Open Mic

January 2012

Falling in Love With, and At, the Movies. What I Said to an Oscar-Nominated Actress. To Which Your Reaction Will Be -- I Promise You -- No, He Didn't Really Say That. But Yes, I Really Did

Chuck Ross Posted January 30, 2012 at 5:56 AM

I’m in love with the movies.

I like TV, but I’m in love with the movies.

Ever since I was a kid, the experience of being in a theater when the lights go down and the 20th Century Fox logo appears and its fanfare starts to blare, has been magical for me.

Not only the Fox opening, but any of the other major studios as well.

Even the Embassy Pictures logo.

Especially the Embassy Pictures logo.

In early 1968 I had just turned 16. I was alreadly in love with the movies. But that was when I fell seriously in love with someone in the movies.

The movie was “The Graduate,” and I fell head-over-heels for Katharine Ross. I’d never seen her before, nor ever heard of her. The sister of one of my best friends told me she was a model and had been on the cover of some magazines.

So I went to my public library the next day and did some research and found some magazine covers she had done. I went into the stacks and, with sweaty palms, tore two of the covers off and stuck them in my pocket.

I read as much as I could about her. One article said her birthday was Jan 9. Oh. My. God. That’s my birthdate too. No matter that the year of her birth was 12 years before mine. Clearly we were meant to be together.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. That this was just some schoolboy’s crush, not real love. Are you kidding me? Would I have spent some of the ensuing years going to see “Hellfighters,” “Fools” or “Get to Know Your Rabbit” (starring Tommy Smothers) if this was only a minor crush?

Any movie she was in, I saw. I read that she had been living with Conrad Hall, who had photographed “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which starred Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Ross. Then I read that she wasn’t living with Hall.

I heard she lived in Trancas. No, I didn’t go out there looking for her -- though I thought about it.

Fast-forward 10 years or so. I’m happily living with my girlfriend in Santa Monica. I’m on the phone talking to one of my friends -- Andy Moore -- who had gotten a summer job on the Warner Bros. lot. He'd been there for a few weeks and started reading to me a list he’d written down of stars he’d spotted.

I shot straight out of my seat when he mentioned the last name on his list. Katharine Ross.

“When did you see her?”

“Yesterday. She’s making this movie called ‘The Swarm.’ ”

“Can you get me a pass to get on the lot.”

“Sure. Why?”

“I love Katharine Ross.”

At that point I think he mentioned something about the fact that a number of her movie choices were’t too good.

I wasn’t listening.

Two days later I was on the Warner's lot. Fortunately, the scenes being flimed that day were on outdoor sets and not inside a closed-to-visitors soundstage.

The scene Katharine Ross was in involved her being in a car that stopped suddenly. After the last “cut” I moved closer and found myself right next to her as she was just standing by the car.

“Miss Ross?”

She turned and smiled at me. My knees buckled. My God, she was even more stunningly beautiful in person.

I introduced myself. I told her I was a fan. I gave her a short story I had written in which she was a character.

I said one more line to her. She laughed.

At that moment the director of the film, Irwin Allen, came up to her. Next to him was man about Ross’ age. Very handsome. Dressed to the nines.

Allen introduced him as one of the top surgeons around.

From that moment on, she only had eyes for this surgeon. I watched them for a few minutes and then walked away.

Though I had included my contact information with the story I gave her, I never heard from her. A few years later I read that her place in Trancas burned down. Fortunately, no one was hurt, as I recall. But I figured my story -- which, of course, I had decided she had kept -- went up in flames.

Later she married Sam Elliott.

I write about this now because somewhere along the way I read that her birthday was actually Jan 29, not the 9th. So her birthday would have been yesterday.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

Oh, yeah, that last line I spoke to her? I looked into those exquisite brown eyes and I said, “You know, if we ever got together, you could be Katharine Ross Ross.”

