Archive for the ‘comebacks’ Category

Ashton Kutcher’s Lateral Move to Nowhere

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

I just watched half of Ashton Kutcher’s romp-com No Strings Attached. By accident. I laughed at a bit player’s line: “The sounds of your sex are ruining my porn!”

Then I got bored and started staring at my thumbs.

Mr. D. Moore has done the same character in about 12 and a half movies, including the glopped-together Valentine’s Day, where he was, once again, the clueless cluck with a heart of gold. Inevitably, I’m confronted with his movies while on airplanes, and each time I shake my head in wonderment, “WHY is he hired?!” …”Why is HE the lead actor?” … “Can’t they find someone else with more than one expression?!” It’s not as though any of these starring roles — The Guardian, Guess Who, Butterfly Effect, Killers, Just Married, the list is endless — has made any money.

Dude, where’s my actor? Ashton Kutcher is not he. This guy is a puppet (also known as a marionette, which is commonly referred to as a dummy)!

kutcher-dumb.png

Which brings me to the news: Hiring his abs, err, this piece of plastic to replace America’s favorite Sheen-wreck in Two And a Half Men makes perfect sense — for Kutcher.

While he may be able to give excellent ghost-written speeches at TED and such events; boast about his one million Twitter follower milestone; handle a pretty good starry marriage to a lady who seems like an actress; talk a good game about causes he believes in, and somehow be credited with the forward to a book on social media … he is not a movie actor as much as a well-honed product placement.

Michael Kelso, the character he handily got us loving in That ’70s Showis Ashton Kutcher. He’s the clumsy, daft guy a lot of women find attractive. It’s what got him started, but sadly, he’s never learned to shake that persona and emerge as a respectable actor.

How about creator Chuck Lorre does something different … actually makes an “actor” of him? Shake it up! Bring him back on 2 ½ as the long lost gay cousin … or, shave his head, give him nerd glasses and make him gain 100 lbs. or wear a fat suit. Will the ladies still drool? Who cares. Pay for the guy’s scene classes and wash that perpetually goofy grin away. Otherwise we might just start missing Tiger Blood–at least ratings wise.

Kutcher possesses none of the traits thrown at him. He’s not this big social media guru; he tweets. As for his huge Twitter following, you do know that once you follow him you are unable to unfollow him, eh? Sneaky bastid. AK plays a public part that changes constantly and he does it quite well. Every choreographed move in this man’s life is strategically pieced together by his posse.

I’m glad — for Lorre’s sake, and for the goober mainstream media’s — that a bright-eyed, good-looking malleable Hollywood star has taken that asshole’s place in a show a lot of people like. I hope everyone at CBS is aware, though, that his ratings popularity is, just like Whoopi Goldberg’s, not guaranteed. Pre-The View a multitude of Whoopi’s movies, books, comedy shows and theater gigs fell with loud crashes; she always does well on TMZ“though. [Her unread autobiography was, not ironically, titled Book!]

The big Ash could pull off his new TV gig if he tunes in and recognizes the need for an eight-year-old show to evolve into something brand new AND different. This is a gig in which he desperately must succeed. We all know he is that guy who while not a trained actor (see above) can perform for his supper. As Daniel Tosh might say, “I thank him.” Because dumb is as dumb does.

But, do we have to be just as idiotic to watch?

____
A portion of the above was originally created for HuffingtonPost but got killed by its AOL-purchased editors; do you think they’re in bed with Ashton Kutcher? I am not upset about it.

Find me on Twitter posing as @laermer. I’ll let you unfollow.

Gossipeur: The Second of an Inane Series

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Starting last Friday, until whenever it ends, I will be reporting on the facts behind gossip

Gossip Cop: To Protect and Serve Who?

Friday, August 28th, 2009

This is the first of an inane series on one of America

Straight Talk on Gay Marriage

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

“Damn it,” says Kenneth Cole in ads all over Manhattan.

Rinse and Reuse: Lessons of High Line

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

The City of New York is full of parks

The Coming Newspaper Renaissance

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Despite the Chicken Little essence of the news lately, reports of the death of the newspaper industry have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, the industry will see a stunning Renaissance. To understand what is happening now and what will be happening over the next few years, we need look objectively at history and current state of journalism.

Not long ago, newspapers were comprised of facts, and only facts. When Hearst and Pulitzer had their squabbles during the gilded age, so-called yellow journalism sold copies and became part of the news landscape. But it was still regarded as not quite reporting. In the middle of the 20th century, the big blue tube became a primary source of local news and when Americans finally took the on-ramp of the info superhighway, newspapers put content online without any thought as to the impact this would have on the print business, which had always been dependent on classified and local ads (and sometimes subscriptions).

