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Reporter Apologizes: Universal Un-Bans

By | Wednesday March 29, 2006 @ 11:00am PST

A Hollywood trade reporter who’d been banned by Universal Studios three weeks ago for what it considered to be unethical journalism — putting off-the-record remarks by the boss on the record — has apologized in a handwritten letter sent to the head of the studio, both sides confirmed to me this week. The missive has prompted the studio to lift its ban on the journalist, thus bringing to a quick end one of the most talked-about incidents in reporter-studio relationships in recent memory.
See previous: Universal Bans Trade Reporter
Anne Thompson of the Hollywood Reporter confirmed to me today that she recently wrote a handwritten letter of apology to Ron Meyer, president and COO of Universal Studios, and both she and Universal confirm that the ban on her has been lifted because of it. Meyer had previously instructed his head of corporate communications to inform the publicity staff that Thompson was persona non grata to every executive there. Not only was no one supposed to talk to her, but she was barred from attending screenings and premieres, eating at the commissary, parking on the lot, or doing any other function at the studio that Universal has control over. Security would be called if she were found there.
The reason, Meyer told his people, was that Thompson had knowingly and deliberately burned him by taking off-the-record remarks he’d given her about the progress … Read More »

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DHD: I’m on assignment for a week

By | Friday March 17, 2006 @ 7:31am PST

305,000+ page views since DHD’s inception two weeks ago. I will be on assignment for a week so posting will be light, if at all. Think of it as coitus interruptus.

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Universal Bans Trade Reporter

By | Thursday March 16, 2006 @ 2:21pm PST

I’m told that Universal has banned a Hollywood trade reporter for what it considered to be unethical journalism: putting off-the-record remarks by the boss on the record.
Here’s what happened, according to my sources:
Ron Meyer, president and COO of Universal Studios, recently instructed his head of corporate communications to inform the publicity staff that the Hollywood Reporter‘s Anne Thompson is persona non grata to every executive there. Not only is no one supposed to talk to her, but she is barred from attending screenings and premieres, eating at the commissary, parking on the lot, or doing any other function at the studio that Universal has control over. Security will be called if she’s found there. The reason, Meyer told his people, was that Thompson had knowingly and deliberately burned him by taking off-the-record remarks he’d given her about the progress of that Stacey Snider-is-leaving-for-Dreamworks story and putting them on the record in her article. Meyer informed insiders that Thompson had admitted to him she’d done that and anticipated he would get mad about it, but refused to be repentant about it. Meyer complained to Thompson’s editors. Then he banned her from the Universal lot.
I reached Thompson, who writes HR‘s Risky Business column, to get her side of the story. After declining at first to talk about the situation, she finally told me just this: “His remarks were on the record.” But I understand Thompson privately thought of the matter as … Read More »

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Universal: Like, Duh

By | Thursday March 16, 2006 @ 10:48am PST

MarcShmuger.JPG Marc Shmuger, new chairman, Universal Pictures

DavidLinde.jpg David Linde, new co-chairman, Universal Pictures

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New Epidemic: Pellicano Amnesia

By | Wednesday March 15, 2006 @ 11:25am PST

Here’s my latest LA Weekly column, Two Tonys Is One Too Many for Mogul.
You know how, in that New York Times article, Paramount studio boss Brad Grey issued a statement through a spokesperson that he was only “casually acquainted” with thug-for-hire Anthony Pellicano and had “no relationship” with him until the private detective was signed up by Grey’s attorney, super-lawyer Fields, to help in the Garry Shandling lawsuit against Grey. People for Ovitz, too, previously said that the ex-Hollywood powermeister’s only dealings with Pellicano were through the law firm, Gorry Meyer & Rudd, that represented Ovitz and his now defunct Artists Management, and it was they who elected to hire Pellicano, not Ovitz. (According to that account, Mike had declined to choose from among a list of investigators the firm recommended to him.)
Yeah, sure, nobody knew anybody. Really, amnesia in this town is becoming an epidemic now that the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles has heated up its investigation.
But, I’ve learned that, a few years ago, when Grey was still the head of talent management/production company Brillstein-Grey, he brought the William Morris Agency the idea of doing an original series with the working title Hollywood Dick based on Pellicano’s life and work. The Pelican was thrilled about the project and signed on as a consultant. With Billy Friedkin attached to direct, Brad and WMA pitched HBO, who passed. (Strange why this wasn’t in the NYT‘s Grey article, though a Feb. … Read More »

