the suzi parker files

Politics, Pop Culture and Ponderings

Girl Panic: Duran Duran Returns To Rude Bits, Seductive Scenes

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Duran Duran likes naughty fantasies.

Other bands get busted for drugs or tossing television sets out hotel windows. After thirty years in the music business, Duran Duran gets banned for music videos even in the anything-goes 21st century.

In the glitzy nine-minute video “Girl Panic,” Duran Duran, played by legendary supermodels, depicts tongue-in-cheek debauchery in a sleek London hotel.

Naomi Campbell, who plays lead singer Simon Le Bon in the video, wakes up surrounded by svelte women clad in various lingerie bondage get-ups. A gorgeous girl French-kisses – gasp! – another beautiful girl.In one scene, fashion divas Cindy Crawford and Yasmin Le Bon enter an elevator with drummer Roger Taylor, who plays a bellhop. A few seconds later, the women exit, and Taylor looks a tad, well, rumpled and confused. What ever did those girls do to him?

Hard-core raunchy, the video isn’t. But MTV and VH1 apparently consider it too racy for their viewers’ peepers as the two channels have banned “Girl Panic.” It’s perplexing given some of their previous programming such as “Skins,” which was eventually cancelled because advertisers’ reaction to its depiction of sex and drug use by teens.

The channels also criticized the video’s “blatant product placement.” Hmm, yes, so do major motion pictures (Ever seen a James Bond movie?) and Lady Gaga videos. (Hello, “Telephone.”)

Women, who make up the overwhelmingly majority of Duran Duran fans, dream of luxury and escapism. The Savoy Hotel, where “Girl Panic” was filmed in June, whisks a Duranie into a bedroom world of champagne and afternoon sex. So what if the video features a Rolls Royce, Louis Vitton luggage and Swarovski crystals? Duran Duran raised their fans from a young age to desire the ultimate things in life.

They also gave us on healthy dose of eroticism in our teen years.

In their first banned video “Girls on Film,” myriad steamy scenes transpire in a wrestling ring as the band plays their instruments in the background. Two girls in gauzy lingerie engage in a pillow fight while straddling a whipped-cream covered pole and surrendering to a kiss. In another scene, a woman in a white fringed cowgirl outfit rides a man-horse in a black G-string before leading him off-stage on a leash. Yes, the video contained some rude bits. It made Duran Duran famous in 1981. It made their fans tingle.

For MTV, the band generated a shorter, tamer version of “Girls on Film.” Still, the X-rated version lingered on the shelf at a video store. Duranies and adolescent boys, whether they admitted it or not, figured out ways to see the “night version” of “Girls on Film” numerous times.

The Chauffeur,” too, became legendary among Duranies. Never released on MTV, the 1982 black-and-white video tells the story of two beautiful female lovers, clad in black garter belts and bustiers, meeting clandestinely in an empty parking garage. The band doesn’t appear in the video, but every Duranie who watched the video knew that to fall into bed with a member required an initial investment in silk stockings and fuck-me heels.

“Girl Panic” brilliantly pays homage to both videos with hat-tips that only a die-hard Duranie can spot. But fans, or Duran Duran for that matter, no longer needs MTV or VH1. As someone tweeted, “Do they even show videos anymore?” Duranies who want to study “Girl Panic” repeatedly can unlike in the days when we camped in front of the television set for hours waiting to see “Save a Prayer.”

It certainly doesn’t hurt that MTV, which Duran Duran helped place into music history, dissed the new video. Any publicity, especially the provocative kind, is good publicity. Here’s predicting that the ban will undoubtedly lead to today’s teens – and their Gen X mothers – sneaking peek after peek of “Girl Panic” on their iPhones.


Written by suziparker1313

December 8, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Posted in Music, Pop Culture

Tagged with , ,

Birmingham Calling: Duran Duran … Exhibited?

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Not everyone dreams about a vacation to Birmingham, England.

But Duranies do.

Birmingham is to a Duran Duran addict what Liverpool is to Beatles fans. Duranies long for a time machine to travel to the legendary Rum Runner, the night club where Duran Duran formed in 1978.

In a Duranie’s imagination, Birmingham is a mythical place where Brummies drink in pubs, boys dash out in eyeliner driving Aston Martins and girls have a chance to land in bed with a dreamy lead singer.

Birmingham natives say that is far from the truth, but it’s hard to convince a Duranie.

John Hemming, director of the Birmingham Music Heritage project and a rock historian, knows a lot about the British city. Hemming runs a website focused on the city’s musical history, and he is currently helping to organize an exhibit featuring Duran Duran in Birmingham.

