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Spit List Recap: Charlie Sheen, Taylor Swift and Recreational Drug Use

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s top moments of the 11th Annual Thanksgiving Spit List.

My post-turkey daze ritual is always the same: first, from my kitchen blackboard, I take down and pack away holiday recipes snipped from the pages of Bon Appétit—this year’s Malt-Beer-Brined Turkey with Malt Glaze will go in the fan-favorite file along with 2003’s Sweet Potato Brulee and 2001’s Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Zinfandel.  Then, I can settle in for one more sip of coffee as I reflect on the dinner conversation provided by The Spit List.  Even in the 11th year of the game, the debate was wildly controversial. Here’s a recap of the proceedings.

The Launch.  As tradition holds, I threw out the first pitch: Rupert Murdoch, for using his media empire to advance a debilitating Republican agenda and fanning the flames of the Tea Party insanity.  For background: I launched a quiet protest a few months ago by boycotting the mogul’s media properties.  Honestly, I’d never been a big reader of WSJ so that was easy.  And Fox News?  Please.  What channel is that anyway?  But the New York Post was more complicated—leaving behind PageSix was hard enough (I’m a bold-faced name there after all), but not getting my Michael Reidel Broadway gossip fix was excruciating.  So, I decided I could read that online—for free.  When I fretted to Chef that I felt like I was cheating since I love Fox TV’s Glee, he helpfully suggested that I just not frequent the advertisers for that show.  Since I don’t use Dove hair care products, that sounded like a plan I could get behind.

Pop-Culture.  Speaking of Glee, that phenomenon surfaced multiple times in the always sure to provoke incredulous protests: the Pop-Culture Category.  Scott wanted to spit on Glee’s Rachel and Fin for promoting “too much of a wholesome, all-American image.”  While Jimmy from Madison Facebooked (yes, I did, I made it a verb) in his nomination of Artie—Glee’s differently enabled character, “his character is way too white and geeky to be singing all the cool male vocals.  And, for God’s sake, get him some new glasses and stop wearing those ugly sweaters!”  The table nearly came unglued, until I read Jimmy’s other nomination—Taylor Swift.  Everyone agreed with Jimmy’s assessment, “she can’t sing live if her life depended on it.”  My own nomination of Dancing with the Stars—for giving ridiculous individuals like Bristol Palin some kind of platform—was followed up more specifically by Scott who objected to Jennifer Grey and her nose.  Darrell chimed in with Charlie Sheen, not because he’s just generally out-of-control, but for his unnecessary use of the N** word.  Mike took Charlie’s actions a step further expressing frustration with a class of people who mistreat sex workers.

Social Network.  Nobody at the table seemed to understand my distaste for Kanye West’s Tweets and the ridiculous amount of media attention it has generated.  Really New York Magazine?  So I was happy when Aimee Skyped in from Kabul (she didn’t really, she emailed from Afghanistan, but I just wanted to be Oprah for a second) with her unhappiness for the person responsible for Sarah Palin’s blog who wrote something like, “I hope we drove Democrats crazy by having Bristol as a final contestant on Dancing with the Stars!!”  Damn, there’s that show again.  As Aimee said the woman is crazy not only for dedicating her life to that “whack-a-doo” but also for “thinking that a lame e-list celebrity dancing show will have serious political ramifications.  Dumb-ass.”

Show Stumpers.  Aimee contributed Diandra Douglas to this category reserved for nominations that need added explanation.  Most at the table needed me to explain the background on Michael Douglas’ wife filing a financial compensation lawsuit long after her divorce was finalized—while her son was going to prison, and Michael was off to chemo.  I’m sure she’ll be a contestant on DWTS soon—and then everyone will agree.  Also in this section, Werner nominated Porsche.  Not the car—or a misspelling of Ellen’s wife—but the Fire Island/Key West drag queen songstress.  To be fair, Werner asked for a rule clarification if Porsche would be considered famous enough for the Spit List.  I reluctantly allowed it only because she was briefly Wanda Sykes’ side kick on the comedian’s brief talk show foray.  Porsche’s offense?  Squandering her talent evidently—Werner objects to her deteriorating Ice Palace performance from Friday night to Sunday afternoon.  Gay boys can be tough, I’m telling you.

