We have an obituary today; someone with whom you may not be too familiar but he was a massive behind-the-scenes mover and shaker who changed the face of TV awards shows.
Gil Cates produced the Oscars not once, not twice, but FOURTEEN times, and he passed away yesterday at age 77. He’s why we got Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart and even David Letterman as Oscar hosts. When the show began to tank and audiences stopped caring, he stepped in. In fact, Cates came aboard right after that Snow White dancing debacle (remember that? With Rob Lowe?) which was considered rock bottom. He’s long been credited with bringing the Academy Awards back from the edge – and injecting popularity into the show. Obviously it’s an extremely difficult undertaking (would you want to do it?) and he understood that you could never satisfy everyone, but he always managed to reflect a variety of tastes. The people who produce films, TV shows and music well are a rare breed, because they have to be coaxers, taskmasters, scorekeepers, bankers, psychiatrists, diplomats, and fundraisers all at once.
Cates was also producer of several TV shows and films, and extremely involved in LA theater. In the who’s who department, he was also actress Phoebe Cates’ uncle. Known for his graciousness and rather old-school Hollywood manner, he leaves behind a very long legacy, and will be sorely missed.
In less weighty news – but somewhat disturbing to lots of people — Reese Witherspoon is in trouble with PETA for carrying around a genuine python-skin handbag.(That also reportedly cost $4000, not that you asked). Hmm. When I first heard about this, I thought – okay, it’s a little tasteless in my book but any number of stars carry around and wear things I wouldn’t. I hadn’t realized that she was recently celebrated by PETA as one of the world’s Sexiest Vegetarians. Oh. So there’s that. Here’s the deal, Reese (and Hilary Swank) if you‘re going to be famous and you’re going to win Academy Awards, you’ll need to pay a little attention to your various causes. You need to be on that stuff. Nor can she say I didn’t know, because a) fashion – and all its features – kind of goes with the territory, and b) there’s no way anyone would believe that she’d carry a fake snakeskin pocketbook. So even though PETA’s tactics and style have frequently been a magnet for controversy, I think their claim is legit – she should have known better here.
While we’re on this topic, I’d like to point something else out. Full disclosure: I’m kind of partial to the animals, and I don’t eat read meat. In fact, I try not to eat anything you can scratch behind the ears (who would genuinely appreciate it). I also send money to various animal rights groups every year. My mother, who would eat an antelope if it was seared in butter and doesn’t hesitate to wander around in fur (this was before we knew it was wrong!!) also donates about 3/4’s of her net worth to animal causes. I totally believe in them and support them wholeheartedly, but I have a single major issue with the way PETA and various other animal/humane society organizations do business. Here goes: If someone sends you money, chances are they get what you’re trying to do. Chances are they’re sympathetic to your plight, and in this case, the creatures’ plight. SO…when you contact them again, which you will inevitably do because that’s how charities work, you don’t have to RECONVINCE them. There’s absolutely no need to send them shiny photos & graphic images of brutal/cruel/inhumane treatment. When they send me these horrible pieces of direct mail, I feel sickened – and I’m already on their side – and I am far less likely to pull out the old checkbook. I’ll do it, but I’d prefer the old-fashioned calendar-with-kittens routine. Just saying.
Now let’s talk about something upbeat – and potentially quite funny: Jerry Seinfeld’s taking over for Regis when the Master of Mornings steps down on November the 18th – after 28 years on TV. Seinfeld is only a temporary guest host, although he’s likely to be very popular. Let us know what you think – and if you’d like to see Seinfeld hosting something else all the time.
1) Jason Segel
2) Kim Cattrall
3) Howie Mandel
4) Jamie Oliver