Nancy Jo Sales published “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” in Vanity Fair in March of 2010. Sofia Coppola announced optioning the article by December of 2011; Emma Watson was cast by February of 2012; the resulting movie, The Bling Ring, opens in a month. But first! Tomorrow comes The Bling Ring—the book. Nancy Jo Sales started afresh. She already had, after all, endless hours of interviews with the crowd of young people in Southern California who burgled celebrity homes. In case you missed the original story, or have buried its fuzzy outline under later tabloid scandals, the case concerns five kiddos (and two friends who did reselling) who best liked to steal outfits, shoes, photos, watches and anything else that felt personal. And they did it quite a bit: they hit Brian Austin Green’s house just a week after Lindsay Lohan’s house, back in August of 2009. Poor Brian Austin Green!
I stepped in it earlier this week when, as I was trying to say something about the economics of media, I mischaracterized NSFWCORP’s business. Paul Carr, their CEO, replied, I apologized to Carr in the comments, he accepted that apology, and, mercenary bastard that he is, even found a way to extract reparations, via the Conflict Tower, which turns conflict-of-interest reporting into a revenue stream.
So, with that all settled and a parade of rainbow-flavored unicorns once again frolicking in the dells of New Media Land, let me take another stab at what I wanted to say about the media business and what we can—and can’t—learn from NSFWCORP. The last thing anyone needs is more concern-trolling about mainstream media, so here’s some now.
You can’t understand NSFWCORP without understanding Las Vegas, and not just Vegas in general, but Vegas right now. And you can’t understand Vegas right now without understanding the Downtown Project, Tony Hsieh’s moonshot-scale attempt at bootstrapping a thriving cultural hub, no small job in a city where electronic dance music counts as high art.
I was barely a moment inside Walmart, studying the cucumbers and avocados, when a middle-aged man came up to say hi.
We started talking about the oil boom sweeping Williston, North Dakota. He said his coworkers were losing it out here in the middle of nowhere. Maybe he would lose it too.
“You gotta really be focused on your shit,” he said. “And it’s hard. And on that note, that’s why you should let me take you to dinner.”
I declined. He called later that evening to ask me on a date. He said he’d take me to Pizza Hut. I was not pining for a rendezvous with a roustabout that I did not know, so I invented other plans. He phoned twice more.
Other women in Williston warned me this would happen. They said they couldn’t go anywhere alone without receiving an offer of some kind from an oil worker. They said the 24-hour retailer on Route 2 was the worst. The parking lot was crammed with cars bearing license plates from dozens of states, any time of day, as guys poured in from all over the country to make their fortune.
Working in Minneapolis, I’d come across stories about the wild impact of the discovery of billions of barrels of oil in western North Dakota. The high-paying jobs. Once quiet farm roads now straining with traffic. Crime. Rents on par with Manhattan.
And another remarkable effect that only came into focus when I visited Williston myself: an influx of men—single men, married men, overworked men, lonely men, men with big dreams, men who keep their heads down and men who cause trouble—has made it an overwhelming place to be female.
Whether godless or godly, we all consult a private pantheon of authorities, living or dead, to gauge our comportment. We read ethics columns on subway trains and in cafes for vicarious solutions to our secret troubles. Since the days of Dear Abby and Ann Landers, the availability of emotional and behavioral self-help information has grown exponentially. In the digital age, now adrift in a wide, shallow sea of media outlets, wondering where to turn for advice only increases our anxiety. Cable TV and the Internet have left us splintered and atomized; they’ve negated the comforting clarity of our few favorite go-to gurus.
One such erstwhile guru has just left us for official divinity. You probably hadn’t seen Dr. Joyce Brothers on the small screen in a while (though you may still catch the AlertUSA emergency response ad in some TV markets) and were perhaps surprised that she had been yet among us. But if you are of a certain age, she was already wedged into your psyche, an unacknowledged aspect of your superego guiding your attitudes and behavior. For a significant hunk of the 20th century, millions of us asked: “What Would Dr. Joyce Brothers Do?”
Not that you asked, but when it comes to the more Labor-Intensive aspect of availing myself of the Facilities, as it were, I generally prefer to handle my Business, if you will, at home, in the privacy therein and so forth. Every once in awhile, in my workaday world, in an extreme circumstance, I may find a need to be alone with my thoughts while in an office environment, uncomfortable as I may be with the entire process. It helps to read most of this in a phony English accent, I think, like one of those powdered-wig lawyers on Public Television. Go on, start over and see if it helps. No? Worse? Yeah, sorry, at this point, I am starting to hallucinate-smell some of those “air freshener” things in Public Restrooms, bleagh. Anyway.
