We Continue to Wait for the Story that Explains Nikki Finke
At least we've got a new Nikki Finke picture to look at. We were sick of that black-and-white portrait—the only photo of the Hollywood gossip available online—so we're glad the New Yorker added an illustration to the mix.
But other than that, Tad Friend's long-awaited profile of Nikki Finke, the proprietress of Deadline Hollywood, sadly missed the mark. We feel bad for Friend, because after having endured the exhausting emotional odyssey that is writing about Nikki Finke, whose limitless capacity for outrage and rhetorical combat are well-known to anyone who's been saddled with the task of profiling her (as are her perverse charm and cultivated vulnerability), he came up with what Finke accurately described as a "clip-job." After all the endless conversations and quarrelsome e-mails—some cc'd to attorneys—from Finke to Friend and his boss, New Yorker editor David Remnick, we'd hoped Friend would have come up with something meatier.
The story of Nikki Finke, it seems to us, is summed up in this paragraph from Friend's profile:
She has noticed a recent reduction in mendacity, perhaps because of her zero-tolerance policy: "I tell them, ‘If you care so little about what my site has to say, then you won't care what I have to say about this.' You call it bullying, I call it promising." Seeking coöperation, Finke has called potential sources "morons," banged the phone down, or e-mailed them to say, "I'll have to publicly humiliate you" or "WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THIS STUFF? Who's in charge? Because I'm about to explode." Asked about the name-calling, Finke says, "And how do you know they weren't acting like morons?" When I mentioned a few other examples, Finke responded, "Oh, boohoo! They're calling that bullying? What, it's a playground, where I'm taking away their milk and cookies?"
Well, what about those other examples, then? What, precisely, does Finke mean when she threatens to "say something" about "this"? The reason Sweet Smell of Success was a good movie was that there were knives, and people got stabbed with them. There's much wringing of hands about Finke's tactics in Friend's tale, but he doesn't really get the goods on the actual tactics themselves. Lets hear about those "promises." Let's hear about what stories Finke has gotten by threatening to "publicly humiliate" sources that refused to cooperate (or "coöperate," in the New Yorker's paleo-Germanic rendering of the English language.)
If Nikki Finke is running around Hollywood blackmailing people for information, then let's have it. The anecdotes that Friend brings to the table about how Finke got certain stories are interesting, but say more about Finke's usefulness to the moguls who are capable of positioning her "eight to twelve per cent above the facts, a little window dressing of protection, of delay, of shading, or of burying something" than her own little tricks for convincing people to say what she would like them to say.
We don't know for sure what those tricks are, or if Finke does in fact use them. But we know that there are things about her—or allegations about her—that she successfully kept out of the story, because she told us so: "I found Tad Friend, who covers Hollywood from Brooklyn, easy to manipulate, as was David Remnick, whom I enjoyed bitchslapping throughout but especially during the very slipshod factchecking process." It's of course cosmically and beautifully appropriate that Finke triumphantly boasts about successfully deploying the sort of smokescreen that she bemoans as wheedling spin when her subjects try it on her. It's also cosmically and beautifully appropriate that Finke writes that the way to school the New Yorker is to "act like a cunt and treat Remnick like a putz and don't give a fuck" just a few characters after detailing the "months and weeks and hours" of her time she spent on participating in the story and attempting to control its outcome. Trust us: Nikki Finke gives a fuck.
The most striking line in the story, from our perspective, was this one: "One top studio executive says, 'Nikki's blog you have to check, and the others you have to delete from your in-box.'" A top studio executive thinks he has blogs in his in-box? These people are idiots, and they deserve—the truly powerful ones, at least—the worst Nikki Finke has to offer them.