Category Archives: Scandal

A Requiem for Amy Winehouse-July 25th 2011

When I heard that Amy Winehouse had died, I was strangely affected. I wasn’t even a fan of her music, yet somehow I was saddened. Maybe it was the coincidence of Jay Leno making a joke about her in his monologue the night before, or maybe  just the fact that another young star was lost to us that hit a nerve. The first time I heard her music on TV, it was the self-fulfilling prophecy “Rehab” that was playing.  The image of the beehive hairdo combined with the lyrics just made me roll my eyes. Crafting a song about drug addiction like it was something to be proud of bothered me. I also thought she was just another white girl trying to be a sister, from the sixties this time around. But nevertheless I totally ignored her from that point on. Now I wish I hadn’t, now I know that I missed something.

The reaction from people around me went from total indifference to those who felt she got what she deserved. The sad thing is that most of the people who feel that way will never know what it’s like to be an addict, how it can destroy your will to do what you love or be who you want to be. I have seen addiction firsthand and can tell you it’s not the barrel of fun that people make it out to be. I watched a co-worker scramble for drugs every day for over a year.While I drove him home every day, I listened to the phone calls trying to score a hit and out of the corner of my eye watched as he counted money, going through all  his pockets to collate what he had hoping it would be enough. I could feel his eyes upon me when he didn’t have enough money and I lied many times that I was broke. He left the company and I was relieved, the strain of watching him feed his addiction was starting to take its toll on me emotionally.

There are some who are blaming Amy’s close friend Kelly Osbourne and Amy’s parents, saying they should have done more to help her, but I think this is unfair to Kelly and also her parents who are most likely experiencing a lot of guilt. This is an old story unfortunately, for Amy and a handful of other stars.  When a group of friends gathered to try an intervention with CSN legend David Crosby back in the day, his response was to do a line of coke and walk out the door. You can’t sit on top of someone 24-7, sooner or later they have to be alone and no one can possibly be there every minute. The fact is that Amy had been rumored to have been in rehab recently, and after treatment in hospital and as an out-patient for lung problems associated with smoking tobacco and crack cocaine, she had received a clean bill of health from her doctor. She like other stars who died young was embarking on a comeback, with a new album in the works and a tour to follow-she was in good spirits according to those close to her. There was no reason to suspect that she would wind up like she did, in fact it will be several weeks before the toxicology reports are done. So far foul play has been ruled out and the autopsy was inconclusive as to the cause of death.

In interviews her former band mates concluded that the sudden overnight success took a toll on the sensitive young singer and she responded in the typical manner of the gritty Camden neighborhood she grew up in, it’s a place where fast times and the rock-n-roll club life are part of the nightly music scene, where the young singer was easily drawn into the drugs and heavy drinking while she was paying her dues and learning her craft. The pressure of stardom took its toll on Amy, after her sudden explosive success followed emergency room visits and arrests and rehab. But it was the relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil that was the turning point for Amy, at least one band mate Neal Sugarman remarked that the change in her was visible. The first tour was a lot of fun compared to the second tour supporting “Back To Black” which wasn’t fun at all. Sugarmen felt that the return of Blake was when Amy started taking drugs again, he remarked that the last time he saw her in London “it was not a pretty sight”. She was unable to sing on some of the songs they were working on and said “it was really depressing”. In their hit song “Truckin” Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead sings “What in the world ever became of sweet Jane, she’s lost her sparkle you know she isn’t the same. Living on Reds, Vitamin C and Cocaine…all her friends can say is ain’t it a shame.” This seems to be a direct reference to Janis Joplin, a friend of the band and one of the members of the unfortunate 27 Club; rock stars who died at 27. This includes Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison among others.

But the warning signs were there and some people in the industry said that Amy was on what they call a “death watch”, an interesting term considering that people on a death watch are usually behind bars and kept from using any devices that could cause themselves harm. Why then don’t we have the same precautions in place for family and friends. In her short life Amy suffered and struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol, depression, eating disorders and self-harm issues. The real tragedy is that brilliant career that could have been hers is now lost forever, we’ll never know what might have been had she lived and kept recording the kind of music she loved. What we do know is that she opened the door for new female artists to walk through, Lily Allen rode in after Amy’s release of Back To Black, and Adele credits Winehouse with making the US market easier for herself and Duffy to achieve success. This also ushered in a third wave of female artists including VV Brown, Florence and the Machine, La Roux and Little Boots. But the most acclaim came from Lady Gaga who said Amy Winehouse “paved the way” for her rise to the top of the charts. Winehouse could be said to have jump started a revival of soul music that started in 2000. Amy’s work made it possible in 2009 for five female artists to be nominated for the Mercury Prize in the UK and that year to be called the “year of the woman” in music circles. That is more than can be said for many artists who had hit records who were clean and sober, that she was able to do all this and stand up for causes and start her own record label speaks well of her ambition and energy. Not quite the picture of the irresponsible addict painted by so many. One can easily imagine a new young singer somewhere in the UK or US, unknown at the moment. She has been watching Amy on TV and dreaming of stardom. The thrill of it all, a new sound that harkens back to the age of soul, who many will compare to Amy Winehouse, but a new face, and hopefully a career that will stand the test of time and the roller coaster ride of fame without breaking under the enormous pressure. That is the legacy of a singer like Amy Winehouse.

