A New Horizon

What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.

– Oprah Winfrey, 2018

It feels like a statement that Oprah has told us many times before and in many different forms and forums.

But those words had a searing and very specific timeliness on Sunday night when she delivered them amid so many other meaningful words, statements, stories, anecdotes, admissions and proclamations during a history-making acceptance speech at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards.

The speech was literally historical because she became the first Black woman to ever receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press. This is a career honor given for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment and as such is really the HFP’s equivalent of a life achievement award.

Still true

But more spontaneously historical were the honest, eloquent and ultimately optimistic thoughts she shared amid the tumultuous events the country has faced over the last year.

In one speech on one sort of significant but certainly not earth-shattering awards show Oprah managed to:

– Effectively address the legacy of sexual harassment in not just the entertainment industry but in all industries throughout the country.

– Laud the leaders and participants in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements (Note: Dedicated to bring individual harassment stories out of the closet and help ensure new programs and laws are put in place) while revealing small personal pieces of her life and those of other far less powerful women who came before her.

PREACH QUEEN

– Proclaim that the press is under siege and reiterate its value firmly, definitively – and yet – without any trace of malice towards those who might not share in those feelings.

– Read the riot act about a culture broken to brutally powerful men who made sure women were not heard or believed if they dared speak truth to power that — THEIR TIME IS UP.

– And somehow convincingly proclaim to all of the rest of us that a new day IS on the horizon thanks to a lot of magnificent women in that Hollywood ballroom of entertainment industry notables AND some pretty phenomenal men without even the slightest whiff of cultural elitism or hysterical blue state angst.

No wonder Twitter almost immediately erupted with trending phrases like #OprahForPresident, #Oprah2020 or — even more simply –- just #Oprah.

Though don’t take my word for it. Listen to the whole speech here (and no, at nine minutes it’s not THAT long):

Up until last night there was not a chance in the world – or anyone in the world for that matter – that could get me to believe Oprah could, would, or should become president.

And yet there are few Americans in public life today – meaning the new Trump reality and our serious/quite perilous red/blue state divide – that can even begin to bridge the gap and speak to EVERYONE.

Is she a politician? No. Does she have that kind of experience? Uh, uh. Has there ever been anyone with her type of experience in the job? Certainly not.   Can a billionaire from a deep blue state really even begin to appeal to the majority or even plurality the country?

Me???

Well, when was the last time you asked all of those questions?

And how right were you then?

Not to be snarky but…. SNARK

In less than 10 minutes Oprah spoke to the hope and promise of the United States in a way we did not hear from one candidate through the entire presidential campaign nor a single day since.   This is because she spoke words written not for her but by her and about her.

Even if she had some help from a speechwriter (Note: I suspect after four decades on television she didn’t need one) what we listened to when she spoke were a few honest personal truths that became universal, a handful of simple facts that told a clear story rather than meandering down a path of confusion and self-righteousness, and a collective call to action that we could all work towards to create a better tomorrow that felt possible.

Sign me up, O!

Oprah didn’t accidentally stumble into this territory. She has that rare ability to communicate because she understands both the facts and the feelings they create among the people they affect. More importantly, she knows the story she is telling and builds a pyramid of both in order support it. She is then able to drop out what’s unimportant, emphasize what is, and DELIVER IT all in a manner we can both understand AND appreciate

The delivery part is essential. There are many, many smart – and perhaps even smarter – people and politicians out there but few who innately know how to stand before the world as themselves and effectively talk to the public (nee US) about anything important.

Plus she can get women to show up in droves #TIMESUP

Not sell us, but talk to us. Truthfully. And leave it to us if we want to buy into what they’re SAYING.

Yes, there are those who can talk to us. Others who can sell to us. And a handful in public life who can do both effectively. But Truthfully? I can’t think of any.

Except one.

Oprah Winfrey – “Run On”

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Creeps

Who are these men???? That’s the question I keep asking and answering for myself.

In the entertainment business they are some of the men I’ve always known and either instantly disliked or was intimidated by. Though I’m sure in a few cases they might have also been men I worked with or acquaintances I’ve even liked.

I really hope this mostly remains true

So far none of them are good friends, or even friends, and I don’t imagine that they will ever be revealed as such. Of course, at this point, I wouldn’t swear it.

Up is down, down is up and these days a bigoted sociopath from my hometown of Queens – the kind I’d met many times growing up and that I can assure you I was NEVER friends with – is the president of the United States. This is the type of guy most of us loathed and ran away from, especially members of the opposite sex, who usually deemed him as CREEP.

So quaint is that word – CREEP. It was the ultimate insult in the sixties and seventies. Nowadays it doesn’t even begin to describe what has become the almost indescribable. Instead, we’re getting vividly detailed accounts of what beforehand defied description. The true definition of what it REALLY meant back then to BE a CREEP.

Creeps everywhere!

