BOOM! goes the dynamite, or or in this case, Nikki Finke's New Yorker "profile" that dropped today. It's an insubstantial but fairly fun read with a few juicy anecdotes. Nikki's already reacted. Family friendly journalism, right here. Bring the kids:
"I'm too superficial to read The New Yorker because it's so unrelentingly boring. Even the cartoons suck these days," begins Finke's post reacting to the profile. Touche, babes! I feel you. But occasionally they come out with something interesting, and this—in or out of context—is definitely one of The New Yorker's more valiant efforts. Too bad it's so mediocre. Highlights:
- The New Yorker loves to write about bloggers as secluded, melodramatic cretins sniping away from the comfort of their living room while they're too socially anxious to do anything else. Which is true. Also, we learn her cat's name:
"...In seclusion she manages to seem ubiquitous, covering the golden acres from Santa Monica to Sunset-Gower from a home newsroom containing six phones, a laptop, and her cat, Blue. Her all-knowing voice on the phone is reminiscent of Charlie of "Charlie's Angels"-yet she salts her site with references to her diabetes and dental work, drawing readers into the drama of her daily struggle."
- Finke does drams. Watch her recount the tale of her learning Dick Cook was being canned/leaving Disney: "Finke told me, 'I literally ripped the I.V. out of my arm to leave the hospital, and I would have had the story an hour earlier if I hadn't stopped to get an antibiotic.'"
- This was nice: Studios hosting dinners with Hollywood journalists having a salon about how the journalists were going to do their jobs. Finke didn't show, naturally.
"In April, 2007, Stacy Ivers, who was then in charge of media relations at Universal Pictures, invited about thirty people-a mixture of journalists and P.R. executives from the studios and talent agencies-to dinner in Laurel Canyon. Ivers's idea was that the two camps could mingle over salmon and lemon bars, and hash out Hollywood's new rules of reporting. Ivers's dinner, attended by most of Hollywood's top corporate publicists, as well as by Fleming, Waxman, the Variety reporter Anne Thompson, the Hollywood Reporter's film editor, Gregg Kilday, and a Los Angeles Times editor, Sallie Hofmeister, among others...."
- Several allusions comparing Nikki to the communist witch hunts of Hollywood, including Warner Bros. studio chief Jeff Robinov.
- Nikki just making fun of Friend:
After a moment, she added, "I did call Peter ‘Ovitz's buttboy' "-a suggestion that Bart was too submissive to the former agent Michael Ovitz, an enduring adversary of Finke's. "I can't help it!" she said, laughing. "It's like meanness pours out of my fingers!"
- Finke talking to her cat and her assistant the same way: "She was often funny and warm, and at times appealingly distractible, breaking off to talk to her assistant ("I can't eat this-no offense, but it's gross! Yuck!") or her cat ("Yeah, there's food there-what the hell is your problem?")."
- Nikki Finke, the lonely, sad blogger:
"One Saturday evening, after we concluded a three-hour call, she phoned back twenty minutes later to say, "Everyone tries to portray me as sad, pathetic, lonely-that's not me at all." "I don't think of you that way, Nikki," I said. "You don't know anything about my private life," she said, quietly. "That's probably true." "O.K."
- Nikki Finke, the depressive maniac:
"There was a constant undercurrent of a kind of financial and professional desperation," her friend Bernie Weinraub, who was then the Times' Hollywood correspondent, says. After Finke's book was cancelled by Dial Press, in 1996, she wept so intensely that Lisa Chase, who edited a column Finke was writing for the New York Observer, called the Los Angeles sheriff's department and asked them to check on her. Deputies arrived at Finke's apartment at the same time as Weinraub, who had also spoken to Finke and grown concerned, and when she opened the door, sobbing, holding a knife she was using to open a package, the deputies shouted, "Put down the knife!" Later, Weinraub would jokingly blackmail her about that moment-and Finke would tease him about the time he'd fallen asleep while interviewing Jim Carrey.
- Nikki's excuses for missing deadlines, two of which I've used: "‘I was locked out of my apartment,' ‘I had food poisoning,' ‘I was being evicted.'"
- Endeavor agents talking to Friend about Ari Emmanel's handling of Finke during the Endeavor-William Morris merger:
"Ari fed Nikki perfectly," one Endeavor agent says. "He used her just enough to help the merger."
- The only person Finke's afraid of:
Finke is tickled by such bluster, and says that the silky David Geffen is the only person in town she's actually afraid of, adding, "I'm sure he'd take it as a compliment." (Geffen, perhaps cultivating his reputation for veiled menace, said, "Just say I had no reaction at all.")