My unexpected reaction to her death was to sit and watch You Tube videos of Amy in concert, that is where I first realized the power of her vocals and the emotional element she added to them, a conviction about the lyrics and the  honesty with which she sings her songs. I have tried to analyze my feelings of loss, were they driven by a latent sexual desire?…no, she’s not my type so I don’t think that played a role. Was there a deeper issue involved? Such as my lifelong struggle with food and weight loss issues? Yes, that was at least part of it, I could understand the desire for something that was off-limits, and potentially dangerous. But it had to be something more, buried deep in my subconscious. I still haven’t found what it is that moved me so much as I sat at my kitchen table stunned from the news. I can totally understand now why Elton John was moved to write “Candle In The Wind about Marilyn Monroe. I will be sure to buy all available recordings of Amy on CD or DVD, and like so many bands that are no more, I will cherish what we have of them to enjoy. Perhaps the greatest gift Amy unknowingly gave me is the gift of being more open in my mind to new ideas. To listen to new sounds and really see new images before passing judgement and moving on. So goodbye Amy, maybe you didn’t realize how much love was coming your way. While you were searching for the perfect love that doesn’t exist in life,perhaps you finally found it in death. I hope so for your sake…rest in peace.

Regrettably

Glen

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Letterman-Victim Or The Crime?

The front page of the Daily News in New York on Friday Oct 2nd was an early morning surprise for me, when I discovered that my old pal David Letterman was yet again the target of some plot I couldn’t help thinking of the culture of attack we live in as I covered in my post Phelps, Pot and Precognition a few months ago. I call Dave my old pal because from 1981 to 1989 I was self employed and watched his show every night while I worked, obviously I don’t know him personally and regrettably stopped watching his show when I started working for the “man” and could no longer stay up late. Yet although I could have recorded it and watched it the next day…I didn’t,  I tried a few times now that I think back to those days but watching it at five o”clock didn’t work…something for me was lost.

I know I missed many good shows since then and always thought he was screwed by the execs at NBC when they picked Jay Leno to take the helm of the Tonight Show over Dave. But what has been revealed and continues to come out in the media has really been a study in media frenzy and what I will call the “Days of the Long Knives” for David and his family and I’m starting to think maybe it’s got nothing to do with monetary gain but rather a personal vendetta against Late Show with David Letterman as a TV entity as well as it’s namesake.

The alleged blackmailer Robert J.”Joe” Halderman is the  producer of the acclaimed CBS 48 Hours Mystery, an in depth reporting program that has seen Halderman nominated for Emmy Awards for his pieces about Sarajevo and Russia’s brutality against their own people, he has also worked in war zones such as Somalia and Bosnia. Halderman was considered ” hard driving” but also refered to as a “swashbuckler” described as brave and capable of doing any story he was given. But in his off hours he was called a “party animal” who was a barrel of laughs, a spendthrift who enjoyed the night life.

 But MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann remembers a different man that he worked with at CNN in the 1980’s, on his blog Olbermann wrote that whenever somebody gets arrested for some stupid or horrible crime people always say “That’s not the guy I knew?” Well not this time, as Olbermann reveals “This is exactly the guy we knew at CNN.” He also stated that Halderman thought he was better than everyone else and that there was no weeping when he left CBS.

 The young woman at the center of this scandal is Stephanie Birkitt, a Wake Forest University graduate who actually interned at CBS in 1996, where she would have likely met or at least become known to both Letterman and Halderman before graduating in 1997. It was shortly after this that she started working on 48 Hours where I suspect Joe Halderman was first attracted to the pretty young girl who now was legal age, but after a short time Birkitt moved over to Late Show to get away from the serious news business and worked as a producer on the Late Show. Later when the job of personal assistant to Letterman opened up Birkitt applied for and got the job to be in Dave’s inner circle where she was quite happy calling Dave the “best boss I ever had” in a 2002 interview. Then in an 2003 interview at her old school she described the working environment as fun and Dave as kind, personable and generous and was “great fun to play catch with,” (you play catch and get paid for it!).

