Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tabloid Baby's Person of The Year for 2008

Brett Hudson

Tabloid Baby's 2008 Person of The Year

“I want to show that when it comes to cancer,
there are alternatives, and recovery begins
when you take your destiny into your own hands.”

Thirty years ago, Brett Hudson was an "Apple Pie Hero," an All-American pop star with hit records, sold-out concert appearances, several television comedy series and starring roles in movies. As a third of The Hudson Brothers, he'd have no idea the kind of hero he'd become in 2008, as he shared the story of his battle with throat cancer and spread the news of treatments available to those who are able to look beyond the practices of the American medical and pharmaceutical establishments.

Brett Hudson is well-known in Hollywood. Everybody knows Brett Hudson. Since The Hudson Brothers hung up their guitars and matching sweaters in the early Eighties, he's forged a successful and influential career as a television and movie writer and producer. From the cult movie Hysterical to the sports comedy classic Cloud 9, from the landmark comedy series Offshore Television to his groundbreaking documentary work with Frozen Pictures, he's a skilled professional, visionary, mentor-- and one hell of a raconteur.

But it was his decision to seek alternative treatments after a cancer diagnosis in the summer of 2007 that led him on a course that's saving lives and giving hope to thousands of Americans who had been told that death was the only answer.

It began when he set about turning his ordeal into a documentary project. The Klinik tells an only-in-Hollywood story that is finally rubbing off on the rest of the country.

As it states on the project's website:

"...After weeks of grueling chemotherapy that shrunk his frame, took his hair, sapped his energy and wracked him with nausea that no medical marijuana could ease, all he could look forward to were brutal radiation treatments that would do irreparable damage to his body… possibly take his voice… or even kill him.

"And then he got a call from Cher.

"Yes, that Cher.

"Brett’s old friend from his days as a Seventies television star told him there was a better way. It wasn’t the American way. But it was a way that could kill his cancer-- and not kill him in the process. The treatment would be far more precise and less invasive than what is offered in the States. It would attack the tumor and not batter his body. Brett wouldn’t lose his taste buds, his larynx, or have to learn to swallow again...

"Days before he was set to be strapped to a table in Los Angeles for the first of seventy radiation blasts, Brett Hudson booked his trip. His destination: a small private hospital in a charming village at the foot of the Alps: The Klinik."

Key to his influence is a blog on that Klinik movie site, in which he shares his experiences, frustrations with insurance providers, medical treatments and progress-- and, beginning with a shocking installment on November 7th, his current radiation and chemotherapy regimens after additional cancer cells were detected.

All of this life-changing business happened to coincide-- and in fact, push along-- plans for an unexpected reunion of the Hudson Brothers. While brother Bill Hudson (Kate Hudson's dad) finished his first-ever solo album, Brett and brother Mark appeared at Beatles fans conventions in Las Vegas and Chicago. Mark told the legions of fans about Brett's fight, and within days he'd become a lightning rod for people across the country.

And even though Brett Hudson continues his recovery through a brutal regimen, he spends hours on the phone and online with strangers, leading them in directions they might never have expected or hoped for.

Talk about using your celebrity, influence and fame for doing good.

Check in with Brett Hudson's blog and watch for The Klinik.

Fan art:

Tabloid Baby's 2008 Journalist of The Year

Elli Wohlgelernter
Tabloid Baby's 2008 Journalist of The Year

You know him as Our Man Elli in Israel. Television viewers and newspaper readers in Israel know him by the sign-off and byline of Elli Wohlgelernter. We've known him for 27 years as Elli, the New York Super Jew, Woody Allen's brain in the body of Tony Roberts, the rabbi's kid from the Columbia J School who wound up at the New York Post, then the desk at Channel 5's legendary 10 O'Clock News, then on to a cross-country and ultimately international journey that would land him in jobs on weekly newspapers, at television stations, in Hollywood and ultimately lead him to Jerusalem, where he settled 17 years ago, started a family, ended a marriage, and in 2006 embarked on a solitary journalistic grind that influenced the future of a nation and a sport.

