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A Cinematic Guide to The Weeknd: Pt 3. My Dear Melancholy and After Hours

A Cinematic Guide to The Weeknd: Pt 3. My Dear Melancholy and After Hours

My Dear Melancholy

Gaspar Noe/Cannes Film Festival
The My Dear Melancholy era notable for being a time when The Weeknd was in proximity to a lot of serious directors. While he’s had a foot in Hollywood for awhile, 2017 through 2019 he was actively engaging with filmmakers like the Safdies Brothers, Gaspar Noe, and Claire Denis, amongst others. While he had been actively courting the Safdies since Good Time was released, he attended the 2018 Cannes Film Festival where he crossed paths Noe, whose film Climax took home a number awards at Cannes. Noe’s Enter the Void had previously served as an inspiration for Kiss Land, and for MDM (and later After Hours) seem to call back to Noe’s other films, like Irreversible and Love, which are both twisted depictions of heartbreak. On the other hand, Climax is about a French dance troupe who accidentally take LSD, and according to Noe is not a “message” movie. It is an audacious psychedelic technical exercise, with numerous long takes and highly choreographed set pieces. The idea for Noe, who had previously captured the feeling of drugs in previous films, was to do the opposite, and present the objectively reality of drugs, watching people high from a sober perspective.
Noe is a rather strong advocate of film, and the opening scene of Climax features VHS boxes of a number of films that have influenced his filmmaking. Two of note are Schizophrenia, otherwise known as Angst, one of Noe’s favorite films which The Weeknd name checked to the Safdies, and Possession, which would go on to be an influence on After Hours (more on this later). He is also said to have sat next to Benicio Del Toro at Cannes, which means he likely caught some of the Un Certain Regard section, where Del Toro served as a jury member. Outside of that section, there were a few other films of interest such as The House That Jack Built from Lars Von Trier (The Weeknd has previously expressed affection for Von Trier’s Antichrist), Mandy from Pastos Costamos, and music video director Romain Gavras’s The World Is Yours, as well as a restoration of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Noe has referred to as the film that got him into filmmaking.
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Asian Cinema
Later in 2018, The Weeknd continued his globetrotting with a tour of Asia. He once claimed in an interview that whenever visiting a foreign country he only watches films from there. I’ve previously written about the influence of Asian cinema on Kiss Land, and there’s not enough work from the MDM era to glean anything cinematically adjacent to this, but now would be a good time to mention that the "Call Out My Name" video was heavily inspired by the work of famed Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto. The Asian tour poster seems to be a reference to Ichi the Killer, which leads us to Takashi Miike. Though he is notoriously prolific across a number of genres, his most popular works internationally are genre melding blends of horror, comedy and crime, most notably Audition, Ichi the Killer and Gozu. Another film worth mentioning is Perfect Blue, Satoshi Kon’s masterwork about a pop star’s mysterious stalker that The Weeknd posted about on Instagram before. Bloody and haunting, the film was a major influence on Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream. In Interviews he has also mentioned a number of Korean films, such as The Wailing, I Saw the Devil and Oldboy. While Wong Kar Wai was previously mentioned as an influence on Beauty Behind the Madness, also worth mentioning is the work of John Woo, specifically A Better Tomorrow, well known for the shot of smoking a cigar off money, and Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau’s crime classic which served has the basis for Scorsese’s The Departed.
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After Hours

