Newswire

Newswire

  • A New Woody--Lost In The Fog

    is Woody Allen's first mystery movie. The mystery: what caused this total breakdown of a unique artist? Possible solution: Allen's well-known influences became dybbuks and took possession of him, turning him into a puppet gone batty with eclecticism. Every few minutes this film upchucks another reference: Bergman, Brecht, Kafka, Fritz Lang--it's as if Allen made his movie not with a script but a library card. Allen plays a schnook named Kleinman (Kafka's K, Woodyfied) who's suspected of being a psycho strangler. On the lam, he splashes into a stewful of refugees from every German expressionist film ever made: a circus girl (Mia Farrow), a clown (John Malkovich), a mad scientist (Donald Pleasance), a metaphysical magician (Kenneth Mars), a hive of philosophical hookers (Jodie Foster, Lily Tomlin, Kathy Bates). Never has such an all-star cast seemed like a no-star cast. (Madonna is reduced to a cleavage and a double-entendre.) Shot on a fogbound set meant to be a nameless European...
  • Hey, Have I Got An Alloy For You!

    There are all sorts of kosher products, from soda to pickles. But kosher steel? As meshuga as it sounds, steelmakers like U.S. Steel are moving to get some of their products certified as kosher (or halal for Muslims). ...
  • A Safety Net Full Of Holes

    It seemed like a good idea at the time. In a speech on March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan described his vision of "intercept[ing] and destroy[ing] strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil ... an effort which holds the promise of changing the course of human history." Nicknamed "Star Wars," the defense shield would replace the terror of mutually assured destruction (MAD) with the promise of demolishing any missiles coming America's way. From the start, though, many physicists and military officers warned that Star Wars was technologically impossible. Now, $30 billion later, there's evidence that the Strategic Defense Initiative Office (SDIO), as the Star Wars command is known, saw the flaws all along--and knowingly masked the program's failures and overstated its progress just to keep the money rolling in. ...
  • Catalunya, Here I Come

    A funny thing happened to Robert Hughes on the way to writing a book about Barcelona's modernista movement--the Catalan art nouveau architecture of Antoni Gaudi and his peers. Hughes got so deeply caught up in the roots of the city's history that he dug back nearly 2,000 years. The result is Barcelona (575 pages. Knopf $27.50), an epic about Spain's least Spanish city, with its own language--Catalan--and its own unique culture. Even in the hands of such an elegant and trenchant writer, the undergrowth of dense detail may nearly defeat many general readers. But a long historic look was probably inevitable: the periods of greatest cultural flourishing in Barcelona's history are also the moments of the greatest struggle for Catalan identity and autonomy. Barcelona is not the Spain of the flamenco and the bullring: the Catalonians were hardheaded, hardworking farmers, merchants, craftsmen and manufacturers, often conservative and deeply Roman Catholic. Hughes traces the history of...
  • The Legacy Of A 'Fighting Jew'

    In a speech at a West Bank settlement in 1975, Menachem Begin described a new kind of human being. " The fighting Jew," he said, "loves books, loves liberty and hates war. But he is prepared to fight for liberty." Two years later, after losing eight consecutive elections, Begin's hard-line conservatives finally overwhelmed their adversaries. The fighting Jews took power. When Begin died of heart trouble early last week at the age of 78, after more than eight years of hermitic retirement, they were still in control. His dour successor, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, promised to "continue the struggle" for the right of the Jewish people to retain "our entire homeland, from the sea to the river." ...
  • Ungagged

    George Bush may have averted a midcampaign fracas over abortion. After the Supreme Court last year upheld Reagan-era regulations barring doctors in federally funded family-planning clinics from counseling patients about abortion, the White House called for new rules based on the court's decision. As a sop to pro-choice activists and doctors, the new regulations, due later this month, will permit doctors in those clinics to refer women who want to end their pregnancies to facilities that perform abortions. But in a nod to pro-lifers, nurses won't be allowed to discuss abortion. Prolifers, who lobbied hard for a gag on both doctors and nurses, say they will accept the compromise regs.
  • 'Whatever It Takes'

