“I don’t know karate—but I know ka-razy” –James Brown
For the past eight years, I’ve been making a television show called NO RESERVATIONS. I wrote it. I executive produced it. And I appeared in it. My partners and I always tried hard to make it good.
During that time, I understood the way the world works. Television programs are paid for by television networks—who make their money selling advertising. And it would be ridiculous to hope or expect that I could ever have control over who buys commercial time in the breaks between segments. But my name and image are my own. My name, arguably, might not mean that much—and my face may not be pretty, but they’re mine.
In the brave new world we live in these days, fewer and fewer people watch their favorite television programs in their scheduled time periods. They DVR them, they record them, they download them on-line. People tend, under such circumstances, to skip—or speed through—commercials. For this reason, there’s pressure from networks to “integrate” products into the body of the actual shows whenever possible: to slip images of brands right into the action, or to transitions into commercials in such a way as to make the viewer think that it’s still the show they’re watching.
I’m aware of these pressures and have been, as a result, very very careful about resisting them. A while back, I agreed to use a credit card on a limited number of episodes of my show. The network made money off the deal. It helped assure me and my production company the budget we wanted. And I got paid. My fans were not pleased, however. Not at all. The backlash was considerable and angry. People felt betrayed. As a result, I became even more careful and even more reluctant to do them.
Fortunately, I had made sure, in my agreement with Travel Channel, to include very specific language about this kind of thing. We had both agreed to terms where my name or image was never to be used to either endorse, or imply use of a product without my specific agreement. It was clearly expressed in writing, clearly understood and agreed to that I would not use or mention any products in my show and my name and image would not be used in connection with any products in return for anything of value or any other consideration without my specific agreement.
My inclination, I should point out has always been to do NO product integration of ANY kind. I do not have a merchandise line. I don’t sell knives or apparel. Though I have been approached to endorse various products from liquor to airlines to automobiles to pharmaceuticals dozens of times, I have managed to resist the temptation. Though not quite a virgin, I have tried to remain fairly pure. To the extent I am known, I think I am known as a person who expresses his opinion freely about things—and I was sensitive to the possibility that if I was seen taking money for saying nice things about a product, my comments and choices and opinions would become, understandably, suspect. Did I really like this particular beer I was seen drinking on the show? Or had I simply been paid to say so?
As described above, I took money from a credit card company once. Never to be repeated. And I drove a BMW once—for which I got the car that I drive today. That’s it. Any other brand—of beer, cars, whatever—that you saw me use on the show—I used because that was what I liked and thought appropriate or fun for the circumstances or setting at hand—or simply because they were what was available.
I like to think I’m a man of my word. If I tell you I’m going to meet you tomorrow at a movie theater to see a film at twelve o’ clock, I will be there. And I’ll be there early. I will expect the same of you. If I make an agreement—especially about something as personal as the use of my name and image, I expect that agreement will be honored. So it came as a shock and a disappointment to turn on the TV for the last two episodes of my show, and see that someone had taken footage that me and my creative team had shot for my show, cut it up and edited it together with scenes of a new Cadillac driving through the forest. Scenes of me, my face, and with my voice, were edited in such a way as to suggest that I might be driving that Cadillac. That, at least, I was very likely IN that Cadillac—and that if nothing else, I sure as shit was endorsing Cadillac as the vehicle of choice for my show. All this following seamlessly from the actual show so you were halfway through the damn thing before you even realized it was a commercial.
The network made a commercial, with me endorsing a product, and hadn’t even bothered to ask me. After the first airing of the commercial, I let the network know of my extreme displeasure. Fair warning one would think. They ran it again anyway.
I have no problem with Cadillac, by the way. A couple of people have come up to me after reading my enraged twitter rants on this subject and asked me what my problem is with them. No problem. With them.
I have had a long and mostly very happy relationship with Travel Channel over the last eight years. For almost all of that time, they were incredibly supportive of what me and my partners were doing—and of me personally. A number of different owners, a number of different administrations came and went. But in the last year or so things started to take a definite turn for the worse. There was the news that, unbeknownst to me, the network had decided to add THREE “special episodes “ comprised entirely of clips from previous shows to the final bunch of only seven. Had we not agreed to edit them ourselves, they were well on their way to doing the shows without our participation. Best I can tell, they are, unfortunately, well within their contractual rights to butcher our painstakingly shot and edited footage as they choose. It’s something of a creative signature of the new guard at Travel, best I can tell—to cynically and cheaply “repurpose” existing material to create additional “content”. In such circumstances, as some of my on air colleagues agree, no one wins. Presenters look exploitative and lazy. Fans feel used and misled. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about that.
But I CAN do something when my name and image (such as they are) are used to sell a product without my consent and in violation of prior specific and well crafted legal agreements. And I intend to.