Martin Scorsese
While After Hours more so than any other Weeknd album is bursting at the seams with cinematic references, the influence of Martin Scorsese stands above all. Similar to The Weeknd’s body of work, many Scorsese’s are explorations of violence and masculinity, investigating them from a perspective that depending on who you ask (and how they’re feeling) glamorizes, condemns or just simply presents the reality of characters on the fringes of society.
While there are direct references to a number of prominent Scorsese films, what’s interesting is that his influence also reverberates in other films/filmmakers that influence After Hours. Todd Phillips’s Joker is in effect an homage to Scorsese’s loner-centric New York films, and the Safdie Brothers have been putting their own millennial spin on the type of 70s gritty thriller that Scorsese trafficked in (Scorsese was also a producer on Uncut Gems). Specific Scorsese works will be discussed more in depth in the requisite sections, but it is worth mentioning upfront what a prominent role that Scorsese plays in the nucleus of After Hours.
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Urban HorroIsolation
With After Hours, The Weeknd departs from the slicker sounds and influences that permeated Starboy and returns to the cinematic grittiness of Beauty Behind the Madness. While urban horror is a theme that permeates throughout The Weeknd as a project overall, there is a thorough line to be drawn here that follows a number of 70s and 80s cinematic and aesthetic references. For one thing, while the initial bandaged nose was a reference to Chinatown (previously, The Weeknd has a Kiss Land demo titled "Roman Polanski"), the full bandaged face that is so prominently featured throughout the After Hours era is a classic cinematic visual trope that was especially prominent throughout 60s and 80s, though it saw a slight re-emergence in the 2010s. The fully bandaged face is often used to remake someone in the image of another, usually against their will (The Skin I Live In, Eyes Without Face), or as a case of mistaken identity and doppelgängers (Good Night Mommy, Scalpel), themes present throughout much of After Hours. The "Too Late" video acknowledges these references, but instead presents the bandages on two Los Angeles models recovering from plastic surgery, in a nod to a famous Steven Meisel’s photoshoot for Vogue Italia.
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The “masks” people wear is another horror trope that is featured prominently on After Hours, and this is best seen in the red suit character. One important reference in the film is to Brian De Palma’s Dressed To Kill, where a serial killer is targeting the patients of a psychiatrist (any more on this film will veer towards spoiler territory). The Weeknd is on the record as saying Jim Carrey’s The Mask as being a large influence on the Red Suit character, it being one of the first film’s he watched in theaters. One of the more complex references would be to Joker. While it sort of an in-joke that the character of the Joker is commonly overanalyzed and misinterpreted, referencing Todd Phillips’s Joker is more nuanced because it is in essence a full on homage to Martin Scorsese’s New York films, most notably Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, which focus on eccentric loners, and can both be seen as cautionary tale of urban isolation, a theme explored perhaps in songs like "Faith." The King of Comedy revolves around a would be obsessive stand up Rupert Pupkin haggling his way to perform on late night TV, with The Weeknd’s talk show appearances being a prominent part of the early After Hours marketing, most notably in the “short film”. This idea of isolated and compressed urbanites recurs throughout After Hours and it’s films.
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The idea of urban repression is in the subway scene of the After Hours short film. The entire film itself is something of a reference to the subway scene to Possession (another Gaspar Noe favorite), mimicking the (also subway set) scene in which Isabelle Adjani’s Anna convulses on the subway due to a miscarriage, as well as Jacob’s Ladder, a 90s cult classic horror film starring Tim Robbins as a Vietnam vet (like Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle) who is experiencing demonic hallucinations, encountering them in the subway and later at a party he attends, splitting the scene into two.
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Las Vegas
As always, The Weeknd once again grounds After Hours with a strong sense of place, this time setting the album against a nocturnal odyssey through Las Vegas. One of the most prominent films is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s book. This is directly referenced in the "Heartless" video, which sees The Weeknd and Metro Boomin in the Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro roles as they tumble through a Las Vegas casino. The Weeknd has gone on the record to state that the famous red suit character was influenced by Sammy Davis Jr.’s character in the film Poor Devil. However, similar red suit has also been sported by a number of Vegas characters, most notably Richard Pryor and Robert De Niro’s Sam Rothstein in Martin Scorsese’s Casino. With the red suit, The Weeknd seems to be playing with the idea of a devil-ish other, another side of his personality that emerges in Las Vegas.
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While the city lights are the oft discussed part of part of Las Vegas, it should be noted that similar to Beauty Behind the Madness, the desert that surrounds Las Vegas is just as important to the juxtaposition of its beauty. The "Until I Bleed Out" video ends/"Snowchild" video in the desert, similar to the confrontation between Robert De Niro’s and Joe Pesci’s showdown in the desert in Casino, as well as Joe Pesci's death in Goodfellas. The idea of a hedonistic desert playground also bears semblance to Westworld, both the film and the TV show. The desert seems to represent some sort of freedom to The Weeknd, as the "Snowchild" video portrays the desert as a pensive location for reflection, as well as the "In Your Eyes" video showing the girl prominently dancing with the dismembered head out in the open, in reference to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, another prominent desert film.
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New York/The Safdies
