And when CBS is out of ideas, they apparently call on us. How else to explain Saturday's broadcast? 48 Hours Presents Vanity Fair: Hollywood Scandal. As we've noted many times over the years, 48 Hours is the Vanity Fair of TV 'news' magazines. (Or, as we put it in 2006, "48 Hours -- Vanity Fair with streaming video.") But why be "like" something when you can "be" it?
And, based on Saturday's night viewing, the two should pair up on a regular basis. Great opportunity to put Vanity Fair out there in tough economic times. Get the name out there, get TV viewers comfortable with it, someone they invite into their living rooms on a regular basis and that's going to translate into at least a few more monthly sales of the magazine. CBS gets a less expensive show -- Vanity Fair correspondents don't cost as much as the CBS big names and the stories have already been covered in Vanity Fair so the budget's just for 'recreation' -- and a show that hits the 24 year mark in January gets some fresh(er) air.
Saturday's program addressed three scandals. The weakest was "Miranda" who had phone conversations with famous men in the 70s and 80s. Did we learn what Billy Joel, Johnny Carson, Buck Henry, Robert De Nero, Quincy Jones or anyone else told her? No. Buck appeared on camera to talk about how he began to doubt her. Richard Perry appeared on camera to talk about actually getting face-to-face with her, apparently the only famous man who did. She was not a leggy blond in her twenties, he explained. (He was too much of a gentleman to offer any more details. Good for Richard, bad for TV. As a consolation, Perry's romantic partner appeared on camera -- Jane Fonda.) Wisely, that segment was saved for last.
The middle segment relied on Cheryl Crane who, in 1958, killed the lover, Johnny Stompanato, of her mother, 40s film bombshell Lana Turner -- or did she? George Schlatter appeared on camera to discuss how a cover up would make a better story, but that Cheryl was trust worthy and present, so if she said it happened that way, then that's how it happened. But even so, for many (including Stompanato's son), doubts remain. Not noted in the broadcast, Woody Allen took on the story in the 1987 film September starring Mia Farrow as Lane whose mother Diane (played by Elaine Stritch) -- in the film Lane had taken the fall for shooting Diane's lover even though the mother actually killed him.
That was the second segment. The first segment was the topic that dominated Friday and Saturday's news cycle: Natalie Wood. As Stan noted on Friday, ". . . Natalie Wood was a movie star. And that's why she dominated the news cycle today." She died in 1981 (from drowning) and, on Friday, her death again became a question mark -- the hows of her death -- in the media. Sam Allen, Richard Winton and Christopher Goffard (Los Angeles Times) reported, "More than 40 journalists crammed around a podium outside department headquarters Friday morning for the news conference as the 30th anniversary of Wood's death suddenly received the stamp of actual news."
Recent comments by the skipper of the boat (on TV including NBC's Today show) and other things have led the police to reopen their investigation into Natalie's death. 48 Hours had a strong story on this and that's in part due to the fact that they were already preparing this story before Friday when it becamethe story. It was the program's best piece and they were able to speak to one of the men who was there when Natalie's body was removed from the water as well as an investigator on the case in 1981 who took statements from the skipper and Natalie's husband Robert Wagner. They played it fair and didn't try to present an answer.
Natalie's family -- husband RJ and daughters Natasha Gregson and Courtney Wagner -- have taken the approach of 'let this play out.' And that's the best stance you can take on something like this. If you object, even to say that it causes the daughters pain -- and it does cause them pain -- then you're assumed to be trying to cover something up.
But at some point, you grasp that it's not about you as much as it's about the legacy of Natalie Wood. There are many deaths that are re-investigated. Most are ignored by the news media. Some become minor stories. Natalie dominated the news cycle for two days running because of what she represents to so many as a result of her films.
Natalie was a real artist. She was an artist who was loved by film goers in her own lifetime. But there were a number of critics who trashed her work repeatedly. She was nominated three times for an Academy Award (Rebel Without A Cause, Splendor in the Grass and Love With The Proper Stranger), five times for a Golden Globe (Splendor in the Grass, Love With The Proper Stranger, Gypsy, Inside Daisy Clover and This Property Condemned), once for a Saturn Award (Brainstorm) and once for a BAFTA (Splendor in the Grass). She won the Golden Globe for Best Actress for her role in the mini-series From Here To Eternity.
Her first time up for an Academy Award, she lost to Jo Van Fleet, the second time to Sophia Loren and the third time to Patricia Neal. Sophia remains an enduring legend. Van Fleet and Neal not at all. And while critics weren't sure of her, the audience embraced her. And that's what put Natalie front and center in the news cycle, all the people around the world who have embraced and continue to embrace that artist whose performances continue to illuminate and teach them a little bit about themselves.
What did OWS teach? It offered a fact about the 99%. But like Barack's 2008 campaign, it attempted to be intentionally vauge. While that might work for a personality, it apparently doesn't for a movement.
Tuesday, in DC, we were asked to explain what OWS wanted? And that's been the continued problem with the movement or 'movement.' Pitching a tent with no demands is camping out, it's not really protesting. If we're protesting, we have to be clear on what we're protesting and what we want to see happen.
Not only did OWS not have a clear list of demands or even a clear message, they were repeatedly stroked when they should have been facing tough questions. Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) are attorneys and smart people. So it was sad to hear them in an exchange with a modern-day Eddie Haskell on Law and Disorder Radio where they and the Eddie Haskell acted as if these OWS movements or 'movements' were on the level of the 'sixties' (they meant early 70s) activisim and as if nothing came between. Really? Way to spit on the college students and others of the 80s who demanded the US stop supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa. And that's just one example. OWS maybe took place in 50 cities. If you want to be very generous, each city had about 1,000 participants. That would mean OWS was a 50,000 person movement or 'movement.' As a be-in, those aren't Woodstock numbers; as a political event, that's not even a minor third party's run for president.
OWS may limp along a bit more. It may even spring back to life. But what last week demonstrated was that the public knows the real deal and Natalie Wood was it while, thus far, OWS wasn't.