John Thain Keeps His Cool, Continues to Be Hot Our new boyfriend, Zeppelin-loving new Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain, seems to be keeping his cool remarkably well, despite his firm’s announcement yesterday that it was writing down $14.6 billion and lost nearly $10 billion, which caused its stock to drop 10 percent and fueled the growing perception that the economy is, or is about to be, in the shitter. But why shouldn’t he be calm? After all, “I didn’t cause this problem,” he told the Journal today. But he does plan to solve it: by expanding international operations, and adopting some of the hierarchical strategies of his former employer, Goldman Sachs. Thain’s hired Noel Donahue to run risk management and hopes to hire former Goldman co-head of sales and trading Tom Montag (no relation to Heidi). “The problem is not a zero, but it is for the most part behind us,” Thain told the Journal. Can Thain, with his Clark Kent good looks and cool-headed fixer attitude, transform into Superman, steer Merrill back on course, and save us all? We kind of think maybe. Oh, and there’s good news for media Chicken Littles, too: The Journal didn’t bring up the poop incident, which we take to mean that Rupert Murdoch hasn’t wrapped his soft hands around their editorial coverage just yet.
Merrill’s Risk Manager [WSJ]
Related: Setting The Story Straight On The Merrill Bonus Rage [Dealbreaker]
Related:Who Is NYSE CEO John Thain? [NYM]
The ‘Post’ Has a Giant, Crazy CrushOkay. We love the Post. We really do. And not even just the ironic way we “loved” it yesterday when a homeless person in a wheelchair was masturbating on the subway while we were on our way to work, and his shoe fell off and nobody on the train even noticed. Like, we actually look forward to the Post every day. But we have to say, there’s something a little demented about its Giants coverage. At the beginning of the week, the tabloid devoted its entire cover to a Jessica Simpson look-alike, who they claim distracted Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo into losing Sunday’s game (Romo, for those of you lucky enough not to know, is dating the real Simpson and she’s been credited with giving him bad luck when she attends games). This one stunt wasn’t enough, though. They took the poor girl to New York this week on a victory tour, with an online video on Tuesday and another article on Wednesday.
And now today, the paper has another superstitious trick up its sleeve. After reports that the manager of a TV station in Green Bay, Wisconsin, will yank Eli Manning’s favorite show, Seinfeld, from the airwaves while the Giants are in town to play the Packers, the Post talked Jerry Seinfeld himself into sending the Giants quarterback a complete DVD set. Seinfeld said he’d also be “dispatching George Costanza to be the new traveling secretary for the Packers.” (Those of you who are fans of the show will get the reference.) It’s funny coverage, sure, but it’s just kind of getting lazy at this point. In fact, one of the “Giants fans” they quoted at the end of the article works for the Post. Come on, guys. Isn’t there a brilliant pun headline you could have come up with instead of all of this? Or maybe a Photoshopped picture of Tom Brady’s head on McLovin’s body?
YADDA YADDA YADDA [NYP]
Related Which Episode of ‘Seinfeld’ Should Eli Watch Before He Loses to the Packers? [Vulture]
Bobby Fischer, Eccentric Chess Champion, Dies at 64The story of international grand chess master Bobby Fischer has a lot of New York highlights. Fischer grew up and learned chess in Brooklyn, and for those not old enough to remember his iconic role in the Cold War, the Washington Square Park scenes from the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer are a cultural touchstone. In his later years, while living in exile, he turned against the city and America. After the September 11 attacks, he announced on the radio: “This is all wonderful news. I applaud the act.” When Fischer died yesterday, at age 64, it was far from his childhood home, in Reykjavik, Iceland. “The tragedy is that he left this world too early, and his extravagant life and scandalous statements did not contribute to the popularity of chess,” chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov said of him. “He single-handedly revitalized a game that had been stagnating under the control of the Communists of the Soviet sports hierarchy.”
Chess Champion Bobby Fischer Dies [Guardian]
Penélope and Salma Took Photos They Don’t Want Anyone to See Penélope Cruz and Salma Hayek had their camera and laptop, respectively, stolen while on vacation and are now worried about pictures getting out. In yet another Scientology video, Tom Cruise takes credit for saving the lives of fireman in the aftermath of 9/11. CNN’s chief national correspondent, John King, is converting to Judaism to appease the father of bride-to-be, congressional correspondent Dana Bash. Michael Keaton’s real name is Michael Douglas, but he changed his surname to Keaton to avoid confusion. Chris Martin attacked a paparazzo who was shooting him and Gwyneth Paltrow leaving Mount Sinai hospital.
early and often
Huckabee Is Inside Our Heads, Vice VersaEverybody seems to have Mike Huckabee on the brain today. As he pulls up nearly even with John McCain in South Carolina leading up to the primary there tomorrow, political writers are trying to understand what voters are thinking about the Baptist bass player. Do the Evangelicals matter? Don’t they? Will they even vote for him? It’s a Huckanundrum!
• David Brooks reminds us that it can be looked at pretty simply: “It is no accident that the major candidates in the Republican field are a pastor, a businessman and a war hero. These are the three most evocative Republican leadership models.” [NYT]
• But Rich Lowry says that this appeal as a pastor has begun cooling with non-Evangelicals. And now that it’s becoming clearer that he lacks the planning to impress voters with his policy ideas. [NYP]
Rosie O’Donnell’s Broadway Awakening? Rosie O’Donnell has started rehearsals for a one-woman show, directed by Michael Mayer of Spring Awakening, Cindy Adams says this morning. Well, that’s what we think she said since, as usual, we needed special decoding glasses to read her column. It seems that Rosie wrote the as-yet-untitled show after leaving The View, and like her book, Find Me, “It’s based on her life story,” Cindy says. “Her first one. She’s lived many lives.” It also may not be a one-woman show in the traditional sense. According to Cindy, “An actor or two onstage with her may include Tom Hulce.” Hulce, the Tony-award-winning actor who played Mozart in Amadeus, is very good. But we can’t help but worry for him: It seems like Elisabeth Hasselbeck would be a very challenging role.