Despite it’s Las Vegas setting, After Hours also takes a good amount from films set in New York, most notably Martin Scorsese’s 1983 film After Hours. Besides the title, After Hours is similarly about a twisting and turning nighttime odyssey. The film stars Griffin Dunne as Paul, a working class stiff who heads downtown to rendezvous with a woman he met at a diner earlier that night. Of course, things don’t turn out the way they should, chaos ensues, and Paul is set on a dangerous trek back uptown. Like the film, the album After Hours is set off by a woman (though the album takes more stock in romantic endeavors), seems to be set over a single night (or at least a condensed period of time), and involves similar chaos and misadventures (sirens at night at the end of Faith). Tonally, After Hours the film is more comedic perhaps than After Hours the album, however The Weeknd is on the record as having said that "Heartless" and "Blinding Lights" placement on the album is intended to be somewhat comedic, reflecting exaggerated machismo and ecstasy, respectively (to comedic effect).
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Another of the most prominent filmmakers of After Hours are the Safdies, who featured The Weeknd in Uncut Gems. They also served as a link to Oneohtrix Point Never, who scored their last two films and later worked After Hours. I believe there are three major film tropes (not genres) that inspired After Hours, all of which the Safdies’s have engaged with. There is the one-long-night films, in which a character spends one-long-night on the run from whatever chaos and forces may be that they left in their path. This can be seen in the Good Time, as well as After Hours (the movie). Then, there is the descent-into-madness type, where a character slowly loses grip with reality and ends up in over their head (something like Scarface or Breaking Bad, but for our purposes Jacob’s Ladder can be categorized here as well), which the Safdies did with Uncut Gems. Lastly, but maybe most importantly, the Safdies also explored toxic romance (more on this later) in their less seen film Heaven Knows What, about two heroin addicts and the destructiveness their love brings out in each other, an idea that recurs throughout After Hours on songs like "Until I Bleed Out" and "Nothing Compares." A recurring song throughout Heaven Knows What is Isao Tomita’s synth version of Debussy’s "Claire De Lune", which is featured in some episodes of Memento Mori and bears some resemblance to the start of "Alone Again".
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Obsession/Toxic Romance
While love and lust and the ups and downs with it have been a formative part of The Weeknd’s ideology and themes, I don’t think it would be remiss to say that After Hours is perhaps his most outwardly romantic album. Despite this, one of the major arcs of the album is toxicity that comes with it, which a number of already mentioned films deal with. While "In Your Eyes" is one of the more romantic and accessible songs on the album, a re-assessment of it Ala Sting’s “Every Breathe You Take” could frame it as lonely obsessing, such as Travis Bickle’s infatuation with Jodie Foster’s teenage prostitute Iris, Joker's fixation on Murray Franklin, Rupert Pupkin’s obsession with Jerry Langford. Casino also deals with toxic romance, another prominent theme in After Hours, best seen in the love triangle that forms between Sam, his partner Nicky and his wife Ginger, played by Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone respectively.
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In almost all of the After Hours’s video content, The Weeknd seems to constantly meet his demise at the hands of women. Another interesting reference that may be something of a reach is to Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson’s film about Reynolds Woodcock, a couture dressmaker loosely based on Cristobal Balenciaga and his muse Alma, played by Daniel Day Lewis and Vicky Krieps, respectively. The film delves into their dysfunctional relationship, with Woodcock berating her and Alma poisoning his tea to keep him dependent on her. One of the highpoint of the film is a New Years Eve Party that bears strong resemblance to the "Until I Bleed Out" video. While the balloons may just be a callback to his earlier work, there is something about the color grading/temperature and the production design of the "Until I Bleed Out" video (as well as parts of the "Blinding Lights" video) that made me immediately think of Phantom Thread. A similar relationship is seen in the German horror film Der Fan, which The Weeknd has mentioned in a recent interview. In Der Fan, a young girl Simone spends her days obsessing over popstar R, until she finally encounters him outside his studio. The film is similar to the aforementioned Takashi Miike’s Audition in its exploration of obsession and idealization. In the film, an older man puts up a fake casting call to search for the perfect girlfriend. While Audition explores these themes from an Eastern perspective of societal pressure, Der Fan explores it through a Western lens of pop idolization and idealization. Both films deal with the idea that despite outward appearances, the perfect partner does not exist, and anyone that claims to be (or has the expectations put on them) is not who they seem.
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One film he has spoken at length about is Trouble Everyday, Claire Denis’s arthouse vampire movie. The film stars Vincent Gallo as Shane, a scientist who travels to Paris under the guise of his honeymoon to track down core, a woman who he was once obsessed with who has now become a vampire. Core is locked up in a basement but sometimes sneaks out to seduce and consume unwilling victims. This seems to be where some of the bloody face stuff comes from, but I believe it’s influence is a little more conceptual. To me, a good companion film to Trouble Everyday is American Psycho, which seems to also have been a thematic influence on After Hours. Both films concern idealized version of masculinity and femininity, both very sexual and physical, but hostile as well. American Psycho ends with Patrick Bateman confessing to the killing of a prostitute, but no one believe him. Trouble Everyday ends with Shane killing Core, but Shane is unable to arouse himself after that except through violence. Koji Wakamatsu, a former Yakuza turned prominent extreme Japanese filmmaker (and a major influence on Gaspar Noe) is quoted as saying “For me, violence, the body and sex are an integral part of life.” Despite being hollow, idealized impressions of the self, a vampire and as a banker (cold, seductive bloodsuckers = monsters), Patrick Bateman and Core represent the Frankenstein-ian relationship between sexuality and violence, which I believe is the main theme of After Hours. Truly, we hurt the ones we love.
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Postscript

