Friday, August 28, 2009

Ben Bradlee at the Herblock Foundation

Ben Bradlee's birthday was August 26th. It's hard to explain how such a slight man could cast such a long shadow. He has a booming voice, movie-star good looks and as Mike Lupica recently said, "He should've played himself in All the President's Men."

In 2004, Mr. Bradlee gave a speech at the annual Herblock Foundation Prize & Lecture. I was there along with many others who worked at The Washington Post along side him. Here are my notes on his remarks The New Culture of Lying.

A quote from Stanley Walker, 1940's New York newsman. "What makes a good newspaperman? The answer is easy. He knows everything. He's aware not only of what goes on in the world today, but his brain is a repository of the accumulated wisdom of the ages. He is not only handsome, but he has the physical strength which enables him to perform great feats of energy. He can go nights on end without sleep. He dresses well and talks with charm. Men admire him; women adore him; tycoons and statesmen are willing to share their secrets with him. He hates lies and meanness and sham, but he keeps his temper. He is loyal to his paper and what he looks upon as his profession; whether it's a profession, or merely a craft, he resents attempts to debate it. When he dies a lot of people are sorry, and some of them remember him for several days."

At some point during the investigation of any story, a good reporters knows or senses when a source is lying. We've become immune to lying, from selling beer or war or soap or candidates.

During Vietnam it became difficult to believe the official version. JFK didn't have to lie about affairs because no women ever came forward. He lied about Addison's because he didn't want that coming out. Under Nixon, 40 people went to jail including the Attorney General. Our public figures were lying with a straight face. We ran some 400 stories about Watergate. At some point, we knew they were lying. We knew it. We felt it. We couldn't prove it.

Gerald Ford was not around long enough to lie significantly. Reagan lied about being a signal corps photographer who filmed horrors of the Nazi death camps.

In November 1983, Reagan told visiting Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir that he served as a photographer in the US Army unit assigned to film the Nazi death camps. He repeated the story to Simon Wiesenthal the following February. Reagan never visited or filmed a concentration camp. He spent the war in Hollywood, making training films with the first Motion Picture Unit of the Army Air Corps.

Another favorite Reagan lie was that Mount St. Helen's caused more pollution than cars. After opining in August 1980 that "trees cause more pollution than automobiles do," Reagan arrived at a campaign rally to find a tree decorated with this sign: "Chop me down before I kill again."

The Big Lie? I did not have sexual relations with that woman. Clinton changed the relationship between the press and the President. While he admitted to being evasive, testifying falsely, misleading testimony, he never said he lied. Still hasn't.

As for this President (George W. Bush), we will see how history plays out. I'm guessing that Weapons of Mass Destruction one will come back to haunt him.

And now the big shots of American business are comfortably in step behind them. Those tobacco executives claiming they knew nothing. Thank God we got Martha. Crisis averted.

The Blank Page

As I told a twitter friend the other day (@misslizzyc ) sometimes you just have to write a bunch of stuff that you later delete. Or as she put it #JUSTBANGITOUT. Every writer has their rituals for breaking through writer's block, but mine is pretty straightforward. I've learned to just suck it up, sit down and write. Here goes...

I had coffee with a friend yesterday. We had this really funny conversation about moving in new directions. She's been raising her two little boys, freelancing after leaving her full-time job as a big-time producer for ABC News.

Earlier in the week, she came running in the house with a cucumber from her garden. She proudly showed the cucumber to her six year-old son and he said, "Mom I think you should get excited about something other than cucumbers."

Today my son ran a mile without stopping. I was really excited for him because he'd convinced himself he couldn't do it. He had this ear-to-ear grin on his face. Then he promptly began attempting to blackmail me saying, "Mom since I ran a mile, maybe you should buy me some Yu-gi-oh cards."

"I think I'll just congratulate you on your accomplishment," I said.

Then this bit of wisdom from my eleven year-old, "Maybe running the mile is my reward."

My producer friend covered the OJ trial, school shootings, war, you name it. For now, she's growing vegetables. But she's gearing up to get back in the game. Maybe a new game with new rules. For me, I'm working my way back into news. I've been on the other side, doing PR, long enough.

Our reward systems have changed dramatically. I mean on the one hand, my friend won an Emmy. And I worked at The Washington Post with Herb Block, Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward, Gwen Ifill and the list goes on. Then the reward was the prestige. There's nothing like that feeling of saying, "I work at The Washington Post."

