Recently by Glenn Lovell

Arts journalists, don't despair. It's all Looney Tunes out there, anyway, right?

So make a point of catching Turner Classic Movies' new "Chuck Jones: Memories" -- it's amazing, a delightful, oddball combination of pocket documentary and back-porch ruminating by the eternally boyish Jones, who died in 2002.

Yes, I'm preparing for a class on classic animation ... but this conversation with the late, great, irreverent creator of Bugs, Daffy and the Road Runner made me feel things are looking up ... and maybe even a little ka-raa-zzy.

March 24, 2009 6:37 PM | | Comments (2)
Those of us who write for a living tend to think of the current crisis in journalism in terms of writers. There is, of course, a lot more to the story, as Jerry Condit's email reminds. Jerry until recently was employed by MediaNews' L.A. Daily News.

"I've been meaning to get back to you. I was 're-assigned' right out the door a month ago. With all of the layoffs and 200 more to come, I knew it was only a matter of time before they got around to me. Many have gone before me. The Daily News is going to outsource its printing operations to a private printing company in Gardena so everybody that's been connected with the printing end of things in Valencia is getting the boot, about 200 of them. I know that there has been more re-organizing in my classified department, which was Automotive.

"I left in good standing, was given some OK severance with an eligibility for rehire. I'd been with the paper for nine years but, quite frankly, because of the work I did (Sales Coordinator) I don't miss the job itself, just the paycheck, benefits, and some of my colleagues. Not sure what direction I'm heading. Unemployment insurance is good for 26 weeks but I know the stimulus package has a provision for a twenty week extension, which a few million of us are probably going to need. I have nothing to fall back on and I'm trying to figure things out. I'm studying for the CBEST exam which I failed miserably on ten years ago but back then I didn't prepare either.  I used to substitute teach in a private school years ago. I'm 59 years old and that is making the job hunt even more difficult.

"So, that's where I am, just another American statistic in these troubled times. Things ain't going to get any better soon and all papers in the country are hanging by a thread. The LA Times is in miserable shape too ... I'm sure the Mercury News isn't doing well, either. Be glad you had your teaching to fall back on."

March 10, 2009 7:58 PM | | Comments (0)
In L.A. at the moment for the American Cinematheque's John Sturges retrospective. I've been asked to sign copies of my biography "Escape Artist" and say a few words about the scheduled films, including "The Magnificent Seven," "Bad Day at Black Rock" and "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," which, in burnished deep-focus VistaVision, has never looked better.

The event is a homecoming of sorts for Sturges, who died in 1992: Several of his films, including "BDABR" and "Marooned" had early previews or were premiered at this weekend's venue, the wonderfully gauche Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Blvd.

Friday night's screening of "Mag 7" was well-attended by -- surprise, surprise -- a mostly male audience, some sporting black Stetsons. Eli Wallach, who was so memorable as the bandit Calvera, didn't attend, but he sent someone to collect a book. Nice. Jon Gregory, the British editor of "In Bruges" and the upcoming Cormac McCarthy adaptation "The Road," shared his boyhood memories of Sturges sightings. Fascinating. Another Sturges fan arrived with pages of notes on the book, which he said he had read twice. Scary.

Sturges is back in the news with the sad passings this week of Ricardo Montalban and Patrick McGoohan.

Though clearly ailing at the time, Montalban, one of Hollywood's true class acts, consented to a book interview, maybe his last. Sturges had cast him in "Mystery Street" (as a non-race-specific cop) and as a boxer in "Right Cross" who's romantically involved with Hollywood's Girl Next Door, June Allyson.

Recalling his days as an MGM contract player, Montalban told me, "I had something of a following in those days, but I was still playing Hispanic characters. The Sturges film ('Mystery Street') was a definite breakthrough for me. It was a well-written scenario that just told it like it was and made no apologies for my character having an accent. It was the first time that had happened for me, and, I think, one of the first times it had been done in a Hollywood movie."

About "Right Cross" he added: "We were dealing head-on with racial issues, and my self-hating (boxer) was controversial to a certain extent. But the movie was considered a step in the right direction."

Patrick McGoohan, aka Secret Agent Man and The Prisoner, starred as a James Bond
manque in Sturges' "Ice Station Zebra," Howard Hughes' favorite sick-room diversion.