To cap things off, I would just like to illuminate some key takeaways. As a filmmaker myself, this has been an extremely helpful exercise in understanding other artists process and ideas.
Steeped in the history of the medium…
It’s clear that The Weeknd is not your typical “I’m influenced by cinema” artist but an extremely legit film buff with serious credentials. The Weeknd’s film taste leans towards 70s-00s genre works, mostly horror, drama and thriller, and is well versed in the classics but also has the nose to sniff out deeper cuts and obscurities. The mantra of “good artists borrow, great artists steal” works even better if not many people know where you’re stealing from! What is impressive to me is that he is not just versed in “mainstream” obscurities, but also serious deep cuts. Films like Possession and Phantom of the Paradise may not stick out to the average person on the street but are well known in most film circles. Films like Inland Empire and New Rose Hotel (Der Fan was especially impressive to me, it is one of my favorite films) however are not as well known and it is very impressive to me that he can come across films like that, and really get enough out of it to bring into his own work.
…is able to interpolate contemporary/mainstream films…
This perhaps is one of the most impressive aspects of his integration of film into The Weeknd’s work. It is very easy for film buffs to get lost within their own obscure taste, living in a world where everyone is an idiot for not knowing who Shinya Tsukamoto. Trilogy and Kiss Land had a lot of contemporary obscurities, like Stalker, David Lynch etc., well known but they still existed as artifacts, not of the time we live in. However, perhaps picking something from his work on Fifty Shades of Grey, of late he has kept his finger on the zeitgeist and anticipated/integrated what the filmmakers of today are doing, such as his work on Black Panther and Game of Thrones, general appreciation of Tarantino, the works of Nicolas Winding Refn in Starboy, and his use of the Joker and Uncut Gems on After Hours, both of which came out just a few months before the album. It feels Jackson-esque, and I believe this is one thing that will help him further in his quest for pop stardom.
…while also being fully in tune to the works of modern transgressive auteurs…
In addition to keeping up with the mainstream is in touch with, The Weeknd also makes it a point to seek out and learn from the cutting edge filmmakers of today. While the Safdies were always going to blow up, I don’t doubt that a Weeknd co-sign accelerated their rise. Gaspar Noe is one thing, Enter the Void and Irreversible exist as masterpieces of the mainstream obscurities I’ve been mentioning, but he really truly tries to understand the heart of Noe’s work, even going so far back as to understand Noe’s influences (I sincerely hope he is tuned in to the work of Koji Wakamatsu). But most of all, to be a fan of Claire Denis is one thing, but to seek her out and make her an offer that she ACCEPTED is absolutely astounding to me. Just spitballing but it would be like if Michael Jackson shot a music video with Rainer Werner Fassbinder (who I’d bet good money that The Weeknd was put on to by Noe). We can only PRAY that one day we will be blessed with a David Lynch Weeknd video.
---------------------------
…and that just about does it. Hope you enjoyed this and thanks for being patient with me. I got quite busy after the first two and had my own projects/work going that kept me occupied. As we’re still technically in the After Hours era, I also wanted to wait until a few more videos and interviews came out to aid me in my research.
I also wanted to find enough time to make the Letterboxd for this. I personally don’t love Letterboxd culture, I find the popular culture surrounding the site a bit snobbish and exclusive, but I’ve gotten a number of requests for one and you gotta give the people what they want. Throughout the list are a few films that he hasn’t mentioned but are some of my personal favorites and I believe Weeknd fans will like, I encourage you to accidentally stumble upon things on it. Don't overthink, just pick something and watch!
If you’d like to follow me further, you can find me on Instagram here, where I post about film reviews Letterboxd style. I prefer Instagram so that more average people see it instead of an echo chamber of film snobs. I am also a filmmaker myself, I just recently wrapped this short film and am currently in the process of putting together my next project.
The main reason I did this however, besides a general appreciation of The Weeknd’s work, was to put more people on to the beautiful art form that is cinema. One thing I learned from Scorsese is that one must be an advocate and truly champion your medium. I hope that this encourages to check out more interesting movies than they wouldn’t normally come across, and I hope this will inspire more people to create more as well, whether it be to write, make films, music, anything. If even one person picks up a pencil, a camera or a keyboard because of these posts, I will be satisfied.
Thanks all!
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Your Pre Market Brief for 07/24/2020

