And Cathy begins, clearly feeling no one’s likely to compare her to the unfortunate Halle Berry — all cat-suited-up with nowhere to go.

So far, it’s been a perfect fit, maybe because the L.A. outpost of The Village Voice chain allows Nikki a soapbox for her knee-jerk leftist politics along with a hometown outlet for behind-the-scenes entertainment reporting. Nikki is endearingly tactless about her employer (as she is about most things), telling Smith that “the only time I see people reading it is when I go to the car wash…I call it the official paper of the valet parkers. And they’re reading the massage ads.”

Well jerked knees are scarely a left-wing specialty, especially when it comes to NRO’s fealty to All Things Bush. Currently they’re investigating whether memos embarassing to the Chimp were forged — even though said “forgeries” came from the White House.

As for valet parkers and massage ads, wait for Kitty Kelley, Cathy.

But by e-mailing selected pieces to her media contact list, Nikki’s brought attention to the low-profile Weekly.

What an interting term, “low-profile.” Because she and her friends (fearful of Liberal cooties) don’t read it, the Weekly doesn’t exist?

In May, she reported that the New York Times and Los Angeles Times were preparing pieces about Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter’s conflict-of-interest business deals with Hollywood studios, forcing both papers to rush their stories into print before they were ready. The next month she had another scoop, the day before President Reagan died, that his health was failing.

Pretty good for a “low profile.”

These were enterprising columns. But I like it best when Nikki whips herself into a rattle-headed political fury over what’s going on in Hollywood. After the Super Bowl/Janet Jackson’s breast incident — which Nikki argued might encourage violence against women — she decided that CBS chief Les Moonves should resign, and called up CBS spokesman Gil Schwartz to ask if he agreed. (Schwartz’s predictable response: “It’s an outrageous and moronic question not worthy of an answer.”)

No guts no glory.

Fond as I am of the rude and inappropriate question, I have to say I was initially with CBS on this one; Moonves is not an elected official, and presumably neither Nikki nor many of her readers are Viacom shareholders. I can’t see why she thinks most of us should care about personnel matters in Big Media.

Why is the job status of a public figure a “personal matter”?

But then I read Nikki’s list of Moonves sins: He’s a “former child actor who…repeatedly plays himself on TV.” He’s a “show-biz insider who pals around only with others of the industry.” And — you might want to be sitting down for this one — he’s a “bicoastal philistine who used to live in a Brentwood mansion and is right now looking at opulent Malibu beach houses.”

Interesting details any reporter worth his or her salt should provide, no?

Looking at them right now? After all this? Couldn’t Les at least have shown some shame and limited himself to un opulent houses? And since when did Nikki become such a bleeding-heart pushover? Resign, bah; obviously, the man deserves the chair.

When Drama Queens Collide !

Last month Gawker reprinted an e-mail fit between Nikki and an unnamed GQ editor, who’d suggested she might want to plug GQ’s anonymous, as-told-to Hollywood-agent story (in the September issue) in her Weekly column: “I have 300 interviews with real live Hollywood agents ON THE RECORD talking all about stealing clients,” Nikki fumed in response. “But do you people ever think to actually call me to do an article for you? Nooooooooooo…Because I’m not 24 years old. Because I’m not making stuff up. Because I don’t live in New York. Because I don’t kiss up to the idiots who decide which stars magazines like GQ can and can’t put on their covers.”

I was actually on Nikki’s side here, until she veered over into hysteria. Then I was on the GQ editor’s side, until he (she?) foolishly accepted Nikki’s invitation to get ridiculous

I’d like to propose a toast

Here’s to the ladies who lunch–
Everybody laugh.

Lounging in their caftans
And planning a brunch
On their own behalf.

Off to the gym,
Then to a fitting,
Claiming they’re fat.
And looking grim,
‘Cause they’ve been sitting
Choosing a hat.
Does anyone still wear a hat?
I’ll drink to that.

Nikki and I have had a testy relationship ever since I described her as “semi-sane” in a media column I wrote in the ’90s for the old Buzz magazine; at the time, she’d just left her staff job at the L.A. Times. She complained to my editor that she was offended because she’d written serious articles about the serious problem of schizophrenia, so as I recall we had to run an apology.

And here’s to the girls who play smart–
Aren’t they a gas?
Rushing to their classes
In optical art,
Wishing it would pass.

Another long exhausting day,
Another thousand dollars,
A matinee, a Pinter play,
Perhaps a piece of Mahler’s.
I’ll drink to that.
And one for Mahler!

