But wading through all the miles of pixels spilled about Hollywood's most notorious monger of gossip about entertainment executives La Finke, the same damn picture pops up again and again. Over and over, the same black-and-white picture of Nikki in what appears to have been a audition photo for the role of the evil headmistress in a 1940's film.
At Gawker, we're prepared to do something about this distressing dearth of Finke images. We are hereby offering a $1000 prize to the first person to bring us a recent photograph of the scourge of industry reporting.
How does this happen, that a woman who is the focus of so much attention is so little seen? As far as we can tell there is but one other known picture of the most hated woman in Hollywood media; a mysterious rumpled image dating back to Nikki's debutante days in which the first seeds of diabolic rage can clearly be discerned.
The hunt for Nikki sightings is a long and venerable one, stretching back almost a decade. Around that time, as she first began to ruffle feathers with her LA Weekly column, people around Hollywood began noticing that no one had actually seen the great columnist in quite some time.
Theories abounded about why she had become a shadowy presence. Some speculated of agoraphobia; some thought she was afraid to run into those she had trashed in writing; while others said that it might be vanity, her appearance not being what it was perhaps at the time of the Evil Headmistress photo.
And through this time, Nikki began to make strange appearances and non-appearances in and around the press. There was a strange little incident during one of her earliest feuds with the late blogger Cathy Seipp in which, mid-fight, Cathy began receiving comments on her blog from someone identifying him/herself on as Nikki Finke's attorney and demanding (more or less) that her attacks on Nikki cease. Checking the IP address from the attorney/commenter, Seipp found it was identical to Nikki's own.
Whatever the case was with the lawyer in that episode, Finke soon developed a taste for deploying her legal pitbulls on a succession of journalists who dared question her. Stories among journalists abounded of lawsuits actual and threatened by Nikki. This tactic of course is not unknown to those she covers — legal stonewalling and badgering as a PR tactic; the Church of Scientology kept their critics at bay for years with such a strategy. But for a journalist to employ it herself is unusual, to say the least — particularly from one who becomes near rabid at the least suggestion that she is not receiving full and total openness from any source of her choosing. We are quite sure that Tad Friend and the New Yorker absorbed the brunt of this particular strategy.
Reports also circulated of her responding to the most innocuous inquiries with foaming-at-the-mouth, rage at imaginary slights responses. Reporters who phoned her for the most routine inquiries found themselves embroiled in endless back-and-forths, bickering over the smallest points in their stories; demanding retractions to any and all slights real or perceived. Discussions with her typically led down rabbit holes of contorted, self-justifying logic until it became impossible to sort out what was true anymore.
There was for instance the fight with Gawker itself after former editor Jesse Oxfeld suggested the deck might be a couple cards short in otherwise favorable comments given to a profiler. And the Women's Wear Daily story that was obliterated from the web after Nikki's badgering caught the author in a slip-up having not informed her he was taping a phone conversation.
As we say, not abnormal tactics for a Church of Scientology, a machine politician or a Hollywood mogul for whom thugishness toward a free media is a matter of pride, but odd from one who benefits from the protections of the fourth estate herself. To say the least.
And as her battle on the rest of media descended into trench warfare, Nikki herself became almost invisible in Hollywood, reports of her sightings dwindling to a precious few. People reported her failing to show up for planned interviews, and her appearances at Hollywood events all but evaporated.
And so we are thus stuck with the one darn Evil Headmistress picture appearing again and again in wave after wave of profile and profile-debunking.
Everybody complains about the weather but Gawker is ready to do something about it. We hereby offer a $1000 bounty to the first person who can produce a web-ready, usable, recent photograph of Nikki Finke, sparing media consumers of the future another thousand go-rounds with Evil Headmistress.
We encourage bounty seekers to pursue the prize through all legal and honorable means; please no urban ninja tactics and remember the laws of the land still apply, even to Hollywood picture-takers. But surely someone out there has or will seen her, or seen a picture and can help save the web from this terrible drought.
We'll start the ball rolling the comments section with the known photographs and artistic renderings; please add your own to the record. Although not eligible for the prize, please feel free to post any old photos you may have, or create your own artistic renderings for the public good. Let it not be said that when the internet was suffering, this generation failed to rise to the challenge.