Celebrities

How Geena Davis Made Retail Work for Her

It is hard to imagine the superhuman Geena Davis doing something as mundane as working in retail. After all, she is six feet tall, with skin like living marble and eyes of fire. And yet this goddess, like so many of us earthworms, began her career behind a cash register at middle-of-the-road women’s clothing store Ann Taylor. It is what happened next that shows her supremacy:

“One time there was a window display where the mannequins were sitting at a table eating plastic food,” Davis tells NPR. “There was one empty chair, and I kept looking at the window.” She asked her co-workers if she should go sit in the empty chair. They advised against it. But Davis sat in the chair anyway.

“Somebody saw me do that, and then he stopped to see what was now going to happen. But I just froze,” Davis says. “I didn’t know, but I had an uncanny ability to be still.” Eventually, a crowd gathered on the sidewalk outside the window display. She could hear the comments from the onlookers, who couldn’t tell if she was real or fake. “When I felt like their attention was drifting, I would move kind of like a robot,” she says. “But then somebody said, ‘Well, that’s not an electric mannequin because it’s not plugged in.’ “

So the next time she sat in a window display, she put a tiny wire down her leg. “Because it was really subtle, it really worked,” she says.

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How Taylor Swift Does Money

Swift has moved to New York City and bought a Tribeca apartment in a premiere apartment building. Well, she bought two, but one’s merely a parenthetical.

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Happy Ada Lovelace / Women in Tech Day! Let’s Learn History

Babbage, you may remember, was the mathematician forefather of the computer; Turing helped win WWII; and Byron was a terminally Romantic pansexual poet.

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A Billion Dollars in an Elevator: Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Business of Being Pop Culture Royalty

The footage of the fight went viral in part because we rarely see Beyoncé and Jay Z in situations that they do not control. But I’m not interested in the elevator; for me, Beyoncé’s version of damage control was much more captivating than the damage itself.

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First Jobs of Famous People: Gerard Depardieu

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Gerard Depardieu is a little nutsy. After all, isn’t he the dude that was so outraged by the idea of paying taxes to his native France that he fled to Russia, and who claims to subsist on 14 bottles of wine a day? (Yes and yes.)

Well, according to Vanity Fair, he has written a memoir — sadly not yet available in English — in which he is candid about his days as a young grave-robbing, car-stealing, john-robbing thug:

In addition to stealing a car in his teen years—for which he went to prison—the actor claims that he also helped a man rob graves, digging up newly buried bodies and stealing jewelry and shoes from them. “At 20, the thug in me was alive and kicking,” he continues. Still working as a male escort, he writes, “I would rip some of [my clients] off. I would beat up some bloke and leave with all his money.”

It is precisely this hardened side of Depardieu that the actor says attracted Russian president Vladimir Putin, whom he now claims as a friend. “We could have both become hoodlums. . . . I think he immediately liked my hooligan side . . . the fact that I had occasionally been picked up off the pavement dead drunk.” Depardieu writes that his luck did not change in France until a gay theater talent spotter offered to pay for Depardieu to study drama.

Grave robbing can be a semi-noble pursuit: medical students used to have to sneak out to cemeteries at night to exhume bodies for research. It’s certainly one of the more challenging and unusual first jobs I can imagine. And in ineffable ways it probably prepares one well for being BFFs later on with one of the world’s most repellent plutocrats.

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Let’s Enjoy Pictures of Men in Suits

Although this excellent piece of satire about the power of men in suits to reduce godly women and other interested parties to quivering gobs of lust appeared several months ago, I only stumbled upon it now. (See what I did there?)

Listen, as a woman I’m an emotional creature. I want to feel protected and safe, and nothing screams “I am a MAN and I will protect you” like a suit and tie. I can’t help it, that’s just how I’m wired. It’s science. LOOK IT UP. Now I know what you might be saying: “Well, isn’t it YOUR responsibility to control your thoughts around men?” Of COURSE. We are all called to rid our thoughts of lust. But again, as my brothers in Christ, is it asking too much of you to simply be more attentive to what you wear?

If the purpose of our clothes is to glorify God, how are you doing so by wearing something that obviously causes others to sin in their minds? Yes, it is everyone’s job to control their own eyes, but you ALSO have a responsibility to not give them reason to sin. … But, what if my job requires me to wear a suit? WELL, CLEARLY YOU NEED TO FIND ANOTHER JOB.

In case you too missed this excellent piece of journalism, I offer it now because there is nothing better to do on a Monday morning than gaze adoringly at the Lord’s creation. Also because it gives us an excuse to talk about suits!

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Job of the Day: Stuntman, Best Boy, Gaffer, Grip

Asking you ever wanted to know about what film industry jobs pay, or don’t pay, as the case may be, you can find out in this fascinating Hollywood Reporter dissection of salaries. For instance, Jonah Hill only got paid $60K for his Oscar-nominated role in The Wolf of Wall Street. Leo, by contrast, made more than $25 million.

