On Thursday, at the Aspen Ideas Festival, in an on-stage conversation with actress Goldie Hawn, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner postulated that the rarest kind of person is a woman who is both beautiful and funny. “From my position, the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman,” Eisner said.
• Another media company falls: Reader's Digest Association, the publisher of Reader's Digest (duh) and a handful of other titles (like Every Day with Rachael Ray), says it will file for bankruptcy protection shortly. [Reuters]
• As you may have heard, things haven't been too well for Harvey Weinstein and his brother, Bob. So what will happen if they don't turn the mini-studio around? "I'll be... making cheap hamburgers, or selling trailers, or refrigerators, or something," says (a refreshingly honest) Harvey. [NYT]
• Fashion mags are looking a bit thin this fall, in case you haven't heard. [WSJ]
• Don't expect the feud between Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann to dissipate: Ratings for both have been up since the war of words began anew. [LAT]
• Comedian Steve Harvey is joining Good Morning America. In related news, comedian Mo Rocca is hosting a web-based show for CBS News. [ABC, NYT]
• District 9 was No. 1 at the box office this past weekend. [ABC News]
20/20 co-anchor John Stossel turns 62 today, which means that mustache of his has been planted on his face for close to four decades now. Comedian and recently-axed CNN host D.L. Hughley is turning 46. New York Philharmonic director Lorin Maazel is 79. Adolfo Carrion, Barack Obama's new director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, is 48. Composer Stephen Schwartz is turning 61. Film director/producer Rob Reiner is 62. Disgraced Wall Streeter Ivan Boesky is 72. Gabriel García Márquez is 82. Shaquille O'Neal is turning 37. Tom Arnold is 50. And a hospitalized Ed McMahon turns 86 today. Weekend birthdays below!
• More cuts at Condé Nast could come when Si Newhouse returns from his European vacation next week. Among the possible victims: Domino, Details, and staffers in the company's web division. [NYP]
• Berkley Books has cancelled plans to publish Angel at the Fence, a Holocaust memoir that the author admitted contains fabrications. [NYT]
• NBC is producing more webisodes to make up for programming gaps. [NYT]
• Ad spending in '09 is expected to drop to its lowest point since '03. [AdAge]
• CNBC's Conversations with Michael Eisner is no more. [NYP]
• An interview with CNN prez Jon Klein, who scored big ratings this year with AC360 and Campbell Brown's new show, but will also go down as the genius responsible for giving D.L. Hughley his own cable news program. [HuffPo]
Who is Sandy Litvack, the lawyer that the Justice Department hired last week, in a move which most believe mean the trustbusters are planning to break up Google's deal to sell ads on Yahoo? Litvack's resume might give Google's lawyers reason to sweat. If it takes a monopolist to catch a monopolist, Litvack's perfect for the job. At Disney, he was CEO Michael Eisner's right-hand man when the company went on its most aggressive acquisition binge ever. He masterminded Disney's purchase of the ABC television network, which was the Google-DoubleClick deal of its day. And Litvack is a guy who likes to take a case to trial.Litvack is a litigator first and foremost, says John Shenefield, the former head of the DOJ's antitrust unit who first hired Litvack in 1980. "He liked to litigate. He liked the rough and tumble, whereas some people who had served in that position liked to dot all the Is and cross all the Ts," Shenefield told CNET. "During a Christmas party, there was a skit and the person playing Sandy said, 'Fundamentally, I'm a litigator,' and everyone in the room knew exactly what he meant," another DOJ source said. Some say Litvack likes to go to court too much, even when the laws he's prosecuting don't make sense. Along with being credited with building the case that broke up AT&T, Litvack is also known for prosecuting laws that, according to CNET, forbade "a manufacturer to have an agreement with a reseller that prohibited them from reselling a product at a higher or lower price than expressly stated in the contract." The Supreme Court eventually decided such laws were themselves anticompetitive and struck them down.
Pixar, the computer animation company and digital film studio, was undervalued by everyone in Hollywood, from George Lucas who formed the original team at Skywalker Ranch to Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg at Disney. Steve Jobs, however, understood the potential for the company — and how to milk it for every penny. After buying the company for a mere $5 million, after Katzenberg balked on a $15 million price tag, Jobs hovered over the company like an "ominous cloud," according to Michael Hirschorn's review of David Price's new book detailing the company's history. At one point, Jobs squeezed more stock out the company so that the company could stay afloat — shortly before production on breakout hit Toy Story started production. "I’m sitting around here trying to make Steve Jobs richer in ways he doesn’t even appreciate," one employee quips. (Photo by AP/Eric Risberg)
It seems life's only kind of a bitch for Eric Eisner, the upstart producer, son of Michael and brief profile subject in the new issue of Portfolio. On one hand, he's positioned to profit further from his producing debut, Hamlet 2, which sold at Sundance in January for $10 million and opens theatrically in August; then there's the whole Barry Diller-mentor thing and the handy commutes on Dad's private jet. Alas, he and fiancee Stacey Bendet received congratulatory pastries addressed to "STACEY AND MICHAEL," and worse yet, there is still no good news to report on Eisner's missing (and feared murdered) producing partner Leonid Rozhetskin.
