the Insiders


The parties at the Democratic convention  were not exactly roof raisers. Aside from the Kanye West show on Wednesday night, almost nothing that happened at night could match the intensity of the speeches themselves. Partly this is because the Democrats appeared to be on edge, with polls tightening between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, and a general malaise fomenting among members of the press, who seem exhausted from chasing Obama for months and months and not having their affections reciprocated. 

Don't mess with Texas.

In real life, there are generally no greater fashion mistakes than the hats you wind up buying and then never wear more than once. At political conventions, a John Waters idea of fabulousness prevails, inverting all rules of good dress. Simplicity becomes no one. Got a vest -- a thing that is second only to hats on the list of fashion red flags? Pull it out of retirement. Buy a treasure trove of buttons for your favored candidate and safety pin them through every article of clothing on your body. Pound into yourself the mantra that less is not more! Add in a bumper sticker that you decided not to put on your car or a kooky set of sunglasses and you should be set. Here are some favorites from Thursday night at Invesco Field at the Democratic convention, taken shortly before Barack Obama took to the stage to accept the nomination. 

Star child.

Talaya Centeno
The Democratic convention has reached the point where journalists here are no longer sure whether it is America or the press that is tired of Obama.

They know, deep down (well, not really deep down, because who in the press is really deep down?), that things have been on an upswing  for the Democrats starting with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday and continuing into Wednesday as John Kerry and Joe Biden attacked John McCain in their speeches. They also could not help being excited and surprised at the end of Wednesday night when Obama took to the stage.

Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
There was not a lot of disagreement inside Denver's Pepsi Center about the quality of Hillary Clinton's performance Tuesday night. Claire McCaskill, the Minnesota senator, had been a bust. Michelle Obama was just fine. But the junior senator from New York, the woman who almost managed to become the Democratic Party's first female nominee but came up short, was great.

Rosanna Arquette and Paul Starr.
John Shearer/WireImage
You might think hairdressers and makeup artists are mere hangers-on in the world of celebrities, but the outpouring of high-profile grief after the mysterious death earlier this week of Paul Starr -- the makeup artist who counted Rosanna Arquette, Anjelica Huston, Jennifer Garner and Angelina Jolie among his clients -- would appear to shoot that theory.

In writing an obituary, it¹s often difficult to get anything more than a generic one-liner (to the effect of, "Ms. So-and-so is deeply saddened") from a celebrity's publicist. Not so with Starr.

A rendering of CVS Pharmacy's upcoming luxury beauty stores.
Change can be difficult, except when it suits a consumer's abiding need for convenience.

CVS Pharmacy -- the 6,800-door, $85 billion drugstore chain that built its business on making things easy for shoppers -- now aims to save consumers a trip to the local department store by putting luxury beauty brands right under their noses.

Entertainment in between volleyball matches.
As the smog and humidity hanging over Beijing lifted last weekend into beautiful blue skies, so too did the Olympic mood.

The second week of the 2008 Summer Games began with a markedly more cheerful tone, in no small part due to large doses of pure sunshine and relaxed security -- with officials seemingly less worried about attacks and political protests.

Rumors often start because their scenarios make sense.

When Liz Claiborne Inc.'s stock recovered Thursday by almost the full amount it sank Wednesday after the vendor reported a sizable loss, the word on the Street was that speculation over Claiborne selling Mexx drove the market activity.

After all, it could be argued the sum of Claiborne's parts are worth more than the current approximately $14 stock price would suggest. The company's market cap is about $1.4 billion, plus approximately $760 million in debt, bringing the enterprise value to about $2.1 billion.

Shawn Johnson
Bob Rosato/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
I usually like watching women play sports. Until the Williams sisters came along and sucked all the fun out of it, I always preferred women's tennis to men's. I loved the way rallies built into a crescendo, a kind of opera of anticipation.

But the same cannot be said for the women's gymnastics at the Beijing Olympics, which had me cringing all week long. It wasn't just the obvious physical damage the sport has wrought on its best-known practitioners, whose "gnomish" bodies -- as Guy Trebay put it in the Times Thursday -- are "more muscularly developed and yet at the same time troublingly arrested" than ever.

August 14, 2008 6:20 PM

Eye, Media

Elvis Lives!

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Forget Beijing. For Elvis Presley fans, Memphis is the only place to be this week.

The King, who died Aug. 16, 1977, has never left his adopted hometown. And that means cash for the local economy, including retail merchants, and never more so than during the annual Elvis Week that began last Saturday.

Hugh McCutcheon, Son-in-Law of Todd Bachman
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
The murder of an American tourist in Beijing last Saturday cast an initial pall over China's first Olympics.

