Hollywood on the Potomac: Freaks and Cinema Geeks

by kevin_chaffee

Willie Geist’s new book explores pop culture absurdities, while filmmakers delve into the strange side of politics at the NIAF gala.
By Janet Donovan

Pat and Shelley Buchannan. Image courtesy of Janet Donovan.

Pat and Shelley Buchannan. Image courtesy of Janet Donovan.

FREAKY: For anyone who follows political and cultural shenanigans might think that MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Willie Geist was talking about Washington in his book, “American Freak Show,” but he’s not.   He’s talking about the other freak show: Snooki, Tiger Woods, Fidel Castro, Sarah Palin, Lindsey Lohan, “Blago” and Eliot Spitzer.

“American Freak Show – well, we live in it everyday. We may not know it, but we’re all unwitting participants – actors, extras – walking in the background of the freak show,” said Geist at a powerful A-list book party at the home of Norah O’Donnell and Geoff Tracy.

“One year ago, you didn’t know who Snooki was.

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Now it feels like she’s part of the family. Snooki perfectly represents the American Freak show: talent no longer requisite to become famous. Just have a little attitude, stuff yourself in your dress, get drunk on TV and you’ve got yourself a career,” he added.

On the even younger generation he says “I try to stay away from attacking teenagers, if possible, but in the second volume of ‘American Freak Show,’ I’m coming after Justin Bieber.  He’s corrupting the tweens of this country.”

Guests included Maureen Dowd, Pat and Shelly Buchanan, Jonathan Capehart, Maureen Orth, Luke Russert and Karen Finney.


Dion and wife; Photo by Janet Donovan

Dion and wife; Image courtesy of Janet Donovan.

In town for a private screening at The West End Cinema, filmmaker Alex Gibney (“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”) likens his new movie “Client 9,” based on the sex scandal that brought down former New York City Governor Eliot Spitzer, to a kind of mystery thriller and that’s how he structured it.  “There are all sorts of contours to it,” he said.  “On the one hand, it’s about very personal issues – about sex, fidelity, marriage, infidelity, prostitution – but it’s also about the political blood sport in this country which is extremely vicious.  It’s also about the crimes that Eliot Spitzer committed on the one hand and the far greater crimes by those committed by Wall Street, the pharmaceutical firms and polluters. It gives you a broad sense of American political culture.

“This is not a new story, it’s an ongoing story. Maybe we should have more women in Congress. Men just can’t seem to keep it in their pants.”

ZIP CODES: Actor Danny DeVito wants you to know that not all of the crazies reside in the 90210 zip code.  “You think Hollywood is full of wackos,” he said. “Washington is really full of wackos.  I mean, I haven’t seen one sane person since I got here.

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I’m telling you, it’s like everyone’s on the come, everybody’s looking for something, it’s like bizarre.

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”  Despite that, DeVito was having a wonderful time holding court at the elite Café Milano private dinner the night preceding the 35th Annual National Italian American Foundation Gala, as was fellow actor Joey ”Pants” Pantoliano. The latter, who has won honors for his documentary “No Kidding! Me 2!!”on depression, talked about his own battle with the disease.  “After I was informed by a psychiatrist that it was a brain disease and that it wasn’t my fault, I became elated and my healing began; I felt like I hit the lottery.”  His next film delves into post-traumatic stress disorder in the military.

At the gala, actor-turned-singer Robert Davy discussed how the economic recovery has affected Hollywood.  “It’s not just the economy,” he said, “it’s the whole communications revolution.  There are so many alternative forms of entertainment that a lot of traditional entertainment is falling through the cracks.  It’s still, though, one of the great exports of America.”

Later on, Italian producer and NIAF honoree Aurelio DeLaurentiis gave us a sneak peek at his next flick.  “We are shooting right now a movie, ‘Book of Love,’ with Robert DiNiro who is acting in the Italian language which is very very strange for an American actor.” Stay tuned.

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