- And finally, Finke's kicker:
"I don't think for a minute these people like me," Finke told me. "They talk to me because that's how the game is played. They'd like to ignore me, but they can't. The best way for them to think of it is: I get bitch-slapped today, and someone else'll get bitch-slapped tomorrow."
That person—or people—according to Finke's blog post, are David Remnick, Tad Friend, and most of the New Yorker's working masthead. But before we get there, let's do a quick rundown of the language used in Friend's piece:
- Finke portrays many of the town's leaders as jackasses who golf at exclusive preserves
- Jeff Zucker, the C.E.O. and president of NBC Universal, is "one of the most kiss-ass incompetents
- "Stick it where the sun don't shine, you asswipe," she recently counselled a CBS publicist.
- Nikki wrote it like the runaway bride was a whore."
- In October, 2007, Finke posted a story about Jeff Robinov, Warner Bros.' president of production: "Warner's Robinov Bitchslaps Film Women."
- "I did call Peter ‘Ovitz's buttboy'"
- "Then you see a comment-maybe from someone who's in an insane asylum-saying, ‘When I worked there, he shit in the kitchen sink and wiped his ass with $100 bills.'"
- Nikki's response was that I was a pussy.
- "New Line was left holding its dick"
- "starts whining like the pussy he is,"
- A source of Finke's says, "Somehow I've become like the poster child for her-I'm her bitch."
- Ray Stark once told Finke, "Girlie, if you ever fuck me, I'm going to personally come over to your house and give you a hysterectomy."
- "You make me sound like a wuss!"
- bitch-slapped today, and someone else'll get bitch-slapped tomorrow
And that wasn't even a thorough search. This thing's full of awesome Finke-isms. But the bottom line is that the juciest stuff in the profile about Nikki—she changes posts on the fly, she can be shifted by her sources, some people are afraid of her, some not so much, she's a rebel, an outsider, comes from money, lives a mysterious life, is kinda kooky—are things we already knew or could've guessed. The best part of this story, of course, is Nikki's reaction.
Hollywood Manipulated The New Yorker the title of her post proclaims. How does she go after the New Yorker? Her full assessment, in its most basic form is
As I expected, it's an amusing caricature, only occasionally true but hardly insightful. Still, I'm relieved that The New Yorker didn't lay a glove on me.
Ah, but there's more. Finke argues that Friend's reporting was mediocre, and that he and the New Yorker got totally played by Hollywood. Back to the bullet points, one more time:
- Her time was wasted.
- The best stuff she gave Friend wasn't even used.
- She spoke with Friend on piles of pre-conditions only.
- Friend's work was "no better" than David Carr's NYT profile on her.
- She found Friend "easy to manipulate."
- She enjoyed "bitchslapping" New Yorker EIC David Remnick "throughout but especially during the very slipshod factchecking process"
- The New Yorker "bent over" for Hollywood.
- Brad Grey's flack Steven Rubenstein got every reference in the story to him deleted.
- Harvey Weinstein had "cunt" replaced with the word "jerk" on his quote.
- More on Hollywood "had their way" with the New Yorker, and then this Eminem-esque kicker: "You, too, can make The New Yorker your buttboy. Just act like a cunt and treat Remnick like a putz and don't give a fuck."
I contacted Tad Friend, David Remnick, and deputy editor Pamela McCarthy at The New Yorker for comment on Finke's rebuttal. None of them replied. The New Yorker's PR director, Alexa Cassanos, did:
No, no comment from David or The New Yorker. Thanks for checking though.
I figured I'd fire one Finke's way since she's having such a great morning. What'd she think of the New Yorker's silence? Also: what she thought of the article's assertion that she could be "(positioned)..to some degree."
I have no idea what that sentence means. I do know that in the 3rd graf of the story it reads, "she's very, very, very accurate, extraordinarily so..."
And that, right there, is the Nikki Finke story: playing her own press as hard as the subjects she covers try to work her, and when occasionally caught in the middle, celebrating the nihilism of her bloodsport with a hearty "who cares?" Finke is Shiva, a force of destruction, kinda crazy and overly obsessive, caring only about how respected and powerful she is, and taking it by brute force. She's playing her game by rules she makes up as she goes along, elbows out, and occasionally tossing around doublespeak to back her transgressions and fouls. It's really quite fun to watch even if, as Finke might suggest, you have no reason to give a fuck.