Archive for the ‘Celebrities’ Category

“I used to live in a room full of mirrors; all I could see was me. I take my spirit and I crash my mirrors, now the whole world is here for me to see.” ~ Jimi Hendrix

One of the great things about not being young is having a raft of experience that has pitched up in some interesting places during momentous occasions, so when a day like today comes along I don’t have only vague notions of pop culture-fed imaginings, but personal recollections that pull me along and surround me in a sea of memories I can touch, smell and taste.

I can cast my mind back to the day before today 40 years ago … September 17, 1970 … and conjure that world of long, flowing locks on everyone, Indian bedspread material curtains on widows of VW vans, the fragrance of brown rice bubbling with patchouli and weed undertones wafting just about everywhere, the tingly-tongue-taste about to bloom to bare feet from a dot of blotter.

Was there ever another such time? Has history ever gifted such a hopeful youth, one so committed and convinced it perched on the edge of greatness and could easily force feed a future on hope, dreams and hallelujah hallucinations of humanity humbled?

There was a war happening and we shook off our parents’ orchestrated baaing and sang back into their faces that we should all give peace a chance instead of playing dominos and watching our friends and brothers fall in organized lines … confident in the fact that if you want to end war and stuff, you gotta sing loud.

Much of mass media was kept well beyond our reach, but we had our music, and it took over the world. Any song had anthem potential and could become a rallying point, and those who made the music became heros … but everyday heros. The stars of those times inhabited the world we lived in, not some distant, exotic celestial body. They created music for the world, not at it, dissecting and reflecting common experience. (Even the most obscure themes were easily grasped when minds eagerly altered to span distance, ethnicity, exposure and any other differences that weren’t.)

Yes, it was a sanguine saga, a buoyant, confident and expectant generation, but by definition youth lacks experience and growing up had to happen.

Some of that growing up started today 40 years ago … September 18, 1970 … hence this post, today being the anniversary of the death of one of the best guitarist to ever pluck a string, Jimi Hendrix.

Sixteen days later, the world lost Janis. Nine months after that it was Morrison.

We had been accustom to death by war, by accident, by disease, but we’d rather missed the specter of death by life … by excess of passion, by a profligacy of youth, by presumption that power manifested assured immortality.

Or did we?

We grew up … for sure … grasped impermanence and assimilated the assumption of disillusionment into our core just like every generation before us. We’ve shifted gears and goals, darkened the rose tint on our shades, and some have developed a conservative shell to fend off what they once may have embraced.

But … and this is huge …

the music lives, and will outlive us.

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So, Larry King has announced that he’s giving up the desk job, saying that stepping away from his nightly show will result in:

” … giving me more time for my wife and I to get to the kids’ little league games”.

Being that the man has been doing this for more than twenty-five years, there are few in the CNN-soaked world who won’t have some opinion on his retirement, his career, his suspenders.

Being virtually CNNless for a long time, not having him on the air daily won’t impact my life one bit, but I’m sure there are those who will miss regular doses of the King and his lineup.

I would, however, like to take the announcement of his departure as a chance to write a bit about that particular brush with fame, or the time I met Larry King.

Yes, I’ve met many a celeb, and although some consider an encounter of the “This person is on TV a lot” variety an experience worth wetting themselves over, I tend not to get all that jazzed. In fact, the only person I’ve come in contact with who inspired stuttering star-struckness in me was Jane Goodall, and Larry King is so NOT Jane Goodall.

Anyway …

One night I’m at this celeb-filled fundraiser in L.A. hosted by Jay Leno with Sting as the entertainment and the Douglas clan at the next table … no, not Fred MacMurry and his Three Sons, but Kirk and Michael and wives … and a host of faces recognizable by a huge percentage of the global population.

Just behind me, Larry King and a bevy of blond beauties. They’d come in after I’d been seated, and I couldn’t help but notice that in motion Larry looks very much like a six-foot-something insect … a cross between a praying mantis and a daddy longlegs. (And, yes, I do know that a spider isn’t an insect … my brother is an entomologist, after all … but if crossed with a pm it might qualify as an arachnesect … close enough.) He moved almost predatorily as he made his way around the room, meeting and greeting, then folded his limbs much like a skinny spider settling as he eventually took his seat.

At some point in the evening, we had a brief conversation in which it came up that I live in Seychelles. He’d never heard of the place. When I explained enough geography to get the Indian Ocean placed in his head, then mentioned that we only have one TV channel here, he appeared to understand exactly why the country had never made it to his radar.