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Bernie Talks about Brad

By | Tuesday March 14, 2006 @ 3:52pm PST

Given The New York Times Page One story linking Paramount studio boss Brad Grey to Anthony Pellicano, it’s natural to wonder what Brad’s longtime talent management and production partner and mentor Bernie Brillstein thinks of it. Here’s what he told me this afternoon, all on the record: “I just want to say I read the article. There was no reason for the article. There was no conclusion. I can’t figure out why they even did it. There’s nothing new that hasn’t been said for the last two years. I have my own opinion of Garry Shandling. I’ve always said not good things about him. And now Linda Doucett is involved, it’s getting crazier and crazier. They were allegedly not the most rational people. And when I called her [one of the NYT reporters on the story, Allison Weiner] and said, ‘Is there anything I can do to help you?’ She said, ‘No.’ Because I could have given her some facts she didn’t have. I love Brad. I always will love Brad. And he needs no defending by me ever. He’s a great guy.”
Previously: Read More »

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Reiner Ruckus Scaring Actor Activists?

By | Tuesday March 14, 2006 @ 11:11am PST

Kudos to Rob Reiner for not retreating into seclusion but instead meeting with the press club in Sacramento today re the brouhaha behind his handling of that California preschool ballot initiative. Reiner rightly tells the Los Angeles Times he “worries, tremendously, that the controversy surrounding him will set back his goal to offer free preschool for all California schoolchildren.” But there’s something even more troubling about it: will the beating given Reiner right now scare off actor activists, in particular Democrats, from ever running for political office? Here’s a past column, United They Sit, I wrote on that subject, exploring why liberal Hollywood talent don’t become Democratic candidates (but Schwarzenegger, Reagan, Eastwood, Bono, Murphy etc. did for the Republican party). Still applicable.

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Old, Old News: Pellicano/Tabloids

By | Tuesday March 14, 2006 @ 8:56am PST

Journalists for the Los Angeles legal newspaper Daily Journal write today about a tabloid reporter in the early 1990s surreptitiously taping Anthony Pellicano – bugging the bugger, according to LAObserved — while the PI fed, watered and overall negotiated with the night-crawlers of the news biz. (Actually, that was reported extensively two years ago by local TV news station KCBS and its then reporter Drew Griffin, who used the news break to leap to CNN.)
But the Daily Journal claims today that the recorded conversations with Pellicano suggest lawyer Bert Fields didn’t know about the PI’s methods. I, too, was shown some tape transcripts back in 2004 pertaining to this. When I couldn’t hear the recordings themselves — none of the 250 microcassettes were made available to me but they were to KCBS’s Griffin – I didn’t feel comfortable going with the story. At the time, I believed and still do that drawing any such a conclusion one way or the other re Fields/Pellicano from the oblique references on the tape was, and is, too big a leap to make. The tapes’ owner just phoned me now to confirm that the FBI had demanded that tape and 69 pages of transcripts.
From what I read from the tapes, I thought back to Clifford Odets, the screenwriter of that extraordinarily prescient film The Sweet Smell of Success, and the opening scene when his cur columnist J.J. Hunsecker says archly, “I love this dirty town.” Deceased James Mitteager, a former New York City cop turned freelance writer turned Los Angeles bureau chief of the Globe and also a vet of the National Enquirer, made many of … Read More »

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By | Tuesday March 14, 2006 @ 7:43am PST

No, that won’t be an April Fool’s Day prank by The New York Times. I’m told that, on April 1st, The Gray Lady confirmed today it’s planning to drop its Monday-through-Friday Tuesday-through-Saturday stock listings on April 4th and to replace them with some kind of new package of interactive tools and market information web access. In the paper will be a very limited 1 1/2 pages 2 pages, trimming those thousands of stock tables to just hundreds the top 100 stocks in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, plus market analysis, mutual fund information, charts tracking individual company performance and lists of foreign currency exchange rates. Plans are being finalized what to do on the weekends. The complete financial tables will continue to appear in the Sunday issue of the paper. Newspaper industry sources tell me that this could represent a $10 million savings to the NYT in newsprint costs and editorial space: ”The way for papers to save money short of getting rid of people is to get rid of stock pages.” For years, the nation’s 900+ newspapers have run the AP’s stock tables, so the trend is going to hurt non-profit AP’s revenues. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times announced that it would condense its tables to a one-page listing of the 1,300 most heavily traded stocks and a list of companies based in Southern California. In the past month alone, … Read More »

