Keepin’ It Surreal

I’ve heard people say that Las Vegas is the most surreal place on earth. But I just spent the weekend in Palm Springs, and I beg to differ.

Las Vegas has no sham about what it is — a place to indulge in all those things that you’re not supposed to do, like drinking, gambling, going to titty bars, eating bad food, smoking indoors.

Palm Springs, on the other hand, is much more multi-tiered.

There’s the ‘Famous People Live(d) Here’ tier. That tier is unmistakable, especially when you’re waiting at the stoplight at the corner of Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra.

Then there’s the ‘I’ve Earned the Right to Retire Here’ tier. Hectare upon hectare of gated communities, all of which look just as recently installed as the palm trees that surround them. I often wonder, in such surroundings, just who the gates are meant to keep out. I can’t recall the last time I saw so much automotive bling-bling (gold trim on half-block wide Cadillacs, landau roofs, custom hood ornaments), except perhaps on one of those BET music videos.

Then there’s the ‘I’ve Earned the Right to be Gay Here’ tier. And the nudist tier (which overlaps sometimes with the gay tier). And the Indian Gaming tier (which, interestingly, seems to have been appropriated in part by Donald Trump — funny, I didn’t even know he was Native American). And the mega-Christian tier, which inspires people to decorate their cars with tributes to the big J.

One of the scariest tiers is the media tier, which consists of only happy news (in spite of a world in total turmoil). I’m sure the focus groups must have revealed long ago that the population in Palm Springs didn’t want to know anything disturbing or complex, because everything is reduced to the most banal, palatable or cute.

I guess the break with reality is why people make this a weekend escape. What worries me is that some just never come back.

This Week in Misspelling

In my continuing effort to assist Chyron operators, may I present the following:

 

One would hope that someone responsible for putting presidential candidates’ names on the screen of a national news program would know how to spell those candidates’ names. Well, perhaps he/she was flummoxed by the fact that George Will was calling out Donald Trump.

The War on Pink-Haired Religion

If you’re a fan of pink hair and oversized nostrils, you’ve undoubtedly found yourself occasionally transfixed in a late-night television stupor by that mega-couple of Christian scams, Jan and Paul Crouch.

The Crouches have occasionally come under scrutiny over the years and have had brushes with scandals, both financial and sexual.  But a family squabble among the potential heirs to the TBN empire has triggered recent renewed attention to their finances and, in particular, to the tax-exempt status of their organization.

The New York Times delved into this juicy subject recently in a lengthy expose of the multi-million dollar empire that the two have built, focusing on their family dysfunction and on their questionable accounting practices.

Mr. and Mrs. Crouch have his-and-her mansions one street apart in a gated community here, provided by the network using viewer donations and tax-free earnings. But Mrs. Crouch, 74, rarely sleeps in the $5.6 million house with tennis court and pool. She mostly lives in a large company house near Orlando, Fla., where she runs a side business, the Holy Land Experience theme park. Mr. Crouch, 78, has an adjacent home there too, but rarely visits. Its occupant is often a security guard who doubles as Mrs. Crouch’s chauffeur.

The twin sets of luxury homes only hint at the high living enjoyed by the Crouches, inspirational television personalities whose multitudes of stations and satellite signals reach millions of worshipers across the globe. Almost since they started in the 1970s, the couple have been criticized for secrecy about their use of donations, which totaled $93 million in 2010.

The only confusion in all of this is how this duo has managed to get away with their scam for as long as they have.

Read the New York Times article:

Biden Endorses Marriage Equality

The Vice President, in an appearance on today’s Meet the Press, became the highest ranking U.S. official ever to have endorsed marriage quality. He described himself as “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage.

The right wing is undoubtedly going to twist Biden’s words around and have a field day with this, but Biden describes the issue in the most understandable way possible.

Locked Lips Sink Ships

The media still seems to have its collective crotchless panties in a twist about the ‘shocking’ kiss between Madonna and and Britney on the MTV Video Awards. And, oh yeah, that lip-lock between Madonna and that other skank.

Madonna, as reported in a second-day lead, takes credit for thinking up this stunt. Collective memory being what it is, the media seems to have conveniently forgotten that not more than a couple of months or so ago, Madonna was doing a publicity tour saying that she didn’t want any more publicity and that fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But, like a lost little street addict, she couldn’t live long without her drug of choice — publicity.

Those who forget history are doomed to be subject to Madonna’s bullshit.

Now, I’ll sit up and take notice when 50 Cent and Snoop show some mutual tongue action on national television. That’ll put some shizzle in my fizzle. (I know. I’m a white guy. I have no idea what that means.)

