I was in a Beverly Hills coffee shop this morning and I overheard a pitch meeting between a woman trying to peddle a documentary about “the changing face of motherhood” and a development person who works for a former big-time TV star (who starred in a top-rated ensemble show about a law firm in the early 90s). The wannabe Filmmaker had met the Star at an event and wanted to get her involved in the documentary. To get the Filmmaker off her back, Star had set up this meeting with her killer shark development person.
Development Lady was dressed in a black silk jacket trimmed with white braid and a black and white floral pleated skirt. Very Lee Radziwill. I'm guessing the outfit cost about double the budget of Filmmaker’s documentary. Of course Development Lady never removed her oversized Roberto Cavalli sunglasses. Do women in Beverly Hills feel that they’ll lose a piece of their soul if someone sees their actual eyeballs? I’ve seen sunglasses stay on even in darkened restaurants. Are the glasses hiding their botox scars? Have they all just come from Lasik surgery?
Every time Filmmaker tried to deliver her carefully rehearsed pitch, Development Lady cut her off.
“I don’t want to hear about your project at all,” she said. I could feel Filmmaker getting more desperate by the second.
“I’m doing this out of great PASSION,” Filmmaker said, her voice cracking. “I think it’s critical in this day and age to show all women that they have a Goddess Within.”
“Can I be honest with you?” Development Lady asked, looking at her Raymond Weil watch for the third time.
Then and there I vowed that the next time anyone asked me that question, I would have only one stock answer:
Isn’t the assumption in any discourse that the two parties are already being honest with each other? Is this query really code for letting the person know that you are about to annihilate them and you’d appreciate it very much if they accepted it with grace and didn’t get emotional?
Development Lady then leaned closer to the woman, as if this were a true moment of intimacy between friends and she was doing her a huge favor. “I don’t see your funding. You have no track record. This whole project feels stale to me and you haven’t won me over at all. I know [Star] gets very excited about meeting new people but I don’t think there’s any reason why we’d want to get involved with this. But I enjoyed talking with you.”
With that she smiled wanly, shifted her body away from the woman, and flipped open her cell phone. Filmmaker gathered up her meager possessions but she was already invisible. Development Lady then started complaining bitterly into her cell phone that she will never go to a certain well known restaurant in Brentwood again because they refused to donate free dinners for a fundraiser at her son’s school. “After all the business I gave them!”
Is this my future? This is my first week of unemployment following the end of my seven-year-long job. And after 25 years of staff positions at various educational publishers, all of which I’ve enjoyed immensely, I’m looking to switch gears a bit and get some of my own writing projects off the ground. Will I soon be staring into the darkened, disinterested lenses of someone’s Roberto Cavallis? Will it bode well for my project if I lunge across the table and rip those sunglasses off of the person’s head and throw the constantly ringing cell phone into her double latte? Okay, perhaps I’m not quite ready for any pitch meetings. And in Development Lady's defense, that woman's idea for a documentary did sound as stale as last week's cheese sandwich.
I’d like to think that I’m ready for any “honesty” that comes my way in the big bad world. But am I? For the past few months I’ve been a contributor to the Huffington Post, an interesting, mostly political, mostly liberal group blog begun last year by former right-winger and now progressive anti-Bush author and radio commentator Arianna Huffington. I enjoy being part of their blogger roll which includes such people as John Kerry, Nora Ephron, Al Franken, Harry Shearer, Jane Smiley, Deepok Chopra, and many others. The Features Editor there has encouraged me to post revised versions of some of my regular blog posts and it's been fascinating to see the vastly different responses I get on there versus on my own blog.
Last Friday I posted my piece about circumcision which was mostly a family reminiscence based on an old discovered film I saw of my 1959 bris. I added a few comments about the people who oppose circumcision and I adopted an over-the-top and I thought humorous tone of intransigence about Kendall’s ambivalence towards the procedure. When I first saw my post zooming to the “Top Posts” list on Huffington, a way they have to track the most-read pieces, and the comments started pouring in fast and furious, I was excited that my post was generating such controversy. But I was unprepared for the level of hysteria that the “anti-circ” people would unleash, some of it accompanied by blatant anti-Semitism. Never in a million years did I mean to imply that circumcising your male child was the “right” thing to do, I was just sharing my own very personal feelings on the subject, all the while saying that this anti-circumcision group makes some valid points (which I still feel they muck up by resorting to outrageous hyperbole and propaganda).
