Saturday, April 21, 2018

Capital of Crime? It ain't NYC

"Rape! Murder! It's just a shot away! It's just a shot away!"

So begins the Rolling Stones' epic song "Gimme Shelter" from their 1969 album Let It Bleed. You've only heard it in every Martin Scorsese movie ever made, including probably Kundun

Anyway, if you listen to boring old men like Donald Trump or others, they'll try to convince you that America is more violent and crime ridden than ever -- when the truth is actually the opposite. Remember when Trump said of immigrants, "They're bringing crime. They're bringing drugs. They're rapists" -- turns out, the only ones importing crime to America these days are members of the Trump Administration. 

In NYC, the crime rate is at historic lows. In fact, this is how low it's gotten: this year, so far, there have been more murders in London than NYC. That's either an historic first or an historic first in a really, really, really long time (London is nearly 2000 years old, NYC only about 400). After all, there are lots more guns floating around the streets of NYC than London so what gives? Why has it become more violent now?

The answer: gangs. Violent, bloody, skinhead street gangs.

They've plagued Good Ol' London town for decades and now the mayhem they cause is worse than ever. Oh, but they're white. That's right, it's WHITE PEOPLE that are making London more crime ridden than ever. That sorta goes against the paranoid American grain of brown people being the root of all crime, here and everywhere. 

One thing that skinheads and violent people also love to do in England is "glassing" -- slamming a glass of beer over someone's head so that it shatters, the person is all bloody, and mayhem ensues. You saw it in the movie Trainspotting and it's apparently a favorite past-time of London pub culture. In fact, people who do it don't even go to jail! Imagine that in NYC -- you'd be in the pokey in no time.

Here are the lessons from the spike in crime in London vs. the historic lows in NYC: crime is not the sole province of brown people, poverty and cultural alienation of any stripe creates breeding grounds for crime anywhere and everywhere, and crime can be brought down anywhere and everywhere. Let's hope that happens in London too -- and stays true for NYC.


Friday, April 20, 2018

Memo from NYC

Today is Hitler's birthday. 

Don't worry, we're not wishing him a happy 129th or whatever. 

But this clip from legendary conspiracy theorist Mae Brussell is fascinating. On her radio show in 1981, she talks about why she thinks that Hitler is (or was) still alive. 

Okay, so that's crazy. But then she also talks about how and why Hitler appealed to so many Germans back in the 1930s -- and her observations, her theories about that, are chillingly accurate. If you consider our current political environment, everything she says about Hitler could be equally applied to ... you know who. That's the most scary thing: no matter whether it was the 1930s, or 1981, or 2018, some things about people and the world at large don't change. 

Some things stay the same -- and sometimes crazy people are brilliantly sane. 

No More Cars in Central Park

This June there will be no more cars in Central Park.

This is both a huge and minor announcement. 

Practically speaking, this means that the various "loops" below 72nd street, where cars are allowed for certain times of day, will be closed. That means no more cars anywhere in the park -- because cars have already been banned above 72nd street.

But it is a huge announcement since it means that, wherever you are in the great park, you won't ever have to look out for an automobile (except, probably, for ones from the parks or police departments).

It's always been surprising that it was above 72nd street where cars were previously banned. The vast majority of visitors (tourists, day trippers, etc.) flooded the lower part of Central Park. Having huge numbers of people compete with automobiles always seemed crazy to me. Fortunately, now, that'll no longer be the case.

A big win for sanity! 


Thursday, April 19, 2018

More Staten Island Stuff

Right now there's a "humdinger" of a Republican Congressional primary going on in Staten Island. Current Representative Dan Donovan is being strongly challenged by his predecessor, Michael Grimm, who held the seat from 2011-2014 until he went to jail for tax fraud.

In normal times, in a normal place, in a normal political party, a disgraced former elected official -- a convicted felon! -- trying to get his old job back would be laughed out of politics. 

Democrats Elliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner tried it 2013 and lost badly. But in today's Republican party, in a wacky place like Staten Island, Grimm has a real shot. He's allied himself strongly with Trump and Donovan is running scared. There's a very good chance that he'll lose to Grimm on June 26th. If he does, it'll tell you everything you about the moral rot in the GOP and, if Grimm, wins the general election and returns to Congress, on Staten Island. 

Let's hope neither comes to pass. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Howard Stern Inducts Bon Jovi into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame


Howard Stern has made many outrageous public appearances over the decades -- and here's his most recent one. 

Links 1901

Okay, so the title of this post makes no sense until you consider:

1. This is the 1,901 post on this blog -- that means we're 99 posts away from a clean 2000. (I got 99 posts but a ... oh, never mind). Anyway, I will work diligently on crafting those remaining 99 posts. Also, once I do another 117, we can then have a blog post for every year of the millennia AD. How cool is dat? 

2. I found a bunch of interesting links that have nothing to do with each other except that they cover the life of this town: we got subways, we got books, we got late-night podcasts. We got it all!

Onwards! Except if you're on the subway. Then listen to a podcast. Or read a book. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

So What's the Deal with Staten Island?