Who knew? Certainly, none of us did. Or even do to this day. Though we’re learning – kicking and screaming as we’re dragged through the mire against our wills. Which is an essential element in this area of RE-education.

It was encouraging this week that Alabama rejected Roy Moore – an accused sexual predator of underage teenage girls from multiple sources and women – as their Senator. This was the first time in decades the most red of states in the Union will be represented there by a… DEMOCRAT.

ho ho ho!

But don’t get too encouraged. A plurality of Alabamians still don’t believe his accusers and most certainly the leader of the free world doesn’t. That is, if you believe our current U.S. president is still in the lead anywhere.

Talk about tough lifts.

Which brings us to the real story – POWER.

Who wears the shoe?

Tempting as it is to lump in sexual crimes with, well, sex – experts tell us it is seldom about the act and more about domination – what one can get away with. The latter is the real thrill – something that not only leaves a lifelong affect on the human objects subjected to each violation but on many other aspects of society as whole.

Who HAS the POWER and how that POWER is wielded determines quite a bit aside from who will eventually get to target a new VICTIM (or suffer as one). It can also very much tip the scales on who gets ahead in the world and how much gets, or doesn’t get accomplished – and in what way.

These roadblocks now seem metaphorical #womeninhollywood

This week Salma Hayek bravely wrote of how she had to say “no” to deposed, disgraced and as of now not-yet-charged ex Miramax/Weinstein Co. chair Harvey Weinstein. This list included saying no to:

  1. taking a shower with him or allowing him to watch her take one
  2. getting a massage from him OR his naked friend (while he watched).
  3. receiving oral sex from him
  4. or she performing #3 on another naked woman that he would provide.

and allow me to add: No, no, no, no, NO

Salacious and CREEPY as that may seem — what felt almost as bad if not worse (because we’re so used to the sex stuff from him at this point) were the ways in which she says Mr. Weinstein used his expertise in the business to derail her career once she said “no, no, no, et al.”

The ways in which he tried to NOT make Miramax’s Oscar-nominated “Frida,” which Ms. Hayek produced and starred in, after signing an agreement to do so.

And we’re glad Ms. Hayek persevered

The ways in which he belittled her artistic work to her face while she was filming the movie.

And the ways in which he tried NOT to release the movie once it was done and it became very clear he would NEVER get to HAVE her.

Though NONE of this mirrored the way in which he and his company took CREDIT for the movie AND her work on it, at every public turn of the film’s release.

Though trust me, she tells the tale far better than I do.

As do women like Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd. Oh sure, right now most of us are all #MeToo and #MeTooSupporters. But there was little guarantee of this when both actresses were first speaking to Ronan Farrow in several New Yorker exposees that broke the story nationwide a mere handful of months ago.

Anyone involved in any type of power position in the film biz during the last 20 plus years or so (as I have occasionally been) has heard numerous stories about those who were in the life is too short to work with category. Those whom you wanted to stay away from at all costs, if possible. The ones who were impossible, difficult and a NIGHTMARE on a project, who would get you derailed.

Kind of makes you think about how actresses are perceived #iseeyouKatherineHeigl #whatsthetruth

Well, as it turns out, both Ms. Judd and Ms. Sorvino were two names I had heard were impossible nightmares and difficult over the years – as had many of my friends.

I never gave it much thought since I hadn’t specifically been in a position to hire or reject either one of them on anything. I just took it as merely a well, perhaps – to be filed in the back of my mind as a small red flag if ever the opportunity arose for myself or any of my friends to choose, or not choose, to work with or hire either one of them – ever.

So, imagine my surprise – and that of many others, I suspect – when these particular tweets of support and testimony finally came this week – decades later – corroborating the smear campaign against both Ms. Sorvino and Ms. Judd.

Kind of makes you wonder what we could have seen from these ladies

From Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings – one of the most successful film trilogies ever made –– on the two actresses:

I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs. This was probably in 1998… I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women – and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list…

And this tweet from Terry Zwigoff, director of Dimension Films’ Bad Santa:

Needless to say both actresses tweeted their appreciation to finally know the truth after years of rumor and innuendo, and publicly thanked both directors for coming forward in support.

And yes it’s true, it does take courage even now with a deposed mogul like Mr. Weinstein, to volunteer the behind-the-scenes dirty laundry stories of how decisions are made at the major studio level. Other power players wonder, if the goings for them were to get tough, if even you – a financially and/or creatively successful director of hit movies – can be trusted to hire on a still incubating new project of theirs. Why take the risk? Is it worth it? Surely there is someone as equally talented. Not to mention…cheaper.

No, it’s not in the same league as being the victim of a sexual predator. But it’s a real good example of

  1. who these men are
  2. how they operate
  3. and exactly what they are capable of.

In business, that is. You, well, now know some of the rest.

#WatchYourBack. But more importantly, #WatchYourColleaguesBack.

Eric Clapton – “I Shot the Sheriff”