The FJP ? Why I won’t win the award for Best Oscar Coverage

Why I won?t win the award for Best Oscar Coverage

Several years ago, I applied for press credentials to cover Hollywood?s annual celebration of self-love known as the Academy Awards. To my surprise (and eventual chagrin) I received a reply indicating that my coverage was welcomed. That is, if I wanted to cover the assembly of the bleachers they set up on the sidewalk so the Hoi polloi can gawk and stalk the celebs outside the Kodak Theatre.

The Academy actually has a media staffer assigned to handle the press for this ?event? and, sadly, some journos actually show up. Apparently, that?s where they go to euthanize their dignity. Fortunately, I double-checked the itinerary before renting a tux, boarding an economy flight to Burbank and catching the subway to the Hollywood and Highland Station, which happens to be the cleanest subway on earth because no one knows it exists.

Needless to say, I didn?t bother claiming my coveted credential to the bleacher assembly, though I?m sure it was followed by a lovely party replete with gift bags and heaps of schadenfreude served atop crostini. Hollywood seizes any excuse to have a party and the media likewise seem to enjoy standing outside looking in. Since I write for a comparatively small publication 400 miles from the action, the ?upside? is that I?m seldom invited ?inside? or ?outside,? which I realize sounds like the backing vocal on a Beach Boys tune, if not merely sour grapes.

Since declining to write what surely would have been a Pulitzer-worthy pre-Oscar piece (?Bleachers on the Boulevard: The Masses, Their Asses and Thirteen-and-a-Half-Inches of Gold?), I?ve barely kept up with the annual love fest. But I do continue to receive Oscar spam, which is presently cranked to a fever pitch with several missives a day landing in my inbox.

Recent updates include the attendee lists of pre-award luncheons and occasionally their menus. I for one don?t need to know what our stars are digesting, but for some outlets, the phrase ?Too Much Information? doesn?t exist. Without TMI, TMZ couldn?t exist, for example, and thanks to TMJ someone, somewhere isn?t getting a part.

Literally, while writing this, I received this Academy news flash: ??Oz? Ruby Slippers Find Their Way Home, Major Acquisition for Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.? Sigh. So what does this mean, someone finally opened Dorothy?s gym bag? Besides press releases from Oscar central, there is a veritable dog-pile of publicists trying to news-jack Oscar-awareness for their clients. Consider the Beverly Hills? Avalon Hotel, which has mixed up a drink menu in honor of the Best Picture noms. I stomached the ingredients list for ?The Help,? dubbed the ?Southern Comfort Hurricane,? which was only mildly offensive, but stopped reading once I got to the ?Sidecar? prepped for the ?Midnight in Paris,? that, given its director?s romantic proclivities, should have been a Shirley Temple.

I?ve got Oscar-fatigue and I don?t even own one (yet). Bert Salzman, one of Sonoma?s Academy Award Winners (yes, we have several), once let me hold his Oscar, though the honor came with the proviso, ?Don?t be an a?hole.?

I didn?t know what he meant until I off-handed, ?It?s heavier than I thought,? to which he replied, ?That?s what every a?hole says.?

I won?t hazard a guess as to when I might have another chance to be an a?hole whilst wielding a statuette of a little man, though I?ll assume it?ll either be when I?m accepting my own Oscar or conducting an exorcism.

Since either event somehow seems possible (when I?ve been drinking), I?ve prepared speeches for either inevitability. For the latter, it reads something like, ?Exorcizamus te impuri spiritus sed relinque vinum,? which is Latin for ?We exorcise you impure spirit but leave the wine.?

My Oscar acceptance speech, however, isn?t as tidy, which is ironic since I?ve been rehearsing since I was 11. The problem is that I keep changing who I?m going to thank in the 15 seconds they allot to sum up an entire career. To wit, I?ll keep it brief, ?I?d like to thank the editors of this space, without whom I wouldn?t have a place to bitch about the Oscars ? or send my invoice.?

New eBook Reveals the Dark Side of Sonoma Wine Country – Yahoo! News

When writer Daedalus Howell left Hollywood and returned to his native Sonoma County, he found it transformed into “Wine Country.” He embarked on a journey of wine and words that became “I Heart Sonoma: How to Live & Drink in Wine Country,” a collection of hilarious personal essays.

Berkeley, CA (PRWEB) February 10, 2012

When writer Daedalus Howell left a middling career in Hollywood and returned to his native Sonoma County, he expected to find the rural, rolling hills of his youth. Instead, he found the bucolic landscape strewn with vineyards and overrun with tourists. In short, Howell had found “Wine County.”

A fish out of water in his home town, Howell embarked on a personal journey through words and wine, writing an award-winning column for the 138-year-old Sonoma Index-Tribune and other regional and national publications. Berkeley-based digital publishers, FMRL (, has published these hilarious personal essays as “I Heart Sonoma: How to Live & Drink in Wine Country.”

The new ebook features Howell’s dark humor on a variety of subjects like the unspoken war between Sonoma and Napa, how “artisanal” is the New “Xtreme” and how wine country weddings can lead to heartbreak (which the Sonoma-born star of ABC’s The Bachelor can’t tell you). Here’s some useful information from Howell’s ebook:

1.) How can I tell if a wine is corked? Look at the neck of the bottle – if the cork is still lodged within it, the wine is, as it is known in the trade, “corked.” Similarly, if the wine is closed with a screw cap it’s said to be “screwed.” Hence the term “screwed up,” which is colloquial slang for “empty bottle.” For example, the bottle presently in front of me is empty, thus, “I’m screwed up.”