“The goal of our project is to inspire future generations of musicians and alike from Birmingham to pick up an instrument and join the many famous bands and artists that Birmingham has produced,” Hemming tells me via email.  “We want to keep the music heritage of the city alive with films, exhibitions and live music.”

Birmingham’s musical legacy from 1965 to 1985, which Hemming has chosen to highlight on his website, includes an eclectic mix of bands and singers – Black Sabbath, ELO, Joan Armatrading, Musical Youth, Traffic, The Beat, Toyah Willcox and UB40, to name a few.

Hemming says that the city’s rich culture has always been – and continues to be – overshadowed by London, Manchester and Liverpool. It’s a place that has struggled with identity issues for decades, perpetually unclear of its place in British history.

“It was one of the first cities ever to face terrorism during the early 70’s so I think the city is still shell-shocked, but I think this has made Brummys the people we are today,” Hemming says.

In 1974, Birmingham was rocked by pub bombings that killed 21 people and injured 182. The British government blamed the IRA. And, in turn, introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which allowed suspects to be held up to seven days without charge and allowed people to be deported from Great Britain to either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland.

But Hemming says, regardless of its past, that Brummys are “quite laid back and friendly.”

He also says that the city’s suburbs may have helped create some of the genius that emerged from Birmingham.

“Apart from the city centre visit the suburbs and then you can understand why the likes Black Sabbath formed and conquered the world…… its a dump!”

In the late 1970s, Birmingham, like much of England, was seeking an escape from gnashing punk energy. A perfect antidote? New Wave.

“Bands such as Japan [and] Tubeway Army were churning out a new sound of synth pop,” Hemming says. “In Birmingham bands such as the Beat and Dexys were breaking big due to the two-tone explosion in 79-80 in Coventry, but in the clubs something different was happening. Peacock Punks as they were called started to challenge fashion and people were making their own clothes and just being so experimental.”

But those who loved fashion didn’t call themselves New Romantics. Instead, Hemming says, media invented New Romantics.

“This was just boys and girls wearing make up and being flamboyant and having fun,” he recalls. “I can remember personally sharing eyeliner with the girls and blusher. In fact if you didn’t wear make up then you were really a geek! The bands in the underground were Fashion and Duran, it was a mix of disco, punk and synth.”

Duran Duran’s launch from the Rum Runner to global sex symbols didn’t happen for every band. Hemming said that one band that should have hit the big time but failed was Fashion. Duran Duran actually opened for Fashion, and Fashion supported the B-52s on the Athens band’s first UK tour.

“They really should have made it big,” Hemming says. “Their second album ‘Frabrique’ went out on the Arista label and made the top 20. The single ‘Move On’ was a great song but lead singer Dee Harris quit the band on the eve of the BBC’s ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’. The band had partied too much and finished themselves before fame and fortune.

But not Duran Duran.

Hemming said he remembers that “Girls on Film” version one was written by former lead singer Andy Wickett while working nights at Cadbury’s.

“He sold the rights to the song to the then management for £600,” Hemming says. “The song was then revisited by Simon who put his own stamp on it. But Andy was paid again by the management to teach Simon how to sing some of the songs.”

The Duran Duran exhibit, if Hemming pulls it off, will focus on the first years of the band leading to their first self-titled album that includes “Planet Earth” and “Girls on Film.” It will explore the band’s early line-ups and various incarnations as they played in clubs around Birmingham.

A documentary featuring interviews with Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor has already been filmed. Rhodes was a founding member along with bassist John Taylor. A photography exhibit by Paul Edmond is also planned. Edmond documented the early days of Birmingham’s new wave scene at The Cedar Club, Holy City Zoo and the Rum Runner.

Hemming says the exhibit will also feature designs by New Romantic fashion pioneers, Jane Karn and Patti Bell, who dressed Duran Duran at times.

“Patti Bell was renowned for selecting the best dressed to enter the Rum Runner and turning down anyone who was normal,” Hemming says.

For Duranies the most thrilling part of the exhibit, perhaps? Rhodes will donate some of his artwork and photography. Jody Craddock, a premier football player, has also painted what Hemming calls a “stunning portrait” of singer Simon Le Bon.

But don’t ready the passport just yet. Hemming needs money, sponsors and a location to pull off his plan.

“To make this happen we need the correct funding and the perfect location,” he said. “We are looking for funds around the 50k mark to totally offer something special and curate material for such an exhibition.”

