Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Barefoot Diva

I wonder how Ina Garten is going to explain this one when she arrives to gain entry past the Pearly Gates.

Garten, the syrupy-sweet, giggling "Barefoot Contessa" on the Food Network, has surpassed a line that you cross at your own risk.

When it comes to kids and animals, one must tread very lightly.

When it comes to kids dying of cancer, it's no time to trot out traditional acts of avoidance.

An "I'm really busy here, ask me later" doesn't get it this time.

Garten has been ducking the advances of six-year-old Enzo, who's suffering from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, something which will almost certainly kill him, sooner rather than later.

Enzo, through the terrific Make-a-Wish Foundation, has not once but twice requested that he be able to cook a meal with Garten.

Seems that Enzo became infatuated with Garten and her show while he watched TV with his mother, who tuned into "Barefoot Contessa" regularly.

I'll let TMZ.com pick up the story from here.

M.A.W. approached Garten with the wish last year ... but at the time, she was unable to meet with Enzo due to a book tour. The organization urged Enzo to pick another wish, but he told them he wanted to wait until she becomes available.

We're told the organization went back to Ina this year ... but her team responded with a "definite no" ... once again, citing scheduling conflicts.

Not just a "no," but a "definite no."


Garten's people keep citing scheduling conflicts, and they say that she "can't honor every request."

Umm, how many requests is she getting from six-year-olds with a terminal disease?

After reading Enzo's story, I couldn't help but think of New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez, who was so touched by a young fan's adoration of him---that kid has cancer, too---that, without being nagged, Sanchez all but adopted the boy. Sanchez flew him to a Jets practice, had him meet all the players, get autographs, and let the kid sit at Sanchez's locker, just taking it all in.

The smile on the boy's face went from Maine to California.

Not only that, Sanchez routinely called the boy, sometimes right after games, wondering what the youngster thought of the game. Sanchez would call at other times, too, just to chat.

Sadly, the boy who adored Sanchez passed away earlier this year.

Sanchez, it was reported, took the death pretty hard.

So Garten's boorish behavior does have its inverse, thankfully.

I can appreciate the need for a celebrity to prioritize requests, though I'm not sure Garten is getting all that many, but there you go.

But at what point do you put someone at the front of the line? Doesn't that ever occur to the "people" who are charged with the task of managing their boss's agenda?

And why didn't Garten herself overrule her minions and say, "Whoa---we need to address Enzo's request?"

The cruel irony is that Garten's people keep citing not enough time as their reasoning for rebuffing Enzo's advances, yet if anyone is running short on time, it's the six-year-old with cancer!

According to TMZ, a member of Enzo's family says the 6-year-old is heartbroken ... and asked parents, "Why doesn't (Garten) want to meet me?"

The horrible Garten (left) and six-year-old cancer patient Enzo

The MAW Foundation says that Enzo has finally changed his request to swimming with dolphins, which the Foundation is working on as we speak.

I don't know if Garten and her staff figured that this shameful denial of Enzo's innocent request would never see the light of day. Nothing doesn't see the light of day anymore, it seems, which is good and bad.

In this case, it's very good.

It's good that this came to light, because the more people who realize that Ina Garten is a fraud, the better.

According to one of Garten's reps, "Despite her demanding schedule, [Ina] participates and helps as many organizations as she can throughout the year, helping children and adults like Enzo with life threatening and compromising illnesses. "

Actions speak louder than words, lady.

Thankfully, there are athletes/celebrities like Mark Sanchez, and like actor Johnny Depp, who is famous for his eagerness to engage fans and surprise them with acts of kindness.

Then, of course, there are those like Ina Garten, who has smiled, winked and giggled her way to a fortune making hoity-toity French food on The Food Network.

Now we know that behind that smile and hidden behind those irritating giggles is a person whose heart is as cold as dry ice.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Ms. Garten is called out on this one by the man upstairs.

