Stalking, Scientology and sex: Gawker’s biggest moments
NEW YORK – Founded in 2003 as a gossipy blog about Manhattan’s media elite, Gawker pioneered the irreverent, snarky tone that has become ubiquitous online. From revealing Tom Cruise’s Scientology recruitment video to publishing the Hulk Hogan sex tape that ultimately lead to the site’s demise , Gawker posts sought to be an antidote to celebrity puff pieces and often created a sensation even as they pushed the boundaries of gossip and journalism and sometimes, good taste.
Here are some of the biggest — and notorious — stories during Gawker’s nearly 14-year tenure.
Gawker Stalker maps
In 2006, Gawker combined its “Gawker Stalker” celebrity sightings section with a Google map of New York that was updated in real time. Opponents of the feature, notably Jimmy Kimmel, said the feature endangered the safety of celebrities by publishing their whereabouts. The map was eventually taken down.
Emily Gould overshares
In 2007, Gawker editor Emily Gould announced her resignation through a post about the site’s problems. She landed a New York Times Magazine cover story about the perils of oversharing online — in which she overshared even more about her romantic relationships — which she eventually expanded into a book of essays called “And the Heart Says Whatever.”
Tom Cruise’s Scientology recruitment video
In 2008 Gawker published a Scientology recruitment video featuring a black-turtlenecked Tom Cruise. It showed just how fanatic the actor was about his religion. It was a side of Cruise no one had quite seen before.
• In 2008, Gawker highlighted Tom Cruise’s role as the No. 2 in the ScientologyChurch with a video clip showing Cruise preaching. YouTube and other sites took down the copyrighted video at Scientology’s request, but Gawker refused. The blog went a step further to post and mock the letter sent by the church’s lawyer.
Christine O’Donnell tryst account
In 2010, again pushing the boundaries of gossip about public figures, the site published an anonymous account of a tryst with Christine O’Donnell, a conservative Tea Party activist who ran for a U.S. Senate seat in Delaware. After an outcry that the post was misogynist and unnecessarily violated O’Donnell’s privacy, Gawker went on the defensive and published a follow-up post to explain why it published the account. Gawker also published O’Donnell’s response .
Hulk Hogan sex tape
In 2012, in a move that would ultimately cause the site’s demise, Gawker published a tape of Hulk Hogan having sex with his friend’s wife. Hogan sued the site for invasion of privacy and, bankrolled by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, won a $140 million judgment that led to Gawker’s bankruptcy filing. Thiel was outed earlier by Gawker’s now-shuttered Silicon Valley gossip site Valleywag and had complained about Gawker and Valleywag’s journalism tactics.
Rob Ford smoking crack
In 2013, a Gawker post claimed that its writers had seen a video showing Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack. It was the beginning of a saga during which Ford’s battles with drugs and alcohol were revealed. Gawker raised $200,000 to buy the video, although talks to buy it collapsed and the money was donated to charity. The video was eventually released and Gawker published it last week. Ford died of cancer five months ago.
Staff exodus after post is removed
In 2015, Gawker published a post about a married Conde Nast executive attempting to pay for a gay porn star in Chicago. The post was widely criticized for invading the executive’s privacy, and Gawker took it down, with founder Nick Denton publishing a statement about it. Some Gawker staffers criticized the decision to remove the post and said it was a business-side decision with no input from editorial staffers. Staffers published their own statement , and several quit .
Gawker.com shutting down: http://apne.ws/2bjllkq
Gawker goes dark, but its impact on Scientology — and Tom Cruise — will never be forgotten
We learned yesterday that next week, Gawker will shut down. For some of us who toiled in the trenches of New York journalism of a certain era, the news is hard to believe. Gawker had a big effect on the way online journalism is done (not all of it positive, some will tell you), and it certainly changed the way we think about writing and reporting.
You will no doubt be seeing a lot of obituaries written about Gawker over the next week now that Univision is shutting it down after buying all of Gawker Media’s websites in a fire sale. You can read plenty more about how Gawker’s fate was sealed when a billionaire, Peter Thiel, took revenge for being outed by the site by funding Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea’s lawsuit against Gawker over a sex tape. You probably already know the tale, and we won’t go into it except to say, as someone who has been targeted by a couple of different billionaires we’ve written about, it’s a really fucked up hazard of the occupation. Anyway, relevant to our interests here at the Underground Bunker we wanted to commemorate one Gawker achievement in particular that forever changed the way Scientology is perceived by the public.
