Leave it to Run the Jewels to find the connection between psychedelic drugs and systemic disorder. The new video for “Legend Has It,” the first from the duo’s third LP RTJ3, finds Killer Mike and El-P tripping on acid in a police lineup alongside a rotating cast of unusual suspects: a nun, an innocent” little girl, a fireman, even a clown-faced police officer.
Directed by Brian Beletic, the treatment intentionally “plays with the theme of guilty until proven innocent,” he says. “We live in a world where the stronger the truth the greater the opposition. In this story EL-P and Killer Mike are in a police lineup and the cards are stacked heavily against them. But why is that?”
Go figure. As for those numbers flashing at the bottom of the screen around the two-and-a-half minute mark? Those would be the rising rates of mass incarceration between 1980 and 2010, which is surreal in itself considering the U.S. accounts for less than five percent of the world’s total population but close to 25 percent of the world’s prison population.
It’s enough to make you want to smoke a stuffed bunny rabbit. But as RTJ assures us, “No bunnies were hurt in the making of this video.”
A view of the Trump Park Avenue building in New York. President Trump’s properties have been attracting a large and generous circle of buyers, from wealthy Russians to a Chinese businesswoman, and many questions are being raised about the ethics of these deals.
Frank Franklin II/AP
Frank Franklin II/AP
Angela Chen makes money hawking her ties to important people, running a consulting firm that helps companies connect with Asia’s power players.
So it inevitably attracted notice when Chen spent nearly $16 million recently to buy a four-bedroom Park Avenue penthouse owned by President Trump himself.
The February deal, which was first reported by Mother Jones, underscores one of the problems posed by Trump’s ongoing business interests.
Trump famously made his mark in real estate, a business where prices inevitably fluctuate, making it possible to hide attempts to influence the president.
“The nature of his businesses make it much more complicated than it would be if he worked sort of in a commodities kind of business, with a public corporation. But he has a family, private business surrounded by secrecy in markets that are not transparent,” says Robert Weissman, president of the progressive watchdog group Public Citizen.
The issue is especially problematic because Trump has long done business with foreign buyers, especially those from Russia and China.
Reuters reported recently that at least 63 people with Russian passports or addresses had spent nearly $100 million buying real estate at seven Trump-branded properties in Florida.
Sometimes, those buyers have had what can best be described as shady pasts, such as David Bogatin, who was identified by U.S. officials as a member of the Semion Mogilevich organized crime family in the 1990s and once reportedly owned five condos in Trump Tower in Manhattan.
In 2008, Trump sold a Florida mansion to Russian “fertilizer king” Dmitry Rybolovlev for almost $100 million, after buying it four years earlier for $41 million. Rybolovlev has denied any wrongdoing, and the purchase took place well before Trump was seen as a plausible presidential candidate.
Still, Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California questioned FBI Director James Comey about the deal at Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing, suggesting that it was an attempt to influence Trump.
“Would a foreign adversary’s oligarch purchasing a home in the United States for 129 percent more than the home was purchased four years before, would that be a tool that a foreign adversary would use to try to recruit, develop or bring somebody on to their side?” Swalwell asked.
Comey declined to answer, and in fact, it can be hard to say sometimes what motivates a real estate deal.
Take the apartment purchased by Chen, who is described on the website of her firm, Global Alliance Associates, as having developed “a well deserved reputation as a respected and sought-after advisor on establishing business relationships in China.”
Chen also chairs the China Arts Foundation, a nonprofit started by the well-connected daughter of former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.
The apartment was in Trump Park Avenue, a condo building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side where Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner reportedly lived. The sale wasn’t listed and so the property had no initial asking price.
But Jonathan Miller, CEO of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants, says that in a saturated market for high-end properties, the sale price seems on the face of it a little on the high side.
“In any transaction, you can have the seller do a little better than the market or a little worse. In my view, the seller did a little better than what the market conditions would suggest,” Miller says.
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization said the sale to Chen was above board.
“All transactions, including this one, are vetted in accordance with our ethical guidelines and procedures which include thorough background checks and independent analysis conducted by third parties,” the spokesperson said.
Chen did not respond to requests for comment.
Was Chen trying to influence the president? It’s hard to say, Public Citizen’s Weissman notes.
“She just put $16 million into the pocket of the president. Did she do that because she just really wanted to buy this penthouse, or did she do that because she wanted to curry favor with the president?” Weissman asks.
The only way to take the issue off the table is for Trump to divest himself of the businesses he owns, something he has refused to do, Weissman says.
Chuck Barris, television producer who created several game shows, including The Gong Show, died Tuesday at 87.
NBC/NBC via Getty Images
NBC/NBC via Getty Images
Chuck Barris, the game show producer, emcee, author and songwriter who died Tuesday at his home in Palisades, New Jersey at the age 87, was in his time called “The King of Shlock,” “The Baron of Bad Taste” and “The Ayatollah of Trasherola.”
(… In fairness: It was the ’70s.)