When you look at a map of the five boroughs that create the archipelligo of NYC, it makes sense that four of them go together: the lower part of the Bronx and western coastlines of Brooklyn and Queens are hugged together around the island of Manhattan -- the borough that ties them all together.

But what about Staten Island?

This borough, the so-called "forgotten borough, lies well south of its NYC brethren. It doesn't "hug" any part of NYC -- instead, it hugs the Jersey Shore. So why isn't it part of New Jersey? Why does it belong to NYC?

Long story short: politics. In the early 19th century, both New Jersey and New York claimed ownership to Staten Island that, at the time, was known as Richmond County (it wasn't part of NYC since NYC at that time only consisted of Manhattan the Bronx). Basically, NY wanted the island and NJ wanted access to NY harbor so, under the guidance of President Martin van Buren, they worked out a deal. Then, when NYC consolidated in 1898, Staten Island became part of NYC because, well, it was already part of New York State and had nowhere else to go.

Apparently there are some urban legends about how Staten Island wound up in NYC including how it was part of a bet on a boat race -- but it's untrue. It's a more dreary story -- like so much else in life. And, some might joke, like Staten Island itself.

#HerToo


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Memo from NYC

Working in the White House, working for the President of the United States, should be the greatest honor of anyone's life. Best of all, after you leave, you can write your meal ticket: you can spend the remaining years or decades cashing in as a lobbyist or a "consultant", writing your memoirs, appearing on panels, giving interviews, being a pundit. You are a desirable asset. That's one of the great things about America -- this is the land of the lucrative Has Beens. 

But if you work in the Trump White House ... your career is basically over. You are marked for life.

No one wants to hire anyone who has worked for this flaming garbage dump of a president. People leave this White House infected with what you might call Trump Cooties. Seriously, people who went to jail or did porn seem to be more employable than ex-Trumpsters! In fact, they might have been better off going to jail (which they might still do!) or doing porn (which certainly would've been more enjoyable although I don't think even pornographers want to hire ex-Trumpsters -- ask Stormy Daniels). Trump talks a lot about "draining the swamp", whatever that means, but it looks like the swamp is quite happy to drain itself of Trump people. 

 Call it revenge. Call it logic. Call it, dare I say, a victory for decency.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Interview: Paul Krassner, Legendary Satirist and Founder of "The Realist"

If your life encompassed most of the 20th and all of the 21st centuries (so far) – and you knew and worked with people like Ken Kesey, Lenny Bruce, Kurt Vonnegut, Groucho Marx, John Lennon and Yoko Ono (amongst others) – you might think you’ve lived an interesting, even exciting life. 

But what if you changed the culture? What if you changed history? Then you’ve had more than an exciting life – you’re a flat-out legend.

And that moniker certainly applies to Paul Krassner.

A native of NYC, Paul was a child music prodigy who, as a young man in 1958, switched to journalism and founded the The Realist, the first truly great satirical magazine. A generational cousin to Mad magazine (where Paul used to work), The Realist went even further in mocking the hypocrisies of American social mores. Extreme and unflinching, it published things like the "Disneyland Memorial Orgy" poster and "The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book", a vicious mocking of the Warren Report. Long before provocateurs like Frank Zappa and Howard Stern were shocking the culture, long before Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show were showing America its hypocrisies, Paul Krassner and The Realist were leading the charge and showing them how it's done.

Paul’s work, however, went far beyond satire. Thanks to Paul, almost three years before Roe v. Wade, Paul helped changed the New York state laws against abortion, ensuring a woman of her full reproductive rights. He was also a founding member of the Yippees and the Merry Pranksters which would have alone sealed his legendary fate.

These days, truth is stranger than fiction, and satire seems to be reality. That’s why it was so great for Paul Krassner to answer a few of Mr NYC’s questions about his life, his career, NYC, and the crazy culture that he exposed and shaped.

You were a child musical prodigy, playing the violin on stage at Carnegie Hall in 1939 at the age of six. Tell us a little bit about your upbringing in NYC, and how you made the leap from music to satirical journalism? 

Actually, the birth of such morphing occurred during that event in the middle of the “Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor.” I had been performing by rote until my left leg started itching. Balancing on that foot, I scratched the leg with my right foot without missing a note. I woke up to the sound of the audience laughing, and I opened my eyes. I could play the violin with technique, but I had a passion for making people laugh. It was to become the path of my life, starting in Astoria. I went to Long Island High School where I played on the baseball team, elected president of the Student Court — my first official act was to subpoena the new principal — and I wrote, produced, directed and acted in the senior play. In City College, I performed stand-up comedy, using my violin as a prop. I hadn’t touched it for several years, but now I took it out of the closet. 

The satirical magazine you founded in 1958, The Realist, was far ahead of its time. It was brash, rude, irreverent, and held nothing that was precious. Did you view the magazine and yourself as free speech crusaders, as speaking truth to power -- or were you just trying to be funny and outrageous?

