Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Saturday, January 22, 2021

underground scene
You see them more often than not when you commute via NYC’s underground: Subway musicians, both official and unofficial. (I believe Bedford Station subway harp lady, above, is/was in the latter camp.)

I wonder, how often does such exposure lead to a big-time musical career? Is it a steppingstone to the top, or a dead end? Or a desperate last-gasp for attention?

The cause for my pondering was a recent couple of tweets from an aspiring band. They announced their impromptu performances on the Union Square platform, basically as a way to drum up attention for their paying gigs. For some reason, to me, this came off as a sign that they’re not doing too hot — resorting to the subway just to get noticed.

Fact is, this metro-musicality has been around for years, and to my knowledge, has yet to produce a breakout pop star. Probably not the best route to a career in the recording studio.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/22/2011 06:05pm
Category: Celebrity, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Wednesday, January 19, 2021

feed the kittyComic book and movie fandom was wetting itself over the news that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Catwoman in the next Batman flick, The Dark Knight Rises.

Or was she?

Pay close attention to the wording in the official press release:

Warner Bros. Pictures announced today that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” She will be starring alongside Christian Bale, who returns in the title role of Bruce Wayne/Batman.

In fact, the name “Catwoman” is not mentioned at all in the entire (brief) release. Meanwhile, Christian Bale is pointedly referred to as “Bruce Wayne/Batman”.

So, you have to figure that Hathaway is slated to play only alter-ego Selina Kyle in this film. The set-up for her transformation into Catwoman will probably be part of the story, with the cat-suit being donned in the fourth, Nolan-less installment. Hathaway will be wearing that costume, unless somebody pulls a two-faced move on her:

Billy Dee Williams took the role of Harvey Dent [in 1989's Batman] with the expectation that he would be brought back to play Two-Face and reportedly had a contract clause added reserving the role for him. During casting for Batman Forever (1995) Warner Bros. decided they would prefer Tommy Lee Jones and bought out Williams’ contract.

Let’s hope cinematic history doesn’t repeat itself. It’d be a real shame to miss out on Hathaway kicking ass in feline-inspired spandex.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/19/2011 10:03pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies, Pop Culture
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Saturday, December 04, 2021

Proving that the music industry has nothing but love for gimmickry, Cee Lo Green’s controversial track “Fuck You” is on the Best Record slate for the 2010 Grammys (albeit listed as the scrubbed “F*** You”).

Should he win, Green says he will sing the song during the live televised ceremony. And, to steal a joke from Conan O’Brien: If Green loses on Grammy Night, he’ll really sing that song…

In actuality, the G-rated version “Forget You” will grace the Grammy broadcast. When the chips are down, mainstream practicality trumps four-lettered expression. As was the case with Chic’s disco classic “Le Freak”:

[Says Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers] “We were so pissed off at what had happened. I mean, it was Studio 54, it was New Year’s Eve, it was Grace Jones, and we were wearing the most expensive outfits that we had — back then, in the late ’70s, our suits must have cost us a couple of thousand bucks each, and our really fancy shoes had got soaked trudging through the snow. So ‘Fuck Off’ was a protest song, and we actually thought it was pretty good — ‘Aaaaahh, fuck off!’ It had a vibe. I was thinking ‘This could be the anthem of everybody who gets cut off on the street by a cab driver or any kids who want to say this to their parents.’ You know, ‘Hey, I wasn’t saying it, man! I was just playing the record.’

“We really had pretty big designs on completing the song as ‘Fuck Off’. You’ve got to remember, we didn’t think of that prior to sitting down and playing. Once we did sit down and play and started singing that hook, it sounded good; just as good as ‘freak out’.”

I feel safe in assuming that “Freak Out” will endure in the popular consciousness a lot longer than “Fuck You” will.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/04/2021 03:04pm
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture
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Saturday, November 13, 2021

The online record is silent on just when Don King uttered this boxing-promotional quip:

But I do remember hearing it on sportstalk radio, sometime in the mid-1990s. King really touted that “double-shot power!” call to action for then-client Mike Tyson. It stuck with me. I’m surprised King, or someone else, didn’t retain it for other bouts.

