Monday, July 28, 2008

Sacre Bleu! Jackie Never Posed Like That; French First Lady Jumps At Camelot Comparison In Chat with Newhouse's Vanity Fair

Sacre bleu! Is there not a day that someone in public life doesn't compare themselves to the Kennedys? In our latest episode of "Compare-alot", we see Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, comparing herself to former American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
"She was so young and modern, and of course unconsciously I would project myself more like Jackie Kennedy than, for instance, Madame de Gaulle, who would be much more like the classical French woman behind her husband," Bruni said in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, owned by Si Newhouse.
One thing Jackie never did was pose in the buff before she met her Jack. Nor did she date Mick Jaggger and Eric Clapton, as did the new French premiere dame. "I never realized how many nude pictures I did before I met Nicolas," said Madame Sakorzy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Stephen Colbert Began "Compare-Alot" seven months ago; TV Seer saw searing JFK-Obama comparison long before today's Berlin speech!

The comparisons of President John F. Kennedy with Sen. Barack Obama are in full bloom with today's speech in Berlin (Ich Bin Ein Obama!) More than seven months ago, however, that noted political analyst Stephen Colbert began his comparisons of Obama and JFK.

Best Conde Nast Covers Ever, Before and Since Si Newhouse- Top 10 List, According to No Particular Rationale Except Whim (sort of Like You-Know-Who!)

The brouhaha over The New Yorker's satirical cover of Sen. Barack Obama and his wife -- as well as the portrait of Si Newhouse in Sunday's New York Times, composed from Conde Nast magazine covers -- got us to thinking what were the best ever covers from this magazine giant? Do any of the Conde Nast crop beat the Esquire covers from the days of Harold Hayes? What about the sardonic covers of The New Yorker over the years? The fashionable excess of Diana Vreeland, the perfect pitch of Tina Brown for the zeitgeist, the Hollywood lovefests of Graydon Carter, and the green "enviro" covers, the political figures and the sports celebs in unfamiliar poses, and constant flash of flesh are all part of this ensemble. Of course, what sells on the newstand is undoubtedly part of the Newhouse equation, but we don't have access to Si's circulation numbers.
Nevertheless, there's loads to pick from. Here's our top 10 Conde Nast/Newhouse magazine covers:

- The Reagan Cover. As recalled in my "Newhouse" book, the June 1985 cover photo by Harry Benson captured the Reagan era as well as any photo. It also helped put the recently-revived Vanity Fair on the map and made Tina Brown into a media darling.

- The "Vogue" years of Diana Vreeland carried a certain classy timeliness, a look that calls to mind the late 1950s and early 1960s era that is now captured by the "Mad Men" cable television show.

- This 1976 Saul Steinberg cartoon cover captures The New Yorker at its fat and happy best under the William Shawn era, about a decade before Si Newhouse bought the magazine. This cover lined more dorm walls in the '70s than Farrah Fawcett.

- Does Demi Moore know how to sell a cover? With more than a little help from Tina Brown, the early drab photo of Demi promoting some crybaby movie with Rob Lowe was suddenly transformed into a superhero Demi, with her costume painted on, and then SuperMom Demi, bursting in all her prenatal glory.

-OK, maybe this wasn't one of GQ's best covers, in fact, pretty awful considering the subject matter. But, let's face it, we tossed it in only because we have a new update Kennedy book to sell!

-When Art Cooper took over GQ, the old magazine for dandies went on steroids, with enough muscle to outshine Esquire and other rivals during the 1990s. No other cover captured the early spirit of the Clinton years as did this cover, featuring Al Gore as Robin to Bill's Batman.

Are there any really memorable covers for Glamour, Mademoiselle, House and Gardens and other service mags run by the Conde Nast, probably so, but we couldn't find them. So we included this manual for those who would try and capture a timeless shot for Glamour.

Wired magazine, purchased by Newhouse during the high-tech boom, has recently shown some of the old pizzazz with its covers, but still nothing like this 1997 pre-Newhouse cover heralding the second coming of Steve Jobs at Apple.

Before the New Yorker's Obama cover this past week, the most similar cover was a 1993 diddy by Art Spiegelman, drawn during the height of the Crown Heights riots between Hasidic Jews and African-American neighbors in Brooklyn. Still, this was small potatoes compared to the reaction of the Obama cartoon.

If there was one particular cover that the late Alex Liberman, the late Helmut Newton and the very alive Anne Wintour could agree on it's this one, featuring perennial favorite Vogue model Kate Moss wearing the white fur hat (for Alex, one of the White Russians crowd) and the black leather favored by Newton in the 1980s cover with Claus Von Bulow.

