NEW YORK — It wasn’t high art, but as roasts go, the one for Vice Media founder and CEO Shane Smith during a fundraiser for the Center for Communications Nov. 18 briefly showed a different side of the notorious media bad boy, who was given the Center’s Frank Stanton Award for Excellence in Communication.
Stanton was president of CBS from 1946 to 1971, overseeing the network’s Golden Age for journalists like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. Roasts are notoriously di_ cult to do, and not every joke hit its mark — there were a lot about Smith’s weight and prodigious appetites: he reportedly spent $300,000 on a single dinner with friends in Las Vegas during the International CES in January.
But amid the Sex Pistols intro music (Smith’s favorite band) and the steady stream of F-bombs — even from so-called staid TV executives — former Viacom CEO and current Vice board member Tom Freston offered a peek at a side of Smith most don’t see.
Freston got one of the biggest laughs, reading a list of “poignant” late-night texts he supposedly received from Smith. Examples: “You calm down, you Minnesota dust climber!” and “Cross your balls, we’re going in!”
But Freston also read one that Smith sent to him on Nov. 13, while Freston, HBO chief Richard Plepler (also a presenter) and Time Warner Inc. chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes were having dinner in Paris (they were there for a U2 concert that was later canceled) mere blocks away from the terrorist attacks that night.
“Before we knew what was really going on, I heard a ping and I reached for my iPhone and read this message: ‘F**k dude, get out of there. Come home to me and be safe,’ ” Freston said. “That’s sort of Shane; he’s on all the time.”
— Mike Farrell
Comcast’s Alchin Shares a Coming Out Story at Film Screening
The LGBT community was out in force Nov. 23 for a special Washington, D.C., premiere screening of Comcast’s Focus Features film unit’s The Danish Girl, about Lili Elbe, the first recipient of sexual reassignment surgery.
In attendance were cast members and filmmakers, including director Tom Hooper and co-star Alicia Vikander. Star Eddie Redmayne, who plays Elbe and who won the Best Actor Oscar for Focus’s The Theory of Everything last year, was out of the country, but made apologies via video.
Also on hand at the Burke Theater at the U.S. Navy Memorial were Emmy winner Jeffrey Tambor and Bradley Whitford of Amazon Studios’s Transgender. Tambor also is familiar for a recent DirecTV ad campaign savaging large cable companies.
Introducing Hooper before the film was John Alchin, former co-chief financial officer of Comcast, who noted that the fact he is gay warranted a front-page story in a Philadelphia newspaper two decades ago. He said the reaction from Comcast’s Brian Roberts was, “good,” with him saying Alchin had made the company proud. Alchin said that when he told Brian’s father, Ralph, about his son’s comment, the late Comcast co-founder replied that he wasn’t surprised, as he had taught Brian everything he knew.
Alchin talked about the LGBT community’s progress toward “recognition, equality and inclusion.” But he suggested the fight continues, pointing to Houston, where an anti-discrimination ordinance was recently defeated.
“We still have lots more work to do,” Alchin said.
He also talked about Comcast’s “dedication to featuring diverse and independent voices on film and television” and pointed out that Comcast carries more than 160 independent networks.
Comcast has repeatedly been cited as among the best places to work for LGBT employees by the Human Rights Campaign.
— John Eggerton