Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Year Of 'Golden Globes' in Journalism and Television

      Alfred A. Knopf famously said, "A publisher is known by the company he keeps." That could be said for writers too. In 2013, I was fortunate to be involved in projects that gained attention for the so-called 'Golden Globes' of Journalism and the real ones with Television Drama. 

                            In June, I and News 12 Long Island news director Pat Dolan picked up the so-called ‘Golden Globes of Journalism’  – actually the national Sigma Delta Chi Award for online investigative reporting -- for our joint probe of the international trade in human body parts, along with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Newsday and News 12 were part of a 14-member investigative team, including NPR's "All Things Considered", that were part of this award-winning project. We ran our version as a three-part TV series “The Body Business” with a Newsday story in April. This prize is the second time I won the national Sigma Delta Chi award.  Attached is a photo of myself with Pat at the National Press Club in Washington DC, accepting the honor for the ICIJ group at the awards ceremony.
 In December, “Masters of Sex” – the Showtime series based on my book – won two real Golden Globes nominations for best drama and best actor (Michael Sheen). As the author and a producer,  I hope to be there for the awards in LA on Sunday Jan. 12. Also the American Film Institute selected ‘Masters of Sex’ as one of the best 10 TV shows of 2013. The pilot for the show was filmed in New York City and Long Island, including several scenes at the old estate of former Newsday publisher Harry Guggenheim and Alicia Patterson. Here is Newsday.com story about the GGs:  http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/tv/tv-zone-1.811968/masters-of-sex-breaks-into-the-golden-globes-1.6593750

Friday, December 13, 2013

Live Chat About "Masters of Sex" -- 13 Things You Didn't Know

'Masters of Sex': 13 things you didn't know

Michael Sheen as Dr. William Masters and Lizzy
Photo credit: AP | Michael Sheen as Dr. William Masters and Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson in Showtime's "Masters of Sex."
Friday we chatted with Thomas Maier, whose "Masters of Sex" book has been translated into a hit (and Golden Globe-nominated) Showtime series. Maier, an investigative reporter and 30-years-and-counting Newsday employee, released "Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love," in 2009 and is a show producer.
The "MOS" season one finale airs Sunday, and Maier says it ends in a way "that I have always argued would be the right way to end it." He expects "viewers will be very surprised with what happens between Masters and Johnson in the finale. It will raise a whole new set of questions about the future of their sex study, about Bill's professional reputation and about the emotional relationship between Bill and Ginny."
In anticipation of these big reveals about the show's pioneering sex researchers, Maier offers up insights about the cast, the show's Long Island connections and who the real Virginia imagined might portray her on screen.
1. The book evolved out of a Newsday article Maier did in 1994 on the day of Masters' retirement.
It was a short little article, but the story of Masters and Johnson stayed with me for over a decade," Maier says. "In 2006, I had the idea of coming back to Masters and Johnson. By then Masters was dead, but Virginia Johnson agreed to talk to me. She was 80 years old and talked about writing her own memoir but never did." 
2. John Madden, who directed the pilot, convinced Michael Sheen to take on the role of William Masters.
"Madden, who directed the Oscar-winner 'Shakespeare in Love,' was instrumental in convincing Sheen to play the role of Masters."
3. Michael Sheen "offered to shave his head for this show."
4. Actor Paul Bettany was originally slated to play Masters.
"The dynamic between the two stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan is essential to the show."
5. The real-life Virginia would have liked Joanne Woodward to play her in the story of her life.
"I once asked Virginia, if there was a movie made about her who would she like to see as the actress playing her. She said Joanne Newman and I realized she was talking about Joanne Woodward, who was the actress/wife of Paul Newman. I think if Virginia was still alive she would be deeply pleased by the show and particularly by the portrayal of Lizzy Caplan."
6. Of her relationship with William, Virginia said, "We were sexual athletes."
7. The character of  Dr. Lillian DePaul (played by Julianne Nicholson) is not based on a real person.
"Her character is primarily fictional. It's an invention of [executive producer] Michelle Ashford's. I think her role serves the purpose of helping to move the story along in several respects. It helps define the role of Johnson in the context of the medical world and it underlines that Johnson had no credentials and was often looked down upon by all the doctors."
8. The role of Barton Scully (Beau Bridges) is a composite of two characters in the book.
9. Bridges was the first "Masters" cast member to sign Maier's book.
"I think one of the daring aspects of the show is how Beau Bridges has been portrayed as a fully rounded man who is a closeted gay who is living a lie in one sense and yet seems to be an all-American success story. This has never been portrayed on TV like that. I think Beau has been amazing. At age 72, with all of his accomplishments, to take on such a complicated role that is breaking so many taboos is extraordinary. He has my everlasting gratitude."
10. Parts of the pilot episode were filmed on LI.
"The opening scene in the pilot begins at the old home of Newsday's former owner [and co-founder], Harry Guggenheim, in Sands Point. It was a blast to see the old home of the Newsday publisher portrayed in the show as Washington University in St. Louis.
11. The real-life Masters and Johnson relationship endured more than 30 years.
"It reflected so many of the changes of America from the time in the mid-'50s until essentially they broke up in 1991. We go from sexual innocence to the AIDS crisis."
12. Maier initially preferred that "Masters of Sex" be turned into a film.
"I was hell-bent that the book would become a movie and my eyes were opened by the producers at Sony and by my own wise agent in L.A .who said, 'You could bring a whole new depth and drama to the storytelling by telling it in a series over episodes in a number of years.' That point was solidified to me when they signed up Sheen to play Masters. … Ashford has great artistic ambitions. She deeply understands some of the deepest themes of what I addressed in my book."
13. Maier loves the show.
"What's astounding to me is how much the show has squeezed every scene and character and laugh and tear that's in the book and done it in the form of a television drama. I went into this open-eyed and have been part of the creative process. It has been one of the great joys of my career."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