Elli's coverage of the machinations behind the Israel Baseball League led to great anger among his countrymen, resentment by his colleagues and a concerted effort by his story subjects to smear him.

But for close to three years now, he's followed the story, exposed the scandals, protected lives and broke news on a momentous saga that the rest of the world media has yet to come to grips with.

And he did it for free.

The relevance? Go to our Baseball in Israel archival site and read the entirety of his Israeli baseball coverage. Then look to the recent arrest of Bernard Madoff, the Wall Street macher who allegedly bilked his fellow American Jews of 50 billion dollars.

The scope of the baseball story is not nearly so large, and the charges are not criminal, but the parallels are many. And the chutzpah is unmatched.

Elli's nation is at war this week, and his attentions are elsewhere. But as he looks toward Gaza, his IBL reportage lays the groundwork for other journalists and historians to dig even deeper, and (along with a change in rules that allows Internet journalism) rightfully led to his nomination for a Pulitzer Prize in 2009.

It also seals his position as Tabloid Baby's 2008 Journalist of The Year.

The Person of the Year?

Stay tuned...

Who will be Tabloid Baby's Journalist of The Year and Person of The Year for 2008?

When we give out our year-end honors, we wait for the end of the year. We don't write them up in November or agree on the finalists when there are still four weeks in the year to go and miss out on the most choice contenders, as happens with so many death roll calls (see The New York Times Magazine). So now, with mere hours left in 2008, we figure it's time to add up the votes from the Tabloid Baby staff, readers and pals and announce our people of the year.

To be honest, last year's Person of The Year and Journalist of The Year contained a tinge of journalistic cynicism amongst the optimism, but both turned out to be pretty good harbingers and influences for 2008.

Our Journalist of The Year for 2007 was Harvey Levin, the shaved bronzed midget frontman for the corporate porn-pushing gossip site TMZ.com and its whitewashed syndicated sister. "Who did more damage to entertainment reporting in 2007 than Harvey Levin?," was the query we posed. "In 2007, he and his gutter operation did indeed wield that dagger and in the process almost singlehandedly transformed Hollywood entertainment reporting into a gutter-level street battle fueled by self-hatred, jealousy and anger, with no concern for what once determined greatness, excellence or fame."

The title we bestowed on Harvey led other news organizations to take a closer look. Even Playboy magazine asked our editor to weigh in on its Levin coverage. And hoist by its own mantard, TMZ.com the noxious website sank to the same irrelevancy as its camp, inconsequential whitewashed syndicated television version-- less a journalistic force than a distasteful obscene Internet embarrassment to its corporate overlords at AOL Time Warner.

People noticed.

Michael Lohan, our 2007 Person of The Year, lived up to the expectations we had a year ago when we wrote that we "look forward to new grand schemes and projects, more unexpected headlines." Paternity questions and fights with Lindsay's lesbian love aside, Michael has found fame in his own right, is headed to Sundance next month with more than one project and only this week launched his own website as he continues his quest to get out the "the truth."

Harvey Levin failed in his quest to kill tabloid. Thanks in part to Michael Lohan, Tabloid Lives.

So tonight, we announce

Tabloid Baby's 2008 Journalist of The Year


Tabloid Baby's 2008 Person of The Year.

Stay tuned...

Dr. Ruehl pays tribute to Ann Savage

Sexy film noir femme fatale Ann Savage died in her sleep on Christmas Day at age 87, and as soon as word hit, Tabloid Baby pal, contributor and columnist Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D. was on the line, ready to offer his highest tribute:

"In 1945, she starred in the film noir classic, 'Detour,' as perhaps the sharpest-tongued villainness ever to grace the silver screen, delivering an Oscar-caliber performance. Of course, such a low-budget Edgar Ulmer production would never be considered for such honors, but her tour de force characterization was on a par with that year's winner, Joan Crawford (for the superb work in "Mildred Pierce").

"For the record, co-star Tom Neal also delivered the best characterization of his career."

