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Topics/Questions/Exercises Of The Week—18 June, 2010


I Maintain That Chaos Is The Future And Beyond It Is Freedom. Confusion Is Next And After That Is An Inconvenient Truth: I know my editor probably isn't going to like this, but current events absolutely compel me to share the anecdote of the time I was in the same room (okay, under the same tent) with Vice President Albert Gore, his then-wife Tipper, and Laurie David her own bad self.

It was in 2006, the year of the release of the eventually Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth, and it was at the Cannes Film Festival, where the motion picture made a surprise, or special, appearance. I forget which. And the film's star and subject, Vice President Gore, and his lovely wife Tipper, came out for the screening and for the attendant party, thrown by Paramount, or rather, Paramount Classics, an arm of the major studio. The party was, I believe, at the venue called Nikki Beach, and boy, was it tres exclusive. Okay, it wasn't that exclusive—I got in. I think I was admitted as a guest of my boss at Premiere as he had been invited, and he didn't want to go by himself.

Here's the thing about being at the same party with the former Vice-President of the United States: just by dint of, you know, that, the guy had awesome star power, I can't honestly remember any other movie stars or celebs or whatnot hobnobbing about, although it was clear that there were such creatures. I do know that, yes, Laurie David, one of the producers of An Inconvenient Truth, was there, along with Davis Guggenheim, the director. Mrs. David gave off a powerful "don't you even think about talking to me, you peon" vibe...and a rather peculiarly, well, blowzy vibe at the same time. Very strange. I can say with every confidence though that she did not emit this latter vibe toward the Vice-President in any way, shape or form. In fact, I believe that she and the Vice President stood at opposite sides of the tent the whole time they were at the party. Why no gossip columnists have not contacted me and asked me to speculate on this state of affairs is not known to me. Perhaps this will change.

Anyway, for a large portion of the party I was standing as close to the Vice President as I am to my computer right now as I type this. I had some pretty funny things in mind to say, such as, [points to the water] "Say, Mr. Vice President, is it just my imagination...or is the sea getting closer?!?!?" Or, "So, Mrs. Vice President, what do you think of the new Prince record?" But such was my sense of patriotic intimidation that I said none of these things. I was struck mute.

And then the scandal occurred. First, it was new Paramount Classics head John Lesher's turn to introduce head Paramount honcho Brad Grey. Then Brad Grey got up and gave nods and salutations to the really big business honchos in the room. There was much simpering applause, and Grey got offstage, and the party went on. And within just two minutes, Grey went to the microphone again, very sheepishly, like a kid who'd just been sent to the corner to wear a dunce cap. What was the near-unforgivable sin that he had committed, and that he was now obliged to correct? Well. When he was introducing all the big business honchos, he had neglected to acknowledge the actual head of Viacom proper, Mr. Tom Freston, Sumner Redstone's chosen one. How Grey had missed Freston's presence, given the executive's distinctivehairstylings—kind of a salt-and-pepper variant of The Brian Grazer, right?—is beyond me. But miss it he did, and now, as powerful as he was, he was obliged to, well, eat a little shit. And, I kid you not, Grey's little sin of omission—could happen to anyone, right?—was all anybody could talk about after the party. Not the Vice-President, not the environment, not any other thing but the fact that Brad Grey had inadvertently snubbed Tom Freston and what was gonna become of him as a result. And that, my friends, is how they really do it in L.A., even if...especially if...L.A. has temporarily relocated to the South of France.

The irony of course is that Freston bailed from Viacom less than six months later after disagreements with Father Redstone. Paramount Classics folded and John Lesher left in 2009. Grey, demonstrating the tenacity and survival skills of a...dare I say it? Nah, why bother? Grey is still heading Paramount. Those Transformers movies make money, bub.

I’m not sure if think the sonic youth nod here is brilliant or terrible, but it made my day in either case.
Oh, I’ll be the first to admit it—it’s terrible.

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