Success often spawns imitators, especially when it comes to blockbuster movies, reality TV shows, and apparently now campaign fundraisers.
A couple of weeks ago 150 Hollywood stars and entertainment industry insiders showed up at George Clooney’s home and dropped a cool $6 million into President Obama’s campaign war chest.
To supplement the fundraising take, the Obama campaign came up with an idea of a nationwide contest, dubbed “Obama, Clooney and You,” where for a suggested donation of $3 participants would be entered into a raffle, with the ultimate winner of the contest being allowed to go to Clooney’s home and meet the star and his friend, the president.
The winners ended up being New Jersey science teacher Beth Topinka and Florida utility company employee Karen Blutcher. Both women came with their spouses, and the two couples were reportedly given seats toward the rear of the tent.
The fundraising tactic brought in an additional $9 million, and the resultant $15 million overall take was the largest amount ever raised in a single presidential campaign finance event.
Results such as these leave political operatives breathless.
Consequently, the fundraising format is being emulated. Sarah Jessica Parker is set to host an Obama fundraiser at the West Village home that she shares with husband-actor Matthew Broderick. The fundraiser will parallel Clooney’s record-breaking model.
Parker’s party will reportedly utilize the same kind of online raffle component as the Clooney fundraiser, with tickets even having the exact same suggested contribution of $3. Participants will be entered into a drawing, where one winner and his or her guest will be selected to attend the event and will also be given airfare and tickets to a Mariah Carey performance.
Obama and the first lady will appear at the “Sex and the City” star’s home next month in New York for the event billed as “A New York Night With the President, First Lady and Sarah Jessica Parker.”
Parker’s message in a campaign email pushed many of the Obama campaign themes, beginning with the actress touting her gender and business acumen as she evoked the “fair share” mantra, which has been a part of so many of the president’s speeches.
“As a woman, a mother, and an entrepreneur, I need to believe our country can be a place where everyone has a fair shot at success,” Parker wrote.
The actress reinforced the idea of a tax increase on the wealthy by suggesting that the upcoming election “will determine whether we get to keep moving forward, or if we’re forced to go back to policies that ask people like my middle-class family in Ohio to carry the burden — while people like me, who don’t need tax breaks, get extra help.”
At the last State of the Union Address, the president criticized what he called the “corrosive influence of money in politics.” What a difference a reelection aspiration can make.
Parker, who has been a longtime Obama supporter, ended her email with the following message: “I hope you’ll help me welcome President Obama and the First Lady to New York. It should be fabulous.”
“Paranormal Activity 3” is the third supernatural flick in the amazingly successful film franchise.
The movie’s debut this past weekend shattered four box-office records: best domestic opening day for a horror film ($26.2 million); top midnight opening for a horror film ($8 million); highest opening for any October film; and record opening for a fall season film ($54 million).
“Paranormal Activity 3” is a prequel to the first in the series and is set 18 years prior to the events of the first two films.
The latest installment of the “found footage” horror franchise actually employed a distinctive social media approach to marketing and promotion, with its “Tweet Your Scream” campaign on Twitter before it was released.
The “Paranormal” demon possession films utilize the same grainy home video appearance and wobbly handheld camera approach that movies such as “The Blair Witch Project” have incorporated. Audiences are given the suggestion via the amateur video technique that what they are viewing may truly have occurred, a sort of horror reality show.
The home video theme is actually written into the film’s plotline in that one of the main characters is a wedding video photographer who uses the best VHS equipment of the time.
In an age of computer-generated special effects, “Paranormal Activity 3” scares viewers the old-fashioned way, which is reminiscent of famed filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock.
Viewers are taken on a jittery journey in which tensions build over time and emotions escalate from subtle apprehension to peak suspense.
Hitchcock knew that sometimes that which we are unable to see with our eyes is can be more terrifying than that which is explicitly presented.
Why would audiences then flock to the theater just to be scared out of their wits?