A few pleasantries, and was I moved along to Mrs. Michael Douglas who actually knew where Africa is …

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I am so completely awash with thoughts as I start this post that finding a jumping-of point is gluing my fingers to my keyboard as my brain attempts to sort out a beginning, a middle and an end.

Ah … screw it … Dive, dive …

First, an admission: I have never seen an “Idol” show. Not since Arthur Godfrey’s Amateur Hour have I watched hopeful performers set themselves up on television to take the hits that standing metaphorically naked in front of the world can bring. I know who Simon Cowell is only because I own the Shrek DVD that has him as a special feature, but have no idea who others are who sit in judgement.

So …

I’m confused.

Postings on facebook today included many people linking to a vid from a program called “Britains Got Talent” … is there supposed to be an apostrophe there somewhere? … that shows a woman singing.

The “hook” here seems to be that she’s not a babe. Susan Boyle is a 47-year-old rather plain looking person from Scotland who has obviously managed to avoid being styled. She has bushy eyebrows, a double chin and a bit of extra weight under her matronly dress. Her hair is thinning, her accent billboards her roots, and her manner, although confident enough considering the cameras and the crowd, hints of self-deprication.

Since this is a program featuring talent, not a beauty pageant, I am having a hard time understanding why eyes are rolling in the audience and judges barely cover smirks as she introduces herself … much less the stunned reaction when she opens her mouth and belts out a perfect version of the difficult “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables.

Since when did someone have to look pretty … in some canned-for-mass- consumption sort of way … to sing beautifully?

Since the advent of music vids, perhaps? Are we no longer able to hear the magic without seeing the performer, and the explanation of just exactly what it is we’re listening to?

Many are referring to this moment in British TV as inspirational. Why? Because a dowdy lass of some years can sing?

Sorry, but I just find the shock and awe of it all disturbing.

Congratulations, Susan Boyle. You were beautiful before you opened your mouth.

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Filed under the “If I were in the USA” list of events I would absolutely NOT miss …

The Adoption Institute’s annual “Taste of Spring” benefit, set for the 14th of May in New York City.

Not only does the Institute provide vital resources, research every aspect of the adoption world and experience, throw their mighty support behind valiant efforts for reform and education and work tirelessly for a better world for children and families therefore earning my eager support, I would give a whole heck of a lot to share space with their director, my personal hero and … dare I say it? … good friend, the amazing Adam Pertman.

Oh, yeah … and Hugh Jackman will be there, too.

The event itself will be a culinary delight, with some of the best restaurants in Manhattan participating.

So … make me jealous as hell and go!

You can download the invite here.

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Please click here to fill out a few little boxes that may lead me out of some of my cluelessness …

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Here we go again …

OMG! Celebrity adoption in the news … yawn … and it jump starts the backlash. Sheesh.

Okay, so it is Madonna, and although she may be named after the muthah of all mothers (in the Saddam Hussein sense, that is) there is consensus that June Cleaver she is not, but …

For Save the Children to react like this just annoys the socks I don’t wear right off my itchy feet.

Save the Children spokesman Dominic Nutt told the BBC’s Newshour programme: “For the most part so-called orphans in poor countries tend to have family still available to them, if not actually a parent still living.

“It is vital, we say, that children should not be taken abroad to be looked after but should be cared for in their own environment by their own community, ideally by their own family, particularly their extended family.”

Yeah … I do note that the guy’s a Nutt, which he proves nicely with:

“You cannot literally take every poor child who may only have one parent living, or no parent living, across the world and transport them all into Kensington in London. It’s not a solution.”

Gee … I wonder how much he gets paid to come up with such simplistic tripe?

Here’s a hint to agenda from him: “The thing to do is to support the community, to support local agencies and charities who can look after the child so that the child is at least cared for in their community.” (emphasis added)

Okay. One more time …

Malawi is in Africa. Much of Africa is dirt poor, disease-ridden, starvation-plagued, violent, corrupt and over-populated to the point where quality of life issues begin and end with millions of kids being dead before they are five years old.

Two kids who could end up in the category of dead will instead grow up in a rarefied atmosphere with an obnoxious mother who has more money than the GNP of some African countries.

This does in no way indicate that every poor orphan in the world will suffer the same fate as David and Mercy, nor does it mean that Save the Children execs are going to be put out of a job any time soon.

It may mean that the world will suffer the public personality flaws of two more publicity-hungry spoiled brats in a few years, but Paris Hilton … not an adoptee, by the way … will have faded into a Gabor sister by then and the rags will be needing new fodder.

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I recall with perfect clarity the moment I heard the news the San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk had been murdered.