Show Stoppers.  This is like the Best Picture Oscar—it’s the big kahuna.  The nomination that stops conversation cold.  It was inaugurated several years back when Angela nominated Trig Palin, Sarah’s down syndrome child.  She didn’t like the child being used as a prop—and she also didn’t necessarily believe the child was Sarah’s.  Well, stone cold silence at the table.  Last year, Scott won this category with Rihanna—in the midst of her Chris Brown beating controversy.  He didn’t like her haircut, but still, spitting on a gal when she’s down is pretty strong.  But he stood by it.  This year, hands down, the Show Stopper award goes to Chef for his nomination of a class known as “Recreational Drug Users.”  With a table full of gay boys, including me, who have partied their way around the globe—from Sydney’s Mardi Gras to Montreal’s Black and Blue—you could have heard a pin drop.  But Chef soldiered on, “Believe me, I’m all for legalizing drugs.  But that’s not going to happen here.  And in the meantime, drug use in America is ravaging my home country of Mexico.  It’s tearing it apart.  So every time someone takes a sniff or pops a pill, you are killing someone back in Mexico.”  We all paused for a second to take that in.  Then someone asked, “Could you wait until after New Year’s maybe?”  And then someone else started in on Gwyneth Paltrow and of course we were back to Glee.

But I looked across the table at Chef and smiled.  Proud that he had spoken up and taken an important stand.  We might have been laughingly playing The Spit List, but for a brief moment, the game provided a reminder of the relative comfort and safety we enjoy in America—and that it comes with a privilege.  A duty to say “thanks.”  It’s our freedom that allows us to even have something like The Spit List.  Who knew that 11 years ago, Chloe Sevigny and Scarlett Johansson would lead to this?

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Gave a Kid a Break

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul fondly recalls PageSix Richard Johnson’s role in his early career.

News broke yesterday that Richard Johnson, the cheeky editor of legendary gossip column PageSix for the past 25 years, is loading up his truck and heading to Beverly—Hills that is.  While many have been reluctantly caught in his inky crosshairs over the years, I have a fondness for Richard—he gave this young flack a break when I was struggling to climb the ladder of celebrity publicity.  Thanks to him, I’ve ended up as a Bold Faced Name in the column on at least three occasions—a mark of pride in the Big Apple.  Back in February, I sent him a copy of Alphabet City and marked the stories of our encounters.  He immediately contacted me to thank me for portraying him and PageSix in such a nice light, and ran a slightly sensationalized excerpt about Tyra Banks the next day that spun out-of-control across the Internet gossip land.  Even in this day and age of online celebrity rumor mills, PageSix—and Richard Johnson—set the pace for coverage.  Best of luck in the land of swimming pools and movie stars.

Here’s an excerpt from Alphabet City’s Episode 4: And Nothing But the Truth

For a few months now, I had been struggling to master the duties required to be a junior celebrity publicist.  Other than a brief and almost disastrous encounter with Whoopi, so far my primary job had been escorting the firms C-list clients to be the third guest on NY-filmed TV talk shows like Rosie.  These clients usually played the sitcom’s whacky next-door neighbor but had a dramatic movie-of-the-week to promote.  As a favor to the firm’s heavy-hitter publicists who promised to deliver their headliners, talent bookers slotted in our low-wattage names in the last few minutes of a show.

Each week, my responsibilities were explained long distance by my boss, BusyB—think blonde highlights of Ryan Seacrest with the easy attitude of Neil Patrick Harris.  He was Greasy’s partner in the firm, headed up the celebrity division, and had a reputation as the nicest and busiest entertainment publicist in the business.  BusyB was responsible for teaching me the public relations two-step dance I call “Spin and Cover.”