At that time, news organizations moved from reporting facts to proffering opinions, and reporters have since become mostly another batch of celebrities. Since TV news came aboard, we

Why No One Runs For Office Today: An Allegory

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

I would never run for office but there are some good people who get sucked into it. This is a story about a friend of mine who tried to help his local citizenry. His name is Jeff Perlman and he was twice elected Mayor of Delray Beach, Florida — where an election takes place this month that he will be far away from — and he taught me one thing about politics that we should remember as we sit judging the elected officials we chose.

You know this already: Politics is not a good place for a good human being to hang out.

We are going to have a lot of trouble getting young people to want to be our leaders. Notably after any of them read this story.

I spent time with Jeff Perlman (my firm, RLM PR, helped him through one of 25 crises while he was Mayor; he was the only client who ever handled a crisis with good cheer and constant reassessment and skill…but got the bad end of every stick) while people gave this hard-working man of the people a tough time for everything but wearing jeans. He was a part-time Mayor and skilled in PR; he got paid about $20,000 a year for his work as Mayor (Delray is a very small city) and was stopped by the people for taking any part-time jobs “on the side.”

He and his family just about got by on his wife’s salary. Yet when he tried to do some consulting at a local media relations firm, the towns folks went into a tizzy, calling it a conflict of interest. This little firm had no government clients — not even close — and yet he had to leave it because the voters, who had no hobbies, refused to allow it.

Jeff Perlman

The former Mayor explains how Delray citizens demanded to know his clients at all times: “I got sued for accepting a contract to publish a monthly newsletter for the school district, a job which netted less than $20k for a year’s work. The suit, filed by a political rival’s millionaire wife, cost me in excess of $20,000 to have thrown out, only to have it re-filed within hours of a deadline costing me another $10,000.” Perlman settled the second suit because defending himself again would have cost him between $25,000 and $30,000.

In its coverage of a town where the news people also have too much free time, the Palm Beach Post placed the first suit on the front page above the fold and above an item announcing that Al Qaeda had developed a nerve weapon.

When Perlman bid on a PR contract with the South Florida Water Management District (keeping in mind that other part-time elected officials do work for other governmental agencies), the Post wrote several stories costing him the contract even though he was actually he lowest bidder, was amply qualified, and executives were pleased with his work.

Says Perlman: “After a lawsuit and dozens of negative stories in the media, I no longer pursued any public work.” He feared an ulcer.

Here’s what Perlman’s public life was like:

February 2005: A young black man, Jerrod Miller, is shot and killed by an off-duty Delray Beach police officer. Story after story runs about how Delray is “split along racial lines…” But this is news to people who live there. The local press blames the Mayor, who has won all his elections by landslides, works tirelessly, and helps everyone get along and get what they need in Delray Beach.

May 2005: Jerrod Miller’s family files suit against the City of Delray Beach.

August 2005: The police officer who killed Miller is cleared of criminal wrongdoing in by a Grand Jury. The Mayor is taken to task for not holding enough meetings with the local NAACP. But the national NAACP doesn’t think this is an issue. Mayor Jeff has been doing whatever he can to heal the City; no one credits him with anything!

October 2005: Hurricane Wilma knocks out power to the whole city. Florida Power and Light (FPL) takes more than a month to turn it back on. Somehow, the Mayor is caught up in this, and he is powerless to do anything to stop the bad press — or FPL. “I simply didn’t sleep much. I spent hours driving neighborhoods, delivering ice and working with FPL to and state authorities to get real help.”

November 2005: Hurricane Wilma had ripped roofs off at Carver Estates (public housing), and the City decides to tear it down and rebuild, for which the Mayor is vilified. Prior to Wilma, the buildings were declared dangerous due to 40 years of federal and local neglect that the Mayor inherited. “We made it a priority and worked feverishly to relocate every single family to safer homes. Moving expenses were paid, and hefty stipends were secured, which enabled everyone displaced by the storm to find better homes.” The media went wild.

March 2006: Police chase…and eventually catch…a burglar in Perlman’s backyard. “This was an 18 hour manhunt for a criminal who was skilled at home invasions. Helicopters, K-9s and heat seeking radar were used before they fished him out of bushes in my canal.” You cannot make this up.

March 2006: Delray — under Perlman’s leadership — places a moratorium on building McMansions, which upsets those who don’t give a rat’s tush about historic preservation or conservation. One of several historic preservation-related scandals over the years and of course Mayor Perlman is caught up in it.

August 2006: Commissioner and former Vice Mayor Jon Levinson speaks (too) frankly and Perlman is forced to make a statement saying he doesn’t endorse Levinson’s actions. “Levinson went off in a goal setting session, pointing out the City Manager David Harden was mismanaging bond issue projects and failing to follow commission directions. While Jon’s remarks were far from diplomatic…he was 100% right.

