Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Traci Lords called me an A**hole

I think I’ve reached my pinnacle as a blogger!

Traci Lords on her Twitter page called me an asshole for an article I wrote about her (a TRUE article by the way). I was getting back at her because I wasn’t “good enough”. Oooh, I feel inadequate.

Stepping on toes unfortunately comes with the territory, especially if you’re a humor blog. As Larry Gelbart once said:

“If what you're writing isn't likely to offend or annoy anyone at all, go back and start again.”

I do have rules however. I never try to be malicious or just hurl a gratuitous shot. I once read a review about a show set in Hawaii and out of nowhere the guy rips BIG WAVE DAVE’S, which had been off the air for ten years. Or in the Baltimore Sun very positive review of ALMOST PERFECT the critic says. “Levine is as good a writer as he is a bad sportscaster”. Ouch!

So I try to be a fair and an equal-opportunity sniper.

Sometimes the objects of my ribbing get in touch. Diana DeGarmo’s mother was quite incensed over a piece I wrote about stage parents. We traded emails and actually developed a mutual respect. (I would not recommend this as way of meeting new friends however.) Writer Paul Haggis rebutted something I had said and we became picket line buddies.

Side note to WGA members: Remember all those close relationships you made walking the line every day. How many of them do you still stay in touch with? I owe about six lovely people a call.

Thanks to the LA TIMES misconstruing something I said about Aaron Sorkin’s show STUDIO 60 he came out and blasted me in the paper. But that too got all smoothed over, and Aaron I greatly appreciate the note.

I don’t think I’ll be getting a similar note from Katherine Heigl anytime soon. Or her fans.

The feedback and comments I receive are always fascinating. I usually leave them up, even if they’re unflattering, as long as the dear reader doesn’t hide behind anonymity. An exception to this was when I made one negative passing reference to Opie & Anthony and was flooded with the most vile hate mail ever received. Death threats are not constructive criticism. The Katherine Heigl throng just called me a no-talent blithering idiot. Oh, and one person said I was ugly.

Ironically, I got a tremendous amount of hate mail once for saying nice things about a person – Patty Heaton.

Perception is often the key. I’ve been posting humorous travelogues whenever I stray from home. Vegas, Milwaukee, New York, London, Chicago, Hawaii, Seattle, Dallas, Cincinnati, Palm Springs – lots of places. Never have I received a complaint. But one reporter saw my recent Denver piece and decided I hate Denver (which couldn’t be farther from the truth) and suddenly I’m getting all these irate missives from Denver folks. Jeez, I’m MUCH harder on Los Angeles and I live here.

I do try to stay away from political pieces. Those I now save for the Huffington Post. But just before the 2006 election Larry Gelbart asked me to post a political piece he had written. I was thrilled to be able to do him a favor (plus we shared the same political views). Holy crap! Did that cause a firestorm. Tons of angry readers. The interesting thing is that several said they were never coming back to this blog. And within a month they all were back, commenting as usual.

There have been times I have changed things if I felt I was unjustly attacking somebody or was out of line. But the Traci Lords article – I stand by it.

Again, criticism is an occupational hazard of comedy. I just hope I make you laugh more than I make you want to kill me.


Anonymous said...

So I guess she sees you as a co-star then?

Steven said...

Hey I think I heard some of your play by play in today's episode of Modern Family and it didn't seem that bad, except it was a little too casual for a one run game in the 9th.

J.J. said...

Nothing like being timely, eh Traci? Guess that explains the not-being funny thing.

Even though you don't owe me a phone call, I walked with Garner Simmons at Radford and you were very kind when we talked.

l.a.guy said...

For some reason I read this as "Katherine Heigl's thong just called me a no-talent blithering idiot". And I thought, well being so intimately close to one on a regular basis, the thong would be expert at spotting another.

For what it's worth at least you've got one fan... Republican strategist Mike Murphy who was nice enough to tweet about your Letterman post. (IMHO Murphy is one of the few intelligent and articulate Republicans seen on television these days, so I would be flattered.)

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Right on! You pinko, commie, left-leanin', right-wing son of a motherless goat!


Dhppy said...

