There was a memorial service Sunday afternoon for Ellen Willis, the freewheeling essayist, rock critic, and radical feminist who died Thursday, and it filled Riverside Memorial Chapel on the Upper West Side with 500 mourners — from bearded hipsters and bohemian, black-clad women to old men in yarmulkes to fresh-faced students from NYU, where Willis was a journalism professor and founder of its Cultural Reporting and Criticism program. Willis' husband, Stanley Aronowitz, a CUNY professor and the Green Party's candidate for governor of New York in 2002, spoke, as did her 22-year-old daughter, Nona Willis-Aronowitz, and several others — all bringing loud bursts of laughter on the somber occasion.
Was Justin Long — the scruffy-faced Mac to John Hodgman's straitlaced PC in those ubiquitous Apple ads — ousted from his role simply because, as Radar and Gawker suggested the other day, he was an annoying dweeb? Or was it because — and make sure you're sitting down for this — the human embodiment of cool computing actually didn't even know how to use one of the machines? Long made the confession at a party this summer. "I know nothing about computers," he said at the Strangers With Candy premiere in June. "I get guys coming up to me saying, 'Dude, what makes you think you're better than PCs?' I don't even know where to begin! I know nothing about either. I'm computer illiterate." Even worse, technology frightens him. "It scares me that they control so much of the world. I'm not taking a high road about it. I'm just not smart enough to figure them out. I still have never IMed. That scares me. It's like, "Hi, it's your friend you don't really want to talk to and if you really wanted to talk to you could call." At least, his rep assured us then, he'd been given a free Mac. One hopes he didn't get too attached to it.
— Jada YuanMovie Star, Loosely Defined [Gawker]
Apples Ditches 'Mac Guy' In New Ads [Radar Online]
This is shaping up as a fairly interesting season in shop windows. We've already seen a display of bizarre absinthe dispensers (at Bergdorf Goodman) and a window pretending to be a blog (at Saks). The new Louis Vuitton displays, however, which were unveiled this morning at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street — and will go in all 364 Vuitton stores worldwide — take the cake in one crucial respect: They don't display any of merchandise on sale in the store. That's right: There are no monogrammed bags, scarves, or luggage in sight and won't be till mid-January. Instead, we're getting enormous muted spotlights resembling purple-irised eyes with an uncomfortable tinge of jaundice, installation works by Danish conceptualist Olafur Eliasson. (His cut is going entirely to his charitable organization, 121Ethiopia.org.)
Could this be the sort of Christmas display Vuitton execs had in mind?
For sale: a modernist landmark. Asking price: just $1 million and change.
American Airlines is building a new terminal at Kennedy Airport, and to do so, one of its existing homes — Terminal 8 — must come down. And that means the destruction of a 317-foot-wide stained-glass window in the building — once the largest stained-glass window in the world — unless flight attendant Eileen Vaquilar Clifford can help it.
Viktor & Rolf's highly anticipated debut collection arrived at H&M this morning, but much of the action began well before the Fifth Avenue store's 9 a.m. opening. The first customer on line arrived around 2 a.m., determined to buy a wedding dress, one of only twenty in stock. Another woman sprinted into the store as the doors opened, sweeping an entire rack of trench coats into her arms. It wasn't pretty, but then, as they say, all's fair in love and war — and this event had both: love for Viktor & Rolf designs and war with fellow shoppers. But war means some casualties, too. "This isn't fun anymore," complained one overwhelmed shopper, spun in circles by the violent currents of people swirling around her. It's fun for H&M, though: Opening-day sales of Viktor & Rolf are projected to be at least $1 million.
