It’s Thanksgiving morning, and somehow, against increasingly escalating odds per actuarial tables that factor in exponential increases in stress and trauma into their equations along with mere aging, I’ve made it to another chance to wake up with the Macy’s parade, use football as white noise or distraction for the balance of the day and justify a meal of trytophan-filled poultry and way too many carbs as a justifiable aberration, all in the name of a 400-plus-year old tradition some of my alleged distant relatives engaged in with some newly made acquaitances they were in the beginning stages of stealing their land from.
Sorry to disappoint anyone who may have wished that I might just have finally given up my quixotic quest to have something resembling a decent life, like the one I had before the 2020s began. We’re well past the quarter-pole of the decade now, and, frankly, I’m still waiting for not only a halfway decently paying sustaining gig but countless people to actually return a phone call, an e-mail, a text, a message, or even a card as they allegedly promised to at some point during this decade. Kind of ironic that one of the people who would be at the head of any such line of nay-wishers is perhaps the biggest reason why I’m still breathing, or what I consider to be worthy of ingesting into my body, or the qualities of people that I truly value. But you already know how I feel about all of that, and clearly, even prayer isn’t changing those outcomes. Nor is it changing my resolve.
I tend to get inspired for my musings by what others write, largely because I tend to have more time on my hands than I’d otherwise like to read them, even with a full day of job pursuits and ducking creditors that typically don’t take a holiday. I often identify with people who have done or are doing a lot of what I used to, or passionately wish I could. Richard Rushfield’s THE ANKLER is one such read. Richard’s got one hell of a resume; at least the version he puts out via his website:
Richard has covered Hollywood and American culture as a reporter, editor and critic for over 20 years. A native of Los Angeles, he had a first career as a grassroots political field organizer, working for the 1992 campaign of Bill Clinton, among others. He began covering L.A. as a reporter for Los Angeles magazine, later working as a contributing editor of Vanity Fair and author of its long-running Intelligence Report column. Additionally, he was an editor and columnist for the Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, Gawker, BuzzFeed and Yahoo and was editor-in-chief of the website Hitfix. Richard is also the author of three books.
And if you think I can get snarky and embittered at times, give a read or a listen to Richard. He is loath to praise almost anyone or anything in media these days, and when he does, it’s often by his own admission reluctantly. He recently spent 72 hours in Las Vegas in the company of Netflix executives and devoted not one but two columns to his travels, as well as a large portion of the weekly podcast he and his colleagues drop every Friday. He sure seems susceptible to being bought out by a fancy cut of meat and a junket, and he freely admits Netflix, unlike so many of their competitors, is one of the few entertainment entities these days that is cavalier enough to provide both. When he’s not off enjoying such largesse, he pretty much craps all over those that are making what he often considers to be foolish and self-motivated decisions to cut costs, favor unworthy projects and champion colleagues they see as less threatening to their draconian motives, or at least fill some identity politic tick marks that they think curry favor with the slaves to diversity optics who serve as board members that determine their compensation.
Plenty of people would accuse me of having similar attitudes, or least aspiring to. They wouldn’t be completely wrong, though I can assure you they’re nowhere near dug in as deeply or with as much entitlement as he and his colleagues put forth. And yes, I’ve written two of his colleagues, and him at their suggestion, to follow up on possibilities of contributing my own research and strategic voice, even willing to help someone who goes by The Entertainment Strategy Guy who is in their camp. ESG, as they lovingly reference him, is the Steve Kornacki of what poses these days as credible information, and he is remarkably democratic about mashing up data from multiple sources–mostly because there is no truly agreed upon or readily available umbrella third party metric to date– to produce clickbait-worthy headlines that he champions as indisputable fact, and will accompany his diatribes with massive and complex bar charts to support his conclusions. I’ve read more than a few of his columns as well, and I for one call to question the methodologies and validities of many of his sources. As would any experienced researcher.
ESG hides behind a shroud of secrecy as to who he really is, though he does own up to being a former strategist at a streaming service. Not sure exactly which one, or how much attention to detail he may have paid, to objective and competitive information and/or the fine print that goes into their creations.
I’ve asked those questions, initially out of curiosity, but now out of consternation that merely following up with someone after they publicly invite it is somehow now beyond their capacity after several weeks to even attempt. But why should I have expected otherwise? After all, they’re not the only ones that seem to be too busy to get back to me.