Barris was a product of television. One of his first jobs was travelling the country trying to talk local stations into leasing the then-innovative technology TelePrompTers. Trying, and failing — though he was the first to admit he never tried particularly hard. In a 2003 interview he told The A.V. Club:
I would come to the station and dump the equipment there, and you know the engineers: They didn’t have a whole lot to do, so they got a kick out of looking at this crap. Then they would look at it, and I’d take off.
Like if I went to Louisville, I’d go the Louisville station and give them the TelePrompTer equipment and say, “You’re the first station in Louisville that I’m going to, so you have a leg up here. I’m not going to give you a sales pitch, it speaks for itself.” Then I’d take off.
I’d go around Louisville, checking out the horses, the big stables, and the countryside, and so on and so forth. I was fired a year later because I hadn’t sold a single TelePrompTer.
He then got a job as an NBC page at Rockefeller Center, and parlayed that into a gig backstage at ABC’s American Bandstand — where his duties included shadowing Dick Clark to reassure the network that Clark was not taking part in a payola scheme (he wasn’t). During this time, he began writing and producing music, most notably “Pallisades Park,” which became a hit for Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon in 1962 — peaking at #3 on the Billboard charts.
Barris wrote the 1962 hit “Pallisades Park,” among others.
ABC placed Barris in charge of their daytime schedule, because television was growing more competitive: NBC and CBS were beginning to program game shows, which were famously cheap to produce, earlier and earlier in the afternoon. Barris felt confident he could come up with better ideas than those he was being pitched, and formed his own production company in 1965.
He built his career on game shows, because, as he said in that same A.V. Club interview, “a) they were inexpensive, and b) if they hit, they hit big, and if they didn’t hit, they could be replaced immediately.”
The Dating Game premiered in ABC’s daytime lineup in December, 1965. On the show, young, attractive contestants quizzed three prospective — but unseen — dates for the right to take them out to dinner. It was a simple concept, and the contestant pool was stocked with toned, tanned, Southern-California wannabe actors, and the set was gloriously cheesy: a stucco wall splashed with a bright flower-power design scheme — think Rubbermaid daisies — separated the contestant from Bachelors #1, #2, and #3.
The Dating Game was followed by The Newlywed Game, logically enough, on which newly married couples would guess how their spouses would answer a series of lightly risque questions. The show was responsible for hauling the phrase “making whoopie” — first popularized by a 1928 Broadway tune — out of the Great American Songbook and into television history.
(Barris would go on to produce subsequent shows that continued to trace the arc of an American marriage, at least as it was popularly portrayed at the time: Three’s a Crowd was built around the question, “Who knows a man better: his wife, or his secretary?”; How’s Your Mother-in-Law? doubled down on its howlingly schticky titular premise; and The Family Game assembled adorable tots and beleaguered parents and applied Barris’ “Who knows whom better?” formula to the mix. None of the three took off.)
The Gong Show
Both The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game proved hugely successful for Barris. Not coincidentally, both came in for light criticism for lewdness, and a general lowest-common-demoninator approach to mass entertainment.
And then came The Gong Show.
Barris was fond of telling interviewers that The Gong Show was originally conceived as a sincere, straight-ahead showcase of amateur talent. (Note: Here’s a good place to point out that Barris also wrote a book claiming to be a CIA assassin.) According to Barris, it was only after he noticed that most of the acts auditioning for him were hilariously terrible, that he revised the show’s concept.
This was a turning point. Barris could easily have continued to enjoy a long and successful career as a producer, behind the scenes of the television industry. But when he replaced original host John Barbour as the show’s emcee, he became the public face of a kind of television loathed by critics, if not the public.
Part of it was the show itself, of course: It was cheap (deliberately so), it was crass (exultantly so), and it traded on a specific species of casual mean-spiritedness that felt like bad taste — and that left one in the viewer’s mouth.
But there was also Barris’s style, or lack of it. For a former TelePrompTer salesman, he was famously uncomfortable in front of the camera, and it showed. He attempted to overcorrect by creating a goofy, grinning, amped-up persona partial to silly hats (that he could tilt over his eyes and thus avoid looking into the camera). Where you or I would fill pauses with an “um” or an “uh,” he’d forcefully punctuate the end of most phrases with a resounding clap of his hands. It became a signature tic — audiences grew to anticipate this move, and frequently joined in.
The Gong Show‘s premise: D-list celebrities sit in judgment of a series of amateur acts, who are given a few seconds to sing (or dance, or play the spoons, or spin plates) until they are summarily dismissed by the striking of a huge gong. Barris comes over to “comfort” them, (“I don’t why they did that, I liked your act. But then again, I like rancid milk.”), he quizzes the celebrities as to their motivations, at which time they deliver a canned insult.
Repeat, until the half-hour is up, at which time any act which was not gonged receives a modest check ($516.72, originally).
The twist: Barris stacked the deck. Producers always included a ringer — a recognizably talented act — among the gongers. This implicated the viewing audience. Instead of empathizing with the sing-their-guts-out strivers, we found our sympathies nestled firmly with the conventionally “good” acts.
We wondered to ourselves why the guts-but-no-talent acts would even go on the show in the first place, to submit themselves to such humiliation. We told ourselves they must be too deluded or egotistical to understand the limits of their talents. We reassured ourselves it was thus okay to laugh at them.