NPR's "Fresh Air" Devotes Second Program to "Masters of Sex" With Michael Sheen Interview; Lizzy Caplan Appears on Chelsea Lately

Twice NPR's "FRESH AIR" show has devoted program to discussing "Masters of Sex", the book and TV show. 

As the Dec. 15 finale nears for Masters of Sex, the two main stars are doing their best to get out the word. On Dec, 10, ">Lizzy Caplan appeared on Chelsea Lately, with her trademark wit that grabbed headlines. And on Dec. 11 Michael Sheen appeared on NPR's "Fresh Air". This is the second time "Fresh Air" has devoted their program to "Masters of Sex", the first being my interview in July with host Terry Gross.
Today, Michael Sheen talked about playing Dr. William Masters on

"Masters of Sex" -- graciously mentioning my book -- and about his amazing acting career.

Friday, November 29, 2013

"Gripping" is the 'Masters of Sex' book, says Guardian, comparing to TV show now shown in UK. Calls Masters and Johnson a "A Biological Romance".

The Guardian in London offers a new review of the book and some comparison with the TV series. Here's a quick excerpt:

"Maier's gripping biography, first published in 2009, is essentially a biological romance. In 1971, the research duo got married and were held up as paragons of the virtue of a healthy marital sex life. Despite their celebrity, Johnson described the couple as "absolutely the two most secretive people on the face of the Earth". Maier, who interviewed both at length, keeps us within the cloistered, claustrophobic world of their sex research institute, and the book consequently has a concentrated energy. Masters of Sex has been reissued to coincide with the excellent TV adaptation of the same name, a medical Mad Men in which Johnson is played by Lizzy Caplan and Masters by Michael Sheen. His Don Draperish secrets are paternal abuse and a low sperm count." 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen Talk about "Masters of Sex"

Here's Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen talking about "Masters of Sex" with the folks from GoldDerby.com. One of the great things about both stars is how thoughtful and insightful they are about the overall story of Masters and Johnson. I always learn something, or reflect on something new, whenever I listen to them talk about this project.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Getting to Know Virginia Johnson in "Masters of Sex" -- A Woman of Her Times? Asks The New Yorker

   It’s surely fun to compare my book, “Masters of Sex,” with the Showtime dramatic series adapted from it, both for the similarities and differences. I don’t believe in spoiler alerts -- (after all, I learned Citizen Kane died in the first scene of my favorite movie) -- so I’ve encouraged folks to consider my book as a wellspring of ideas for the TV show, rather than a creative straightjacket. In her own comparison, Michelle Dean of The New Yorker's Culture Desk blog wisely underlines what her impressions are “so far”. But I think she might be a bit unfair to Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” at this midway point of Season 1 by coming to conclusions about the Virginia Johnson character too quickly.