    Jesse Jackson was rapping away the other day, cataloging the shortcomings of the candidates, listing all the downtrodden constituencies that are not being sufficiently loved. When his litany reached "our forsaken farmers," the 1992 campaign reached the level of cabaret. ...
  • An American In Paris

    Some might call it culture schlock. "Formidable," the Moulin Rouge revue, features a horse, topless dancers, jugglers, three crocodiles and La Toya Jackson, who rides a flying carpet above the Paris nightclub audience. Jackson sings " The Locomotion!' and, in phonetically learned French (she doesn't know the lingo), the Edith Piaf classics "La Vie en Rose" and "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien." No wonder: for a year's engagement, Michael's sister (who, yes, stays clothed throughout) is reportedly receiving $5 million. For all that, she could invest in a new number, " Puttin' on Berlitz."
  • The Healing Touch

    Burning. Of the species of physical pain, it is the one most often pressed into metaphorical service (lovers' hearts, souls in hell ... ) precisely because it is the most intense and enduring. We've all singed a finger on a pot or scalded ourselves with hot coffee. Those are usually first-degree burns; the pain of third-degree burns over most of one's body must be literally inconceivable. And the outcome-serious disfigurement for the rest of one's life-is also unthinkable. Photographer Lynn Johnson spent nearly four years documenting the work of the burn center at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, which admitted nearly 400 people in 1991, some for as long as nine months. She found the plight of the children particularly moving. "They must learn a whole new way to look at themselves," says the center's director, Dr. Harvey Slater. "There's no way to tell them it's OK, or that no one will notice that their ears are burned off. We do the beat we can."
  • Talking Mighty Like A Rose

    The fans phoned in about baseball, basketball, even underwater hockey, but no one asked the burning question, "So, what's the morning line?" Pete Rose dialed up a new career last week as host of a nightly sports radio call-in show in West Palm Beach, Fla. " He has charisma like Frank Sinatra," says producer Jerry Gross, apparently complimenting Rose. Baseball's all-time hit man is an obvious smash. His show is going national this spring. You can bet on it.
  • The Gloom Behind The Boom

    Fernando Wachnovetzky, a Mexican who makes teddy bears, doesn't share President Carlos Salinas de Gortari's enthusiasm for free trade with the United States and Canada. Ever since Mexico opened its protected economy to outsiders in the late 1980s, many smaller businesses like Wachnovetzky's have struggled with the new competition. Shortly after higher-quality U.S. imports started to pour in, a third of the companies in Mexico's toy industry went belly up. As for Wachnovetzky's firm, it has lost half its domestic-market share. Why? Mexican suppliers, unlike those north of the border, cant provide him with the fabric and parts he needs to make a soft teddy bear that closes its eyes--now a must among Mexican children. "Mexicans now think any import is better than what we make," he says. ...
  • The 'Who Lost Russia' Debate

    Just three little words, but what political dynamite: WHO LOST CHINA? And who knows that better than Richard Nixon? As a young member of Congress from California after World War II, Nixon launched a political career by smoking out "fellow travelers," including those who had allegedly let the Communists triumph in China. Last week the former president went on a new crusade, warning that tomorrow's zinger could well be, WHO LOST RUSSIA? In a series of carefully placed memoranda and editorials, Nixon accused George Bush of a "penny-ante" approach to aiding the former Soviet Union. "In light of the stakes, the West must do everything it can to help [Russian President Boris] Yeltsin to succeed," Nixon wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "If Mr. Yeltsin fails, the prospects for the next 50 years will turn grim." ...
  • Caught In The Act

    In the wake of the congressional check-bouncing scandal, members rushed forward to confess. But with voter outrage running high, many may be banished from their kingdom on the Hill. ...
  • Another Tempest In A C Cup

