Thursday, April 19, 2007


Halle Berry, in town a few weeks back to talk up her tricky erotic psychothriller Perfect Stranger, also spoke a bit about her long-running and lucrative contract to promote Revlon products. Work-wise, she says, it requires "very little, if you want to know the truth," saying that at most it involves 10 days out of her year, doing a commercial, a print shoot, or a speaking engagement.

She added: "I do some charity work for them. They’re very involved in women’s health care issues. So, I spend time throughout the year working with charities that they belong to, through that association with them....

"When I first got asked to do it I was getting asked to do lots of things — and I still get asked to endorse certain products. I really have a serious criteria [which is] that if I don’t use the product, then I can’t endorse it, I don’t want to put my name on it. And Revlon was the first brand of cosmetics that I ever bought when I was a young girl, and I still use their products. So it’s something that I feel honestly good about attaching my name to because I really do use it, and that part of it feels good for me. It’s not just about having my face out there or getting a paycheck. I do think it matters — our brand, and what we endorse."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


In the story that ran Friday, April 13, on The Killer Within -- the documentary about Bob Bechtel, a University of Arizona psychology professor, who, 52 years ago at Swarthmore College, killed fellow student Francis Holmes Strozier -- I excerpted a statement from the Swarthmore administration in repsonse to the film. Below is the statement in its entirety:

"The film is compelling but potentially misleading. After an exhaustive internal investigation following the shooting, the Swarthmore community concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that Bob Bechtel had been the victim of bullying by any other students. It is particularly notable that Holmes Strozier was widely considered to be a kind and thoughtful young man. The single most important factor that cannot be overlooked, and certainly influenced Robert Bechtel's behavior at the time, is the diagnosis of mental illness that prompted a jury to find him not guilty by reason of insanity.
We believe that many of the issues raised by the film are worthy of exploration – whether or not a person can be redeemed following such a heinous act; whether or not someone ruled insane can recover his sanity; the struggle between a desire to forgive, on the one hand, and a desire for justice, on the other, these are all complex issues.
However, out of respect for the Strozier family and our alumni from the time, and for the sake of accuracy, the Swarthmore administration objects to Robert Bechtel's misleading portrayal of the events of 1955. In his comments to the media, to the Arizona Legislature, and in the documentary film "The Killer Within," Prof. Bechtel appears to attribute the shooting solely or primarily to "bullying" perpetrated by his fellow students. Holmes Strozier was a completely innocent victim and no one can watch the film without being moved by the nobility and generosity of his family. We are enormously saddened by the unrelenting pain foisted upon the surviving Stroziers via the senseless murder of Holmes."

In my interview with Bechtel, he disputed Swarthmore's findings that he was not the target of bullying: "Some of the people said there wasn’t any bullying at Swarthmore. I think that’s kind of embarassing to them, because it’s a totally unsupportable position.… If they want to do that, obviously they have a right to, but it’s pretty indefensible."

Thursday, April 12, 2007


William Wheeler, Harriton High class of '85, wrote the tricky, funny, fascinating screenplay for The Hoax, the Lasse Hallstrom-directed true-life tale of author Clifford Irving's infamous 1971 scam in which he convinced a New York publishing house that he had the authorization, and cooperation, to pen a biography of billionaire recluse Howard Hughes.

After reading an account of Irving's extraordinary lie and the lengths he went to perpetrate it (and cash in a $1 million check), Wheeler flew to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to meet with the convicted felon. Irving had written a memoir about the hoax, originally called Project Octavio, and first published in 1977. (A new movie tie-in paperback, The Hoax, is out from Hyperion Books.) Richard Gere plays Irving in the film, out now.

"I went to see Clifford Irving," recalls Wheeler, 39, the son of former KYW TV news reporter Judi Barton and former area kiddie show host Gerald Wheeler. "I remember that I went in trying to have more of a journalistic stance towards him, where I wanted him to open up and tell me things… But he was so charming and engaging and compelling and persuasive that it was one of those things that by the end of the dinner, after a few glasses of sake, I was like, `Hmmm, maybe you’re right, maybe it should be like Butch and Sundance with you as the hero riding off into the sunset. Maybe I’m coming at this all wrong.'

"At that moment I had a glimpse into the incredible persuasive powers in this man's possession."

Reached at his home in Tucson, Ariz., earlier this week, Bob Bechtel talked openly and at length about the murder of a fellow Swarthmore student in 1955, the conditions and circumstances that may have compelled Bechtel to act, and what happened to Bechtel during his time at Farview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and in the decades since his release. Here are a few extra excerpts:

Q: The Killer Within is a story of forgiveness, and many people -- including the mother of the victim, Francis Holmes Strozier -- have offered their forgiveness. Have you forgiven yourself?

Bechtel: I think that I began to forgive myself in Farview. I began to understand that life has to go on. My insight in Farview — this is an institution for the criminally insane, there was practically no treatment of any kind, it was just hell on earth. And my insight was that the difference between Hell and Heaven is that in Heaven [people] help each other. So I decided to help the other patients and start up a school. I taught people to read and do math…. They got a standard gradeschool education... and it worked very well. The kids who were pupils in the school were getting discharged before I was -- which was kind of ironic.

Q: Were you taunted, bullied, at Farview?

Bechtel: There was an AA group there that I helped, because I was running the newspaper and the print shop... and I would give them publicity. The one guy in charge of it wanted to stay in power there, and I suggested that he step down, and he became very threatening. [But] I just faced up to him. It was the first time that I really ever faced up to a bully. This guy was bigger than I was, he was a professional football player, and I just stuck my finger right in his face and I said, "You don’t have the guts," and he backed down. So, that was another turning point.

Q: What do you think it was in your personality that invited bullying, made you the target?

Bechtel: I was intelligent and the teachers kind of favored me, and that made me like a teacher’s pet-type, and that’s a target for bullies. And because it started so young, when I was only 4, I developed this kind of automatic response where I would just start crying. And that was rewarding to them.

Monday, April 02, 2007


A reader, Dave, emailed a correction over the weekend: In the sidebar roundup of vintage grindhouse titles that accompanied Sunday, April 1's, story on the Rodriguez/Tarantino exploitation double-header, I wrote that 1971's Vanishing Point starred Barry Nelson as a driver racing to get from Colorado to California, pursued by police. In fact, wrote Dave, it was "the long-forgotten Barry Newman, star of the long-forgotten Petrocelli TV series."
Apologies to both Barrys. But check out Vanishing Point if you get a chance. Nelson -- I mean Newman -- is super-cool, and Cleavon Little plays a blind DJ named Super Soul who gives the star some supernatural counsel via the AM radio in Newman's Dodge Challenger.