From Diane Feinstein, at the time a SF Supervisor:

“Today San Francisco has experienced a double tragedy of immense proportions. As President of the Board of Supervisors, it is my duty to inform you that both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed”, then adding after being drowned out by shouts of disbelief, “and the suspect is Supervisor Dan White.”

Shaken to my core, like so many at the time, I watched reports of the killings … developing great respect that continues to this day for Diane Feinstein who held a bleeding head as life poured out … and the subsequent joke of the Dan White trial.

Years later, my brother starred in “Philadelphia”, the first mainstream film to feature a gay lead character, and about popped with pride as a legion of movie fans learned lessons in compassion.

(An aside … This was also the most difficult role for me to see Tom in, and I still can’t watch the film without falling to bits. In fact, I’ve only seen it 3 times even though it lives in my DVD library. The first time was with my best friend, Robbie, who has AIDS, setting me thinking that from then on I wouldn’t see a film about an illness without doing so while sitting beside someone living with said dreaded disease. “Sybil” would be hard, though, since, as far as I know I don’t have any friends that are multiples … but, then again, may I do … )

Robbie sent me a link today from the Courage Campaign about the film “Milk” and the acceptance speech given by Dustin Lance Black when winning the Oscar.

I’m passing this along …

“When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life, it gave me the hope to one day live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married.” — Dustin Lance Black, accepting an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, February 22

One speech can change the lives of millions.

For Dustin Lance Black and millions of gays and lesbians, it was Harvey Milk’s “Hope” speech and the life of the man who gave it.

And, for millions of people watching the Academy Awards last night, it was Dustin Lance Black’s Oscar acceptance speech, channeling the spirit of Milk with a universal message of hope and determination in the aftermath of the passage of Prop 8.

Last night, Black and Sean Penn won Academy Awards for their wonderful work in the creation of “Milk” — the film chronicling the life and times of Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in American history. Cleve Jones, who worked with Milk in the 1970’s and pushed for many years to get this beautiful film made, smiled proudly from the audience.

If you have not seen Dustin Lance Black’s short, but moving acceptance speech — broadcast to over 30 million Americans Sunday night — please take a moment to watch it now. Then sign our note of congratulations to Dustin, Sean, and Cleve and thank them for their life-changing film. If you feel so inspired, please write a short note letting them know how “Milk” has touched your life:


As Dustin put it backstage in an interview after his acceptance speech, he felt that this appearance on the Oscar stage was an opportunity to “pay it forward” to millions of people — especially teenagers living in fear of what might happen if they come out:

“For me, the whole thing was always to… pay it forward. You know, Harvey gave me his story… Oh, I’m going to cry [pauses to compose himself]… Harvey gave me his story and it saved my life. And I just thought it’s time to pass it on… The only thing I really knew I wanted to say was to tell those kids out there that they’re going to be alright.”

They are going to be OK, but only if we all follow in the footsteps of Harvey Milk and continue fighting for equality for all Americans.

You can help Dustin Lance Black pay it forward now by sending this email to your friends and family — especially the people who most need to watch his inspiring acceptance speech. Then sign our congratulatory note to Dustin, Sean Penn, and Cleve Jones and consider adding a few words of your own about what “Milk” means to you:


Thank you for sharing this momentous speech with the people you care about the most and giving them the opportunity to share it with their loved ones as well.

Rick Jacobs

P.S. In addition to being the driving forces behind making “Milk” a reality, Dustin Lance Black and Cleve Jones were both active in working to defeat Prop 8 before the election. And they were both in the streets in the aftermath of Prop 8’s passage, protesting the enshrinement of discrimination into California’s state constitution. Cleve also gave the keynote speech at the first Camp Courage in Los Angeles and plans to attend the Fresno training on March 7-8.

Please thank Dustin and Cleve now for bringing Harvey Milk’s life to millions of people and for their ongoing activism in the movement to restore marriage equality to California:



Courage Campaign Issues is part of the Courage Campaign’s online organizing network that empowers over 600,000 grassroots and netroots activists to push for progressive change in California.

I have not seen the film … and am hoping someone sends me a DVD when it’s out in that format. I did, however, live the history.

How far have we come? A long way, no doubt, but there is still far to go.

My friends are no longer dropping like flies and funerals don’t happen monthly as they seemed to some years ago, but as long as anyone considers a person’s choices in love a reason to reduce the value, restrict the rights or condemn in any way, the fight is still on.

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It’s only been election day in the States for a little under an hour now, but on this side of the world the morning is heading toward afternoon and that has me thinking I should be sitting in front of the TV and listening to Wolf Blitzer yammer on about exit polls.