But even Richard was moved on this holiday to write a column about Hollywood gratitude, though his opening paragraph provides an overabundance of grains of salt that would probably raise typical blood pressures alarmingly:
When it comes to giving thanks, there’s going to be more than a few who would like to take the turkey platter and hurl it at the nearest passing Lexus.
But for all the cause we’ve got to gripe, this giving-thanks exercise must be done, just once a year. And then we can go right back to taking it out on our marketing team. So although our hearts may not be in it, consider this a cheat sheet. Should you be called on to express a little gratitude ’round the holiday table, here are a few things any citizen of showbiz can use.
He then proceeds with his own list, a grudging admission to what good things did happen in 2023 and potentially ahead. They are largely ones I agree with, and I’m surprised how non-begrudingly I’m capable of copping to being about being in sympatico. But on item #10, I’m especially in line with his thoughts.
If you’ll allow me the floor. For another year, it fills my black heart with joy to be able to write for and with such a vibrant and intelligent community. The Ankler audience pushes me to stretch myself further and further to search for meaning in these days of confusion. Getting to write this newsletter has been the most satisfying experience of my career by a mile and every year gets more and more fulfilling.. I thank you all for taking this journey with me and giving me the chance to live this life at this subscriber-supported project. (And btw, if you have any thoughts about what we can be doing more of, less of, what we could be doing better or differently, I always love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org).
For the record, Mr. Rushfield, I’ve written you twice. A simple thumbs up or “received” was all I asked in return, because it sure seems you’ve settled on what you think is an expert on all things that you might believe qualifies as “insights”. Your two colleagues who I met at the Michael Wolff book signing–the one I somehow found the $17 I was urged to cough up in order to assure myself at a seat at the crowded bookstore they used at their venue–assured me you were reachable and amicable. At least while I was in the same room as them.
I probably shouldn’t be surprised you’ve all ghosted me. And it’s increasingly obvious to me none of you could give two you know whats about something like this as a response. I know MY numbers, and they pale to yours. On the other hand, I still haven’t found a way to coax $17 out of someone like myself.
But, alas, it’s Thanksgiving day, so I need to put those petty grievances aside. Why should I be Frank Costanza, right? Festivus is NEXT month.
So what AM I thankful for? Well, for one, the person who helped save my life who I actually have reconnected with, the one I’m scheduled to share my turkey with later today. Her presence in my life is a godsend, and more than makes up for at least some of the heartbreak that someone else we once knew is as incapable of returning as an e-mail as most journalists, executive or talents seem to be has caused me. My fellow SL, I salute you.
I salute my long-lost friend who has actually been helping me get actual interviews with actual human beings who are in an actual position to actually hire people for actual wages. She recently got employed by one such entity when she returned to Los Angeles after a brief attempt to relocate. NO LINKS. She actually grasps this reality check, the one that apparently pisses off most of the people who I once considered to be a lot closer,m sympathetic and connected. I’ve got my fingers crossed about this.
I salute my far-away family for at least wishing me a happy holiday. Even though they didn’t have quite enough time to ask me how I’M doing, I’m grateful that they were willing to bring me up to speed about people I love.
And I’m grateful to anyone who has actually clicked on my all-too-frequently included link that asks for some needed help. The dollars help tremendously, often at times the difference between a net worth in the negatives and not It’s the end of yet another month, and that possibility looms yet again. Perhaps some might be motivated by the spirit of the season to even amplify, let alone help, but I’m not even going to ask this time. Again, you’ve heard all of that plenty of times before.
But SOME response–some acknowledgement–some RESPECT–is absolutely essential to ANYONE’s existence. At least IMO.
And in hindsight, you appreciate those who do all the more by giving some pause to who don’t. Perhaps be a bit more empathetic to their own lives and struggles. Perhaps cut them some more slack that you’ve been conditioned to. And maybe at least try to do a little better going forward.
As I try to get down my own turkey later today, that’s the kind of approach I’ll be using toward anyone I might meet. And if anyone does allow me the chance to connect with them, rest assured at some point before four years later they’ll be hearing from me.
So how’s about it, Mr. Rushfield? If I’m capable of such reform and remorse, might you or one of your colleagues be as well?
And Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Until next time…