Surely, some old New Romantics have a pound or two to spare.

Written by suziparker1313

August 2, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Arkansas Dems, Montana’s Brian Schweitzer: Let’s Spend the Night Together

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Am I at a Republican event?

Loud, booming music about America plays over a loud speaker. I feel like General Douglas MacArthur could rise from the dead and storm to the podium at any minute.

For so many years, Democrats have reliably played John Cougar Mellencamp, Bon Jovi and U2 songs at these events to the point of musical exhaustion for reporters. But tonight it’s seemingly John Phillip Sousa’s greatest hits on a loop. I’d take “Beautiful Day” over charging military anthems, but nobody asked me..

Welcome to the Democratic Party of Arkansas’ Jefferson-Jackson Dinner 2011. Yee-haw!

At these events, news is seldom made. People get awards. They eat a buffet dinner. They drink. Switch “greedy Republicans” for “tax and spend” Democrats and you have the same thing at the GOP’s annual dinner. This is a red-meat event meant to fire up the party faithful.

Speaking of red meat – tonight’s buffet dinner is (surprisingly) beef instead of chicken. We media  always sit at a back table and don’t get to eat. Since journalism ethics require us to starve rather than accept a slice of cheesecake. At this event, media wasn’t allowed to pay a small ticket price – $10 to $15 – to enjoy a buffet while waiting for the main speaker: The colorful Montana Governor, Brian Schweitzer. Alas, I should have packed a picnic to this shindig.

The temperature is freezing in Verizon Arena. Not chilly, not cool. Close to sub-zero. Sarah Palin would feel right at home if the room wasn’t filled with 1,300 Democrats.

This is not the glamorous part of a girl reporter’s life. Waiting and watching – that’s the name of the game.

Fashion makes for colorful entertainment. For women, the dresses range from ultra casual to full-on fancy formals with glittery high heels. One woman wears a necklace that looked more like a chandelier than jewelry. A girl almost teeters out of her glittery gold too-high-heeled pumps right in front of the media table. Whew! Good thing her beau was there to catch her.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe soon arrives and the television camera guys buzzes around him. He sticks to talking points, chatting about how Democratic candidates could get elected in 2012. (Hardworking candidates who are known in their districts, he says.) Confession: My attention wanes. My eye roams to the cute guy in his security detail. Did he just wink at me?

Beebe moves along to mingle because that’s what politicians do at these events. Shake hands and chat.

Plates of food attached to the hands of Democrats march past the media pen. My stomach growls. I’m cold. If this was a hashtag, #unhappy would be it.

Media usually stays in its assigned area, but in case we didn’t know that, arena officials suddenly arrive in front of the table and sticks down bold black and yellow striped tape. What happens if we cross it? Hmm. Will Beebe’s cute security guy tackle me?

The show starts with Gabe Holmstrom, who once worked for former Rep. Marion Berry.  Berry has been diagnosed with lymphoma. Holstrom wants everyone to yell a get well wish for Berry while he recorded it on his iPhone. It doesn’t go so well as everyone is out of sync. It’s the thought that counts, right?

An invocation by Democratic stalwart Jimmie Lou Fisher follows. Amen.

Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor addresses the crowd next, explaining to Schweitzer how everyone works together in Arkansas. “Even the Baptists and Methodists work together sometimes.” He adds that there were limits to this.

It becomes hard to focus because I really long for a pair of mittens as a cold wind blows across my notepad.

The new Arkansas Party Chairman, Will Bond, who looks like Harry Potter minus the scar, introduces a video about Arkansas Democrats. I don’t know any of the people in the video although one guy Mark who runs his own business looks vaguely familiar.

A bevy of presentations followed before Rep. Mike Ross (who announced less than 48 hours later that he would not seek re-election in 2012) hit the stage. He targets Republican Rep. Tim Griffin and Rep. Rick Crawford, saying Griffin already thinks he is running for senator and Crawford still has a deer in the headlights look in his eyes. Ouch.

More constitutional officers speak before Beebe, like a Baptist preacher, gets the crowd fired up about tax cuts, job losses and the overall ills of the country.

“The strength of the country has always been in the center,” he says.

I’m hungry. I tweet that I’m hungry. Maybe someone will hear my pleas.

Finally, the man of the night Schweitzer, in casual dress and wearing a bolo tie, blasts onto the stage. He says he hated to leave Montana in July because the state only gets two months of summer. Beebe, however, told him that Montana and Arkansas has the same weather.

