SIDEBARS

By Published on .

Most Popular
Making way for a makeover: Michael Ovitz became Famous Big-Time in 1990 after engineering the MCA-Matsushita deal that would turn into a fiasco because the parties involved badly misjudged their businesses, goals, and corporate cultures. Now Ovitz turns up again as a backstage player who helped get Seagram Co.'s Edgar Bronfman Jr. to pay the Japanese electronics organization $5.6 billion for MCA control and the opportunity to be a Hollywood Player.

It has been my post-McLuhan, pre-People magazine credo that the business of America has evolved into Entertainment/Celebrityhood/Gossip businesses that are immune from foreign knock-offs and competitors. It's what we still do better than any other nation. As Roseanne put it recently, "Glamour is really the new drug of the '90s."

Anyhow, by abandoning the security of steady earnings derived from blue-chip DuPont's chemicals and oil businesses and opting for Hollywood's creative content, young Mr. Bronfman boldly confirms that premise. If the Eighties represented Corporate America's Brand Name Takeover Decade, the Seagram-MCA deal nails the Nineties as the Decade of Corporate America's Entertainment-Driven Makeover.

And if you're Michael Ovitz, what do you do next? Stay put at Hollywood's most powerful talent agency? Or opt for the chance to lead the "new" MCA? My guess is that Michael O. joins Edgar at MCA and they live happily ever after. Or until Michael O. parlays MCA into something bigger yet.

Homage to Howard: "The Book of Gossage" will not only brighten your day but will also remind you of how much the Kelly Award winners and finalists in the annual Magazine Publishers of America competition owe to the late Howard Luck Gossage, "The Socrates of San Francisco." Compiled by Sara Van Cleef and Bruce Bendinger (The Copy Workshop, Chicago, $37.50), the 326-page collection of articles, observations, ads and warm memories begins with this "motto": "If you're browsing through a bookstore and you see this book and you don't have to bend over to pick it up and there aren't six people waiting in line, and you have nothing better to read, there's a good chance this is your book." An asterisk reminds us that this "ad" is a takeoff on one of Howard's original Fina Oil classics (circa 1962): "If you're driving down the road and you see a Fina station and it's on your side so you don't have to make a U-turn through traffic and there aren't six cars waiting and you need gas or something please stop in."

MediaMeanderings: On "new Coke's" 10th anniversary, Coca-Cola Chairman Roberto Goizueta sure fudged it when he said, "If we had it to do all over again, knowing what the results would be, we would do precisely the same thing" (my emphasis). Fortunately, Sergio Zyman, who engineered the fiascola, got it right when he told Fortune, "[The] totality of the action ended up being positive." In other words: "Whew! Close call! And only now, 10 years later, can we joke about it."

First came Robert Sam Anson's remarkable, hard-hitting takeout on Michael Eisner and the Disney Co. in the March 20 New York Observer, an article pegged to the departure of Disney TV boss Richard Frank. The take-no-prisoners piece, likening Eisner to Capt. Queeg, skewered Disney management, morale and prospects. In contrast, Fortune Managing Editor John Huey's April 17 cover story, "Eisner Explains Everything," was a cream-puff. And then The New York Times' Bernard Weinraub contributed "Clouds Over Disneyland," where he obliquely seconded some of Anson's points. How come the Anson article ran in this small-circulation local weekly and not in the more widely-read Vanity Fair, Esquire or The New Yorker? NYO Editor Peter Kaplan, who knows Anson is working on a book about Disney, talked with his old friend after Dick Frank left Disney. "We can get [an article] out there fast, in less than a week, and with no punches pulled," says Kaplan. And that's how it happened.

The "Third Annual Sex Issue" from Details, featuring porn filmdom's Traci Lords on the cover, is, obviously, all about having fun in bed. And elsewhere. Yes, this is the May 1995 issue. The absence of even one AIDS-related article, or a condom ad, had me thinking it was, maybe, May 1965. In contrast, Rolling Stone's equivalent issue, No. 706, with Belly on the cover and no special "sex" format shaping its content, ran four AIDS-related public service ads, one of which dealt with condom use. Party on, Details.

What's this? A politically incorrect opinion in The New York Times? While most reviewers unstintingly hailed Broadway's "How to Succeed in Business ...." revival, Margo Jefferson zeroed in on a problem. Ms. Jefferson, successor to Vincent Canby at the Arts & Leisure Sunday section now that Canby is the paper's No. 1 drama reviewer, ripped the production for dropping the secretaries' song, "Cinderella, Darling." The song, she wrote, "is a shrewd capsule portrait of pink-collar femininity circa 1961, more accurate and therefore more biting than what [director Des] McAnuff substitutes: a girl-group reprise of Ponty's `How to Succeed' anthem, in which they plot to marry tycoons and take over companies. Trust the tale, not the teller, said D.H. Lawrence. Trust the audience too, one might add." To "patronize the audience," she wrote, McAnuff gave us a "mealy-mouthed" production instead of one that is "tough-minded." Against-the-grain viewpoints are all too rare among Times columnists, so it's significant that it was Ms. Jefferson who won the newspaper's only Pulitzer Prize last month. She's also a favorite of the New York Post's relentlessly partisan "TimesWatch" columnist, Hilton Kramer, who regards her as an oasis in a desert of "left-wing partisan journalism."

By time Vanity Fair bleeped the "f" word on page 102 of its May issue, it was too late. They had already used it on page 34 .*.*.

U.S. News' "On Society" columnist John Leo branded Time Warner our "leading cultural polluter" (March 27) because he feels its Interscope record label is "pumping nihilism into the culture" with "amoral singers" who are "glorifying brutality, violence and the most hateful attitudes toward women .*.*." Segue to April 16 when The New York Times Magazine glowingly profiled Interscope as "a profitable home for rappers shunned by mainstream companies." Mr. Leo's viewpoint warranted nary a mention.

"We'll now take our recess. Please do not conduct any deliberations among yourselves. Do not form any opinions until the conclusion of the evidence. Do not allow anybody to discuss this column with you. Thank you very kindly."

In this article: