Frank Owen’s Article on Chris Paciello Reveals All, Q& A With Owen Inside

How does that song go? I can never get it right: "Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind…" Something like that. I can’t seem to get away from old acquaintances and the weird thing is, I can’t remember why I should want to never bring them to mind… but something tells me I should. The Limelight movie now out on DVD has made me a movie star. I am recognized in restaurants and get a few Facebook shout-outs a day because of it. A couple of days ago, old acquaintance Frank Owen alerted me to an article in the Miami New Times he wrote about my old acquaintance Chris Paciello . When Chris got out of prison, he had a good run out in LA, did something or other in Vegas, and is now bringing all the celebs and beach beauties to the bar at the restaurant Bianca at the Delano South Beach. I haven’t talked to him in years, but remember we were on good terms last time we met. I always liked him even though it has been reported we had some beef.

There was a time when he reportedly wanted some guys to beat me up, but even then I understood his side of it. I wanted his partner Ingrid Casares to open up Studio 54 with me and not him, and the compensation I offered him wasn’t sufficient to justify my approaching her. I knew the playground I was playing in and I knew the rules and the resulting confrontation wasn’t a surprise. We talked it out a few months later and that’s that. I read Frank’s story, which is amazingly detailed. It paints a not-too-flattering picture of Chris in straight-up black and white…mostly black. Somewhere near the end, a Delano publicist offers this spin from Chris: “I regret the mistakes I made in the past. I am working hard to make a positive impact and to build a new life for myself in Miami. I am grateful to the many people here who have welcomed me back with open arms, and look forward to a positive future.”
 
I think I said the same thing once or even thrice. Chris and I have learned from our past mistakes; mine was mostly hanging around people like those "co-starring" with me in that Limelight documentary and people like Chris. Hey, I used to be 3-foot-6… but I grew out of it. No one understands the club world of that era except some of the players who created it and wallowed in it. Even then, they only have their own perspective. It was big, there was a lot going on. The Limelight movie can try to summarize 10,000 nights, millions of partying people, and the actions of differently motivated players but it can’t possibly bring you there and into the minds of the players, the whys, and what for’s in a couple of hours.
 
Frank’s article takes it farther than before. It paints a picture of the forces I was dealing with when I was director of some famous clubs back in the day. In a game of musical chairs, I got left without one and did my piece. I stood up mostly because back then, when pressed hard, I chose to stand up rather than sit in a chair I would feel … "uncomfortable" in. Do I have regrets? Yeah, I have a few. If Chris can run joints after murder and other such bad play, I guess I could have done some things I was denied if I had decided to tell a few lies. "You don’t rat against people," I was told growing up and during the ordeal. "When you become a rat, it’s your very soul that you are ratting on"…goes the mantra that I agreed with at that time and now. I didn’t, others did. For now, like Mr. Paciello, "I am grateful to the many people here who have welcomed me back with open arms, and look forward to a positive future.”
 
Frank Owen was running off to give the keynote address at a criminology conference in Missouri in the morning. I asked him what was new in his Killer Comeback story, and this is what he said. I then followed up with a little Q & A.
 
Frank Owen – Here are some of the never-before-revealed highlights:
 
*A 1997 plot involving Paciello and Colombo crime family boss Alphonse Persico to murder a dissident mafioso.
 
*Another murder plot, this one to kill Paciello, which was nixed by Bonanno captain Anthony Graziano.
 
*A 1994 kidnapping of a Staten Island businessman from an auto body repair shop by Paciello and a Bonanno family soldier.
 
*A million dollar robbery of a Westminster Bank in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn that provided the start-up capitol for Paciello’s first Miami Beach nightclub.
 
*The burglary of more than 30 bank night safety boxes in four different states by Paciello in alliance with members of a Bonanno-affiliated gang called the New Springville Boys."
 
 Why do you keep digging into this story?
I didn’t. I haven’t written a major clubland investigative story since I Ieft the Village Voice. Actually, Lera was the one who rekindled my interest in Paciello. She became friendly with a Lord Michael associate and I reunited with Lord Michael after not speaking to him for well over a decade. Plus, there was the Limelight documentary, of course, which brought back a lot of old memories.
 
What has been your personal relationship with Chris? How has he reacted in the past to your articles/book and how do you think he will react, if at all, to these incredible new disclosures?
I don’t have a personal relationship with Chris. I know his brother, Keith, just de-friended me on Facebook because of the story. Keith is a good guy. He’s twice the man his brother is. Over the years, I’ve contacted Chris a number of times but he’s always refused to be interviewed.
 