For that matter, I’d like to have a copy of it myself. Maybe without the “Mike Tyson!” opener; just the “double-shot powah!” portion. It would make a nice soundbite for computer, cellphone, etc. I can’t figure out how to extract it from this Flash-based player, so I’ll have to keep looking in the scant online archives…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/13/2010 12:06pm
Category: Celebrity, Other Sports
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Monday, November 08, 2021

hello coco
Tonight was the debut of Conan O’Brien‘s new TBS gig. In fact, the inaugural episode is wrapping up as I write.

Not a bad opener. The same goofy/manic energy from “Late Night” and “The Tonight Show”, somewhat condensed. I’m looking forward to more.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/08/2021 11:59pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, TV
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Thursday, November 04, 2021

Not sure this is apropos of anything, but it’s worth noting, on the eve of the release of Valerie Plame biopic Fair Game:

Plame and her quasi-counterpart Anna Chapman offer a contrasting U.S.-Russia take on beautiful-woman spies. It’s like the Cold War all over again.

Except that Plame is decidedly more of an espionage heavyweight than Chapman. At least as far as the public can discern into the murky territory of international shadow-works. In any case, we end up with foreign affairs eye candy.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/04/2021 11:26pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies, Political, Women
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Saturday, October 30, 2021

spin cyclers
All the social outrage over the “Glee Gone Wild” photoshoot in GQ is predictable — just as predictable as the oft-repeated girl-to-woman image makeover employed by maturing performers:

All began their careers with a preponderance of fans in the bubblegum set and traced the same celebrity arc, by which Disney tiara is exchanged for Victoria’s Secret teddy and the sweet princess becomes a sweaty temptress. If she’s lucky, she then proceeds quickly to some amalgam of the two, her diversifying mission accomplished. If not, she’s Lindsay Lohan…

It’s all about image adjustment, about taking a pendulum positioned too far in one direction and yanking it in the other, so that it eventually winds up somewhere in between. The process has a physics all its own: G plus NC-17 equals PG-13.

When you’re dealing with public perceptions, shock techniques work better than steady progression. Fact is, most of the audience doesn’t want that little boy or girl in the popular sitcom or rock band to grow up — they want them to remain an iconic representation forever. Basically, a sharp break with the past is necessary, and nothing does the job better than sexualization.

And yes, that formula goes back a lot farther than “Glee”. It even goes back farther than Britney, Christina, or any of the latter-day Disney child stars. One-time one-dimensional kid phenom Jodie Foster turned the trick (so to speak) by playing a teenaged hooker in Taxi Driver. You can even point to Liz Taylor‘s career following the same (albeit tamer, owing to the times) trajectory.

And it’s all calculated. So keep that in mind the next time the apologies and claims of being led astray (the latter being another veiled form of sexual presentation for young women) spill forth, after the next strategic “scandal”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 10/30/2010 05:25pm
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture, Women
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Thursday, October 21, 2021

magical
With a little over two weeks before the premiere of Conan O’Brien‘s new TBS show, the marketing as ramped up, as huge billboards sporting O’Brien’s mug have cropped up all over Manhattan.

He’s permanently wearing a beard these days. It’s a good look for him. Still, I can’t shake my initial impression, from two years ago, of those ginger whiskers:

He looks like a guest-starring warlock character from the old 1960s sitcom “Bewitched”.

Seriously, he should get ahold of the show’s old theme music, wave his arms around at the audience “casting spells”, ham it up with a mock Edwardian English accent, the whole thing. I don’t know if he can actually use these suggestions under WGA rules, but here’s hoping.