We’re talking about the shock to the system when a 9-minute interview of Tom Cruise appeared online early in 2008, and Gawker, more than any other website, made sure that the interview remained public for all to see.
You probably know what interview we’re talking about. It was actually a small part of a larger celebration of Tom Cruise that occurred at the 20th anniversary celebration of the International Association of Scientologists in October 2004. The quick backstory, which even Gawker didn’t know at the time, is that Scientology leader David Miscavige wanted to make a big deal of the fact that he’d managed to lure Tom Cruise back into the fold after Cruise had all but dropped out of Scientology for several years.
Cruise had gotten involved in Scientology through actress Mimi Rogers in 1986, just a few months after founder L. Ron Hubbard had died. Tom and Mimi were then married on Dianetics Day, May 9, 1987, and, as we explained in our lengthy story revealing for the first time what really happened to bust up that marriage, Miscavige managed to use Tom’s growing interest in Nicole Kidman to lure him away from Rogers. But then, after Tom married Nicole and she initially got involved in Scientology, by 1992 she had grown disaffected and the two of them pulled away from Scientology for the next nine years, when they broke up. And that’s when Miscavige made it job one to get Tom back into the fold. With the help of his top lieutenant at the time, Marty Rathbun, they were very successful, and by 2004 Cruise was the most enthusiastic L. Ron Hubbard fanatic ever. So that’s why Miscavige, at the 2004 IAS celebration, decided to reward Cruise not with a Freedom Medal, which had been the usual high award given at those events, but to bestow on Cruise a special Freedom Medalof Valor.
And before he handed the tchotchke to Cruise, Miscavige amped up the crowd in East Grinstead, England with a 35-minute recorded tribute to Cruise, which was interspersed with a 9-minute interview of the actor, in a black turtleneck, talking about how much he loved being a Scientologist.
But here’s what Miscavige may not have been counting on: The video and the medal ceremony actually backfired. Scientologists who had dedicated their lives to the “Sea Org,” and had signed billion-year contracts and worked for pennies an hour around the clock, considered it a slap in the face to hear from Miscavige that Cruise, a friggin’ actor, was “the most dedicated Scientologist I know.”
We’ve talked to numerous former Scientologists who were in the audience that night, and they all tell us they carried resentment over it for years. And that’s probably why, in 2007, an anonymous Scientologist decided to smuggle out a recording of that night’s event to a woman in Connecticut named Patty Moher.
Patty has told, at length, what subsequently happened with the DVD, and we’ll just pull out a few highlights. She had actually been in attendance at the 2004 event, and in 2007 when she received the DVD recording, she remembered it as an event she had personally experienced. She’s admitted that she didn’t really have any idea what a pile of dynamite she had in her hands as she began forwarding copies of the event to some of her close friends. She even showed it at a party at her house, swearing everyone to secrecy. (By 2007, Patty was out of Scientology but not publicly, and she was still considered in good standing by the organization itself.)
One of the people she shared the DVD with, Patricia Greenway, was working with writer Andrew Morton on his unauthorized biography of Cruise, which was scheduled to be released on January 15, 2008, and NBC was going to be promoting the book. Greenway told Patty it would help Morton if NBC had the footage of Cruise, which would help prove what Morton was saying about him. But NBC said it didn’t want anything to do with a DVD that had been smuggled out of the church. That was a lawsuit waiting to happen. What it could use, however, was video that had already been posted online.
Patty had no idea how to do that, but she knew that Mark Bunker, a longtime critic in Los Angeles who ran “Xenu TV,” was well aware of how to upload video to the Internet. She sent him the DVD and asked him to post it as a downloadable file so the people at NBC could grab it. On January 14, 2008, Bunker posted the nine-minute interview segment to a YouTube channel he created for it, believing it was set for private.
Bunker has said he was away from his computer for some time, and when he looked at it again, to his horror he saw that the video was proliferating like crazy. Tens of thousands of views in only a short time. Panicked by the thought of what legal action might come from the church, he yanked it down.