2.) You can’t judge a wine by its label. True, but you can judge a label by its wine. During the first glass, opinions run the full gamut – from “Hmm” to “Uh-huh.” The second glass of wine leads to more in-depth label observations like “Hey, this bottle has a label on it.” By the third glass, label critiques are often characterized by proclamations of “I love you, man” and “Let’s get another bottle of – wait – what’s it say on the label?”

3.) Sonoma’s winery owners are filthy rich. Well, winery owners used to be filthy rich but, as the adage goes, to make a million in wine, start with ten million. Wine is largely a labor of love. And a tax shelter. The trick is getting the owners to “write off” a bottle in your presence. I’ve written off many a bottle since moving to Sonoma and a few have even written back.

“I Heart Sonoma” is available on a variety of digital platforms, including the Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo and Sony eReaders. It is also available through the Google eBookstore and at independent bookstore sites through

For more information about the “I Heart Sonoma,” visit For more information about Daedalus Howell, including an author bio, blogs, short films and availability for readings, workshops and events, visit



Dr. Strangelove vs. Madame Wadsworth

I published this several years ago and sadly found reason to pull it from the archive today, upon learning that my high school drama teacher, Sarah Wadsworth, has, according to the Press Democrat, “suffered an aneurism that doctors say has left her brain dead.” Some of my Petaluma cronies might remember that she and I were briefly at odds over a stage-adaptation of Dr. Strangelove. This piece recounts a bit of the debacle and a side of the story I didn’t learn until 20 years later…

Back in the 80s, the freaks, vampires, would-be bohemians and other malcontents who comprised our drama club were less concerned about getting shoved into a locker than we were about getting nuked.

It wasn’t until I discovered Stanley Kubrik’s Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb that I finally found a satiric salvo for my anxieties. At 14, I was gawky high school freshman, who bore a passing resemblance to the title character due to my peroxided curls and John Lennon-style sunglasses. Coupled with a certain sartorial finesse (read: the ability to lift second-hand suit coats from thrift stores), I considered myself a passable simulacrum of the character. One semester, Madame Wadsworth, then both the French and drama teacher, generously permitted some cronies and I to explore our atomic qualms onstage in our own abbreviated redux of the Kubrick film. If an actual atom bomb had gone off, we all might have fared better.

Nearly 20 years later, I revisited Petaluma High to discuss with Madame how the production resulted in me being kicked out of school.

“I seem to recall we had a few things added to that scene,” Wadsworth said in a leading manner. Then she paused, set her jaw and said, “It was the rubber chicken.”

Our interpretation revisited the final war room scene — the doomsday device was about to be detonated and an intern character created for my pal Gabe Faur-Brac announced “Wait! I can’t die yet, I’m still a virgin!” We all were, but with Faur-Brac’s nervous demeanor and then-fashion sense it seemed particularly evident (he eventually grew into a handsome theater professional in New York City and has certainly rectified the situation). The line got an easy laugh from the teenage set, which turned into a roar when I produced a rubber chicken from my coat, tossed it to Faur-Brac. I will not conjecture here what this moment meant to either the actor or the audience, but suffice it to say, I was in trouble.

“I had no idea the rubber chicken was coming,” Wadsworth recalled shaking her head. “That wasn’t planned. It was unbelievable. There was nothing I could say that would make you think ‘Maybe, this is not appropriate.’ You just did not get it.”

What we did get was suspended from school for a week — a whole passel of us (Gabe, Carl, Justin — others surely). This was a small price to pay for the infamy that I played to great social advantage until I dropped out a year later to sidestep an expulsion that had loomed since discovering theater-of-the-absurd. It was only when I visited Madame that I learned that she too had been reprimanded.

“I had only been here two years, so I was still making sure I wasn’t getting my ass kicked out of here,” she recalled. That’s when I realized for the first time that she was only in her 20s when my my pals and pulled our stunt — a ribald act of juvenalia, which given our rural, small town and the conservative cultural climate of the mid-80s, could very well have cost Madame her job.

At 34-years-old, it finally occurred to me to apologize. She accepted. We laughed. I wished I had Gabe’s chicken with me.

Later, we discussed the cyclical nature of life, which I had observed weeks prior while driving through Marin County. Tremulously pinching the shoulder of Sir Francis Drake Blvd., I spied a sandwich board in front of Drake High that read “The Drake Theatre Ensemble presents Dr. Strangelove.”

I bought a ticket and was soon enthralled by a cavalcade of about 40 teenagers reenacting the film. Their Dr. Strangelove, a young woman, was excellent as was most of their rambunctious production. It made me think, however, that at the age that my pals and I were chasing skirts in the graveyard, these kids were watching the World Trade Center reduced to cinders. No wonder Dr. Strangelove was back, his leather-clad hand groping the scenery for something, anything to hang on to.

My own Strangelove incident has proven seminal in my personal mythology and I’ve often revisited it, admittedly making nips and tucks or embellishing it as the moment (or booze) seemed to require. Sure, it’s kind of pathetic but no more than the football star recounting some fateful touchdown.

So much of our life scripts are authored in adolescence and often when we’re not paying attention. Back then, I could barely see above the collar of my trench coat let alone my frothing ego, so it was only recently when I realized that, no matter how I spun the heroic tale of having been suspended for my art, there has always been a sort of a spiritual co-author I’ve left uncredited… The one who contributed the real punchline to the story (sans poultry, of course); the one who knew that a particular nervy lad might eventually grow up and someday be grateful for the guidance of a teacher he had cast as the bad guy in his school boy drama. It’s a bit overdue but “Brava, Madame Wadsworth. Brava.”