I had been writing freelance scripts for Mad magazine, and the editor assigned their artists, though he rejected a few of my submissions because they were “too adult.” I complained to the publisher, Bill Gaines. He told me that since Mad’s circulation had reached over a million, he intended to keep aiming the magazine at teenagers. I said, “I guess you don’t want to change horses in midstream.” He replied, “Not when the horse has a rocket up its ass.” That was the precise moment I decided to publish a satirical magazine for grown-ups. There were none in America. I had no role models, and no competition, just an open field mined with taboos waiting to be exploded.

We seem to be living in surreal times that go beyond satire. What do you feel the legacy of The Realist is and what is the place of satire in the 21st century?

The more control by government, religion, propaganda, the more truth in satire is needed. My credo of The Realist was to communicate without compromise. The slogan was “Irreverence is our only sacred cow.” There were no labels of journalism or satire in order not to alert the readers from discerning their own pleasure.

In an intellectual property class I took several years ago, we discussed the infamous 1967 "Disneyland Memorial Orgy" poster (showing Disney characters in explicit sexual situations) that the Disney company then sued over and suppressed on intellectual property grounds. Can you tell us a little more about the background of this poster, this historic case, and your thoughts on "intellectual property?" Is it just another form of censorship and corporate greed?

When Walt Disney died, the libido of his characters were freed. The Disney attorneys considered suing me but didn’t because they knew that parody wasn’t against the law. I assigned Wally Wood, a Mad magazine artist, to draw a black-and-white two-page spread in The Realist, and then I published it as a poster. In 2005, an anonymous Disney employee painted a larger poster in authentic colors. You can see it on my website, paulkrassner.com.

You knew or were friends with a number of legendary cultural figures, among them Lenny Bruce, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Lennon. Telling us about them briefly is impossible but can you, briefly, tell us how you got to know each of these guys and how they impacted your life?

Steve Allen was the first subscriber to The Realist. He sent several gift subscriptions to friends including Lenny Bruce, who then sent several gift subs to his friends. Malthusian approach that peaked with 100,000 circulation in 1967. Playboy hired me to edit Lenny’s autobiography. He advised me to drop the violin prop. He wrote some things for The Realist. So did Kurt Vonnegut, who also wrote an introduction to one of my books. Realist readers John Lennon and Yoko Ono visited me. Lennon was absentmindedly holding on to a joint. I asked, “Do the British use the expression, to bogart a joint, or is that only an American term — you know, derived from the image of a cigarette dangling from Humphrey Bogart’s lip?” He replied, "In England, if you remind somebody else to pass a joint, you lose your own turn."

Are there any other famous or interesting people you knew who you'd like to tell us about?

Groucho Marx. On a visit to L.A. in 1968, I was invited to a comedic pro-acid movie, “Skidoo,” in production by director Otto Preminger, who had been turned on by Tim Leary. Groucho played a Mafia chief named God. Having read The Realist, he asked if I could get some that’s pure LSD, and also would I accompany on his first such trip. And we did. At one point he told me about one of his favorite contestants on the show: “He was an elderly gentleman with white hair, but quite a chipper fellow. I asked him what he did to retain his sunny disposition. 'Well, I'll tell you, Groucho,’ he says, 'every morning I get up and I make a choice to be happy that day.'” You were always a crusader for personal freedoms and the joys of pot smoking. Today, gay marriage is legal and recreational marijuana is becoming legal everywhere. Do you feel that the culture is finally catching up to you -- and do you feel you deserve credit for making the culture more tolerant? I didn’t think in my lifetime that legalized-pot, same-sex marriage, African-American president – they wouldn’t happen, yet they did – although the Trump administration tries to make a U-turn back in my lifetime to those reactionary taboos. My favorite bizarre claim was Attorney Jeff Sessions’ utterance that “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He also stated about the Ku Klux Klan, “I thought those guys were okay until I learned they smoked pot.” Yikes!

This is a blog about New York City. What was the NYC of your childhood like and how do you feel about the city today?

Well, I loved living in New York, walking around growing up and never learning to drive, being innumerable times on WBAI — a guest of three different programs hosted by Bob Fass, Steve Post, and Larry Josephson — but in 1971, after my first marriage broke up, I moved to San Francisco invited by Stewart Brand to co-edit with Ken Kesey, “The Last Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog.” I continued publishing The Realist and got my own talk show on ABC-FM. I would visit New York two or three times a year to perform at the Village Gate, see old Yippie friends, writers, artists, my parents, ex-wife and our daughter. The latter stayed with me each summer, eventually all the time.

Tell us something about Paul Krassner that we might not know?

In the ‘60s when abortion was illegal, I published an anonymous interview with Dr. Robert Spencer, a humane abortionist, promising that I would go to prison sooner than reveal his identity. I became an underground abortion referral service. When Dr. Spencer retired, he gave me another such physician to refer. In 1969 Bronx DA (later judge) Burton Roberts told me that his staff found that abortionist’s financial records showing all the money I received but he offered to grant me immunity from prosecution if I cooperated with the grand jury. He extended his and as a gesture of trust. “That’s not true,” I said, refusing to shake hands. If I had ever accepted any money, I'd have no way of knowing that he was bluffing. The DA was angry, but he finally had to let me go.