 But also Late Show is known as a serious work environment where 15 hour days are the norm and the female staffers were happy with the workplace environment according to former employees. This I think is the beginning of the love triangle that will develop into this last act of revenge that pushes Halderman to try and settle the score with Dave for getting the girl he wanted an affair with while he was still married!

 The fact is that people who work together long hours usually wind up playing together too, and in this sort of environment (bars/party’s) it’s easy for people to hook up and have affairs. I mean years ago I knew a group of people who worked together at the Sears Auto Center when I was a delivery driver for an auto parts store. One day I noticed that this little short mechanic was kissing a beautiful tall European looking blonde who worked in the office up front! They were totally mismatched and looked odd together so I asked him about it and he told me…”we had our Christmas party at the bar down the block a few weeks ago, at the end of the night we were the last two people left at the bar…and it just happened.” I don’t know what became of that hookup but all kinds of weird matches are made every day. You also have to remember that Dave who has always been very self deprecating, calling himself a geeky guy and has been very reserved almost shy in a way. I’m guessing he  was probably not much of a lady’s man in his younger days. I think that if you look at the types of people Dave has had in his life they could easily be described as plain jane’s who are interested in writing and are professionals, you don’t find people who look like Duffy on his staff. The fact that no sexual harassment charges have ever been brought against Dave and that one former staffer said Dave’s definitely not a “groper” kind of leads me to believe that this was a case of total infatuation. Birkitt, a young attractive girl, who by all accounts liked Dave’s offbeat sense of humor, and for Dave it was the equivalent of the cheerleader he never had.

 This of course doesn’t excuse his cheating on his long time girlfriend Regina Lasko, but 23 years is a long time to date someone and I can’t help feeling like they were together for convenience and sex rather than love. The fact is that Regina was a former staffer at Late Night and should have known Dave for the lady’s man he is now being portrayed to be by the media, therefore I find it confusing that Lasko is surprised or mad at this revelation which she should have expected.

  This is where the really tough moral questions come in to play, as we have seen men have a built in instinct to mate with many females that was hard wired into our brains to expand the population. Men have been trying to overcome that instinct for the past 30 years at least on paper. But culturally speaking, many of us do a pretty good job of it most of the time. I personally have never cheated on a girlfriend I was with, but that didn’t stop me from looking at other girls and desiring them as well. Don’t roll your eyes girls, I’m being honest here so you can understand- it’s not personal.

  I was madly in love with my ex fiance at one time yet still found myself checking out other girls in stores or malls while we walked together. It’s something that men do on an almost subliminal level, the difference being there are those who act on those desires and those that don’t. I mean indeed I once knew a woman (not my lover) who actually bought her husband a subscription to Penthouse so he had the stimulation at home to enjoy. Yet judging by her smile at my shock, it worked for them and for her too as she alluded to the benefits of a stimulated man!

 But the most shocking thing to me was when a young former co-worker; a latino male of about 18 (who was not good looking by any means) who had girls sending him text messages and cheesecake pictures requesting “stress relief,” informed me that it was common to have many girlfriends but there was only one “wifey.” The girl who was wifey was your favorite, the one you cared about the most and the girl your friends were not allowed to look at with desire or talk smack about at all. This was the girl you took to family parties or holiday occasions, this was astounding to me and was an accepted form of behavior by college age people. It was also possible for girls to have the same arrangement with other guys! This was a don’t ask don’t tell arrangement, and all this information was backed up by other young people related to me that I questioned about this social practice. The attitude was if infidelity is going to happen anyway why get mad… just have open relationships and no one gets hurt.

 The relationship between Letterman and Birkitt seems to have ended around the time when Dave and Regina found out they were going to be parents, and Birkitt went back to Halderman sometime after the breakup and eventually moved in with him. She paid him a whopping $1500 a month to help the now divorced 51-year-old who was paying out $6800 in child support and was also deep in debt but still trying to keep his golfing /partying life style intact. So we now can see the intention of Birkitt all along was to get with an older man and try to advance her career, she went with Dave after leaving the staff of 48 hours to have fun and got some face time on TV, because as fans of the Late Show know well…Dave likes to use his staff in bits and sketches, members of the band, stage manager Biff Henderson, even going so far as to bring out a petrified female staffer who was getting married to do several bits so she could get paid for being on TV (on top of her regular salary) as a wedding present! Dave sent Birkitt to cover the 2002 and 2006 Olypics and had her do silly bits on the show from time to time so by all accounts Miss Birkitt had a swell time and was paid a very good salary too, even after the breakup Birkitt was still employed by Letterman and is now on paid leave from the show.

