THE BLOG
09/12/2014 11:24 am ET Updated Nov 12, 2014

Stories of Joan

"Most of the media industry's problems can be boiled down to simple math -- or is it physics?  Whichever it is, it's not good. 

"On one axis, we can plot the dynamic force of advertising rates, cratering toward ground level. On the other, we see the swelling public demand for things to read or watch or click, or talk back to. This stuff used to be called journalism, and now it's called content.

"What's great is that people love content, about almost anything -- wriggling babes, Gaza, immigration, downed planes, baseball scores.

"The problem is that anyone trying to run a newsroom is left in a brutally tough spot: with less revenue coming in and more demand for content that is good enough to help them compete."  

This above was written by Elizabeth Spayd for the Columbia Journalism Review and goes on to be even more trenchant, but I can't steal all of it.

  Where we will all end, knows God -- to quote Time magazine from the Dark Ages of the magazine's creation. 

• We do a lot here about old movies, touting the real and glamorous and gritty stars of yesterday and the gifted directors and creators who have made movies into an -- all-American art.  But the other night I saw one from 1967 that stopped me in my tracks. It was so unutterably bad that it wasn't even campy or trashy, just dull as all get out.  And Thoroughly Modern Millie had three of my favorites of all time in it (Carol Channing, Mary Tyler Moore and Julie Andrews.)  What's more, it had music by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.  And, what's more, a longtime friend wrote it, Richard Morris. (He also wrote The Music Man and went on to do TV's Loretta Young Show.)  This movie was just supremely bad, revolting and awful but the movie was actually nominated for seven Oscars and won one for Elmer Bernstein's Best Original Score.  It was directed by George Roy Hill, who should have hung his head in shame. Just goes to show that all old movies aren't excellent!

      That year, fortunately, director Mike Nichols won the Academy Award for The Graduate, so all wasn't lost for moving culture forward.      

• Joe Albanese writes of meeting Joan Rivers when she was doing a benefit for AIDS patients at the Duplex on Sheridan Square back in the 2000's.

Spotting Joe, she asked 'Why are you here all dressed up in a shirt, tie, cufflinks and a nice watch?'

"I said I was sacrificing my nightly phone call to my mother who was laid up from hip surgery."

"Oh, yeah? Joan trilled, her voice rising but her face as solid as a porcelain mask. Bull Shit! You came here so tomorrow you could call your mother and say, 'Hey Ma. I saw Joan Rivers last night. She's old, fat and ugly.' And you can tell her I said so and I'm on to you!' She said, 'Don't lie to me. Men! You're all alike.'

"Well, at 7 the next night, I called my Mom and said, 'I have a message for you.'

"Oh? she asked, 'From who?'

"Joan Rivers, I explained. I saw her last night and told her I called you every night at about this time and she said to tell you that she is old, fat and ugly.'

"My mother was thrilled! 'Joan Rivers talked about me? Joan Rivers? She was on The Ed Sullivan Show, remember? And she told you to give me a message! Oh how sweet she really is."

"I thank Joan for making my mother really happy!"

Here's another one. Daniel Colon writes:

     "I had the pleasure of meeting Joan Rivers backstage before she went onstage at the West Bank Cafe. I was taken by how soft spoken and ladylike she was. Somehow the conversation got around to Lady Gaga and in an inspired moment I said, 'You know, you could change your name to Lady Synagaga.'  Joan said, 'I love it and am putting it into the act.'  Well, that's just one brief moment with her that was totally delightful." 

P.S. the Joan Rivers stories keep coming in.

•This coming Monday night at The Plaza the American Theatre Wing is raising money for its "Wings" care program.

Producer Hal Prince and James Earl Jones are Honorary Co-Chairs and everybody will "tip their wings to" Angela Lansbury.

Dame Angela has won the Tony Award five times and she is one of the greatest, most genuine stars and human beings in the world. Call 212-765-0606.

• That same night, Mike Nichols, Phil Smith, Steve Sondheim, and Scott Rudin invite insiders to come to the Ziegfeld and view a film called Pride. I see that this benefits the Actors Fund and what it is, I don't know. But I try never to say no to Nichols, Rudin, Sondheim and Smith. (This particular Smith is of the Shubert Theaters.)

•Rosie's Theater Kids are a grand bunch of young talent in training. They put on a thrilling annual show and this year it's at the Marriot Marquis, just off Times Square, September 22nd. Superstar Rosie O'Donnell's kids honor producer Jordan Roth of Jujamcyn Theaters and talent Cyndi Lauper that night. And, of course, Rosie herself will be there as this is her proudest accomplishment.

You can get in on it by calling 646-434-2781. You'll make a lot of children and yourself happy.