Attorney Gerald Lefcourt (later president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers) filed a suit on my behalf, challenging the constitutionality of the abortion law. He pointed out that the DA had no power to investigate the violation of an unconstitutional law, and he couldn't force me to testify. In 1970, I became the only plaintiff in the first lawsuit to declare the abortion laws unconstitutional in New York State “Later, various women’s groups joined the suit,” Lefcourt recalls, “and ultimately the New York legislature repealed the criminal sanctions against abortion, prior to the Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade.” I had morphed from a satirist to an activist. 

Finally, how do you want your life and work to be remembered?

Laughter from the satire I felt urged to share on Earth.

Thanks Paul! You’ll be remembered for that and lots more!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

BEST HEADLINE I EVER READ!

Certain headlines long outlive their newsworthiness. In fact, they become as famous as the stories they're about:

"Ford to City: Drop Dead"
"Headless Body in Topless Bar"
"Sid Vicious is Dead"

Those NYC tabloid headlines -- screaming from newsstands back when people actually had to buy newspapers from them -- didn't just report history but made history. They neatly summed up events in a few verbs and nouns and stuck in people's brains for years, decades afterwards. I wasn't old enough (or even alive) when they first ran but, NYC history junkie that I am, I learned all about them.

There is one infamous headline, however, I clearly remember seeing. 

Just as we had entered a new decade, the 1990s, and just as yours truly had entered his tumultuous teens years, I recall walking past a newsstand where the ugly mug of a man who would one day terrorize this country through social media from the White House (social media even exist yet; heck, neither did the Internet). 

The headline proudly declared: "Best Sex I Ever Had." 

Seeing that nauseating headline, for me, was the beginning of the end of my childhood. What was this all about? Why was this on the front page? Why is this in our lives?

How that infamous headline was created -- and how informs so much of what we're living with today -- is the subject of this article by the person who wrote it. It'll make you either laugh or cry or wonder ... what has this country done to itself?

And who knew then that it was just forerunner to what is possibly the greatest political scandal since Watergate?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

NYC's Ray Donovan

Remember The Wolf in Pulp Fiction

"I solve problems," he proudly declares.

This type of person is more commonly known as a "fixer", the person called in to solve difficult, embarrassing, expensive, potentially life-shattering messes that people, usually wealthy people, stupidly get themselves into. 

In movies like Pulp Fiction or Michael Clayton, and TV shows like Ray Donovan, fixers are usually asked to dispose of dead bodies, intimidate people, engage in blackmail (or get blackmailers to back off), launder money, and destroy or hide incriminating evidence. Fixers are usually smart, skilled, stealthy, shadowy -- they operate behind the scenes, undercover, quickly and efficiently. They keep the appearance of law abiding respectability intact for their clients -- even when it couldn't be further from the truth. 

Michael Cohen, the Trump's lawyer whose home and offices were just raided, fancies himself the president's fixer. The problem is that he's an idiot who loves the limelight and actually makes his client's problems worse!   

But not all fixers are sleazy accomplices. Some are, in fact, just good public servants.


He's an eighty-year old lifetime public servant who has worked in and out of city government for decades. He was a deputy mayor under Koch and has held a variety of jobs where he has usually fixed agencies under duress. De Blasio has called on Stanley's services multiple times since taking office.

Stanley's latest assignment: fixing NYCHA, the public housing authority that has fallen into dysfunction. Stanley is coming in to turn around he troubled agency and will hopefully improve the lives of its 400,000 residents. 

He's basically the fixer of NYC, our own Ray Donovan, and it's great that, even at his age, he feels the call to serve. 

Or, as De Blasio probably said when he found out that Stanley would help, "Well s!@t yeah, n$gro, that's all you had to say!"


Brandi Carlile @ The Beacon Theater

This weekend I had the joy of seeing the amazing singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile and her band perform at the Beacon Theater. At a time when we're exposed daily to the depravity of human beings, it's such a joy to see someone who exemplifies the the beauty they can also create.

What made this show was great wasn't just that Brandi Carlile sang her heart, performing at the top of her game. It's that, throughout the show, she repeatedly thanked the audience for coming, about how much she loved NYC, and how much she loves her band. She talked about her family (she's got a wife and two kids), she talked about her band, and she expressed her gratitude to all of the people who make it possible for her to be a music superstar. It was one of the most touching concerts I've been to, well, ever. 

She even asked the audience to shout-out "Bababooye!" How cool is she?




Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Interview: Lebeau of Le Blog

If you’re a pop culture junkie, then you probably have lots of varied, interesting, and odd questions about the movies, music, and TV you consume.

What happened to that great actress or actor? Was this movie a hit or a bomb? Did this movie win any big awards? Why was a sequel made to this – or not? Was this band a one-hit wonder?

That’s what makes Lebeau’s Le Blog so great – it’s a pop culture junkie’s dream, answering all these questions and lots, lots more. He takes popular culture and puts it into historical and social context, does deep dives into the careers of your favorite performers, and generally just has lots of fun telling us all about our favorite entertainment. His most popular feature is “What the Hell Happened to” where Lebeau reviews the ups and downs of the careers of actors and actresses that once burned bright, then dimmed. Another great one is “Nope Not a 1-Hit Wonder” which shows how impressive the careers of many so-called “one hit wonders” truly were.