Everything Rosie Coming Up [NYP]
Video: Backstage at Ford’s Supermodel of the Year Competition
Ford’s Supermodel of the World competition last year launched model Chanel Iman (who was a runner-up) into the freezing, barely breathable atmosphere of the modeling world. Since then she’s modeled for Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, and Derek Lam, among many others. She was also featured on the cover of Vogue last year in an homage to fashion’s new supermodels. So anyone who says the annual Ford contest isn’t a ticket to stardom is just plain wrong. Click above to view some backstage video of this year’s competition and model interviews with New York’s Jada Yuan.
Ford Supermodel of the World [NYM Video]
There She Is, Murray Hill and Ms. Lez
The seventh annual Ms. Lez competition took place last night in Williamsburg, and, with everybody’s favorite Catskills-evoking drag king, Mr. Murray Hill, as host, it was bent on finding the most fabulous lesbian, transgendered, or otherwise “queer” woman in New York City. Judges including longtime drag queen Linda Simpson and Rose Troche, director of the nineties indie-dyke classic Go Fish, evaluated seven contestants who proved that lesbians could be just as potty-mouthed as men. The winner was Miss I Heart Brooklyn, a fake-ditsy, bikini-clad bombshell who made “summer water safety” her platform, tossing dental dams out to her hoards of female fans. “If you’re drowning, just take out your portable dam — and you’re not even in the water anymore!” she chirped. Before the show began, we chatted with some of the major players.
For no good reason we can ascertain, four teams of New Yorkers gathered at a Tribeca bar last night to attempt to eat all the contents of a vending machine. It was the second annual LVHRD Master-Disaster Vending Machine Challenge, billed as “the world’s only competitive eating vending machine event.” Each team had three members, and The Onion faced off against amNew York while MoMA took on Pocket Change. The inimitable Murray Hill hosted, amNew York and Pocket Change won, and Jaime Lynn-DiScala and Lance Bass were, for some reason, in attendance. Oh, and three people threw up. Fun!
in other news
Americans Get to Pick Authors, Too, If Not Iraq PolicyThe Times Arts section this morning discovered a shocking new trend: Authors who are willing to do pretty much anything to get published, even if it means getting in on this crazy Internet thing. Apparently Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone Imprint — which recently canceled a first-time author contest co-sponsored with Sobol Literary Enterprises, an agency, after the $85 entry fee scared off participants — has now created a new contest in partnership with Gather.com, a sort of MySpace for people who understand they’re too old for MySpace. (We’re impressed with the judging skills already.) Aspiring authors will submit the first chapters of their novels; Gather.com members will vote in rounds until they get a winner. The prize is $5,000 from the site and a book contract from Touchstone. We already know, of course, that You control the media, ever since Time told us. So we’re not terribly surprised You control publishing. (Can we say how much we’re looking forward to getting You coffee?) But we’re most taken by the article’s lede, which wonders, “Is there anything the American consumer isn’t allowed to decide?” and cites examples like YouTube, American Idol, and a decision on Doritos’ next Super Bowl commercial. See, it’s true: There is nothing Americans aren’t allowed to decide. Well, except, the 2000 election, whether to fight global warming, housing for Katrina victims and the war in Iraq. But, hey, we do get to pick the Top Chef.
One Click, One Vote to Publish a Winner [NYT]
in the magazine
Git Yer High-Priority Art
The “High Priority” typographic illustration in each week’s New York Magazine — you know, that gorgeously designed graphic at the start of the listings section — is a sought-after gig for a designer. It’s usually the work of an invited contributor, and the invitations go to some of the top designers and typographers in the world. For this week’s new issue, though, New York teamed with the design blog Speak Up! to run an open-call contest, welcoming anyone to submit an entry. The winning effort, by Spencer Fruhling of Richmond, British Columbia, is on page 109 of the magazine (well, okay, and also above); other top contenders are at underconsideration.com/hp. Check ‘em out.
Speak Up: High Priority [UnderConsideration.com]
Jersey Kitten Named Cat Champ, Doesn’t Care
The smell at the fourth annual Iams Cat Championship hits you before the cuteness does. Held in the Expo room in the bowels of Madison Square Garden, the show — sponsored by the century-old Cat Fanciers Association — featured felines representing 41 certified breeds, booths advertising “world’s best kitty litter,” charcoal drawings of cats drinking out of toilets, and presentations like “The Secret Sex Lives of Dogs & Cats.” (Can’t some things stay secret?)
Sunday was time for the Best of the Best awards, the kitty equivalent of Best in Show. (It came after the trained-cat show and the feline agility competition.) The judging took place in the front of the room, before dozens of people on folding chairs, on a stage with a small, pink-beribboned table. The judge, Walter Hutzler, brought out each cat and held it aloft, stretching it out vertically or horizontally into a sort of Superman pose, before setting it down briefly on the table. The crowd oohed and aahed constantly. Two gray-haired announcers — Kent Highhouse, in a tux, and Gail Frew, in a black pantsuit — sat to the left of the stage, keeping up a running commentary.