Well, there you have it, the top 10 Conde Nast covers, before and during the Newhouse reign!

Monday, July 21, 2008

"The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" Re-Issued with New Warner Docu & Oliver Stone's "JFK"; New Preface Examines Obama, Ted and JFK's legacy in '08

My newly-reissued book, "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" has just been released this month and is the basis for a new two-hour Warner documentary with the same name that will be released this fall along with Oliver Stone's "JFK" (see today's Warner PR announcement below).
In the newly-reissued book, a new preface examines the impact of the Kennedys on the 2008 presidential race, Ted Kennedy's illness and his lasting 'A Nation of Immgirants' legacy, and particularly how Sen. Obama faces many of the same challenges as did JFK in the 1960 race as presidential candidates from a minority background.

Oliver Stone's JFK Ultimate Collector's Edition Available November 11 from Warner Home Video

BURBANK, Calif.--(Business Wire)--
The controversial highly-charged story surrounding John F.
Kennedy's assassination is revisited with the November 11 release of
Oliver Stone's JFK as a Three-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition from
Warner Home Video. The UCE will feature The Kennedys: America's
Emerald Kings, an extraordinary new documentary from filmmaker Robert
Kline based on Thomas Maier's acclaimed book about five generations of
the renowned political family. Unique to the documentary is political
and private footage of the Kennedys not widely available to the
general public. The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings documentary will
be premiered on November 10th at Boston College and also screened on
November 12th at Fordham University/Lincoln Center. Both universities
have the largest Irish studies programs in the country.

The JFK Three-Disc UCE includes the Two-Disc Special Edition
Director's Cut with 17 additional minutes not seen in theaters and the
documentary Beyond JFK: A Question of Conspiracy. It also contains
memorabilia from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Kennedy
Foundation, including reproductions of Kennedy family and presidential
photos, letters written by or to John F. Kennedy from J. Edgar Hoover,
Lyndon B. Johnson and more. The UCE also will include a Kennedy
campaign button from the National Archives and Records Administration.
Of particular distinction is the inclusion of John F. Kennedy's
historic inaugural address and a handwritten letter to his father,
Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.

In addition, the set features a collectible booklet containing
production photos and photo cards showcasing the actors in character
with a mini bio of their character. Additionally, the film will be
making its Blu-ray(TM) Hi-Def debut as the JFK Blu-ray(TM) Hi-Def,
featuring premium hardcover book packaging with press material and
photographs from the film.

Stone directed from a screenplay that he wrote with Zachary Sklar.
The all-star cast includes Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin
Bacon, Gary Oldman, Jack Lemmon, Laurie Metcalf, Sissy Spacek, Joe
Pesci, John Candy, Walter Matthau, Sally Kirkland, Donald Sutherland
and Edward Asner.

The JFK Ultimate Collector's Edition will sell for $39.98 SRP; the
JFK Blu-ray(TM) Hi-Def for $34.99 SRP and The Kennedys: America's
Emerald Kings, available separately, for $19.97 SRP.

About The Documentary

The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings is an American saga about
the Irish Catholic experience. It encompasses five generations of the
Kennedys' and Fitzgeralds' lives -- starting from 1848 in Wexford,
Ireland and ending in 21st-century America. The film was adapted from
Thomas Maier's highly acclaimed book The Kennedys: America's Emerald
Kings from Basic Books, re-released in July 2008. The documentary
provides a look at both the family's tragedies of poverty and
political oppression and their successes and the triumphs of the White
House years. It embodies the most complete work on this Irish American
family and their unique place in American history and culture.

Warner Home Video
Ronnee Sass, 818-977-6439
Carl Samrock Public Relations
Karen Penhale or Marie Remelius, 818-260-0777
E-mail requests for materials:
Basic Books
Greg Houle, 212-340-8163

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Michelle Obama likened to Jacqueline Kennedy -- Welcome to Compare-alot!

Just how much is Michelle Obama like Jacqueline Kennedy, and is the First Lady-wannabe from Illinois deliberately patterning her public appearance on the Queen of Compare-alot? This video below is a funny look at the comparison, with a little bit of 1960s bubblegum TV music thrown in.
This blog's Kennedy Watch has compared JFK and Barack plenty of times. (Indeed, the new introduction to the newly-reissued "The Kennedys; America's Emerald Kings", describes how John F. Kennedy's historic 1960 campaign bears many similarities to Obama's race so far in 2008. If elected, Obama would be the first president from an African-American background, but JFK's bid as the first Catholic made him the only one elected to the White House so far from a minority background.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

After Si Newhouse, Who's Next?