And she laughed. Swear to God.

katharine ross.jpg

Here's Who Should REALLY Own the Dodgers

Chuck Ross Posted January 26, 2012 at 8:32 AM

From Mark Cuban to Larry King to Magic Johnson, Orel Hershiser and Joe Torre, the list of people interested in owning the Los Angeles Dodgers reads like a who’s who of high-powered money men and sports celebrities. Among the former are supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, real-estate developer Rick Caruso, and hedge fund guru Steve Cohen.

As a native Angeleno who has vivid memories of going to his first Dodgers game in the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1958 when I was 6 years old, I’d also love to own the Dodgers.

As would my close friend Danny, whom I first met in nursery school.

I’d imagine there are several million of us here in L.A. who would love to own the Dodgers.

Most of us are very unhappy with the way current Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has screwed things up.

The only thing we’re short of, as individuals, is about a billion and a half dollars or so.

Collectively, though, we do have some financial clout.

Given that these are the times of the Occupy Movement, with its slogan that “We are the 99%,” I’m surprised that there has not been more of a groundswell for citizen ownership of the Dodgers.

In fact, back on June 15 last year the L.A. City Council, on an 8-2 vote, approved a resolution encouraging public ownership of the team.

In an article about the June vote, TheCityMaven wrote, “Developer Stanley Stalford is the man behind OwnTheDodgers.com. ‘I think the number one problem facing the Dodgers today is fan apathy,’ Stalford said. ‘There’s 10,000 people (fewer) in the stadium each night. The best solution to the worst problem is fan ownership.’ "

Here’s what Stalford says on OwnTheDodgers.com:

With every ticket we buy. With every hot dog we eat. With every car we park. Working people struggle to support a legendary team in our City -- the Dodgers. A family day at the stadium is a financial hardship. But we do it. And all we expect in return is a team we can be proud of, and the players a great franchise deserves. But now we are embarrassed.

Our hard earned dollars are being used for inflated salaries for family members, opulent homes, jets and messy divorces. Our team is being sacrificed for life style. We need to take over our team. We need to Own The Dodgers. And it can be done.

It has been done in Cleveland. It has been done in Green Bay. We can offer inexpensive shares in the team so that every working person can proudly say they own part of the Dodgers. Public ownership will create a debt-free Dodgers. This alone will create tens of millions of dollars each year in free cash flow. Imagine what improvements can be done with this money. A World Series championship is in our future.

Let's stop the laughter.

Let's Own The Dodgers.

On another page on the site Stalford talks about what happened in Cleveland:

In 1998 the Cleveland Indians owner sold 40% of the Team to the public, via an IPO. 4,000,000 shares were sold at $ 15 per share. Commissioner Bud Selig approved this transaction. The IPO was successful, and for years the Indians operated as a public/private entity.

Stalford then writes on his site that paying about $800 million for the Dodgers by selling 2 million shares to the public for $400 each should do the trick. Unfortunately, it’ll cost about twice that amount to get the team.

But I’d still love to see the public do it.

In my mind, the model isn’t what happened with the Indians, but what they've done in Green Bay.

As freelance writer and ESPN.com contributor Patrick Hruby wrote on the ESPN site a year ago, “Since 1923, Green Bay has been the only publicly owned, nonprofit major professional sports team in the nation. And that doesn't just make the franchise a charming anachronism, or the answer to a barstool trivia question. It makes them an example. A case study. A working model for a better way to organize and administer pro sports.”

Hruby explains, “All profits are invested back into the team. As such, Green Bay's board of directors is mostly motivated to: (a) remain solvent; (b) field a competitive team. They're not driven to make money for the sake of making more money … .

“To put things another way: Because the Packers are publicly owned, they are the only NFL franchise to open its books. According to the team's most recent income statement, Green Bay's operating profit -- that is, the money the franchise made after expenses -- fell from $34.2 million in 2007 to $9.8 million last year, largely due to increased player costs.”

Hruby then adds: “Other league owners -- who do not disclose their finances -- like to cite this decline as evidence that pro football's financial model is broken. In reality, it only suggests that their business is less lucrative. Fact is, the Packers still earned nearly $10 million -- almost five times what they earned in 1994, and plenty of money for an organization whose top priority isn't the bottom line.”