I’m not trying to bring this up to make anybody feel bad or anything, it’s all natural and whatever, and when you feel the need, you should be Taking Care of Business, don’t put any additional strain on yourself, you know? It’s not healthy. I’m addressing the worst, emergency-level aspect of “Needing a Loo,” in the words of the “Patsy” character on “Absolutely Fabulous,” which might be why I think about going to a Public Restroom in an English Accent, I dunno. I don’t think the subject has ever come up on “Doctor Who,” you know? It’d probably just be a sound-effect. Maybe on “Downton Abbey,” but I haven’t watched too many of those.
Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale in New York City… fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.
On April Fool’s Day in 1896, the Musée du Louvre issued an announcement: For 200,000 francs, they had acquired an ancient Greek tiara that once belonged to the Scythian King Saitapharnes. It was decorated with scenes from the Iliad and bore an inscription experts at the museum dated from late 3rd to early 2nd century B.C.E.
The Louvre proudly placed the Tiara of Saitaferne on exhibition, and scholars and connoisseurs travelled from all over the world to see the artifact. What began as a whisper in front of the display quickly turned into allegations echoing throughout the 1st arrondissement, and then far beyond. Leading archeologists declared it to be entirely bogus, a forgery crafted far from the Eurasian Steppes, and certainly long after the Iron Age.
The museum responded to aspersions cast about by experts with sharp reproach, but they nonetheless began quietly making house calls to preeminent craftsman. Eventually, a specialist’s attention turned to Israel Rouchomovsky, in Odessa.
At the age of 15, King Edward VI was dying. For his last act as king, he excluded both of his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, from the line of succession. (To get Mary out of the line, he had to ditch them both.) His Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey, was named the Queen of England.
Two days after his death, Mary raised an army of nearly twenty thousand. It took just nine days for Mary—the only child born to Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon—to correct her half-brother’s final request. Coercion by force was an effective instrument, and it would come to define her reign.
At 37, Mary finally got that throne, and she intended to stay to there.
The Queen was indeed her father’s daughter, but she would avenge her mother’s unceremonious banishment, and restore the kingdom to the sovereign nation she was born into: England would once again be Catholic, Spain would be an ally, and threats to monarchy would be quelled immediately.
In the introduction to Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette, first published in 1952, the author asks: “Who needs a book of etiquette?” Her answer: “Everyone does.” The question has not aged well. She should have inquired of the future: “Who needs this 60-year-old etiquette book?” The answer: “Society people in 2013, because they wear tennis shoes outside of the racquet club.”
Ms. Vanderbilt was too accommodating to the march of time, as the 1962 edition of her book included a section on bowling. Perhaps she should have also detailed the proper manners for youths who wish to pass drug cigarettes around the unisex bathroom whilst between frames. I’m fairly sure it goes to the left, but the procedure may vary regionally. Anyway, I don’t mean to become angered at Ms. Vanderbilt. She was fighting the good fight, but, being dead since 1974, she didn’t have opportunity to see the awful place to which the upper crust was headed. For example: who hasn’t nearly fainted upon hearing a viscount addressed by his first name? People who aren’t around viscounts often, but we’re not worried about them. The true concern is that people whose whole purpose in life is to carry the flame of tradition have forgotten to do exactly that. No, you may not rise until after the fruit course, or are we in an army mess?
The more obvious transgressions of propriety—low-hanging dungarees, tattoos on the non-Māori, lindy-hopping—are not worth addressing. We need the masses to be improper so as to better define the mannered class. Imagine if everyone had starched collars. How would we figure out, based on collar stiffness, who is meant to control the world? The situation today, of course, is the converse: everyone’s collars are limp because those who once stiffened them no longer do. (This actually occurred during Ms. Vanderbilt’s time: “A revolution has taken place… in the matter of the proper shirt to wear with a dinner jacket.”) Ideally, we would put the average blue blood in a time machine so he can relearn the notions that once set him apart.
I know it’s only April, but I wanted to get a jump on the Commencement Addresses for various Colleges, Junior Colleges, Trade Schools, and other institutions of Higher Learning, while reminding everyone I am available for such speaking engagements, to inform and inspire the Youth.
Here is the “Uncorrected Proof” of my current address to the Recent Graduate. It helps to imagine it being read in a shouting voice.
“See your future, be your future” is not just a line one may quote from the movie Caddyshack, starring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Rodney Dangerfield, it is a Way to live one’s life. Like millions of people, I bet, I employ a method of Positive Visualization in my life. One makes pictures in one’s mind of One doing the stuff one wants to Accomplish.
In light of all the recent unpleasantness and the even more-recent, it’s easy to make fun of this Method, but when I say Positive Visualization, I mean for Positivity, not for Bad Things, OK? There’s enough Bad Things, let’s have Good Things. Please stop picturing somebody employing my Positive method for Bad Things. If you can’t stop, please excuse yourself so the rest of us can Evolve, OK? Things can always be Bad! That’s the Default Position! We gotta go Positive!