Joel Cohen, a professor of marketing and anthropology at the University of Florida, chalks it up to a quest for excitement in an otherwise mundane world. He tells LiveScience, “In the real world, people simultaneously can experience both happiness and sadness, exhilaration and anxiety.”
Cohen says that people crave excitement, even if it’s negative, or “otherwise, things could be pretty dull.”
Marvin Zuckerman, psychology professor at the University of Delaware, in a somewhat similar vein views the attraction to horror films as being comparable to an adrenalin addict who is seeking the greater thrill.
“High sensation-seekers enjoy morbid curiosity in general and horror movies in particular,” Zuckerman tells the CBS News website.
Author Stephen King once remarked that horror movies often serve as a “barometer of those things which trouble the night thoughts of a whole society.”
As an example, fear of communism in the past gave rise to alien infestation films such as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” And anxiety over the potential demise of the world gave rise to apocalyptic movie fare such as “Night of the Living Dead.”
It could be that the routine demonization of individuals in our current media milieu has grown to such a proportion that it is fueling the fabrication of the dark “Paranormal” spirits of which audiences just can’t seem to get enough.
The entertainment community still adores former President Bill Clinton.
Hollywood showed him some love in series of events that recently took place to raise money for Clinton’s foundation and to celebrate his birthday. Festive functions included a Friday birthday gala at the Palladium, a Saturday night concert at the Hollywood Bowl, and a Sunday brunch and golf tournament.
Hollywood celebrities who were at various times on hand to greet the former president included Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres, Jeremy Piven, Laura Ling, Maria Shriver, Maria Bello, Jason Segel, Ron Meyer, Steve Bing, Lawrence Bender, Barbra Streisand, and James Brolin.
Saturday’s concert was billed as “A Decade of Difference,” a reference to the Clinton foundation’s ten years of work. Stevie Wonder treated the crowd to a surprise performance. Other entertainers who graced the stage included Kenny Chesney, Usher, The Edge, and Bono.
Lady Gaga used the occasion of Clinton’s 65th birthday to act out her version of the classic performance by Marilyn Monroe, in which the legendary star serenaded President John F. Kennedy. It was a pop culture contrast, warping together two starkly different time periods.
Clinton was sitting in the front row, along with his secretary of state spouse Hillary and his daughter Chelsea.
“Bill, I’m having my first real Marilyn Monroe moment,” Gaga said after having finished singing her version of “Happy Birthday” to the ex-prez.
“I always wanted to have one. And I was hoping that it didn’t involve an accident with some pills and a strand of pearls, so here we are,” Gaga added.
While engaged in her performance, Gaga behaved in a manner that went beyond Monroe’s sultry singing and mildly suggestive body language. The pop phenom removed articles of clothing in a striptease of sorts, so that by the performance’s end she was wearing only a flesh colored body suit.
When she introduced her tune, “Bad Romance,” Gaga said, “So tonight, I just thought we’d all get caught up in a little ‘Bill Romance.’”
As she writhed around in front of the former first family, she exclaimed, “It’s a good thing I used to dance on bars, right?”
For no apparent artistic reason, she threw in the F-word and gestured with her middle finger while talking between tunes. Facing the 42nd president, Gaga said, “If someone had told me so many years ago that I’d be doing that right in front of you I just would not believe them. I would have given a good American f–k you.”
Bill later quipped, “I got nervous when Gaga said she was planning to have a Marilyn moment. I thought, my God, I get Lady Gaga and I will have a heart attack celebrating my 65th birthday.”
Kanye West paid a recent trip to the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City.
Just in case anyone might mistake him for being part of the non-wealthy “99%,” when the rapper arrived he sported a designer shirt worth several hundred dollars, a pair of $1,000 jeans, and lots of bling to complement his gold and diamond crowned teeth.