“You get down to 74 and we get up to 74 in the day,” he says.

Ah ha! That’s why it is so cold in the arena. They want to make Schweitzer feel right at home. I hope I don’t catch pneumonia on this assignment. Some people are covering themselves with napkins. Maybe I can take the blue skirt off the table and whip it into a cape. A cape revolution! (Note to self: Watch more DIY shows.)

Schweitzer spins yarns about the Big Sky state, which he loves dearly. He makes it sound romantic with its beauty, wind energy and people living to be 114 years old. How much does a plane ticket to Montana cost?

Three slices of cheesecake arrive at our table from the state director of a non-partisan organization, Americans for Prosperity. Two of the reporters don’t trust it. Ethics be damned. I’m starving. The only food I have eaten all day is a cat-head biscuit. At the moment, I could eat the whole cat. It’s not as yummy as a wedge from the Cheesecake Factory, but it’ll keep my blood sugar to plummeting to zero as Schweitzer carries on. Montana runs deep in him.

In my peripheral vision, the cute security guy lurks. OMG. Has he been watching me scarf this dessert as if it is my last meal on death row? #embarrassing

Schweitzer finally wraps up his cowboy storytelling just as I enjoy the last bite of cheesecake. Perfect timing, Mr. Montana.

Written by suziparker1313

July 26, 2011 at 3:49 pm

On His Birthday: An Ode to Ernest Hemingway’s Arkansas Sanctuary

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Two-lane roads criss-cross the fertile Delta farmland in northeast Arkansas. Small towns and cotton gins pepper the landscape. In a blink, you’d miss Piggott, a town of about 2,000 people.

It’s certainly a long way from Havana, Paris, Madrid or Key West.

Ernest Hemingway probably thought this very thing when he arrived here in 1927 on the arm of his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, whose family lived in the small town. He was 28.

From 1927 until the couple separated in 1936, Hemingway often visited Piggott with his wife and their two children. The Pfeiffer House still stands outside Piggott’s town square, surrounded by large oaks, green grass and the occasional wildflower. Behind the two-story wood framed home, a converted barn turned studio holds secrets from the Hemingway days. It was in this studio that Hemingway wrote part of “A Farewell to Arms” as well as sections of numerous short stories.

After gathering clues and solving mysteries about Hemingway’s time at the house, two women – Dr. Ruth Hawkins and Claudia Shannon – along with Arkansas State University in Jonesboro have transformed the house into the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center.

“We wanted the house to be true to the time when Hemingway lived here,” said Shannon, president of Shannon Design Enterprises in Jonesboro and restoration director for the center. “We wanted people to feel like they stepped back into time.” Hawkins is vice presidentof institutional advancement at Arkansas State and project director for the center.

Piggott, too, appears frozen in time, as if Papa Hemingway just caught a train out of here last week. It retains a certain charm that has been lost in other cities with the advent of Wal-Mart and other chain stores.

Piggott doesn’t have chain stores and doesn’t want any within its city limits.

Seals Pharmacy on the town square still serves ice cream sodas and sundaes on its marble counter top. Antique shops dot the streets. The only thing missing is the 1800s courthouse, torn down in the 1970s for a more modern building.

Andy Griffith made the 1957 film A Face in the Crowd in Piggott, and residents still insist Piggott was the basis for television’s Mayberry. The town is now banking on Papa Hemingway, not Wal-Mart, to revitalize its economy and renovate its town square.

“I can safely say that 70 percent of businesses will benefit from the Hemingway connection due to tourism and the kind of tourism it will generate,” said Rodney Rouse, president of Arkansas Bank and a co-chairman of a group aimed at renovating Piggott.

But for love

The love story of the 1910 Hemingway-Pfeiffer farmhouse and its restoration oozes much of the same romance and happenstance that filled Hemingway’s life with Pauline Pfeiffer.

Pauline Pfeiffer Hemingway grew up in St. Louis and moved to Piggott with her family in 1913 when her father, Paul, bought a house in the rural town and left the family pharmaceutical business.

Despising the city, Paul Pfeiffer began acquiring land during the early 1900s in the swampy, timbered-out flatland of northeastern Arkansas and soon accumulated 63,000 acres, which he divided into farms for sharecroppers. He also constructed a cotton gin and created the successful Piggott Land Company in 1929.

When the Depression struck, Piggott families struggled to generate income. Paul Pfeiffer was their savior. He chartered the Piggott State Bank in 1930, becoming its first president and loaning money to whomever needed it. He bought hundreds of quilts from women in the area in order to give them something rather than a handout.