January 17, 2009 1:02 PM | | Comments (0)
Could it be that in gauging the worth of journalists readers take their cue from the cavalier way in which we treat one another? 
How many times have you misspelled a colleague's name in an e-mail because you were too lazy to look it up? How many times have you guarded your beat -- and Rolodex -- from a fellow reporter whose coverage dared to butt up against yours? 
How many times have you reached for the phone or keyboard to find out how a laid-off associate is faring in his/her new life away from daily newspaper-ing? 
To one degree or another, we're all full of ourselves. It comes with the turf, no? J-school instilled that. Taught us to be driven, persistent ... self-obsessed in the pursuit of the scoop. 
The word "collegial" surfaces occasionally, but it comes off as flat, foreign-sounding when uttered by an editor. It's usually reserved for the dreaded performance review. 
These sentiments were sparked by the passing of a dear friend named Eirik Knutzen. Eirik, 64, was one of the brave ones. While the rest of us needed the security of a weekly salary and benefits, Eirik, being a singularly independent fellow, flew without a net. He freelanced for almost his entire career. 
At one time, he occupied an office in the old Bank of America building in Westwood. That's where I visited him when in town covering this or that press junket. Among his clients, the Copley News Service and Toronto Star, which published his TV dispatches and columns for 17 years. His celebrity profiles -- of everyone from Johnny Carson to Jim Carrey -- ran in most of the papers in this country and, before the advent of Internet thievery, many overseas. 
Like most of us in this business, Eirik wasn't a "name," but he was a respected writer who never took himself or the entertainment scene too seriously. It repaid him in full. When he died last month in Rancho Mirage of complications from a long battle with heart disease, his passing went all but ignored by colleagues. (Life partner Lani Young published a lovely remembrance in The Desert Sun.)
The Toronto Star -- which dropped his byline when he needed the paper most -- assigned someone to the obit who obviously didn't know, or care. The story was about a longtime Star fixture named Eirik Knudsen. A setrec on the misspelled surname ran a day later. 
"I was very embarrassed by this particular error," said entertainment editor Douglas Cudmore. "We've spoken to those involved and run a correction. Thanks for writing." 
Eirik, one of the great iconoclasts, would have managed a pained smile, and then remarked, "You can't fault them for being inconsistent."
December 21, 2008 4:23 PM | | Comments (0)

Before we let this bone go, indulge another posting on the Ramiro Burr-Douglas Shannon affair.

For the sake of accuracy, we must acknowledge that our profession has had a long, sad history of publishing ghost-written columns.

Consider a parenthetical before a 1949 entertainment column in the L.A. Times:

("While Hedda Hopper is in Europe her column is being compiled and written by her Hollywood staff.")

Might Mr. Burr have been better served by sharing a byline ... or by warning in parens "When I'm blocked or too lazy to come up with my own prose this column will be compiled and written by someone I rely on and respect but would just as soon not identify"?

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June 28, 2008 3:44 PM | | Comments (0)
San Francisco author Frank Robinson ("Waiting," "The Power") sends along this dispatch from the just-wrapped "Milk," the Harvey Milk biopic directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Sean Penn as the SF supervisor and Josh Brolin as his assassin, Dan White. Robinson worked (sort of) as Milk's speech writer and was asked to play himself.

"I was living on Red Rock Way, on a hill above Castro, working on 'The Glass Inferno' (which became 'The Towering Inferno' as a film). Used to walk down to the Castro for breakfast. Harvey had his camera shop and 'Kid,' his black mutt who would be outside humping anything that was warm and wiggled. I'd stop to pet the dog and fell into conversation with Harvey. I found out he was running for supervisor (a major political office in a major city! The guy was charming but obviously nuts). He found out I was a writer and invited me to join in some speech writing for him. 'It'll be a hoot, we'll stir a lot of shit.' We managed to 'stir a lot of shit' but it didn't become a hoot until they started filming the movie. Now, THAT was a 'hoot'!

"The first chance I got, I ad-libbed a dirty joke on camera and they made me a member of SAG. I have something like 17 scenes, including marches. Have no idea what will end up on screen. I ad-libbed my way through it, except for my one word -- "dogshit!" -- in my last scene. A great crew and literally thousands of extras (open call for the funeral march, etc.). Penn, Brolin, James Franco, Emile Hirsch ('Into the Wild'), Joseph Cross ("Running with Scissors"), etc.

"I read the script by (Dustin) Lance Black twice -- great script, story-teller's script.  Should be out in late October. They consider it a political film.  My last day, Van Sant gave a little thank-you speech and it was hugs and kisses all around.  Penn a love to work with, ditto Franco.  I'll really miss it. 

"Summary: Van Sant's biggest film and you'll have seen nothing like it. Penn looks EXACTLY like Harvey, slightly shorter and voice somewhat lower.  All of us who knew Harvey did a double take.  Ditto actor playing Mayor Moscone and actor playing Senator Briggs.  Doppelgangers ... ."

Speaking of Portland's own Van Sant: Check out his latest,"Paranoid Park." It's his best work since the Columbine-inspired "Elephant." Mesmerizing, disturbing, deeply felt.

