Thursday, February 16, 2006

One Less Bell to Answer; One Less Mag to Read

If my calculations are correct, I was an Entertainment Weekly subscriber for 604 weeks (dating back to the July 1, 1994, which I believe had The Lion King on the cover and reported that Tiffani-Amber Theissen was joining Beverly Hills 90210). The magazine was a good read in the pre-Internet era, but in recent years I'd found it to be nothing more than a regurgitation of weekly entertainment news that had already broke on the Web.

In August of 1995, I received one of the most exciting phone calls of my life. Entertainment Weekly said there was an "80% chance," they were going to print my letter to the editor in the next issue. I was responding to an article about the casting of actors in believable (or non-believable) ethnic roles and it highlighted the issues surrounding the then-current film, "Unstrung Heroes." Since the original people chosen for the lead roles weren't "believable" as Jews, the parts ultimately went to Andie MacDowell and Jonathan Turturro (neither of whom are Jewish). Since this was 1995 and I was still using snail-mail, I don't have a copy of the letter I sent but it was something along the lines of:

Dear EW,

I have some news for you. Members of the Jewish faith come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and upbringings and most of us bear little resemblance to Woody Allen. If artistic credibility is the key, then maybe we should consider casting actual Jews such as William Shatner, Nell Carter, Michael Landon and Alicia Silverstone in these roles instead of non-Jewish actors who just happen to fit Hollywood's stereotype of how we should look, act and talk.

Best Regards,

Efrem L. Epstein

As exciting as it was to receive the call in late August, it only led to disappointment in early September when the letter ended up getting cut from the issue. I never again came close to getting a letter printed in the magazine, though I did try on several other occasions. For the first time ever, here are the letters I e-mailed to EW (usually complaining about their pop music coverage), which never received any more than an autobot response from the magazine.

Letter #1

This was in response to a special issue about the 100 Greatest Moments in Rock. I thought Casey Kasem's first broadcast was far more important than some of their other inclusions:

Subject: How about Casey?
From: "Efrem Epstein" <>
Date: 5/31/1999 11:13 AMMay 31, 1999

Letters to the Editor
Entertainment Weekly
1675 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

Dear Editors,

For those of us raised in the 70's and the 80's pop music began and ended with the American Top 40 countdown. We often spent hours guessing, analyzing and obsessing over 13-notch jumps and long-distance dedications. Maybe Casey Kasem's first AT40 broadcast in 1971 didn't change the world, but surely it had a greater impact on the American music scene than Ginger leaving the Spice Girls or Michael Jackson's hair catching fire.


Efrem L. Epstein

Letter #2:

In reviewing the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the mag made a snarky comment about the inclusion of John Farnham in the ceremony who in their mind was inappropriate since they had never heard of him. For an average Joe to be unfamiliar with John Farnham is understandable, for a writer at a premier entertainment magazine to be unwilling to spend five seconds researching his background on the Internet was inexcusable.

Subject: Olympics Coverage
From: "Efrem Epstein" <>
Date: 9/23/2000 9:08 PM

I've always admired EW for its knowledgeable staff, which is why I was absolutely shocked that in your coverage of the Olympics' opening ceremonies you seemed clueless as to the credentials of Australian singer John Farnham(quote from magazine: "Who? He must be the Down Under Neil Diamond"). In 1982, John replaced Glenn Shorrock in The Little River Band (surely you remember them) and ended up singing lead on three of the bands 13 Top 40 hits including "The Other Guy" which hit #11 right here in the good old U.S. of A.

Best Regards and keep up the otherwise great work,

Efrem L. Epstein

Letter #3

New York, the headquarters for EW, is the largest market in the country and it lacks a country music station which is the largest format in the country. Over the years, EW has been unable (or perhaps unwilling) to recognize the popularity of the genre. I called them out on it back in 2001.

Subject: EW picking on Country
From: "Efrem Epstein" <>
Date: 4/10/2001 9:22 PM

Dear EW,

I "loved" your commentary on the TV listing for the George Strait concert (if there's one thing more gripping than women's soccer, it's country music). Question: Has anyone on the EW staff recently been to a country concert? If you actually had, you might have realized what millions of us already know: no other musical genre is currently producing more exciting live shows or better pop songs. Is it any wonder that the very short list of musicians who can still sell out a stadium would include the likes of Tim McGraw, Shania Twain, George Strait and The Dixie Chicks? Oh, and did I forget to mention that Garth Brooks is now second only to The Beatles in terms of total career albums sold worldwide?

Best Regards,

Efrem L. Epstein


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