How does he get away with it after all is said and done? How does he still operate?
I don’t know. In LA, after he was released from prison, he got involved in two major nightclub brawls and was arrested for felony assault and assault with a deadly weapon while he was on parole. For most parolees, that would mean being sent back to prison – not for Chris. A couple of LA defense lawyers I talked to firmly believe that Chris is still working for the FBI.
 
Why is the city of Miami in love with him? What does he represent?
He represents South Beach when it was really happening — the fabulous ’90s, when South Beach became a beacon of international glamor. People down here miss those times. A friend of mine said: "What is wrong with people in South Beach? They think this guy is God." They do. As Paciello’s friend Michael Capponi once told me: "Party people will forgive anything for a good time." Especially in South Beach, the Land of the Lotus-Eaters.

Everyone Goes On The Record To Diss Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner made a mistake. Or several. But to err is human, am I right? I’m pretty much over Weinergate. What’s more annoying than that scandal is the ongoing talk about the man’s return to the spotlight. As with Jonah Lehrer, it’d be nice if Weiner languished in obscurity a bit longer—and his former colleagues agree.

In this tremendous New York Times article looking back at Weiner’s time as a member of the House of Representatives, everyone comes out of the woodwork to slam the guy. Let’s enjoy a few choice quotes out of context, shall we? 

“It was like he had a megaphone surgically attached to his mouth,” said former Representative Zachary T. Space, Democrat of Ohio.

This is a procedure he may actually want to consider? 

In a car, he was difficult. Mr. Weiner would take the front passenger seat, argue over directions and insist on making every yellow light, pointing to the car ahead and declaring: “If he makes it, you make it.”

Ah, I see: he thinks he lives in a do-or-die game of Mario Kart.

“It was like ‘The Devil Wears Prada,’ ” recalled Stacey E. Fitzpatrick, a lawyer in Seattle who worked for Mr. Weiner on the City Council.

The old standby.

Mr. Weiner’s bills … seldom went anywhere: “He just never tried,” one former senior aide said. “The point was to be able to say he introduced a bill.”

This reminds me of scrawling a bunch of stuff that looked like math on my algebra homework and then telling the teacher I "tried." Oh, Weiner. Why didn’t anyone like you? Offline, that is. 

Follow Miles on Twitter here

‘Happy Endings’ Gets Canceled, We Can’t Have Nice Things

In the end, despite all the streaming and all the passionate pleas of a small but fiercely loyal fanbase (as it often goes with these kinds of things), ABC went ahead with what was probably their plan all along and announced the cancellation of ensemble comedy Happy Endings. This whole thing is dumb and a little infuriating for a lot of reasons. For one, it was easily the best traditional sitcom on TV right now (come on now, How I Met Your Mother hasn’t been good in years and you know it, you sad, sad person). Two, the poorly-publicized switching of timeslots certainly didn’t help and suggested this was a long time coming, which is a total bummer, and the ominous, hostage-y “Save Happy Endings” campaign from ABC was weird and kind of insulting to fans.

Also, Happy Endings got canceled and the gag-inducing Tim Allen vehicle Last Man Standing and the what-is-this-I-don’t-even-know The Neighbors survived to live another day, which is evidence that, as a TV-watching public, we can’t have nice things. At least ABC still has Scandal? And Nashville is coming back. It’s not all bad news?

On the bright side, the show may get picked up by USA and be reborn as a cable comedy, similar to what happened to the similarly beloved but poor-ratings-generating Courteney Cox vehicle Cougar Town, which found its way to TBS after getting the network axe. And although that might be a bummer for many Americans who don’t have cable, it does offer a glimmer of hope for a show that met its end too soon. Ideally, Happy Endings would run a couple more seasons, long enough for syndication, so that years from now, when we’ve watched the entire series of Friends in reruns for the 38th time in a row, we can settle in at night and be lulled to sleep by an old adventure of Penny, Max and the gang. Wouldn’t that be nice? If not, someone please start a Kickstarter for a Happy Endings movie or something. That’s one I’d actually back. 

‘Awkward Black Girl’ Creator Issa Rae Talks About Her Webseries and Television Ambitions

The second season of “The Mis-Adventures of an Awkward Black Girl,” the popular web series created, produced, written and staring 28-year-old Issa Rae, came to an end last Thursday. Since this viral, award-winning show debuted back in 2011, we’ve watched J, the endearing socially inept lead character, fumble her way through her relationship with White Jay, a dead-end job, and the mundane occurrencesthat make up her days. “Long hallways are the epitome of discomfort. I already said hi to this woman, what other interaction can we possibly have? ” J asks in her voice-over. “Am I supposed to look at her the whole time? Do I act like the blank walls are interesting enough to stare at?”

