(First published by Earthblog.net, January 4, 2007. The content producer, Marc Madow, died August 10, 2012. It was written because this woman went after Marc Madow, so I went after her. Carina Rhea, if you’re still out there, why don’t you tell me about why you were really so pissed off at him? Because it couldn’t have been the trivial reason you gave.)
Anyone weary of the holiday season has come to the right place, for here is a sordid little tale guaranteed to wipe the sugary aftertaste of jollity and celebration from the jaded palate. This sorry narrative originates in the movie capital, Los Angeles, where so many dreams begin and end.
It all started three years ago when a publisher and an actress met via Craigslist. The publisher had a book in electronic format that needed attention. The actress wanted voice-over opportunities and agreed to make an audio recording of this book’s preface, to be distributed by the publisher “in any manner whatsoever.” This was done in return for considerations which suited the performer at the time, according to the agreement which she and the publisher signed.
The actress will be known here as Prima Donna, abbreviated to PD, and – need it be said? – used ironically.
Recently, PD landed a part in a feature film and subsequently launched a harassment campaign against the publisher and his associates, designed to make him remove the audio recording of the book preface from a third-party website.
At first glance, one might assume this was a Melanie Martinez situation. Ms. Martinez is the actress recently fired from a hugely popular children’s TV show because, at some point in the past, she appeared in a couple of short films satirizing the abstinence-only approach to birth control.
But no. The book whose preface PD read for the microphone is, first of all, one of the all-time great love stories, a saga of devotion and loyalty, of a married couple persecuted and prosecuted for not fitting into the mold of mundane bourgeois existence. It’s a story of children stolen from their parents; of a man who suffered disproportionate penalties for his beliefs; of a woman so beleaguered by ill fortune that the very fabric of her sanity unraveled. It’s a story that only a courageous independent publisher would be quixotic enough to champion, and one that needs to be heard.
For unclear reasons, once PD’s career kicked up a notch, it appears that she decided to expunge all traces of her previous professional activities, wishing no doubt to appear as if she had emerged fully formed, like Venus, from the murky waters of obscurity.
So late on a Wednesday night, two days after Christmas, PD e-mails the webmaster of the site where the audio clip can be heard, and asks for its removal. He replies that he will do this, if and when directed to by the material’s copyright holder. In the early hours of Thursday, PD e-mails the publisher with the same request, remarking chirpily, “I am sure you will comply with my wishes!”
On this, the last business day of the year, the publisher has other things to do, but sets aside time to find and review the original contract. Soon, PD e-mails him again: “Several days ago I had sent you an e-mail…….” Actually it’s only been one day, but who’s counting? PD scolds the publisher for his perceived lack of courtesy in not replying yet, misstates the terms of their agreement, then crisply moves on to the audio clip’s presence on the third-party website. “I would like it be removed … no arguments.”
In the middle of the night, PD again attempts to contact the publisher. “I’ve left you several e-mail messages as well as voice mail messages. Have you fallen off the planet?” she asks with breathtaking concern.
The Hollywood crowd are hard-working go-getters, as everyone knows, but surely it’s not so unusual for a person to be absent from his desk in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, in the Christmas-New Year week. Even atheists begrudgingly accept the fact that people might be unavailable during the holidays.
Moments later, fueled by fresh inspiration, PD fires off an e-mail to the book’s author, complaining of the elusive publisher whom she has been unable to get hold of for nearly two entire days. She announces herself as “more than angry … that no efforts have been made … to fulfill my wishes.” She urges the author to put pressure on his publisher, so the audio clip will be taken down, or “I will be in contact with my attorney.”
Alas for the old days, when one didn’t kiss until the second or even third date, or mention lawyers until at least a couple of rounds of insults had been exchanged. We live now in an accelerated era, where attorneys are brandished with brio before either party really has a chance to warm up. “I will be forced,” PD announces forebodingly, “to go to extremes if he cannot comply with my wishes.”
The author talks to the publisher, who has no intention of doing anything until he has retrieved and reviewed the contract, and certainly not in the middle of the night. The author speaks to PD on the phone, suggesting forbearance, and sends a conciliatory e-mail to smooth things over, explaining that no slight is intended, it is after all the holidays, etc. etc. He points out that, in addition to PD’s valuable contribution, a great deal of other people’s work, time and expense went into the making and packaging of that recording. He is polite, philosophical, and desirous of peace.
The publisher sends PD a reasoned, sensible e-mail addressing her concerns and suggesting that she refresh her memory about their mutual rights and obligations, aided by perhaps a good attorney who can help her understand the facts. He mentions the rude messages she has imprudently left on his voice mail, and states his intention to communicate with PD only in writing, though he is willing to speak with her legal counsel.
PD is having none of this. She calls the author at five o’clock in the morning – that’s 5 a.m. – and complains about getting a long e-mail from the publisher which, after all her clamorous insistence on communication, she has not even read. Having wakened him and his wife, PD proceeds to harangue the author in terms one can only describe as “psychotic.”
Unsatisfied by this catharsis, before the sun is even up, PD goes back to e-mailing the author again. “The reason I want it removed you lazy ass is because I ASKED. PERIOD!” She goes on to say, “Thanks a hell of a lot for passing the buck, you useless turd!” This is followed by a tirade detailing everything she perceives to be wrong with the characters and personalities of both author and publisher, lavishly studded with profanity and gratuitous insults. And of course more lawyer talk.