Going to Plan B, they turned to journalist Mark Ebner, who was well known for his 1996 expose of Scientology inSpy Magazine, and who had also worked on the epic 2005 South Park episode that poked fun at Scientology’s “Xenu” story. Bunker gave Ebner access to the Cruise segment on the private YouTube channel.
“I was blogging for ‘fratire’ progenitor Tucker Max’s ill-advised (and ill-fated) Rudius Media,” Ebner tells us. “When Tucker Max idiotically forbade me from posting the video on HollywoodInterrupted.com, I hit up Nick Denton at Gawker in the wee hours, and he was all over it. I gleefully gave it to him for fun and for free, and the rest is viral history. In hindsight, I probably should have charged him for it, and tossed Mark Bunker some cash for the tip. Oh well. Between the Tom Cruise tape and the South Park ‘Trapped in the Closet’ episode I consulted on, I feel great about my part in taking down Scientology’s number two guy. Twice!”
Denton posted the video to Gawker at 10:18 am on January 15, 2008. He pointed out that the video had been uploaded the day before, briefly, to YouTube (by Bunker), and had been picked up by Radar and Defamer — but that each of those copies had been taken down as Scientology’s legal team jumped into action. “Gawker is now hosting a copy of the video; it’s newsworthy; and we will not be removing it,” Denton wrote.
The video was a disaster for Cruise. After the actor had been recovered to the church by 2004, the next year he made a catastrophic attempt to become a more open ambassador for it in 2005, with his bizarre antics on Oprah Winfrey’s couch, for example, and his combative interview on the Today show with Matt Lauer. But soon after it became obvious that the new strategy was blowing up on him, he went silent again. Now, three years later, with the release of the black turtleneck interview that had been taped in 2004, the public for the first time got to see Tom in full Scientology mode — in a video that was never meant for outsiders to see.
Scientologists consider themselves to be superhuman, and better than the rest of us, and it was on full display as Cruise made bizarre comments about, for example, a Scientologist being the only person who could help at the scene of a car accident, or that Scientology would so completely take over the planet, its enemies — known as “SPs” — would only be read about in history books.
Cruise looked absolutely insane.
Within days, Gawker’s story had been viewed more than 2 million times, a record for Gawker, and that fact became a news story in itself. The New York Times wrote that when Scientology sent a threat letter demanding that the video be pulled down, Denton posted the letter as well.
The Times noted that the windfall of traffic came at what turned out to be a crucial moment for Gawker.
The timing of the imbroglio has been fortunate for Gawker Media. A Gawker editor, Choire Sicha, and two other bloggers resigned last month, and several articles in print publications, including The New York Times, have examined whether Gawker’s relevance and popularity were waning.
But according to the Internet tracker Site Meter, unique visitors to the six-year-old site more than doubled, to more than 13.6 million so far this month, from 6.7 million last January, because of popularity of the posts related to Mr. Cruise and to the actor Heath Ledger.
The huge traffic not only bolstered the site, but former employees have said it gave Gawker a greater awareness that it could break big news stories, separating it from a past as more of a media gossip site.
And it had another huge effect whose influence we’re still living with: It inspired Anonymous to direct its energies at the Church of Scientology. The loose Internet collective had previously found causes to support — specifically a talk radio clown who needed bruising — but when it took on Scientology over its attempt to take down the Tom Cruise video, Anonymous and its Chanology Project hit the church’s websites hard as it got a sense of itself as a force that could not only wreak online havoc, but make social change. (Mark Bunker again entered the story by posting a video in which he counseled Anonymous to avoid outright vandalism and embrace nonviolent demonstration as an ethos. He was dubbed “Wise Beard Man,” and the next month, Anonymous began pickets worldwide as, famously, the Internet grew legs.)
McGill University professor Gabriella Coleman has documented the further adventures of Anonymous as it turned its attention to many other causes in her book, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous, which we highly recommend.
In 2011, at The Village Voice, we posted the larger, 35-minute version of the tribute to Cruise and awarding of his medal from the original full event DVD. In 2015, Alex Gibney used large parts of it for his documentary,Going Clear. You can see the full thing we posted in 2011 on Vimeo.
And now, eight years after Nick Denton posted the Cruise video and fought to keep it available to the public, Gawker itself is going dark. (Will its archives still exist somewhere? We don’t know.)
