Thursday, August 26, 2010

No Holds Barred - A Good Hustle

by Blair Sabol

I love a good hustle. And what better city than Los Angeles to experience it up close and personal. Whether it's pushing an actress/actor, movie or product or in some cases all three simultaneously. Although nowadays, "hustle" is given a new name (other than "hype"). It's called MERCHANDISING!!!! For instance, "Eat Pray Love" (which opened two weeks ago to the thrill of preteen girls and old book club dames) has turned into a $350 million franchise. That includes book, paperback, worldwide rights and the current wave of MERCH. And ohhhhhh that MERCH!!!!

Imagine, an entire Home Shopping Network weekend devoted to EPL products ...
Imagine, an entire Home Shopping Network weekend devoted to EPL products; $340 prayer beads, pillow shams, bedspreads, kurta tops, rice paddy pants, room spray, body cream, lip gel, and soap. The Fresh Product line is pushing three different candles and scents as well. Not to mention The Republic of Tea getting into the jasmine act. HSN has not released it's EPL weekends sales results. Other than to say they were "pleased with the performance and more than 100 products sold out." But they said the same thing about Liza Minnelli's HSN's premiere fashion venture and within three weeks her entire line went up for a giant clearance "blowout" night (minus Liza).

But the big promotions are the $25,000 EPL package tours of India, Bali and Italy. Apparently these jaunts appeal to the spiritually "desperately seeking." Translation: Middle aged divorced women looking to have a pseudo ashram experience in India, a piece o' pizza and a slurp of gelato in Rome, guidance from a spiritual healer in Bali, and maybe a "schtup" thrown in with a real life swami ... or any real life guy ANYWHERE!!!!

(There were reports that some third rate Balinese guru had a continuous line up of women for two years at his tented doorway, and it wasn't for face readings).
Where is Oprah when you need her? Actually she was busy doing her own EPL over-the-top gushing interview with Julia Roberts. It seems Roberts needs to jumpstart her career with this film. Can her Oprah appearance help? That remains to be seen. As does the movie's box office longevity.

More than the EPL transcontinental tours are the USA hotels that have joined the hustling conga line. The Benjamin Hotel in Manhattan, Five Gables Inn and Spa in Maryland, and Miraval Spa in Tucson have all promised their own version of EPL "in one place in these United States." Call this whole campaign "Buy, Sell, Hope" or "Buy, Sell, Hype." All I know is I would rather be at Bed, Bath and Beyond ... for the best in entertainment and MERCH!!!!!

Oprah was busy doing her own EPL over-the-top gushing interview with Julia Roberts.
The Expendables: Casting Call (yes, it's a spoof).
The King and Queen of branding ...
The same Friday that EPL debuted on wide screen we had Sylvester Stallone exploding with his "The Expendables." Now his market would be old men and "older boyz." Of course, he won the weekend. Nothing like watching aging action guys (Stallone, Willis, Austin, Lundgren and of course Govenator Ahnold) with faces like leather suitcases and oddly hormonally enhanced physiques pushing their weight around.

Ironically on the same opening Friday, while I was getting into my Los Angeles hotel elevator I noticed this small cement block of a man standing in the back with strange shaped black hair and a large Cro-Magnon forehead (sign of Human Growth Hormone ingestion), major black wraparound sunglasses, tight jeans and a huge Ramar of the Jungle chest.

Who and what was this masked ... whatever? As soon as he announced his floor the Stallone baritone gave it all away. As he bolted out the door in his highly lifted boots I was left in shock, but not awe. I will admit ... good for him that "the old men" captured the market. And all without the MERCH!!!! But wait ... that all may come with the sequel. Just watch for" Expendable" clothes, padded underwear, boots, action figures, cologne and steroid supplements.

