Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Escaping the heat

Taking Shelter from the sun in Central Park. 3:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011. Very hot summer day in New York.

Last night Mark Gilbertson got 20 New Yorkers out of their air-conditioned lairs for a dinner at “21” in the club room. Great fun for New Yorkers who want to enjoy a New York summer evening in (cool) comfort, camaraderie and the great atmosphere that is “21.”
Vanity Fair's Vicky Ward, Mark Gilbertson and Elisabeth de Kergolay last night at "21."
Conspiring Theories. The Murdoch case rolls on. Mr. Murdoch displayed attempt to give testimony yesterday. This was widely anticipated and impressive to all media. Rupert the Great exposed. Maybe. Were we going to see some of his absoluteness, the king of kings, boss of bosses under the veil of media privilege?

If so, how would that be demonstrated to us, the great unwashed? Would he be intransigent and tell the authorities where to get off and what to do with themselves when they got there? Would the world finally see what an emperor is like when put on the dock? The power and the glory?

Or would we see what could be interpreted as a very old man whose brain still functions every now and then but is basically ready for pasture? He is 80, after all, and running that empire for decades. It can drive a person crazy you know. So they say, when such things are necessary to say.

Rupert the Great exposed. Maybe.
The pie in the face.
We saw of course, a lot of the latter. He didn’t seem to know anything that might implicate him. He used the word “humble” as if to plead redemption just in case. And then some guy with his shirt hanging out comes into the room, right in front of the entire crowd, attempts to shove a pie in Rupert Murdoch’s face. Really. While Mrs. Murdoch gets up and starts attacking the guy to defend her otherwise helpless gobsmacked husband, the media emperor. What is this? Candid Camera? Hey, you never know.

Otherwise, are we supposed to believe that this great media empire (and it is great) was being run by a man who often drifted into moments of daftness and was otherwise often disconnected from the day to day of his billion dollar business, the most important of its kind on the planet.

I guess you could argue age does that sort of thing. When it does. Although in this case, considering the company, I think you could argue it from another angle too.

I was thinking of Richard Nixon in the first days when he was trying to weasel out of the Watergate dilemma. Everything had gone far far beyond his wildest nightmares. He was just trying to do what he thought was right – for Richard Nixon as President. Leadership has its ways; non-leadership doesn’t always understand that. It’s called Power, for the folks in the peanut gallery. Richard Nixon would have appreciated Rupert Murdoch yesterday, although the custard pie would have irked him. He was a buttoned up kinda guy.

In the days of yore, this never would have happened to Rupert Murdoch. Men (and some women) owned newspapers and what we now call media outlets, for the power it delivered and the added bonus of keeping your name out of the papers. It’s still done; sort of. There were powerful press lords in England as well as America. Mr. Hearst was very powerful, and abusive with his power when it suited him. He could practically start a war if he felt like it, and sometimes he felt like it.

William Randolph Hearst.
Those were his good days. Bad days followed, as alas they always do, and there came a time when William Randolph Hearst was nearly bankrupt. Thankfully for all involved, he died, and his will and its executors performed a miracle and revived the empire that is today.

Few media moguls have ever been put under the spotlight like the one on Mr. Murdoch. It used to be considered an unwritten law, steadfast, that media/press did not report on media/press. However, Rupert Murdoch in his stellar career became a man without peer.

Thinking about Mr. Murdoch, I recalled a diary six years ago about him:

From NYSD, June 9, 2005.
At Elaine’s one night when Rupert Murdoch was the speaker.

.....As it was said last night at Elaine’s in an introduction to Mr. Murdoch, he was a boy who turned a small town paper in Australia into the world’s greatest media empire. No matter what you care about, it was an awesome achievement. Now he’s the property of the gods.

The gods, however, were giving us a glimpse last night of the humanity of the man. First of all (I’d never heard him speak before), this guy who looks like an economics professor whose countenance has been touched by decades of contemplation, has, surprise surprise, an Aussie accent. And a simple, non-intrusive one, as well. So the power is hardly apparent in the persona. He told us that he admired Israel because it had been able to take, like America, the people of the world, agglomerating and build a democracy that was thriving, vibrant, creative and forceful and even with a population (Israel’s) far smaller than the population of New York itself.

After the speeches, I was standing at the bar watching the groups around me. I couldn’t hear the conversations and can only speculate what they were about. I do know that Rupert Murdoch is one of the main reasons they were there. Because when it comes to achievement, to determination, to resourcefulness and brilliance, he is definitely The Man. For good or for bad; no indifferent. And when listening to him speak, one could only conclude that whatever lies beneath that professorial (yet ironically entrepreneurial) exterior is a man who knows he is in the position to make the world a better place for his children and his grandchildren. That will be the challenge, in the end, wouldn’t you think?
Douglas and Helen Davis, Rupert Murdoch, and Ambassador Gideon Meir. 2005 at Elaine's.
Late yesterday afternoon, I sent an email to my American friend who lives in London (longtime married to a Brit), who is also shrink. She’d told me in yesterday’s email that she’d planned to set everything aside and watch today. I asked her specifically because her powers of observation are sharp and balanced, and she’s not unfamiliar with the vagaries of the personality relating truths.

This was our exchange early last evening:

On 19 July 2011 22:14, David Patrick Columbia wrote:

Okay. YOU must report to me what you saw and what you thought you saw. NOW!

Her response: On Jul 19, 2011, at 6:02 PM, (she) wrote:

What I think I saw was fantastic acting. I think, and I'm sure you'll agree with me, that the cream pie was also part of the act.  How the hell did that guy get into the committee room.  As they say in England, it beggars belief.  Poor bumbling Rupert (who's sharp as a tack); his loving and devoted son; the wife who will risk her own safety to protect him; the contrite Redhead (who's as ruthless as they come). 


My response to her email:

Funny, but you know what? I thought The Same Thing! Absurd as it may seem. When you deconstruct it, it's like a French comedy. (Or maybe Chinese?).

It’s got talent written all over it. Writer, director, producer. Lawyer. Max Clifford.

Comments? Contact DPC here.