It’s a fun, great blog and LeBeau was kind enough to answer Mr NYC’s questions about his blog and pop culture – and how #MeToo is changing both. He also tells us about some of his own personal favorite pop culture.

Briefly, tell us about Lebeau's Le Blog and what inspired its creation? Where did you get the cool name for it? 

I had been blogging for quite a while before I started Le Blog. It was something I fell into by accident. Even before I knew what a blog was, I maintained a website and contributed to other sites. Basically, it was an extension of my hobbies. I started my first blog to promote a project I was working on with some other guys. The project was my idea, but the blog wasn't. It was completely new territory for me at the time and I had no intention of continuing the blog after the project was over. That project caught the attention of a guy who was starting a comic book blog and he asked me to be a contributor. I said "why not?" and spent a few years writing about comic books for his site. As it turns out, the founder eventually left the blog and we contributors took it over. After I had my kids, my entertainment budget shrank ‘cause I had to pay for things like diapers and daycare. Comics books are an expensive hobby, but they have nothing on kids. Since I wasn't reading comic books any more, I really didn't have much to contribute to that site. So I thought about starting up my own blog to talk about my other interests. I played around with some names, but I really couldn't come up with anything I liked very much. I decided just to call it what it was. For readers who knew me from the sites I had contributed to, this was my blog. Part of that came from the fact I had no real plan for what the blog would be about. All I knew was that it was mine. If readers liked my writing, they could follow me over to Lebeau's Blog. I stuck the Le in the middle because I liked the sound of it. The repetition of the L's and B's just sounds funny to me. At the time, I had no intention of having contributor's so it made sense to me to stick my name on the thing. Looking back, the contributors have become such an important part of the site that I deemphasize "Lebeau". I really consider it to be "Le Blog" but I haven't completely dropped my name from the title because it is in the site's domain.

I love your features like "What Might Have Been", "Franchise Killers," and, of course, "What the Hell Happened?". How do you go about choosing what movies, franchises, and careers etc. to profile and how to compile them?

A lot of it is just a matter of what interests me. I figure if I find something interesting, there are other people out there who will share that interest. Late in the year, I start setting up a schedule for the next year. I go through and look at anniversaries of movies and that will inspire a lot of ideas. If a movie flopped five years ago, I'll leave myself a note that it might make a good Franchise Killer. But there also has to be a story. I need a hook or it's just another flop.

What are some of your favorite movies, franchises? Like any movie fan, my answer to that changes.

The movie I have probably watched more than any other is Jaws. I can watch the original Jaws over and over again even though I know it by heart. I'm not a big fan of sequels so I wouldn't say I am a fan of the Jaws franchise, but the original is something I keep going back to. Today, I don't think anything compares to Marvel's mega franchise. They are the envy of every other studio in town with good reason. Their success really can't be duplicated, but everyone is trying. I also have a fondness for the Bond franchise because it's the granddaddy of them all. Anyone who reads the site can see where my interests lie.

Who are some of your favorite actors/actresses?

Twenty years ago, I would have had an answer to this question. These days, movies are no longer star-driven like they used to be. There are actors and actresses I like, but no one who can sell me on a movie based on their name alone. I think any halfway decent actor can be good in the right role and the best actor can be awful if they are miscast. The best actors tend to be the supporting players whereas the movie stars get by on looks and charisma. With very few exceptions, I wish all of the WTHH subjects well. I am rooting for most of them to succeed with the exception of Steven Seagal.

The Bill Cosby/Harvey Weinstein, etc. revelations have certainly revealed a dark side to show business (even though many of us knew it was a sleazy business to begin with). Tell us your thoughts about it and how it's affected Lebeau's Le Blog? Has it affected your enjoyment of popular culture in general?

I think Weinstein himself was involved in several WTHH actress stories. I plan to spend time over the next year writing that into several articles now that it has been revealed. If you follow WTHH you know that the career span of your average actress is a lot shorter than it is for most actors. Partially, that's American sexism. Once an actress hits 40, the opportunities dry up. The #MeToo movement showed just how bad the problem is within the industry. All I can do is root for the good guys. I will support good projects and good people. I am disappointed in a lot of people who turned a blind eye to what was going on.

If I remember correctly, the actress Sean Young responded to your "What the Hell Happened" profile of her. Have you gotten a lot (or any other) responses from the people or fans that you profile? What's the some of the craziest feedback you've gotten, either from the industry or from fans?

Sean Young is the only actress who reached out directly regarding WTHH. We have had some interactions on Twitter. Mira Sorvino liked something I tweeted a while back. A reader named TMC has tweeted articles to other celebs some of whom objected to the mild profanity in the series title. I get that. We have had a few celebs drop by the site and comment on an article. Director Neil LaBute was downright chatty in the comments section of an old Movieline article. I have also had some people claiming to be friends of celebrities reach out to me. Someone offered to fly me out to Hollywood for a premiere if I would take down the WTHH article on an actor who apparently thought it was hurting his career. Another person claimed Val Kilmer knew about the site and was not amused. If that's true, my apologies to Mr. Kilmer and anyone else who takes offense. It's all meant to be in good fun.

