- - Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dear Hef

“All of which might be rather more touching if the prospective groom was not Playboy tycoon Hugh Hefner who, at 84, is 60 years older than his fiancee, a platinum blonde model named Crystal Harris. … His image as a fast-living Lothario has done much to make a success of the Playboy brand, and news of his impending nuptials to a woman young enough to be his great-granddaughter will further promote the idea of him as a lovable old rascal …

“This is certainly the image Hefner likes to project to the celebrities drawn to his lavishly debauched parties at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles … Charlie Sheen, Leonardo DiCaprio and Colin Farrell are among the stars who have enjoyed romps at the Mansion, according to a kiss-and-tell memoir by Izabella St. James, a former member of the ever-changing bevy of pneumatic blondes with whom Hefner shares his home. …

“But unfortunately for Hefner, some of his former ‘girlfriends,’ as he calls them, have become disenchanted with life in his harem over the years. One by one they have revealed what life was like behind the glittering facade of the Playboy Mansion. According to them, it disguises a grubby world where some girls feel they are no better than prostitutes, paid pocket money by an octogenarian obsessive who funds plastic surgery to turn them into his physical ideal, and yet must still take huge amounts of Viagra to manage sex with them.”

David Leafe, writing on “Playboy mansion? More like a squalid prison” on Dec. 31 at the Daily Mail

Don’t follow

“Did you know that the phrase made ubiquitous by [‘All the President’s Men’] — ‘follow the money’ — and which has become one of those immutable Laws of the Universe uttered by know-it-all barroom bores throughout the Western world, was never actually uttered by any of the major players in the story? It sounds ingenious, but turns out to be less than infallible advice, like that old wives’ tale that you should always put butter on a burn.

“(A similar phenomenon flowered in the wake of that other 1970s creation, ‘The Godfather’: authentic mafia dons sent bottles of wine to Mario Puzo’s tables for decades, marveling that he’d related their ‘ancient initiation rituals’ and insider jargon so accurately — rituals and jargon that Puzo … had hurriedly invented, and the real Mafia had since adopted as canonical. And seriously: is there any more dubious, untested folk ‘wisdom’ — besides ‘follow the money’ — than ‘leave the gun, take the cannoli’ or ‘keep your friends close, and your enemies closer’?)”

Kathy Shaidle, writing on “All the Cinema’s Spawn,” on Jan. 1 at the NewsReal Blog

Pop artists

“For some, mainly European, early filmmakers, the motion picture was a medium; for others, mostly American, the motion picture was a mass medium — the mass medium. The latter filmmakers, including D.W. Griffith and Charles Chaplin, were popular artists who saw the new mass audience as a larger version of the traditional theatrical public; for a mysterious few, that larger public (and, thus, the nature of mass-produced entertainment) would be a subject in itself.

“To these directors, motion pictures were not simply dramatized stories but consumer products that — predicated on promotional gimmicks and artfully constructed publicity, trafficking in trademarks and merchandised personalities, including those of the filmmakers — epitomized a particular system. Because their movies were, in essence, self-aware mass-produced consumer products, such filmmakers were, in effect, Pop artists before Pop art. Their prototype was Orson Welles (1915-1985), who was already a celebrity when he made his first feature, ‘Citizen Kane,’ in 1941.”

Jim Hoberman, writing on “Pop Before Pop: Welles, Sirk and Hitchcock,” in the January issue of Artforum

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