The headline in the Post said we questioned the ‘work ethic’ of city workers. Not true. In fact, we praised City workers for their hurricane response but we had the temerity to challenge the manager who was indeed failing to complete projects or follow clear policy directions because of general incompetence. We criticized him. I did tactfully. Jon, not so tactfully.”

The Post writes an editorial that “Harden is Not the Problem” and credits the Manager for healing the city during the recent racial unrest. But the Mayor tells me: “Not quite. He was AWOL the whole time.”

August/September 2006: Because the city has a minimized budget, it is not able to pay firemen and paramedics well, so there are now 16 vacancies at one point, and the townspeople are in an uproar. Also, smoking is banned on City beaches. For once the press loves something — but smokers hate the Mayor and protest vehemently (and publicly).

December 2006: Two streets get converted from one-way to two-way, which required some closures and merchants were livid. Just guess who was blamed?

December 2006: Delray allows a developer to build town homes on the site of a monastery. Later (in February), Palm Beach Diocese backs out of deal to sell a house to eight elderly nuns, and blames the city of Delray Beach.

December 2006: Delray (and Boynton Beach) had been dumping their sewage into the ocean for four decades. But, when the permit comes up for renewal, some say it was Perlman’s fault that it was being dumped into the ocean to begin with! Perlman actually headed the group that decided to end the practice and had begun a major water re-use program. Press ignore this basic fact, even though when the story broke the City had cut emissions by 40 percent and were well on the way to 100 percent as soon as construction was complete on new pipes.

January 2007: Office Depot, among the biggest corporate businesses in town, leaves Delray and Perlman is blamed, but well used to this, he sets about resuscitating the Office Depot site and is successful.

March/April 2007: A spanking budget disaster now overshadows all Perlman’s good work: “An email to a lame duck City Commission notified them that the city had to borrow about $40.5 million if certain improvement projects were ever to get off the ground. Mayor Jeff Perlman never saw the email before the meeting.” (Palm Beach Post).

Perlman tells me: “The City Manager [Harden] never told us about the problem and in fact insisted we were fine, stating that there was no need for new borrowing. It turns out we did not need $41 million, a task force knocked the number down to $27 million and that included millions of new goodies sought by the manager including a new city environmental services building, a new fire station, a new IT building and an expansion of City Hall. Not funded: What the voters asked and paid for: a new senior center. The FBI launches an investigation into the bond issue.”

He did not run for reelection that year even though he was granted a 72 percent approval rating when he left office. You can pretty much see why.

July 2007, from the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: “Over the weekend, former Mayor Jeff Perlman denied trying to pressure the City Commission to fire City Manager David Harden. But on Monday, an email was leaked that he had sent to most of the commissioners chastising Harden and [new] Mayor Rita Ellis. The July 17 e-mail was sent in reaction to a Sun-Sentinel article that disclosed public comments were being edited out of City Commission meetings that are posted on the city’s Web site. The removal was ordered by Harden.” Perlman responded, and the Sun-Sentinel followed up with an editorial saying he should not in fact exercise his first amendment right to express an opinion.

September 2007: City settles with Jerrod Miller’s family for $1 million; the suit, says the local press “blamed then-Mayor Perlman, city commissioners and other city officials for embracing policies that it says led to Miller’s death.”

And now it turns out that there was illegal managing of city funds (so typical now) going on behind the scenes. Indictments are handed down. Perlman is not even a footnote in any of it. Political power broker and long time County Commissioner Mary McCarty and her husband Kevin are heading to jail. 18-year veteran Harden is implicated in a corruption scheme that is like a Hollywood tale with a severely bad rewrite.

Mary and Kevin McCarty

Mary McCarty, who seemed so business-like and austere when I met her, certainly played her part well. She was charged with conspiracy and mail fraud, stemming from her alleged failure to give her constituents honest services after voting on several bond issues that directly benefited her husband Kevin’s employers, including, yep, Bear Stearns. The McCartys allegedly received about $300,000 as a result of the votes. McCarthy also allegedly failed to disclose hotel stays provided by one of the county’s vendors.

A committee examination of how Harden’s decisions as Manager led to McCarty Mania should have been completed by now. Naturally, it’s going to come down after Tuesday’s big election, where the mayorality and other public offices are up for grabs.

Who was the scapegoat in Delray Beach? Jeff Perlman proves my thesis: Why on earth would anyone run for office and spend low-paid days and nights handling the “mishegos” of people who make you feel less than adequate no matter how hard you work? This is one man’s story, but it is certainly not as big an anomaly as you think.