Just curious: your blog has been viewed over 12.5 million times. Who makes up your (huge) fan base -- and have you ever given an interview before?

The majority of traffic on any given day is from Google searches. Most of them, sadly, do not stick around. I am always trying to build up a loyal base of readers. I try to make the place feel like a community as much as possible. I love it when people reach out. I want everyone to keep coming back. This is the first request I have had for an email interview. I did a guest spot on a podcast several years ago. I am not a very in-demand interview subject I guess.

What do you see as the future for Lebeau's Le Blog?

As you know, I recently moved the site to a self-hosted platform. This has been a whole new world for me. It's a grand experiment that will evolve over time. I have always tried new things and discarded what didn't work. I imagine I will keep on doing that. Some traditions will keep going, but change is the only constant. I am focusing on doing things to get readers more engaged. I think we're going to have a lot of fun.

Any last thoughts?

Thanks for reading. Hope you have as much fun blogging as I do. See ya around!

Thank's Lebeau!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Trump Lawyer Raid!


The Jails of NYC

One of the unofficial features of this blog is discovering the cities, big cities, that fall within the Big Apple.

NYCHA, the harbor, the airports, the parks, the public schools, etc., are all sprawling organizations that make up important, if unseen and unacknowledged, systems across our city.

This is most true of our city's jails.

Right now NYC is in the process of closing Riker's Island over the course of the next decade. One day, if all goes according to plan, that little rock off the coast of Astoria will be vacant -- and probably turned into luxury high-rises. 

The prisoners of Riker's are moving elsewhere and, surprisingly, there are lots of places for them to go. I was shocked to discover that there are approximately thirty-two jails within the five boroughs that house the city's criminals. This article gives provides more info about them as well as a multi-media map showing the location of each one. It's a fascinating look at this city within NYC that most us are lucky enough to (and hope we never will) visit. 

Trump Tower Fire


Read more about the victim of this fire who was trying to sell his apartment and wasn't able to give it away! The Trump name is toxic. And now its literally deadly. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Rudy and Judi Getting Nasty

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani is getting divorced from his wife and former mistress Judith Nathan. This is the same woman he was cheating on his previous wife with during the end of his mayoralty.

This is Rudy's third divorce. (Three strikes, I guess.)

This divorce is getting nasty since they're going to fight over assets. Amazingly, this famous couple didn't have a prenup! When Rudy left office at the end of 2001 he wasn't rich but, obviously, he earned millions during his return to the private sector. He also didn't marry this lady until 2002, right when the big bucks started rolling in, so it's stunning that he didn't get her to sign a prenup to protect his future earnings. 

Now, to quote Eddie Murphy in Raw, Judi is gonna "take half his shit!"

You would think that, after being divorced twice before, Rudy would've taken this precaution but I guess that, at the time, he was "in love" and thought "we'll be together forever" and so a prenup wasn't necessary.

Howard Stern put it best: when guys fall in love, when they get all crazy about some "broad", they get a fever -- like Spock in Star Trek, when he enters the "pon farr" i.e. he gets so horny and crazy that's he willing to do anything, even kill Captain Kirk, in order to get "some poontang." 

So you get the aforementioned "poontang" -- yeah! -- and the years pass and then, all of a sudden, all your money, everything you worked for, is legally stolen from you. 

God Bless America.

Part of me feels sorry for Rudy but not really -- he must be such a nightmare that Judi probably deserves all the money she'll get. Then again, she's a homewrecker so ...

 

Friday, April 6, 2018

We're all artists!

Cogito ergo sum: "I think, therefore I am" - Rene Descartes 

In my most narcissistic moments I sometimes fancy myself an "artist". This blog is my "art" because it's my creation. Therefore I'm an "artist" because I created it and continue to do so. 

I'm not sanctimonious about it, however; I'm John Cusack in Bullets over Broadway shouting "I'm an artist!" But I am a creator and that, in my mind, gives me a shred of artistic pedigree. To me, that is the essence of art -- the act of creation, the act of making something exist which didn't before and wouldn't have otherwise. Whether it's something we look at or listen to or use (or even, and I'll get to this in a moment, feel), to create anything is to be artistic. 

Full stop ... in my humble, wanna-be-artistic opinion. 

That said, when you see great or moving art, in whatever format, you get overwhelmed by the notion that anything you might create is less than worthy, that so much other art is the work of hacks. And, as a hack myself, you stand in awe.

Right now there's an amazing exhibit in Brooklyn chronicling the work of NYC painters from 1985 to 1995 -- a look back at a time when the city and its social attitudes were changing. It was an era when the city was becoming more tolerant and less affordable. It was an exciting time to be an artist and also a time when they were becoming victims of their own excess. It was a time of community -- and AIDS. It was a time of opportunities and closing doors. It was a time of contradictions. This exhibit captures that mixed-up time lovingly and everyone should see it. You should see what they were creating at the time, fashioning an era that now lives lovingly in many people's memories. 

And people are still creating news things -- and they aren't always things that are visual or audible. Something they are ... tactile. 