In the history of Scientology’s controversies, this one has to be among the most disastrous public calamities for the church, along with the South Park episode, the 1991 TIME magazine cover story by Richard Behar, the 1977 FBI raid, the death of Lisa McPherson, and Gibney’s Going Clear (and, yes, we’re biased about that last one because we’re in it).
Anyway, whatever you ultimately think of Gawker, the effects of its 2008 stand against Scientology will continue to reverberate, long after the site is gone.
Trump supporter Kirstie Alley blasts Obama over Louisiana floods
Look who’s complaining now!
Actress Kirstie Alley star set off what she called a Twitter “firestorm” on Friday after she challenged Obama’s reasoning for not visiting the flood-ravaged state of Louisiana sooner.
“On a golf course in Martha’s Vineyard instead of in Louisiana?,” she tweeted, along with a Fox News video flashback of Obama criticizing President Bush in 2008 for his response to Hurricane Katrina.
After a Twitter user responded to the “Look Who’s Talking Now!” star saying that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards had asked Obama to wait, the actress responded that the request “wouldn’t stop me.”
After a Twitter user responded to the “Look Who’s Talking Now!” star saying that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards had asked Obama to wait, the actress responded that the request “wouldn’t stop me.”
Alley — who endorsed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump back in April — entered a heated back-and-forth with social media users, where she voiced her opinion that Obama should have “slipped in” to the state or done an “on-air plea.”
“Do you really think POTUS can ‘slip into’ a city????? You’re smarter than that,” one Twitter user responded.
Trump visited the state on Friday and Obama is scheduled to arrive next week.
The “Cheers” star also admitted that she was disappointed that Republican President George W. Bush didn’t visit victims of Katrina sooner in 2005.
“I thought Bush waited too long also! I was in Katrina on day 5 & I’m just a gorgeous actress 🙂 THEY needed HELP! I didn’t need an invitation,” she tweeted.
Flooding in Louisiana has been labeled as the worst U.S. disaster since Hurricane Sandy, killing at least 13 people and damaging more than 40,000, according to the Red Cross.
More than 6.9 trillion gallons of rain pummeled the state between Aug. 8 and Aug. 14. Emergency personnel have rescued an estimated 30,000 residents thus far.
“Or on a golf course in Martha’s Vineyard instead of Louisiana?” Alley tweeted, before responding to some of the “asshats” writing “nasty political comments” in response to her posting.
One Twitter user told the actor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, had asked the president not to come to his state just yet. In response, Alley said the governor’s request “wouldn’t stop me.”
“I’d slip in the back door..someway..or possibly do an on air PLEA,” she wrote.
At that, several other observers on the social media platform began piling on Alley, who stood her ground.
please note that the tweets below are not embedded and possibly in the wrong order… here’s the link if you feel the need to see the originals
Alley eventually stopped the back-and-forth with her detractors, but not before admitting she felt Bush, too, was too late in visiting the victims of Katrina.
geez, she’s so dumb and gullible
Jerry Maguire: What you never knew
Here’s what you never knew about Cameron Crowe’s hit movie which was released 20 years ago:
WHO WAS REALLY MEANT TO PLAY JERRY?
Crowe both wrote and directed Jerry Maguire and was passionate about getting the story right. He took almost four years to finish the story and had written it with Tom Hanks in mind, he told Empire Magazine. By the time Hanks got the script he was almost 40, had two Oscars in his trophy cabinet and was in the middle of directing his own movie That Thing You Do.
A lot of people didn’t think Cruise would do the movie either. Crowe has said “agents of other actors called regularly, saying all kinds of things to promote their clients, from, ‘Be realistic, you’ll never get Cruise’, to, ‘Cruise will never play a loser’.”
In the end Cruise fell for the script and the character and, after two months of discussions including Cruise studying video tapes of sports agents to Crowe shaping the movie to be more of a younger man’s story, Cruise finally decided to take the iconic role.
WHO ALMOST PLAYED DOROTHY?
Jerry Maguire made Renée Zellweger an international star, but she almost missed out on the role.
Friday Night Lights star Connie Britton revealed to The New York Times in 2013 that she thought the role was hers.
“I loved the script, the role — I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is incredible’,” Britton said.
Cameron Crowe reportedly loved her audition and Britton even did a table read with Cruise.