This is certain to be one of those days that I resent the hell out of whoever has yet to get around to inventing the beamy-uppy thing, as I would LOVE to be in the US for all of this particular Tuesday in this particular November.

I’ve not minded at all missing out on the hoopla of the last two Presidential elections … in fact I casually contemplated passing myself off as Canadian (or a Kiwi like Sis, but I can’t do the accent) … but this one brings such promise that I’m sorry to be missing the party … Democrat, of course.

My beautiful and bright daughter, Jenn, has been stumping for Obama in North Carolina, and I would love to be sitting with her as the results come in. Not that I’m counting unhatched chickens from way over here in the Indian Ocean … no way! I’ve been out of America long enough now to harbor no illusions about the potential of pinheads to rise like over-yeasty bread and take over the world, reminding me in no little way of the creature introduced in Michael Landon’s first film, “The Blob”.

Could it be, though, that this time around intelligence counts? Could smart and honorable and vital and committed and fresh and fill-in-a-positive-adjective-here carry the day?

Do the world a favor, and get out and vote today, and if you’re still undecided and of the mindset that a movie star should tell you what box to tick, feel free to let my brother influence you. After all, he’s a smart guy, too.

I’ll be over here waiting with fish on my tongue (baited breath … a groaner, I know, but it’s an inside joke aimed at a few) for the results to start coming in on CNN’s website … Anderson Cooper is cute, isn’t he just, and isn’t that what TV news is all about? … and hoping for the promise of a new and brighter world.

We all sure could use that.

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Getting back to the tens of millions of dollars the UN has wasted in Sudan that I mentioned yesterday, but had neither the time nor the stomach for, I find it more than a tad disingenuous that the same day this story came out in the Washington Post, the “UN News Centre” had only this to say … a long, drawn out whine from Ban Ki-moon as he “strongly condemned” Janjaweed militia attacks killing 200 people in West Darfur.

Mr. Ban “stresses that all parties must adhere to international humanitarian law, which prohibits military attacks against civilians,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

First … Yeah, Ban. Like that’s gonna work! (Gee, whiz … slap forehead … Let’s just explain that genocide is “prohibited”! Wonder why Kofi didn’t think of that … )

And, second … Why the hell should the Janjaweed listen to the UN talk about obeying laws?

From the WaPo:

A U.N. task force is examining the United Nations’ handling of nearly $300 million in contracts for food, transportation and fuel for Sudan, including a $200 million contract with Eurest Support Services, a Cyprus-based subsidiary of the Compass Group, a British catering company. ESS also has been charged with rigging bids in Liberia, Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Anyone want to venture a guess as to what a “task force” not under UN employ might find?

But back to the UN news that goes on to sing the praises of something called the Status of Forces Agreement … unfortunately, but probably prophetically abbreviated to SOFA … that was signed recently.

A couple of points to make on this.

First, on this:

SOFA covers the activities of the military, police and civilian personnel of the mission, known as UNAMID, which seeks to stem the violence in the war-ravaged Darfur region, where over 200,000 people have been killed and 2.2 million others forced to flee their homes since fighting began in 2003 among Government forces, rebel groups and allies militia groups known as the Janjaweed.

Yep. Those same damned numbers they’ve been trotting out for the past five years … 200,000 dead, 2.2 million displaced.

When and why did the UN stop counting? Counting the dead and displaced is one of the few things the UN can actually do, but not in Sudan. There were 200,000 dead and 2.2 million displaced way back during GW’s first term and way before George Clooney ever went to Darfur … and now he’s not only been back for ages, he’s working for the UN. (Talk about a powerful PR machine!)

The other thing in the UN News:

Mr. Guehenno, who recently visited Sudan, emphasized that UNAMID operation is “severely under-resourced for the tasks which it was mandated to perform” since it lacks the necessary troops, police and equipment, including military aircraft and ground transportation, to provide protection to Darfurians.

No mention there what 10s of millions of wasted dollars could have provided on this front, is there? No. There wouldn’t be.

Back to George Clooney for a moment …

Last September I wrote a post responding to a question he asked during his testimony before the UN where he said:

We were brought up to believe that the U.N. was formed to ensure that the Holocaust could never happen again. We believe in you so strongly. We need you so badly. We have come so far. We’re — we’re one yes away from ending this. And, if not the U.N., then who?

I looked around a bit at the time and came up with:

In 2005, UNICEF received over $53 million in contributions for Darfur, meeting approximately 43 percent of total requirements. As of April 2006, UNICEF has received about $1.85 million in contributions from government donors, while UNICEF’s National Committees have raised approximately $966,000.

