Celebritology Live

May 17, 2012

Celebritology blogger Jen Cheney gabbed about the latest celebrity gossip and pop culture news making waves across the Web.

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Welcome to today's Celebritology chat, everyone. I am sure we'll be reflecting on the death of Donna Summer today. (My remembrance/tribute to "She Works Hard for the Money" was just published in the blog.)

And I have no doubt that we will cover other topics as well. So let's get to it.

I am very sad.

I know. Add in Adam Yauch and that's a lot of musical loss in a short period of time.

I never go out to lunch -- I pretty much eat at my desk every day. But the day I went out for lunch with a colleague a couple of weeks ago, the Yauch news broke. And today it happened again with Summer.

In conclusion, I've decided to stop eating lunch because it clearly causes famous people to die.

I'm sorry for her passing. However, I haven't listened to her in a while. Was she still performing? Didn't she disavow earlier songs because of a religious epiphany?

She had been performing pretty recently. She recorded an album in 2008 or 2009, I think. Honestly, I didn't even realize she was so ill.

Also, I don't think she disavowed her songs per se, but she was quite religious. So I don't think she necessarily advocated for a lot of the excesses of the disco era.

When did Lea Michele and Cory Monteith become an item? Is this a publicity ploy for the show, or is it actually happening? And why is she sporting bangs again?

I still can't figure out if this is real or for publicity. There has been a lot more press about them being together in real life during the last half of the current season.

It might be genuine, or it could be a way to get more "Glee" attention. I think the more important question is: will Rachel get into NYADA? Oh, and also: how is Quinn already walking again!?!?

i have work to avoid.

I'm herrrre.

Got waylaid by posting Donna Summer item and phoning into a podcast. But I am here now, by God!

With the spate of recent deaths in the music world, and clearly you remember Donna Summers' era very well, what are the hardest farewell pieces for you to write?

You know, after doing this for so long, I really go into work mode as soon as a celebrity death is announced.

My exact words when I walked into the office after lunch and heard about Summer: "Oh, &#!%."

I immediately reflect on their careers and start thinking about what I can bring to the table as a tribute that won't be a rehash of the obit everyone else is running, which is hard. Often I don't get to feel sad about it until I have finished filing.

Adam Yauch hit me hard. I was immediately sad about that one because he was so young and the Beastie Boys were such an element in some of my close friendships.

It's interesting -- we're at a point now where most of these celeb passings are people whose work I remember very well from my youth. Their contributions were very much of my generation. It's a weird feeling.

Wow! (as Hax would say). Tthere was literally a BKD yesterday over in the Post's Comments section for the Associated Press news story on the tragic death of Bobby Kennedy's daughter-in-law Mary Richardson Kennedy (estranged wife of RFK Jr.). Some of those commenters were far more vicious than almost anything that's ever been posted on the "Celebritology" pages. It wasn't snark-as-art but pure hatred and nastiness. What does that say about a segment of our society (as well as abuse of the concealing nature of Internet anonymity)?

Oh lordy. I missed the comments on that story.

There are a lot of pure hatred-style comments that surface on this site and others. It's not new but it is sad.

That said, I think the Internet should be an open forum where people can say whatever they want, within reason. It does give some people permission to be total idiots, but that's revealing, isn't it? All sense of the P.C. goes away when people comment online. I think that's part of the reason for it, actually. People feel like they can't express themselves out loud because they will get called on it, so this is their outlet.

You write that "we're at a point now where most of these celeb passings are people whose work I remember very well from my youth." Jen, hon, I'm afraid it only gets worse with age. And even some who are still alive are in terrible shape.

Sigh, I know. There are some people's deaths I've already thought: how will I deal with that? To continue with my answer to that question previously raised by another reader, I think it might be hard for me to write about the demises of certain performers who I really admire, especially if they go prematurely.

I might need some time before I could sit down and write something.

RE: "Adam Yauch hit me hard. I was immediately sad about that one because he was so young". Thank you for that. Yauch and I are the same age and I've been feeling the years lately.

I'm feeling the years, too, my friend. Not quite that age, but close enough.

I also think rapping makes one retain a youthful quality. Old people can continue to sing, but rap? That just seems weird.

This is why I am under the impression that Doug E. Fresh is still 22 years old.