I thought that Heigl fan called you fat not ugly (there is a difference, those Biggest Loser women turn into hotties at the end). And, the real marvel is that they were basing this on your writing style instead of a photo. Perhaps, you kept pressing two keys down at once that day?

Baylink said...

Ok, Alan Sepinwall thought that was you calling the game too; come clean, dude...

dessodig: what the boyz in da hood say about the the Central Artery Tunnel project.

A. Buck Short said...

Steve beat me to it. I too thought that was about 6-7 seconds of you on Modern Family tonight. I think your sportscasting voice is distictive because everything isn't a "pronouncement." You come across as a... whatd'yacallit? person. So was it?

Also I wouldn't worry about the mail from Denver -- unless it's signed something like Najibullah Zazi and bears just a hint of the aroma of hydrogen peroxide and acetone.

John said...

Well, Tracy has had a lot of hands-on experience with assholes (and tongues-on experience, and winkies-on experience), so I suppose you've gotta take her Twitter post as coming from the throat of an expert.

By Ken Levine said...

You people are VERY observant. Yes, that's me doing the play-by-play. Some people have voice over careers. I have a voice under career.

growler said...

Ken, I wondered if that was you. I watched "Modern Family" for the first time tonight, based on your post about it last week. At first I was like, "Eh." But after 5 or 10 minutes I was completely sold. So, thanks for the tip!

Jason said...

I don't agree with your politics, but I care about them about as much as I care about Katherine Heigl's personality. That's not the main attraction.

No complaints about your take on Phoenix, BTW. It was spot on.

Unknown said...

Yeah, those Opie & Anthony fans can be crazy. The regular fans are fine. The hardcore ones are known as the pests, and for a good reason. When they are focused on a goal, they will attack like a swarm of bees and won't leave till you're in a coma. Sometimes their power can be used for good. But it's a thin line between love and hate. And that's just between the show and the fans.

Ben Scripps said...

I dare you--no, double dog dare you to ask her to be part of the "select group of actors" performing at the end of the Sitcom Room.

Anonymous said...

Hey asshole, where's the link?

Did she actually use the word or did she 'censor' it like you did in the title?

Paul Duca said...

I was going to post a comment about MODERN FAMILY the moment I heard it, but I didn't think it really fit under the Letterman piece. And if we are going to discuss blogging etiquette, perhaps you should have mentioned your connection to the show when you raved over it (in the interest of full disclosure).

P.S. When I linked your blog to a Usenet group of mine, one o them--a USA TODAY sportswriter--told me that as a sports announcer, you're a good comedy writer.
I won't mention names....but he's the only visually impaired person ever to he a undefeated champion on JEOPARDY, so you can Google him.

Andrew Talbert said...

I happen to think you were very unfair to Heigl and very misinformed. It was interesting to read an interview one of the Grey's writers recently - Krista Vernoff who also produces the show from time to time. She told the Futon Critic:

"I think that Katherine gets sort of a bad rap. I have to say I think if Katherine was a man and saying the same things that Katherine says I don't think she'd get the rap she gets. My answer is I find Katherine to be collaborative and smart and a really important part of the show. "

I have to agree 100% and your comments about her a while back simply reinforced my opinion.

Fred said...

What are "Opie & Andy?"

John said...

What are "Opie & Andy?"

Mayberry's raunchiest AM drive radio show. Also featuring little Otis Campbell.

blogward said...

Well on your behalf, Ken, I'm calling TC a c********r

Tom Quigley said...


Any time you can say something about Katherine Heigl and post a picture like that of her, I'm OK with it. I don't care what the hell you write... (Now back to my fantasy)....

Anonymous said...

When I asked a life long Orioles fan how you were as an announcer, he said that he really liked MASH. (Didn't ask him to compare you to After MASH.)

And you couldn't have any worse than Chip Caray on Tuesday. His book should be called "It's a line drive single for an out."

Roger Owen Green said...

Damn, I can't get Traci Lords OR Katherine Heigl ticked with me.

David O'Hara said...

At least Traci didn't fuck her way into showbiz.

Anonymous said...


Why is it you don't like if we people remain "anonymous" when they post comments or questions?

