Vinnie Gruppuso, the founder of Kozy Shack pudding, died today. It is a dark day on Grub Street, since Kozy Shack was not just our favorite pudding (a confection so potent it practically qualified as a controlled substance), but also a modern rarity: a New York–area manufacturing story without an unhappy ending. The Kozy Shack factory in Hicksville is no Wonka–like wonderland, but the sight of an entire eighteen-wheeler loaded with whole milk, the secret to the pudding’s mouth-filling fullness, gave us that kind of feeling. And Gruppuso’s story is a kind of ultimate foodie fantasy. He was a blue-collar guy, a bread deliveryman who happened to fall in love with the pudding made by a deli in Ridgefield. We’ve all had such crushes. But Gruppuso bought the recipe when the deli closed and essentially married it, investing everything in Kozy Shack and eventually building a pudding empire. Tonight we will have a toast for Vinnie Gruppuso with our favorite cordial: Kozy Shack chocolate pudding, straight from the tub, with a chaser of melancholy.
Vincent Gruppuso, 67, Seller of Pudding Snacks, Dies [NYT]
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Bedford-Stuyvesant: Can't tell a hanging corner turret from a hanging corner bay from a tripartite bay? Read this post and you'll never walk illiterately through brownstone Bed-Stuy again. [Bed-Stuy Blog]
Cobble Hill: Council member David Yassky didn't want a middle school going in a Dumbo apartment tower ('cause it could block views of the Brooklyn Bridge), but he might support selfsame school sharing space with the jail here on Atlantic Avenue. Way to put the kids first, Yaz. [Brooklyn Paper]
East Village: The alley behind the new Avalon condo on 1st Street is supposed to become a boutique-filled "slice of the Left Bank," but right now it's just a dump. [Vanishing New York]
You can imagine Jane Hambleton was pissed when she found booze under the front seat of her son Steven's car, and grounding did not seem like enough of a punishment. "I'll show that little bugger who's boss," she said to herself. And she put an ad in the local paper, the Iowa Register:
OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet.
Well! She thought she would get a response but didn't think it would be from all the way in New York! First, Good Morning America flew the family out to appear on the show. Then Jane got a call from Today — apparently they were so charmed by the Hambletons, they were going to break their hard and fast don't–touch–it–if–it's–been–breathed–on–by–Diane Sawyer rule. But then Oprah called, and she wanted exclusivity. Then Ellen called, and she wanted exclusivity. Everyone wanted a piece of the Hambletons! What would they do? They threw up their hands. "These people are crazy!" they said to themselves. "Let's go back to Iowa to figure it out. Things are simpler there."
'Meanest Mom' Sells Son's Car, Family Gets Quite a Ride [WP]
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Michael Touchard of the Hell’s Kitchen bistro Tout Va Bien speaks fluent French, fluent English, and kitchen Spanish. But he doesn’t speak or read a word of Chinese. Neither do many of his customers. So let’s hope nobody chokes.
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Last night, Vanity Fair astrologer Michael Lutin did something that nobody has yet been able to do sufficiently: He explained Hillary Clinton. The secret to Clinton's murky, buttoned-up, hypercompetitive personality is centered upon one simple thing: She's a Scorpio. Wait, wait, wait, take this seriously for a minute. We're not usually into astrology or anything like that. Normally when we talk to someone about their zodiac sign, the person always ends up talking about the spiritual lives of animals or reincarnation or something cringe-worthy like that. But this guy Lutin is talking some sense! He explains:
• "The whole Congress-health care fiasco was a disaster, partly because Scorpios do lack subtlety when they have a goal."
• "Scorpios always have not only Plan B, but they usually have it figured out all the way up to Plan Z." [Ed: From now on, your Plan C is "Cry."]
• "In the end, foreign or domestic policies notwithstanding, Scorpio always turns out to be an issue of gender. "
• "When situations are dire, enterprises failing, businesses stalling, empires falling and extinction is right around the corner, Scorpios get turned on. Only they can walk right down into the Valley of the Lepers with bagels and cream cheese and think nothing of it."
• "It should come as no surprise that Hillary Clinton came out swinging after her defeat in Iowa. After all, it was in the stars: she is a Scorpio and Scorpio rules the instinct for survival. Scorpio also rules cockroaches. Did you ever try to spray or drown them? They can hold their breath and play dead until you walk out of the kitchen and turn out the light."
• "Hillary has a higher agenda to help her survive the worst bites, kicks, slaps and cuts. She knows she would rise up again in a brand new incarnation to make her betrayer serve her needs."
Oh. Well, never mind. This conversation about astrology ended like all the other ones, it seems.