With the passings of Beverly Garland, Bettie Page and Forrest Ackerman, and the probable demise of his legendary, classic, public access series, it's been a tough month for Dr. Ruehl. He offers the latest appraisal on video, above.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Update on Bad Santa's flaming death weapon

A reader sends us this update on our early report on the device allegedly used by Bruce Jeffrey Pardo when he allegedly put on a Santa Claus outfit, allegedly opened fire on a Christmas Eve gathering of his in-laws in the Los Angeles suburb of Covina and then allegedly methodically set their house ablaze, killing nine people before allegedly killing himself:

"The photographs that have been released of Pardo's device, and of his home, indicate that he used the Bykas 16 gallon fuelling system, and a DeWalt D55168 air compressor to make the flame thrower.

"He removed the compressor from the 15 gallon tank on the DeWalt D55168, and replaced it with the 5 lb. CO2 cylinder from the Bykas fueller. He used a regulator on the CO2 to bring the pressure down. Don't know what pressure he used, but as the DeWalt tank could hold at least 200 psi, he could really spray a lot of gas at high pressure. Unregulated CO2 might be 1000 psi.

"The only parts he used from the Bykas system were the CO2 cylinder, maybe the regulator, and perhaps some hardware.

"There are plans around the internet for giant CO2 powered super soaker water guns. He built something similar.

"He could have filled the DeWalt tank with 15 gallons of gas instead of water, and sprayed it all out at 150 psi.


(Thanks, Anonymous! And thanks to Reuters, which notes the photos are "FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.")

Michael Lohan links his website to Tabloid Baby

Michael Lohan finally has a website on which to present his side of the never-ending battle with the Hollywood machine and various forces surrounding his daughter Lindsay. And though he announces this morning that he and Lindsay have reached a truce in their flammable relationship (Israel and Hamas, take note) and that, like FDR before him, he is beginning a series of weekly radio chats tonight, the real news on MikeLohanOnline is that the site's linked Tabloid Baby!

Our news and commentary resource is listed there with Abolish Slavery, Blackbook 2 and Teen Challenge USA.

We linked to Lohan yesterday. We'll be keeping tabs for you.

We saw Gran Torino last night and will say this morning that Clint Eastwood pretty much has a lock on the Oscar for Best Actor

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Delaney Bramlett


Now The New York Times catches up with Tabloid Baby's coverage of Howard Stern's irrelevance and probable return to free radio

We've been discussing the disappearance and irrelevance of former radio star Howard Stern for about three years now, since he abandoned his loyal audience for a cashout in the private world of pay satellite radio. All signs have pointed to Stern's eventual return to free radio and this year's proliferation of free Internet radio is hastening the eventuality.

The Los Angeles Times followed our lead in October. This morning, the New York Times shared the writing on the wall.

Some highlights:

The New York Times
December 28, 2008

Satellite Radio Still Reaches for the Payday


DID you hear what Howard Stern said the other day? Neither did we. But we read about it on a blog.

Mr. Stern, the ribald radio jock who once commanded attention with each off-color utterance and obscene joke, mused recently on the air that he was thinking of retiring when his contract expires in two years. “This is my swan song,” he said.

Back in the day when Mr. Stern was on free radio and had an audience of 12 million, that remark would have cascaded through the media universe. But by switching to satellite radio three years ago, Mr. Stern swapped cultural cachet for big money.

Then — poof! — Mr. Stern all but disappeared. Even Jay Leno, during a recent interview with The New York Times about his decision to stay at NBC to host a prime-time show, cited Mr. Stern as an example of the dangers of obscurity.

…Mr. Stern’s retirement chatter did get one group talking: investors fretting over the fate of Sirius XM Radio, the satellite radio company that has been Mr. Stern’s home for the past three years.

Today, five months after regulators approved a merger of Sirius and XM, satellite radio’s pioneers and former rivals, in a deal that was supposed to deliver their industry to the promised land of profits and permanence, the company faces an uncertain future.

Although Mr. Stern brought listeners and prominence to Sirius, the move had a steep cost. His blockbuster, $500 million, five-year deal fueled a high-stakes competition between the two services that contributed to Sirius XM’s current bind.