First of all, when people do use names, they may not be authentic. Second, you are not going to know most people who leave comments here.. so, how does it matter whether they use a name or not? So, isn't it upto the people? I expect that if people want to establish long-term communication with you, they would assume an identity and if not, they may prefer to just remain anonymous!

PS: If I get a convincing reason from you, I'd un-anonymous myself from now on!

VP81955 said...

Ken, I hope you haven't insulted Alyssa Milano, since I just read (and liked) her new book, "Safe At Home," and wrote about it as part of an entry on female baseball fans:

Weird game at Chavez Ravine last night -- it was getting to the point where I thought John Rooney and Vin Scully were going to be left on base. (Everyone else was.)

Take care and enjoy the 3 p.m. (Pacific) start, and shadows -- at least you won't have the winds that made life fun at the Cit yesterday.

Joe said...

Seeing as how she started her career prior to the age required by the law -- and causing much furor once found out -- imagine how much trouble could have been saved had she dated Roman Polanski instead.

TE said...

Ken: On a show last night, there was a scene set at a yard sale. Customer comes up to the seller holding a lamp, and says "Can I get this in brown?"

"No, you can't," the seller responds, followed by the zinger: "This is a yard sale, not Montgomery Ward's." (this is about as funny as the show gets, but that's another topic)

Now: Montgomery Ward's has been effectively out of musiness since they closed their last store in 2001. Many younger people might not even get the reference.

On the other hand, it could be argued that "Montgomery Ward's" just sounds better than "Sears," for instance, or "Kohl's."

On the third hand, "Lamps Plus," or "Ikea" might have worked.

How would you have handled this?

AlaskaRay said...

Ken - I would worry too much about either Tracy or Katherine being mad at you. Afterall, you know what they say about makeup sex.


A. Buck Short said...

So what's the Plus in Lamps Plus? I'm guessing maybe shades, bulbs, extension cords? Why they've got it all! And obviously don't want us to jump to the conclusion they've only got lamps.

Incidentally, has this happened to you? On several occasions I've found this site won't take my name and will only accept anonymous as the default. That's OK, I had an AT&T answering machine that refused to recognize my speech tone as a human voice. To call home and leave a message, I had to ring maybe 10 times, because the chip kept insisting nobody was on the line. Really no fun being dissed by utensils.

Anonymous said...

Nicholas Sparks, writer of "Nights in Rodanthe" movie starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane.

Question: Why such a sad ending?

N Sparks: Because life, sometimes, is a sad ending and more than anything, I want my novels to reflect the things that people go through in life. I don't write fantasy, I write reality. Also, my novels have roots to Greek tragedies and as such, there has to be tragedy. They are not romance novels.

Question: Your first book was a phenomenal bestseller --- what do you think most appeals to people about your work? And how difficult was it to muster up the courage to write another, risking a 'sophomore jinx'?

Nicholas Sparks: My first book was a huge seller --- I think it's approaching 8 million copies worldwide now, which means that people recommended the book to others. Why? I suppose it went to what's best in people --- faith, love, loyalty --- and that's how people like to see themselves. It's partly that, but there were other aspects of the novel that appealed to people --- it was easy to read, the story was compelling and original, and in the end, most people were deeply moved by the premise.

As for writing the second novel, the pressure was immense, but hey, what's life without a little challenge? I just sat down and forced myself to write and in the end, it sold as many copies as the first novel did.

Question: You have said that you write an "easy-to-read" book --- but do you hope someday to publish something that is more literary fiction than mainstream?

Nicholas Sparks: Please don't set those two aspects on opposite spectrums --- "easy-to-read" is not diametrically opposed to "literary." Besides, "easy-to-read" is harder to accomplish and do well, since "easy-to-read" also requires a compelling plot, which many (if not most) current literary novels lack. Writing is communication above all and I've made the choice to communicate with a large audience, which again is very hard to do. What's the challenge in writing a novel that few people will read? I'm more than happy writing what I do and have no plans to change that.

Brian Doan said...

I know it's silly to worry about the personal/professional lives of people you don't know. But since I'm a fan of both yours and Sorkin's, I think it's kind of sweet that y'all made up.