"My interest is getting in there before they explode," Vuguru svengali Michael Eisner told a crowd at Digital Content Newfront last week, regarding his efforts in producing Web video. And based on the numbers for his production company's project Foreign Body, he's certainly achieved that. The show's audience peaked at 43,000, even after winning a coveted feature slot on YouTube. Breaking a feature-length story into scenes no longer than two minutes and putting advertising at both ends of those clips isn't exactly the way audiences want to watch advertorials for airport-bookstore novels. With all those Indian hotties in the cast, Eisner should probably take a tip from LisaNova and increase the cleavage in the show's thumbnails. After the jump, check out the first episode — so mysterious, it makes absolutely no sense.
Hollywood's savvy hustlers have struck again, with Lloyd Braun and Gail Berman convincing Yahoo and Microsoft to hire BermanBraun to produce a content portal for MSN and a contentpole for Yahoo called "Lunacy Report," according to sources cited by All Things Digital. For the ADD-affected with long term memory issues, former Yahoo CEO and Tom Cruise BFF Terry Semel hired Braun to shepherd in Yahoo's reign as a media company, followed by Braun taking the fall for much of Semel's own lunacy before Semel himself was ousted.
Michael Eisner spent $3,000 for every 90 seconds of footage for his series Prom Queen. His latest series Foreign Body, a promotional vehicle for a new Robin Cook novel, cost more than three times that for each episode. Find the first in the series embedded below. Of course, figures like that are low compared to what it costs to make content for film or TV, but the problem for Eisner is that despite his Web TV company's very Web-y name — Vuguru means "you are the guru of viewing," Eisner once told a reporter — it still hasn't made much money yet. Despite 15 million views, Eisner says he only made a couple thousand dollars on Prom Queen. The series sequel lost money.
Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, now the backer of online entertainment studio Vuguru through his company Tornante, stopped by Microsoft's Advance08 this morning to deliver his diagnosis of what ails the entertainment business. Calling YouTube "old news," he says that storytelling online will inevitably progress from "the salacious and the stupid" (good luck with that). But he also pointed out that by enabling content producers, companies like Yahoo, Microsoft or News Corp. could create a competitor to the current distribution rackets:
Coming off a $10 million sale of his comedy Hamlet 2 at Sundance, Michael Eisner's son Eric appears to have lost his film-producing partner to mob-related foul play. Page Six reports today that Leonid Rozhetskin, a 41-year-old Russian-born, US-educated lawyer-turned-billionaire telecommunications baron, was reported missing 10 days ago and that "[b]lood matching his DNA has since been found on the floor" of his home in Latvia. His plane is also AWOL.
We love the fact that Michael Eisner, the former Disney CEO and once one of the most feared men in the media business, was reduced to staking his claim for media influence with only his shitty little chat show on CNBC. It's almost as satisfying as when former New Yorker editor and dressed up gossip hound Tina Brown had to stake her claim for influence with a shitty little chat show on CNBC. Fantastic schadenfreude for the unsuccessful masses. In Eisner's latest hard-hitting, needle-moving interview, he tracks down designer Vera Wang and gets the scoop on her Olympic ice skating dreams, and her thoughts on wedding dresses. Hey Mike, work like this is why they RE-broadcast you at midnight!
Jesus, I just watched most of the first episode of The All-For-Nots, and it was painfully boring. The web show about an indie band was produced by Michael Eisner, whose last project Prom Queen was trash. This time Eisner used the creative team behind The Burg, a clever and underappreciated satire on Williamsburg. But very little of The Burg's cleverness made it to The All-For-Nots; the new show actually seems like some side project they could have made to prepare for The Burg. Below, a typically fantastic Burg episode, followed by a decent episode of The All-For-Nots.
"What makes this country great is patents and copyrights." Amen, Mikey. God bless America. [Rex Sorgatz]
Former Disney chief Michael Eisner, right, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban participate in a question and answer panel at the SXSW Film and Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, March 11, 2008. (Photo by AP/Jack Plunkett)