…The company has never turned a profit and cannot predict when it ever will. Cap that with the struggles of Detroit — the bulk of new satellite radio subscribers come from partnerships with automakers — and you have a set of obstacles that Sirius XM has to overcome at the very moment the recession seems to be deepening.

The satellite radio industry… is facing a media environment that is shifting toward cheaply distributed content over the Internet.

…Who needs satellites… when the world is wired for broadband and Wi-Fi?

Mel Karamzin, the combative, longtime radio man who is the company’s chief executive… asks: “Would I like to have seen Howard get less money? Yes. But I think any company that deals with content would say the same thing.”

Mr. Karmazin, when asked if he thinks Mr. Stern has lost his place in the culture, says: “I think the size of the audience is less today. And I think one of the things Howard was looking forward to with the merger is that we’ll have twice as many subscribers potentially available to listen to him.”

Mr. Stern declined to be interviewed for this article, but his travails are emblematic of satellite radio and Sirius XM’s own shrinking horizons.

It seems that if Mr. Stern were to stay beyond his current contract, which expires at the end of 2010, he would have to accept less money, given the finances of the company and the fact that there are no longer two satellite radio companies battling each other…

“I’m starting to think that he might actually retire,” says Mark Mercer, who since the mid-1990s has written a daily blog about the Stern show, which has become a nearly minute-by-minute account of each program.

…Even Mr. Mercer, as diehard a Stern fan as there is, acknowledges that Mr. Stern’s gig doesn’t have the same influence it once did.

“Once you get used to hearing it on Sirius, it’s not as shocking as it was when you heard him on terrestrial radio and they’d be bleeping him out,” he says.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Michael Lohan launches a website

Michael Lohan, Tabloid Baby's Person of the Year for 2007, is winding up 2008 by starting his own website. The father of once-promising actress Lindsay Lohan and star of the best unsold reality show in the history of television (produced, incidentally, by our pals at Frozen Pictures), has launched MikeLohanOnline.com (aka The Real Story with Michael Lohan).

On the surface, the site is Michael's latest forum in his war against his ex-wife Dina, and Lindsay's girlfriend Samantha Ronson-- though this morning, in its second day of operation, he stated that his intentions are far more benevolent:

"...Let me say that this website is NOT about Lindsay or Samantha. I have no intention of disclosing any information or feelings I may have about either one of them unless it is in defense of what they or one of their 'mouthpieces' might say about me. If in fact, one of their 'sources', so called 'friends' or 'spokespersons' have something to say about me, then I guess we will just have to open up discussion on them as well.

"AGAIN, this website is a forum to shed light on things in a positive and truthful way.

"It is about bringing the world the truth about any situations or stories reported in the media that are worthy of discussing. It is about righting the wrongs and determining facts from fiction.

"This website is an open forum to discuss questionable topics and even introduce you to worthy events (which help others) that you might like to participate in.

"For example; during the Sundance Film Festival, my partners and I will be hosting a series of events which aid numerous charities and initiatives, such as human trafficking, child slavery, ministries, The Crohn's Foundation, various cancer foundations, hunger and other worthy causes..."

Michael's inaugural blog posting yesterday did indeed focus on his dispute with LiLo and SaMAN:

"Today... my darling daughter Lindsay was asked for a comment in response to me saying, 'Samantha is on drugs!'

"Lindsay’s only response was, 'look at him!'

"WOW! Linds, how forthright! Let me ask you; was it me who was actually pictured in the train station with a bag full of prescription drugs? Do you see me out partying with Lindsay, my other children or having raging wars with her? Was it me who jumped out of a DJ booth and punched Lindsay when she was with Calum Best? Did I drive Lindsay around for hours in LA until she fell asleep and before I ran low on gas only to call the paps and sell pictures to them? Uh uh!

"As a matter of fact, I was the one who tried to keep those kinds of parasites away from Lindsay...

"Sure, I made mistakes, but I righted the wrongs..."

