Friday, June 17, 2011

The 'Fictional' Hildy Johnson?

One of my movie heroes is Hildy Johnson, the aggressive reporter in the play The Front Page and three movie versions. The best of the movies was His Girl Friday, in which he was portrayed as a woman named, again, Hildy Johnson. On Broadway he was played by the legendary Lee Tracy.

Hildy Johnson was not just a movie reporter but the real thing -- and "Hildy Johnson" (Hildy is short for Hilding) was his real name. He was a court reporter for the Chicago Herald-Examiner in the 1920s, just as in the play and films. Here's his obituary.

So I was surprised that Michael Kinsley, a journalist I greatly admire, said in the New York Times today that he was a fictional character. Sure, The Front Page is fictional, but Hildy Johnson was the real thing.

Hey, we all make mistakes - I do pretty much every day, in everything I write, including probably this item - but one of the many Walter Burnses at the Times should have caught that.

While we're on the subject of the Times, can someone please tell me the location of Lehman High School, whose athletic field is the subject of a page one story today? I've noticed that the paper sometimes omits specific locations in articles about the outer boroughs, and it's annoying.

© 2011 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Gotti Movie Producer's Unsavory Past

Here's a recent Inside Edition segment, which just came on the web, about a new movie on John Gotti. It's a biopic starring John Travolta and being made with the cooperation of the Gotti family.

What's interesting is the pedigree of the producer. His name is Marc Fiore, he was part of the unsavory cast of characters in my 2003 book Born to Steal.

In the 1990s, when he went by the name Marco Fiore, he was in charge of crews of brokers at Mafia-affiliated brokerages. Fiore pleaded guilty to securities fraud and spent time in prison.

Sure, an ex-con has a right to make a living, but the problem is that Fiore has not come clean about his past. He says that his background was in "mergers and acquisitions." Actually the only "mergers" were the merger of other people's money with his wallet.

A video of the segment, featuring a well-known Mafia expert, can be found here.

© 2011 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Some Investor Bulletins the SEC Forgot ; The Economist is Suckered

In my column today I offer up some ideas for long-overdue "investor bulletins," in light of the SEC's recent issuance of a warning against reverse mergers--an investor danger since at the 1980s. Nice of them to get around to it.

I deal with other long-neglected dangers such as reverse stock splits, Apple mania, and, of course, naked shorting hysteria.

Speaking of which, The Economist this week has the stock market conspiracy set salivating because of an article on the danger of unsettled trades. It's innocuous enough until you get to the portion dealing with naked shorting, and then it flits off into outer space. The Economist repeats the old conspiracy-theorist canard that naked shorting creates "phantom shares." Not true -- see this SEC fact sheet, at 7.1, which was published in one of the agency's rare efforts to counteract the massive NSS disinformation campaign.

How did The Economist get suckered? Just look at who's quoted, John Wellborn of the Haverford Group, "an investment firm." But actually it's an astroturf operation run by Patrick Byrne, the conspiracymongering CEO of, and its sole mission is to push Byrne's conspiracy theories.

As disclosed whenever Overstock issues a proxy, most recently last March, "From 1994 to the present, Dr. Byrne has served as a Manager of the Haverford Group, an investment company and an affiliate of Overstock."

In a rational world, the naked shorting hysteria that commenced during the financial crisis would have subsided, given how every study of the crisis, including the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, has laid the blame where it belongs -- on the actions of the banks. NSS conspiracy tales are so irrelevant they are hardly mentioned at all. But thanks to Byrne's astroturfing "investment firm," the unwary will continue to be suckered.

So SEC, get cracking with those investor bulletins! (I'm not holding my breath.)

© 2011 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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