By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Judging from Monday’s horrific debut of the humongously pre-hyped celebrity blog the Huffington Post, the Madonna of the mediapolitic world has undergone one reinvention too many. She has now made an online ass of herself. What her bizarre guru-cult association, 180-degree right-to-left conversion, and failed run in the California gubernatorial-recall race couldn’t accomplish, her blog has now done: She is finally played out publicly. This website venture is the sort of failure that is simply unsurvivable. Her blog is such a bomb that it’s the movie equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate rolled into one. In magazine terms, it’s the disastrous clone of Tina Brown’s Talk, JFK Jr.’s George or Maer Roshan’s Radar.
No matter what happens to Huffington, it’s clear Hollywood will suffer the consequences. It seems like some sick hoax. Perhaps Huffington is no longer a card-carrying progressive but now a conservative mole. Because she has served up liberal celebs like red meat on a silver platter for the salivating and Hollywood-hating right wing to chew up and spit out. I hear that prominent liberals in L.A. and N.Y. and Washington D.C. are aghast not just that she’s encouraged jejune rants by their liberal brethren, but that she’s also provided yet another forum for select right-wing blowhards. They don’t understand why Arianna has saddled progressives with that "Hollywood elitist" branding.
Only the fawning mainstream media didn’t see this coming. Instead, The New York Times, the New York Observer, the Los Angeles Times et al. were too busy breathlessly reporting Arianna’s big plans and bons mots to bother to do any reporting. (The L.A. Times’ praising of her preening is understandable, since the parent company’s Tribune Media Services stupidly signed on to syndicate the blog’s blather.)
In fact, there’s a juicy behind-the-scenes story: The L.A. Weekly has learned that the blog’s start-up was god-awfully conceived from the get-go. That Hollywood biggies gave her concept the cold shoulder. That Huffington tried to use smoke and mirrors to fund her venture. That she never told her house celebs that she was putting in charge of her Hollywood blog the one bloggist best known nationally for hating everything and everyone Hollywood: former Drudge Report aide-de-camp Andrew Breitbart, author of the salacious anti-show-biz book Hollywood, Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon — The Case Against Celebrity. One of her Hollywood friends told me that "Arianna said merely she had somebody from this world of blogging to help her. She felt very secure someone they brought in knew what they were doing. People would have gone crazy here if they’d known it was the guy who wrote that awful book."
Misstep after misstep. Sure, her Web address got a lot of post-launch hits thanks to links from its targeted competitor the Drudge Report and a pre-arranged AOL promotion. But car wrecks also generate heavy traffic. And bloggers are criticizing her for not being brave enough to include comments. More to the point, a lot of her pre-launch promises haven’t yet materialized. Not only is there no Gwyneth Paltrow as of yet, there’s nary a Big Media heavyweight like Tom Freston, Barry Diller or David Geffen in sight — although late word from inside the Huffington Post is that Arianna is still hopeful they will begin contributing. Geffen’s supposed involvement especially intrigued Matt Drudge, who asked the L.A. Weekly, "Am I going to have to cancel my subscriptions to the trades? Is Geffen going to announce DreamWorks news on her blog?" I can report that, despite the blog’s pre-launch hype that he would be a charter member, Geffen never had any intention of blogging on Arianna’s site at that time. Moreover, sources tell me that Geffen’s people quietly told Huffington to stop using his name as bait in her less-than-successful effort to fund the blog with Hollywood money.
When I asked Huffington about these problems that befell her during the blog’s planning, she kept trying to change the subject. Finally, she resorted to a different ploy: She extended an invitation to me to join her blog. ("When we were conceiving this, we said to each other, ‘Do you think we could we get Nikki Finke?’")
Back to Arianna’s celebrity bloggers. I implore you: Forgive them, because they know not what they do. Not Seinfeld has-been Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her untalented TV-hyphenate husband, Brad Hall, making unfunny shtick of the anti-gay-marriage movement. Not has-been director Mike Nichols, using the forum to parade his high school grasp of U.S. history by mentioning "de Tocqueville" and "Dr. King" in the same paragraph. Not has-been brat-packer John Cusack, penning the 459,308th remembrance of Hunter Thompson for the sole purpose of letting the world know that the actor scored an invite to the writer’s intimate memorial service. Even lithely insightful screenwriter Larry Gelbart sounds flat-footed. Still, the celebs aren’t to blame here, because they allowed Arianna to sweet-talk them into casting pearls before swine. ("I was very moved, for example, by what Mike Nichols sent," Huffington told Newsweek. "It was just such a beautiful expression of his thinking." Arianna must have been swooning over the fact that Nichols is married to Diane Sawyer, because it can’t possibly be over the director’s bombastic blog b.s.)