Posts tagged ‘New York City’
Linda Bloodworth Thomason is a writer and television producer. Born in 1947 in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, she went on to obtain an English degree from the University of Missouri. Upon graduation she secured a teaching position at an inner city high school in Los Angles’ Watts neighborhood.
Later, she worked as a journalist for the Los Angles Daily Journal and did some freelance writing for television. Her breakthrough was with a script written for an episode of M*A*S*H*, co-authored with actress Mary Kay Place, and entitled, “Hot Lips and Empty Arms.”
Linda also wrote the original pilot for the Norman Lear produced One Day at a Time, which introduced the American public to a young Valerie Bertinelli. The show was created by Whitney Blake (the mother on TV’s Hazel and the real life mother of Meredith Baxter) and Blake’s husband Allan Manings.
This freelance writing eventually led to the opportunity for Thomason to create her own series, Filthy Rich. Filthy Rich was quickly cancelled but not before she forged friendships with two talented performers, the late Dixie Carter, and Delta Burke.
Designing Women was a show that centered around an interior design firm helmed by the Sugarbaker sisters (Carter and Burke), a divorcee with two young children (Annie Potts) and a naïve single woman (Jean Smart). The four women employed an African American man (Meshach Taylor) who had previously spent time in jail for a wrongful burglary conviction. In later seasons the cast changed. The only original cast member who wasn’t Southern was Smart.
Designing Women explored many feminist themes and contemporary women’s issues through the lives of its female characters. The show featured broad physical comedy and standard sitcom fare but also frequently raised topical issues like racism, homophobia, domestic violence, AIDS, and prejudice towards overweight women. The show ran for seven years, from 1986 to 1993 and was a Nielsen hit for much of that time.
This success led to other shows such as Evening Shade and Hearts Afire. Hearts Afire starred John Ritter and Markie Post and marked the introduction of Billy Bob Thornton to most of the world, although he undoubtedly had earlier acting jobs. With the addition of Evening Shade and Hearts Afire, Bloodworth Thomason and her husband Harry Thomason were producing three television sitcoms at once, which makes her the female Chuck Lorre of her day, only one with a greater social conscience.
The Thomasons were friends of the Clintons, dating back to his days as governor of Arkansas, and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s father made a cameo appearance on Hearts Afire. The Thomasons helped with the Clinton presidential campaign by writing excerpts for some of his speeches and producing promotional spots for television.
Currently, Thomason sponsors the Claudia Foundation, a charity that provides opportunities for young people, especially young women. The charity gives scholarships to young people who might not have the chance to go to school and provides the chance to engage in community service. The Claudia Foundation also supports literacy causes and allows young women to have cultural experiences that they might not have otherwise had the good fortune to appreciate, such as Broadway plays.
Linda Bloodworth Thomason has contributed significantly to American popular culture as well as to politics. She’s even stood up for fair reporting in this media age of increasingly polarized talking heads. Thomason and other Hollywood insiders stood up to call out MSNBC on their coverage of Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential race.
My first brush with fame was when I was a very little girl, and my parents took us to see a concert of Bobby Vinton. Now this wouldn’t mean anything to most of the people who read this blog, but Bobby Vinton was actually a pretty successful crooner singer of the 1950s. Think Bobby Darrin and Eddie Fisher. His biggest hit is “Blue Velvet.” But he also had other hits, like, “Mr. Lonely,” and, “Roses Are Red.”
My father probably got tickets for my mother. After the concert we went out to eat, and there was Bobby Vinton, eating at the same restaurant we were. This is obviously a sign of bigger things to come. I remember my father didn’t approve that he flirted with the waitress. Maybe he was just being friendly. I don’t know. I couldn’t have been any older than the first grade. I wouldn’t have been a good judge of such things.