Only problem? Though well-known as "Michael Lohan," the site's URL identifies him as "Mike Lohan," which may cause an extra burden on the gossip writers looking to fill space. Despite his protestations about the media machine working against him, ex-con preacher Michael has spectacularly managed to keep himself in the headlines on practically a daily basis since he stepped out of prison two years ago. MikeLohanOnline.com promises to add to the surprises. We've already added it to our links list.

Stay tuned!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Bad Santa's gift-wrapped flaming death present

New York Times: COVINA, Calif. — A man in a Santa Claus outfit opened fire on a Christmas Eve gathering of his in-laws in this Los Angeles suburb and then methodically set their house ablaze, killing at least eight people and injuring several others, the authorities said Thursday.

Los Angeles Times:
Bruce Jeffrey Pardo... approached the front door with a large, wrapped package. An 8-year-old girl ran to answer his knock. When the door swung open, Pardo, 45, shot her in the face with a semiautomatic handgun, stepped into the house and opened fire on the revelers. Amid the chaos, he doused the house with a flammable liquid contained in the package -- a pressurized fuel tank, about 2 1/2 feet tall…

The investigation, which began quickly and continued into Christmas Day, led to two other Southern California homes: Pardo's and his brother's, where Pardo was found dead. It revealed a divorce, the flammable device like the one Pardo took into the Covina home -- police said they'd never seen anything like it…

A label on the red tank read, "WeFuelFun.com," the website of a company that specializes in fueling devices for all-terrain vehicles. Buchanan, a 30-year police veteran, said the tank Pardo used in the attack was "nothing that we or the arson team had ever seen."

WEFUELFUN.COM: BYKAS fueling systems are the newest most efficient fuelers on the market today! No more outdated, inefficient, tiresome handcrank or gravity feed systems and no more messy backbreaking 5 gallon cans. How it works is simple. You just turn the CO2 knob on which pressurizes the tank and forces the fuel up through the hose and out the on/off nozzle. Our 5 lb CO2 bottle will pump up to 200 gallons. The refillable quick release CO2 tank also can be used to pump up tires and all your other inflateable needs. So if you want the best fueling system available, one of our fun fueler units is the ticket for you.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Scholar’s new book: “Tabloid Baby sketches out anxious, Darwinian, hard-drinking, sexually virile, homosocial workplace and interpersonal carnage!"

"The book Tabloid Baby, Burt Kearns’s ego-fixated first-person account of how he 'invented reality television,' sketches out an anxious Darwinian work world peopled by hard-drinking, sexually virile men driven to success in the homosocial workspace imported successfully by Rupert Murdoch via A Current Affair and Hard Copy in the late 1980s...

"One learns from this storytelling time a guiding moral— the sense that brutal career and labor volatilities bring with them acute lures and seductions. The narrative lesson is intended to serve well the hungry film/TV aspirants, interns and production assistants, who, like Kearns, have enough sexual and producing confidence to exploit in the interpersonal carnage that lies ahead..."

-- from Production Culture:
Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film and Television
by John Thornton Caldwell (2008, Duke University Press)

As work winds down in 2008, we head into the year that will mark the tenth anniversary of the publication of the controversial, lauded memoir, Tabloid Baby. The book that Mike Wallace called “sad, funny, undeniably authentic," Maury Povich called “The Bible,” Seekbooks Update said “provides as much high-octane entertainment as any Hollywood expose," and The Australian called a "compellingly good read” resonates even stronger than it did upon its publication and subsequent blacklisting by the major news and entertainment conglomerates it skewered (Rupert Murdoch and Fox Television being a notable exception).

Tabloid Baby has also been referenced as an authoritative source in a number of books, including Marvin Kitman’s Bill O’Reilly bio, The Man Who Would Not Shut Up and Eric Alterman’s What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and The News.

But a new book takes the cake! Production Culture: Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film and Television is written by distinguished scholar John Thornton Caldwell, a professor at the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television.

