First comes word that Jack Valenti, the man who made the modern MPAA, has died.
Valenti was a character--a former aide to LBJ who made it big in Hollywood. In Washington, you would see him from time to time--very short, very thin, with ram-rod posture and a mane of hair that was actually silver. He looked like a bit like a retired--and very rich--jockey.
My one brush with Valenti came about a year after 9/11. I was working on a story about Hollywood's aversion to movies about the war on terror and I called the MPAA to talk to him. The PR flak there told me that Valenti was in LA, but would call me in the morning, around 9:00 a.m., East coast time.
My phone rang the next morning at 9:00 a.m., sharp, and I talked with Valenti while he was at the gym. In the background, I could hear the squeaking of pulleys and odd putt-uptt noises and in my mind's eye, I pictured him in some sort of 1930s Mandlebaum-Mandlebaum-Mandlebaum gym with medicine balls and those machines that looped a giant rubberband around your mid-section and vibrated.
Whatever the case, Valenti was gracious, smart, generous with his time, and (what every reporter appreciates most) completely candid. I'm sad to see him go and, in an odd way, kind of surprised he's gone. Guys like Valenti--and there aren't many of them--seem like they'll be around for forever.
The other, more minor, bit of bad news is that Tim Minear's very promising series Drive has been yanked by the geniuses at Fox. I hope that, unlike The Inside, we get the chance to follow the story on DVD.
On the one hand, Fox is to be applauded for letting Minear create such interesting shows, such as Wonderfalls, The Inside, and Drive. But on the other hand, it makes no sense why they let him create these projects, and then give them minimal ad support and virtually no time to grow an audience.
14 minutes ago