Police ramped up an already heavy security presence at tourist spots around the capital following the stabbing death of Todd Bachman, 62, the father of a former Olympic gold medalist and father-in-law of the American men's volleyball coach. The news is a black eye for what China promised to be the most spectacular and secure Games ever. Violence against foreigners is rare in China and the murder of a tourist in town for the Olympics stirred shock and embarrassment.

Mary-Kate Olsen and Ben Kingsley at "The Wackness" premiere.
photo by Steve Eichner
Considering my entertainment options this past summer, I can't help but notice that many of them involve marijuana as either a major or minor character (and I'm not talking about personal usage).

Things kicked off in July with "The Wackness," in which Ben Kingsley's therapist accepts dime bags in lieu of cash from his dealing patient, played by Josh Peck (hey, a kid's gotta make a living).

The Angel nightclub in Beijing
Joe McNally/Getty Images
Beijing nightlife is a hodgepodge, a perplexity: the neon clubs; the all-night lounges; the nouveau bars dug out of ancient alleyways; the apartments and underground dens where musicians, journalists, Chinese-Americans, Chinese-Canadians, and mobs of the discontented mingle and cavort.

It all happened so fast. After three weeks in Tbilisi interviewing dozens of Georgians about media relations with the government, my lanky translator, Otar; my steady driver, Murad, and I had become a team. We raced around Tbilisi's reckless streets. Just last Thursday we started talking about a trip to the countryside for fun. But by Friday, all thoughts of our idle romp were blown away by the surge of Russian troops into South Ossetia and the Georgian border.

Michael Kors
Last February, at a Spice Girls concert I attended with some friends, the cheering wasn't just for Posh, Baby, Ginger, Scary and Sporty. When Michael Kors walked into the arena, the crowd went completely wild for the designer, asking him for his autograph and posing with him for photos.Thanks to his star turn as a judge on "Project Runway," Kors has become a media phenomenon, and I dare say he has become more popular in American mainstream culture than possibly any other American designer before him.
We've been covering the big retail hacker story for a couple of years, and the twists and turns are like a movie plot.

I was surprised by the Justice Department news on Aug. 5 charging 11 people with stealing over 40 million payment card numbers. It turns out the same guys were behind a bunch of data thefts at nine different retailers, including the really big heist at TJX. And, in a Hitchcock-worthy twist, it turned out that the very guy who was helping the FBI solve the case was the alleged mastermind behind the plot. Eek. Oops, that never looks good.

But maybe the biggest surprise is how easy the systems were to break into. The "60 Minutes" special last year pretty much got it right.

A. G. Lafley, P&G chairman and chief executive officer
For all its methodical planning and granular analytics, Procter & Gamble Co. at its core is a brazen trailblazer.

Despite its size, the consumer products giant proved its nimbleness in the fourth quarter by reporting a 33 percent surge in profits.

As other companies were just starting to gauge the scope of rising commodity and energy costs, P&G had already begun taking price increases on key innovations to help offset the pinch. The bold move helped boost quarterly sales by 10.3 percent to $21.27 billion.

One of the controversial ads from 1995.
It was almost like déjà vu.

Calvin Klein had gotten itself into trouble again with its new steamy TV ads featuring Eva Mendes for its latest fragrance, Secret Obsession. The current brouhaha is that the American networks refused to accept the ads because they're too revealing in the bust area.

Personally, it was great to see Calvin pushing the envelope again because it reminded me of the good old days when a big Calvin Klein advertising controversy became page one news.

Las Vegas is a city -- and a state of mind -- where sobriety and budgets are frowned upon. It's a place where the phrase "anything goes" is part of the DNA. But the economic swoon means that Las Vegas is suddenly less isolated from the troubles of the world outside its borders. Everyone who's paying higher prices to make the trip to the desert oasis is reminded of that. And that's bad news for Sin City, which about 10 minutes ago was one of the fastest growing retail markets in the country, especially in the luxury sector. No more.

When I was pitched a story on yet another relaunch of Eve's Fetish brand, my first thoughts were "Really? They still want to do this?"

I couldn't believe that after three unsuccessful tries, Signature Apparel, Fetish's parent, wanted to give it a fourth shot. Obviously the brand has been troubled since its start back in 2003 with slow sales at retail, only to then be shelved under Marc Ecko. And why would they want to do this again now, when the economy is suffering and they would be reentering an already crowded area with lines like Baby Phat, Dereon and justsweet already dominating?

When was the last time you handled microfilm?

I had the opportunity to several weeks ago, when I found myself knee deep in the house archives on a research mission. My task -- as it was explained to me by my editor in chief Edward Nardoza -- was to uncover the stories, images, and maybe an amusing fashion trend or two that time forgot, plucked from one of the tens of thousands of issues -- 98 years! -- of Women's Wear Daily.

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