It’s an inglorious way to go out—after 8 seasons of television programs of which I—and all the people who worked on them—are very proud. I miss the happy times at Travel, the first Big Cheese there, a Mr. Pat Younge, in particular, who really took a lot of chances on us. Who believed in us, understood us, appreciated the work we did and how much it meant to us. Who understood that keeping faith with our fans in the long run meant something more than short term profit.
I apologize to the guys on the production line at Cadillac, for finding the thing YOU make, and I have no doubt, are very proud of, in the middle of a rancorous disagreement.
I was—and remain—angry.
While this would seem to be a problem most people wouldn’t mind having; I can only ask how you’d feel if somebody was out there using your name for purposes of their own—without your knowledge. If they presented you as someone you are not, as holding opinions you don’t hold, and making money off those misrepresentations—however embarrassing to you.
All of us on the show would have preferred to go out on a high note—and we tried to do that as best we could, turning in a strong, final season that we are very proud of. We wanted to go leaving a lot of great shows—and nothing but good memories and good will behind.
But things just didn’t turn out that way.
They’ve become global heroes and foils to the macho rule of Vladimir Putin. But not even a two-year prison term can keep Russia’s celebrated punk band muzzled. Michael Idov smuggled a few questions into the grrrls’ gulag. Judging by their answers, the riot is just getting warmed up.
GQ: Does it bug you as feminists that your global popularity is at least partly based on the fact that you turned out to be, well, easy on the eyes?
Nadya: I humbly hope that our attractiveness performs a subversive function. First of all, because without “us” in balaclavas, jumping all over Red Square with guitars, there is no “us” smiling sweetly in the courtroom. You can’t get the latter without the former. Second, because this attractiveness destroys the idiotic stereotype, still extant in Russia, that a feminist is an ugly-ass frustrated harridan. This stereotype is so puke-making that I will deign to be sweet for a little bit in order to destroy it. Though every time I open my mouth, the sweetness goes out the window anyway.
GQ: This is perhaps an insensitive question, but what’s more useful for the progressive movement in Russia right now: Pussy Riot at large or Pussy Riot in jail?
Nadya: We will know the answer only after the next wave of protests. I would love to see that, even imprisoned, we can still be useful and inspiring. In any case, I’m happy I got two years. For every person with a functioning brain, this verdict is so dumb and cruel that it removes any lingering illusions about Putin’s system. It’s a verdict on the system.
Masha: At large, of course. That’s why the authorities don’t want to let us out. But we still have things to say, and we still want to say them. And even locked up, we’re not doing too bad of a job.
“We couldn’t even imagine that the authorities would be so dumb that they would actually legitimize our influence by arresting us. Sure, they tried to intimidate us constantly. But unlike Putin, we’re not chickenshit.”
Jessica Ghawi’s final words — her last known conversation before a coward with a gun took her life Friday morning — were punched out in a light-hearted Twitter exchange with Sporting News NHL writer Jesse Spector, a former editor and sports writer at the Daily News, the banter of two young professionals with similar career aspirations and senses of humor.
As Ghawi sat in Colorado’s Century Aurora 16 Movie Theater, there to see a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” she read a Spector tweet intimating he would be waiting at least one more day to see the highly anticipated Batman flick.
“You aren’t seeing it tonight?!” she typed.
“Nope,” Spector said.
“psh. Loser!” she jabbed.
“Which is why you’re tweeting now and not at the movie?” Spector joked.
“MOVIE DOESN’T START FOR 20 MINUTES,” Ghawi said.
“A real fan would be in a better time zone,” Spector said.
Then came chaos and tragedy and Ghawi — whose dream was simply to tell stories — had hers tragically cut short.
You know I was married for 23 years to the love of my life, and he died six years ago. And I think of all the years we had, and the wonderful fringe benefit of having three beautiful children. I don’t miss the sex, you know? And to me that’s kind of what this boils down to. I don’t miss that. I mean, I certainly miss it, but I don’t, it’s not — (Laughter from chambers) — it is certainly not the aspect of that relationship, the incredible bond that I had with that human being, that I really, really, genuinely wish I still had.
And so I think to myself, how can I deny anyone the right to have that incredible bond with another individual in life? To me, it seems almost cruel.
You know, years ago, my daughter went to, she was in elementary school. Many of you have met my daughter. She’s a fabulous girl. She’s wonderful. My boys are great too, but my daughter is just something special, and she was the light of her father’s eyes. And she went to school and there were some kids that were, a whole group of kids that were picking on another kid. And you know, my daughter stood up for that kid, even though it was not the popular thing to do. She knew it was the right thing to do. And I was never more proud of my kid, knowing that she was speaking against the vocal majority on behalf of the rights of the minority.
And to me, it is incumbent upon us as legislators in this state to do that. That is why we are here, and I shudder to think that if folks who had proceeded us in history did not do that, frankly I’m not sure I would be here as a woman. I’m not sure that others would be here due to their race, or their creed. And to me, that is what’s disconcerting.
And someone made the comment that this is not about equality. Well yes it is about equality. And why in the world would we not allow those equal rights for individuals who truly were committed to on another in life to be able to show that by way of a marriage?
