Frey scolded by Oprah. Both walk away rich

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Thursday, Jan. 26 will go down as a banner news day. Not because Hamas won control of the Palestinian parliament or because New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith decided Google should explain its decision to do just a wee tiny bit of evil over in China.

But that's not news.

Oprah Winfrey admitting she was wrong-now, that's news! Yes, Oprah admitted that defending James Frey's "memoir," "A Million Little Pieces," (and by memoir, we mean book of lies) was a "mistake." She said she was "duped." Even The New York Times called it an "extraordinary reversal."

Normally, we'd lament the news priorities of this great nation. But not this time. In our humble opinion, we feel that "Oprah Eating Crow" should be a three-hour movie directed by Peter Jackson (shown in Imax). Yes, there are plenty of legitimate issues wrapped up in this mess: the publishing industry pushing writers to turn bad novels into "memoirs"; a rampant victim-worshipping culture in the U.S.; and the dreaded brand damage.

But unlike our own Scott Donaton, who penned a Web column examining the issues, we had a more simple motive in wanting an Oprah meltdown. We're petty and jealous and wanted to see her knocked off her pedestal. Besides, the Oprah fascination befuddles us. She's a talk-show host-not someone important like a football player! Say what you will about Martha Stewart, but at least the woman can cook. And Martha would never think of foisting Dr. Phil on us.

Of course, instead of watching Oprah fall off her pedestal, we saw the equivalent of Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man," in which a mentally unstable guy (and the woman who supported him) get mauled by a bear. James Frey never knew what hit him. And Doubleday's Nan Talese got smacked around pretty good, too. If a neutered David Letterman taught us anything, it's that you don't mess with Oprah. Then again, with "Pieces" inching back up to No. 5 on Amazon, Frey and Talese should have plenty of green to soothe the pain.

As far as fallout for Oprah goes? We did receive this thoughtful release from Paul Levinson, chairman of the department of communications and media studies at Fordham University: "Oprah's backpedaling on the Jim Frey memoir travesty is better late than never, but not soon enough to prevent some serious damage to Oprah's image and position as one of America's most trusted advisers on how to live your life." He goes on to add: "Sales for the book ... have been skyrocketing, because people are interested in anything controversial. But when the dust clears, Americans will remember that Oprah's first response was to stand by an author who was lying to them."

If only.

But, hey, as long as John Grogan's "Marley & Me" is true, we won't get overly upset.

Bollore movin' on up (movin' on up)

When Alain Cayzac, Havas' longtime exec VP-chief communications officer and director, packed up his belongings and left the company's suburban Paris headquarters, who moved into his office? None other than Vincent Bollore. Last summer, Mr. Bollore, Havas' single largest shareholder (current stake: 24.15%), won the title of Havas' chairman after staging a boardroom coup that ousted former Havas chief Alain de Pouzilhac. Now, the billionaire businessman (ranked No. 292 on Forbes' most recent list of the world's richest people) is on a mission to prove to investors and Havas employees just how serious he is about the ad biz. "I am in Alain Cayzac's office to show my long-term commitment, and above all to work in greater depth in my role as chairman," said Mr. Bollore in a fax to Adages. No word on whether he's decked out the office with Hello Kitty pencil-holders, bobble-heads of EU commissioners and one of those "Just Hang in There" posters. And so far, folks on this side of the pond don't have to fear a knock on their own office doors. Bollore isn't crossing the Atlantic: Through his secretary, he said rumors that he's taking an office in the Manhattan headquarters of Euro RSCG Worldwide aren't true.

Just call it Hangover Day

Here at Adages, we're big fans of overlooked holidays. Talk Like a Pirate Day, for example, is one of our pet causes. We're also fans of days that should be holidays. The Monday after Super Bowl Sunday, it seems to us, is one such example. Luckily, for us, the National Association of Persons (NAP, get it?) feels the same way and has launched a Web site, daday.com, to get national recognition of "Day After Day". Sure, it's a cheap publicity gimmick by White Castle, but a good cause is a good cause. Call your representatives in Congress and tell them to quit it with the earmarks and get on some legislation that really matters. (P.S. Go Steelers!)

Contributing: Lisa Sanders

Share your "memoirs" with kwheaton@crain.com

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