Obviously hustling movies, books, and celebrities is nothing new. "Branding" is the name of that game. Aren't Jessica Simpson and Ralph Lauren the King and Queen of that world? Scarier still is what a friend recently reported to me about "The Bachelorette" and "The Bachelor Pad" (I cant imagine watching either of those TV shows). Apparently these two shows now have websites and stores devoted to shopping their wardrobes. What wardrobes? Spanx underwear, flip flops, crappy jewelry, plastic mini skirts, and bosom baring Baby Doll tops? One store, Ays Grace in San Francisco, even has a department called "Shop What The Bachelorette Shops." And we wonder where great taste has gone.

But as I said, I love a great hustle ... and so while being shown to my L.A. hotel room by one of the room managers I noticed he was wearing a chic black and silver bracelet. When I asked him about it he immediately ran to his office and returned with a great gray and orange version. He placed it on my arm and proceeded to perform a series of Kinesiology body moves on me. With this "techno" bracelet on I was stronger, more balanced and more limber.
Wearing my magnetically-hyped CPRIME USA bracelet.
OH NO ... I have already seen these magnetically hyped bracelets pumped all over late night TV. The cheap commercials are filmed in shopping malls with people giving testimonials for their new lives and bodies via these bracelets ... and all for a mere $19.95!!! I couldn't believe I fell for this ruse ... in a Beverly Hills hotel room, no less!!!! Actually what better location. But I promised him I would wear it (he gifted it to me) and let him know the results. They are called CPRIME USA bracelets. And the website ( is very high-tech impressive, but I'll be damned if I understand what they are talking about or what they are promoting.

Naturally they've gotten a lot of celebrities to endorse it and the rumor is the entire Yankee baseball team is wrist-adorned with CPrime. Talk about the ultimate in "muscle hustle" with promises of better endurance, strength and balance. At least it visually beats the Lance Armstrong ("Be Strong") yellow wrist bands, and all those colored charity named rubber bracelets. Not to mention the tired red Kaballah strings everyone was wearing. I wonder what happened to that accessory? Too many non-jews were sporting them? It lost its sacredness.

... at a whopping $100 I am sure Madonna will trade in her Kaballah red string for 1,000 orders of CPrimes.
Lew and Edie Wasserman with LBJ.
As for my CPrime bracelet evaluation: My hip pain receded (then again I changed my anti-inflammation medication), I tripped in the airport but didn't fall flat on my face (balance?), and I could stretch longer and stronger in my yoga class (but it was a different teacher than normal). However ... I say who cares. I'll take the placebo effect. At least the product looks stylish, and at a whopping $100 I am sure Madonna will trade in her Kaballah red string for 1,000 orders of CPrimes. To hell with prayers ... maybe she can stay leaner and meaner with this!!

As for the antithesis of the Hollywood Hustle ... while I was in tinsel town I had the amazing good fortune to meet a real member of elder Hollywood Royalty, Edie Wasserman. She is the widow (and some believe the real power behind the throne) of Universal Studio giant Lew Wasserman. At 94 years old she continues to be a power broker in her own right with her massive philanthropy and mere presence. I know there are other surviving "Lady Tycoons" in that town but I'll take Edie!!!

Incredibly outspoken, fiercely brilliant and totally on her game. She's a notorious "uber" democrat (very instrumental in both Clinton campaigns) and she had much to say about today's frustrating cultural and horrific political scene. Her parting words to me were most compelling and seemed to sum up the world's problems: "Face it ... there are no real leaders left in anything anywhere anymore." Edie Wasserman serves truth straight up, no rocks. I'll take it!

P.S. A Parting Shot: Menswear designer Alexander Shields died on August 13th. I will always remember his glorious and original men's boutique on Park Avenue. All The best dressed men frequented his haven. Shields himself was the height of elegance and chic yet he flew very quietly under the radar.

I think my dad still owns one of his great silk robes and a magnificent trademark silk tie. Both of us still yearn for a bottle of his infamously fabulous Alexander Shields Sandalwood Cologne. No sandalwood scent could compare! Talk about the end of an era and the loss of a great Class Act!!!
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