You know, my daughter came out of the closet a couple of years ago. And you know what? I thought I was going to just agonize about that.
Nothing’s different. She’s still a fabulous human being, and she’s met a person that she loves very much. And someday, by God, I wanna throw a wedding for that kid. And I hope that’s exactly what I can do. I hope she will not feel like a second-class citizen involved in something called a ‘domestic partnership’ — which frankly sounds like a Merry Maids franchise to me.
Yeah, nothing about this brouhaha was political at all.
Planned Parenthood raised at least $650,000. Keep it going.
One of the indispensable resources in the assembly of GQ’s recent oral history about being a gay man in the U.S. military was an organization called OutServe, which operates a private “social network” for gay servicemen and women who were forced to live in silence under DADT. Today, on the occasion of the policy’s official repeal, OutServe’s founder, JD Smith, at long last publicly dropped his pseudonym in an article appearing in The New York Times. Everyone, meet Air Force Lieutenant Josh Seefried:
Now it can be told: A prominent gay rights advocate who called himself J. D. Smith is in fact 1st Lt. Josh Seefried, a 25-year-old active-duty Air Force officer. At 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, he dropped the pseudonym, freed from keeping his sexual orientation secret like an estimated tens of thousands of others in the United States military.
“I always had the feeling that I was lying to them and that I couldn’t be part of the military family,” said Lieutenant Seefried, who helped found an undercover group of 4,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender active-duty service members. “I feel like I can get to know my people again. When I go to a Christmas party, I can actually bring the person I’m in a relationship with. And that’s a huge relief.”
PETA porn site will raise veganism awareness, PETA says
An animal rights group, which is no stranger to attention-grabbing campaigns featuring nude women, plans to launch a pornography website to raise awareness about veganism.
The nonprofit organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) whose controversial campaigns draw criticism from women’s rights groups, said it hopes to publicize veganism through a mix of pornography and graphic footage of animal suffering.
“We’re hoping to reach a whole new audience of people, some of whom will be shocked by graphic images that maybe they didn’t anticipate seeing when they went to the PETA triple-X site,” said Lindsay Rajt, PETA’s associate director of campaigns. (Photo: PETA)
That’s enough, PETA. You can stop now.
THE beloved wife of actor Andy Whitfield has tearfully recalled the brave Spartacus star’s final words to his kids: “I am going to go to sleep now as my body won’t work any more. I am like a butterfly with broken wings.”
Vashti, 38, of Paddington, said the actor had tried to remain strong until the end and never lost hope he would be able to beat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the cancer which took his life last weekend.
He also made an emotional deathbed promise to his young family, telling his children Jesse Red, 6, and Indigo Sky, 4, “I will always be with you and will always be watching over you. I love you.”
Born in Wales, Whitfield moved to Sydney in 1999 and first won attention after stints in a number TV shows, including All Saints and Packed To The Rafters after attending Screenwise Film And Television School in Surry Hills to fine-tune his craft.
But he became an international star when he won the lead role in the series Spartacus: Blood And Sand, which attracted a cult following in the UK and US. It screened on Go! in Australia.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Vashti said: “Andy had been in pain for a long time. He had bad problems with his back, so we went to have a scan and it was then they discovered he had cancer. We were told he only had three months to live.”
He was about to start filming the second season when he was diagnosed with cancer in March 2009.
The couple were in New Zealand at the time filming the show, which took a break so the actor could have treatment.
He underwent 12 weeks of chemotherapy: “That was actually quite gentle,” revealed Vashti, “and it was in some ways a wonderful time. It was the first time he spent time with his kids. He wasn’t that poorly through that.”
The couple got the news that Whitfield was clear in June, and Vashti says they were overjoyed: “We were so happy and relieved.”
But in September 2010 they were told the cancer was back.
“Our hearts were broken” said Vashti.
“Everyone’s language changed. They said it meant he had never really beaten it the first time.”Vashti says the thing that made Andy most sad was he wouldn’t be there for his children: “He was very sad about that.
“But the children look so much like him. And they can look in he mirror every day and see their dad.”
Vashti added it is important to always have hope if you have a family member with cancer: “Accept the diagnosis not the prognosis. There are millions of people out there who overcome this.
“And always try to do normal special things, like seeing a great film and spending time together.”
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Andy Whitfield, the 39-year-old star of the cable series “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” has died.
Manager Sam Maydew says Whitfield died Sunday of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Sydney, Australia.
Whitfield’s wife Vashti in a statement called her husband a “beautiful young warrior” who died on a “sunny Sydney morning” in the “arms of his loving wife.”
Whitfield - who was born in Wales and lived in Australia - was a virtual unknown when he was cast as the title hero in “Spartacus,” a hit original series for the Starz network that made waves with its graphic violence and sexuality.
Whitfield was preparing for the second season when he was diagnosed 18 months ago.
In January the network announced that another Australian actor, Liam McIntyre, would take over the role.