Such are the awkward trials and tribulations of J’s life and, for that matter, many of ours, regardless of race, which explains why a diverse segment of viewers were instantly drawn to this hilariously relatable show and why, after having run out of money in the midst of the first season, Rae managed to rack up $56,000 in donations to complete the season from fans through a Kickstarter campaign.

“Awkward Black Girl” has garnered much praise and attention not only for its brand of relevant situational comedy in the vein of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld but also for its refreshing lead character that debunks all the ubiquitous stereotypes associated with African-Americans on the small or big screen. J is far from the one-dimensional roles we are accustomed to watching most black actresses play. She’s neither a comforting girlfriend, nor is she the overcompensating strong, got-it-together shot-caller or the angry sassy sista. Instead, she is the almost never seen vulnerable, self-conscious black woman that the mainstream media would like you to believe doesn’t exist.

“We’ve been denied a normal reflection of ourselves for so long. Not an overly dramatic, cool, or violent one, but just a normal character,” explains Rae over the phone from L.A. where she lives and shoots the series. “With ‘Awkward Black Girl,’ I sought to create a girl who just happens to be black that goes through the same things that everybody else goes through. Being awkward and black is never seen as a good thing.”

Rae should know.

When her family moved from Potomac, Maryland to L.A., Rae first understood there was a narrow definition of blackness and being awkward wasn’t one of the conventional identifiable descriptors. In Potomac she attended a diverse school for gifted and talented kids and was accustomed to being herself with no reproach, but at her predominantly black high school in L.A., a nerdy Rae’s blackness, or lack thereof, was up for debate. “I just did not fit in all. I wore my hair nappy; I didn’t have a perm like everyone else. To them I talked white and my sense of humor was white,” recalls Rae, who kept a low profile and sought refuge in theater class where she uncovered a budding interest for acting, writing, and producing, which then developed into her passion when she attended Stanford University. While in college Rae wrote and produced plays, and in 2007 she created her first hit web series, “Dorm Diaries,” which took a look at being black at a prestigious school.

“In college, the black, white, Latina friends I made all had the same specific kind of humor I had,” Rae says. “I realized then that it was universal, even if I didn’t see any people of color on Seinfeld. I knew we could and should all be included.” But not everyone agrees. After ‘Awkward Black Girl’ won the 2012 Shorty Award for Best Web Show, Rae was bombarded by racist tweets questioning the show’s merits. Some of them came from fellow web series creators stunned that they had “lost to a niggerette,” as one so cleverly pointed out to Rae. The tweets included such shocking and tasteless gems as, “#ThingsBetterThanAwkwardBlackGirl the smell coming from Trayvon Martin,” “Congrats on winning do you get 3/5 of the award?” and, “Of course the black one wins. Fuck the Shorty Awards.”

“The bewilderment that our show not only exists, but that it could actually be good is indicative of how mainstream media thinks,” Rae pointed out in an essay on XOJane following the show’s backlash. “This mindset is exactly why creative shows of color don’t get to exist on television anymore. There’s an overbearing sense of entitlement that refuses to allow shows of color to thrive. How dare we even try.”

“Some people are really closed minded,” says Rae. “It shows how brave other people are who got passed the word black in the title and watched and related to the show. I wanted to put black in the title. Why not? Why ignore it? It’s obvious, right? I’m black.” But that’s not where her identity ends. “At its core, the show is about this awkward girl who goes through ridiculous situations that forces everyone to relate,” Rae explains. “When people dismiss it as a black show, they just don’t get it.” The show also co-stars a racially diverse group of actors.

Grammy award-winning hip-hop producer Pharrell Williams, who in his own right has broadened hip-hop’s musical and stylistic landscape with his eclectic beats and whose rock band N.E.R.D. helped redefine the meaning of cool for a generation of young black males, reached out to Rae during the first season. “He was like, ‘I’m awkward and nobody believes that people like us exist,’” she remembers of their first conversation. “Awkward Black Girl” was exactly the sort of content Williams was after for his new video network web site, IAMOTHER.com. “Pharrell told me he wanted to be part of ‘Awkward Black Girl,’” she says. IAMOTHER.com is now funding the show, with the recently wrapped second season being the start of Williams and Rae’s thriving partnership. “He is the best,” she says. “The first thing he told me is that he wouldn’t change anything about the show. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.”