— Kendall Herbst
We know you're as desperate as we are to get your hands on Dave Eggers's latest volume of self-indulgence, so we're sure you ran out to your local Borders to pick up a copy. Perhaps you tried downtown first, at the store across from Trinity Church, where you quickly discovered that there were no books in stock. Next you might have tried midtown, that big Borders at Park and 57th, where you discovered the same deal: no new Eggers books. Likewise further east, at the Borders on Second Avenue in Murray Hill, and further west, at the Time Warner Center shop. Finally, a clerk would speculate that Eggers's notorious anti-corporatist impulses were at play, that he'd insisted indie stores get the first shot at selling, before chain behemoths like Borders. But then you'd check the Barnes & Noble in Rockefeller Center, and you'd learn that — lo and behold — that chain store was well stocked with What Is The What. So what gives? Is Borders out to get Eggers? Is Eggers out to get Borders? Is it a big, postmodern joke we're just not clever enough to get? None of the above, as it turns out. "He's a big author for us, honestly," explained a spokesman at Borders HQ in Ann Arbor, Michigan. "McSweeney's just had problems with shipping." No New York–area Borders have the book, and they won't for a few more days. Staggeringly heartbreaking, indeed.
— Amos Barshad
New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein last week announced a fantastic new holiday: Today is the first-ever Take Your Parents to Vote Day! (Do you think Gloria Steinem gets a royalty?) And how does one celebrate Take Your Parents to Vote Day? Conveniently, there's a six-minute video starring animated versions of Klein and — who else? — hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons to explain.
What happens in the video? If you don't have six minutes to spare, here's a quick play-by-play.
New York City Ballet principal dancer Jock Soto retired recently, but on Thursday he'll already be returning to Lincoln Center. This time, though, he'll be the caterer — or, at least, his company will be. "I'm Jock of all trades," says the dancer, clearly rehearsing a line he's used before. His catering outfit will serve food at a ladies-who-lunch luncheon following a special rehearsal of the company's benefit performance of Ecstatic Orange, in which he originated a lead twenty years ago. Soto has long had a passion for food — he co-wrote a cookbook with fellow City Ballet retiree Heather Watts, and he catered his longtime dance partner Wendy Whelan's wedding — but it's an admittedly odd one for a dancer. "All my career I had to watch what I ate," he says. "Now, I don't really have to. I can eat butter and cream and all the good things. No more unitards for me! As long as I look good in a suit, that's all that matters."
— Rebecca Milzoff
In case you feel you've fallen behind in such matters, here's an update on who Andy Dick — who's been spending a lot of time in New York lately, staying at the Regency — currently hates. For starters, there's Mandy Stadtmiller, the Post reporter (and j-school dater) he urinated in front of at Comedy Central's William Shatner roast. She's also a comic, and Dick is convinced she was trolling for material. "Now she gets to go onstage and talk about the 'Infamous Night,'" he said last week. "Pardon my French, but she is a pathetic, sickening, slimy, money-grubbing, sociopath." Also: Chris Kattan, who constantly made fun of him on Saturday Night Live. "I take it personally when someone you're friends with makes fun of you to get ahead," he says. "He got what he deserved, the prick. He got fired off Broadway." And then there's Kathy Griffin. "She had a 45-minute block in her set devoted to making fun of things I was doing at her house. That's why I didn't talk to her for two years." But someone Dick likes? Jessica Simpson, who put him in her remake of Working Girl. "I am way more crazy than they are," he says of Simpson and her dad, Joe. "I guess that's why they like me."
— Shira Levine
The National Transportation Safety Board issued a detailed update this afternoon on its investigation into the October 11 crash of a light plane that killed Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flying instructor, Tyler Stanger. The update fills in some gaps while confirming the broad outline of the tragedy as it has already been reported: The two — and the NTSB still doesn't know which of them was actually piloting the Cirrus SR-20, and it probably never will, NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway says — were on a jaunt up the East River and attempted a U-turn to the left to avoid restricted airspace around La Guardia.
"It's bizarre, unfortunate," Steve Coleman, an Atlanta police officer, was saying about New York attorney Andrew Gardner.
Gardner, 39, was a litigation partner at Fried Frank. He had been an undergrad at Harvard and had gone to NYU for law school. He lived in Armonk with his wife and three kids. And he was found dead, a presumed suicide, on Monday.