Professor Thornton's school bio notes he is “a media studies scholar and filmmaker” who’s "authored and edited several books… critical and theoretical writings... has been a keynote and plenary speaker at various institutions and international conferences”:

“He is the producer/director of the award-winning documentaries 'Freak Street to Goa: Immigrants on the Rajpath' (1989), a film about 'the migratory pattern of "hippies" in India and Nepal,' and 'Rancho California (por favor)' (2002), a troubling look at migrant camps that house indigenous Mixteco workers within the arroyos of Southern California's most affluent suburbs."

Professor Caldwell writes about Tabloid Baby in the context of his books overarching argument that one can learn a lot about the production of culture by looking at the cultures of production.

Tabloid Baby, he writes none too admiringly in the very first chapter of this landmark textbook, cuts to the heart of survival in the “unstable,” “unregulated” world of tabloid, syndicated and reality television.

Buckle up!

Here's an excerpt from Production Culture: Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film and Television:

...Intermediaries in non-network television work worlds favor their own set of narrative stereotypes. One trade story—in the genre of “I drank and bullied my way to the top”—serves as a variant of the suffering, surviving, and seduction genre. The story arc cultivates the volatility and unruly quality of the work worlds within which nonmainstream TV is produced. The book Tabloid Baby, Burt Kearns’s ego-fixated first-person account of how he “invented reality television,” sketches out an anxious Darwinian work world peopled by hard-drinking, sexually virile men driven to success in the homosocial workspace imported successfully by Rupert Murdoch via A Current Affair and Hard Copy in the late 1980s. With satisfaction, Kearns takes credit for beating and breaking legitimate TV news with tabloid TV (which legitimate news finally came to copy) during this period. Typical of many career allegories and user guides for this unregulated cadre, Kearns writes with the same confrontational tabloid approach that he “mastered” in his series. Chapter titles like “Lesbians, Cripples, and Clowns” and “Rob Lowe’s Big Dick” provide contexts for female marginalization. Women are identified by the quality of their breasts, as in “Riva, who despite her tweetybird voice was a grand billowing bird, with even grander and more billowing breasts.” Women are demeaned... whereas men are rewarded for their masculine sexual capabilities. Kearns describes his collaborators as the “Wild Bunch” and the “wolfpack,” which essentially allegorizes Kearns’s entire production company as a gang of sexual-professional predators.

The effect of such an account presupposes that some industry players have a kind of bloodlust for savage competition and career advantage. One learns from this storytelling time a guiding moral— the sense that brutal career and labor volatilities bring with them acute lures and seductions. The narrative lesson is intended to serve well the hungry film/TV aspirants, interns and production assistants, who, like Kearns, have enough sexual and producing confidence to exploit in the interpersonal carnage that lies ahead.

Other industry work sectors are also still largely separated by gender. If Kearns and Schrader tell tales of sexual advantage and confrontation as masculinist skill sets, another subset of the surviving-and-seduction genre offers career guides outlining female sexual behavior and workplace voyeurism as vocational competencies…

Clearly a wide range of inclinations informs these narrative practices. The labor narratives of Kearns and Schrader map out a work world defined by interpersonal volatility, on the one hand, and predatory masculinist aggression as vocational competencies, on the other. By contrast, the labor narratives of Davis, Harris, and Hanssen and Gottlieb underscore the importance of unsubtle highly calculated forms of female sexual gamesmanship in the office. Both strategies—predation and seduction—are somewhat logical given the slippery and unstable nature of the nonunion, nonguild work worlds being explained for readers who want to work in them (tabloid television, D-work, networking, promotion and personal branding)…

Asked for comment, Tabloid Baby author Burt Kearns said, "I'm deeper than I thought."

First photo! The Palisades' 76 ball comes down

The Conoco Phillips oil corporation sees little value in the classic orange 76 balls that advertised their filling stations, but the mechanics and attendants at Jakel's 76 on Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades, California, surely did. They snapped way with their camera phones and disposable cameras as workers arrived Saturday at noon to remove the ball, cut down the pole on which it had spun for fifty years, and drove it away for smashing.

