I’ve received emails from people asking why this column has stopped offering “memos” to industry leaders dispensing unsolicited advice. The reason is that so much advice is needed, I haven’t known where to start.
Casting aside these inhibitions, however, here’s unsolicited advice en masse:
- To President Kim Jong-Il of North Korea: Several diplomats report that you once wanted to pursue a career in film production. With this in mind, I would urge you to turn your attention to action sequels that have been dormant — “Rambo” and Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish” come to mind. The studios would welcome your outside financing, and your productions would surely provide needed distraction from your nuclear fixation.
- To the toppers of Google and YouTube: You made sure we all knew you closed your $1.65 billion deal at a Denny’s, so it’s time to sweep away these Silicon Valley affectations. You guys like the big bucks as much as anyone else, so it’s OK to admit you prefer Spago to Applebee’s. Your chauffeurs can now pick you up in your Maybachs rather than dusting off the nanny’s Chevy.
- To Barbra Streisand: Avoid hurling the “f” word at audience hecklers, because fans take it personally. I realize you don’t mean to offend anyone, but while the “f” word works in dealing with movie or music executives (yes, Barbra, I’ve heard you), it resonates badly at Madison Square Garden.
- To Carly Fiorina: As the first female CEO of a Fortune 20 company, you’ve written a new book in which you describe your rage at being described as “flashy” or “glamorous” by the press. Well, Carly, Sumner Redstone has endured being called “handsome” and “youthful” for many years, and he hasn’t complained.
You also observe in your book that the “glass ceiling” no longer exists in the business world. Unfortunately, you failed to observe that the “glass trapdoor” has come into play; it gobbled you as well as Pat Dunn, your female successor at Hewlett Packard. “Glamorous” is good, Carly. Getting fired is bad.
- To Sean McManus, president of CBS News: Since the network’s epiphany in recruiting Katie Couric as anchor has failed to reignite the nightly news, how about reversing the second part of your revisionist approach? That means injecting some actual news back into your nightly equation and dropping some of your riveting “lifestyle” stories, such as the three-minute interview with choreographer Twyla Tharp. Since you’ve essentially reduced Iraq coverage to a single sentence and North Korea to a clause, will Katie next try to encapsulate the approaching election results in a 30-second soundbite?
- To political campaign strategists: Since every politician follows the mantra that “the family” is the only thing that holds our country together, would someone please study the latest census report? Data confirmed last week that married folks are now officially in the minority. The majority of households in this country consist either of single people or unmarried couples. So who will be the first brave politico who aims his pitch at singles? No, that suggestion is not aimed at Congressman Foley.
- To Warren Beatty: Now that you’re spinning your behind-the-scenes anecdotes on “Reds” 25 years after its initial release — talk about a tardy press tour! — why haven’t you included an account of Paramount’s contortions in funding your pricey epic?
A master of the pitch (Who else could set up “Ishtar”?), you managed to seduce Charles Bluhdorn, then chairman of Gulf & Western (later renamed Paramount) into backing your venture over the protests of some at the studio. Since you were the writer-star-director-producer rolled into one, no one (including the combustible Bluhdorn) could figure out how to negotiate with you once the shooting schedule (and budget) began to expand … and expand.
In the end, Bluhdorn recruited the help of a financial guru (his name was John Heyman), who concocted a monumentally complex British tax scheme that instantly transformed an over-budget movie about Socialism into an adventure in profitable capitalism — and you, Warren, shared in the goodies.
As I said at the outset, there are just too many people out there in need of my random advice. That’s why, in the future, I plan to wait for someone actually to solicit it.
Yes, I’m expecting a long wait.