New York's most revered independent rap label is banking on a pair of Ivy League rappers to resurrect it. Rawkus Records — founded in 1995 by Horace Mann grads Brian Brater and Jarrett Myer with $10,000 from Rupert scion and Harvard dropout James Murdoch — introduced Brooklynites Mos Def and Talib Kweli to a mass audience, made it into the big leagues, and then disappeared, dropped by Geffen Records in 2004. But this week saw its first major release since then, with School Was My Hustle, by the two-man act Kidz in the Hall, coming out on Halloween. The duo's 22-year-old emcee, Penn alum Naledge, admires the label's history. "You bought their records because of the brand," he says. "It wouldn't matter what the artist was; you knew if it was Rawkus, it was top-shelf." And founder Myer thinks Kidz lives up to the tradition. "Right now," he says, "investing the right artists can make Rawkus way bigger than it ever was."
— Amos Barshad
You can't take Rudy Giuliani anywhere these days. He merely visited Johannesburg in June to speak at a conference, and he commented that crime there could be reduced by 60 percent if the city were run like a business. Since then, the South African city has been abuzz with rumors that the mayor who transformed urban policing in the United States is set to oversee security when Johannesburg hosts the 2010 World Cup — or maybe even to take over policing the city. (According to one local commentator, Bill Bratton, the former NYPD commissioner now running L.A.'s force, turned down the job — and a seven-figure salary — in the late nineties.) But it's all just wishful thinking, says Giuliani spokesman Sunny Mindel. "Mr. Giuliani spoke in general terms about how to turn around an urban center," she says, noting that Joburg mayor Amos Masondo has never formally offered Giuliani any job. And the soccer people say his intervention isn't necessary, anyway. "We are certain that South Africa's authorities have the necessary resources to face the task of providing security and safety for World Cup 2010," says their top flack. Mayor Masondo, remaining coy, declined to comment.
— Nadine Rubin
We're all familiar with the almighty alumni listerv — that source of mild e-mailed irritation, delivering a steady stream of requests for apartment leads, neighborhood advice, and, inevitably from a onetime rush chair, attendance at a really! fun! drinks night. For j-school alumni — like, say, those who attended Northwestern University's Medill — that standard stew is further flavored with discussions of journalism ethics and occasional pleas for help finding sources. Which is why an inquiry to that list yesterday stood out:
From: Mandy Stadtmiller
Date: Nov 1, 2006 2:35 PM
Subject: Looking for love in NYC, okay on the apt situation
To: [MedillNY listserv]
Any leads send them my way — thanks!
Was Stadtmiller — a features writer at the Post — really using her alumni list as a no-fee Nerve personals? (Online dating is sexy; online dating with journalists is sexier?) Or was this maybe — please! — just a gimmick for a story?
We're not the type who cries during Extreme Makeover: Home Edition or Verizon commercials or when that diamond-ad music starts playing. (Duh duh da da, duh duh da da.) Still, we had a hard time fighting the stereotype during Glamour's tissue-fest of an awards show Monday night at Carnegie Hall. The magazine's "Women of the Year" honorees ranged from three generations of Missoni women to Queen Latifah — who, judging from chorus of screams that greeted the mere mention of her name, is the most popular person in the world — and all of them, plus nearly everyone in the audience, had wet eyes through much of the evening.
They sat there for a half-hour, fourteen writers, mediums, magicians, and old showgirls gathered around a circular table, 28 palms clasped together, 28 eyes shut, everyone waiting for the great Harry Houdini to come back from the dead. There was silence (save for the pesky clicks of a New York Times shutterbug). And there was more silence. (Click, click.) And then there was nothing.
The Great Houdini never showed.
Just because you're a great writer doesn't mean, as it turns out, you're also a great speller. This was the disappointing lesson of "A Better Bee," a literary-celeb-studded spelling bee held at Exit Art in Chelsea last night to benefit the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses.
Contestants included big-name writers like Garden State author Rick Moody, The Position scribe Meg Wolitzer, and Prep's Curtis Sittenfeld. (Last year's champion, Ghost Town author Patrick McGrath, couldn't attend and was instead represented by a Hello Kitty doll.)
The latest tale conjured about Harry Houdini, who died 80 years ago today, is that the famed magician and showman was actually an American and British spy — and that he was murdered as part of an elaborate plot concocted by his arch-enemies, a trans-national clique of turn-of-the-century mediums supported by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And perhaps at the annual Houdini séance this afternoon at the Center for Jewish History, in Chelsea, ol' Harry will come back from his Long Island grave to answer shed some light on these new charges.