So here’s my plan, short and sweet. Given the time constraints -- first-round bids are already in, but other bids will still be accepted -- we need someone to buy the team and then sell it to us, the public.

Who would go for such a seemingly cockamamie -- but actually quite smart -- scheme.

My vote is Eli Broad. I don’t personally know Mr. Broad. But I do know that he’s been a great friend to the city of Los Angeles with an unmatched record of philanthropy. A lot of what he’s done here has been connected with the world of art, and I’ve read that he’s said he’s not interested in owning the Dodgers.

But maybe he’d be for this idea of the public owning the Dodgers as a nonprofit, like the citizens of Green Bay own the Packers. And he has the resources to buy the team and then turn around and sell it to all of us.

Mr. Broad has a proven record as someone who cares deeply about the future of L.A. What better way to help ensure that future than by having a baseball team that those of us who live here can once again be most proud of.

Time is short on this, but it can be done.

Eli, will you at least think about it?

ELEVATOR CONFRONTATION AT NATPE! TVWeek and the National Enquirer. What REALLY HAPPENED! The SIZZLE in the HOTEL BEDROOM. Real Boobs! We Tell All

Chuck Ross Posted January 24, 2012 at 6:21 AM

(Miami Beach) -- Monday afternoon here at the annual NATPE convention at the Fountainbleau Hotel, I found myself in an elevator with someone I instantly recognized from his appearances on TV: Barry Levine, the executive editor and director of news at the National Enquirer.

Intrepid reporter that I am, I quickly blurted out, “So what brings the National Enquirer to NATPE.”

Levine, 52, said, “We’re trying to sell a TV show.”

That immediately got my attention. As the elevator stopped high above ground level, I followed Levine out onto his floor.

He began telling me about the show. We must have looked like a couple of middle-aged boobs just standing there chatting, when Levine mentioned to me that he had a DVD of the sizzle reel they had made to sell the show, and asked me if I wanted to accompany him to a hotel bedroom to watch it on a computer.

As we walked down the hall to the hotel bedroom -- accompanied by a colleague of Levine’s -- he told me more about the show. While long connected with print, at one time Levine worked at “A Current Affair,” so he’s not a stranger to the machinations of TV.

At one point Levine said the National Enquirer was hooked up with CBS’s Eye Too Productions for the series, but now they were on their own.

Citing two of the Enquirer’s more well-known stories, he mentioned their exclusives about Tiger Woods' mistress Rachel Uchitel and John Edwards' love child. The idea behind the National Enquirer TV show is to produce a weekly reality series -- most likely for cable, Levine said -- that would go behind the scenes of these kinds of stories.

Camera crews would go out with reporters as they investigated these stories, and that would be primarily the focus of the show. The Enquirer version of a procedural. I immediately thought “Absence of (er, “With”?) Malice” meets “CSI,” minus all the scientific mumbo-jumbo.

Part of the sizzle reel features reporter John Blosser, a real character who’s been with the Enquirer for decades. Proving to us his journalistic integrity, he shows off a shoulder tattoo that says “The Truth.”

Blosser then proceeds to tell how, during a stake-out, an Enquirer photographer finally got a shot of Tiger Woods in a rehab facility. As bad timing would have it, the opportunity to take the photo happened while the photographer was peeing in a cup (don’t ask); Blosser proudly tells us that the shot was taken without the photographer "spilling a drop.”

In the reel another Enquirer reporter breathlessly explains how she was able to rifle through a hotel trash can and find a baby’s used diapers. The soiled diapers were later taken to a lab and were used to help establish that the baby was John Edwards’ love child.

But wait, there’s more!

In a description of the show that Levine is giving out to potential partners here at NATPE, he’s written that there’s also “a former pre-med student from the Midwest [who] finds herself working in Hollywood as a rookie tabloid reporter. The young blonde is determined to learn on the job but she’s constantly battling herself -- knowing fully well her reporting could destroy the careers and reputations of the story subjects she pursues!”