But then she heard the horrible words, “they just want to screen-test one other actress”.
That actress was Zellweger who won the part.
“It was heartbreak,” Britton said.
A PANTS DROP FOR THE PART
Cuba Gooding Jr went above and beyond to land the role of pro footballer Rod Tidwell.
According to Cameron Crowe, the actor stripped naked during his audition.
“I announced that we would read the locker room scene in which a bitter Rod Tidwell has just emerged from the shower, dripping wet, to browbeat his agent over the disappointing details of a contract negotiation,” Crowe wrote in Rolling Stone.
Gooding Jr asked the director if his character was naked in this scene, to which Crowe said yes.
“Gooding snapped down his pants and stood naked,” Crowe wrote.
“Stunned and laughing, we watched as Gooding beckoned with his hands, as in, ‘Bring it on’. ‘Come on, let’s read the scene’, he shouted joyously. ‘I’m gonna get this part. I ain’t afraid of nothing. I’m gonna knock this motherf**ker out of the park!’”
Gooding Jr of course went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
THAT FAMOUS LINE
Jerry Maguire is a movie filled with memorable lines.
The most famous is arguably, “Show me the money,” but a close second would have to be, “You complete me”.
But as Cameron Crowe revealed to The Hollywood Reporter, he planned to cut that line from the script … until Tom Cruise stepped in.
“He said, ‘Uh, I love that line. Why don’t you give me a crack at it’,” Crowe wrote.
After a marathon night of filming, Cruise finally got to try the line in a scene at 4am.
“By the end of his speech, everybody was in tears,” Crowe wrote.
“Across the room, Renee (Zellweger) was a wreck. Tom had delivered the line so powerfully and so directly to her, she was still getting over it.”
JONATHAN LIPNICKI GOT HOT
Jonathan Lipnicki was just six years old when he starred as Ray Boyd in the film but he almost missed out on his big break.
“I didn’t get cast originally in Jerry Maguire,” he said to the AV Club.
“They cast another kid and they shot two weeks with him. I’d already auditioned for it and they were just like, ‘Yeah, whatever,’ and they went and cast this kid. It wasn’t working out so they had to recast the role.
“Luckily they eventually let me come in and I auditioned again. That day, they flew me to Arizona where they were shooting a lot of the football stuff, and I read for Tom [Cruise] and Cameron [Crowe] in Tom’s trailer, and that was it.”
Now 25, Lipnicki is still acting and FYI he’s ripped as sh*t thanks to Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
“Martial arts teach you a lot about life, it’s a great way to decompress, but also it’s humbling,” he said to the Huffington Post.
“I think it’s been a really positive influence in my life and has kept me really grounded. There’s always someone out there who can kick your ass and I think that’s a good lesson.”
It’s a well-known fact that dads can be embarrassing.
But Gooding Jr.’s dad was so embarrassing when he visited the set of Jerry Maguire that his actor son banned him from visiting a second time.
As Gooding revealed to talk show host Graham Norton, the mortifying incident took place when he introduced his dad to Tom Cruise.
“He gave Tom Cruise a hug and said, ‘I love you man. Now seriously, are you gay or not?’
“I almost fainted,” Gooding Jr. said.
“And thought, please lord let me disappear. Tom just laughed and said ‘no’.”
Tom Cruise wants more presents
Extremely Rich Person Tom Cruise is holding up the production of Mission: Impossible – More? Punctuation! with his demands to be paid even more money than usual for his eleventeenth time portraying International Spy and Marathon Enthusiast Ethan Hunt. The movie has already been pushed back once, allegedly due to scripting problems. It is really hard to keep coming up with reasons for Ethan Hunt to continue to work for a spy agency that regularly tries to have him killed. This second delay is nothing to worry about and no one should wonder whether or not accelerated production schedules—Paramount was targeting a late 2017 release—is a big part of why blockbusters keep failing.
The current delay is threatening the scheduled January 2017 start date of Mission: Impossible…7?? Cruise is said to be pushing Paramount for more money, particularly back end percentage points, after Universal allegedly gave him the golden death mask of King Tut himself to star in their Mummy reboot. It is rumored that Cruise is now asking Paramount to buy him the Hope Diamond to prove that they love him the most. He is basically that child of divorce who plays his parents against one another for more birthday presents.