Then, still bright and early on Saturday morn, it’s back to the webmaster again. PD rants on, claiming she has received an excuse from the publisher “who says he has my written consent … which isn’t true or else I too would have a copy.”
Wha? So does this mean, if I sign a contract I later decide to renege on, all I have to do is throw away my copy, and that makes it null and void? An intriguing concept, and one sure to revolutionize the business world!
(I admit I’ve been copy-editing a bit, cleaning up PD’s spelling, just for ease of reading. But it’s impossible, at this point in the original correspondence, to ignore the growing incoherence, the nonsensical word choices, the exponential increase in the use of CAPS. If this exchange were carried out on paper rather than via e-mail, no doubt we would also notice flecks of moisture from the mouth-foam.)
To the webmaster, who has been the soul of politeness and circumspection, PD now addresses a string of personal insults. She has never met this gent and knows nothing about him except that he is disabled, a theme which she is quick to incorporate into the pattern of calumny and threat.
“You could have easily complied with my wishes,” PD snaps. But no. The webmaster has held off, waiting for the legal copyright holder to be heard. For that sin, PD snarls at him,
“I will have sent to you a cease and desist order. Now you can be difficult or you can do this with ease and send me your address.”
Then it’s back to the publisher again, to whom our thespian writes, “Nothing was ever signed but a crummy little paragraph you typed up……” Well, yeah, that’s what a contract generally amounts to, some paragraphs that somebody typed up. It’s the signing that makes it a contract, whether it was typed, scribbled in eyebrow pencil on the back of an envelope, or written in blood. All same-same. As usual, this e-mail is rife with insults, non-sequiturs, and CAPITAL LETTERS.
Unbelievably, PD also hassles the sound engineer who worked on the recording. It would come as no surprise to learn that she also harried the manufacturer of the blank CDs and the company that made the ink used to print the labels.
Meanwhile, the author confers with the publisher, pointing out how mistaken they both have been in trying to deal with this woman as if she were a sane person. He also entreats the webmaster. Nobody looks forward to further insults, name-callings, or 5 a.m. awakenings. By Tuesday, the webmaster agrees to remove the audio clip. It’s amazing what a little harassment can accomplish! Of course, when PD climbs a bit farther up the career ladder, dealing with people whose home phone numbers are not readily available, she will need to come up with a new tactic.
Just for grins, I counted the number of insulting personal slurs, terms of opprobrium, and epithets distributed among the three main recipients of PD’s e-mails: at least 20 unique instances, not counting repetition – and not counting the virago’s voice mail messages, which are in a class all by themselves.
So – onward to the concept of premature divahood. A premature diva http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diva is one who jumps the gun, who starts throwing furniture around the set when in truth she has not yet even earned the right to raise her voice. Before one is privileged to scream “No more wire hangers!” one needs to have starred in a few hits, or toured the world with the Dave Matthews Band as one’s opening act, or played Hamlet at the age of 80 with a wooden leg, or something. There is no more pathetic sight than a woman in show business trying to assume the mantle of Diva long before anyone has tossed her a bouquet or shot a politician to impress her.
We compared PD’s behavior to a list of symptoms published by the American Institute of Psychopathology, describing the signs exhibited by those unfortunates who suffer from premature divahood. Let’s examine, point by point, how PD stacks up.
► Virulent name-calling and personal slurs – Check.
► Extravagant use of CAPITAL LETTERS in e-mail communications – Check.
► Insistence on misstating facts of the matter, due to not consulting original business documents – Check.
► Monumental disregard for normal business hours and flagrant ignorance of standards of civility – Check.
► Insistence on badmouthing the person with whom she has an issue, to every business associate of his that she can reach – Check
► Unbreakable habit of accusing others of the very same faults (e.g. excessively long e-mails) of which she herself is guilty – Check.
► Giving of unsolicited creative advice to talented and gifted people whose shoes she is unworthy to lick – Check.
► Imperviousness to reasonable attempts at mediation – Check.
► Employment of such words such as responsibility, etc., with which she has no personal acquaintance – Check.
► Confusion as to the difference between favors and legal obligations – Check.
► Worldview that is not even within shouting distance of reality – Check.
► Tendency to hint coyly at possible treats in store if others comply with her whims – Check.
► Overweening and tiresomely repetitious reliance on the phrase “my wishes” – Check.
► Voice mail messages replete with obscenities and indistinguishable from psychotic rants – Check.
► References to “my career” as if it were not an intangible abstraction, but a sentient being such as a beloved child or pet – Check.
► Frequent use of the phrase “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer.” – Check.
► Mood swings which prompt bystanders to speculate exactly which substances might be responsible – Check.
► Unfamiliarity with the theory and consequences of the Streisand Effect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect – Check.
After all was said and done, PD wrote to the author again, expressing her “deepest regrets in having to bare my teeth…”
I beg to differ. This extended temper tantrum has been much more than a baring of teeth. It has been a showing of ass. Monumentally so.
Baudelaire, or maybe it was Oscar Wilde – one of those poetic types, anyway – made this immortal observation:
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
And some of us have way too much time on our hands, and use it to harass authors, webmasters, publishers, and even sound engineers. Once in a while you run up against somebody, a premature diva, for example, who splashes around in the gutter loud enough to call attention to her floundering, inconsequential self.