Levine also writes about Blosser that he “appears more comfortable working the trailer parks for sources than the he is at the five-star hotels he frequently finds himself staying it.” I must say, seeing Blosser in the sizzle reel, this description seems to capture him exactly.

Levine’s prose continues: “Producers and shooters will be embedded with the Enquirer reporters as they develop sources, run down leads, go on stakeouts and, in the end, confront their prey -- all the time knowing that their editor wanted the story 'yesterday'!

“Along the way, they may have to convince sources to take lie-detector tests [you see one taking just such a test in the sizzle reel] -- and the practice of ‘checkbook journalism’ will be there for all to see -- as some sources will demand pay for what they know.”

At this point I did NOT -- I repeat did NOT -- ask Levine to pay me anything to write this. And, of course, nothing was mentioned about some remuneration once he sees how this column turns out. How dare you!

Back in 2010, Levine and the Enquirer got a lot of publicity (articles in The New York Times, GQ, etc.) when the tabloid submitted some of its stories about Edwards for a Pulitzer Prize. (They didn’t win.)

But clearly Levine’s heart is really much more in the journalistic highlands. He told New York Magazine in 2010, “My dream was to be part of the era from 'The Front Page,' when guys wore press cards in their hats and did all sorts of crazy stuff to their competitors, when journalism was larger than life.”

“When newspapermen were right out of 'Deadline -- USA' and 'His Girl Friday' and all the old movies. That's the journalism world I wanted to be a part of. I couldn’t find it in mainstream journalism, but it existed in the tabloids.”

Now Levine hopes he'll be able to capture that world on the Enquirer TV show, and that some cable network will be interested.

It seems like a good possiblity for a number of cable outlets. A companion to a Kardashian? A lead-in to Paula Zahn on ID? A lead-out after Nancy Grace on HLN? Anywhere on OWN (oh, stop being such a snob, Oprah!).

But maybe where the show would fit best would be on ABC Family, once a week after an episode of the “700 Club.” Talk about fair and balanced …

The Golden Globes Telecast: The Classiest Raunchy Edition We've Seen in Awhile

Hillary Atkin Posted January 17, 2012 at 12:07 AM

It was the second coming of Ricky Gervais to the emcee podium of the Golden Globe Awards, or actually, the third. After last year's controversial performance, people forget that the British comedian also hosted the 2010 edition of the kudocast.

The hyped-up fascination of who he would offend this year paid off again in the ratings, with Nielsen estimating that about 16.8 million viewers tuned in to Sunday night's NBC telecast.

But mirroring his insistence that Johnny Depp was on recreational drugs, Gervais apparently took some recreational nice pills before the show. With a few exceptions, his jabs just didn't have the bite that aroused such vitriol last year from the likes of insult target Robert Downey Jr.

Trashing Kim Kardashian and comparing her unfavorably to Kate Middleton? Standard fare for any standup comic. Dissing Eddie Murphy for bailing as host of the Oscars but saying “yes” to “Norbit?” Fair game. Asking Depp if he’d even seen “The Tourist,” a film he’d trashed last year? Amusing.

The wrath of Ricky, despite endless promos touting it, turned out to be pretty toothless during one of the few gigs where it's okay, and even expected, to drink on the job. After reading the rules he was supposed to follow, like no profanity (yeah, right) and no jokes about Mel Gibson, he quickly followed up with an innuendo-laden rant about Jodie Foster's (film) “The Beaver,” which the actress/director seemed to take in good humor by giving a thumbs-up from her seat in the Beverly Hilton ballroom.

Similarly, evoking sexual innuendo and insults, he lashed into Madonna in his introduction to her as a presenter, which she quickly turned around to bash him. "Ricky, if I'm still like a virgin, why don't you come over here and do something about it? I haven't kissed a girl for a long time. (Pause.) On TV," she said--as he ran back and forth behind her on stage.

It was one of the funniest moments of the show, which, despite its reputation for raunchiness saw its share of dignified moments, starting with Christopher Plummer's acceptance speech as supporting actor for his role in the little-seen film "Beginners," and continuing with Helen Mirren and Sidney Poitier’s presentation of the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement to Morgan Freeman.