Lest you harbor any fantasies that it’s a meritocracy over there in Tinseltown, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson made a mind-boggling $52 million this past year, and “Crystal the monkey earned $108,000 in 2012 for appearing in nine episodes of NBC’s Animal Practice.” Well, at least she earned it. 

Entertainment lawyers easily make $2m – $5m a year. Extras make $148 a day and more if have to abase themselves by wearing a hairpiece. The white dudes in charge of late night are doing fine. Did you know Colbert makes $15m at Comedy Central and is set to make even more when he moves to network TV? But that’s still chump change compared to some: “The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart remains the top earner at $25 million to $30 million a year.” 

Producers do quite nicely. Publicists, not so much. And as for stunt men, well, that’s basically a labor of love:

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‘The Toast is a Business That Makes Money’

We are Toast aficionados around here, as is well-established. We respect their off-kilter genius for producing actual, much needed, novel #content like this, Unhappy Mothers in Western Art History, which makes me break down and cry in a coffee shop for reasons inscrutable to everyone but my therapist, and maybe even her, though I pay her out of pocket to be the most insightful woman alive.

As you have probably heard, the Toast announced this week that it has merged with / acquired another off-kilter genius and Billfold favorite, novelist, essayist, and Public Intellectual Worth Listening To Roxane Gay, for its new vertical, the Butter. This is a marriage worth celebrating with elephants and dancing.

But although this latest successful development has been celebrated by some mainstream outlets like Fast Company, it remains curiously overlooked, or not quite taken seriously, in other arenas. Mallory has noticed, and is a little spiky about it:

Were you aware that the Toast is in fact, a business? A business that is in the habit of making money? That Nicole and I are not just a pair of gals who decided to start a fun, free club in our spare time, but in fact Women of Business who self-funded our own media network?

Although I can’t explain this phenomenon, I can offer some corroboration.

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“Behind Every Jane Jacobs Comes Giuliani with his Nightstick.”

Mueller’s painting with too broad a brush. Not so much a broad brush, even: a flamethrower.

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Paula Deen is Back, Y’all!

One of my favorite longform internet-type writers, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, has a profile of the new-and-improved Paula Deen business empire, built on ashes and martyrdom and Southern charm:

a new company had been announced— Paula Deen Ventures—which had been bankrolled to the tune of a reported $75 to $100 million by an investor named Jahm Najafi. His website says he “seeks to make strategic investments in undervalued assets,” but really, homeboy loves a fire sale: he was the last known owner of Book of the Month Club and BMG Music Service — you remember, 12 tapes for a penny — and in 2011 considered buying Borders, which had dwindled to 405 all-but-dead stores. He specializes in businesses that still have some juice in them; he doesn’t care how much because he buys them so cheap and a profit is a profit. (You can only imagine how quickly calls made to the Najafi headquarters were not returned for this story. Paula Deen’s publicists also denied my many interview requests on the boat and after; they did not respond to our many fact-checking queries.)

And there is still profit to be squeezed from the Paula Deen brand. Deen’s products — through collaborations with Meyer Corporation, among others—had seen a reported 35 percent sales increase in the first two quarters of this year; subscriptions to her magazine reportedly grew by 40 percent. (For perspective, in those two quarters, paid subscriptions for magazines in general faltered 1.8 percent and single-copy newsstand sales fell a significant 11.9 percent from a year before.)

There are many fascinating facts embedded in this essay. For one, it can cost $75,000 per episode to make a cooking show. How is that ever profitable or worth it? For another, Glenn Beck sells discounted NRA subscriptions. Mostly though it’s an interesting story about a self-made woman who publicly self-destructed and is now trying to self-make again, in part by drawing on the sympathy of folks like her with a soft spot for butter. An American tale, indeed.

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Who Are Our Favorite Rich People?

George Clooney wasn’t the only wealthy dude to get married this weekend. According to the Vows section, a Vanderbilt just tied the knot.

Meghan Marie Knutson, a daughter of Debra L. Knutson and Terry K. Knutson of Burnsville, Minn., was married Saturday to Travis Murray Vanderbilt, a son of Alison Platten Vanderbilt and Alfred G. Vanderbilt III of Norwalk, Conn. Jordan B. Hansen, a friend of the couple and a Universal Life minister, officiated …  The groom is a descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

He seems like a nice guy, too, despite having been raised in Connecticut.

We all have our favorite rich people: the honorable and now dear departed Mitford sisters, for example (#TeamDecca), or Ebenezer Scrooge, because that’s the best name ever, nobody names ‘em like Dickens. Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt – Union hero, transportation magnate, and the 2nd or 3rd wealthiest American ever, bless his whiskered heart – is one of mine. His financial backing allowed Victoria Woodhull, first lady of American awesomeness, to set up shop with her sister Tennie on Wall Street. Behind them, on the office wall, they hung one picture of Jesus and another of “Com.”

Victoria may have been sleeping with him. Tennie certainly was. But Com also respected both sisters a great deal. He was a savvy businessman; he didn’t part with money except where he expected to see profit, and indeed the sisters made about $700,000. Not bad for the first American women stockbrokers. 

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