Now for the record, if anyone called me semi-sane in print, I wouldn’t send a letter like that. I’d send a jagged piece of broken mirror in an envelope with “I AM NOT SEMI-SANE” scrawled on it in lipstick or blood, but I guess we all have our own style when it comes to handling these things.

Quick — call Andrew Lloyd Webber! It’s Fatal Attraction: The Musical
Glenn Close has a lovely singing voice AND she looks more than a tad like Cathy.

Still, we had lunch now and then over the years, during which she’d give me background information for various stories, in between expressing amazement that I wasn’t tape-recording but merely taking notes. (“I guess it’s just that I’ve spent so many years as a real reporter, Cathy — but that’s O.K. You do it your way!”)

Again Cathy — learn from Kitty Kelley! Tape recorders are mandatory, dear.

Three years ago, she had a short-lived stint as editor of a local L.A. weekly called the Downtown News, where she tried to assign me a complicated, intensely reported media piece. For $100. Chop!

Uh-oh. Now we’re into it!

I mentioned that incident on my blog recently, and got a huffy e-mail from Nikki claiming that not only had she never had lunch with me, but that she couldn’t recall our ever having met. Now it’s a standard offended journalist’s insult to (a) accuse you of getting your facts wrong, and (b) imply you’re far too unimportant a person to remember.


Sometimes they toss in that they’ve never read anything you’ve written either. But this was really a stretch.
As I reminded Nikki, the last time we met was for lunch at Joss on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood, where (this is what made it particularly memorable for me) she ordered an extra chicken salad to go for dinner later, since the lunch was on my tab.
“I’ve heard of senior moments,” I told her, “but this is ridiculous.” Return chop!

And here’s to the girls who play wife–
Aren’t they too much?
Keeping house but clutching
A copy of LIFE,
Just to keep in touch.
The ones who follow the rules,
And meet themselves at the schools,
Too busy to know that they’re fools.
Aren’t they a gem?
I’ll drink to them!
Let’s all drink to them!

And here’s to the girls who just watch–
Aren’t they the best?
When they get depressed,
It’s a bottle of Scotch,
Plus a little jest.

I was amused to see that Nikki made an oblique complaint about me in the Los Angeles piece, demanding of Smith in their first conversation, “Why… wasn’t I writing about the right-wing takeover of the Los Angeles Press Club, for God’s sake?”

It’s actually rather hard to make a rational case for such a right-wing takeover, when practically the entire board (except for syndicated California political columnist Jill Stewart, who’s center right)

Like one of Peggy Noonan’s sacred dolphins.

is so hard left that entire meetings are often taken up with Bush-bashing instead of L.A. Press Club matters. What Nikki was referring to was the parties that two other freelance journalists and I organize for the Press Club, which occasionally — gasp! — allow libertarians like Virginia Postrel or John Stossel to be the guests of honor, along with plenty of non-political types.

“Libertarians” are the Right-wing Republican version of “But I’m really Bisexual.”

But my co-hostesses are definitely anti-Bush and left-of-center.

If you’re anti-Bush you’re automatically “left-of-center.”

What’s going on here, I suspect, is a new twist to the old one-drop rule. True believers regard any right-of-center politics with the same horror that old-south racial purists regarded a drop of African blood; someone who was, say, one-eighth black was considered not quite white but an octoroon or whatever.

Speaking as an Octoroon (an actual, rather than a metaphoric one) I can’t feature Cathy as Miss Julie in Show Boat. Parmee, maybe, but not Julie — though I’m sure she’d love to launch a chorus of “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man” at Luke Ford.

So now because exactly one person involved with the L.A. Press Club (me) is a genuine right-winger, suddenly the entire organization has been tainted with the frightening vision of a “right-wing takeover,” an idiotic description that I’ve heard other media types in L.A. use, some of them even saner than Nikki.

Jill Stewart’s piercing stare probably put the frighteners on the poor dear. And I can’t say I blame her.

But I salute her for, once again, getting it first in print.

Another chance to disapprove,
Another brilliant zinger,
Another reason not to move,
Another vodka stinger.
I’ll drink to that.

So here’s to the girls on the go–
Everybody tries.
Look into their eyes,
And you’ll see what they know:
Everybody dies.

A toast to that invincible bunch,
The dinosaurs surviving the crunch.
Let’s hear it for the ladies who lunch–
Everybody rise!
Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise!

Over to you, Nikki. . .

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Everyone loves a good catfight. Especially in this post-feminist era.
Excerpt: David E’s Fablog
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Tracked: September 17, 2004 10:24 PM