American Pie 19.07.01


Computer enhancing a picture may be somewhat unethical, but it’s not illegal. Picture editors here are relieved that a court has thrown out a suit by actor Dustin Hoffman against Los Angeles Magazine for running a computer-altered picture of him wearing an evening gown and high heels. Although it was reminiscent of the sex-switch role he played in the movie Tootsie, the actor said it was "exploitative commercial use" of his image. He claimed he had been turned into an unpaid fashion model. Other stars were similarly portrayed in the layout, featuring classic movie stills with actors ‘wearing’ the latest fashions. Originally a judge in California awarded Hoffman $3m (£2.13m) in damages. But a court of appeal has now ruled that, under the Freedom of the Press law, the magazine had the right to run the computer-enhanced picture and it was not exploitative.


It’s not just staff getting the boot these days – it’s also the office plants. At The Wall Street Journal, as 150 more employees were being let go, the company also announced it would no longer maintain indoor foliage in its offices at the World Trade Centre and elsewhere. Affected: several hundred leafy plants. The saving: some $40,000 (£28,440) a year. WSJ employees were told they could either water the plants themselves, give them to other offices or take them home. By the end of the day, several dozen plants had reportedly been found new homes.


What do US journalists do these days when they get fired? A lot start their own websites. Encouraged by the success of such sites as the Drudge Report, which became famous during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, many newsmen are staying home and turning out personalised columns. And ‘Me-Zine Journalism’ is growing. There are reportedly scores of out-of-work journalists, sitting alone at home, often late into the night, sometimes wearing just pyjamas, turning out columns. Some are just a hodge-podge of political opinions and gossip. But some writers do maintain contact with their old sources and do come up with news-breaking items. Most claim they like the new freedom, like Mickey Kaus, a former Newsweek reporter, who works at a battered old desk in his home overlooking the beach in Santa Monica. But is it a living? Not many have yet found sponsors or advertising. But Kaus claims that, after deducting expenses, he made a profit of $318 (£226) last month. "Maybe I’ll buy myself a new chair," he said.


Felix Dennis has a secret ambition. He wants to be regarded as a serious poet. He told TV interviewer Charlie Rose that when he isn’t supervising Maxim or his two new US magazines, The Week and Blender, he spends his time writing poetry. The real stuff, not doggerel or the modern free verse stuff – poems that rhyme. In the past year he has written more than a 100 poems, he claims, some of which he hopes a regular book publishing house will consider. "None of that vanity publishing," he insists. Poet Laureate he may never be, but Dennis is happy with the success in the US of his magazines. Maxim today sells 2,500,000 copies a month, far ahead of rivals GQ and Esquire; the US edition of The Week is "catching on" (it started with a print run of 100,000 copies a week and is expected soon to reach 400,000); and his new music magazine, Blender, he predicts, will give Rolling Stone a run for its money. He is also in talks with investors about launching a cable-TV version of Maxim.


By Jeffrey Blyth

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