I imagined I was the only one who came away from Beyonce's performance at the Super Bowl with a vague feeling of... disappointment. I kept thinking that this was high-energy nonsense, a rash display of commercial zeal, but it wasn't ....music as I know it. It was raw energy, thighs and skin, prancing (rather than dancing)... and absolutely puzzling to anyone of taste or talent... Then I read a blog by the brilliant music analyst Bob Lefsetz, who began his review with the simple comment: "And you wonder why Adele is the biggest musical star in the world." He went on to comment that it was a spectacle befitting the game... but how much did it have to do with music? He concluded, "This was pure commerce. Sponsored by Pepsi, as if Ms. Knowles has sipped the sugar water in years. The thought of her drinking Pepsi is akin to believing Alicia Keyes uses a Blackberry! The show was an assault... but tonight's performance was one big step back for music itself." I couldn't help thinking of Super Bowl past performances... of Prince, who was spectacular and lyrical in the rain of 2007, of Diana, Bruce and Whitney and, of course, the Michael Jackson performance of 1993 which still zings in memory.
I was thrilled that Baltimore won, for personal reasons. It was the team that my close buddy, the just-deceased Art Modell, brought from Cleveland in the dead of night to the city where my ex was born, the municipality which offered Art a new stadium and renewed excitement. Modell and I grew up together in Brooklyn, and when I opened my own publicity agency in the mid-fifties, he was my first client. Art and Lawrence Gumbinner had obtained the rights to advertise atop parking meters in Philadelphia and hired me to publicize that. Over the years he and his beautiful actress wife Pat dined often with my wife and I, and he loved telling the story of how he bought the team for a borrowed $3 million... a pretty good investment. He was a funny, gentle and generous man, and once when I had a problem with 20th Century Fox, having arranged for them to make a TV movie of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and their head man having stalled my payment, he made one call to company owner Marvin Davis and a check was on my doorstep in an hour. He will be sorely missed, especially by the football league owners, for it was Art who successfully negotiated the lucrative TV football terms which now bring each team some $600 million a year.
There were commercials I loved... and a few I didn't. The cost of a 30-second commercial was $3.8 million, and some ran much longer. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed the antics of the Korean dancer/singer PSY, who sold me on grabbing a bag of pistachios to munch while watching the show. I teared up at the Budweiser Clydesdale one, about the little horse being born and trained... when the young animal raced down the street to greet his trainer. I thrilled at hearing Oprah's voice-over the Jeep film about our nation's military heroes, and hearing Paul Harvey's deep voice extolling the virtues of our nation's farmers. I always enjoy watching Amy Poehler but didn't think the Best Buy commercial was particularly good, and felt slightly repulsed by the GoDaddy.com fat boy nerd kissing the model Bar Rafaeli who used to go with Leonardo. I cringed and was physically diminished by the chiseled body of the Calvin Klein underwear guy, and liked the Universal Pictures' ads for its films. The Mercedes ad with William Defoe as the Devil, offering to give a man a car in return for his soul, was amusing when the guy learned he could get a car for $30,00 instead. (How many souls have actually been sold for a car? Lots.) Hated the Taco Bell ad about seniors going crazy... perhaps because I am one (and have already gone there.) Did anyone see the Charlie Rose interview last week with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, James Carville and Mary Matalin? He captured perfectly the spirit of this spirited city. Just love Charlie Rose as an interviewer.
My friend just told me that the next Super Bowl will be at the Meadowlands stadium of the Jets and Giants in New Jersey. Is the National Football League crazy? (That is, crazier than they have been over the years?) The weather in February in the frigid reaches of that park will certainly be horrendous, and imagine the next halftime performers trying to perform in a driving snow storm or below-zero temperature? It would be the first-ever open-to-the-elements show. Give it back to New Orleans again and let them try to keep the lights on this time. Or issue flashlights with each ticket. Now that's a cool idea. I ended my evening by watching the third episode of the third season of Downton Abbey. Now that's real drama!
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