Naturally, that gets us to sex. 

On Palm Sunday 2018, we were made familiar with a lady named Stormy Daniels. She is popularly known either a porn star or an adult film actress. Others call her a sex worker. But why not an artist? Everything about her is artistic. Her name is an act of creation -- it's not really Stormy, it's Stephanie Clifford, and for years she's been making adult films to much success. In fact, it led her to have an affair with the current President (and, as we saw from her interview, she's a much more honest, dignified, and decent person than he is). She's an artist, and a damn good one at that, and should be celebrated as such. Yes, her art isn't displayed in museums or in "polite society" but why can't people like her be recognized for the art they create and that, uh ... inspires lots of people? I admire her for that alone!

Yet society says we shouldn't admire her because of what she does -- or that we should condescend to her and call her just a "worker." Certainly, she works (hard, hahaha let's just get that out of the way) but how many people could do what Stormy does as well and as successfully and for as long as she has? She's an artist.

Again -- full Stop. 

Sadly, when it comes to sex, the people who "create" it best are either scorned or sidelined even though we consume their work en masse. But notice how, when you think of Stormy as an artist, it elevates her in your mind? It makes her work into an act of creation, not something nasty. And it gives her dignity, which she deserves. 

Talking about the erotic arts, I was fascinated to read about a mysterious man who apparently gives women great massages that end ... interestingly. Let's just leave it at that. Some might call him half a gigolo or a scummy guy or "whatevs" but, according to these testimonials, he's certainly an artist since he creates something for women that, uh, in many cases, didn't exist before (or for a very long time). That's creation ... in my worthless opinion. 

As a guy with a blog, or even a humble minor "artist", or just a hack, I stand in awe of all these varied, successful creators. And quite often it's the things we create that outlive us and make people remember us.

So I think we should amend Descartes -- "I create, therefore it is -- and I was."

Thursday, April 5, 2018

NYC - Rich & Poor


The Real Housewives of NYC@10

Okay, it's starting to get to the point where, the more I do this blog, the older I feel. (Perhaps I should retire but that's for another time.)

Two weeks ago I wrote about the end of the eight-season TV show Portlandia -- and how I had blogged about it even before it premiered.

Next up, and even more appropriately: The Real Housewives of New York City

This show about a bunch of rich, blithering yentas is now one decade old -- and yes, I blogged about it at the time it premiered, back in 2008.

It has, for whatever reason, become the most popular and -- gasp! -- respected of the "Real Housewives" series. I don't know if its the characters or the NYC setting that's made it so perennial but it's endured, despite of its awfulness. 

I haven't seen it in years and the cast has changed many times over so I'm not an expect on these catty ladies' latest machinations but ... here's to the "Real Housewives of NYC!". In this era of Trump grotesqueness, this show is, after ten years, more relevant than ever. 


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

MLK in Washington Square Park


Meet Adam Wren, the Idiot from Indiana

Ever told a bad joke?

I've told many -- some might even call this blog a bad joke, just thought I'd get that obvious one out of the way -- and there are many reasons why a joke "fails to land."

Maybe the idea behind the joke was funny but the execution was bad.

Maybe the idea behind the joke was flawed and it falls apart when told. 

Maybe the joke wasn't just as funny to the person hearing it as it was to the person telling it.

Or maybe ... maybe ... just maybe the joke betrays something bad about the person telling it. Maybe the jokes reveals something ugly that makes the joke not only unfunny but also disturbing.

Such is the case of Adam Wren, a supposed "humor" writer from Indiana who allegedly came to NYC for a few days to visit the "bubble" of "Clinton Country."

Oh yes, Mr. Wren the Hoosier thinks he's just the funniest guy there is. Oh, he's a hoot. So funny. So witty. So wry. And if you don't think he's funny, if you don't get the joke, then you're just a crabby liberal elitist who doesn't understand the oh-so-virtuous world of "middle America."

Mr. Wren recently posted a long, long, long, long, long, long (and I do mean long) supposedly "humorous" piece on Politico where he visited trendy parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan to try to "understand" the people who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and are horrified (how dare they!) by the Donald J. Trump Presidency. "Aren't these people ridiculous?" Mr Wren is saying. "Aren't they arrogant and dumb?" He makes fun of their habits like eating organic food and doing yoga, he makes them out to be precious little cry babies, and he's just so mean but, oh, just so funny, that everyone should love his "skewering" of blue America -- even idiot liberals!

This piece was clearly meant to be a "humorous" answer to all the journalism in the last year where reporters from Blue America traveled into the heart of Red America to try to "understand" Trump Voters. I get that Mr. Wren the Red American Trump voter found these pieces annoying and condescending -- I frankly found them boring myself, only because they were trying to make me feel sympathy for people who don't deserve it and all those pieces did was confirm that for me -- so attempting a humorous "answer" might have some merit to it. But his piece is hateful and not funny and, more importantly, it revealed something about Mr. Wren -- that he's an arrogant racist idiot.

Why?