UPDATE (3/31/11): Garten changed her mind and reconsidered, but Enzo's family turned her down!

Read about it here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


It never mattered how much time passed since Elizabeth Taylor made a film that resonated, and it wasn't since 1966, really. It didn't matter that her work over the past 30 years mostly filled the small screen and was more perfunctory than rich.

Taylor, who passed away Wednesday at age 79 from congestive heart failure, was in that rarified air of movie stars who were living icons, no matter how little they worked.

Marlon Brando. Warren Beatty. Paul Newman. Robert Redford. Heck, Doris Day.

These actors could go years between films and it didn't matter. Their legacies were secured.

Taylor was among them. She hadn't done anything compelling on celluloid since she knocked it out of the park in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" in 1966, for which she won her second of two Oscars.

But it didn't matter, because Taylor had been in our consciousness since she was an adolescent star, and her many marriages often provided more drama and intrigue than any role she ever read for.

In "Woolf," for example, it was almost impossible to watch her share mesmerizing screen time with real-life husband Richard Burton and not imagine how close that story was to her actual marriage.

Taylor was an activist, particularly with her work involving AIDS. She was one of the first stars to be vocal about the disease, before it became hip and before folks started wearing those trendy ribbons.

Then, of course, there was her oddly fascinating relationship with Michael Jackson, which at times defied description---just like Jackson himself.

Taylor had been trying to die on us for decades. Stories of her close calls and medical drama have been going on since she made "Cleopatra" in 1963. Yet she almost made it to age 80.

The marriages, though, remain the biggest and most talked about part of her legacy. In a way, that's sad, but none of it was made up.

She had eight of them, including two with Burton. Tragedy ended her promising joint venture with producer Mike Todd, who was killed in an airplane crash in 1958.

Taylor's acting career was front-loaded; all the good stuff happened 40 years ago and longer. But when it was good, it was some of the best ever.


"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

"Suddenly Last Summer."

"BUtterfield 8."


And, of course, "Woolf," in which Taylor played Martha, half of a bitter aging couple, who uses alcohol, along with a young couple, to fuel anguish and emotional pain towards each other.


Taylor was only 34 when she made "Woolf," which is amazing, because she seemed so much older, as the script called for. And it wasn't just makeup that made her appear that way. It was, simply, her acting.

To give further indication of Taylor's acting skills and range, those considered for the part of Martha included Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Rosalind Russell and Patricia Neal, all considerably older than Liz.

Taylor's name really was Elizabeth Taylor. She was born in London, her mother an actress.

There was an elegance about Elizabeth Taylor. She was about as close to royalty as you'll get in a country that has no monarch.

She hadn't done anything all that special in front of a camera in about 45 years, but that didn't matter. But she did the AIDS thing and she lent her name and likeness to perfume. She was a giving, philanthropic person. She cared about people.

Taylor had her time and the fact that its impression left such a lasting mark is testament enough to her place in American culture, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ohio's Gloating Fool

What happened to being a gracious winner? What of the civil courtesy between states, when it comes to our elected officials?

John Kasich must have been that kid who whooped and hollered whenever he won anything, from Chutes and Ladders to a game of H-O-R-S-E on the driveway.

Kasich, a Republican, is the governor of Ohio, but he also has been a political commentator on Fox News, hosting a show on the network for some six years (2001-07).

He's a neighbor of ours in Michigan, but he's the kind that you hope to avoid, going from your car to your house. If he's mowing his lawn, you wait until he's done before you mow yours.

Kasich has taken the low road when it comes to landing goodies for his state, specifically when it comes to being the lucky recipient of Michigan's apparent move away from its film tax incentives, thanks to new Governor Rick Snyder's seige on them.

Kasich's state snapped up "The Avengers," which was initially scheduled to be filmed in Michigan. But because of the pending change to Michigan's incentives, i.e. it won't be nearly as attractive for movie producers to do work in the state, the makers of "The Avengers" decided to knock on Ohio's door.