There were other Oscar-worthy acceptance speeches as well, not surprisingly, from those who have taken home those more "esteemed" trophies—as Gervais called the grand dame of award shows in comparing it to the Globes—like Kate Winslet (for the lead role in HBO’s “Mildred Pierce”) and Julian Fellowes for PBS’s “Downton Abbey.”

Hollywood Foreign Press Association voters went all in for quality television, awarding new and niche shows and their stars golden statuettes. “Homeland,” “Boss,” “Episodes” and “Enlightened” thus have frontrunner status on the road to the Emmy Awards, while critical and popular favorite “Modern Family” added to its trophy case with the prize for best television comedy and “Game of Thrones” scored with a win for supporting actor Peter Dinklage.

But back to the show. Seth Rogen drove the lewd scale to a new low when he took the stage as a presenter with actress Kate Beckinsale and promptly remarked upon being unable to contain his physical arousal. (That must have been on the same teleprompter that wasn’t there for Rob Lowe and Julianne Moore—resulting in their ad lib of cold reading for Steven Spielberg.) She never regained her composure as they proceeded to present an award.

Who would have guessed that in addition to Gervais’ planned profanities, Meryl Streep caused a bleep when she apparently uttered an expletive upon realizing she forgot her reading glasses as she took the best actress prize for her role as Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.”

Leave it to the ever suave, sophisticated, savvy two-time winner of the night, “The Descendants” star George Clooney to be both funny (coming out on stage with Brad Pitt’s cane, making fun of Michael Fassbender in “Shame”), and touching (complimenting best actor rival/friend Pitt on his humanitarian work).

If there were any residual effects of the anti-French sentiment from the Bush era, the people behind the burgeoning awards powerhouse "The Artist" dispelled it with their charm in receiving three Globes, including the top prize as best comedy/musical.

As that black and white art house film is showing the world, sometimes silence can be golden--and Rogen could surely take a lesson from that.

Reportedly the Kindle Is Selling Like Hotcakes. Hmm. Is It Really? This Is the Best Absolutely True Story I've Heard Recently

Chuck Ross Posted January 3, 2012 at 7:04 AM

If free can lead to significantly more sales in a real dollars and cents way, one wonders why it’s not a strategy adopted more often.

For example, you can get a “starter” iPhone from AT&T for 99 cents right now -- and they were giving it away for free a little while ago. That’s because AT&T really makes its money with its data and voice service plans, not from the hardware.

So why aren’t more companies following this strategy? Maybe they are and we just don’t know it. Which leads me to my favorite story that I heard at a party I attended over the recent Christmas holidays.

A small group of us were talking about how hot the Kindle has been, even before the latest version, the Fire, came out.

One member of the group then said. “My son recently graduated college. He got a Kindle. All was fine for a few months, but then something broke on it, and the service folks at Amazon told him to send it in to get repaired.

“He did, and then several weeks later he got a box from Amazon. He opened it, and it was a new Kindle. But then he got ANOTHER box from Amazon, and it was ANOTHER new Kindle.

“Then he got another one. When the boxes finally stopped coming, he had FIVE new Kindles. Five. Can you believe it? My husband and I told him to send the extra ones back. But he didn’t want to. He said he wanted to give the extra Kindles to his friends.

“We warned him that if Amazon realized their mistake and wanted the other Kindles back, they might not take too kindly to him saying he had given them away. We told him it would be his financial headache, not ours.”

The man standing next to her took up the story from here: “So he gave my son one of the Kindles. All he told my son was that if it broke, don’t send it back, because he was worried that then it might be traced to him and it would open up a whole can of worms.

“So everything is fine for about six months. But then the Kindle he gave my son broke. My son either disregarded the instructions not to send it in to get fixed -- or forgot about that instruction. In any event, he sent it in to get fixed.

“Sometime later he gets a brand new Kindle from Amazon.

“Then he gets another one. He was hoping they’d send him more, but he only got two. He gave me the extra one.

 “I can’t wait until it breaks.”