West is one of numerous celebrities to have turned up at the anti-capitalist protests. Other famed figures who have appeared alongside the disgruntled group include Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore, Russell Simmons, Penn Badgley, and Talib Kweli.
As Kanye approached the scene, activists were transformed into a kind of fan convention and proceeded to mob the star.
West was accompanied by hip-hop mogul and frequent protest visitor Simmons.
“This morning I applaud @kanyewest for using his celebrity to help others. His appearance yesterday mattered #occupywallstreet,” Simmons tweeted about the trip.
But Simmons also revealed that the two had to make a hasty exit due to the protestors having gotten a bit out of hand over Kanye’s presence.
“It’s tough being @kanyewest people were climbing on him. It was a huge security risk but he just kept shaking hands #occupywallstreet,” Simmons wrote.
Adding some additional thoughts about the adventure on his own blog, Global Grind, Simmons wrote, “It was amazing to see how people loved seeing Kanye West at Occupy Wall Street. His music and his art has always been about the voice and the power of the people.”
“Kanye just wanted to come down and experience the growing movement that has opened the eyes of many around this country and around the world of the struggles of poor people. The energy at Liberty Plaza was electrifying and the momentum to get the money out of politics is growing quickly,” Simmons shared.
It’s not quite time to call in Jimmy Carter, but “American Idol” has reached a critical juncture. The voting process of TV’s most successful show is coming under scrutiny.
The recent elimination of contestant Pia Toscano got the social networks abuzz with posts from shocked fans, many of whom claimed that sexism had played a part.
Pia, a crowd pleaser and music critic fave, provided the viewing audience with some of the most consistently professional performances this season. Not only was Pia expected to be one of the finalists, she was thought by many to be the one who would win it all.
When “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest revealed that Pia was the individual who received the lowest number of votes, the audience groaned and yelled, “No!” Jennifer Lopez burst into tears, while the two other judges, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler, expressed bewilderment. Tyler even uncharacteristically scolded the voters, saying that their “lack of passion was unforgivable.”
A host of celebrities, including Tom Hanks, Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Alba, jumped onto their Twitter accounts to comment on the vote.
“Don’t have an IDOL habit, but how could the USA vote Pia off? I may be done for the season!” Hanks wrote.
Kutcher tweeted, “Who are the people that vote on American idol? That’s just crazy! That Pia girl is dope! #almostcriminal.”
Alba asked, “Who’s mad about Pia? I think she’s got a promising career ahead of her. Girl can sing her butt off and she’s stunning.”
The prior week the show had sent away Naima Adedapo and Thia Megia. With the elimination of Pia, it became the fifth consecutive time a female contestant had been unable to receive the votes necessary to continue in the competition.
In addition, no female has won “Idol” since Jordan Sparks four years ago became the last singer standing. As of this writing, only two women remain: Haley Reinhart and Lauren Alaina.
The odds, of course, now favor a male winner. This has led distressed “Idol” viewers to speculate that young female fans, the same demographic that created the Justin Bieber phenom, are swaying the overall vote.
“Idol” producers may have to reexamine the voting rules in order to maintain the show’s credibility. The current version of the rules allows voters to utilize the A.I. website to cast up to 50 votes. If fans are voting for contestants via their phones or by texting, they can vote as many times as they wish without limitation. This affords contestants with devotees, who are motivated enough to repeatedly vote, the chance to remain in the “Idol” race.
The rules could easily be changed to emulate the tried and true democracy principle of one person/one vote. The technology exists to limit each computer I.P. address or phone number to a single vote.
Still, there is another issue this year that relates to the judges. When Simon Cowell exited the show, he took his acerbic candor along with him. The current three-judge panel has taken a much more positive approach with contestants. This has lent a sweetness to the show that many find appealing.
For the artists, such an atmosphere is extremely encouraging and is a confidence booster. On the other hand, some critical guidance may be falling to the wayside in an effort to avoid stifling creative juices.