 But it was during the time that Birkitt was living with Halderman,about 2005 to late Sept 2009 that Halderman allegedly read Stephanie Birkitt’s diary and love letters to Dave that she had saved. This then was the package that was presented to Letterman in early September with the request for 2 million dollars. There is also a rumor that Halderman had David Letterman’s office bugged or video taped in some way but only the FBI knows for sure and they …are not talking.

 So right now we still don’t know the real truth about all this, did Halderman snap when he found out that his ex-wife was taking the kids out-of-state to live?  Maybe it was the fact that Birkitt was not happy with Halderman for refusing to have children with her and was getting tired of waiting and threatening to leave? How could he think that a man like Letterman (who was driving Birkitt home to Halderman’s house after work at night, even though they were split up) would just lay down and die and submit to extortion?

 The media’s frenzy that is going on is amazing, panels are discussing the ethics of the workplace with psychiatrists and psychologists and all sorts of experts talking about how we have to re-examine our work policy regarding office romance, militant feminists are calling for Dave to be drawn and quartered and his show to be cancelled and former Gotti attorney Gerald Shargel is waiting with bated breath to cross-examine Letterman if the case goes to trial, which I’m betting  won’t even go that far.  The case will be settled out of court and what Dave’s legal team will do… is make this go away as fast as possible.

 The strange thing is that Dave is getting very high ratings for all this embarrassment and discomfort, with Jay Leno moved to 10:00 o’clock time slot and Conan O’Brian in Jay’s still warm seat I expected a surge in Late Show ratings but not for this reason!  I know what Dave did was wrong and I feel it may cost him his marriage in the long run and that is a shame but if I was Regina I would stay with Dave, have a fling of my own to get even, and try to forget it ever happened.

 The 20 million dollar ranch that Dave owns out west and the house on the water in the tropics could make me forgetful easily, as well as the weekly allowance that she probably already gets could be doubled as well. Then what about poor Stephanie Birkitt?

 Well, if she had any real feelings for either man, it can only be speculated on, I’m sure she knew about Dave’s girlfriend when she hooked up with Dave. The love letters that were used by Halderman were never sent? If not why? These facts are ignored by feminists who don’t want to admit it but Birkitt was 22 when she started working for Dave, hardly a stupid kid but a college grad, with a taste for older men in positions of power in the industry. If she isn’t looking for a sugar daddy then why not hook up with someone in their late 30’s, instead of a 51 year old Halderman? Then also if she really loved Dave then why not insist that he split with Regina Lasko and marry her instead?  She will probably do the talk show circuit and write a tell all book in a few years, unless her silence is bought out by both men and then she will have a house in the tropics too.

  Halderman who has lost his job with CBS is the loser in all this, he doesn’t have a chance now of coming off all this clean, he has lost all his credibility, he might just as well skip town and try his luck as a beach comber in the tropics. If he does Birkitt and Letterman will need orders of protection! LOL…not funny though, that’s why I’m not Dave I guess.

 David Letterman was about 50 when he hired Birkitt who was 22, Birkitt was 34 when she left Halderman who is 51. I am 47 going on 27, why-because I work at every day. I think young act young I try to be younger than I am because I believe it preserves youth and keeps you from aging. In the unlikely event that some girl in her twenties was interested in me I would be ecstatic, not because I “bagged” a young girl at my age but because I’m alone, and loneliness is everything it’s cracked up to be. But I would not accept the advances of that twenty something girl while I had a forty something waiting for me at home, I just don’t roll that way. But I don’t know for sure because it’s never happened to me. You just don’t know what your capable of untill you do it, whether it’s good or bad. You never know just how you look through other peoples eyes either.

 So Dave you screwed up buddy…from one geeky guy to another-you screwed up. Best wishes for all involved. 

Peace

Glen

Ps: The information used in this article is in the public domain and was memorized from numerous radio shows, TV news briefs, and talk show conversation, online sources and speculation on my part. It is not intended to be taken as gospel truth but as a conglomerate of all the available information on the subject. I have no intention of hurting anyone and will apologize up front to anyone I offended in the creation of this piece. GH
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