So who will take over from S.I. Newhouse at the Conde Nast media empire someday? In today's New York Times, writer Richard Perez-Pena makes the following assessment:
Today, speculation revolves around how much longer Mr. Newhouse will maintain his desk in the executive suite. In the 1990s, Jonathan Newhouse, a first cousin who runs Condé Nast International in London, was widely seen as the heir apparent.
In this decade, that designation shifted to Steve Newhouse, one of Donald’s sons, who, as chairman of, has overseen all of Advance’s Internet operations since the 1990s. Both ideas are simply wrong, according to Steve Newhouse, Mr. Townsend and some other top executives. Instead of a single heir to Si, they say, a team of people will be running the show.
But back in the 1990s ('94 in hardcover; '97 in paperback), didn't a certain book make the same assessment as Mr. Perez-Pena? Notice the attribution in the book -- Good Old Tina Brown, the only one brave enough to talk to Si's biographer at the time. Mmmm........what ever happened to Tina? Oh well, Mr. Perez-Pena, for essentially repeating our book "Newhouse" and making no mention of it so our Amazon number might go up, we say no soup for you at the Four Seasons!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Permissiveness? Not Dr. Spock, Says Widow, Rejecting Label from Nixon's VP, Spiro Agnew. Spock So-So On Spanking, But He Wasn't a Crook!

One of the worst, most shameless political acts of the 1960s was the claim Dr. Spock was permissive. Anyone who knew Ben, anyone who read my biography, knows that isn't true. The phrase 'permissive' was hurled at Dr. Spock by Nixon's Vice-President Spiro Agnew. It was kind of like throwing a rock at Bambi, but the charge still lingers. Recently, Spock's widow, Mary Morgan, wrote into U.S. News and World Report's parenting column to let them know how Ben really felt.
There was even a note from Mary Morgan, widow of the child-rearing guru Dr. Spock, adding a perspective only she could bring: "I remember hearing Dr. Spock say: Most parents hit their kids at some time. I try not to make them feel guilty or tell them not to do it. However, I've seen many children raised well without being hit and I know that it can be done."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Obama May Not Laugh, But Some Newhouses Who Own The New Yorker Are Democrat Fans

OK, so maybe not everybody got the joke with The New Yorker cover. We at this blog (we're speaking in the Charlie Rose third-person voice again) -- happened to be atitter over the cartoon of Sen. Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. Maybe years ago, when Conde Nast chairman Si Newhouse's best friend, Roy Cohn, was alive, we might have thought this was all a political dirty trick. But these days, Si and his brother Donald remain agnostically in the background, while magazines cater to more than their fair share of liberals. And it's not like the Newhouses, whose family-owned company Advance Publications runs The New Yorker, are against the Democrats. Campaign records show that Wynn Newhouse, the son of chairman, has given a few thousand to the Democratic National Committee, and apparently Lorry Newhouse, another-in-law, also gave some dough.
As that famous philosopher Bette Midler says in the current issue of Vanity Fair, another Newhouse publication, "I say f-- 'em if they can't take a joke!"

"The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings" -- New Documentary Based on Book Along with Oliver Stone's "JFK" Coming This November

Along with the re-issued book, "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings," a new two-hour documentary of the same name is being released this November by Warner Home Video and producer Robert Kline. Here's what the new three-pak will look like. Here's what they're saying about it:
On the live action front, just in time for the Presidential election, Warner will deliver a 3-disc JFK: Ultimate Collector's Edition on DVD, including special packaging, 3 hours of bonus content and collectible memorabilia, as well as an all new documentary, The Kennedy's: America's Emerald Kings. This title will also be available on Blu-ray Disc format in Digibook packaging.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

'Ich Bin Ein Obama!' European Trip Expected to Hasten Comparisons to JFK; Barack Welcomes "Compare -Alot"