I had to wait a while for my next brush with fame. I was twenty-three, and I had flown to Albuquerque for my cousin’s wedding, the same cousin that I described in my post, “Out, Damned Spot!” [https://gooseberrybush.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/out-damned-spot/] Cathy got married the first year that I lived on my own, after I graduated from college. I was flying back from the Albuquerque airport to Dallas when my mother spotted Anne Bancroft in the same terminal where I was waiting for my flight to board.
The next thing I know, my mom, who’s actually super shy, walks right over to Anne Bancroft, shakes her hand, and tells her what a great actress she thinks she is and thanks her for her performances. Ms. Bancroft, in turn, thanks my mom, and she goes on her merry way. The astounding thing about this is that my brother and I are seeing that, since they were married in real life, there was Mel Brooks in the same airport.
My mom comes back, and my brother and I say, in unison, “That was Mel Brooks!”
And my mom says, just as sweetly as you please, “Yes. I saw him. I don’t like him.”
My brother and I gape at each other. “Springtime for Hitler?”
“May the Schwartz be with you?”
“The Inquisition, the Inquisition,” I sing.
“Blazing Saddles?” says my brother.
“Horseshit,” says my father. My father does not approve of scatological humor, unless it’s done by men with British accents, like, say, for instance, Benny Hill. Then, it’s okay.
About a year later, I have my third brush with fame. I am working in a penthouse office in Dallas, near the Merrill Lynch building. The company does retirement planning, and it’s owned by a very dear, sweet man who employed me as his receptionist. This man used to own a large and successful insurance agency, and he’s now retired and comes into the office only very occasionally. I spend more time working with his daughter and the three other females who do the daily administration for our clients, mostly small business, a lot of doctors’ and lawyers’ offices.
The girls in the office tease me because they say that the receptionist position at the company is destined for greatness because one of the receptionists at the old insurance agency went on to become a New York City fashion model who made the tabloids for dating Emilio Estevez. And John Hinckley’s brother-in-law once worked for my boss as an insurance agent. Also, the limo driver that used to drive the boss around became a local radio celebrity. Yes, sirree, I am going places.
One day the boss is actually in the office, and a man calls in and asks for him. I am paid to screen calls. Not just anyone gets in to talk to the boss. His time is valuable.
“Who may I say is calling?” I inquire in my most pleasant gatekeeper voice.
“Tom Landry,” he says.
Hmm. Tom Landry, Tom Landry. Where the hell do I know that name from? Oh, yeah. The retired Cowboys coach.
“Tom Landry?” I repeat, after I take the time to scan my brain for just why that name is familiar to me.
“Yes, “ he says.
“Hee, hee, just one moment.”
Now, in all fairness to me, the boss did have a friend who liked to call in and pretend to be other, sometimes famous people. So, I was used to these kinds of “tricks” being pulled on me.
After I announce “Tom Landry,” I patch him through. About five minutes later the boss comes out of his office with a twinkle in his eye, and I am really lucky the man had a sense of humor.
“Did you just laugh at Tom Landry?”
“That was Tom Landry?”
“Yes, I’ve known him for years. We’re friends. He might come by and visit sometime. He used to do that lots. Did you just laugh at him, on the phone?”
Oh, I thought I was going to be in big trouble.
“I didn’t think it was really him.”
“That’s cute,” he said. He got a really big kick out of it, and I turned seventeen shades of red.
The next time I have a brush with fame it’s in person again. I am in my mid to late twenties. I’m at the movies with a girlfriend of mine. She’s in line for the ATM at the Plano Tinseltown Theater. I am in the line with her, even though I don’t need money. The line is roped off, and we are near the front of it, by the doors. It’s near Christmas time. A burst of cold air brings a very good looking and tall couple through the door. I recognize both of them as being familiar, but I can’t for the life of me remember where I remember them from. At first, I just think I know them both from my real life.