It’s just the best one I know.

10 Ways Businesses Are Killed

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

During the last mercurial business cycle, I sneakily asked super successful types such as Mark Cuban (Mavericks dancer), Peter Guber (Guber), David Brancaccio (NOW man on PBS), Bob Davis (Speedy Lycos dude), and Gerald Storch (Toys

It Happened One Month

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Today we have all kinds of interesting things for your enjoyment. First up: three ways to improve corporate America.

  1. Stop with the private jets, already. In the depths of this recession, no one has any money. People can

You’re Gay. Yeah, Whatever.

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Clay Aiken

According to Clay (”Don’t Touch Me!”) Aiken, it is a big gay world out there. And that’s what the press wants you to believe. From my viewpoint, as a fuchsia card-carrying gay alpha male, every few years there’s a boondoggle in gay stories in America: the Supreme Court said OK to sodomy in Texas; Iowa in the heartland says OK to gay weddings; Richard Chamberlain (Richard! Chamberlain!) claims he’s a homo; while finally (my favorite) MTV said OK to the airing of a band (t.A.t.U.) that portrays itself as being “all lesbian, all the time.” The mega-ratings grabber Tia Tequila featured a bisexual lady of indiscriminate taste, but I’m not sure if she’s into sex as much as she is into showing off her inanity.

Yawn, digress. Is all this really the series of huge breakthroughs the media are suggesting? Because it sounds to me like just a lot of hype to sell a bunch of dying papers. Truth is, we’ve seen this all before. As I clamor for someone to just enact a single bold headline: “He’s Gay, So What?”

A generation and a half ago, Rock Hudson came out to the world on his deathbed because of complications from AIDS, smack-dab in the middle of Reagan America. At that point, a scant few years before the Supremes said no to sodomy in Georgia, the mass media talked a good game and asked Americans to be a lot more compassionate in their dealings with their gay brothers and sisters.

Then we waited for 24.5 years — past noise like “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” past Barry Winchell’s horrific death from homobashing Army boys, past that shady Defense of Marriage Act and doe-eyed Matthew Shepard, to, finally, a gay bishop happening upon the scene somewhere up north.

So the big news now is that it’s OK to be gay. Of course, it isn’t entirely OK. The media message of the moment notwithstanding, Bill Frist, once the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate, reacted to gay movement forward by grandstanding that he’d like an amendment to the constitution that gay marriage be disallowed. That is progress with a small “p.” Not gay with a capital “G.”

So how can we explain this dichotomy? Perhaps the public isn’t really so much more accepting and the culture isn’t really that much different — just as it wasn’t back in 1985, when Rock died. Perhaps the reality is that the media have grabbed onto this story line more because it’s a sellable one than because it’s the truth.

Let’s go back to Chamberlain, who has been an icon much longer than Aiken (and take Lohan, please…). Chamby’s story says a lot about why people were going “Senator Craig?” (who cares; just go away) last year. Chamberlain’s publicist insisted breathlessly that he should get a big “wow!” for his act of boldness. He should? For 40 years he played dull and, oh yeah, straight. Then he got exciting and on the cover of People magazine for telling the world that he’s gay. Really? And, oh yeah, he happened to have a book for sale.

Which I’m sure is just a coincidence. Much like Liz Smith, who also conveniently came out in what very briefly became a must-read memoir. But don’t get me started on Liz Smith.

One day after Richard’s big moment, I stood in a trendy Santa Monica video store and spotted the original Bourne Identity, which was remade last year with the straight (well, today!) Matt Damon. Chamberlain played Damon’s role in the first version, which no one remembers now, since Damon has turned this into his role. I had to laugh at the laboriously butch face Chamberlain was making on the box. He hasn’t had that kind of fame in years, and his new efforts — retired and notoriously gay — reek of a last-ditch effort to gain a buck off fame.

To make matters smellier, the old boy told Dateline at the time that he is “not a romantic leading man anymore and [no longer needs] to nurture that public image anymore.” Did anyone in the press ask about his implicit suggestion that his fans are total idiots? What Richard Chamberlain’s old-world PR people were pulling was very 1950s: let’s tell the world he’s gay to get some more attention. Right. Ask Rosie O’Donnell how far being queer’s gotten her, really. Certainly not the lead of Price Is Right or a punditry on MSNBC. Chamberlain is an actor who has been downgraded to his generation’s Larry Storch. You know, another TV actor who has had to pay the rent by appearing in, say, cheaply constructed bus and truck companies of My Fair Lady. Now that he’s gay — I guess this goes for Clay–maybe people will pay attention to him.

Again.

I’m the author of 2011: Trendspotting. Essays like this fill the damn thing.

Buy the Book - 2011

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