D. McEwan said...

"TE said...
Ken: On a show last night, there was a scene set at a yard sale."

Oh, that wasn't just "a show," that was Kelsey Grammar's amazingly mediocre new show, HANK.

The joke that bothered you as third-rate and very dated hit me the same way, like pretty much everything that anyone said or did on that show.

Kelsey can't need the money. There must be some reason why he took this wretched turkey to star in. It's not like he doesn't know the difference.

I had problems with BACK TO YOU, but they were mostly concerned with too many Republican leads, which meant too much of the star's money would end up in coffers I find repugnant, but BACK TO YOU was a million times better than HANK. I missed the first episode, as it wasn't worth missing Ken Burns's magnificent documentary on THE NATIONAL PARKS, but I saw that yard sale episode of HANK last night. Ghastly.

And the plot hinged on Kelsey coming UNhinged when his overwhelmingly-bored-at-home wife took a job. Huh? It's 2009, and we were seeing Ricky telling Lucy she can't be in the big show with Cesar Romero. Yikes!

Being high among The Heaton-Haters Society (in fact, I'm the Recording Secretary), I skipped THE MIDDLE. First off, given the star, the premise, and the POV, the odds of my not loathing it are remote, and also, if somehow I didn't hate it, that would be even worse, as I would really hate liking it.

Fortunately, though I haven't watched this week's MODERN MARRIAGE yet, it is on the DVR, so now I can watch knowing I will be hearing your voice-under. Gee, I've posted nice stuff about FLASHFORWARD and they haven't invited me to talk (or lie) under Joe Finnes yet. Drat!

D. McEwan said...

What I don't understand is how, if you're not good enough for Traci Lords (which is setting the bar very LOW indeed), how can you be good enough for MODERN MARRIAGE, which is certainly maintaining higher standards than Ms Lords, or HANK for that matter?

As for your liking Patricia Heaton, well my mother was a virulent Christian Scientist, but I loved her anyway. My grandmother sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but I loved her anyway. If I can overlook Christian Science and Mormonism as an "eccentricity," I guess I can overlook your Heaton-love eccentricity.

After all, we'll always have our shared contempt for Katheryn Heigl.

Speaking of which:

"Andrew Talbert said...
I happen to think you were very unfair to Heigl and very misinformed. It was interesting to read an interview one of the Grey's writers recently - Krista Vernoff who also produces the show from time to time. She told the Futon Critic:

'I think that Katherine gets sort of a bad rap. I have to say I think if Katherine was a man and saying the same things that Katherine says I don't think she'd get the rap she gets'."

Well first off, people would be criticizing her for being a transvestite. I mean, what kind of man dresses like she does? Barry Humphries? Charles Busch? Danny LaRue? RuPaul? Danny LaRue-Paul? And the wigs would certainly get snark. And what is with him only taking female roles? Even Harvey Fierstein and Divine also played men.

In the words of my friend Charles Bloom, in one of his lovely songs: "But if the diva is a devo, it's the heave-ho everytime."

And as for Miss Heigl, well, every time I see that ho I want to heave.

But Ken, while Mrs. DiGarmos and Heigl fans, and Opie & Anthony psychos (I am among those unfamiliar with Opie & Anthony. I should like to remain so), can be anoying, over at the Huff Po I posted a column back in June blasting Ayn Rand and "The Fountainhead." You haven't known true Interhate until you rile the Objectivists and the Randian zombies. They descend like locusts, filling column after column with comments longer than ATLAS SHRUGGED, all stating how they are superior individuals who think for themselves, and do so in LONG IDENTICAL PARAGRAPHS. They mass-produce their "individual" thought. Plus, they're insane.

And where else would I learn so much about Nicholas Sparks, as I would have here if had I read past the third paragraph of that posting?

anonymous bosch said...

Why is it you don't like if we people remain "anonymous" when they post comments or questions?

maybe just to be polite? You are asking a busy person for something
if you have a question.
Also its hard to have a debate with anonymous.

If Katherine Heigl is a man then the scare stories were true and hollywood has turned half of its male viewers gay