And then it occurs to me. No, I don’t know them from real life. These aren’t any friends of mine. She’s on TV. What the hell is her name? Oh, well. And the guy, that guy is so familiar. Oh, my God! That’s D. B. Sweeney from The Cutting Edge. Later, I would remember that the woman was Angie Harmon, but right then, since I just hit Chick Flick Gold, I only remembered that that was D. B. Sweeney, the man who plays the hockey player turned pairs figure skater for the implausible romantic comedy, The Cutting Edge. That may actually be redundant: implausible romantic comedy. Sort of like saying: unrealistic James Bond spy caper.
I point out my find to my girlfriend. She doesn’t recognize him.
“C’mon. The actor. He was in The Cutting Edge.”
“What is that?”
“I’m going to take your girl card. It’s only maybe the best romantic comedy ever made. “
I can’t remember if My Best Friend’s Wedding had come out by then or not.
“Well, why don’t you go and say hi to him if you think he’s so great?”
Now, obviously, Angie Harmon and D. B. Sweeney were on a date. And since it was near Christmas time and Angie Harmon’s folks live in Dallas, this was probably a pretty serious date. I did not want to interrupt their date, and I was stuck behind a red velvet rope in the line for the ATM. He was several feet away from me, in the snack bar, alone. I think Angie had probably left for the little girls’ room. Believe it or not, I was actually trying to be considerate and unobtrusive. So, I grabbed my chance.
I cupped my hands around my mouth like a megaphone, and I yelled across the theater, “Excuse me!”
No response. I take a deep breath in preparation for another stab at it. After a few seconds he turns to look in my direction. Somehow, amazingly, because I’m pretty sure I withdrew the impromptu megaphone, he looks straight at me, and I have his undivided attention.
I say, “I loved you in The Cutting Edge.” This differentiates me from the typical nut who yells the length of a football field in the middle of a crowded movie theater. At least I recognize that he is an actor and not a failed hockey player named Doug Dorsey.
Thus, seeing that I am trying to pay him a compliment and not attack him like the Kathy Bates character from Misery, Mr. Sweeney rewards me with a slow and secret grin that becomes a full blown smile and thanks me. Now I still have his attention. Ms. Harmon has not yet returned from the restroom. And I could have said something more, like a conversation. But no. Instead, I turn my back to him, grab both my girlfriend’s hands, and jump up and down like a monkey.
This is by no means the end of my brushes with fame, but this post is getting impossibly long. I will save the other ones for a post called Brushes with Fame II: The Squeakquel.
An article from the August 30, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, entitled, “Covert Operations: The Billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama,” is unfortunately titled. Though the article is definitely liberally biased, what I took from it wasn’t a conspiracy lobbed solely at Obama’s administration. What I was shocked about was the fact that big money makes all sorts of things happen in America of which I am wholly ignorant.
These guys have almost completely escaped the attention of the American media. If you are not from either New York City or Wichita, Kansas, then I’m betting that there’s a pretty good chance you’ve probably never heard of either Charles or David Koch, the multi-billionaire brothers who are the subjects of the article. My guess is that as staid white billionaires in their seventies, they’re probably not considered sexy enough to get coverage.
Charles and David Koch are the sons of Fred Koch, a multi-millionaire who passed on his considerable fortune to his four sons. Fred Koch was an engineer who developed a new and better way of refining crude oil into gasoline. The story goes that Fred shopped his idea around to the big oil companies in the United States and was summarily turned down by all of them in 1927. Supposedly, the big oil companies regarded Fred Koch as a threat and shut him out of the oil industry altogether.
That’s when Fred Koch went to Stalinist Russia and built a bunch of way more efficient oil refineries over there. This profitable relationship might have gone on indefinitely had not Stalin decided to banish many of Koch’s Soviet co-workers during his years in the Soviet Union. Koch was deeply affected by their loss, was immediately sorry that he had ever partnered with the communist country, and came back home, fiercely anti-Communist in his philosophies.
Fred Koch, in the years leading up to the Second World War, heaped praise on Mussolini and warned that a civil rights movement in America would lead to a communist uprising. He made a speech in 1963 in which he claimed that Communists would eventually unknowingly infiltrate even America’s highest political offices.
