By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
In just seven days, the NYT had also body-snatched film critic Manohla Dargis, music business writer Jeff Leeds and architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff. But Cieply’s departure was filled with intrigue. Cieply’s pals say he received a phone call two weeks ago inviting him to come to the Big Apple on the NYT’s tab and lunch with culture news editor Jonathan Landman. Cieply told LAT business editor Rick Wartzman about the overture. Instead of chaining Cieply to the computer, Wartzman said to check it out.
The informal meeting turned into a full-court press, with Cieply led around the NYT offices for meetings with newsroom managers. He left with a job offer but no specific salary. The position would be a big promotion for him; at the LAT, he supervised only half a dozen writers, whereas at the NYT he would be the movie czar, period, with anyone covering film and the film industry reporting to him.
Meanwhile, all hell was breaking loose back at the LAT because of the NYT’s poaching. Hearing Cieply might be next out the door, Baquet went ballistic. After all, the LAT managing editor himself was a NYT defector: he'd been national editor when he left in 2000 and promptly organized a "Go West" migration of a handful of prominent reporters and editors from the paper. Now, the exodus was back to the East, so Baquet's anger may have stemmed from wounded pride.
The buzz around the business section had Baquet threatening to throw Cieply out of the building or, at the very least, insisting Cieply go home pronto until he’d decided what to do. That’s when Cieply sought refuge in the Globe Lobby. Calling on his cell, Cieply told Landman that if the money was good, he wanted the job.
At that point, Cieply wasn’t sure whether he was supposed to stay or to scram. Wartzman didn’t know either. So Cieply left. (It may be hyperbole but his pals say he fled so quickly he left his jacket behind.) He wrote his next story from home. Finally, Wartzman gently suggested Cieply pack up his office over the Fourth of July weekend when the bosses wouldn’t be there to see him.
Cieply declined L.A. Weekly’s request to discuss or fact-check the circumstances of his departure. “I’m not going to talk about the process. There’re some mangled details there, and Baquet never said to leave the building. It was much muddier than that.”
A veteran of Forbes and The Wall Street Journal, Cieply was in the midst of his second LAT stint. In the early ’90s, he left a high-profile job in the LAT’s Calendar section after having too many run-ins with then-in-charge Shelby Coffey III, known for his Industry cronyism. Telling friends he’d rather work for whores who at least knew they were whores, Cieply tried moviemaking. But after a decade he found the taste of Hollywood failure far worse than any frustration journalism could dish up.
He was coaxed into overseeing the L.A. office of Inside.com. When the start-up flopped, he wrote freelance articles for Esquire, The New Yorker and the NYT, who nearly hired him then. But budget pressures and management changes caused the new slot to be put on hold. Instead of waiting, Cieply was given total freedom and a fat salary when he rejoined the LAT, by then under new ownership.
Now the NYT is looking to fill a TV editor position. Just in case the paper steals from the LAT again, we suggest getting that Valium prescription ready for Baquet now.
Back in 1949 and well before Jere Henshaw became a well-known Hollywood exec, he was working his way through college at a Los Angeles messenger service. A call came in to pick up and deliver a huge roll of industrial carpet to Cahuenga between Melrose and Santa Monica boulevards. It was heavy work, and Henshaw, then 18 years old, couldn’t do it alone. “I need somebody to help unload this damn thing,” he begged to the receptionist.
Watching Henshaw’s predicament was a young guy dressed in khakis, T-shirt, white socks and loafers. “I’ll help ya,” he offered, and together the two lugged the carpet to the proper place. “What are they doing here?” Henshaw asked, looking around.
“A movie,” the helper answered.
“What’s it about?” Henshaw persisted.
When the helper said “paraplegics,” Henshaw didn’t know what those were. “Guys that get crippled in the war,” the
“Is it going to be any good?” Henshaw asked.
“I don’t know,” said the guy, and wandered off.
Henshaw hung around for a signature. “So what do you think of our leading man?” asked the receptionist. “That was him who just helped you unload the carpet.”
“That guy’s an actor? What’s he doing helping me?”
The receptionist explained that the actor was starring in his first movie. Henshaw asked the actor’s name. “You’re outta your mind,” Henshaw told her. “That guy can’t be an actor with a name like ‘Marlon Brando.’”
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