So, if one of the first skits on the new talkshow involves Conan doing sitcom-grade magic, you’ll know where he got the idea from. I fully expect to see it on opening night.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/21/2010 11:55pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Celebrity, Comedy, TV
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Sunday, October 10, 2021

It’s hard to believe that the busiest man in comic books is an 87-year-old living legend. But that appears to be the case, based on Stan Lee‘s recently-announced projects:

- “The Seekers”, a digitally-delivered superhero/”high concept” series he’s developing for MTV’s Geek website;

- “The Guardian Project”, a superhero series featuring characters that represent each of the 30 National Hockey League franchises.

Good to see Lee still going strong, decades after his Marvel heyday. Also curious to consider that some media/entertainment entities think the superheroic genre is still relevant enough to reach younger audiences, especially via words-and-pictures borne media. But hey, as long as they’re buying, Lee might as well be selling.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 10/10/2021 05:31pm
Category: Celebrity, Internet, Media, Pop Culture
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Saturday, September 25, 2021

b before cLet the pop-cultural record show that Shakira‘s last big hit single was “Loba” (or “She Wolf” in English).

Her new song release is “Loca”, or “Crazy” in translation.

“Loba”, then “Loca”. Was that similarity planned? Then naturally, the alphabetical progression calls for her next release to be entitled “Loda”. Not that that’s a real word in Spanish or English, but a pattern is a pattern. And really, since it’s Shakira, I’ll listen to just about anything she puts out, since it’ll sound good regardless of meaning.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/25/2010 11:44am
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture, Women
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Thursday, September 23, 2021

While Katy Perry applied the requisite Kidz Bop re-lyricism to her song “Hot N Cold” for a duet with Elmo on “Sesame Street”, she neglected to clean up the rest of her act:

After the clip hit YouTube Monday, Gawker ran a story that called attention to the video and Katy’s look. Parents checking out the video began leaving critical comments like, “Couldn’t she wear something that was more. oh idk. APPROPRIATE” and “I DO NOT want my five year old lookin at [that]!” But, as TMZ notes, Perry wasn’t actually half-naked — her outfit featured a flesh-colored mesh top that went all the way up to her neck, like a figure-skating costume.

Sesame Workshop, the company that produces the show, responded to the controversy this morning by announcing that producers have decided to pull the song from the broadcast version of the program. The clip will remain online at KatyPerry.com, however, so the singer’s more mature fans can watch it.

And here’s that “mature” performance, boobies and all:

As usual, a lot of huffing-puffing outrage from parents who are projecting their own hang-ups onto their children. Although I admit that Perry should have thought twice before donning anything flesh-colored for a children’s television appearance. Or did she think she would be performing with the infamous rogue Elmo from Times Square?

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/23/2010 11:25pm
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture, TV, Women
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Saturday, September 18, 2021

staging
To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Joaquin Phoenix/Casey Affleck “documentary” I’m Still Here has been confirmed as a fabricated performance, by Affleck himself:

…Most mockumentaries, in the way of “This Is Spinal Tap,” wear their foolishness on their sleeves, leaving no doubt about their character as fiction. But Mr. Affleck, who is married to Mr. Phoenix’s sister and has been his friend for almost 20 years, said he wanted audiences to experience the film’s narrative, about the disintegration of celebrity, without the clutter of preconceived notions.

More like the disintegration of a hoax, since nobody really bought the crazy-man act to begin with. The film is also tanking on the arthouse circuit, so in every sense, no one’s buying this rather lame attempt to engineer pop-cultural buzz.

But a further tidbit: It turns out that David Letterman was in on the whole thing. In fact, “Late Show” monologue writer Bill Scheft blew the lid on the secret in August 2009:

Nuvo: Tell me what it was like backstage after the Joaquin Phoenix appearance.

Scheft: First of all, that was all an act.

Nuvo: Even Dave’s part of it?

Scheft: Yeah. Think Andy Kaufman without shaving. That’s what he was doing. And Dave knew about it and Dave loved it because he could play along. He could do whatever he wanted with it. And he did, and it was great television. But I will take credit for the line, “I think I owe Farrah Fawcett an apology.” That line was mine. I gave that to him during the break.

Dave loves that. He had a ball. He likes anything that’s good television, and he knew that’s good television.