Paul Pfeiffer also hired people to paint the house when another coat of paint wasn’t even needed. During restoration, Shannon said she found 40 layers of paint on the house.

Pauline, the oldest of four children, was a well-educated, devout Catholic. She graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1918 and traveled to New York, where she wrote for various magazines. Pauline loved fashion and writing and landed a position with Vogue’s Paris office.

In 1925, Pauline, a chic flapper, met Hemingway, a struggling writer, and his wife, Hadley Richardson, a St. Louis woman and the mother of his son Jack. The three became friends, but Hadley was soon pushed out of the picture.

In the fall of 1926, Hemingway and Pauline agreed to Hadley’s request – that the couple spend 100 days apart. If at the end of that time they were still in love, Hadley would sign the papers setting Hemingway free.

The attraction continued. Hemingway and Pauline married in 1927 and lived the Paris literary life with other American expatriate writers.

Hemingway possessed a passion for wealthy women, and Pauline was no exception. She had a glamorous job, a huge trust fund and countless more suitable admirers.

As Hemingway became more successful, the couple took jaunts to Europe, Africa, Havana and Wyoming. In 1931, Pauline’s uncle bought a home for the couple in Key West.

The couple had two sons, Patrick and Gregory. Patrick, 70, now lives in Bozeman, Mont., and Gregory, 67, resides in Miami. Hawkins has invited both, along with Jack Hemingway, to the July 4 dedication ceremony.

Although Hemingway and Pauline lived in Key West, the couple often traveled to Piggott to visit Pauline’s family. Hemingway enjoyed the Arkansas countryside and often hunted pheasant. Letters from Hemingway to the Pfeiffers reflect his interest in their rural lifestyle. He also wrote letters to Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound from Piggott.

“Pauline was his muse,” said Hawkins, who is working on a book about Pauline and Hemingway. “He wrote eight books and numerous short stories while they were together.”

In 1932, Virginia Pfeiffer, Pauline’s bohemian sister, suggested converting the backyard barn into a studio for Hemingway so he could write in peace. One morning, though, the barn caught fire when Hemingway forgot to damp down the stove. As manuscripts were tossed out, Hemingway fumed. He told off, or as legend has it, probably cursed at, a young servant who lit the fire.

“Paul Pfeiffer forced Hemingway to apologize to the boy,” said Hawkins.

Pauline remained in love with Hemingway all her life and sacrificed herself, her writing and her sons to be with him.

Hemingway often tired of his muses, and in 1936, war correspondent Martha Gellhorn caught his eye. He separated from Pauline and divorced her in 1940.

Pauline stayed in the Key West home and opened a designer fabric, upholstery and gift business known as the Carolina Shop.

On Oct. 21, 1951, a year after her mother’s death and seven years after her father died, Pauline died of a brain hemorrhage while visiting her sister in Hollywood. She is buried in an unmarked grave in the Hollywood Memorial Cemetery.

The restoration

In 1997, Pauline Hemingway crossed Hawkins’s thoughts while she worked on the designation of Crowley’s Ridge Parkway as a national scenic byway.

“I told a photographer who was shooting along the byway to see what he could find out about the Pfeiffer House. He came back and told me it was for sale,” recalled Hawkins. She drove to Piggott on Thanksgiving 1996 to look at the house, which had been bought in 1950 by Tom and Beatrice Janes and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Its listing on the historic register means it was in good shape when Arkansas State began its Hemingway restoration.

Suddenly a woman with a mission, Hawkins worked furiously to acquire the house. In February 1997, the Arkansas General Assembly appropriated $135,000 to purchase the property. A month later, Sherland and Barbara Hamilton of Rector, who own Crockett Oil Co., offered a $200,000 restoration “challenge grant.”

By April, ASU had acquired the property, and Claudia Shannon began gathering clues about the house.

“When we began the restoration, we had to search out every bit of information because it had been nearly 50 years since a member of the Pfeiffer family lived in the house,” said Shannon. “There were no family photos, and the only remaining Pfeiffer relative we knew of was in her 90s.”

Taking oral histories about the Pfeiffers and their house from former housekeepers, Shannon began piecing together the jigsaw puzzle and reconstructing the furnishings and colors.

It wasn’t until Shannon located Beatrice Janes, now in her 90s and living in North Carolina, that the big pieces fell into place. Last year, Shannon and her husband, Howard, visited Janes, who had a role in “A Face in the Crowd.”