As the foreign press reports, the upcoming trip by presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama is likely to increase the number of comparisons of him to the halcyon "Camelot" days of the late President John F. Kennedy -- what this blog refers to as "Compare-Alot." As we noted before, more than 2,000 published comparisons of Obama to JFK have been made by the press so far this year. Lots of the comparisons are superficial ("They're both skinny!") but there are real substantive similarities that aren't really being discussed. (Like how do you win election to the presidency when you face bigotry because you come from a minority group? JFK's Catholicism was the number issue of the 1960 campaign). The new Obama trip to Germany may throw that number into the stratosphere. Unless the Bushies can prevent it, plans are being discussed about a speech by Obama at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, reminiscient of JFK's famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" - I am a Berliner -- speech in 1963. Of course, readers of a certain book will know that JFK insisted on stopping in Ireland right after that Berlin appearance. If the Kennedys really have influence, maybe Obama will stop in Dublin too!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Anything But Camelot -- JFK Would Have Been Amused By Imagery But Historians Aren't. Kennedy's Real Meaning Is Breaking Barrier to the Presidency.

The constant refrain of "Camelot" whenever the Kennedy name is invoked has lasted for more than 40 years. It's one of the strangest conards in American history, one that would have amused JFK, according to the late historian Arthur M. Schlesinger. After all, Kennedy won a narrow election as the first Irish Catholic ever elected to the presidency -- hardly the stuff of British knights of the round table. Unfortunately, the Camelot imagery, though well intended and sympathetic, steals away the real historic meaning of Kennedy's tenure as the first president from a minority background in our history. The current campaign of U.S. Barack Obama has a number of striking similarities to Kennedy's 1960 effort, none more so than the attempt of another person from a minority background to break-through another barrier.
In a 2002 update to his best-selling "A Thousand Days," Schlesinger dispelled the Camelot imagery that his friend Jackie Kennedy help to create:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

JFK Assassination Threat During 1963 Ireland Trip, Months Before Dallas

John F. Kennedy's trip to Ireland in June 1963 was the happiest moment of his presidency, recalled his brother Ted, in an interview for my newly re-issued book, "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings." But there's an odd twist to this joyful trip that was a harbinger of the tragedy to come.
Only two years ago, the New York Times carried a story saying the Irish Department of Justice recently had declassified documents that mention three separate threats against President John F. Kennedy during his June 1963 to Ireland. As the Times reported:
The threats against Mr. Kennedy included a warning that a sniper with a rifle would take up position on a rooftop overlooking the president’s route from the Dublin airport to the Irish president’s residence.

This scenario bears an uncanny resemblance to what later happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963, a few months after JFK's trip to Ireland. This Times story tells of the extraordinary security measures taken for JFK's visit to Ireland, which included a trip to the Kennedy Homestead in County Wexford.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Video: Ted Kennedy Returns to Senate, Beside Barack Obama, Caroline Kennedy and Rep. Patrick Kennedy. First Return Since Cancer Surgery

"Aye!" With that vote in the affirmative, Sen. Edward Kennedy returned to the Senate for a crucial vote on Medicare today. Accompanying him into the Senate was Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, Caroline Kennedy, Sen. John Kerry and his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Child Obesity and American Diet - Dr. Spock Warned Long Ago of Kids Drinking Whole Milk, Eating High Cholesterol Foods; Once More, Old Ben Is Right!

Ten years after his 1998 death, Dr. Benjamin Spock is still at the vanguard of American child-rearing advice. His very early and very forceful advocacy of reducing the amount of whole milk and fatty foods in the diets of kids was met in the 1990s with a howl of disapproval, ranging from the dairy industry to fellow doctors.
Now, lo and behold!, the American Academy of Pediatrics is issued much stronger concerns about childhood obesity, the cholesterol in their diets, and the long-term health dangers it poses. This is an extraordinarily important public health issue -- just think of all those swimming pools this summer with kids with rolls of fat around their middle -- and Dr. Spock's advocacy helped paved the way. Like much of Spock's advice, this concern comes from his own personal experiences.
Starting with the first edition of his book in 1946, Dr. Spock always recommended meat and milk products as part of a child's diet. Dr. Spock's revisions of what had been his most recent advice -- to include small amounts of lean animal foods in children's diets -- stemmed from a switch he himself made to an all-plant diet in 1991, after a series of illnesses that left him weak and unable to walk unaided. His wife, Mary Morgan, said that after he made the dietary change, he lost 50 pounds, regained his ability to walk and became healthier over all.
''It enabled him to revise his book before he died, which was his most important goal,'' Ms. Morgan said.
Dr. Neal Barnard, president of Physicians for Responsible Medicine, an organization in Washington that advocates strict vegetarian diets for everyone, said that he had drafted the section on nutrition in the new edition but that Dr. Spock had edited it to give it ''his personal touch.''
Ms. Morgan said that ''Ben had a hand in every part of the book'' and that he was ''very committed'' to the diet.
Dr. Parker, the book's co-author and an expert in behavioral pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, suggested that parents at least be offered two alternatives. But Dr. Spock rejected this idea, stating in a letter to Dr. Parker that he wanted his book to be ''in the forefront'' of the growing awareness of the link between animal foods and disease.
Dr. Parker said Dr. Spock believed that his vegetarian diet ''had given him a new lease on life.''