I thought I had a very tough skin when it came to people sharing opposing views but I am not used to the level of personal attacks I received on the Huffington Post. Here is a sampling:
—Pull your head out of your egotistical Jewish ass.
—Let’s make a movie…at least this time it will have sound to preserve your pompous Jewish pontification (or should I say rabbification?).
—Your wife has a better sense of what a woman wants a penis partner to look like. Unless you’re planning to raise a gay son.
—Would you think the same thing if all male babies had to have their ears cut off at birth? Let’s dress up and make a fucking ritual of it and have a party with covered dishes!
—This last bit of animal sacrifice needs to end no matter the sentimental charm it has over older Jews.
—While you’re at it, Danny, you should really think about having all your children’s fingernails removed. After all, they are unnecessary in the evolutionary sense.
—YOU are the reason there are self-hating Jews, asshole. Your son would have every reason to hate you for being a coward.
—I demand that you CUT YOUR SON’S PENIS YOURSELF. See if THAT brings you closer to God!
—Fascism comes in all forms and degrees…you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself.
—Is this “mark” kind of like that yellow star the Nazis had all Jews sew on their clothes during WW2? They tried tattoos, too. How did those work out?
—Kendall, don't damage and risk your child's life by allowing some idiot to chop off the most sexually pleasurable part of his penis. Chop off that idiot you married instead, and do it before you get pregnant. Find a human being for a father for your children and replace this monster.
—Being Jewish and circumcised is no excuse for the kind of abusive behavior Miller exhibits. Many Jews are humane, decent people. This bozo is a disgrace to the good name of Judaism.
—Circumcising infants is a Satanic blood ritual. That is the only possible explanation for the persistence of this heinous evil. Human beings are not this evil. Only Satan himself is. All children circumcised are severely injured for life.
Nice reading, huh? And those are the nice ones! To be fair, some people who were vehemently against circumcision posted reasonable arguments without all the name-calling and insults hurled at “your precious Jewish bullshit texts.” Some commenters were not surprised by the deluge:
—Who could have anticipated so much naked anti-Semitism on the Huffington Post? Oh, I guess I could have. Read any post dealing with Israel for a “Jews run the world” diatribe in the comments section.
—Welcome to the new American left, Danny, where circumcision is equated with murder, and being Jewish is tantamount to admitting that you control the world as part of a shadowy, secret cabal.
When I started getting endless personal emails on the subject from people who thought I was a potential murderer, I realized that this topic was too incendiary for my comfort level and I deleted the whole post, replacing it with my recent thoughts on the gay adoption issue. I received a lot of comments on that post, too, including the crazy ravings of some anti-gay lunatics, but that I can handle. I think it’s important to hear and rebut such people. But with the circumcision post, I was put in a position of “defending” circumcision which was never my intention. I really don’t want to “debate” that issue at all, and I realize that I brought this on myself by posting such a tongue-in-cheek treatise. I also realize that I risk starting it up again by posting these comments and I really don’t want that to happen either. The Huffington folks were horrified at some of the more egregious comments and said that while they get a massive amount of hits per day, the majority of the people who take the time to comment tend to be the ones who want to say something very negative.
Do you think I was wrong to delete the post and the comments? Does it have more to do with the fact that I suddenly felt I was the most despised person on the Internet? Who said our egos don't get involved with this stuff? I admit that I was thrilled when my thoughts about gay adoption moved to the first position in the Top Posts list on Huffington for most of the day (until I was bumped by Alec Baldwin). Oh thank God—more people read that than about my satanic desire to "mutilate" my son. They like me, they really like me! I guess I'm still figuring out which issues I am willing to bring to a public forum and which issues I want to leave as private matters between me and my family. I truly don't mind negative comments but I grow extremely weary when the majority of them resort to malicious personal attacks.
Can I be honest with you?
MY blog readers are so much nicer!