LAST CALL 2016

party-of-the-year-holiday-2016

Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Michael Strahan, Kelly Ripa, Huma Abedin, Alex Rodriguez, Angelina Jolie, Ryan Lochte, Bill Clinton, Loretta Lynch, Colin Kaepernick, Heather Bresch, Hillary Clinton, Matt Lauer, Ghazala Khan, Khizr Khan, Gretchen Carlson, Roger Ailes, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rupert Murdoch, Jerry Hall, Anthony Weiner, Beyoncé, Martin Shkreli, Elizabeth Holmes, Harold Bornstein, John Stumpf, Sean Hannity, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Tom Hanks, Katie Ledecky, Ken Bone, and Boris Johnson.
Illustration by Barry Blitt.

Eight o’ clock The punctilious Khans, Khizr and Ghazala, arrive on time, invitation in hand.

8:13 Mistaking the event for a costume party, Roger Ailes and Gretchen Carlson enact one of his favorite fantasies and arrive as Jabba the Hutt and Princess Leia.

8:59 Misdirected by a special version of Pokémon Go customized for players hoping to reconstitute the Soviet empire, Vladimir Putin wanders in and spies mutual-admiration-society co-founder Donald Trump, who is loudly calling attention to himself by inviting guests to go furniture shopping with him.

9:04 Suspecting a better party at Robin Roberts’s pad, Michael Strahan ghosts his date, Kelly Ripa, leaving her to make small talk with other suddenly solo acts Angelina Jolie, Huma Abedin, and Alex Rodriguez.

9:13 Loaded with benjamins earned from Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda seeks investment advice from mogul Rupert Murdoch, who gazes into the eyes of Jerry Hall and tells him to put all his money into supermodels.

10:01 Trump ladies collide. “Now that the election’s over,” says Melania to Ivanka, “keep your hands off your father.”

10:08 At the potluck table, the Great British Bake-Off judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood summarily dismiss Anthony Weiner’s spongy spotted dick but praise the saucy lemonade buns of Beyoncé, who becomes distracted when she overhears her lyrics “Sorry, I ain’t sorry, I ain’t thinking ‘bout you” being sung by the sullied C.E.O. trio of Martin Shkreli, of Retrophin, Elizabeth Holmes, of Theranos, and John Stumpf, formerly of Wells Fargo.

10:48 Ryan Lochte, of the U.S. Bathroom-Door Removal Team, gets to work on the powder-room portal, exposing a casual chat between Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch.

11:05 Carrying a basket of s’morables, curse-crushing Cubs fan Hillary Clinton heads for her own rendezvous with destiny, only to stumble over an unexpectedly kneeling Colin Kaepernick, sending the basket aloft. Fortunately it is intercepted by a drone piloted by Tom Hanks, who attempts to land his craft on the surface of the punch bowl, at least until he spies Katie Ledecky, taking one more celebratory dip in the sangria.

11:19 Trump doctor Harold “Keep On Truckin’ ” Bornstein performs an instant physical on Sean Hannity and unequivocally declares him the healthiest individual ever to kowtow to President-Elect Trump, though at the same time the doc suggests that if Mr. Hannity is ever going to recover the use of his lips he will need to have them surgically removed from Mr. Trump’s rump.

11:46 In her cups, the Zika mosquito snubs EpiPen profiteer Heather Bresch. “I stick people because it’s my nature,” it sneers. “You do it to make money.”

11:55 Returning to obscurity, Ken Bone encounters thatch-roofed livery driver Boris Johnson, who explains his special Brexit car service: “We leave, but we don’t know where we’re going.”

11:59 Boom! What’s that? Another prime-time Matt Lauer interview crashing to earth? No, no, just Baby 2017, eager to begin.

A TIP OF THE HAT FROM VANITY FAIR

Written by Juli Weiner, encouraged by Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair plugged my book this week with an article called “The Book of Levon Celebrates the Man in the Band.” Very nice indeed. Thanks to one and all. Here’s how it reads:

logo_vanityfair“Nearly a year after the death of Levon Helm, the Band’s twangy and tender-hearted polymath, Spy alumnus Jamie Malanowski has published an e-single about, among other things, Helm’s combative relationship with Band guitarist Robbie Robertson, his dislike of Martin Scorsese’s (otherwise generally beloved) Band documentary The Last Waltz, and the singer and drummer’s magnetic, generous, and unpretentious character.

“The Book of Levon also includes a rather wrenching portrait of Helm’s fearsome, fearless counter-attack against a decade-long sentence of throat cancer. The disease took his singing voice, but Helm took it right back. Malanowski writes:

“[I]ittle by little, Levon Helm’s singing voice returned. Gone was his strong tenor, replaced by something raspy and ornery, different but still authentic, still compelling. At first he sang only a little, harmonizing mostly; “He was thrilled that his voice was coming back,” says [daughter] Amy Helm, “but at the same time, he had doubts. Once you’ve done your time on the oncology floor for head and neck, when you’ve done your radiation, and you’ve walked through those hallways and met other people who’ve gone through the same treatment as you, you don’t take anything for granted. He was happy it was back, but he knew it could be gone again.