I know from my personal interviews with Dr. Spock in the three years before he died just how much he was committed to this issue. In reading today's news dispatches, more than 10 years after Ben was reviled in the press for this advice, it made me smile and remember just how brave and pioneering Ben could be.

Friday, July 4, 2008

JFK Statute in New Ross, County Wexford, Marks 45th Anniversary of JFK Trip: Comments by Jean Kennedy Smith, former U.S. Amb, to Ireland

Our friends in Ireland write to let us know of last week's unveiling of the JFK statute at New Ross, where President Kennedy visited during his historic 1963 trip. Here's the press release about that event:

New Ross, Co Wexford, Ireland yesterday (Sunday 29th June 2008) unveiled during a gala ceremony a life-sized bronze sculpture dedicated to President John F. Kennedy on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of his historic three day visit to New Ross and Ireland. This is the only statue on the island of Ireland dedicated to the memory of President John F. Kennedy. Many details of this 1963 JFK trip are recalled in my book, The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings.
Former United States Ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy Smith, attended the ceremony as a special guest of honour and performed the unveiling. In what was an emotional remembrance of her brother and his immense contribution to the important relationship between Ireland and the United States, she shared her own personal thoughts on President Kennedy’s historic visit to New Ross and the legacy of his presidency on both sides of the Atlantic.
Jean Kennedy Smith commented during the ceremony on her brother’s visit to Ireland, "It was the first time a sitting American president had visited Ireland. He enjoyed his trip to Ireland more than any other of his presidency. There was no doubt in any of our minds just how much of an impact that trip had on him. "
She went on to say about her brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, who is recovering from serious brain surgery, “He’s good, he’s terrific, he’s a great sense of humour, he’s strong, everything has gone as hoped.”
Following the unveiling, at the Kennedy Homestead, Dunganstown, an afternoon tea party was hosted by the Irish branch of the Kennedy family. It was here that President Kennedy was guest of honour at a tea party hosted by his Irish relatives and friends during his visit.

Jesse Helms, Bete Noir of Kennedys and Other Liberals, Is Dead; Once the Hatfields and the McCoys with Teddy

In politics, it always helps to have a scarecrow to keep the pests away, and Jesse Helms served that mutual role for Teddy Kennedy. Helms reportedly has died at age 86, according to a group known as the "Jesse Helms Research Center". But in life, this "Righteous Warrior" took particular glee in aiming his vitriol at the Kennedys. Of course, as this story recounts, so did Teddy, making Helms into his favorite bete noir.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Review of Two New Bobby Kennedy Books: Thurston Clarke and Bill Eppridge on Robert F. Kennedy, RFK's Legacy from 1968

Forty years later, two books about Bobby Kennedy and his star-crossed 1968 campaign capture much of the enduring idealism of Kennedy's legacy. Thurston Clarke writes about RFK's last and most memorable campaign, and the photo book by Bill Eppridge, with a foreward by Pete Hamill, also reflects those times.
My own newly-reissued book, "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings," also tries to express this idealism while describing the mix of influences that Bobby Kennedy had become:
"As a senator, Robert Kennedy’s concerns revealed him to be a socially conservative Catholic as much as a disciple of liberal orthodoxy. He questioned the role of the federal welfare system and its impact on poor families, and he stressed the need for neighborhood control in running schools and antipoverty programs. His appeals to the conscience rather than to convenience seemed to assume that every citizen was able to feel responsibility as well as pleasure. He implored a materialistic American society to be more charitable, yet he believed that government handouts were ultimately corrupting. These infusions of spirituality into his down-to-earth politics were captured in an oft-quoted speech in South Africa, where Kennedy beseeched: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. Increasingly, his politics, like his religion, became visionary rather than dogmatic."
The journey of Bobby Kennedy is what's most fascinating, a man compelled by his beliefs in the end. As the Chicago Sun-Times said in its review of Clarke's book:
Always pungently observant, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, came up with an apt description of Robert Kennedy as he campaigned in 1968: “Bobby could have been a revolutionary priest.’’