You know how there is that website devoted to photos of celebrities eating food? I think we should have one devoted to female celebrities NOT POSING. No photos allowed of female celebs in "skinny girl" pose (e.g., the ubiquitous hand on hip).

So what you're saying is that you want us to stop posting photos of famous women. Because really, if that's the criteria, we are going to be limited.

Our Oscar red carpet photos will consist of one photo.

Tonight is the season wrap-up episode--and there is a still photo of Kenneth, the upber-goofy page, being kissed by uber-creepy page Hazel. This is not a romance I can countenance--Kenneth is the purest character on tv.

But don't you want Kenneth to be happy and have someone to share his life with? What if Hazel is that person?

I'm also kind of excited about "Community's" video game episode tonight. I love any cultural enterprise that attempts to replicate the look of Intellivision.

= the next Brad Renfro?

I hope not. Such a sad situation.

Can Tom Cruise sing? I can't remember a role he's taken that has required real singing. ("Hushabye Mountain" in War of the Worlds doesn't count.) Is there video that can calm my worried heart? He reminds me of my brother, so I always want him to succeed in his endeavors. (And for the record, my brother can sing very well.)

He also sang "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," if you'll recall.



Clearly that performance was more about conviction than vocal quality.

This is what he sounds like singing "Pour Some Sugar on Me" in "Rock of Ages." So you be the judge.

Personally, the quality of Cruise's singing isn't going to matter as much in that movie as, again, his conviction. With apologies to Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, songs like "Sugar" are not exactly great examples of quality singing ability. It's big-hair and big-moment rock star stuff. And that's what Cruise has to do: convince us that he can be that guy.

Wha? Perhaps I am a dinosaur, but I have no idea waht this means.

I will point you to the Celebritology glossary, once composed by the departed but not forgotten Liz Kelly. The basic gist is that it's a day when the comments section goes totally off the rails.

"It's interesting -- we're at a point now where most of these celeb passings are people whose work I remember very well from my youth. Their contributions were very much of my generation. It's a weird feeling." Welcome to mortality, Jen. As you get older, the weird feeling is replaced by a sense of sadness and an acute awareness of how short life is. :-(

I think I feel weird and that acute awareness, too. The weirdness comes first. It's the first stage of celebrity grieving.

My MD cousin insists that as long as he reads Rolling Stone, he's still young. I maintain that as long as I watch SNL and sorta know the musical guests, I can claim to be young, too!

Betty White was on Letterman last night and she's 90. We should all sing "Tonight, we are young," for as long as we possibly can.

The Reliable Source ladies didn't know who he was! I remember him well from Carnivale and Sin City.

And, of course, for being John Connor in "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines."

... instead, how about if we ban the hand-on-hip pose entirely? Photographers could institute the ban. Oh, wait. There'd be no photos.

And we're right back where we started.

I like the sentiment behind the proposed ban, but I don't think we can realistically institute it. This is America: land of the free, home of the hand-on-hip pose and a place where we all have the right to say ragingly rude things on the Internet.

She stopped performing Love to Love You Baby for awhile, but started again a few years ago.

Some clarification on Summer's song disavowment -- thanks for sharing that.

Don't feel bad. I've got a friend I only see occasionally and every time I call her for lunch someone she knows dies. And she's not making it up to get out of the lunch!

Good lord. It's like we're both walking on a beach in an Ingmar Bergman film. Or we're the opposite of Lee Pace in "Pushing Daisies." Or that we're the subjects of a Blue Oyster Cult song with a ton of quality cowbell.

As the inimitable Tom Petty sang: "If you never slow down, you never grow old." For me, never slowing down is more mental than physical, but hey, the premise still stands.

If Tom Petty sang it, I am onboard with it. I also believe that even the losers get lucky sometimes, and that the waiting is indeed the hardest part.

According to a friend who used to do pageants, its called "tea-cupping." Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Wow, that sounds unintentionally smarmy and vaguely pornographic.

Therefore, let's use that term from now on.

Jen: I like your free for all in theory, but when the Post allows venomous, hateful comments to be posted to its site, it has an impact on your brand, like it or not. I think the way the NYTimes curates its comments section is far preferable--there's a lot of disagreement, but the Times simply doesn't allow grotesque statements of personal animus. I mean, what good does it do anyone, except the tiny little minds who want to see their ravings in pixel form.