For now our rewards are cucumbers and running a mile. Maybe we're learning what my son did today. Whatever your accomplishment, no matter how small, the reward is doing it. Today it's vegetables, but tomorrow we're talking Emmy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

George Clooney and Elisabetta Canalis

For anyone who read my old blog (, you know I like to devote about 25% of content to George Clooney. So kicking off this here new blog, I've decided to write about George's latest lady friend, Elisabetta Canalis. I'm not sure why George continually pursues these other women when I'm right here. But he does. So I will. Continue. To write.

Today in my dungeon of a laundry room I was thinking about all the things I probably have in common with Elisabetta Canalis, how we are almost interchangeable. Here's the list:

  1. Elisabetta is a stunning brunette. I am also a brunette underneath all this blonde.
  2. The name Elisabetta ends in "double consonant--a" sound. So does my name Rebecca.
  3. George and Elisabetta met in Rome. I've been to Rome.
  4. George is 48 years-old and Elisabetta is 31 years-old. I'm somewhere in between.
  5. Elisabetta models underwear. I wear underwear.
  6. Elisabetta works in television. I've been on television. Yes The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans show counts.
  7. Elisabetta played a naughty nun in the film Virgin Territory. (what you never heard of it?) I dressed up as a nun for the Beaux Arts Ball at Tulane.
  8. Elisabetta has EMINEM tattooed on her forearm. I once owned the 8 Mile soundtrack.
  9. Elisabetta has two X chromosomes. So do I.
  10. Elisabetta frequently appears topless in photographs. I frequently appear topless in my bathroom window, much to the chagrin of the house painters next door.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Julie & Julia & Me

My husband and I see movies all the time, often apart from one another. Today I went to see Julie & Julia because as he said, he "had no interest, zero interest, absolutely no interest" in seeing the film. It's too bad he missed this one because I think he might've had some insight into my inner crazy.

Everyone talks about the food in Julie & Julia. The food is amazing, there's no doubt about that. But the movie is about two women who get to a point in their lives when they are lost. They feel they have no purpose, Julia the wife of a diplomat in Paris and Julie working in a thankless job for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

I know that feeling because that is exactly where I am right now. I'm writing but are you really a writer when you're just a blogger or a copywriter? People ask, "What do you write?" And I correct them saying, "Oh, I"m not a writer writer."

It took me nearly three months to start this new blog after the demise of my old blog. In that time, granted, I've been living in a cloud of plaster dust and silt. But I stopped writing long enough to figure out that when I stopped, I got rusty.

With Julie & Julia, both women whole-heartedly throw themselves into a writing project. The difference between me and them is they don't give up. They keep going. I thought my three year screenplay project was a record-breaker until I learned Mastering the Art of French Cooking took eight years to produce. Julie Powell blogged in relative obscurity for a year before being "discovered" by The New York Times.

I dream about being discovered by The New York Times, or High Times for that matter. But I'm still out here blogging in obscurity. The truth is I don't deserve to be discovered at this point. I give up at the drop of a hat, just because it's hot or my house is a disaster or whatever the raison du jour.

I lived in Paris like Julia. I'm from Texas like Julie. But I don't have their stamina. Yet. Wish me luck finding my way. The writer's way. A writer writer.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Trophy Wife

Sometimes I dream about being a trophy wife. I wonder how that would feel?

I was thinking about it today as I was painting my bathroom. I was standing on the Little Giant (that my husband bought from an infomercial on TV). I was standing on the Little Giant, trying to balance one foot on the ladder and one foot in various other positions from the corner of the bathtub to the window sill and I was thinking, "I wonder what it would be like to be a trophy wife?" I bet I wouldn't be balancing on the Little Giant painting my bathroom ceiling. That's what I bet.

I have to listen to music while I paint. I'd also prefer to be drinking a cold beer but it's the afternoon and a little early to hit the sauce. So I'm cranking classic rock, aka the music I grew up listening to. Floyd. Pink Floyd that is. "You can't have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat. " I don't know exactly what Mr. Floyd was relating but I do know those words evoke a scene from Oliver. A grim existence.

Intermittently my son is appearing in the bathroom to show me magic tricks he's learned on YouTube. It all started with Criss Angel Mindfreak. Now there's a man who will have a trophy wife. God knows why, but that's another story.

My son loves Criss Angel so he started watching him on YouTube and then he started looking for videos about magic tricks and VOILA that's how we got to where we are now - me poised precariously on this ridiculous ladder and my son popping his head in from time to time to show me a new trick. Some are better than others but he's at a disadvantage, because from my position on the ladder I can see pretty clearly most of the sleight of hand he is attempting. But I act like I'm baffled until he returns again to show me a new one. Short of the coin dropping straight to the ground from its hiding place, I am going along with the show.

