David Bruce: Media Anecdotes

Some people whose photographs appear in such magazines as InStyle, In Touch, Life & Style, Star, OK!, and Us are not famous, which means that they have to work very hard at appearing in these magazines. One such person is Phoebe Price, who spends a lot of time and money going to parties at Cannes, the Emmys, the Grammys, and the Oscars. One of her tips for being photographed in expensive and skimpy clothing at such parties is this: “Say I find a Dolce & Gabbana dress, and I think it’s really hot and I think someone else [who is famous] might wear it. I’ll wear it so that it might get compared in a magazine.” Ms. Price even has an informant at Saks Fifth Avenue who tells her what celebrities are planning to wear to parties where the paparazzi will be around. Ms. Price also says that when the paparazzi have her in their sights, “I always do side angles and over-the-shoulder. I give them 15 to 20 looks.” Joel Stein, a humor columnist who interviewed Ms. Price for the Los Angeles Times, decided to try to get the paparazzi to take photographs of Cassandra, his wife. Mr. Stein announced to the paparazzi that Cassandra Barry was about to walk down the carpet to a party. Immediately, members of the paparazzi shouted, “Cassandra, up top!” As Cassandra gave the paparazzi side angles and over-the-shoulder looks, the cameras snapped, and she ended up giving the paparazzi 15 to 20 looks.

Musician Naomi Judd hosts a cable-TV talk show on Sunday mornings, and if she could have any guest she wanted, she would have Jesus as her guest. During a break while appearing on Larry King’s talk show, she asked him whom he would like to have as a guest. Mr. King replied, “God.” She then asked him what would be his first question. Mr. King replied, “I would ask Him if He had a Son.” Ms. Judd has long taken religion seriously. Her mother tells a story about when Naomi was a child. Her mother met Naomi’s Sunday-School teacher, who told her that she had to be extra prepared to teach her Sunday-School lessons because Naomi was sure to ask questions such as “’Would you explain that Immaculate Conception just one more time?” and “OK, how did He raise Lazarus from the dead?” As a young adult, she almost gave her mother a stroke when she told her mother that she had visited a Buddhist temple—as it happened, just to check it out. She also worked an extra shift as a young adult so she could buy the Time-Life series of books on the Great Religions.

Tabloid newspapers often don’t follow the rules that more established newspapers follow—getting readers can sometimes be regarded as more important than reporting truth. Robert Johnson, an assistant editor, said about the Hearst tabloid newspaper the Los Angeles Herald Express, “The paper was aimed at the underside of the community, the barely literate, the bored, the poor, the people who want to know about murders and UFO’s and sports results, and damn little else. It was just sloppy. No metro in America had more typos. We were embarrassed to tell people we worked there. It always crawled over any disaster because they were easy to cover.” The paper did have the first female editor of a major metropolitan newspaper, Aggie Underwood, who enjoyed creating flashy names for murder cases. One murder case featured a waitress who had been stabbed to death. Ms. Underwood dropped a white carnation on the waitress’ corpse so she could call the case “THE WHITE CARNATION MURDER.”

Punk rocker Patti Smith occasionally acted badly. Her second album, Radio Ethiopia, received mainly mediocre and bad reviews, and that put her on the defensive. At a press conference in London, a music reporter asked her why tickets for her tour weren’t selling. She screamed, “F*ck you! You’re a rag! Get out of here!” She also took food from a plate and threw it. Next she was asked, “Which Beatle newsreel are you acting now?” She responded by climbing on a table, kicking away any objects that were on it. She then told everyone, “I’m the field marshal of rock ’n’ roll! I’m f*cking declaring war! My guitar is my machine gun!” One of the journalists present was Julie Burchill, a young fan of Ms. Smith’s. She was horrified and in tears because of Ms. Smith’s actions. Later, Ms. Burchill wrote, “For a two-year-old it would have been a very impressive performance; from the Queen of Rock and Roll it was like watching God jerk off.”

When Kathryn Crosby—not yet married to Bing—was 18 years old, she had a chance to interview famous stars Bob Hope and Joan Fonteyn. Unfortunately, she nearly caused a disaster by asking Ms. Fonteyn how old she was. Fortunately, Mr. Hope smoothed things over by saying, “Making allowances for your youth and inexperience, we still can’t let you talk to a great star that way. Now, here’s what you should have asked.” Mr. Hope then asked Ms. Fonteyn a series of questions that both elicited the information needed for Ms. Crosby to write an interesting newspaper column and flattered Ms. Fonteyn at the same time. Ms. Crosby writes, “It was a gentle and instructive rebuke from a master craftsman, and I never forgot the lesson that it instilled. Months later, when the same callow teen-ager interviewed Bing for her paper, she was ready to snare a superstar and a husband with a far more subtle approach.”

Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne once met writer Heywood Broun and told him, “I’m glad to know you, Broun. I often read your articles in the World.” This was a mistake because Mr. Broun had not written for the World for two years. Mr. Broun replied, “I’m glad to hear that. And by the way, that’s a great basketball team you have at Yale.”

Media representatives tend to always be present around such politicians and their wives as Al and Tipper Gore. In a comic protest, Tipper once soaked a few reporters with a water pistol.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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