Because if you want to visit the real "Clinton Country" go to the South Bronx. Go to the poorest areas of NYC where vastly more people voted for Clinton over Trump than in other, better heeled parts of the city. But Wren didn't do that, not only because it would ruin the central premise of his piece, but also because "those people" i.e. black, Hispanics, basically anyone non-white, doesn't exist for people like him. They're non-people to people like Mr. Wren. 

I'm not going to post Mr. Wren's garbage (you can seek it out if you'd like) but I will highlight some selections that Ben Adler, a very fine writer from City and State wrote in response to Mr. Wren's piece that was "lazy bias masquerading as anti-elitism."

In New York City, the borough that went for Clinton by the largest margin isn’t Manhattan or Brooklyn; it’s the Bronx, where Clinton won 88 percent, versus 86 percent in Manhattan and 79 percent in Brooklyn. This is not because living farther uptown inherently makes you more Democratic; it’s because the Bronx is the poorest and least-white borough. But Wren didn’t go to the Bronx.


n fact, only the white working class went for Trump, while the non-white working class went overwhelmingly for Clinton – hence, Clinton’s victory among lower-income voters. Wren and his editors chose to reinforce faulty stereotypes merely because they already exist. It’s a feedback loop of malicious ignorance.


Trump won voters making between $50,000 and $200,000 per year, while losing those making less than $50,000. The portrayal of Trump voters as mostly blue-collar folks suffering from “economic anxiety” is inaccurate. The antidote to such flawed journalism is careful, nuanced reporting, not incurious, prejudiced claptrap.

I'm quite sure Mr. Wren enjoys the "outraged" responses to his piece like those of Mr. Haber and me. When you're a bad person like he is (or the President he admires) you enjoy upsetting people.  You enjoy making hurting people who are unlike you. And that's who Republicans and Trump voters and Red Americans like Wren are -- bad people, people who enjoy inflicting pain on "the other." Good people don't inflicting pain. 

It's that simple. Really.

But we're all capable, I guess, of telling bad jokes.  

Monday, April 2, 2018

Tangled Webs

I find the people in these stories so repulsive -- yet, oddly fascinating -- that I can't help but share them.

One is about a group of NYC socialites/friends from 2005 who now, more than a decade later, have been hopelessly torn apart by the presidency of ... you know who. One is a now a "Real Housewife" and claims to be a-political. One is fiercely political and a strong member of the Resistance. And another if you know who's daughter. Truly a weird tale.

The other is about Republican Staten Island Congressman Dan Donovan, supposedly the "good guy" who succeeded two other scandal-tainted Republicans. Turns out, he's got a scandal all his own. If he was a Democrat I'm sure the New York Post would call him "Dan the Crooked Congress-Man." 

Enjoy. Well, not really. 

Steven Bochco RIP

Growing up, I'll admit, I probably watched too much TV -- but that's because TV had some good stuff on it. And, in retrospect, it was changing. 

As a kid, I enjoyed watching all those 80s and 90's shows that appealed to adolescent minds -- The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Cheers, Seinfeld, etc -- but there were also other shows, usually dramas, that were darker and morally complex, which featured flawed characters who sometimes made bad decisions, very often because they were living under immense personal and professional pressure. 

Very often those shows had been created or co-created by a man named Steven Bochco.  He died yesterday at the age of 74.

His big hits in the closing decades of the 20th century were Hill Street Blues, LA Law, Doogie Howser MD, and NYPD Blue. These were brilliantly written, very moving, and often very funny shows that showed the complexity of people living their lives in intense professional environments. In many ways, those shows gave me insights into what it would be like to be a grown up, what the worlds of love and friendship and work might be like, how things could erupt at any moment that might upend people's lives -- and how we weren't always guaranteed happy endings. The plots of episodes would build on each other in the manner of soap operas (but without the cheesiness) and sometimes characters, characters who we had come to love and adore, would -- GASP! -- die. Like, you know, in real life.  

Today we live in "The Golden Age of Television" (TV is the only things in our society that seems to be getting better instead of worse) but it wouldn't have been possible if Bochco hadn't paved the way more than thirty years earlier. To this, we owe him a huge debt.

And Steven Bochco was a NYC boy, a graduate of the High School of Performing Arts. RIP.

P.S. I remember an episode of LA Law that I saw when I was a kid, where the sleazy lawyer Arnie is trying to convince his hapless secretary Roxanne to help him defect to another law firm. She's torn, excited by the opportunity but saying that she doesn't want to leave the old firm because it's her "home" and the people who work there are her "family." Arnie then reminds Roxanne of a couple of times (from previous seasons) when she almost got fired and was also denied a raise. He tells her that, despite her feelings, this firm isn't really her home and the people there aren't really her family. 

That, right there, was what made that show and others by Bochco so great: a mostly unsympathetic character like Arnie offering an underling some very good, brutally honest advice, based on events that had happened earlier in the season. It also taught me, a kid who had never had a job at that point, what the working world was really like. I never forgot that lesson and have remembered well into my long working life. 

Thanks again, Mr Bochco.

Hill Street Blues, LA Law, Doogie Howser MD, and NYPD Blue also had the best opening credits and themes of any TV shows at the time. I can't find one of them but here are the other two: