Articles

Work done with a free lance, and with the lance securely tethered to People in New York and The Oregonian in Portland. Topics include entertainment in general and television and music in particular, but also science, business, health, sports, travel, politics, American popular culture and investigative journalism, too.

WHAT BECOMES OF THE RESURRECTED?

Originally published in the Los Angeles Times – March 8, 1992

AFTER HE WAS CONVICTED OF MURDER, SANTIAGO VENTURA Morales met the right people. It was the way he screamed, say many of those who came to support him. The way he threw himself against the defense table and let loose a wail so chilling and anguished that it even seemed to shock the judge.

“No es posible! No es posible!” Ventura cried. It was the first time the jury had heard his voice. Sobbing uncontrollably, he was led from the courtroom.

Read the rest here.

PURE PROFIT: HOW BEN & JERRY’S, PATAGONIA AND STARBUCKS DO WELL BY DOING (MOSTLY) GOOD

ben-jerry-fair-tradeOriginally published in the Los Angeles Times – February 5, 1995

One of the dividends of owning stock in the Ben & Jerry’s Homemade ice cream company is being invited to the annual stockholder’s meeting. This gives you an excuse to eat lots of ice cream, check out Ben & Jerry’s 40-foot solarized stage bus and then spend two days listening to the Band, Bo Diddley, Michelle Shocked and the Kwanzaa Music Workshop Performance, among many other acts, play at the Ben & Jerry’s One World One Heart festival. You also get to attend the financial meeting. Here, one company co-founder might lead the investors in a hymn while the other makes a point about product standards by splitting open a pint of ice cream with a samurai sword.

Read the rest here.

THE ART OF REVENGE – FROM PORTLAND’S ART SCENE TO REALITY TV (MAYBE)

 Originally published in The Oregonian – December 11, 2010

The sawed-off head of the My Little Pony doll came in a handmade box, with crimson string that was knotted into a bow on top.

I was at a hotel bar waiting for an interview. When the box showed up instead it seemed pretty, yet sinister, too. What could be inside?

One reason for trepidation: The guys who sent it were the proprietors of a Portland-based company called Revenge for Hire.

Also worth noting: This same pair had just shot the pilot episode of a reality series about their antics.

And there’s more.

Read the rest here.

JAY CUNNINGHAM: PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A VICTIM OF HIS OWN PERFECTIONISM

Jay Cunningham on the threshold of his secret world

 Originally published in The Oregonian – January 1, 2011

In Jay Cunningham’s paintings, the things that don’t fit matter the most.

It’s the shiny gold key in the hand of the monkey who smiles cryptically as he unlocks a wooden door. It’s the golden crown on the table next to the man watching his toddler play with a toy dinosaur.

And it’s the detached expression of the young man peering away from the mother bird feeding her two babies in a vine-tangled tree.

That’s the picture that gets to Jay Cunningham’s mother, Sharon Vanderzanden, since she knows that the young man in the foreground is her son. The birds represent her family back when her two boys were navigating what Jay calls “the crucible” of their childhood.

Crucibles can do the darndest things. When he was young, the Milwaukie-reared Cunningham retreated into his room, where he projected himself into the wide-open world of crayons and paper. Brushes, canvas and pigment came later, then art school. Then a shockingly fast rise to the upper ranks of Portland’s most prominent artists.

Read the rest here.

BRIAN WILSON’S WAVE

Annie Leibovitz, 1976

Annie Leibovitz, 1976

Originally published in American Heritage – August/September 2004

The voices are clear and strong, their song crackling with energy. “Early in the morning we’ll be startin’ out,/Some honeys will be comin’ along/We’re loading up our woodie with our boards inside/And headin’ out singing our song….Let’s go surfin’ now/Everybody’s learning how/Come on and safari with me….”

This is “Surfin’ Safari,” one of the first songs the Beach Boys recorded, in 1962. Compared with the glossy, sex-drenched pop music of the twenty-first century, it sounds impossibly naive, a rattling contraption of tip-tap drums, rudimentary bass, wacka-wacka guitar, and hokey surfer slang. And yet, something vital radiates across the decades.

You can hear it in the music and you can glimpse it on the cover of the album Surfin’ Safari. There you see a cluster of mostly teenage Beach Boys—the brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and their neighbor David Marks—perched on a vintage yellow pickup truck that has come to rest on a California beach at dawn, looking toward the horizon. Yes, it’s corny with their matching blue Pendleton shirts and khakis and the awkward way Brian Wilson and Mike Love grasp a board to their sides. But you can feel the anticipation. Something’s coming with the morning.

Read the rest here.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY – “TRUE GRIT”

hemingway_france1944Originally published in People – June 12, 1999

When the Allied armies gathered at the outskirts of Nazi-occupied Paris in August 1944, Ernest Hemingway was a step ahead of them. The barrel-chested 45-year-old author and war correspondent had fallen in with a band of French Resistance fighters and was able not only to lead the way into Paris but also to “liberate” one of his favorite haunts, the Ritz Hotel, where his arrival prompted a riotous two-day party. “We had a hell of a good time,” Hemingway told his friend and biographer A.E. Hotchner, “until the rest of ‘em caught up with us.”

Read the rest here.

JEFF ALAN’S WEIRD JOURNEY FROM THE RFK ASSASSINATION THROUGH SEVERAL IDENTITIES, WIVES PLUS ALSO A THRIVING CAREER AS A TV NEWSMAN IN THIS MODERN AGE WHILE ALSO BEING LEGALLY DEAD

alan2(Originally published in The Oregonian, 2009)

Jeff Alan says, finally, that it’s all true.

That Jeff Alan isn’t exactly his given name. And that the Social Security number he has used for most of the past 23 years isn’t exactly his either.

The former news director at KOIN (6) acknowledges he abruptly left his family in Los Angeles in 1986 and has since been distant from his three daughters. So distant that his ex-wife, the mother of his two youngest, had her vanished ex-husband declared dead in 1993.

That’s all true. So is the part about Alan being at the Ambassador Hotel, perhaps just steps behind Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, when Sirhan Sirhan shot Kennedy in the early hours of June 5, 1968. It’s true Alan had a thriving career in television syndication during the 1970s and early ‘80s before reinventing himself as a TV news anchor and executive. He worked at stations across the country the next two decades, wrote a pair of books (“Responsible Journalism” was one), taught broadcast journalism at the University of Pittsburgh and appeared on CNN and MSNBC as a media expert.

These things are real. So is the wrongful termination lawsuit Alan is pursuing against KOIN, and the investigation of potential fraud being weighed against Alan by the Social Security Administration’s inspector general.

Former KOIN news director Jeff Alan’s latest project has been to look into voter fraud for the Cascade Policy Institute.

Also true: A ruling by a probate judge in Michigan last week that echoes an Oregon judgement requiring Alan and his girlfriend, Patrice Bailey, to repay all charges to a credit card belonging to Bailey’s elderly mother, when she lived in their Portland home.

There’s more.

Alan has never denied owning multiple Web sites catering to people interested in the sexual practices known as BDSM (for bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism). It’s long-term research, he says, adding that the true focus and scope is, for the time being, a secret.

It almost certainly has nothing to do with his work for the Cascade Policy Institute, a conservative political think tank. That’s a campaign to root out Oregonians who might cast fraudulent votes by assuming the identities, and ballots, of people who are dead.

Which seems a bit ironic, given that Alan has, according to the Social Security Administration, been dead for more than 15 years.

Read the article here.

BRUCE EXCERPTED IN TODAY’S NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Bruce and Patti steam up the stage during the ‘Tunnel of Love’ tour in 1988.

In case you missed it, here’s the chunk of BRUCE that appeared in the books section of the New York Daily News today. Check it out, and remember that I had nothing to do with writing the photo captions. You can find it right here.

You can also expect coverage/reviews to turn up soon in Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and People. And more to come. . .

TOO CLEESE FOR COMFORT

John CleeseOriginally published in People, Nov 29, 1999

It’s becoming obvious that John Cleese feels annoyed. For one thing, he can’t wrap his tongue around the cybervocabulary he needs to speak in the commercial he’s shooting for a California Web site design company. For another, his attempts to focus his thoughts keep getting stymied by the technicians parading through the hallway where the gangly actor currently hunches, muttering. When a woman with a clipboard walks up and catches his attention, Cleese seems to snap.

“This always happens!” he says, his voice rising into the sort of sharp yet perfectly enunciated rant Cleese perfected as one or another of the hot-tempered loons he portrayed with Monty Python’s Flying Circus. “I’m running my lines and some idiot comes up and interrupts me! What do you think? That I’m old and stupid? That you’re going to bring me to my senses?”

At 6’5″, Cleese would look imposing even if he weren’t standing with shoulders thrown back and nose aloft. But there’s a twinkle in his eye, and just before the woman’s expression fades to horror, he clicks right back to British charm. “Hello,” he smiles. “What can I do for you?” [Read more...]