A mechanic on duty this morning told us the station owner Frank Jakel had fought the corporation for years in an effort to keep the Palisades landmark glowing. But he said that Frank sold the place and the new owners didn't care.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Santa Monica Promenade losing Borders Books

Shoppers at the Borders bookstore on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California got a surprise welcome as they walked through the door: a sign announcing that the store is closing on January 10th.

A sign of tough economic times?

The Borders also holds a Seattle's Best coffee stand, and coincidentally sits next to the Kira Plastanina fashion store, whose closure (along with mist of its other US outlets) was announced last week. Everything there is 70 percent off.

(The closure may be good news to one competitor besides the Barnes & Noble at the other end of the Promenade: Village Books in neighboring Pacific Palisades, which is fighting to stay alive amid competition from chains like Borders.)

Update on grinch who stole Palisades' 76 ball

The landmark, revolving orange ball high above Jakel's Union 76 service station on Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades was removed and its pole sawed down at noon yesterday, according to a service station employee who witnessed the surprise takedown.

We told you last night that we noticed the sky was empty where the spherical sign once shined as a beacon above the station and the adjacent Gelson's parking lot.

This morning, we spoke to attendant Zig, who was working yesterday when the Conoco Phillips troops arrived and got to work quickly and efficiently, removing the ball with a crane and cutting the pole it had topped.

"Now no one will even know it was there," Zig said. "That ball was an original, it was up there since the station opened in what, 1955? I asked the guys what they were going to do with it and they said they were going to smash it! Smash it! I thought they'd put it in a museum."

Zig realized he was witnessing history. He said he called the local Palisadian-Post weekly newspaper but got no answer (it was a Saturday).

Note to the Palisadian-Post and LA Times: He also snapped several photos of the ball removal with the disposable camera he keeps in his car. Make sure you pay him for his work!

The ConocoPhillips oil company has been on a campaign to remove all its stations' classic orange balls, despite a fight from preservationists.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pacific Palisades loses its big orange 76 ball

The distinctive, revolving, retro orange ball high above Jakel's Union 76 service station at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Via de La Paz in Pacific Palisades, California-- the last town before Sunset hits the Pacific Ocean-- has been taken down and replaced with a waist-level sign on the corner.

We saw the excavation work on the edge of the downtown district yesterday and noticed the empty sky while on a pizza run tonight.

The Texas-based ConocoPhillips oil corporation had expressed an intention to destroy all its big orange balls and has in recent years has been opposed by preservation groups.

The ball in Pacific Palisades, a landmark and reminder of the town's traditional atmosphere, had been believed to be safe.


Exclusive! Boston businessman continues raising funds for 2009 Israel Baseball League season that sources say won't be allowed to take place

Yes, we went cold turkey on coverage of the scandal of the Israel Baseball League after a solid year of intense, exclusive, controversial and Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporting. And in light of that Pulitzer nod, we’ll be checking in occasionally with updates provided by the tenacious and world-beating reporter Elli Wohlgelernter—known here as Our Man Elli In Israel-- who carried this story singlehandedly and reported recently that there will be no professional baseball in Israel until 2010 at the earliest.

Our Man Elli’s reportage apparently stirred up a reaction from the Boston-based businessman who's now heading the putative league-- and apparently still drumming up money from American investors for the battered IBL. He sends along this latest, exclusive report:

It appears it ain’t over for the non-existent Israel Baseball League, which continues to squeeze the American Jewish community for money and solicit unsuspecting American Jews and Zionists for an Israeli baseball season that’s already been blocked by Israeli officials.

I obtained an email sent by David Solomont, who took the reins of the IBL from embattled Boston bagel baron Larry Baras (and was immediately tagged with the sobriquet “El Presidente of the Dominican Republic of The Middle East Baseball League”) stating his intention to play professional baseball in "the summer of 2009 and have a winter season Nov to Jan 2009/2010”:

From: David Solomont
To: ***** ****************

Cc: ****…

Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 7:39:24 PM

Subject: Re: Baseball In Israel

Unfortunately, there is no baseball next week.
We expect to kick off the 2009 season in late June and play the summer of 2009 and have a winter season Nov to Jan 2009/2010.