“But it is not gone again: in recordings and in books and even in the film he so despised, Helm’s voice will long outlive its malignant adversary.”

GROSS AND GROSSER

My friend Michael Gross (left) had to know this would happen. In the September issue of Vanity Fair, a writer named Michael Joseph Gross (right) published a profile a profile of Sarah Palin which one can fairly describe as unflattering (“Anywhere you peel back the skin of Sarah Palin’s life, a sad and moldering strangeness lies beneath.”) A number of people found the piece to be unfair and containing errors, including the political pyromaniac Ann Coulter, who used her column to attack not Michael Joseph Gross, a reasonably productive magazine writer and author of a book called Starstruck, but to lay into Michael Gross, an enormously prolific writer of a bazillion magazine articles including an astonishing 26 New York magazine cover stories, as well as such bestselling books as Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money that Made the Metropolitan Museum, 740 Park, Genuine Authentic, and Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women. In her column, Coulter calls Michael “a typical, head-up-the-butt, New York reporter”, which, like so many of her comments, seems both 1.) harsh and 2.) inaccurate, at least in Michael’s case; I hold no brief for the other bloke. Anyway, this unleashed into Michael’s in-box a torrent of hate e-mail, which he quoted on his website:

“if you are the so called writer for vanity fair,this one’s for you! were you in Sarah’s bedroom,did you see whether her busband had sex with her….who are your so-called un-named sources and how many of them might have been peering through Sara’s bedroom windows…you’re peeping tom article is typical low life,new york jew smear….yes i am an anti semite,and those like you make my feelings all the clearer as to why” —
Sheila Lee (aug77@cox.net):

“Just wanted you to know that she could kick your ass…with one hand tied behind her back. Sad day in manhood…you pussy. Those terrorists use guys like you in place of sheep. I wish it weren’t true..I know guys like you can’t hardly wait.”–Michael Emley (maemley@comcast.net):

“You are an ass-clown.”–Sean Naylor (naylor41@mac.com):

“You are one fucked-up piece of shit. I just read Ann Coulter’s article about your Vanity Fair Article and have have to say, she hit it bang on. You are a real, gooy-gash piece of garbage. You need to find something else to criticize Sarah Palin about. Something thaT HAS SIGNIFICANCE REGARDING THE LIVES OF THE aMERICAN pEOPLE, NOT THE RETARDS WHO STRUGGLE TO READ VANITY fAIR.”–mIKE bOILEAU (boileau.mike@gmail.com)

A minor incident, but it says a lot about Hit-And-Run Coulter and her fans.

On the plus side, the Vanity Fair article did give us this brilliant Edward Sorel illustration above.

TODD PURDUM’S JOURNALISTIC HOWLER

sarah-palin-0908-01Todd S. Purdum is an accomplished reporter with a long string of successes, and his feature on Sarah Palin in the August issue of Vanity Fair, “It Came From Wasilla,” certainly constitutes a bright new pelt on his pony. But deep in the article, well past the jump, there is a swampy passage that I’m afraid does not pass the smell test. “More than once in my travels in Alaska,” he writes, “people brought up, without prompting, the question of Palin’s extravagant self-regard. Several told me, independently of one another, that they had consulted the definition of “narcissistic personality disorder” in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders–“a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy–and thought it fit her perfectly.”

Sorry, Todd–I’m just not buying it. The first sentence seems okay; even if it is highly doubtful that anyone actually used the words “extravagant self-regard,” people might well have said that Palin was conceited or full of herself or stuck-up, thus employing any of the useful colloquialisms that leap so readily to our lips. But the second sentence is unbelievable. Several people told him that they had so suspected Palin of a mental illness that they were driven to look up its technical definition, and look it up not on Wikipedia or Google or something by Doctor Phil, but in the standard professional reference book?

Ask yourself how often you’ve been motivated to take such a step. In my case, the answer is never.

The real clincher is the use of the flabby word “several.” Had this happened, Purdum would have been able to write a far weightier and more dramatic sentence by using the actual number. Consider: “Three separate people actually told me. . . ” The precision of the number packs a punch. Instead, he cloaks his amazing finding in the waffley “several.”

You know, there’s a fine old tradition of journalists sneaking some of their finer insights into the mouths of observers, and there’s not an editor who won’t nod and wink at that. And there’s another fine tradition of ascribing a common thought to an anonymous and convenient “several”–I feel confident, for example, that “several” people at the Staples Center yesterday wondered how long the Michael Jackson memorial service was going to go on, and I’m basing that strictly on logic and probability and my own assessment of the human attention span. But the key to making such a projection is plausibility. I’m sure a conscientious, thorough reporter would consult The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders before labeling a public figure a pathological narcissist, but unless Purdum was conducting his interviews in a psych ward, I’m just not buying that he tripped over three people in Alaska who did the same.