Janes loaned the project some of the Pfeiffers’ furniture and possessions, including a piano Janes’s son owned, that she acquired when she bought the house. Through the years, Piggott residents have collected furnishings from the Pfeiffer house at estate and junk sales. Now the town is giving it all back.

“People have given or sold us all sorts of stuff from all over the country,” said Shannon. “We have a lot of the original furnishings. The only thing lacking is (one of) the quilts that Mr. Pfeiffer bought during the Depression. No one has mentioned one of those to us.”

ASU hopes the historic house will be an educational resource, linking it with other Hemingway conferences and lectures, much the way the University of Mississippi links to its Faulkner connection. While Hawkins and Shannon realize Hemingway didn’t spend his entire life in Piggott, they hope Hemingway hounds will want to see where Hemingway and one of his muses spent time.

“This is an era in time that hasn’t been explored as history because it is so recent,” said Shannon. “But the 1930s was a fascinating period, and Hemingway was a fascinating man. Those two combined in a town that is rich in lore to create a rich asset for this area.”

[This story was originally published on May 23, 1999 in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Gregory Hemingway died in 2001 at age 69.]

Written by suziparker1313

July 21, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Posted in Arkansas, The South

Boys on Twitter: Duran Duran Cyber-Woos Generation X

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I’m fourteen again.

Thank you, Duran Duran. The old adage is true that we said in the 1980s – once a Duranie, always a Duranie. But who knew the obsession could reappear like a bad drug habit?

I blame the band for this renewed fascination. Brilliant work, guys. They have struck at the heart of Duranies everywhere with a new album — All You Need Is Now — that sounds like their first self-titled album mixed with the best songs of “Rio.” It’s synth-heavy, sexy and seductive. I’m smitten all over again.

Perhaps in a savvy marketing strategy, Duran Duran senses that Duranies are having a collective Generation X mid-life crisis. We need escapism from everyday life. Ta da! Enter Duran Duran to take us right back to the dreamy days of yachts with handsome men on board that we must marry.

What Duranie doesn’t still long for the days of endlessly watching “Save a Prayer,” dreaming of being held by Simon Le Bon as he sings about how it was all more than a one-night stand? Should I get out my John Taylor fedora and wear it to brunch? Maybe dye my hair Nick Rhodes orange?

Duran Duran, you sly devils.

I’ve spent hours of my life following this New Romantic British band. And here we go again. Thanks to this new album, Duran Duran is everywhere. They just completed a tour of North America that included the States plus a show in Mexico and a few in Canada. They played a show, directed by David Lynch, that was broadcast live on YouTube. I soaked in every minute of its surreal artiness. When it repeated right after the first broadcast, I watched it again for another fix of Simon – older and bearded. But who cares? It’s Simon Le Bon.

Duran Duran hit the festival circuit playing South by Southwest in Austin and Coachella in California. I missed the airing of the Coachella festival, but have caught clips on YouTube. With thousands of arms waving, it took me right back to 1984 when Duran Duran played filmed “Arena” in Oakland, Calf.

Certain advantages exist in the 21st century for Duranies. Sure, back in the 1980s, we stayed glued to MTV waiting for the next video, recording live concerts on VHS and cassettes, buying every magazine that mentioned Duran Duran and studying their love lives more than we studied algebra.

But now, Duranies have social media. And so do Duran Duran.

Simon and John  tweet religiously to their fans about their lives. They even answer questions and return tweets. (Hmm, I’m still waiting for a return tweet, Simon or John. Must I beg?) Drummer Roger Taylor prefers Facebook. Nick Rhodes, the night owl keyboardist, is missing in action on social media. Can someone clue him in?

On any given day, I can follow John giving up cigarettes, buying vinyl or tweeting the playlist for the latest concert. Simon’s tweets range from political about Osama Bin Laden to his trippy dreams. He can be snarky, but those who love Simon love his sarcasm.

Simon recently tweeted that he burned a potato in his apartment’s kitchen in the Dominican Republic when the band played a show there. Confession: It was a little disheartening to learn that Simon cooked his own food on tour. I envisioned a chef catering to his every whim. Then again, it’s not the high-rolling’80s anymore. But it’s nice to know that he can cook a potato about like I can – not very well.

Twitter offers instant gratification for Duranies as well as Simon and John. To some extent, Simon and John appear to have a few cyberstalkers, but a stalker or two is good for the old ego, eh?