I’ve told people that (everyone was in on the joke), and not only don’t people believe me, they tell me that I’m wrong and that (Phoenix) is a schizophrenic and he needs help and he’s going to end up like his brother. I said no. I saw the segment notes. It’s an act. I saw Ben Affleck’s brother taping the whole thing from offstage.

And oh, by the way — I called this fakery even before that:

…I’ve got no solid proof, but just from watching the whole interview, I could tell there was no real tension between the two, and Letterman’s reactions to similar guest antics in the past always betrayed his extreme unease at any such “unplanned” situations. This time out, I got the strong feeling he was simply going through the motions, setting up Phoenix with rather softball jabs; if he were really ill at ease with what was happening, he would have cut loose on him far more severely. My guess is that Letterman and Phoenix coordinated the whole thing beforehand and simply played it out before the cameras.

So, what have we learned from this failed subterfuge? Nothing significant. Which, in the end, is probably the whole point.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/18/2010 07:50pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, Movies, TV
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Friday, September 17, 2021

Is Christian Bale an actor, or some kind of Kafkaesque hunger artist?

That’s a fair question, in light of his turn as a crack addict in new release The Fighter. To lend authenticity to the role, he dropped about 30 pounds.

And this is nothing new for Bale. A few years back, his frame underwent a drastic 100-pound swing between his roles in The Machinist and Batman Begins. So really, thirty pounds must have been a walk in the park — he goes from skin-and-bones to bulked-up at the drop of a hat. He’s not the only one who undergoes this radical weight-shifting; I’m reminded of Val Kilmer‘s similar 50-pound shedding from five years ago.

What makes this body-mass purging so baffling is why Bale, Kilmer, et al feel it’s necessary. Can’t CGI special effects and makeup accomplish the same, or better, result? It’s ironic that filmmaking technology is at a stage where such visuals can be convincingly simulated, yet actors still feel compelled to shock their physiques into character form. It’s less acting, and more physiological stunt work.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 09/17/2010 07:55pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies
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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

This afternoon, while walking down 8th Avenue toward 14th Street, I passed by a too-tall, too-obvious drag queen. S/he locked eye contact with me, and slowly drew out these words:

“You look mahhhhvelous!”

I muttered a quick “thank you”. And with that, we went our separate ways.

I don’t know if this complimenting queen was channeling Billy Crystal or Fernando Lamas, or both. Or more likely, neither. Regardless, this vignette gives me a good enough excuse to showcase one of my favorite vintage “Saturday Night Live” skits, Fernando’s Hideaway:

Despite my newly-enshrined marvelousness, I have never been to a Hollywood party where dildo-like bodybuilding objects were offered as hors d’oeuvres. But I do know one thing: That it is better to look good than to feel good. If you know what I am saying to you.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/18/2010 09:23pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, New Yorkin', TV
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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Seems that Fox Network gave Craig Kilborn a new show, and then neglected to tell anyone about it:

After five weeks of its six-week test, “The Kilborn File” is averaging a 0.9 rating/2 share weighted metered market average, according to Nielsen Media Research, across Fox-owned stations in seven markets. That’s down 53% from the show’s 1.9/4 average lead-in and 47% compared to last summer’s 1.7/4 average in the time slots.

From what I can tell, the show’s already off the air in the New York market. That, and the above numbers, indicate that the gamble that Kilborn’s old audience would flock back to this vehicle was ill-founded. Given that he hasn’t been on the tube in six years, it was a foolish assumption to begin with.

And I say that as a Kilborn fan. He had a memorable presence on “SportsCenter”, providing a solid supporting role during ESPN’s “Big Show” era. And hold onto your hats: I actually preferred him as the original host of the original iteration of “The Daily Show”, over Jon Stewart and what that show morphed into.

So I’m a little disappointed that “File” tanked. Maybe there’s an opening in Bristol that Kilborn can revert back to; that might actually prompt me to tune into the World Wide Leader in Sports again.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/12/2021 11:31pm
Category: Celebrity, Sports, TV
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Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Kudos to New York Times advertising columnist Stuart Elliott, who decoded the I’m-quitting saga of JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater in a pop-cultural context:

How many see the resemblance between Steven Slater of #jetblue and Stephen Stucker, who played the sassy Johnny character in “Airplane”?

