- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2003

Celebrity perp

“I’ve always been a fan of Martha Stewart’s, full of admiration for the extraordinary success she made of her life. I also happen to be a friend of hers. A couple of years back I was staying at her beautiful house in Seal Harbor, Maine. … We had finished lunch on the terrace. ‘This is fantastic, Martha,’ I said, taking in the perfection of the scene — the view, the gray-stone mansion, the pink-pebbled driveway, the yacht-filled harbor below. She replied simply, without a trace of braggadocio, ‘Twenty years ago, I was a cateress.’

“I kept thinking of that moment as I watched her on television on the rainy day of her indictment on nine counts, holding her white umbrella high over her head as she made her way through the throngs of reporters, photographers, and cameramen. Was it really necessary for the Feds to put this American legend through such a shameful ordeal? When they went on television to justify their actions, they sounded like bullyboys to me, picking on a woman who was a celebrity. Martha Stewart didn’t hurt anyone but herself. She’s going to fight, and I’m going to be rooting for her.”

Dominick Dunne, writing on “Power and Punishment,” in the August issue of Vanity Fair

Name game

“Names weren’t always subject to fashion. About half of all boys born in Raleigh Colony were named John, Thomas or William, and more than half of newborn girls in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were named Mary, Elizabeth or Sarah. …

“These days, even a popular name isn’t especially prevalent: though the name was ranked fourth, there were only about 16,300 Emmas born last year. …

“Parents continue to be more conventional with their sons, more conscious of tradition and generational continuity. Girls’ names are more likely to be chosen for style and beauty. …

“[Harvard sociologist Stanley] Lieberson, the author of ‘A Matter of Taste: How Names, Fashions and Culture Change,’ insists that names generally rise and fall independent of larger cultural or historical events. Consider the resurgence of biblical names. ‘They came back like gangbusters in the late 20th century,’ Lieberson says. ‘There was speculation that it was related to a resurgence of religion. But people who use Old Testament names are, if anything, less religious in their behavior than those who don’t. It’s just fashion.’ …

“By the late 1980s, there were three Old Testament names among the top slots: Rachel, Sarah and Rebecca. Now it’s Hannah, Abigail and Sarah, with Leah … as the only potential replacement.”

Peggy Orenstein, writing on “Where Have All the Lisas Gone?” in the July 6 issue of the New York Times Magazine

The last star

“The old gods are gone now.

“Katharine Hepburn died on June 29 … and with her goes the star system of Hollywood’s golden age — the faces that dominated a century. Bogart, Garbo, Cary Grant, Bette Davis, Jimmy Stewart: Hepburn outlasted them all, and she did it with the flinty, vibrant stubbornness that fueled her every on-screen moment. … Who is there to tell us how it was anymore? No one, and so the shiny youth of American film passes into history.

“Modern Hollywood, whose films are to the studio-era classics as videogames are to illuminated manuscripts, knows what it has lost. Throughout the industry, filmmakers and actors spoke of what Hepburn meant to them. …

“The great irony, of course, is that Hepburn was initially scorned in Hollywood as an arrogant outsider. Fascinating and mannered, she was rich cake for many Depression-era moviegoers, and her career suffered a severe setback when she was labeled ‘box-office poison’ by an influential exhibitor in 1938.”

Ty Burr, writing on “Katharine Hepburn, 1907-2003,” in the July 11 issue of Entertainment Weekly

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