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Brad Grey on NYT’s Hot Seat UPDATED

By | Sunday March 12, 2006 @ 4:44pm PST

The New York Times exploded with a Page One story for Monday about Brad Grey’s alleged ties to Anthony Pellicano, target of that heated-up U.S. Attorney wiretapping investigation and catalyst for the breaking and increasingly broad scandal rocking Hollywood and L.A.’s high-profile legal community. It didn’t go up on the NYT website until 7:30 p.m. PT. I reported its existence at 4:44 p.m. PT. (Truth: Unknown to the reporters, I’d followed their progress for 3 weeks; given that it was such a highly competitive beat, I didn’t disclose their topic because I felt they deserved their scoop.) It almost doesn’t matter what the article said; just the fact that the sitting chairman and chief executive of the Paramount Motion Picture Group has now been dramatically linked by name to Pellicano was a huge shock for Hollywood. Forget Blackberrys: phones were ringing on both coasts as major players gasped with their pals — first at the news of the article’s existence, then about the story’s prominent placement. That’s because, in Tinseltown, perception has always been more important than reality. After all, the NYT reporting duo of Allison Weiner and David Halbfinger had already published big news breaks about Michael Ovitz’s and Bert Fields’ connections to the case. As one Pelican flap insider told me: “The missing piece right now is not Ovitz or Fields. Ovitz is yesterday’s news, and Bert is a 78-year-old lawyer. It’s Brad, especially since he’s a … Read More »

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Sopranos Spoilers for Season 6

By | Saturday March 11, 2006 @ 8:05pm PST

The Sopranos spoiling really began when Lorraine Bracco gabbed that, due to a planned “major plot development” in the Season 6 opener, HBO this month would not be having its usual huge premiere advance screening bash at Radio City Music Hall. Way worse was when, yesterday, the HBO website mistakenly posted a long summary of Season 6′s first episode, ”Members Only.” Needless to say, it was yanked. But the truth is it’s not hard to find Sopranos spoilers out there for Season 6 after its insanely long 21-month layoff. There will be a total of 12 episodes airing this year and another 8 episodes – said to be “the final eight” by HBO – airing in 2007. Guest stars include Jerry Adler (In Her Shoes), Tim Daly (Wings), Frankie Valli (Four Seasons lead singer), Hal Holbrook (Men of Honor) as a scientist, Ben Kingsley (House of Sand and Fog) as himself (?), Julianna Margulies (ER) as a real estate agent, Treach (HBO’s First Time Felon), Ron Leibman (Garden State), Elizabeth Bracco (Analyze This) and Lord Jamar (HBO’s Oz). Lots of TV industry spoiling-for-a-fight speculation about whether James Gandolfini can knock off Teri Hatcher Sunday night. I say, nah. Look, Desperate Housewives wasn’t on the air when The Sopranos beat all the broadcast networks and scored the highest ratings in HBO’s three-decade history when 13.4 mil viewers tuned in for the one-hour premiere of Season 5. The girls get almost twice that. Meanwhile, for upcoming Season 6, the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly (the official magazine … Read More »

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April Fool’s: No NYT Stocks

By | Saturday March 11, 2006 @ 4:45pm PST

No, that won’t be an April Fool’s Day prank by The New York Times. I’m told that, on April 1st, the Grey Lady is planning to drop its Monday-through-Friday stock listings and to replace them with some kind of new web access. In the paper will be a very limited 1 1/2 pages, trimming those thousands of stock tables to just hundreds. Plans are being finalized what to do on the weekends. Newspaper industry sources tell me that this could represent a $10 million savings to the NYT in newsprint costs and editorial space: ”The way for papers to save money short of getting rid of people is to get rid of stock pages.” For years, the nation’s 900+ newspapers have run the AP’s stock tables, so the trend is going to hurt non-profit AP’s revenues. In the past month alone, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and the Denver Post are just some of the papers that have eliminated their stock listings. But the NYT is the biggest newspaper yet to follow the trend: after the Grey Lady, comes le deluge. Could it be possible that the Wall Street Journal is next? Speaking of the WSJ, I’m told to expect another round of staff cuts through layoffs and attrition.