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March 24, 2008 3:17 PM | | Comments (0)
Heard 'round the water cooler: An intern at the L.A. Times says the paper is looking to hire budget Woodsteins straight from J-school. This, after they offered -- and accepted -- buyouts from several of their most seasoned employees. Anyone care to advance?

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March 21, 2008 7:41 PM | | Comments (1)
Last week amid the third round of layoffs at the Mercury News, the new owners of my old paper decreed that local TV and film coverage was something they could do without. Henceforth, MediaNews would rely on its L.A. experts. The Mercury's TV critic and film critic were summarily shipped to the features gulag, where they will handle general housekeeping chores. The rock writer fared better: He only gave up two shifts to his old gig on the copy desk.

Man, what a difference a couple of decades make.

In the late '80s and the '90s, Knight-Ridder was riding a wave of unprecedented profits tied to millions in MN classifieds. The Miami Herald was the jewel in the crowd, the saying went, but the Mercury was KR's workhorse (or, as it would turn out, golden goose). The managing editor told us that the paper -- then listed among TIME's 10 best -- would not only be the "best in the west," it would be the best paper west of the Rockies. The SRO crowd in the conference room was duly impressed. It was as if a convoy of Brink's trucks had backed up to the loading dock.

Indeed, from the time I arrived at the MN things were flush. I had an expense account, covered the Oscars at the Oscars, was dispatched to the film festivals in Toronto, Sundance and Telluride. The supply cabinet, always stocked and unlocked, was bulging with shiny blue and red pens, spiral notebooks, AA and AAA batteries. Entertainment Editor Lee Grant, a wiry little guy with big plans, reminded us frequently that we were a "national paper" and should go after stories that resonated at home and abroad. To prove he meant business, he dispatched me to Cannes for two weeks and our rock writer to a music festival in Russia.

At its most robust, Silicon Valley's newspaper had bureaus in Vietnam, Tokyo and Mexico City. By the late '90s, the arts staff had grown to two film critics, two dance critics, a book critic, one and half theater critics, a rock critic, a hip hop critic, a classical music critic, two food critics, local and national TV critics, and a freelance architecture critic. Even those of us who weren't concerned with the bottom line considered this a tad extravagant. But, hey, when you've got it, spend it, right?

But then things went "Boom!" and job hunters turned to Craigslist, and the Mercury News, the first newspaper online, failed to heed its own advice about the importance of the Internet ... and the supply cabinet doors swung open to reveal a few mismatched ballpoints and the odd paperclip. To get into the cupboard that held the reporter's notebooks, you had to see the head clerk. She hid the key in her bottom drawer.

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March 16, 2008 11:50 AM | | Comments (2)
While investigating Gov. Spitzer's possible financial improprieties, federal authorities decided to have a look at his Netflix queue.

Wedged between "Live Free or Die Hard" and "The Good Shepherd," according to one source, were numerous "Pretty Woman" rentals, plus:

"Hustle," with Burt Reynold's cop and Catherine Deneuve's high-priced hooker speaking the langweege of love.

"Blaze," with Paul Newman as Louisiana Gov. Earl K. Long and Lolita Davidovich as his ballsy consort.

"Jefferson in Paris," about a pre-email politician who avoided scandal.

"Klute," with Jane Fonda as Bree Daniels, a pricey but conflicted New York hooker.

"Elmer Gantry," with the Oscar'd Shirley Jones as the evangelist's cat-house contributor.

"Primary Colors," with John Travolta making a reckless run up to the White House.

Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" -- a.k.a. the art-film defense.

And -- tagged "research??" -- "The Fortune," a Prohibition farce with Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty transporting Stockard Channing across states lines for immoral purposes.

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March 13, 2008 9:40 AM | | Comments (0)

How's this for niche marketing?

Obviously aware that consumers with a twisted sense of humor are gathering for the hit series "Dexter," advertisers are anchoring some of their less savory clients to the prime-time Sunday show.

During this week's episode - about the increasingly messy double life of a Miami forensic scientist-serial killer -- there wasn't a single commercial block that didn't showcase something of a sanguinary nature.

The evening began with a spot for the "30 Days of Night" zombie DVD and wound up with a preview for the upcoming creepfest "Shutter."

Wedged in between was DirecTV's takeoff on "Misery," with Kathy Bates reprising her Oscar-winning role as Annie Wilkes. This time, however, Annie shows author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) some mercy: She hobbles him ... but lets him keep high-def sports.

 Hey, when you've got a captive audience, you might as well get out the sledgehammer.

 Contact Lovell at

March 3, 2008 2:31 PM | | Comments (0)


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