That's true. I don't want to turn this into a dissertation on digital journalism, but I will say that it's very difficult to curate comments. We have filters that block out certain things and we have staff who regularly tracks comments and removes ones that really cross the line.

But it's very hard to stay on top of.

I also have mixed feelings about whether it affects our brand. On one hand, I completely agree. On the other, I don't think of what anyone says on any outlet's Web site as evidence of what that outlet stands for or its quality. At the same time, though, there are certain blogs and sites who have better commenters than others and whose comments I am more inclined to read. So there is obviously something to that idea.

Ah, the Internet: making media professionals question what they do daily and navel gaze to an absurd degree since the 1990s.

Maybe I'm being obtuse, but I don't get it. Does someone think the hand on the hip looks like a hand holding a teacup?

No, I think the curve of one's arm resembles the handle of a tea cup, making the person look like a tea cup.

Are people officially insane? One of the most beautiful women in the world had a baby six months ago and she's being harrassed for not losing weight.  Please tell me American fans and media haven't joined her native Indian "admirers" clamoring for her to fulfill her "duty" to lose weight.

I am sure some people have, but I don't agree with it at all. I am sure she feels enormous pressure to shed her baby weight. Most non-famous women feel that, so it must be ten-fold for her.

She's still beautiful and she shouldn't have to suddenly be a size zero again. It's offensive and that expectation leads to unhealthy behavior.

People criticize celebrity women for being too skinny, and they criticize them for being too heavy. Only rarely do you hear the same comments directed at male famous people. (Obviously they don't have baby weight to lose, but you get my point.)

Any celebritologists out there watching the new show "Veep"? Julia Louis-Dreyfus is fabulous. Her blunders and general cluelessness are cringe-inducing, and there are numerous laugh-out-loud moments.

I have been watching. I still can't decide how I feel about that show. The characters are so unlikable that it's sort of hard to get into it. And yet I continue to watch.

Am curious to hear how others feel about it. It's generated far less chatter than the show that comes after it, "Girls," which I also watch.

This chat is entirely too sad. I was going to suggest a change in topic, but Michael Fassbender has indicated that he doesn't want us to talk about certain parts of his anatomy any more.

Right. Well, we can talk about how he was initially bummed about not getting an Oscar nomination. That conversation should last 10 seconds.

Ready ... go!

Anyone found using the "teacup" pose in photos must also agree to a followup in which they are "tipped over and poured out." The Tumblr would be AMAZING.

Amazing indeed. I hereby deputize you to begin this Celebritology effort. I can't pay any money, but surely you will do this pro bono.

I just got the irony of a BKD occuring over the death of Bobby Kennedy Jr.'s estranged wife. Given where the acronym BKD came from! ...... and, my goodness the Kennedy curse still seems to be going strong. That family has WAY more than their share of tragedy.

Indeed they have. I always like to believe that when a person or a family has been hit with too much suffering, they'll get a break.  Apparently not.

I just keep reminding myself that Dave Grohl and I are the same age and if he's still cool, there's hope for me.

That's a good approach. I would love to have a beer with Dave Grohl one day and have him mentor me in the ways of being awesome.

Does the Foo Fighters have a mentorship program? Because they really should.

Jen: Did you see Jon Hamm, Vince Kartheiser, et al. interviewed by James Lipton Monday night? It was enjoyable, if all too short at an hour. But, jeez, I had not tuned into BRAVO in a long time and the show was punctuated with commercials for other shows, all of which seem so moronic I can't figure who they are aimed at--"Pregnant In Heels," "Bethany Ever After," endless new "Real Housewives" franchises. Why is Inside the Actors Studio even on BRAVO any longer. It would be better off on AMC or, heck, even SPIKE.

I haven't watched this yet -- I was going to on Monday but was thinking it was on at 8, and realized it was 7 after it was too late. I'll catch a repeat.

As for Actors Studio, I don't think it would work on Spike. But AMC does indeed seem like a far better fit for it. Of course, it's been on Bravo for so long I doubt that will change. But that show on that network is like a tiny house with a massive retail development around it -- the channel has morphed into something else while the show remains the same.

Did you read the book? How on earth is this going to be a movie? And I don't care if JLo has twins, she's not my idea of a maternal figure.

I did read the book and I believe the movie is based on it in the loosest sense.

I missed the one and only press screening earlier this week but have heard from movie critic colleagues that it was not very good. I can, however, recommend "Battleship." Totally serious. I actually enjoyed every minute of non-substantive entertainment that film had to offer.

I actually don't think that a relatively "hands-off" approach negatively effects your brand. Everyone can see that it's personal opinion flowing on those boards, and not the official POV of the Post. It's when you start actively curating that you have to be careful not to appear to be "saying something" by inadvertently allowing more posts on one side or the other, etc... The more curating you do, the more challenging it is to avoid appearing to be putting a thumb on the scales. It may have been the case when discussion boards were a new thing that people felt the tone of posts reflected on the brand/publisher, but with the ubiquity of social media, I don't think that's the case any longer.

That's a great point, too. Once you curate too much, people wonder why you're censoring certain comments. The standards used to curate have to be very black-and-white, which is hard when ugliness online comes in a lot of shades of gray.

That didn't hurt "Seinfeld"!

Right. "Seinfeld" was funnier, though. At least so far.

Sometimes it also feels like "Veep" is trying super-hard to be edgy. I never felt like "Seinfeld" was trying to be something, it just was something. And that something was a show about nothing.


In American culture there seems to be an obsession with women losing "baby weight" really fast, even if it isn't good for her or the baby. Star A loses the baby weight in 3 months, so Star B feels compelled to lose hers in 2 months, then Star C poses to show she's lost hers in 6 weeks. This might make a promising "Saturday Night Live" sketch.

Right. The ultimate goal, of course, being to lose the baby weight before you're even pregnant.

So I was about 12 when I found a Donna Summer tape in my parent's random box of cassettes. I then proceeded to wear it out on my Walkman, which meant my parents had no idea what I was listening to. That was, until the day I decided to choreograph a lip-syncing and dancing routine with my two best friends to Love to Love You Baby. The looks on our parent's faces were PRICELESS. Somehow that tape magically disappeared from my collection one day, never to be seen again.

That's a great story. Thanks for sharing it.

Isn't it funny how sexual innuendo just flies over your head when you're a kid?

I'll try to make this story short, but when I was in high school, I co-choreographed a dance routine to the song "Excitable" by Def Leppard. (Second Joe Elliott reference of the chat!)

The beginning of that song feautures a lot of, uh, moaning, and our pom coach only decided to let us do it after some consideration. She then told us a story about how she faced a similar dilemma years earlier, when the squad wanted to do a routine to "My Sharona."

I remember walking out of that meeting, turning to my co-captain and going, "Wait a second ... what *is* a Sharona?"

Then of course I listened to the song again and realized how filthy the lyrics are (and that Sharona is, as I previously assumed, a girl's name). I had sung that song for ages and never thought much about the verses. It was all "My my my my my -- woo!" to me.

Jen, we are all awesome in our own ways. Mr. Grohl's awesomeness cannot be taught because you cannot be awesome if you aren't being yourself. We each must find our own path.

Thank you, Mr. Miyagi. You are indeed, as always, very wise.

Isn't it about time for another photo of your beagle? Maybe next week?

Maybe next week. Much easier for me to share photos when I'm at home on my laptop.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I can remember as a law student in the early 90's reading a column called Jeneralizations for the Montgomery County Gazette by a young Jen Chaney!

Shhh! Don't tell anyone about that.

I want everyone to think I'm still in my 20s and very knowledgable about One Direction.

And on that bogus note, kids, let's call this chat complete. We'll resume discussions on the blog and in this chat next Thursday at 2, the pre-Memorial Day edition of Celebritology Live. Thanks for all the great questions and comments.

In This Chat
Jen Chaney
Jen Chaney anchors The Washington Post's Celebritology blog, The Post's online window into the world of pop culture and celebrities. She also frequently writes about entertainment trends, filmmakers and other Hollywood-related matters for the print edition of The Washington Post.

A Post staffer for more than a decade, Jen also can be seen reviewing movies on WETA's "Around Town," where she is one of the show's regular film critics. Last year, she contributed a series of essays to the book, "The Friday Night Lights Companion."

When she isn't blogging, at the movies or watching a television show, she's ... um ... probably at home watching a movie or a TV show.

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