Hillary's Horoscope: Her Comeback Was in the Stars [HuffPo]
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Marion Jones, the five-time Olympic-medal-winning track-and-field star, was sentenced this morning to six months in prison, followed by two years of probation for perjury. Back in October, Jones pleaded guilty to lying to a federal investigator in 2003 about using performance-enhancing drugs to help her win three gold and two bronze medals in the Sydney Olympics, and to lying about knowledge of her ex-boyfriend's scheme check-forging scheme. She returned her Olympic medals and made a tearful plea to the press: "I have been dishonest, and you have the right to be angry with me. I have let [my family] down. I have let my country down, and I have let myself down." Her lawyers had tried to keep her out of prison, arguing that she had been punished enough, but instead, White Plains judge Kenneth Karas gave her the maximum sentence recommended by prosecutors. We bet she'll take the sentence better than Paris did.
Jones’s Soaring Career Now a Cautionary Tale [NYT]
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Great news for content owners everywhere today as the Wall Street Journal reports that prosecutors are close to filing charges against the operators of Swedish BitTorrent hub the Pirate Bay with conspiracy to breach copyrights.
• Steve Schwarzman found yet another way to stiff his investors, using the GSO deal as an elaborate cover to buyback shares of Blackstone without the typical benefit a buyback program gives to other shareholders. No wonder the Chinese, who have lost $1 billion on Blackstone, hate him. [DealBook/NYT]
• Bank of America bought Countrywide Financial, the huge mortgage company teetering at the edge of bankruptcy, for $4 billion in stock. Some observers worry the deal will take the bank down, but considering Countrywide was worth $30 billion before the mortgage meltdown, it may yet make B of A CEO Ken Lewis a king. [Deal Journal/WSJ]
• Merrill Lynch will likely take a $15 billion write-down next week, far in excess of the $12 billion some already bearish analysts had predicted. John Thain is looking to rescue the bank with still more foreign investment capital, but with the Senate getting anxious, that stream dry up. [NYT, NYP]
Today Business Week's Jon Fine has a bunch of advice for new Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell. It's all about how to make the most of his recent acquisition and includes counsel like "Outsource all printing," "Don't fall for the mirage of synergy," and "Don't be afraid of price hikes." Very technical stuff, and probably very useful. But come on. Zell is a new media baron. He has much more important changes to worry about, like how to change his personal life and habits in order to fit the role! Not just anybody can be a press lord. It takes a specific breed of crotchety old men with unique sexual proclivities and horrendous progeny to fit the bill. So we've come up with some advice for Zell that has actual practical applications. Without further ado:
• Dump your wife of many years and immediately marry a much younger, much more Asian version.
• Pit your children against one another in a battle to become your heir apparent, in which none have any hope of winning.
• Start getting mad about Israel.
• Get to work on that gin-blossom look.
• Begin hanging around with Tom Wolfe or an equivalent writer who will fictionalize you and talk appropriately about your masculinity.
• Get anointed as a member of the Order of Letters or Knights of the Garter from a foreign nation. Then insist upon being called "Lord."
• Pick a nemesis, preferably one whose company is already weakening. Then attack!
• Sleep with Jane Fonda. If possible, make her feel bad about herself.
Come on, Sammy! Get started! Those kids won't disinherit themselves!
You've Got Tribune. Now Do Something [Business Week]
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In an over-the-top rave the likes of which have not been seen since David Denby's review for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles declares Cloverfield "Utterly Brilliant," a "true milestone in film," and "a complete reinvention of the disaster movie, the giant monster movie, and even the love story."
When we heard about futuristic new self-cleaning public toilets that the city unveiled, we went right to our favorite sources for this type of coverage. "WHAT A RELIEF," the Daily News said, under a headline that read: "AND A-WEE WE GO" The Post led with "Helle-LOO-jah," and a headline of "TOILET IS GOOD TO 'GO.'" But imagine our surprise when we found that the best write-up of all was in the New York Times. They go through the experience of using the toilet in detail, in a style that can only be described as architectural-review-meets-anthropological-study:
There are two architectural flourishes, both on the roof: a small pyramid of glass, like a little model of the Louvre, and an anachronistic metal stovepipe, reminiscent of a cozy shanty or an old outhouse with a crescent moon carved into the door…
Sadly, these little surprises are forgotten with the first look at the toilet itself, an imposing, metal, cold-looking receptacle in the corner. There is no little stall around it, and so it looks exposed, like the facilities available in many prisons. It, too, is quite damp, for perfectly good reasons explained later, but the image first evokes a dungeon or a scene from one of the Saw pictures.
Has anyone else noticed that since the December 2004 tsunami that killed over 200,000 people, most networks have shied away from using the sometimes-mentioned Super Tuesday nickname "Tsunami Tuesday"? It has been used to describe February 5, the day when a crazy amount of states will be holding their primaries. But since the word "tsunami" is sort of synonymous with, um, mass death, it's hasn’t really built up much steam. Except for on MSNBC. They've really been trying to make "Tsunami Tuesday" into a buzz term. It's on all their ads, in their Web editorial language, and used on the air. We have to say, we're not quite ready to bring the term back into common parlance. What's next, an election countdown to "Nagasaki November"?
Will Tsunami Tuesday be an afterthought? [MSNBC]
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