Simon and John tout the rock star lifestyle – private jets, posh hotels, back stage passes. Duranies absorb these tidbits like Rio soaks up the sun on a yacht. They occasionally even talk about their wives and children, some of who also tweet.  Nick Rhodes’ ex-wife, Julie Anne, is on Twitter, and, surprisingly, has a loyal Duranie following. That was not the case in the 1980s when many fans cried about her marriage to Nick. Some Duranies move on eventually, I guess.

Oh, to have had social media in the band’s heyday. Then again, the band probably wouldn’t have had time to tweet for enjoying groupies and indulging in expensive champagne in the back of limos.

Whether it’s 1981 or 2011, Duran Duran knows where to stroke a Duranie’s weak spot. As Simon sang in “The Red Carpet Massacre,” “Maybe you think you’re above this, but baby we know that you love it.”

Yes, I do.

Written by suziparker1313

May 10, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Music, Pop Culture

Wonder Woman: All Hail Her Bustier

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The Justice League would want me to respond.

Linda Holmes, a blogger for NPR, recently decided to attack Wonder Woman and the outfit she will be donning on a new television series. At the heart of her argument – that pesky bustier that Wonder Woman critics always choose to attack. Holmes writes, “Nevertheless, lady, these are not clothes for butt-kicking.”

In the revamped television series, Wonder Woman wears a bright red bustier and denim blue leggings. She’s got her Lasso of Truth and her super glittery bracelets that work as projectile devices. The costume is light-years better than the atrocious costume that was unveiled last year that made Wonder Woman look like a club kid instead of a superhero.

Holmes argues that there is no way Wonder Woman could fight crime in that bustier because she would be too busy tugging at it. According to Wonder Woman lore, she has been taking on the bad guys in that get-up since her debut in 1942 albeit with a skirt back in those days.

Wonder Woman’s superpowers include super-strength, super-speed, super-stamina, and super-agility. With all that under her belt, don’t you think she would have the wherewithal to hold up a bustier in some magical way? Of course, she would. Heck, she might just use common sense and deduct that double-sided super-duper duct tape might just do the trick.

If anything, the Justice League – and Wonder Woman fans – should be more worried about the transformation on the superhero’s origins. Wonder Woman just may become too – gasp! – boring.

Originally, in the comic book, Wonder Woman’s creator, William Moulton Marston, orchestrated a complex backstory for the superhero. Created during World War II, she was Amazonian based on Greek mythology and a “distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to a world torn by the hatred of men.”

She fell in love with Steve Trevor, a U.S. intelligence officer whose plane had crashed on Wonder Woman’s island. She earned the right to return to the “Man’s World” and fight crime, specifically the Nazis.

By the 1970s, when Lynda Carter, emerged as TV’s prime time Wonder Woman, the superhero’s day job was an army nurse and spy. That was not the everyday gig for a woman especially back in the days of bimbo blondes and short shorts. She was sexy and smart.

Now, David E. Kelley, the creator of “Ally McBeal” and “Boston Legal”, plans to turn Wonder Woman into a corporate executive. Think “Office Space.” “Did you fill out your TPS reports?” she’ll ask before encircling the minion with her lasso of truth. Of course, maybe she’ll be more of a CEO like Tony Stark a/k/a Iron Man and have an assistant who performs the mind-numbing tasks. Certainly, a potentially dismal fate for a kickass superhero with mythological lineage.

That’s what Wonder Woman fans should be more concerned about Wonder Woman becoming a bore than about her bustier and how she keeps it up. And here’s a word of wisdom from someone who has donned a bustier or two in her time: Bustiers simply do not fall down if properly worn. And of course, Wonder Woman knows how to wear one after all of these years.

Wonder Woman’s bustier likely possesses properly fitted bra cups and rigid boning that keeps everything in place while she fights the bad guys. So enough with the worrying about her bustier falling down. It won’t. Let her sport the bustier — and the hot pants that she also may wear in the new series — with pride. And, if she has a wardrobe malfunction during a battle, there’s nothing wrong with gaining an edge on the bad guys via double distractions.

Written by suziparker1313

April 12, 2011 at 7:10 pm

In Today’s Manic Journalism World, What Would Lou Grant Do?

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In this manic age of journalism, what would Lou Grant do?

As some may have read in these pages and elsewhere, after two years Politics Daily has lost its lease with AOL and will be vacating this space soon. Some of the newspeople who work here will bring you news from other “verticals” at AOL, and some of them will report from new web addresses. I’ll still be reporting, as I always have, from various other outlets and chasing a new story sooner rather than later.
It’s in my blood. As a kid, I was obsessed with “Lou Grant,” the CBS drama that ran from 1977 to 1982. While other kids loved Barbie dolls and GI Joe, I loved newspapers. (Yes, I was a geek.)