Barbara’s Latest ‘Get’

The latest entry into America’s “misery-as-entertainment” category is the Blake murder trial. The preliminary hearings started today and apparently his agent (if he still has one) negotiated a sweet deal with ABC so that his jailhouse interview with Barbara Walters would air on the same day. Great P.R., if it doesn’t backfire. ABC is providing reciprocity for the exclusive interview by airing the most insane-looking shots of Blake in their promos. Blake’s attorney seems to be using some Billy Flynn-type finesse with the press by stating that he has advised Blake against doing any TV interviews but staying on the case, nonetheless (unlike the parade of other attorneys who had Blake as a client and who no longer represent him).

The trial could go on for months, and I’m sure the wall-to-wall news channels are hoping that it does, considering the spike in ratings that they received from the O.J. fiasco.

But time will tell what the public’s threshold of endurance is.

Are You Ashamed?

I’m so ashamed. I’ve just finished contributing to the nation’s downfall.

I admit it. I just watched “Are You Hot?,” the latest way that television has found to humiliate America’s citizens. This gawk-fest on ABC capitalizes on the precedent set by “American Idol,” but relies not on singing talent but completely on externals instead.

The judges point out flaws with laser pointers. They insist that the camera zoom in on individual flaws. The more contestants twitch with discomfort, the more the judges seem to revel in making them squirm. No feelings are spared.

But you have to blame the contestants for humiliating themselves, as well. There’s complicity here.

There’s one glimmer of hope here — the judges are making huge point deductions when the women are scary-thin. Clearly, there’s some anorexia trotting around the stage. We can at least be thankful that it’s not being rewarded.

Fourth-Rate Fourth Estate

I know I’m a few days late in writing about this, but it took a while for reality to catch up with me after watching the Michael Jackson interview/documentary.

I can’t imagine that I can say anything about poor misguided Michael that hasn’t been said before. But I can make some remarks about the so-called journalist who put the thing together. I was so appalled that this was billed as a documentary. Last time I checked, a documentary filmmaker was someone who laid out the facts in some sort of sequence, and then allowed the audience to come to its own conclusions about what they saw. This used to be one of the basic precepts of journalism.

But Martin Bashir befriended Jackson and his family, established a certain degree of intimacy and trust, and made his film over the course of many months. But as soon as the film was in the can, his attitude was one of an editorial writer, of a commentator. He determined that he couldn’t trust the audience with what we saw in his film — he had to interpret it for us, and he had to make sure that his (and our) interpretation was negative.

And how is he punished for this amateurish approach to journalism? ABC is reportedly “punishing” him with a multi-million dollar deal for several more “documentaries.” I hope that any potential subjects of his future reportage have the good sense not to let this man cross their doorsteps, because he’s made it abundantly clear that he can’t be trusted.

Jackson is reportedly taking legal action against this hack and, for whatever else I may think of the way he lives his life, I hope Jackson wins this round.

Shame on the Beeb. Shame on ABC. But, mostly, shame on Bashir. The fourth estate is fourth-rate.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Dignity …

Hmmm …Mexican drug trade as Aaron Spelling camp. What will they think of next?

And, in these troubled times, they’ve given America just what it needs — more sociopath role models.

Predictably, Mexican-American groups are already decrying the stereotyping being done by ‘Kingpin.’ And rightfully so. There are precious few Latino characters (and actors) in prime time. Does the network have to make the first show that features more than a token sidekick so derogatory.

But aside from all that, I’m also decrying how cheesy the show is. ‘Kingpin’ is supposed to be NBC’s answer to ‘The Sopranos.’ But to me, it looks more like ‘Dynasty’ with machine guns.

If I want the cheese factor, I’d rather have it full tilt and unabashedly. I’ll stick with ‘American Idol.’

The ABC’s of Right-Wing Bitches

This must be the week for right-wing bitches to attempt redemption on national television. In a segment I’ve been referring to as the “Interview with the Vampire,” ABC’s PrimeTime Thursday features Katherine Harris, Florida’s Secretary of State and heir-apparent to the hair stylist, orange-juice fortune, and ideology of Anita Bryant, shows her mascara-laden self in an effort of self-justification.

Then, if the Katherine Harris appearance doesn’t inspire you to pledge never again to change your channel from the Cartoon Network, 20/20 — also on ABC — features the ever-vile but always jokeworthy Linda Tripp, replete with makeover. While her new hairstyle and facelift might make her an appropriate guest for Ricki Lake or Jenny Jones, it’s not exactly enough of a news story for a newsmagazine show. (Unfortunately, this subhuman horror hasn’t had a soul makeover, which would perhaps be a start at true redemption.)

Do these two think they’re going to change anybody’s opinions of them by these appearances? Or are they just so media-hungry that they haven’t even figured out why they’re going public? Maybe someday I’ll understand.