   Back in the 19th Century, writer Charles Dickens often serialized his novels chapter by chapter, adapting and rewriting some of the action and characters along the way, based on the public’s initial reaction. Today books are usually reviewed only after they are completed --  judged as whole works, rather than episodically or on the fly.
   But the new Dickens are TV “showrunners” --  writers like Michelle Ashford of “Masters of Sex” and Matthew Weiner of “Mad Men” -- who aren’t afforded such a luxury. Each week brings a new analysis by critics and a little impatience by the audience before a character is fully drawn.
    The character of Virginia Johnson played by Lizzy Caplan will undoubtedly transform before our eyes as the series unfolds. Like some modern-day Pygmalion tale, she goes from a lowly down-on-her-luck secretary desperate for a job in 1956, to a world-famous sex researcher hailed in a 1970 Time magazine cover story for her insights about human intimacy. But right now in this TV saga, it’s important to note that Virginia’s honest, candid comments about sex are made only to other women in similar lowly jobs like herself. Or to Bill Masters -- and only when they are alone together -- because the doctor is desperate for Johnson’s help as a female associate so he can continue his wildly ambitious sex study.
      Up to this point, others doctors in the series, both male and female, dismiss or ridicule Virginia for any comments she might dare to make. In the pilot, when Virginia momentarily bursts with excitement about M&J’s scientific findings, the university provost played by Beau Bridges ignores her and turns angrily to Masters. “Why does your secretary keep talking to me?” demands the provost, as if Virginia didn’t even exist. The seemingly ‘liberated’ comments that Virginia makes privately to Masters in the series were really the matter-of-fact insights of a twice-married woman who grew up on a farm with all that animal husbandry on display. She was rewarded in their work by Masters for her candid insights about female orgasm and other mysteries essential to the doctor’s success with their study. Yet, from their very first encounter in the pilot, Lizzy Caplan’s character admits to Masters that her independent-mindedness about sex was not something she trotted out at dinner parties.
       In my interviews with her, Johnson often underlined the duplicity of 1950s ‘good girls’ in St. Louis who played the game of Midwestern propriety, but made their own choices just as she did.       
“There were a fair number of women who were sexually active, but the ‘nice’ girls -- the ones who were so labeled, of which I was too, for that matter -- a lot of them were not,” Virginia explained early in my book about this era.
     The private sexual relationship between Masters and Johnson is particularly difficult to categorize easily. But it’s unfair to use my book to suggest the show treated Masters’ request to have on-the-job sex with Johnson as anything but a serious matter. The show does indeed reflect the book’s account by Johnson that she was stunned by Masters’ request, and the pilot ends on that very dramatic note. As the series continues, though, we will see Masters and Johnson’s private relationship change dramatically from that dismal beginning to one that becomes a remarkably equal working partnership and an eventual marriage between them.
      Were these two ever really in love? All this sex talk obscures, I might suggest, a deeper truth about “Masters of Sex”. The heart of Masters and Johnson’s own story is about the elusiveness of love. For all of their studies about the “how to” of intimacy, Bill and Gini had a hell of time letting each other know how they felt personally. There were fascinated with each other, like two batteries both attracting and repelling. Even after Johnson gained a co-byline with Masters on their heralded books, even after they shared equally in their worldwide fame and glory, and even after they married for twenty years, Masters and Johnson seemed clueless about love. Particularly in this sense, their story speaks to the state of relations between men and women in our modern era.
      Of course, I’m delighted Michelle Dean let the spoiler alerts be damned and read my book. It’s always fun to compare a drama with its real-life inspiration. So far, I think the show has been remarkably true to the spirit -- and often the details -- of my biography. But let’s give the TV writers of “Masters of Sex” more time to reveal the very complex character of Virginia Johnson.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Premiere Party Photos: Maier Clan On The Town, Celebrating Showtime's "Masters of Sex", Parties Hearty Until The After-Party Party

 Here's the long-awaited photos from the "Masters of Sex" premiere party held at the Morgan Library in New York City on Thursday September 26, 2013. There were more than 250 guests assembled for the festivities. But of course, the Maier clan acted like we owned the joint and were the only ones who mattered. (well, that's true, isn't it?) Thank heavens, the stars of this wonderful brand-new Showtime series were very gracious and didn't throw us out! Only the Maier boys got invited to Lizzy's after-party party. Alas, the author didn't make the cut. Oh well, maybe Season 2!

On The Pitch: Michael Sheen and Andrew, Reade and Taylor Maier: A Great Crew, Better Futbol Players
Out of Central Casting: Teddy Sears with Joyce P. McGurrin, and  Reade and Taylor Maier
High Comedy: Nick Kroll with Andrew, Taylor and Reade Maier. Drew flew in from London for the event, haha! 

Goodie Bag Gifts: Teddy Sears
Hangs Out with the Gang
Sign Here: Lizzy Caplan autographs a note
for my sister saying she's glad my niece liked "Mean Girls"
Now, that's REALLY nice, Lizzy! 