After Fred Koch died in 1967, two of the brothers fought two of the other brothers for control of their father’s company. In 1980, William, thinking that Charles was assuming sole control without any deference to the other brothers, tried to take over control of the company. Freddie, the oldest brother, was an artist and supposedly a disappointment to their father. He sided with William, who was the twin brother of David. David, an affable playboy who moved to New York City, and agreed ideologically with his brother Charles, sided, of course, with Charles. A legal battle ensued and ended in 1983 when Charles and David bought out William and Freddie’s shares of the company. The feud was so bitter that the warring brothers would not speak with each other at their own mother’s funeral.
The company was named Koch Industries in 1967 upon their father’s death, and it is one of the largest privately owned companies in the world. Charles and David’s combined fortunes are third only to those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Bet you’ve heard of them. Koch Industries makes most of its money from oil, but they also own Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Stainmaster carpet, Georgia Pacific Lumber, and Lycra. Bet you’ve heard of them, too.
Both Charles and David were heavily influenced by their father’s views, and they became staunch Libertarians. In their opinions, government and government interference, were the enemy. They do not believe in social services, and they think that The New Deal was the worst thing that ever happened to this country, which means that they disapprove of Social Security, among other things. Needless to say, they do not approve of taxes.
In 1979, Charles convinced David to run for political office. David definitely had the personality for it as he was a likeable and nice looking guy, described by others as amiable and less rough edged than his brother Charles. He also definitely had the money for it. He could have funded his own political campaign even without the backing of another single living soul. David ran in the Vice Presidential slot for the Libertarian campaign. Their slogan was, “The Libertarian Party has only one source of funds: You.” In truth, it was more like the Libertarian Party had only one source of funds: David Koch.
The Libertarian Party, of course, did not take the White House in 1980. What the Kochs learned from the experience was that the way to affect the kind of change they wanted to see in America was not to run for political office. They did not have the kind of grassroots support for their vision of America that is needed to win an election. What they could do, however, was to subtly influence popular culture by funding an enormous number of non-profits, think tanks, and academics to lobby and write scholarly opinions in support of their political goals. And, of course, their political goals are in support of the profit margins of Koch Industries.
Jane Mayer’s expose on the Koch brothers gives a quote at the beginning of the article, from Charles Lewis of the nonpartisan watchdog group, Center for Public Integrity. Lewis says of the Koch brothers, “There’s no one else who has spent this much money…They have a pattern of lawbreaking, political manipulation, and obfuscation…They are the Standard Oil of our times.”
In 2004, David Koch founded a group called Americans for Prosperity, a group that provided training for future Tea Party crusaders. Peggy Venable, the leader of the Americans for Prosperity, a woman who has been on the Koch payroll since 1994, readily admits that although the Tea Party has not been directly funded by the Kochs or their business entities, the purpose of Americans for Prosperity is to provide Tea Partiers with the education, policy details, and political energy to be effective. Americans for Prosperity also provides them with a list of which politicians they should channel their energies toward defeating. It’s a form of political manipulation, faintly reminiscent of The Manchurian Candidate.
The Kochs, in addition to heavily influencing the “grassroots” Tea Party movement, also fund other groups that further their own interests, including the Cato Institute, a think tank dedicated to funding and completing research that always supports the foregone conclusion that Global Warming doesn’t exist. They consistently lobby against environmental control or reform, oppose alternative energy sources to fossil fuels, and funnel huge amounts of money to The Mercatus Center through charitable donations to George Mason University.
The Mercatus Center is a hugely politically influential think tank. Many policy changes implemented by the George W. Bush administration were first proposed by the brains at The Mercatus Center. What is their favorite target? The Mercatus Center writes a lot of opinions critical of The Environmental Protection Agency. Koch Industries is constantly in trouble with the E.P.A. Does anyone think this is a coincidence?
