At the end of November, the pug-nosed jewel in the crown of Miramax’s stable of actors, Gwyneth Paltrow, stood up at Premiere Magazine’s Women In Hollywood luncheon. “Is anybody else sick of Gwyneth Paltrow?” she asked the crowd of her peers. “Everywhere you look you see her.”
Ms. Paltrow and the audience got a big chuckle out of that, a reference to the fact that Miramax’s crack squad of headset wearing publicity women–and small handful of men– who work at Miramax’s 11 Beach Street office were doing their job well.
The small department, lead by publicity and corporate communications president Marcy Granata, set up Ms. Paltrow’s photo shoots, got her a seat on David Letterman’s guest chair, and sent her out to La Bottega Marino in Los Angeles to chew the fat with an Entertainment Weekly reporter.
Ms. Paltrow was overexposed, but it was the kind of exposure that Miramax’s co-chairman Harvey Weinstein loved, and it was one of the reasons that he acted as a sort of Brooklyn Charlie, dictating every strategic move to his TriBeCa publicity angels, whom many in the industry claim schmoozed Miramax a path into world recognition.
Mr. Weinstein might not think that Ms. Paltrow’s joke is so funny now that some of Harvey’s Angels are flying the coop. In a brain drain that began in the spring, an executive vice president, two senior vice presidents, a vice president, and a junior publicist have either left, or announced that they plan to leave the company.
First to depart three months ago was Cynthia Swartz. For the last 10 and a half years, Ms. Swartz, a tough-cookie publicist, was responsible for engineering Miramax’s Oscar campaigns–including 1998’s dark horse Best Picture winner, Shakespeare In Love – and securing spots for Miramax films on the domestic film festival circuit. She left the company without another job, and was quickly plucked to head up publicity for Sony Pictures New York office.
More recently, Erica Steinberg, who had been at Miramax for nine and a half years, had handled the studio’s first break out hit, Pulp Fiction , and had developed a reputation as the publicist who could put up with any movie star (including, presumably, Sharon Stone when the studio produced the 1998 bomb, The Mighty ) left to start her own company, which one source familiar with situation said, will likely utilize her celebrity-handling skills.
Finally, Gina Gardini, a Miramax publicist for ten years, who handled the publicity for Life Is Beautiful , as well Kevin Smith’s slacker oeuvre, has announced that she will leave in the fall. According to one source who worked in the Miramax publicity office, Ms. Gardini had the reputation for shouting almost as much as Mr. Weinstein, and was also one of the few people who could get away with telling Mr. Weinstein what to do. Ms. Granata responded: “Harvey and Bob take the counsel of their staff all the time, especially veterans who they respect like Gina, Erica, and Cynthia.” At press time, Ms. Gardini had not lined up a new job.
So why have there been so many departures in the last few months? Ms. Swartz, Ms. Steinberg and Ms. Gardini did not return phone calls by press time, but former employees cite a few possible complaints that have been voiced over and over in the office– the occasionally “backstabbing” nature of the publicity department, and the micromanaging Mr. Weinstein, who may not get another good night’s sleep until he takes home another Best Picture Oscar statuette. Others cite the bad lighting and drop ceilings of Miramax’s office space. “I mean there’s no hidden reason or anything,” said Teri Kane, a publicist who’s staying put at Miramax but going on maternity leave in November. “There’s no exodus or anything like that.”
And Ms. Granata, who seven years into her job, finds her department considerably leaner just a few months before the big Oscar push, sounded as cool as a cucumber. “In terms of the evolution going on here, we’ve always been a strong department to promote from within,” she said. “I adore Gina, Erica and Cynthia, who have all been in the company longer than I. They are leaving after 10 years with the company having been the tops in their profession. They’ve been doing this for a very long time.”
Kimora Lee’s Underpants
It was pouring like nobody’s business on Aug. 3, the night of Kimora Lee Simmons’ Baby Phat lingerie fashion show, the kickoff extravaganza for the Fourth Annual Urbanworld Film Festival. There seemed to be some minor crowd-control issues inside the Sony Atrium where the event was being held, so the line that had formed out on the sidewalk wasn’t going anywhere.
As the rain pounded down, people huddled under umbrellas, newspapers and the building’s overhang. Blinking away the water that trickled down their faces, they watched as a posse of overgrown homeboys disembarked from a white Lincoln Navigator and a black Land Rover and calmly made their way into the party.