Following Williams’s call, the offers have kept coming in from TV executives eager to develop this unique show. While bringing “Awkward Black Girl” over from the internet to the small screen is a very exciting prospect for Rae, she’s wary of losing the creative control that comes with producing your own work for the web. “The raw expression gets filtered ‘cause so many people get their hands on it,” she says. “It becomes about what is going to make money, and that’s not what is really important on the web.” Rae also admits that “Awkward Black Girl” is “just too close to me to just hand it off to anybody.”

Although she would be open to having the show air on a cable network. When she got a call from Shonda Rimes, the creator behind the wildly successful Grey’s Anatomy andScandal, Rae expressed her fears that “Awkward Black Girl” couldn’t work on network television; Rimes agreed and asked Rae for some more ideas. Rae pitched her a show she briefly worked on as a minisode on the web. “I wrote ‘I Hate L.A. Dudes,’” she says. “I had no idea where I was going with it, but I just knew that it was true to my life.” The short featured an L.A. man’s lengthy grooming session in front of the mirror before heading out on a date. “I do hate L.A. men tremendously, and Shonda does too,” she laments. “They suck! They are really sipping on their own Kool-Aid, and they swear they are the best thing since sliced bread.” Rimes loved the pitch, and she sold the half-hour comedy show about a young aspiring journalist navigating the L.A. dating scene to ABC. Rae will write and co-produce (but in which she will not star).

“I’ve been enjoying branching out and doing other things,” says Rae. This includes not only making the jump to network television but also creating content for other web series. Rae is in high demand, but despite her busy schedule, “Awkward Black Girl” continues to be her priority. The second season finale ends with a very big announcement—well possibly. “Next on Awkward Black Girl: An ABG Movie?” flashes on the screen before the credits role. “We are trying to make a feature-length film happen,” says Rae. She wants to create the kind of cult classic that she loved watching in the ‘90s, when movies starring black actors were more prevalent. “Love Jones and Love & Basketball were the kind stuff I wanted to write when I was younger,” she says. “It wasn’t about the struggle. They were basic love stories.”

Rae will no doubt add a healthy dose of clumsiness to her big-screen love story. This season ends with White Jay professing his love, following a relationship hiatus, to J, who has been missing him and waiting for his call. A self-conscious J uneasily responds with, “Oh, thank you! That’s what’s up. That’s great. High-five!” Awkward!
 

Photo by Elton Anderson for Rolling Stone.

‘NY Times’ Dares To Suggest ‘Scandal’ Is ‘Post-Racial’

In a piece about the success of ABC’s hit show Scandal — it ranks first in its Thursday, 10p.m. time slot — the New York Times dares suggest the Shonda Rhimes creation might be popular because its "postracial," "cast members are ethnically diverse but are not defined by their race or ethnicity."

The reporter is presumably referring to how the show’s interracial relationship is scarcely mentioned. Black actress Kerry Washington plays Washington, D.C. scandal "fixer" Olivia Pope, a former White House employee who left the Administration following a long romance with the president, President Fitz Grand, played by Tony Goldwyn, who is white. The Times quotes black feminist author Joan Morgan, who said,  “It’s not about this being a black show. It’s about seeing the show where black women and other women are represented less about race and more about who they are.”

That’s true, in a sense. But "postracial" is always such a squicky term because it suggests on some level that we’re past the point where race matters — which, of course, is naive. And simply not true: Pope’s character may not be defined on the show by her race or ethnicity, but the very fact Scandal is such a hit with African-Americans suggests its a huge draw for the program. The Times reports that over 10 percent of black households tune in for Scandal. Even if the show is breaking racial barriers by not addressing race directly — perhaps because it doesn’t have to — it is still meaningful that Oliva Pope is black.

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

Girl Scout Cookie Season Kicks Off With Controversy

It’s not every day someone offers you a cookie. Sure, a best-selling book has underscored the escalating mayhem that receiving just one cookie can ensue, but starting around the same time every January, all skepticism and resolutions are shelved with the start of Girl Scout Cookie Season. Swarms of elfish figures – festooned in green vests, sashes, and geometric badges – take to the streets, stoops, and outlet center parking lots with one spirited question: “Do you want a cookie?” YES. Yes, we do. And with Girl Scouts celebrating its 100th anniversary with the arrival of their new sunshiny, powdered sugar-dusted “Savannah Smiles,” it’s only appropriate that a massive package of controversy appears, attempting to crumble the Girl Scouts’ beloved cookie season.

Say hello to Taylor: a 14-year-old, California-based Girl Scout member.