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Oscar’s Jewish Fallout

By | Saturday March 11, 2006 @ 1:16pm PST

Jewish JournalHere’s the new annual Purim cover spoof by the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. It sends up this town’s Jew/Oscars/Hollywood ties, especially Jewish discomfort with the moral equivalence in Steven Spielberg’s Munich. “Spielberg to Jews Post-Munich: “I wish I could quit you.” And “Spielberg to Direct “Balanced” Jaws Sequel: Amity Beach”, showing Bruce the Shark about to lay a big wet kiss on Steven. (You know why the shark is called Bruce, of course: after Spielberg’s Great White lawyer, Bruce Ramer.) And “Jewish Kids Riot After Blasphemous Cartoon Depiction” showing South Park tot Kyle Broflovsky, the Jewish kid. Also, disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff with Mickey Mouse ears: “The Hat Means Nothing!” More hilarious, even though they were trying to be serious, is the Jewish Journal inside review by Tom Tugend (is that a Jewish name?) of the Oscars from the Jewish perspective. Homey Rachel Weisz wins! Serves it right that Munich loses! Jon Stewart more Jewish than Billy Crystal! JJ cover enlarged

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Larry King Live?

By | Friday March 10, 2006 @ 8:00am PST

Note to Jon Klein, honcho at CNN: You might want to get a succession plan together sooner than later. Around Beverly Hills, they’re noticing that 72-year-old resident Larry King seems increasingly frail physically. (I could go into detail, but I consider it unseemly.) Also, back around Thanksgiving, guest Jerry Seinfeld appeared less than amused at having to repeat stuff to King again and again because it wasn’t registering with the talk show host. Plugging the sitcom’s latest DVD release, Seinfeld had the nerve to actually tsk-tsk King on-air: ”I talked about that. You’re not listening to me, Larry.” Losing King for whatever reason would be a huge blow to Klein (but a boon to serious journalism), especially since that show is often the highest rated CNN nightly offering. Suffice it to say that Klein better get into serious talking mode with guest hosts Nancy Grace, Bob Costas (King’s official fill-in), or, heaven forbid, Ryan Seacrest.
Photo: Larry arriving at the Herbie: Fully Loaded premiere in Hollywood, June 19, 2005. Photo credit: William Kallay at

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NBC’s Wright: Cheeky & Thinskinned

By | Friday March 10, 2006 @ 7:30am PST

Two Bob Wright takes…….
It’s a textbook case of chutzpah, though in Bob Wright’s world, it’s known as cheekiness. Doesn’t matter, because it was still really, really bad behavior. Harken back to that stunning announcement in late January: two flailing networks (WB and UPN) will now become one flailing network (the poorly named CW). So who picks up the phone right away, and calls WB chief Garth Ancier, and acts as if there’s no water under the bridge between them? And demands, ”Take me through this. You know this deal.”? Why, none other than Bob Wright, Mr. NBC and vice-chairman of parent GE. For those who are slow on the uptake, I’ll explain. Wright hired Ancier as NBC Entertainment president in March 1999 only to fire him just 18 months later. As if that weren’t brutal enough, Wright since then has openly badmouthed that brief Garth tenure as a choatic mess that required a lot of ship-steadying afterwards, and other nonsense. Despite all of the above, Ancier demonstrated admirable restraint and didn’t bang down the receiver. The reason, no doubt, is because he decided early on in the CW formation phase to flee network television and “explore and expand my own experiences in this new age of digital opportunity” (my bet is, for Google). So there’ll be plenty of time for him to hang up on Wright in the future.
While we’re on the subject of Wright, it’s clear that he’s embarrassingly thin-skinned when it comes to media coverage of himself. So what if there’re all those articles about how lousy … Read More »

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Dreamworks De-Animation

By | Thursday March 9, 2006 @ 7:12pm PST

Also on the subject of animation, DreamWorks Animation (SKG’s IPO company) told Wall Street analysts today it won’t see significant earnings in the first half of 2006. That’s because its newly crowned Oscar-winner Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit under-performed. You see, DreamWorks can’t score any revenue from the film until its distribution costs are paid. As usual, those feeble-minded financial analysts state the obvious: ”the films they make cost too much relative to what they generate at the box office.” Nor does DreamWorks expect any Oscar bump.
More bad news: the next release, Over the Hedge, due in theaters on May 19, has to earn at least $310 million worldwide to provide a profit, according to the analysts. Good luck with that, Jeffrey! (But I do have a pet theory: animated films that star furry animals do more boffo biz than unfurry animated films.)

Katzenberg told Reuters that the company views as “neutral” the impending wedded bliss of Pixar by Disney. (Prepare to laugh loudly when you read this next bit.) “We don’t actually directly compete. We never release films on the same date and in the next couple of years it doesn’t seem like that will be the case. There really is no change in the marketplace.” This summer, Hedge has a 3-week headstart on Cars.
Oh yeah: that SEC inquiry continues.

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Pixar’s Rusty Cars?

By | Thursday March 9, 2006 @ 5:27pm PST

A few minutes ago, I saw the “world premiere” of the trailer for Disney/Pixar’s Cars (June 9). Owen Wilson sounded over the top. Paul Newman was appropriately world weary, but then he elevates any material. Talking cars taking Route 66 may be the end-all-and-be-all for little and big boys, and NASCAR junkies. But the trailer seems too retro. I don’t think this is gonna be Pixar-Disney’s most praised or most profitable.

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Roger Ebert Gets the Last Word

By | Thursday March 9, 2006 @ 3:40pm PST

Here is Roger Ebert’s reply to my response to his dissing my Oscar night scribble What Did I Tell You. At issue is my citing anecdotal evidence pouring in to me in January about hetero Academy members unwilling to screen Brokeback Mountain and why I predicted Crash would win Best Picture because of it. (See my full February 1st LA Weekly column How Gay Will Oscar Go.) Sorry to spoil your fun, but Roger and I are not having a cat fight. Instead, we’re two journalists able to have a civil discourse during a disagreement. What if this spreads to Washington DC, the world… Result? Roger and I receive the Nobel Peace Prize. A girl can dream, can’t she?
Dear Nikki Finke,
Thanks for your further discussion of this year’s Oscars.
I think your key sentence is: “There was no Finke-Turan agenda. There was no Finke-Turan conspiracy.” I am sure this is true. I was not in cahoots (I love that word) against BBM and you were not in cahoots against Crash. But your observation that some Academy members did not see the film has been translated (not your fault) into the received wisdom that significant numbers refused to, which does not explain how the film was nominated in the first place, and won three Oscars.
You should read my e-mail! I have never said one word against Brokeback Mountain, a film I admire intensely and put on my ten-best list. On the morning after, I received an astonishing deluge of angry … Read More »

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Lawyering Up Pellicano’s Victims

By | Thursday March 9, 2006 @ 6:51am PST

Panish.jpg Neville.jpg
I’ve learned that two high profile Westside Los Angeles litigators, Neville Johnson (of the firm Johnson and Rishwain) and Brian Panish (of Panish Shea & Boyle) are meeting with many victims of the Pellicano wiretapping scandal to jointly represent them. Remember last month’s LA Times story speculating how costly these cases could be if deep pocketed cities like Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, or fancy-shmancy law firms, or super-rich Pellicano clients were found liable in some way for The Pelican’s deeds? Well, Johnson was quoted by the paper warning that the damages could be vast. (Cuba Gooding Jr. should be shouting, “Show me the money!”)
Quick bios are in order. Expectedly, both attorneys are well-awarded.
Johnson is a foremost go-to guy for invasion-of-privacy torts, especially against the media. He repped Carolyn Condit (wife of Cong. Gary Condit) in a libel lawsuit against the National Enquirer that was settled for a secret amount. He’s sued ABC for its newsmagazine shows’ tactic of using hidden cameras. Most recently, Johnson is leading indie label TSR Records’ antitrust lawsuit against Sony BMG Music Entertainment; it’s an outgrowth of the music giant’s settlement of those pesky payola allegations. His firm takes on many such David vs Goliath cases even though it’s much more common here to embrace Goliath and kiss off David.
Panish is best known as the lead plaintiffs’ lawyer who brought General Motors to its knees in 1999 over secret documents and memos stemming from fuel-tank fires that erupted in collisions. He scored a $4.9 billion jury award, forcing the auto maker to eventually … Read More »

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