Toward the back of the line, a man waited patiently, holding his jean jacket over his head for shelter. Looking around at the partygoers who were getting wetter and wetter, he smiled broadly and delivered an assessment of the scene before him: “The ladies got their open-toe shoes on!” he yelled to no one in particular. “They got on they silky dresses that just cling to their bodies!”
Inside the cavernous stone atrium, which usually serves as a lunch spot for the corporate masses, the hip-hop was thumping and Mrs. Simmons, dry as the desert dust, was greeting her guests. Flashbulb light ricocheted off her rhinestone belt and the faux diamonds that spelled out “Baby Phat” in script letters across her burgundy V-neck T-shirt. With the help of someone named Jessica Maria Robinson–who had hand-made Mrs. Simmons’ rhinestone-studded jeans, and whom the former model thanked in the pink event program “for always helping me ‘hold it down'”– Mrs. Simmons was talking about her lingerie collection. When The Transom asked the lanky lass–whose rap-impresario husband, Russell Simmons, was kicking around the room–what was in store for the night ahead, she looked over to her sidekick for help.
“I think it’s going to be fun. It’s definitely going to be young,” Ms. Robinson offered.
“Sexy,” piped in Mrs. Simmons, smiling amicably.
“It’s sexy,” said Ms. Robinson.
“Fabulous!” interjected Mrs. Simmons.
“It’s young, sexy and clean. And fun. And fabulous. It’s glamorous!” Ms. Robinson exclaimed. “A lot of it is very glamorous,” she concluded.
“And very glamorous,” Mrs. Simmons remarked with resolve. “I repeated it, you see, so it’s a quote!” she chirped.
And then the wild underwear rumpus began. The glamor unfolded across a 40-foot catwalk that was outfitted with a long silver runner. First out of the gate was hip-hop artist Lil’ Kim, who strutted down the runway wearing a shit-eating grin and something called the Chandelier panty–a pair of underpants with strings of glittering beads strapped across the shiny fabric. The strings flapped as Lil’ Kim strode and did, in fact, bear resemblance to an extravagant light fixture.
Lynette Cole, also known as Miss USA, walked the walk in an “easy to pleat” slip dress. Lara Dutta–Miss Universe–was there too, sporting a faux chinchilla shrug with a black “forget about it” slip, and so on. Sean (Puffy) Combs’ mom, Janice Combs, even made an appearance in an “untamed” leopard-print camisole and skirt with an enormous white faux-fur wrap coat and a couple lapdogs on rhinestone leads. And after that came an onslaught of mesh bras, what the program termed “pussy panty” thongs, black driving gloves and more fur-free fuzz than you’d find in a vacuum bag.
The crowd seemed very hip-hop Junior League–composed and appropriately enthusiastic, but not out-of-their-minds ecstatic to be there with a roomful of practically naked models. That is, perhaps, with the exception of two skinny white boys who pressed up into the small mob to gain a better vantage point. “That’s my girl! That’s my girl!” one of them gasped as one of the models strutted by. “Get her!” he commanded his friend, who was struggling to get the disposable camera out of his pocket before the woman made her return trip down the runway. The friend had just snapped the picture when another model, more scantily clad than the one before, emerged from behind the screen. “Yo, yo!” the first boy huffed, sounding panicked. “You got any more pictures?” he asked his friend, then added: “That wasn’t her.” Now he was pointing to the new model on the runway. ” That’s my girl!” he said. ” That’s my girl!”
– Beth Broome
Me & Generation Jones
On Aug. 2, the third evening of the Republican National Convention, ABC News correspondent Cokie Roberts was about to do an online interview with Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, when a man named Jonathan Pontell thrust a sheet of paper into her hand. On it, was a photocopied bar graph titled “New Study Reveals GOP Danger: Key Male Group of Bush Supporters may Swing to Gore.”
Ms. Roberts looked puzzled. The 42-year-old Mr. Pontell, whose bleach-blond ponytail and bangs made him look a little like David Lee Roth during his solo days, explained that he had identified a key demographic of voters, born between 1954 and 1965, that could potentially turn the election. He also mentioned that he had named them Generation Jones.
Ms. Roberts smiled politely, but looked at Mr. Jones as if he were speaking in Farsi. “I’ll read it,” she said to him, with a nervous grin that suggested that his graph was headed straight for the ABC.com recycling bin.
Mr. Pontell stepped away from her, but didn’t seem disheartened. “I’ve actually been broadcast on quite a few national radio shows,” the sweaty Mr. Pontell said, trailing off. “Cokie never heard of it. But I’ve got a pretty good ratio. A lot of people have heard of it.” Mr. Pontell was wearing press credentials that identified him as an employee of Joneser magazine, which he claimed is the “Internet’s first videomagazine, or as far as I know.”
Mr. Pontell said that on Joneser magazine, celebrities such as Rosie O’Donnell and Wesley Snipes talked about their feelings about Generation Jones.
A quick look at the magazine shows Mr. Pontell shoving a microphone in the faces of a number of very confused celebrities, and getting their reactions to his explanation of Generation Jones. Marie Osmond scooted her brother Donnie away from the camera pretty quick. Former Twisted Sister singer Dee Snyder seemed to enjoy the attention.
The Transom asked Mr. Pontell to explain Generation Jones
“There’s this big group of Americans–26% of the population–that got lumped in with baby boomers years ago simply because of one thing. A birth chart!” he said. “A lot of kids were born between 1946 and 1964, so some demographer said, ‘Oh, let’s call that a generation.” Mr. Pontell was looking a little frustrated. “But generational personalities come from sheer formative experiences, not head counts! There’s clear differences. Then, we got lumped in in the mid-Nineties with the whole Gen X Babblepaloozza which is clearly ludicrous.”
Mr. Pontell said that he felt like he was a product of the beautiful and enlightened Sixties, but was only able to leave the house in the sucky seventies. “I remember begging my dad to go to Woodstock, and he said, ‘What are you talking about? Finish your broccoli and go to bed. You’re 11!'”
So Mr. Jones went through life, started a distribution business selling “household safety devices” to schools, but all the time, felt displaced.
“I wasn’t spending sleepless nights obsessing about the fact that I’d been mislabeled,” he explained. “I mean, it wasn’t really on my mind that much, but over the years it was in the back of my mind.” He said he sold his business in the Eighties, “retired,” moved to Europe. In a German apartment by the beach, he heard strains of a techno song that sampled Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I have a dream speech. “It brought tears to my eyes, and it clicked for me that….I’m not a flower child. I was a kid! I was being formed by these changes. And…that there’s probably a whole generation of us out there.”
Mr. Pontell said he then went out and started spreading the gospel. He told the Transom he sat down to lunch with Douglas Coupland, who coined the term Generation X. (Mr. Coupland e-mailed: “This Jones guy showed up at a reading in Vancouver last year. He pinned me for about ten minutes afterward. No lunch.”)
But Mr. Pontell says that while he traveled the campaign trail, he found a real kindred spirit in one George W. Bush. “I met him in New Hampshire, and he was receptive,” he said. “I talked to campaign people, Karl Rove, and Karen Hughes” And they were interested. I ran into Bush in South Carolina, and he was really nice, he called out, ‘Hey Mr. Jones!’ He calls me Mr. Jones.” (A representative of Mr. Bush’s campaign said that Mr. Pontell’s name didn’t ring a bell.)
According to Mr. Pontell, it’s a good thing he’s listening. “Generation Jones men are like really swing voters, like they’re supporting Bush, but it’s really, really soft support.”
Mr. Pontell started writing a book, which Vanguard Press confirmed it will be putting on its list in the fall. Mr. Pontell said that labeling a generation wasn’t exactly lucrative work, so he hoped he’d sell “a ton of books.”
The book, of course will pin many of the Joneser’s problems on that Joneser-despised Greatest Generation. “Really, the Boomers have clung to power,” he said. “I mean it sounds sort of like a conspiracy, but they’ve clung on to it in a way.”
And he has proof! “Bryan Adams, a Joneser singer, comes up with a song called “Summer of ’74.” According to Mr. Pontell, the baby boomer-run record company didn’t think that had the cachet so they forced him to change the title to “Summer of ’69,” even though Bryan Adams was 8 years-old in 69!” he said. Mr. Pontell paused. “Now that , I’m not 100 percent sure. It could be an urban myth.”
–additional reporting by Alex Riccobono