Had he not struck upon that formula, television today would look much different than it does.
Barris would go back to that well with The $1.98 Beauty Show, which was to beauty pageants what The Gong Show was to talent shows: something intended as a light spoof which only served to intensify — to weaponize — the ugliest things about the thing they were ostensibly making fun of.
The joke, on The $1.98 Beauty Show, was that women whose appearance did not conform to the calcified beauty standards of 1970s popular culture (read: Southern California bikini-ready blondes), would dare to put themselves out there, alongside wannabe actress/spokesmodels, to be judged by the Jamie Farrs and Jaye P. Morgans of the world.
The twist: On The $1.98 Beauty Show, the ringers always lost, because the winners were pre-selected. The blonde models would be passed over, and the prize would instead go to a contestant of a certain age, and/or a certain size. The audience would, dependably, jeer.
Put that in context: Other popular game shows at the time, like Match Game and The Hollywood Squares, exuded a wholly different sensibilty. There was a low-wattage glamour to them, because of the relationship between their celebrities and their contestants.
On those shows, their various C-list celebrities seemed like a pantheon of boozy, convivial Greek gods, eagerly inviting contestants to join them on their orange-shag-carpeted Olympus. It’s just a party, they seemed to say. Come in.
The relationship between celebrities and contestants on Barris’s shows, despite his oft-cited fondness for “regular people,” was instead one of exclusion. Figures who have achieved a modest level of fame exist as gatekeepers, using ridicule to crowd mentality to keep wannabes from entering. How dare you, they seem to say. Stay out.
Plenty of shows before and since The Gong Show have been dubbed schlock; a slightly smaller number have even deserved it. For every serious-minded cultural touchstone like Playhouse 90 or I, Claudius in television history, there are 10 or 12 My Mother the Cars and The Bachelorettes.
Television needs both, and always has. Over his career, Barris dutifully supplied the medium with the kind of schlock that would get ratings — and that would encourage audiences to feel superior to the people onscreen.
That legacy endures. It’s not pretty, or high-minded, or even, strictly speaking, decent. But we go to television, at different times, for different reasons. Sometimes it’s to be uplifted by art, or to be informed by experts, or to bask in the light and warmth of human achievement.
Other times, after a bad day, we might just need to say: Geez, look at this guy.
That ability to generate, and to run on, our collective disdain, or at least disbelief, later went on to fuel a spate of television talk shows like Jerry Springer, of course. But the feeling that animated The Gong Show — “Can you believe this? That someone put this on TV?” — will always be part of the fuel mixture of television.
When hosting The Gong Show, Barris would often cut away to commercial the same way:
“We’ll be right back [CLAP] after the break [CLAP] with moooorrre STUFF.”
Homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American men aged 15 to 34 in the United States. It’s the third-leading cause for all men in that age group, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In recent years, there’s been a shift in many communities toward treating violence as a disease, and employing tried-and-true public health methods as treatment. And recent studies show it’s working.
Dr. Gary Slutkin is a physician and infectious disease control specialist at the University of Illinois Chicago. He’s also founder and executive director of Cure Violence, a not-for-profit whose goal is to employ public health methods to curb violence in Chicago and around the country. Slutkin (@GSlutkin) joins Here & Now‘s Robin Young to discuss his work.
Nashville country star Chely Wright makes her debut on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Wright’s musical road has been full of highs and lows. After being named Top New Female Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music in 1995, Wright went on to release a string of top-40 country hits like “Shut Up And Drive” and “Single White Female” and dueted with Brad Paisley at the Grand Ole Opry’s 75th anniversary. After what she describes as a “breakdown,” a “breakthrough” and a “break-up,” Wright released her 2010 LP Lifted Off The Ground alongside her memoir Like Me, which details her ups and downs as a closeted lesbian in country music.
Less than a week after Chuck Berry’s death at the age of 90, his family announced details Wednesday about the rock and roll pioneer’s first album in 38 years — and gave us a taste of what it will sound like.
“Big Boys,” the lead single to CHUCK (due out June 16 on Dualtone), begins and ends with a look in the rearview mirror. The song opens with one of the most recognizable guitar licks in history, the one made famous on “Johnny B. Goode” (which, as you may have heard, has left our solar system). And it closes with Berry looking back at his teenage years: “I was looking for joy / But I’m a little bitty boy.” It’s the same thematic territory he successfully plumbed throughout his career… so why stop now?
Berry, who passed away March 18 in his home near St. Louis, had been working CHUCK intermittently since the release of his last record, 1979’s Rock It, until 2014, when health problems eventually forced Berry to slow down. The existence of CHUCK was announced last October.
The record has at least two other substantive looks back — the titles of “Lady B. Goode” and “Jamaica Moon” both reference earlier works from Berry (“Johnny B. Goode” and the heartbreaking, dead-simple “Havana Moon”).
CHUCK is a family affair, too — three different generations of Berry bring guitar solos to “Lady B. Goode,” his daughter Ingrid duets on “Darlin’,” and longtime friends and collaborators appear throughout. Tom Morello, Gary Clark, Jr. and Nathaniel Rateliff also guest.