Taylor Maier Acts Like He's Showtime Chieftain
Reade Maier contemplates his next world
to conquer

Ready To Party: The Maier Clan At the "Masters of Sex" Premiere Party
Held at the Morgan Library Sept. 26, 2013: Andrew, Taylor, Thomas, Joyce and Reade Maier

Autograph Hunters:
Joyce with my sister Diane and her husband Ken.

Monday, October 28, 2013

On The Cover of The Rolling Stone! "Masters of Sex" is Called "This Year's 'Mad Men' "

 To heck with Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, it's Dr. Bill Masters & Company who are on "the cover of the Rolling Stone"! As the cover headline says, "Masters of Sex" is being called the 'New Mad Men." That's pretty good company. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Showtime Renews "Masters of Sex" for Second Season in 2014

Less than a month after its premiere, Showtime renewed "Masters of Sex" for a second season along with "Homeland." The new series is based on my biography of Masters and Johnson and was developed for television by Sony. This big endorsement by the U.S. cable network hopefully opens the door for more seasons to come. "Masters of Sex" is seen in more than 15 nations around the world and the book was recently re-issued with actors Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan on the cover, as well as a Spanish language version.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Power Showrunners and i-Poppin Praise: LA Times says Lizzy Caplan gets "rave critical notices as a character not even Shakespeare could have envisioned" -- Ahhh, the Bard! And we were aiming for Bernard Shaw's 'Pygmalion!'

The Los Angeles Times offers up a wonderful portrait of Lizzy Caplan and, at least to these unbiased eyes, manages to liken "Masters of Sex" to Shakespeare! How's THAT for eye-poppin' praise!
Lizzy Caplan with Reade Maier and
 his stunt double on the set of "Masters of Sex"
As the LA Times reports: "Now, she's earning rave critical notices as a character not even Shakespeare could have envisioned. In "Masters of Sex," she plays Virginia Johnson, one half of the famed sex research duo Masters & Johnson, whose 1966 tome "Human Sexual Response" became an unlikely bestseller, shattered myths about the female orgasm and helped ignited the Sexual Revolution. The drama, based on Thomas Maier's 2009 book of the same name, opens in 1956, the year that Johnson, a twice-divorced single mother, was hired as a secretary for William Masters (Michael Sheen), then a prominent gynecologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Though she lacked medical training or even a college degree, Johnson quickly became an invaluable collaborator and, later, his wife.As embodied by Caplan, Johnson is a woman well ahead of her time, at once sexually liberated and emotionally closed off."
 Congrats to Lizzy on a well-earned plaudit. And speaking of eye-popping praise, many congrats to Michelle Ashford who is at the top of the list of The Hollywood Reporter's "Power Showrunners To Watch For In 2014." As THR says: "Matching Homeland's promising 2011 launch with 1 million viewers, Showtime's period drama about real-life sex researchers Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson earned the rare distinction of improving in its second outing -- by 9 percent -- and grossed a premiere audience of 5.6 million viewers."

It's nice to be popular.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Masters of Sex" Takes London and UK by Storm; Looks like a Hit, Mate; Anglo-American Unity is Affirmed with Import Show about Sex and Love

"Masters of Sex" -- both the show and book -- is taking London by storm, with tons of reviews and stories about the debut there this past week.

The Guardian weighs in on the new edition of the book that was released along with the new show, airing on Channel 4 in UK. "Maier offers a fascinating insight into the origins of America's sexual revolution," says the Guardian. 

The Daily Mail was wonderful to the show and had extremely nice words to say about the book. "Thomas Maier’s account is as thorough as it’s briskly paced. Full of shrewdness and sympathy, it also vividly evokes the spirit of the times," wrote the Daily Mail. "But perhaps most importantly of all, he’s nailed the central paradox that lies at the heart of the story. Masters of sex they may have been, yet in every other respect Masters and Johnson were hopelessly, almost childishly, na├»ve," said the Daily Mail.

And on Sunday, The Sunday Times of London asked me to write this essay below. Hope you enjoy:

Let’s talk about sex: A TV drama about the 1950s sex researchers Masters and Johnson proves we may now know all about desire but are still mystified by love