David Solomont

(617) ***-****

As I
reported on December 3rd, sources tell me that one thing is for sure: the Israel Association of Baseball, which governs the sport in the nation, will not negotiate with David Solomont.

The controversial Boston businessman and de facto head of the IBL is persona non grata, ever since he announced a twenty-game 2008 IBL season ... make that seven-game… er, six-game... would you believe a five-game "festivus" that never took place?

Even so, the front man for disgraced IBL founder and former president Larry Baras continues raising cash for a pro baseball league in Israel in 2009.

Every source close to the Israel sports establishment tells me that Solomont may have a chance kicking off a 2009 season in Santo Domingo starring Chico Escuela, but has little chance of running a season in the Holy Land.

There will be no sequel to the rousing documentary Holy Land Hardball, because the Israel Association of Baseball is not, and will not, negotiate any deal with the league that survived a single season in 2007.

Solomont is also urging potential investors to sign up on the IBL website for news. When we last looked, there hadn't been a new posting since the infamous July 24th, 2008 announcement that stated explicit plans for:

"…a week-long baseball festival starting on August 17th that will pit an IBL All-Star team against a team made up of premier Israeli players.

“Details of the baseball festival, which will run from August 17th through August 21st, will be announced on this site in the upcoming days.

“Players have already begun to arrive in Israel for the event, which will also feature clinics during the week in Hashmonaim and Bet Shemesh. Photograph sessions will be available before and after every game with your favorite IBL star. Tickets will be sold at the door with all proceeds to benefit JNF's Project Baseball."

As of today, December 20th, there is no update on the now-legendary Festivus.

And speaking of Larry Baras-- remember my report of December 3rd, I asked:

“Why is the JNF in bed with the IBL? “And how much money is stuffed inside the mattress of that bed?”

Now, it turns out they've pulled up the sheets to snuggle even closer:

Larry Baras is now on the board of the New England branch of the JNF.

Stay tuned…

(And catch up on all our coverage of the Israeli Baseball saga here, at our Baseball in Israel website.)

Chris Montez performs for 15,000 in Belgium

Talk about an international audience! Sixties rock and lounge legend Chris Montez headed off from the first location shoot for his new biopic lensed by our pals at Frozen Pictures for a quick stop in Antwerp, Belgium-- and a sold-out show for fifteen thousand fans!

Chris starred at Sportpaleis in a wild rock 'n' roll show called Golden Years. Here's what they wrote about him on one Belgian site (translations welcome):

"The Golden Years was op zaterdag 13 december aan een jubileumeditie toe: het 20ste concert in een reeks die van start ging op 17 maart 1990. Misschien doen niet alle namen van de groepen onmiddellijk een belletje rinkelen, maar hun hits ken je zeker, ook als jongere! Lees ons sfeerverslag, ontdek de idolen van je ouders en bekijk hier en daar een clipje uit de oude doos. Een avond vol jukebox hits uit de jaren '60 en begin jaren '70, met niet minder dan 9 artiesten op de affiche...

"Chris Montez laat zich voor zijn set bijstaan door de muzikanten van Billy Joe Royal die na hem zal optreden. Ik denk niet dat opener 'Some kinda fun' hier een echte hit geweest is, maar 'The more I see you' was dat zeker wel! Chris Montez slaagt erin om het publiek een eerste keer van zijn stoel te krijgen bij 'Let's dance', een boodschap die iedereen dus opvolgt. En zelf wil hij ook niet achterblijven, en duikt middenin het nummer tussen het publiek om zelf een danspasje te placeren! Het spreekwoord 'mooie liedjes duren niet lang' is duidelijk van toepassing, want Chris mag nog even terugkomen om 'Let's dance' nog even opnieuw in te zetten!"

And they sent along these exclusive photos from the show that also featured legends like The Troggs, The Hollies, Gerry & The Pacemakers and Billy Joe Royal.

The concert was filmed for the Montez doco.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Whey-hey, Jack Douglas!

Our own contributor Sam Peters sends along the news of the passing of the Carry On! character actor.