TV and Radio
The trailer for "Moneyball," the Brad Pitt flick based on Michael Lewis's best-selling book of the same name, hit the Web this week, and it looks promising. Pitt plays Billy Beane, the Oakland A's general manager who's credited with using sabermetrics - a stats-heavy approach to evaluating talent - to turn around the formerly moribund franchise. The movie is co-written by "Social Network" scribe Aaron Sorkin and stars the always entertaining Jonah Hill as a character based on former A's exec Paul DePodesta. (Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman also show up as former A's manager Art Howe.) In the trailer, there's a scene shot at Fenway Park between Pitt and a character that vaguely resembles John Henry. Is it supposed to be him? Yes. In an email today, the Sox owner told us he's seen the movie and he is, in fact, in it. But - get this - he can't remember who plays him. "Forgot the name of the actor," Henry wrote. And darned if we know. The guy looks like a cross between John Heard, Ted Danson, and William Hurt, but it's none of them, and the Internet Movie Database is no help at all. Last fall, when the movie filmed at Fenway, we asked the Sox owner who he'd like to play him. His reply: Sam Shepard.
Amy Poehler at Harvard today (Reuters/Brian Snyder)
Even before she opened her mouth today, Amy Poehler managed to make us laugh. The Burlington-bred star of "Parks and Recreation" was the Class Day speaker at Harvard, and as she waited to talk, smart-aleck student Scott Levin-Gesundheit referred to Poehler as the "blonde Tina Fey." Without missing a beat, Poehler flipped the kid the middle finger. (That's what you call physical humor.) To be fair, Levin-Gesundheit's speech was funny, and even Poehler laughed out loud when the Harvard senior said he'd relieved himself nine times in the Widener Library stacks. An alum of BC - "which some call the Harvard of Boston" - Poehler encouraged students to keep an open mind as they embark on life after college. "Other people's ideas are often better than your own. Find people who challenge and inspire you. Spend a lot of time with them. It will change your life," she said. "You're here because someone gave you strength: God, Allah, Buddha, Gaga. Whoever you pray to." She also asked the students to be kind to their elders. "Would it kill you to be nicer to your parents?" said Poehler, whose owns parents were sitting nearby. "They have sacrificed so much for you and all they want you to do is smile and take a picture with your weird cousins."
A few other pearls of wisdom from Poehler:
- "If I wanted to give advice as an actor: Donít do it. Donít be one. There are too many. Sorry no more room at the inn. I bet youíre great, just work with the human genome."
- "I cannot stress enough that the answer to a lot of your lifeís questions is often in someone elseís face. Look at peopleís faces. They will tell you amazing things. Like if theyíre angry, nauseous, or asleep.
- "You never know whatís around the corner unless you peek. Hold someoneís hand while you do it, youíll feel less scared. Itís much more fun to succeed and fail with other people. You can blame them."
- "When you feel scared, hold someoneís hand, look into their eyes. When you feel brave, do the same thing. You are here because youíre smart and brave, and if you add to that kindness and the ability to change a tire, you almost make up the perfect person."
A long-ago girlfriend of Steven Tyler's is taking issue with the way she's portrayed in the Aerosmith screamer's much-hyped new memoir, "Does the Noise In My Head Bother You?". In a 5,000-word narrative for the pro-life web site LifeNews.com, Julia Holcomb says Tyler's "gross exaggeration" of their relationship is "puzzling" and she resents the way the "American Idol" judge talks about her "as a sex object without any human dignity." And that's just for starters. Holcomb, who's referred to in the book as "Little Bo Peep," reveals that she was just 16 when she met Tyler at a concert in Portland, Ore. in 1973, and within a year she was pregnant with his baby. She writes that her mother signed over guardianship to Tyler, and she and the flamboyant frontman planned to marry and start a family. But when Holcomb was five months pregnant, she was hospitalized with severe smoke inhalation as a result of a fire in her Boston apartment. She claims that Tyler pressured her to have an abortion, which she calls "a horrible nightmare I will never forget." Tyler could not be reached for comment today. He doesn't write about any of this in the book, focusing instead on the couple's habit of having sex in public, something Holcomb denies. (Not exactly a stickler for detail, Tyler actually misspells Holcomb's name in the acknowledgements of his book.) Today, Holcomb and her husband of 30 years are the parents of seven children. "I have made a point over these long years never to speak of (Tyler), yet he has repeatedly humiliated me in print with distortions of our time together," she writes. "I do not understand why he has done this. It has been very painful." But profitable, too. Tyler's book is currently No. 2 on the New York Times Best Seller list, having sold 107,000 copies in hardcover since it was released May 3, according to Nielsen BookScan. If you're wondering, that's a lot. By comparison, Sammy Hargar's new tell-all "Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock" has sold 54,000 copies and Patti Smith's National Book Award-winning memoir, "Just Kids," has moved 188,000 hardcover copies. Still, Tyler's got a ways to go to catch Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, whose book, "Life," has sold 543,000 copies in hardcover and 26,000 in paperback.
Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer was detained today in Amsterdam, though it's not clear why. Judging from a YouTube video of the arrest - see below - it appears the chanteuse may have been busted for staging an impromptu outdoor show. Following her release, Palmer, who's married to writer Neil Gaiman, talked about the incident on Twitter. "Dear Amsterdam, sorry I got arrested & the gig ended prematurely," she typed. "Took my belongings and put me in a holding jail cell, and after a while let me go with a fine. Still really unsettling. A bunch of fans held vigil outside the station and we all came to a salsa night to celebrate my freedom. My life is weird." The singer, who grew up in Lexington, is on a solo tour that stops tomorrow in Utrecht, Netherlands.
Katie Couric is suddenly very much in demand now that she's departing "The CBS Evening News." The anchor talked at Tufts a few weeks and now Boston University has announced that Couric will deliver the commencement addrees at Nickerson Field May 22. The onetime "Today" host, who's reportedly trying to get her own talk show, will also receive and honorary degree. But the real fun today took place after the announcement of this year's commencement speaker. That's when BU's dean of students Kenn Elmore jumped into the Charles. Elmore had promised to go for a quick dip if 2,011 members of the Class of 2011 contributed to the school's fundrasing campaign. (In 1996, you'll recall, then governor William Weld took the plunge, fully clothed, to show his commitment to cleaning up the notoriously nasty river.) "I ran my mouth and said I'd not only jump in, but I'd wear a tux and my flyest tie," Elmore told us afterward. "It was warmer than I thought it would be." It helped, of course, that Elmore had a wetsuit on under his tux. "I cheated a little, I guess," he said. You can watch him get wet here.
James Levine chatted with Terry Gross on "Fresh Air" today, ostensibly to promote a new book, "James Levine: 40 Years at The Metropolitan Opera," and the PBS documentary, "James Levine: America's Maestro," which premieres June 1. (You can read The Wall Street Journal's ambivalent review of the book here.) Levine, who recently resigned from the BSO due to chronic health problems, says he still suffers from back problems. You can listen to the interview here.
Robert B. Parker is no longer with us, but his literary creations are. Parker's estate - his wife Joan and sons Dan and David - along with his publisher have chosen two writers to carry on Parker's celebrated "Spenser" and "Jesse Stone" series. Michael Brandman, a longtime friend and collaborator of the author's, will handle the "Jesse Stone" books, while Ace Atkins will tackle Spenser. Though well known to the folks at G.P. Putnam's Sons, both writers submitted sample pages to the publisher. "We're absolutely thrilled with the quality of their work," Joan Parker told us yesterday. She said she's known Brandman for many years, but only recently met Atkins. "Bob's nickname for many years was 'Ace' Parker, so when Putnam called and said they'd found a good potential partner and his name is Ace, I said, 'Really?'" Brandman's "Jesse Stone" title will be published this fall, and Atkins's take on Parker's long-running "Spenser" series starts in spring 2012. Parker died last year at the age of 77.
Anthony Bourdain has a complicated relationship with Boston. On some level, the chef and silver-haired host of "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" hates the place because he grew up a Yankees fan in New Jersey. But on another level, he loves the the city, especially as exemplified in "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," the '70s crime novel by George V. Higgins. "It's one of the most important books of my life," says Bourdain. "And the Peter Yates film is pitch perfect. It's (Robert) Mitchum's finest hour." So when Bourdain came to town a few months ago to shoot an espisode of the Travel Channel show, he wanted to explore Boston's soft, mostly-white underbelly. The show, which airs Monday at 9 p.m., is not the usual best-of food show. "This is working-class cuisine, a lot of grinders, chowder, and drinking," said Bourdain. "We ate really well and we drank superbly...I just fell in love with the bars we went to." (Stops included the Galley Diner, Michael's Deli, O Senhor Ramos, L Street Tavern, and Quencher Tavern.) The soundtrack of the show was written by Bourdain's buddy, Mike Ruffino, the bassist for long-ago Boston rockers, The Unband. (The host told us he also tried to license the Modern Lovers's tune "Roadrunner," but the cost was too high.) Finally, we had to ask Boudain about the Red Sox's early struggles. "Honestly, I like the idea of having a worthy adversary, so I hope they win," he said. "I hate to see them beat the Yankees, but I cried real tears of joy when they finally won the World Series." Here's a snippet of the show for you.
Todd English is embroiled in another lawsuit, but this time it's the chef who's stirring the pot. English, whose restaurant empire has faced an array of lawsuits in recent months, mostly over unpaid bills, is suing a couple who sold him their Beacon Hill house in 2007. The chef contends Kenneth and Clarisse Zalcman, along with their real-estate broker Daniel Mullin, misrepresented the condition of the house at 81 Chestnut St., not telling English that the structure's foundation was rotted on three sides. The case was due to go to trial this week, but was delayed when Judge Lloyd Macdonald recused himself. In the suit, English claims that before buying the house for $2.9 million, he explicitly asked about the foundation because some neighboring properties had a history of problems. Attorney Danielle de Benedictis, who's representing English, said her client was assured there were no problems, but there were. English, who's since sold the house (for $3.5 million), ended up making repairs totaling more than $300,000, according to de Benedictis. The attorney for the Zalcmans calls the chef's claims half baked. Anil Madan says an inspector picked and paid for by English warned of potential problems, but the Olives owner never followed up. Instead, English signed a purchase-and-sale agreement accepting the house as is, according to Madan. "We're going to try the case because my clients are being accused of all kinds of stuff and they've done nothing wrong," he said.
Jay Severin, the highly paid talk show host whose provocative on-air comments twice resulted in suspensions, was fired by WTKK-FM (96.9) today.
Severin was let go because he did not maintain an "appropriate level of civility and adhere to a standard that respects our listeners and the public at large," according to a statement released by Greater Media Inc., which owns WTKK. "Unfortunately, it had become clear at several points in the past two years that Jay was either unwilling or unable to maintain our standards on the air. It's for that reason we have made the decision to end our relationship."
Severin, who signed a seven-year contract in 2006 that pays him close to $1 million a year, was suspended last week for saying on the air that he had slept with female employees years ago. "That's not the purpose for which they were hired," he said while discussing the case of a CEO who was sued for sexual harassment. "I don't think of myself as a monster or strange in any way because of that. All I was was a young man who was the boss, and I did it because I could."
Severin was pulled off the radio in 2009 after he called Mexican immigrants "primitives," "leeches," and exporters of "women with mustaches and VD." He returned to the air a month later, apologizing for his "hurtful, unkind, and wrong" commentary. Severin did not return calls today, but his attorneys, George Tobia and Laura Studen, did.
"It's pretty transparent that this is no more than the station's interest in saving money," Studen said. "Jay's the highest paid guy at the station and they have a ratings problem, so they look at his contract. Jay's going to pursue all of his rights under his contract. He was terminated for no cause. This is a thinly veiled attempt to get out from under his contract."
For now, Michael Bower, who was Severin's occasional cohost on the 2-6 p.m. show, will take over while the station reviews its programming option for the time slot. By midafternoon yesterday, Severin had already been removed from the WTKK's website.
It had been a tumultuous tenure for Severin, who arrived on local airwaves in 2000, a self-described libertarian and "rock `n' roll Republican" with a fondness for tossing rhetorical bombshells. He used a crude epithet to refer to Hillary Clinton, called Jesse Jackson a "pimp, a race hustler," and said, in his world, "the poor and stupid would starve."
The firing did not come as a complete surprise to some observers, who suspect that Severin's high salary and also-ran ratings had become a problem for his bosses.
"I'd guess it was a business decision," said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine. "If you have a controversial host, you have to put up with a lot of heat from special-interest groups and, sometimes, the FCC. If the host is worth it, you keep him or suspend him. But when the heat outweighs the benefits, you get rid of him, and I'd say that's what happened in this case."
Since Arbitron instituted a new digital ratings system two years ago, Harrison said the numbers for Severin's show, once a leader among 25-to-54-year-old listeners, have been lackluster. He also said the culture of talk radio has gradually changed.
"There's less tolerance for frivilous, insulting, or offensive behavior," Harrison said.
That was certainly true two years ago when Severin made derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants. Organizations such as the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts protested, and Governor Deval Patrick, who does a monthly "Ask the Governor" segment with WTKK morning hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, said he was "embarrassed to be associated with the station."
In suspending Severin that time, Greater Media issued a statement affirming its commitment to "basic principles of civility, common decency, and respect for all cultures."
On March 29, while discussing the case of American Apparel CEO Dov Charney, who is being sued for sexual harassment by two former female employees, Severin called the women "whores and liars" and said they belong in jail. He went on to say that he had slept with interns.
"Those girls that got to sleep with me got to know their boss better, they got to go on trips, they got to travel in some cases to various parts of the world, to see things and meet people that they never would have seen or done," he said.
Greater Media management would not comment beyond its email statement yesterday, but a person close to the decision to fire Severin said his salary had little to do with the decision to terminate him.
"This was quite simply about a guy who ran out of second chances, and just couldn't maintain basic civility on the air," said the source, who asked not to be identified because was not authorized to speak publicly. "It's not about money. They will lose advertisers who believed in and supported Jay. But it was the only credible and honest way to deal with it."
Greater Media's full statement today:
Boston, MA (April 6, 2011): "Greater Media today ended its relationship with Jay Severin. Our company has always encouraged a free and open dialogue on a variety of issues and topics, and we will continue to be guided by that principle. But we also demand that our on-air talent maintain an appropriate level of civility, and adhere to a standard that respects our listeners and the public at large.
Jay Severin has been an important part of what we have accomplished with 96.9 WTKK-FM since its inception in 2000 and for that we are grateful and wish him well in future endeavors. Unfortunately, it had become clear at several points in the past two years that Jay was either unwilling or unable to maintain our standards on the air. It's for that reason we have made the decision to end our relationship.
In the interim, Michael Bower will be assuming the on-air duties from 2 to 6 p.m. each day on WTKK while we review our long-term programming plans for that time slot."
Vice President of Corporate Communication
Greater Media, Inc.
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