EXCLUSIVE The Reviewer Who Wasn't There David Manning of The Ridgefield Press is one of Columbia Pictures' most reliable reviewers, praising Heath Ledger of "A Knight's Tale" as "this year's hottest new star!" and saluting "The Animal" as "another winner!" The studio plastered Manning's raves over at least four different movie advertisements, including "Hollow Man" and "Vertical Limit." But Manning's own life story should be called "Charade," because he doesn't exist. Challenged last week by NEWSWEEK about the reviewer's authenticity, Columbia parent Sony Pictures Entertainment admitted that Manning is a fake, a product of the studio's advertising department.
The Ridgefield Press (which was unaware of the deception) is a small Connecticut weekly, but that's where any verisimilitude ends. An unidentified Sony employee apparently concocted the Manning persona last July, using the name of a friend, and attributed fictional reviews to him. Supervisors using the quotes in movie ads didn't question Manning's legitimacy. "It was an incredibly foolish decision, and we're horrified," Sony spokeswoman Susan Tick said of the hoax. "We are looking into it and will take appropriate action."
In Hollywood, where desperate marketing tactics are the norm, news of the deception astonished even longtime executives. "I have run two studios over two decades, and I have to say this is a first for me," said Joe Roth, whose Revolution Studios produced "The Animal" for Columbia. "It's hard to believe. It's terrible. Sony has to apologize and pull the ads." Dick Cook, chairman of the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, said: "That certainly does cross the line. We would never, never, never, ever do that." Sony is removing Manning's quotes from "Knight's Tale" and "Animal" ads, but some arts sections this past weekend were already printed before the fakery was revealed.
The real question is why Sony had to conceive the counterfeit critic to begin with, given the world of movie junkets, where normal reporting standards don't apply. Reading the glowing newspaper-ad recommendations for even the lamest movie, you might wonder if those quoted critics are real. Unlike Manning, they are. Many are habitues of the junket circuit, a gravy train where the studios give journalists free rooms and meals at posh hotels and the reporters return the favor with puffy celebrity profiles and enthusiastic blurbs. Sometimes studio executives will suggest what kind of quotes they need, and even shape the reviews to suit the studio's goals. If a studio wants its movie pegged as "this year's 'Alien'," the reviewer delivers precisely that. No one complains, and bad movies end up with great quotes. The junket troops are a mostly anonymous crowd working for obscure outlets like Wireless Magazine and Inside Reel, which helps explain why nobody--even people within Sony and Revolution--noticed that Manning was a sham. "If he doesn't exist, he should at least have given us a better quote," Roth joked. The Manning fabrication broke even Hollywood's lax rules. But the real scandal is what's considered acceptable.
John HornGIRLS ON FILMGive 'Em Some Lip "Pearl Harbor" gives moviegoers plenty to pout about. (We're talking about lipstick, not just its laughable love story.) Makeup department head Julie Hewett painstakingly painted the stars' lips in a palette of fabulous '40s reds. "God forbid they ate or drank anything." Wartime never looked so good.HOW-TOBook Smart Talk about a literary sensation. Nancy Olson, owner of the independent Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C., has not only stayed in business amid eight big chains, she's creamed them, having just been named Publishers Weekly's bookseller of the year. Here's how to beat the Goliaths:
THE PALM Positioning System Here's a new excuse for having sweaty Palms: PalmaSutra, an updated version of last year's Kama Sutra software, a love manual with diagrams and beamable personal anecdotes. The 2.0 edition--with color graphics and 25 new positions d'amour to add to classics like the "accordion"-- will be available free later this month at palmfun.multimania.com. FOOTBALLAnd It's a Way to Meet Gwyneth! These yogis aren't bears--they're giants. The team added yoga to its off-season regimen and, reports the teacher, "these guys were so tight they couldn't hold their arms over their heads." Fullback Greg Comella, who's been doing yoga for years, recommended it to his coaches. "When I started, I figured I'd go hang out with a bunch of women. I realized 90 percent of these women were stronger than I was." Yeah, but can they block?
((((((THE BUZZ)))))) Inside Camelot's Closet Such colors! Such style! Such unbelievably long lines! The Met's exhibit of Kennedy's gowns and signature suits is attracting paralyzing crowds-even without a certain pink Chanel number. Worth the 90-minute wait? Here's what they're saying nationwide:
With crowds always seven-deep, 'it's the big show of the season in New York, and the rest of the country, for that matter.' (Chicago Tribune)
Not Just a Pretty Face
She contributed so much more than wraparound sunglasses. Reducing her to a mannequin is, 'to use one of Jacqueline Kennedy's words: ghastly.' (N.Y. Observer)
The Fabric of Our Lives
The museum is thrilled. Says a spokesman: it's not blockbuster season, 'but the B word is being used.' And not just to the lady who cuts in line.
They're just clothes--and not particularly pretty clothes at that. 'Frankly, [it] looks more like a display window than a serious art-historical enterprise.' (Sun-Sentinel) SENATERetirement Watch: Who Might Go in 2002? Being in the minority is no fun, but for some Senate Republicans, it could be liberating. A look at who may head for the exits in 2002, if the GOP appears unlikely to regain control: Former actor Fred Thompson (Tenn.), 58, may be in line to succeed Jack Valenti as Hollywood's lobbyist in D.C. when Valenti retires. Rick Santorum (Pa.), 43, is touted as a candidate for governor. He says he's not interested, but after a few months under Tom Daschle's thumb, he might reconsider. Stripped of his Budget Committee chair, Pete Domenici (N.M.), 69, could decide 30 years in the Senate is enough. Polls show that Jesse Helms (N.C.), 79, is vulnerable; GOP strategists may press him to step aside. Strom Thurmond (S.C.), 98, won't run again in 2002. Key question: will his health allow him to finish out this term? Don't count him out: a dozen senators have died in office since the redoubtable Thurmond turned 70. BUSHTrying to Warm Up to the Allies George W. Bush has problems in Europe. His early decisions, including support for missile defenses and denunciation of the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gases, have riled key allies. Next week, on his first presidential trip to Europe, Bush aims to soothe some of their concerns. White House sources say Bush will unveil a new U.S. proposal for tackling global warming. A cabinet-level team is still working on the details but, at a minimum, Bush will pledge U.S. leadership in a new scientific effort to identify workable targets for curbing man-made emissions. Unlike the Kyoto treaty, which exempts the developing world, the Bush plan will call for every nation to cut back. TRANSITIONA Kid's Life Hank Ketcham's wife once complained that their son, Dennis, was a menace, and a comic strip was born. Though a top newspaper editor at the time doubted it would last--"there's only so much you can say about a 5-year-old"--the freckle-faced troublemaker celebrated his 50th anniversary this past spring. A onetime Hollywood animator and one of the most prolific cartoonists of his time, Ketcham was 81.
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM Special Legacy Edition What a weird tax law. If your rich dad dies in 2010, you get it all. If he lasts another year, you get fully taxed. Call it the "throw daddy from the Learjet" bill.
C.W. Tax bill - A dog's breakfast of ill-conceived, confused policy. How many years will it take to fix? Dubya = Has to decide whether to stay right or steer to center. And what to do about The Twins. The Twins - Those fake IDs could fool anyone (on Mars). Brilliant! Party hearty! Mama Bush + Cool Bar jokes in speech that prez is "getting back some of his own." Girls will be girls. McCain + Giving GOP heebie-jeebies by playing footsie with Dems. But he ain't switching -- yet. Texas + New admin is improving fairness of death-penalty system. Better DNA-read than dead.