Randy, Jennifer and Steven certainly favor an upbeat approach. At its heart, it is a difference in philosophy and style of interaction. It suits them well, and the opportunity for viewers to witness their camaraderie is a bonus. However, this means that criticism, in all of its forms, must come generally to contestants’ ears via the musical mentors, who do not hold as much weight with participants or the voting public.
It turns out that Simon’s honest and sometimes brutal remarks may have served an important function, that of directing voters to performers who most deserved their attention, and ultimately their votes.
Blasts of criticism keep wafting President Obama’s way, and they’re not coming from Fox News.
The barbs tossed at the White House are arriving courtesy of some of the more prominent members of the Hollywood left, and the theme that keeps recurring is that there is a vacuum of leadership in the White House.
Matt Damon, who enthusiastically supported Obama’s 2008 campaign, has taken to griping about the president. He told CNN’s Piers Morgan that Obama had “misinterpreted his mandate.”
Damon quoted what he called a “great line” from a friend, who had said, “I no longer hope for audacity,” a reference to Obama’s book title, “Audacity of Hope.”
The actor attacked Obama’s policy in Afghanistan, referring to it as a mission that has not “been very well articulated.”
“It would help to kind of reframe the way we’re thinking about being there and why we’re there,” he added.
Damon was also peeved with Obama’s State of the Union speech. He decried the lack of any reference to the underprivileged in the address.
“He didn’t even say the word ‘poverty,’” Damon said. “You’ve got millions of people languishing in it.”
The former Lincoln Bedroom squatter, Barbra Streisand, confided her misgivings to Larry King back in late 2010, when King was still hosting his show. She expressed dismay about Obama and the Democratic Party, miffed that the president had not used “his executive privilege … to get rid of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The singer-actress revealed that she left the country and traveled to Europe before the midterm elections to avoid what she described as a “bloodbath.”
Streisand put on her political strategist cap and told Larry that she had figured out why her favorite party had suffered such a shellacking. According to Babs, it was due to “a mistake on the Democrats’ part that they have not gotten their message across in communicating all that they have done that is good.”
If only the Dems had sought communication advice from Streisand prior to November.
The Queen of Malibu was also unhappy with Obama’s tax compromise, describing it as “not fair to working people in America.” She grumbled, “It’s just not fair.”
Jane Lynch, channeling her Sue Sylvester “Glee” character, expressed her frustration with Obama during an interview with Newsweek in late 2010, conducted before “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed.
“We thought the great hope of Obama was going to magically change [gay rights], and it doesn’t seem to have … He’s just nicely walking the middle,” Lynch said.
In late 2009, Angelina Jolie chastised the president in an op-ed, which was published by Newsweek. In the column, titled “Justice Delayed Is Not Justice Denied,” the actress and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador gave an account of the tragedy in the Darfur region of Sudan where “government supported militia have left 300,000 dead and 2.7 million people internally displaced.”
Jolie blasted Obama’s absence of leadership, noting that his administration had “not yet announced any serious moves” to bring the profoundly malevolent Sudanese leaders to justice.
Us magazine cited sources at the time, which indicated that the actress “hates” Obama.
During the summer of 2009, Robert Redford, actor and head honcho of the Sundance Film Festival, went after the president for his inaction during the Gulf oil spill. He spouted criticism that was similar to the kind leveled against then-President Bush after Hurricane Katrina.
“The voters sent Obama to Washington to be a bold and visionary leader,” Redford told MSNBC, his tone implying that Obama had neither attribute.
“We don’t need a disaster-manager,” the actor said. “We need a leader.”
Movie director Spike Lee chimed in on the Gulf spill, telling GQ, “The thing we don’t talk about is that 11 Americans lost their lives and it took seven weeks to invite their families to the White House. I’m not trying to bash my man, but that’s a long time.”
Lee threw down the race card against the first African-American president, using the phrase “environmental racism.”
“If this oil spill would have reached the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, that [expletive] would have been fixed,” Lee said.
Who’s next to sound off?
It’s time for Obama to really start worrying if he gets some snarkiness from Snooki.
It all began when a Venice, California jewelry store reported a missing necklace.
It was not your run-of-the-mill jewelry item but reportedly a one of a kind piece of bling, made with gold and semi-precious stones and valued at $2,500.
According to police, Lindsay Lohan was seen in a store video, wearing the necklace prior to it having been reported missing. Photos of the actress taken a week later showed her wearing a very similar looking necklace.
After police detectives obtained a warrant to search the troubled actress’s Venice home, the necklace was turned in to a police station by a Lohan associate.
According to TMZ’s sources, Lohan claims she does not fill out paperwork when she borrows expensive necklaces from jewelry stores, but instead leaves that task to her underlings.
Lohan reportedly told friends that she doesn’t “deal with things like that.”
She is currently still on probation in her ongoing DUI case and, according to TMZ, she is expected to be charged with felony grand theft. If convicted, Lindsay could spend years in prison.
However, the Los Angeles County District Attorney disputes the TMZ report.
“I don’t know where TMZ is getting their information,” Los Angeles County District Attorney spokeswoman, Sandi Gibbons, told the Beverly Hills Courier. “We have our investigation under review and a filing decision has not been made.”
Her case seems to turn on whether she merely “borrowed” the costly accessory or took it without consent.
The shop owner tells a decidedly different tale. Sofia Kaman, owner of Kamofie & Company, told TMZ that there is a step-by-step procedure that is followed for a loan of jewelry.
Kaman admitted that typically, rather than the celebrity, a stylist who works for the star “will come in and ask to borrow the jewelry for a shoot or an event.”
“When we loan out jewelry, we have a whole procedure that needs to be done,” Kaman said. “There needs to be insurance information given or credit card information in case something happens with the jewelry.”
Shawn Chapman Holley, Lindsay’s on-again, off-again attorney, has released a statement saying that the actress plans to fight any charges brought against her.
“We vehemently deny these allegations and, if charges are filed, we will fight them in court,” the statement read.
It’s not the first time Lindsay has been connected with missing jewels. In 2009, British police investigated the disappearance from an Elle magazine photo shoot of $400,000 worth of Dior gems. Elle later released a statement exonerating Lohan.
Lindsay is also currently under investigation for allegedly assaulting an employee at the Betty Ford Clinic, where she was recently receiving rehab treatment.
The legal clouds forming over Lohan’s head could spoil her plans for a comeback film role in a thinly veiled autobiography.
Reality television now dominates primetime programming on the broadcast networks and is increasingly taking over cable as well.
The high ratings and low cost of these shows insures that this type of entertainment, and I use the term loosely, is here to stay.
The reality show genre has not remained static. New boundary-pushing shows have emerged as networks try to outdo each other.
In an unsettling sign of the times, it seems that we have rapidly mushroomed into a reality show culture, with all of the attendant celebrities such as Kate Gosselin, Kim Kardashian and the cast of “Jersey Shore,” who for no justification are outrageously overpaid and for no reason are ridiculously famous.
In many instances, young people now respond to the question of what career they would most like to pursue with the mind-numbing aspiration of “reality star.”
Of course, reality shows are anything but real. If audiences actually got to witness the makeup, lighting, staged setting, coaching, editing, etc., they would quickly realize to what terrible lengths they were being duped.
Interestingly, the last presidential election had many of the same elements that we see in reality show programming.
As a matter of fact, President Obama was swept into office thanks, in large part, to reality style wardrobe, makeup, lighting, scripting of lines, staging of events and mainstream media editing.
For over a year and a half, to the dismay of many who are still waiting for him to govern, the president has acted as if he is starring in his own reality show.
Perhaps he harbors a secret desire to one day be a cast member of “Jersey Shore,” the reality show of which he previously joked but later claimed he had no Snooki knowledge of.