Thomas Maier Published: 6 October 2013
On the Hollywood set of Masters of Sex, the new American television drama, I watched Michael Sheen play Dr William Masters, marvelling at how he captured all the pent-up intensity of this world-famous sex researcher.
For nearly four decades, Masters was fascinated by his female associate Virginia Johnson (played by Lizzy Caplan). In secret, they conducted the largest sex experiment in US history, with hundreds of volunteers (portrayed by various naked supporting cast members in the show), hoping to win a Nobel prize in medicine.
The lives of Masters and Johnson and their relationship were emotionally intense, brimming with enough ambition, lust, risk-taking and backstage drama to fill a soap opera. Johnson, in particular, provided a new understanding of female sexuality, and their work proved the existence of female multiple orgasms.
Yet like many men, Masters found it difficult to express love.
When we chatted about his character, Sheen asked me — as the author of the book that inspired the TV series — about that paradox. Did Masters, a demanding control freak, ever really love Johnson? “Absolutely he’s in love with her,” I told Sheen, “but he always had difficulty showing it.”
He wasn’t the only one. When Masters and Johnson began their ground-breaking sex research in the 1950s, America was a prudish place, full of taboos and misconceptions. Looking back, it is easy to feel smug and nostalgic, as if we now have all the clinical answers. But in many ways, we remain as clueless about love as those a half century ago.
Today, we are flooded with information about Viagra and how-to manuals, but studies still show the same level of sexual dysfunction among adults as in the 1950s. We live in an age of pornography, where young people are expected to perform in the bedroom like the actors they see.
Yet for all the scientific details we received from experts such as Masters and Johnson, many of the eternal questions about human intimacy — the essential but often elusive communication between a couple — remain a mystery.
Masters and Johnson were keenly aware of this paradox. After their first clinical books became bestsellers, they realised the pendulum had swung too far. They spent the 1970s writing books and magazine articles specifically about “human loving”, designed to help couples balance things in their relationships, and not make everything about sexual performance.
After a decade of dispensing much-needed medical information, fuelling America’s so-called sexual revolution in the 1960s, they sensed the public longed for an emotional commitment that went beyond mere physical urges. Somehow their efforts to rid Americans of crippling sexual ignorance became linked with a popular culture saturated in pornographic films such as Deep Throat, sex dens such as Plato’s Retreat in Manhattan, and soft-core cable television glimmering nightly throughout the American heartland.
For years, these researchers from St Louis, Missouri, deliberately avoided the word love, usually at Masters’s insistence. “It means many different things to different people,” he declared.
Gradually, Johnson seemed bothered by criticism that their studies had tended to detach sex from emotion. In therapy sessions, her advice often tried to place sex in the context of human loving. By then married to each other, Masters and Johnson now spoke of the warm and comforting interplay between sex and love in ways they had once avoided with clinical precision.
The sexual revolution they helped to create had a profound impact. In a decade, the birth-control pill and other medical advances had allowed women far greater ability to control their own bodies, redefining the laws and social codes that once ruled their lives. The work of Masters and Johnson challenged Freud’s male-dominated theories about sex and underlined the power of female sexuality. Yet Masters and Johnson cautioned that this freedom could go too far, creating an ethical ambiguity that discouraged faithful commitment and opened the door to libertines.
In their own personal lives, Masters and Johnson kept searching for love with great difficulty. Johnson was twice-divorced with two children when she began the studies in 1956 with Masters, an unhappily married university gynaecologist with two children, living in the suburbs. As a condition of working together, Masters required Johnson to have sex with him, and they went on to have a long-term affair. When they married in 1971, they did so as much for business reasons — keeping their brand-name partnership together — as for love.
Twenty years later they divorced, without children. They told friends and family that they had never loved each other, though their close collaboration and fascination with each other belied that claim. Before he died in 2001, Masters married his long-lost college sweetheart, and Johnson began a similar Proustian search for her high-school beau to whom she lost her virginity. She died in July this year still wondering what love is all about.
“I can remember saying out loud — and I’m appalled as I remember it — being very pleased that I could be anything any man wanted me to be,” Johnson told me late in life. “In retrospect, I ask myself, ‘Jeez, did I lose myself that totally?’ But I was very much a product of my time, of the era.”
Today the same elusiveness about love exists in our modern “hook-up” culture. A new inarticulateness is wrapped in a worldly veneer of graphic language and images, but many of us remain essentially clueless about deep emotion. Although we are a society saturated with sex, we often seem to have learnt nothing. A 1999 study showed sexual dysfunction — the focus of Masters and Johnson’s lifelong work — is still a problem, and more prevalent in women (43%) than in men (31%) .
Experts say many men still struggle with intimacy, empathy and a respect for the common humanity of their sex partners. They often view women not as caring human beings but rather as video-game holograms or blow-up dolls.
As Masters and Johnson underlined late in their career, knowledge of carnal functions cannot replace wisdom of the heart. Our TV show portrays their sex studies with great candour and detail. But fundamentally their story is about this elusive search for love, something that is eternal. And it is as much of a challenge for this generation as it was for those in the past.
Masters of Sex begins on Tuesday at 9pm on Channel 4