Crotchety Lou Grant, played by Ed Asner, left a job as a television news producer (after being fired) and an ex-wife in Minnesota to return to the newspaper business at the fictional “Los Angeles Tribune” as its city editor. Newspapers were in troubled waters, and it was up to Grant, who got his journalism start in newspapers, to figure out how to increase circulation. Weekly, he had to battle a changing journalism world, the advertising department, and a bossy publisher while making sure his reporters told compelling stories.

Even the opening credits for the show that first season fascinated me. A bird chirps, a tree falls, that tree becomes newsprint, and that newsprint becomes liner in the bird cage. To me it symbolized there was another story to write the next day and the one after that.

So, if Grant was an editor these days, how would he deal with the rapid changes buffeting the industry?

First, he’d learn the lingo (while cussing under his breath) as to not look stupid. “Content” has become the new term for “copy.” “Clicks” replace “circulation.” “Content management system” is the new printing operation. “Unique visitors” is the equivalent of how many people buy or subscribe to a newspaper.

He would chortle and realize today’s news biz, even the digital aspect, is in many ways the same as it ever was. The clash between the advertising department, striving to control editorial content for dollars, and the editorial side still exists. The publications that thrive on tragedies, disasters, and juicy scandals are still out there, too, except they loom on your browser instead of at the grocery market check-out. Lazy reporters who plagiarize other reporters’ stories? Yep, they still exist, too.

One critical element remains most constant — readers’ craving for good stories.

In every episode of “Lou Grant,” Grant knew a compelling story was always worth seeking out, investigating and then clearly explaining to readers. Grant also realized that taking chances for a front-page — or these days, it would be called “viral” — story was worth the expense and the agony of dealing with higher-ups.

He was a harsh editor who put his reporters through long hours, challenging edits and tight deadlines. Journalists, cub reporters and veterans alike, all need that direction once in a while.

In the series premiere, Grant acknowledges he doesn’t know anything about the new-fangled machines — desktop computers — that have come into the newsroom since he left ten years earlier. But that doesn’t stop him from plunging in with gusto.

In the 1970s, television was newspapers’ biggest competitor. The competition was stiff. The medium could broadcast live from a breaking news story and reach thousands immediately. Radio, with the same immediacy, was a stiff competitor as were fully engaged wire services with countless reporters who moved fast to cover breaking stories with the basic who, what, when, where, why and how.

Lou Grant and his staff hardly acted like dinosaurs slugging around waiting for their extinction.

Instead, they reported the stories of their day, finding new angles on police corruption, spousal abuse and Nazi sympathizers long before it was vogue in mainstream television. Sure, “Lou Grant” was a TV show, but it won 13 Emmys, and I learned a lot about journalism from it.

My hero on the show was Billie Newman, an intrepid girl reporter with a heart. She started her career in the lifestyles pages where women were relegated back in the 1970s. But when she was sent on assignment to interview a famous author and he ended up dead, Newman took the story and ran with it. She scooped Joe Rossi, the star reporter in the all-boy newsroom, and won Grant’s heart.

Grant, Newman and Rossi would be unstoppable in the current Wild West frontier of journalism. Social media, search engine optimization, or whatever the next big technological advancement in journalism might be — it would not intimidate Grant’s newsroom. While Grant might not understand some of it fully, he would see it as a useful tool to reach more readers.

He would tell his reporters not to miss a tweet or a Facebook post by a possible corrupt politician or news figure. He would press them to excel at multimedia (360-degree photographs, audio and video) and realize that media now work across a cross-platform system that allows readers to read their stories almost anywhere (in the newspaper, on an iPad, through an app). But most of all, he would tell them not to just report, but dig deeper, investigate a story. With deadlines looming, he would stress to them to balance the brave new world while adhering to the tried-and-true rules of old-school journalism — ethics, original reporting (in the field), and fairness.

And he would see — even now — journalism as an honorable profession.

Without a doubt, over a stiff drink at his local watering hole with his staff, Lou Grant would seize the 21st century challenge. (Today, colleagues in virtual newsrooms like ours kick back in closed Facebook groups.) Hell no, Lou would say, this technology won’t beat us. We’re reporters. We tell stories. Now get to it.

[Originally posted on Politics Daily March 12, 2011]

Written by suziparker1313

March 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm