TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Bart will find it difficult to save facewhile his foot is stuck in his mouth

Peter Bart, who is accustomed to delivering unrequited

admonishments in his weekly column for Daily Variety, is taking rare

shots on the chin for his stunning remarks in a profile about him in the

September Los Angeles Magazine. Written by Amy Wallace, the story

contains numerous quotes from Bart that can be construed as sexist,

racist, anti-Semitic or just complete fabrications. But the most

damaging statement is one in which Bart tries to explain his refusal to

be typecast by religion or ethnicity by drawing a comparison between

successful, educated blacks and poor, uneducated blacks. The latter, he

allegedly claims, have a greater need to be identified with their ethnic

subculture in order to feel deserving of special treatment or

assistance.



That provocative comment appeared in the "City of Angles" column in the

Los Angeles Times on August 17, tossing the first match on kindling that

quickly became a firestorm, resulting in Bart taking a leave of

absence.



Gina Piccalo, a "City of Angles" contributor, says she extracted the

remark on her own volition, but these kind of juicy quotes are sometimes

hand-fed to journalists as a publicity stratagem. Did Los Angeles

Magazine do that? I tried to get some answers from editor-in-chief Kit

Rachlis, but he didn't return my call.



Bart broke a couple of important PR rules in his interviews with

Wallace.



And since he often writes his Variety columns in the form of "Memo To,"

Allow me to emulate:



To: Peter Bart



From: Lawrence Mitchell Garrison



Re: Foot in mouth



My dear fellow columnist, making stereotypical comparisons is not the

best way to combat being stereotyped. No one, not even as skilled a

political and social operative as you, Mr. Bart, editor-in-chief of

Variety and former movie studio honcho, can finesse his way through the

politically correct land mine of racial didactics. Don't dangle your

toe, sip the glass or so much as glance sideways at this kind of thing.

It's tempting to swing at bees that buzz too near, but you'll only get

stung for the attempt.



The biggest mistake Bart committed was allowing Wallace access over a

period of months. That's a no-no. It causes the subject to become overly

comfortable with the interviewer and eventually speak too freely, as one

would to a friend. Never confuse friendliness with friendship.



All of us say things to intimates that would make us aghast were they to

become public. That's why I share with clients a favorite adage: A

gentleman thinks twice before saying nothing. Too late for Bart, whose

otherwise compelling profile by Wallace was tainted by his enormously

insensitive remarks. Which reminds me of another favorite adage, one I

humbly attribute to myself: No one cares how tasty the soup is if

there's a fly in it.



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