This means UNICEF has a total of just over $2.81 million in donor resources against its Darfur target of $89 million in 2006 – so its programmes in the region are just 3.1 per cent funded moving into the second quarter of the year.

Pointing to this as, “the UN’s own justification for doing squat!” led me to compose another post I called “If not the UN, why?”

Today, as last year, as the year before, what I said then holds true now:

Lack of funds … lack of will …

Where does it make sense, however, that this body … the UN, I’m taking here … would CHOOSE to sit back once again and allow a genocide to happen and happen and happen?

Which brings me to the real why?

Why does the UN exist at all?

A very quick look at stories from the past couple of days could be taken to prove the utter uselessness of the organization without even having to mention Cambodia, Rwanda, Srebrenica, or more stops along the genocide trail that’s been well traveled without hindrance from those folks in the big building with all the flags around it.

With a recent article in Newsweek addressing the UN’s creeping agenda on international adoption that does so much damage to so many and now seems to have the children of Haiti ready to serve up on a plate that doesn’t include adoption as an option, I do not feel any inclination to judge gently what the UN calls waste.

When 10s of millions of dollars disappear, that’s not just sloppy, it’s criminal.

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It’s no surprise that the adoption world is easily offended when babies are used as props, since a good part of the debate that fumes mightily has everything to do with children posed as possessions to be wrangled over. But it could be argued that kids are not only “property” in the yours, mine and ours sense, but also in the theatrical sense, being that they can be quite handy for setting a scene or revealing character, and they look great posed between the dog and the tree on Christmas cards.

Who doesn’t attempt to position a child adorably for posterity, frame the results to gaze gleefully in perpetuity from the family room wall and send copies off to Granny, and maybe even to parenting magazines with the certainty that a wide audience is prepped to awwwwww? Being that there’s no shortage of kids being dragged from audition to audition in hopes of being the next Daniel Radcliffe, putting kids through their paces for the sake of “art” wouldn’t seem to be considered objectification of obscene dimensions. Would it?

Art being art, objectification and obscenity would both fall within the realm of beholders’ eyes, as what’s art to one is shit to another, and vice versa.

Take for example the paintings of Turner Award-winning artist Chris Ofili whose medium of choice is elephant dung.

How about the centerpiece of an exhibition in London correctly and descriptively titled: 21 Anthropometric Slabs Made Of Human Faeces By The People Of Sulabh International, India, or a shit retrospective in New York that featured “a dense concentration of scatological art dating from 1961 to the present,” some made from the real thing?

Now that we’ve established that art can be tasteless and still considered worthy of the title, and of people paying loads of money to bask in its glory, we can perhaps approach Vanessa Beecroft and the fuss being made over her, her breasts and Sudanese twins.

Ms. Beecroft is a star. An art star. She is not known for being nice or sensitive or caring or generous or … pick a pleasant adjective, any pleasant adjective you would attach to someone you’d like to spend time with. Vanessa Beecroft is not that person.

She is, in every sense of the word, a piece of art (see above). She is her own work, as her eating disorders attest, and with that always in mind, well into promoting Vanessa for Vanessa’s sake, even to the point of having a film made about having pictures taken of having the experience of having a conscience.

This debacle involves photographs of herself breast feeding twin Sudanese infants, a prompt that has immediately been sucked with relish into the black hole of celebrity adoption media spin:

At times Beecroft’s behavior is appalling, her motives and methods highly questionable, but it is difficult to turn away, and the more you watch, the more you wonder: What is best for these African children — to be adopted by a wealthy vain celebrity, an Angelina, a Madonna, a Vanessa (who admits she is a little crazy), or for the babies to live with their relatives in a hut, and take their chances with poverty and disease?

Yeah … like that’s what this is all about.

This is a woman who left her breastfeeding child at home in L.A. while she took off on a self-serving art quest to Africa, and if anyone is thinking the breastmilk-and-black-babies thing was a spur of the moment happening they are seriously missing something.

With a film budget and all to worry about, it makes sense that Vanessa would pull out all the stops on hype, and how better to get coverage outside the wacky art world than to slap the “celeb adoption” card on the table that issues press passes?

And, of course, it worked. Why wouldn’t it? There is no point, but why should there be? it’s art, and for art’s sake.

As Beecroft says:

“I really enjoyed this criticism. It is what I work for. I want people to exercise their thoughts, and I provoke with this image. Because the image was intentional also, not only a souvenir. But it had an intent to provoke. So I was happy with this reaction. That is part of my work. To create a little bit of irritation for the audience.”

The photographs are for sale for $50,000 each.

Here’s the link to her site where you can see the poster for the film … boobs, babies and all … an perhaps make an offer on a print … ?

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