    Breast surgery is a $300 million U.S. industry--or was, until a U.S. Food Band Drug Administration advisory panel recommended last month that the use of silicone-gel implants be severely limited. Breast augmentation and reconstruction have been the most popular forms of plastic surgery in the United States, accounting for more than 130,000 operations annually. Fees range as high as $5,500. Facing the loss of a substantial and lucrative part of their practices, some surgeons are furious at the FDA-and ready to do battle for their livelihoods. Armed with the belief that the advisory panel was stacked against them and that some under-endowed women need breast implants for self-esteem, the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons has launched a $3.5 million campaign to convince the public and the FDA that the devices do more good than harm. ...
  • Forcing Lee Iacocca's Hand?

    What was going on at the secret Chrysler board meeting in New York last weekend? Sources said the board's nominating committee gathered to force Lee Iacocca to name a successor. The legendary CEO is slated to step down Dec. 31, but he has been vague about his plans and who will replace him. Board members were reportedly concerned about Wall Street's reaction to the waffling. The last straw, said a source, was Iacocca's outspoken performance in Japan with President Bush in January: "[The board] was thoroughly embarrassed and began to see that Iacocca really didn't want to go." Last month Chrysler vice chairman Robert Miller became the latest possible heir to quit-in frustration over the lack of succession plans, sources say. Whom might the board tap? The favorites were Chrysler president Robert Lutz; Gerald Greenwald, a former number two, and GM's European operations president Robert J. Eaton. A Chrysler spokesman declined to comment.
  • From Biker Chic To Biker Cheek

    It's a union made in designer heaven: Hells Angels meet Charlie's Angels. At last, someone's thinking of the poor fashion victim loath to shed her biker gear when the weather heats up. Rev up your surfboards-here comes the Harley-Davidson swimwear collection. From the look of it, the designers of motorcycles and maillots share a common goal: to pack as much power into as little space as possible. How to translate the aura of leather and chains to a wisp of Lycra and tricot? It's simple, says Michael Eisenberg of T.K MAB, the official licensee for the bathing line: " We all ride. We design with the bike in mind." The result is an array of "wet leather" and bugle-beaded tanks, denim and tattoo-print bikinis, and daintily studded push-up suits, all embroidered with those potent symbols of rebellion: the eagle, the bar and shield or the motto LIVE TO RIDE, RIDE TO LIVE. For the not-so-Wild One, there are demure little " mechanic jumpers," "swim bomber" cover-ups and microscopic, lace-up...
  • The Money In Mortgages

    A few months ago, I got a cold call from a stock-broker, pitching me on a "high-rate, triple-A mortgage investment, government guaranteed." When I asked what's the catch, he said no catch. "You're only risk," he joked, "is that you'll get your money back too soon. ...
  • So Much For Family Ties

    Jackie Collins, call your agent. Have we got a script for you! The sharp-tongued wife of a rags-to-riches entrepreneur gets awarded control of her husband's company in a divorce settlement. He lives in a tony Chicago condo, married to a younger woman, while his ex-wife and CEO son run the company. But, apparently, egged on by her glamorous and ambitious daughter, Mom engineers the sudden resignation of her well-respected son. ...
  • Jerry Lewis: Points Of Spite

    Equal Employment Opportunity Commission chairman Evan Kemp Jr.'s feud with comedian Jerry Lewis may cost Kemp his job. Kemp angered Lewis with an October press release alleging that Lewis's annual muscular dystrophy telethon demeans the disabled by presenting them as "objects to be pitied." In a letter to President Bush, Lewis accused Kemp of "misusing the power of his governmental office" by making statements that could hurt the telethon. " If ever there was a 'Point of Light'. . I'm it!" wrote Lewis. Administration sources say Kemp, a wheelchair user with a neuromuscular disease, will likely stay on the commission but lose the chairmanship. The White House declined to comment.