Sunday, January 28, 2007

Weekend Edition: Page Six Comes to the Times

THE author’s beautiful live-in girlfriend is asleep upstairs, the author himself is relaxing in his workroom, having just returned from a recording session in New York City. His life looks pretty good.

So begins the article carried in Friday’s publication—and I leave it to readers to guess which publication we are talking about—titled, “A Life Lived in Fear, But Not Half Bad.”

The “author” in the article is Allen Shawn, a composer and professor at Bennington College who just wrote a book about his phobias.

The gist of the piece is that despite a turbulent upbringing and his fears of “open spaces, closed spaces, highways, subways, elevators, planes, tunnels,” Mr. Shawn is leading a good life: after all, as the reporter says right there in the first paragraph, the man has a “beautiful live-in girlfriend.”

What else could a guy want?

Now, who, you might ask, has any interest in Allen Shawn? Well, superannuated old-timers such as yours truly are interested because his father was William Shawn, editor of The New Yorker during its long, post-Thurber slide into near-irrelevance.

(James Thurber, for you YouTube kids, wrote probably the best short story ever crafted: "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". Google it some time.)

The senior Shawn, as the article later mentions, was a bizarre family figure who took phone calls from his mistress at home in a closet, and whose best moments appear to have been reserved for editing manuscripts, as opposed to hanging with his sons, Allen and Wallace.

Which leads to a second demographic that might be interested in Allen Shawn: twenty-somethings who recognize Allen’s brother, Wallace, a serious play-write (“The Designated Mourner”) and actor (“My Dinner with Andre”) in his own right.

But they would not recognize Wallace because of the serious stuff.

No, they would recognize him from his gigs as the nerdy Mr. Hall in the actually quite funny “Clueless,” and the sort-of-amusing villain in likewise funny “The Princess Bride.”

Yet with all this fodder—odd, famous father; famous and literate brother; plus Allen Shawn’s own career as a composer and author—the reporter seems obsessed with the pulchritude of Mr. Shawn’s “beautiful live-in girlfriend”:

A follow-up question: How did a guy who is afraid of his shadow end up with a beautiful girlfriend — who from the pictures around the house is a good deal younger?

“Oy, yoy, yoy,” Mr. Shawn says, using an expression that his late father, the longtime editor of The New Yorker, William Shawn, who did not exactly advertise that he was Jewish, is unlikely to have uttered publicly. “You didn’t mention short. Um, I really can’t account for it…. ”

Two paragraphs later, the reporter tells us more about another physical characteristic of a talented female writer than about that writer’s own career while mentioning Mr. Shawn’s previous marriage:

Mr. Shawn’s former wife, to whom he was married for 25 years and with whom he has a daughter and a son, is the writer Jamaica Kincaid, who at six feet tall towered over him….

This focus on the physical attributes of women would be par for the course if this were, in fact, Vogue, whose cover stories are generally given over to Tom Cruise or whatever Hollywood star is trying to resurrect his or her image via precisely crafted puff pieces that month.

But this is The New York Times that's telling us about a "beautiful live-in girlfriend" and a six-foot Amazonian ex-wife.

Maybe it's a lazy editor, or maybe in fact we’re seeing the final dissolution of the printed word at the hands of the Internet—now that the Wall Street Journal (as reported here last week in “Sergey and Larry Hit the Panic Button”) is moving to “scratch ‘n sniff” advertising...and the New York Times is trying to spice up "All the News That's Fit to Print" with Page Six material

Thurber himself would be turning in his grave.

Jeff Matthews
I Am Not Making This Up

© 2007 Jeff Matthews

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews' recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes a solicitation of business or investment advice. It is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.


Logicalthought said...

The ironic thing is, I *guarantee* that woman (whoever she is) isn't even CLOSE to being "beautiful." I say this because I dug up the article ( ) and...

1) This was written by Joyce Wadler, who previously helmed the odiferously foul (and thankfully, cancelled) "Boldface Names", which was the Times's putridly scribed ("You, Dear Reader, blah, blah, blah, blah" barf) attempt at a gossip column, and

2) Wadler is a woman, and women are notoriously unreliable judges of other womens' beauty (as evidenced by the vast number of suicide-mission blind dates launched by we guys' well-meaning female friends), and

3) Just look at the guy in the article! The only way a guy who looked like that would EVER have a "beautiful live-in girlfriend" would be if he were really rich or the bride was looking for a greencard, and he's obviously not really rich and his girlfriend is obviously... uh... named... uh... Yoshiko Sato...

Well, I guess she COULD be beautiful!

(Of course, the real purpose of this "comment" is just to test the limits of Jeff's tolerance for tongue-in-cheek political incorrectness!)

Sam E. Antar said...


About Phobias:

I believe that some phobias are good. As a criminal my biggest phobia was getting caught. However, I noticed no such phobia from Wall Street, our investors, and mainly our auditors that we may be in fact deceitful crooks. Too bad, we were.

Joseph T. Wells wrote in the Journal of Accountancy in an award winning article “So That’s Why They Call It A Pyramid A Scheme” about Crazy Eddie’s auditors:

“Were the auditors stupid? No, just too trusting. After all, no one wants to think the client is a crook. But it happens all too often. That’s why the profession requires auditors to be skeptical.”

Perhaps Joseph T. Wells was only partially correct. Maybe a little phobia would have helped too.

About Women:

There is no statute of limitations on the fury of a scorned woman. Unfortunately today, because of the absence of enough skepticism and some good phobias on the part of Wall Street, investors, and auditors most frauds are uncovered by the use of informants and in many cases scorned women.

Ask my cousin Eddie Antar who traded in his first wife Debbie for a second wife also named Debbie. And yes, they were both blondes, except Debbie # 2 was the younger sleeker version.

Criminals may have phobias about getting caught committing their crimes but never about being caught by their wives. Thank goodness for that. If many criminals were good to their wives, I would hate to think about how many successful frauds we would never know about.

About Reality:

You may wonder as a convicted felon if I have any phobias now. My phobias are long gone (hopefully).

I am fully aware that my sins are unforgivable and am mindful of the pain and suffering I have caused others.

Do I spend these late nights writing these comments to you because of guilt, redemption, or rather the fear of the ultimate punishment that awaits me when my soul parts my body?

I will let others be the judge.

One thing I know for sure is that the ultimate punishment that awaits me is not a phobia. I have yet to face full responsibility and accountability for my sins from my creator.


Sam E. Antar (former Crazy Eddie CFO & convicted felon)

Jeff: Like you, I am not making this up.

Hells_Satans said...

I'd also nominate 'The Ransom of Red Chief' by O.Henry and 'The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown' by Runyon.

Probably also available via google.

Tim Knows How to Make Stuff Up said...

" that the Wall Street Journal (as reported here last week in “Sergey and Larry Hit the Panic Button”) is moving to “scratch ‘n sniff” advertising..."

How long until Steve Jobs comes up with a new I something with a scratch 'n sniff feature? Just remember, you heard it here first.

Sam E. Antar said...

Regarding - Tim Knows How to Make Stuff Up Comments:

"How long until Steve Jobs comes up with a new I something with a scratch 'n sniff feature? Just remember, you heard it here first."

My Comment:

This is yet another reason to cease all investigations by the SEC and Justice Department into backdating of stock options at Apple.

Sam E. Antar (former Crazy Eddie CFO & convicted felon)

PS: Jeff, am I making this up again?