I wonder why anyone with as much money as the Kochs have feels the need to manipulate the system to create more wealth for themselves. Why take shortcuts with the environment when you could use some of the huge amounts of money that is being funneled to politicians and think tanks and instead channel it into creating alternative fuels or use it to meet existing environmental regulations instead of trying to shortcut or circumvent the system?
It seems to me that the Koch brothers are trying to emulate their father in their political aims, and they are totally forgetting that their father was an original thinker. He invented a more efficient way of refining oil. Why don’t David and Charles take that same energy and passion and direct it into creating alternative forms of energy that are less harmful for our environment? Think outside the box.
I remember where I was nine years ago when I found out about 9/11. I was in a car on my way to work. I was driving to my job at the basement of an office building on Lamar & Martin Luther King. I was working for a tiny company that sold and produced on hold messages.
The radio, on my way in, was saying that an airplane had flown into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. I wondered if it was a joke. Although, who in the world would joke about a thing like that? I think it was just the shock of it all.
When I got in to work that morning, none of us was working. We were all huddled around TVs and monitors. We shared office space with a small production company that did primarily advertising work in radio and television. A lot of editing equipment and audio-visual components surrounded us, and there was no shortage of ways to watch the coverage.
I saw “live” coverage of the second plane running into the building. I saw television coverage of the whole event and the aftermath over and over and over again until you were almost, but not quite, desensitized to it all. The smoke, the broken glass, the bodies falling or jumping, the rescue workers in masks, rubble, people, blood. I cried.
And after the shock wore off: anger, rage. And this didn’t even happen to me. I didn’t even live in New York City. I lived in Austin, Texas. Thousands of miles away. But this is America, and what happened in New York City felt like a very personal violation to us all.
In the months following the attack, my government lied to me. They outright lied and told me that Saddam Hussein was behind the bombing. The government of Iraq was undeniably linked to the money trail. Intelligence sources had confirmed. Even Colin Powell looked into a camera and lied to me. And I bought into that lie, hook, line and sinker.
We sent our boys over there to die in order to secure oil, not to prevent terrorism or to exact revenge. It was about money, plain and simple. Cheney’s buddies made a lot of money off of war profiteering. And in the end, much like with the recent financial crisis, the real bad guys will get off scott free. The lesson I learned is that the good guys, the winners, are the ones with money.
We’re still not out of Iraq or Afghanistan, despite the fact that I helped elect a new President to his post based in part on the promise he made me that we would leave. He promised to send our boys home. They’re still being sent there. Osama is still hiding out in a cave somewhere. Our boys are still coming home in body bags. For how much longer are we going to continue to find this acceptable?
Pompous and ignorant windbags in Florida get their fifteen minutes of fame for threatening to burn a Quran. People get up in arms over a proposed “Ground Zero Mosque” that’s really an Islamic Community Center, nowhere near Ground Zero. Our President gets accused of being a Muslim, as if which religion he practices, let alone whether he has a faith at all, can qualify or disqualify him for higher office. We shame those people who died in 9/11. They must turn in their graves.
Holly Golightly coined the phrase The Mean Reds. Instead of having the blues she had the mean reds. Sometimes I think that I have the mean reds. To me, it’s like an extreme form of the blues. It’s like being suddenly and inexplicably depressed. There’s no reason to it. It can last for a day or several days or even several weeks.
There are thoughts that play through my head. The thoughts are like this. I am somehow unlovable. I will die alone. I will never have sex again unless a mortician molests my dead body. They will find my dead body partially eaten by my dog. There is no point to life. Why do I get out of bed in the morning? I used to think I was special, and I would do something great with my life, but the truth is that I’m just ordinary. My life has no purpose or meaning. The things I wanted out of life will never be mine. I can’t even get the consolation prizes that should automatically be mine. The rules of the universe change in order to bring me disappointment. Why do I even try?
This is the soundtrack in my mind. I am dangerous when I get like this. I say things that provoke arguments. I misunderstand what’s said to me. I attribute the worst meaning possible to innocuous statements. I should just refuse to speak with people when I have the mean reds. I should write letters of apology in advance.