First, I mastered the art of spin.  A few days after my job interview-date with Greasy, BusyB called with my first assignment—a very important daily mission involving Liza Minnelli.  By 7am, I was to read all the daily gossip columns, cut out and paste up any that mention Liza, and fax them to her manager, assistant and head publicist by 7:30am.  No earlier or later.

Liza’s entourage seemed awfully high maintenance, but that was fine by me.  As cliché as it is for a gay boy, I have been completely devoted to Liza ever since I was six years old and my father took the family to The Venetian Room at Dallas’ fading Fairmont Hotel for a live performance by the diva.  It was the waning days of 70’s hotel cabaret but I dressed as if it were the second coming.

For weeks, I pranced around the living room with a top hat and cane found in my stash of dress up clothes singing along to the cassette recording of Cabaret.  I was perfecting a heart-wrenching rendition of “Maybe This Time.”  At Liza’s performance, I quietly mouthed the words as I sat enraptured by her every word, note, gesture and sequin.

Twenty years later, and I couldn’t believe my good fortune to be traveling in her orbit.  Which is why I was so unnerved when after a few weeks of successful gossip column faxing, BusyB assigned me a more critical Liza task.

“I need you to call Richard Johnson at PageSix and deny that Liza is back in rehab,” he said.

“Richard?  He’s the most powerful columnist around.  I’ve never spoken to him.  Why me?”

“Because I’ve spoken to him a million times.  He won’t believe me.”

“But I wouldn’t even know what to say.”

“Anything.  Make something up. Like she’s going into the hospital to have a procedure.  Her knee or hip drained, something like that.  It’s called spin.”

Spin sounded an awful like lying to me.  Didn’t Greasy say something about my integrity landing me the job?  With no other options, I called Richard, but he wasn’t buying what I was selling.

“You’re honestly expecting me to believe some junior flack telling me that Liza is having her knee or hip drained?”

I paused, and then just tried to be as honest as I could.

“I know, but give a kid a break.  I’m in over my head here, and my boss is telling me I have to feed you this story.”

I could hear Richard typing away on his keyboard.

“That’s the most honest thing I’ve heard all week,” he said.

Next day, PageSix ran with the Liza-back-in-rehab story.  But Richard included at the end of the piece an obscure line about Liza’s reps claiming she was having a medical procedure.  I was heralded a hero in the LA office.  Greasy had told me the key to this business was keeping my integrity in tact, and surprisingly that is what charmed the most important gossip columnist.

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Bold Face Name (Again)

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul lands in PageSix gossip column (again) thanks to revelations about a supermodel.  Guest star: Tyra Banks (sort of).

Readers of Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom life might remember that in Episode 4 the famous gossip columnist Richard Johnson gave me a break when I was a struggling junior publicist for Liza.

Back in PageSix!

Then years later, in Episode 11, I became a bold face name myself in PageSix after an incident involving model Mark Vanderloo at Condé Nast Traveler’s first Hot List party.  Well today, thanks again to Richard and another supermodel media mogul Tyra Banks, I have been re-confirmed as gossip column worthy.  At least this time, I really didn’t have to say anything snarky.  From today’s New York Post PageSix:

Teddy Terrors

Jon Paul Buchmeyer learned plenty from Tyra Banks when he worked as her publicist during her book tour for “Inside Out.” “Chips with the fat substitute Olestra cause Tyra to have intestinal distress,” he writes in his memoir, “Alphabet City,” which chronicled his years working for Whoopi Goldberg, Vanessa Williams and Condé Nast Traveler. Buchmeyer also learned, “Tyra thinks white limos are tacky,” and to beware of fans who bring teddy bears to book signings — “Anyone that showed up at a book signing offering a stuffed animal probably needs a security escort.”

Oh, FYI—today is the last day to help me win the contest by ordering the book…click button at right and use WINTERBOOK code for 10% off!

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