Sure enough, the resemblance is uncanny. I would have run side-by-side headshots of Steven and Stephen, but I couldn’t find decent enough photos of them (not surprisingly for Stucker, who’s been dead for a quarter-century). But it’s there. The fact that they are/were both gay probably also contributes to the similarity.

It also doesn’t hurt that Slater’s real-life meltdown could have been scripted right out of Airplane!. And by the way, don’t call me Shirley.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/11/2021 11:06pm
Category: Celebrity, Movies, Society
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Thursday, August 05, 2021

While Bill Cosby was disputing yet another premature rumor of his demise, he dropped a most succinct definition of the less-popular afterlife alternative:

“Hell is a place where everybody is laughing, but nothing is funny.”

Leave it to The Cos to come up with the first plausible rebuttal to Jean-Paul Sartre‘s argument that “Hell is other people”. For added philosophical impact, I’m hoping the comedian was wearing a signature Cosby Sweater whilst quipping.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/05/2021 07:17pm
Category: Celebrity, Comedy, Creative
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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Looking to challenge an unacceptable status quo, Wyclef Jean is seriously considering a run for president of his native Haiti.

And the former Fugee doesn’t even need to outline his campaign platform, because his body of song lyrics already does that.

Speaking of which, let’s hope that his previous presidential speculation doesn’t jump from melodic fantasy to grim reality:

If I was President

I’d get elected on Friday

Assassinated on Saturday

And buried on Sunday

That was semi-satiric musings from the pre-Obama era. Ironically, Jean really is more prone to experience that fate in the Haitian Presidential Palace, versus a highly improbable (make that impossible) ascent to the White House…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/04/2021 08:53am
Category: Celebrity, Political, Pop Culture
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Let’s take note of the contrasting spectacles this past week from the scions of two American political families:

- Chelsea Clinton, daughter of the liberal bogeymen that are Bill and Hillary, got married in a traditional (if opulent) wedding.

- Bristol Palin, the unwed teenage baby-mama offspring of conservative standard-bearer Sarah, broke it off (again) with her child’s father, Levi Johnston.

And this left-right behavioral contrast jibes with the seemingly paradoxical higher divorce rates in red states versus blue states. So, remind me again which end of this country’s political spectrum has the credibility to spout off about “family values”?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/04/2021 08:33am
Category: Celebrity, Politics, Society
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Friday, July 09, 2021

Riding a career-revival hot streak that includes a much-hyped “Saturday Night Live” host slot and a starring role in a new sitcom, “Hot in Cleveland”, Betty White is moving on to time-sensitive wall hangings:

It’s true. The 88-year-old actress is posing for her own 2011 calendar. Some of the photos are archival, others are Betty with animals and more than one month features Betty posing with shirtless, beefcake-type men.

Not to be unduly morbid, but let’s face it — White is 88. There’s a reasonable chance that she may not make it through the rest of this year, let alone next. So it’s entirely possible that this calendar could outlast her. If so, this merchandise would become an instant collector’s item, if ghoulishly so. Very much of a tempting-fate air to all this…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 07/09/2021 08:17am
Category: Celebrity, Pop Culture, TV
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Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Paisley Park’s own Prince has roused the online rabble by declaring that he’s done with the Web:

Unlike most other rock stars, he has banned YouTube and iTunes from using any of his music and has even closed down his own official website.

He says: “The internet’s completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it.

“The internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.”

Quite the Luddite approach to modern media. I’m sure someone else, somewhere, has referenced Prince’s classic “1999″ as a reference point, as in His Royal Badness wishing that the InterWebz would revert to that year, when MP3 downloads were an iffy affair on dialup speeds. If not, I’m doing it here.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/07/2021 11:56pm
Category: Celebrity, Internet, Pop Culture
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