The teen is attempting to stage a nationwide boycott of the organization due to its recent decision to admit a 7-year-old transgender child to a Colorado troop. She’s created a group, HonestGirlScouts.com, and a video (see below) stating her case:

"So, what’s wrong with that? For one reason, Girl Scouts describes itself as an all-girls experience. With that label, families trust that the girls will be in an environment that is not only nurturing and sensitive to girls’ needs, but also safe for girls…Unfortunately, I think it is because GSUSA cares more about promoting the desires of a small handful of people than it does for my safety, and the safety of my friends and sister Girl Scouts."

She tackles such questions as “Where do transgender boys sleep on overnights?” and the blasphemous quote from Colorado Girl Scout’s VP of Communications stating, “If a child identifies as a girl, and the child’s family presents her as a girl, the Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

Taylor, thank you for your honest and carefully-stated opinion via video. However, I don’t think most of us really care what gender Tagalongs with the troops and sells our cookies. We just want ‘em so we can pop those Thin Mints in our freezer and those Samoas under our desk. So, go forth, sell cookies, take a Do-si-dos around the block, and put on a Savannah Smiles. Thank U Berry Munch.

Girl Scout Cookie Season Kicks Off With Controversy

It’s not every day someone offers you a cookie. Sure, a best-selling book has underscored the escalating mayhem that receiving just one cookie can ensue, but starting around the same time every January, all skepticism and resolutions are shelved with the start of Girl Scout Cookie Season. Swarms of elfish figures – festooned in green vests, sashes, and geometric badges – take to the streets, stoops, and outlet center parking lots with one spirited question: “Do you want a cookie?” YES. Yes, we do. And with Girl Scouts celebrating its 100th anniversary with the arrival of their new sunshiny, powdered sugar-dusted “Savannah Smiles,” it’s only appropriate that a massive package of controversy appears, attempting to crumble the Girl Scouts’ beloved cookie season.

Say hello to Taylor: a 14-year-old, California-based Girl Scout member.
 
The teen is attempting to stage a nationwide boycott of the organization due to its recent decision to admit a 7-year-old transgender child to a Colorado troop. She’s created a group, HonestGirlScouts.com, and a video (see below) stating her case.
“So, what’s wrong with that? For one reason, Girl Scouts describes itself as an all-girls experience. With that label, families trust that the girls will be in an environment that is not only nurturing and sensitive to girls’ needs, but also safe for girls…Unfortunately, I think it is because GSUSA cares more about promoting the desires of a small handful of people than it does for my safety, and the safety of my friends and sister Girl Scouts. ”
She tackles such questions as “Where do transgender boys sleep on overnights?” and the blasphemous quote from Colorado Girl Scout’s VP of Communications stating, “If a child identifies as a girl, and the child’s family presents her as a girl, the Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”
 
Taylor, thank you for your honest and carefully-stated opinion via video. However, I don’t think most of us really care what gender Tagalongs with the troops and sells our cookies. We just want ‘em so we can pop those Thin Mints in our freezer and those Samoas under our desk. So, go forth, sell cookies, take a Do-si-dos around the block, and put on a Savannah Smiles. Thank U Berry Munch.
 

Japan’s Sumos Having a Tiger Woods Moment

Probably because they’re big and soft and have silly hair, we usually think of sumo wrestlers as gentle giants. But the wrestlers and their sport have been embroiled in scandals in recent months, so much so that next month’s grand tournament may be cancelled. And, to make matters worse, not only do the scandals involve gambling and possible mob ties, there’s a hairdresser known for his topknots in the middle of it as well.

Sixty-five of the sport’s 700 active wrestlers have admitted to illegally betting on baseball and other sports and games, according to a Japan Sumo Association spokesman. And some of the betting may have been through yakuza, the tattooed Japanese mafia that make the Italian mafia seem cuddly. To top it all off — and make us want to get cracking on a sumo-world screenplay — a 29-year-old hairdresser named Tokoike who styles the wrestlers’ sexy topknots, is allegedly the gambling operation middleman.

In recent years, Japan’s traditionally deified sumo wrestlers have been showing themselves to be mere mortals. In February, Asashoryu, a former Mongolian grand champion, retired after a drunken street fight in Tokyo. Numerous wrestlers have been arrested for smoking pot (shocker, with those physiques) and one trainee died in 2008 as the result of a hazing incident.

The scandals threaten Japan’s national sport at a time when its popularity is on the decline as soccer and baseball gain in popularity. Increasingly, the sport’s top athletes aren’t Japanese but rather Eastern Europeans and Mongolians. No word yet if Tiger Woods will be consulting with sumo image officials.