I guess it doesn't occur to my son that I'm sweating profusely having chosen a humid, midday start time for painting. I'd avoided it most of the day until I had no choice. In fact, it started raining almost the very minute I stopped painting. I'm up on a ladder, sweating, holding on for dear life and he wants me to stop for "just a minute" to watch magic tricks.

At any rate, back to my original question. What's it like to be a trophy wife? I don't think they paint bathroom ceilings. Of course, they must spend at least twice as much time in the gym as I do. Unless she is a trophy wife from New Jersey. If the Housewives of New Jersey are any indication, I am already a trophy wife.

If I were a trophy wife, the nanny would be watching magic tricks. I'd be at the gym with Steve my personal trainer. Chef would be preparing a delicious, light meal for dinner. Maybe I'd go shopping or stop in for a frappucino in my cute as can be Mercedes.

If I were a trophy wife I'd promise to be a lot better behaved than any of the Real Housewives. And I'd find some nice little person to stand on that ladder and paint, paint, paint.

At this very minute my son is watching a magic trick involving a Mexican centavo. I'm pretty sure I'll be asked to find a Mexican centavo sometime in the next 5 minutes.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rich Marcucio: A Community Partner

Rich Marcucio is the Store Manager of the Stop & Shop on Villa Avenue in Fairfield, Connecticut. He’s worked for Stop & Shop since 1984 and plans to retire eventually. For now he keeps this busy store running smoothly as he and his associates serve some 21,000 Fairfield residents every week.

In 2000, Marcucio and his department heads were invited to come down and see firsthand the programs at Operation Hope of Fairfield. As he puts it, “When you’re doing fundraising, you need to make a connection in order to get behind something. All of us came back amazed at how much Operation Hope was doing – from the day-to-day meal serving to the pantry and all the other programs.” It was a turning point for Rich and his associates at Stop & Shop.

Although Rich has been involved with local charities for twenty years now, he feels a strong connection with Operation Hope. “We are in the food business so I thought it would be a perfect fit to support a food pantry. But we’ve learned Operation Hope is much more.” Rich and his team routinely raise money and encourage food donations at the Fairfield store. On a weekly basis the store has a collection area where customers are invited to drop off non-perishable food and other household items. Marcucio speaks glowingly of his customers, who he says are some of the most benevolent he’s come across in his career.

“We’ve actually seen an increase in donations in the last four to five months in spite of this economy. It’s nice to see our community step up when you know there are people out there making a choice between buying food and medicine or paying their mortgage. To see this type of generosity from the people of Fairfield restores my faith and keeps me going.”

All told, Rich and his team have raised $136,000 in food and cash for Operation Hope since they began eight years ago. Carla Miklos, Executive Director of Operation Hope Fairfield says, “We are so lucky to have the Villa Avenue Stop & Shop as our friend. Rich is very committed to helping us serve those in need, and his entire team of employees and suppliers really come through to make his events and other efforts a success. We are truly blessed to have such a dedicated community partner.”

Aside from the daily collection box, the associates at Stop & Shop raise money by running a hotdog cart on Saturdays. The main event however is the annual car show and a great example of a group of people coming together to support a common cause.

The car show is a program Rich has run for many years. It began with a single car owned by Davidson Company in Cheshire, Connecticut. Davidson had recently purchased a race car and as a promotion offered to bring it down to Stop & Shop one day. They raised $400 selling hot dogs. Local shoppers and car fans got to meet the driver, get autographs and see the car.

Today that same idea has grown to include 80 cars of every variety. Vendors donate their time and prizes. Davidson provides the forty trophies and their race cars. Polar Soda donated mountain bikes for a raffle. Volunteers from People’s Bank participate. Rich and his team plan, manage and work at the event. The people of Fairfield come out in droves, bringing their cars and their donations. Each car receives an empty box and attendees are encouraged to place a non-perishable food item in the box of their favorite cars. At the end of the day, trophies are awarded to the winners and all the food and cash proceeds go to Operation Hope. In 2008 they raised $5,450.

Marcucio says, “I have people who’ve been transferred to another store who come back just for the car show. It’s a great day for the store, for this community and a chance for our employees to let their hair down a little bit.”

Another annual event is the holiday giving tree. The store adopts one hundred children, fifty of whom are from Operation Hope. Each child receives a gift from either a Stop & Shop associate or a customer. Rich makes sure every child is taken care of at the end of the day. “If all the kids don’t receive gifts, we take care of them anyway.”

Operation Hope also serves as a resource for Stop & Shop. A program participant went from pushing carts four years ago to becoming a full-time grocery employee. It’s a two way street according to Marcucio.

“When you do something for someone else, you always feel good. It never fails.”