Sure, you can film here, Kasich said.

That's all well and good. I can hardly blame Ohio for gobbling up Michigan's mistake.

What I don't care for is Kasich's gloating about it.

"We won another one from Michigan," Kasich crowed recently.

First, I don't know what "another one" means, unless he's talking about the now one-sided U-M/OSU football rivalry.

The gloating Ohio Gov. John Kasich

Kasich wasn't done being a poor winner.

"Michigan dropped the ball," he added.

Geez, John---you forgot to add, "Naa naa ne naa nyah"!

It's unseemly for a governor to publicly rub salt into the wounds of another state, especially a neighboring one. Kasich could have been very happy for Ohio without making Michigan's film enthusiasts---and job-seekers feel worse than they already do.

Kasich could have spoken about being grateful for the opportunity that presented itself. He didn't have to call attention to why that opportunity became available in the first place. And he certainly didn't have to do it in the manner that he did.

If I'm Snyder, I'm putting Kasich's gloating remarks in a special place in my brain, for future reference.

Time was that there was some decorum, especially among elected officials. You took the high road and even avoided mentioning others by name, if you could help it.

Kasich went out of his way to urinate on Michigan, like a juvenile.

That's OK, John. We'll remember that.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TV News Gets Its "Props"

No one shuffles papers anymore on TV.

I'm talking about the news people, who are moving further and further away from a paper-enslaved society. They've stopped killing trees---which is one less story for them to report, if you like irony.

In the days of Huntley and Brinkley and Cronkite---heck, even Chevy Chase---an iconic image was to see the newsmen read off their typewritten scripts (no TelePrompTers back then), turn the page when done, and then came the shuffling.

It happened at the end of the broadcast---Cronkite would say, "And that's the way it is..." and the camera would pull back and we'd see old Walter shuffling his pages of script on his desk.

I miss that. Call me silly, I don't care.

I bring this up because the paper shuffling has now been replaced by a new icon of TV news.

The laptop has replaced the news script.

The laptop has invaded the newsroom desks of the TV studios throughout America.

Apparently the "hip" thing now, if you're a news anchor, is to keep an open laptop on the desk before you. It seems to be mainly a prop, because I've never seen an anchor actually refer to the laptop.

Cronkite and the new dinosaur of TV news: the typewritten script on paper

Probably some producer of some TV news show decided that an open laptop would give the anchor credibility. Lord knows why. Have you seen the people who use laptops nowadays? I wouldn't trust them to mow my lawn.

How much do you want to bet that the laptops aren't even powered up?

This is hardly the end of civilization as we know it; I'm not angry about it. Actually, I think it's kind of amusing.

I'm not such a curmudgeon that I believe typewritten, paper news scripts should be sacred items.

But with open laptops sitting on the desks of all the TV news studios nowadays, it makes me wonder what the next hip thing will be.

Maybe the younger anchors of the near future will text the news and the words will appear on our TV screens.

Don't laugh.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

You Knew Him, Too

Raise your hand if you'd heard of Fennville, Michigan prior to last weekend.

That's what I thought.

We didn't know Wes Leonard, certainly, but we didn't even hear about his hometown, either.

Now Fennville is stamped onto our brains, and Wes Leonard is in our hearts.

We didn't know Wes Leonard personally, but we know who he is.

He's that great kid you'd like your daughter to marry. He's the athlete who turns the fans on and pleases his coaches. He's that good-looking boy who is morphing into a man and doing so with little drama or maintenance.

You know him. I know him. Perhaps you're even lucky enough to know him personally, or, bonus, be his dad or uncle or brother or friend.

You didn't have to know Wes Leonard personally to know who he was, or how tragic his story is.

Leonard is the 16-year old boy who collapsed and died moments after hitting the game-winning layup for Fennville High School, giving his team a perfect 20-0 record.

Fennville is the Michigan town along Lake Michigan where everyone knows everyone. You know that place, too.

Wes Leonard being hoisted by his teammates, moments before tragedy struck Friday night

Leonard died from an enlarged heart, which I always found horribly ironic, if you think about it.

It's among the scariest of conditions, because it's the heart and it is usually undetected until it strikes fatally. It waylays you and there's not a damn thing anyone can do about it.

There's really not more to add to this awful story that you haven't already read, but it strikes me, whenever something like this happens, how it doesn't matter that it's happening to a stranger.

That's because when something of this magnitude happens to someone so young, we relate it to our own situation, our own loved ones and friends.

Wes Leonard is merely a name. You can substitute, in his place, any number of young men or women in your life, past or present. Besides, we were all 16 years old once, so there's that common thread, too.

Wes Leonard's enlarged heart didn't give any medical folks or Wes himself a fair chance. By all accounts, Wes was afforded prompt attention and yes, there was a defibrillator in the house and it was used.

He was gone, for all intents and purposes, from the moment his body hit the basketball floor. A floor on which, minutes earlier, he had triumphed.

Sure, it's messed up. And you didn't have to know Wes Leonard personally to understand that.

That's because we really do know Wes Leonard. Just look around you.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Leo "Bombs" at Oscars

How stupid does Melissa Leo think we are?

Here's a trained professional actress, used to working in front of audiences, and she'd have us believe that, a) she didn't know that the Academy Awards was an inappropriate venue to use the F-word; or b) she simply couldn't control her mouth enough to let that word spew forward on worldwide television?

Leo is the actress whose performance in "The Fighter" earned her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. During her acceptance speech Sunday night, she said, ""Yeah I am kind of speechless. When I watched Kate [Winslet] two years ago, it looked so [expletive] easy!"

The epithet was followed by Leo's wide eyes, her hand over her mouth, and she did her best to look genuinely mortified that she had just said that.


For years, Oscar has been used as a platform for everything from political causes to industry bashing. Why, even a streaker once infamously graced the stage, in 1974.

"I wonder if that man realizes that he's revealing all his shortcomings," David Niven so coolly said after the naked man ran across the stage.

There was Marlon Brando sending what was purported to be a Native American woman to formally decline his Oscar for "The Godfather," protesting Hollywood's treatment of said folk in movies.

There was George C. Scott, who didn't bother to show up, choosing instead to watch a hockey game at home, in protest despite winning Best Actor for "Patton." He sent the award back, claiming he didn't want to be in competition with his fellow actors.

And now here's Leo, who dropped the first F-bomb in Oscars history.

For some reason, I just can't buy that Leo didn't know exactly what she was doing when she let it fly. I don't really know what her motive was, other than to perhaps gain what she has right now---15 minutes of infame.

Maybe she just wanted the thrill of saying F*** on live TV. Who knows.

But she certainly should have known better. I can't imagine being on such a stage, in front of millions of people watching on TV, and not being cognizant enough to censor myself.

She did it for shock value, let's face it.

Leo told CNN backstage that she "really didn't mean to offend anyone" with her slip of the tongue and apologized to anyone who might have been.

That doesn't exactly sound like someone who is sincere in their remorse.

What about, "I can't believe I said that!! Oh my goodness!! I'm so sorry!"?

Instead, Leo's other comments afterward suggested that she knew what she was saying, but she didn't feel like that word was all that bad, especially nowadays.

Leo: "Oops!" (yeah, right)

Naturally, Leo's "slip" was all the talk in the afterglow of the production. It just about overshadowed the other 99% of the show.

I'm sure she was real sad over that.

Now, to be fair, I believe that Leo was genuinely surprised and shocked when her name was called. You can just tell the disbelief on someone's face, when a nominee who didn't think they'd win, wins.

So I think Melissa Leo found herself on stage when she least expected it. But you can't tell me that she didn't know better than to use such language during her time of triumph.

No f***ing way.