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The Case of the Missing 40,000 Jerry Nugget Decks

The Case of the Missing 40,000 Jerry Nugget Decks: A Detective Story
NB: I first published this article (with pictures) at PlayingCardDecks here.
Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards. The story of the original Jerry's Nugget decks is a fascinating one, and there are many interesting side-stories to explore about along the way. You can read the main story about the Jerry's Nugget decks in my previous article here: The Legendary Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards.
But the full truth still remains somewhat hidden, and there are aspects about the Jerry's Nugget story that even today we can't totally be sure about. And with the passage of time, several juicy tidbits of lore have become attached to this famous deck.
In this article I invite you to join me in a quest to explore another juicy story that has become part of the Jerry's Nugget legend. Is it true that the final stock of 40,000 Jerry's Nugget decks was bought up from the casino by a mysterious overseas buyer? Because this is an oft-repeated part of the story, that you'll hear whispered rumours about across the landscape of the internet. But this a statement of fact or fiction, and is it truth or myth? It could mean that right now someone is potentially sitting on a small fortune of Jerry's Nugget decks worth around $500 a piece. If it's true.
So please put on your Sherlock Holmes trench-coat and deerstalker hat, arm yourself with a good amount of deductive logic and persistence, and join me as we see if we can really get to the bottom of this mystery, and dredge up the truth behind this famed haul of 40,000 decks!

A Secret Stash of 40,000 Decks?

If you are curious - like I am - and do some digging about the story and history of the Jerry's Nugget decks, it won't take you long to stumble across mention of the claim that a stash of the final 40,000 decks of Jerry's Nuggets was bought up in a single swoop, cleaning out the casino's remaining inventory of these prized decks.
The story about some lucky buyer nabbing a final stash of 40,000 decks is circulated quite widely around the internet. Do a Google search for "40,000 Jerry's Nugget" and look at how many hits this gets! Some places that sell the decks even include this in their ad copy. For example, here's the ad copy over at one online retailer, which was selling authentic decks for $525 before they sold out:
Another online retailer says the same. Many reviewers have parroted this information as well, such as this example. So do various sites dedicated to information about playing cards, such as this example.
As far as many people are concerned, this information is more along the lines of "fact" than fiction, and it's become part of the story that everyone accepts. Little wonder that it is often repeated by collectors in discussion forums about playing cards, and that it has given more than just one person a tinge of envy.

Who is the mysterious buyer?

So who is the lucky guy with 40,000 decks of precious Jerry's Nugget decks hidden in his basement or garage? And is the story even true?
Some of the sources for this story seem quite credible. And they also reveal the buyer's name: French magician Dominique Duvivier. One person quotes Jordan Lapping, apparently among the first cardists to get Jerry's Nugget decks and use them for flourishing.
Dominique Duvivier is a French magician who performs and works with his daughter Alexandra, and together they have a high profile in the world of French magic. They are even well known in the circles of international magic, and were featured on the cover of the June 2013 issue of Genii Magazine.
Norwegian magician Allan Hagen has a long-time interest in the Jerry's Nugget decks, and he also mentions Duvivier's purchase of 40,000 Jerry's Nugget decks as apparent fact in something he posted on Reddit in 2015, where he describes his perspective on their rarity and value.
You'll read similar reports in an article published by Ukrainian cardists Alexander and Nikolay about Jerry's Nugget decks in June 2017. Two things are common to all these accounts: the number 40,000 for the haul of decks purchased by the mysterious overseas buyer. And now his name: Dominique Duvivier.
I contacted a number of different sources, including people who had personal connections with some of the key players who were closely involved when Jerry's Nuggets decks first became a fad among magicians and cardists in the late 1990s. One source told me: "Interesting, the name of the European magician - it was a big secret back then. Someone actually told me his name back then, but it was on the proviso that I never publish it. Well, I see it's out of the bag now."

Was Dominique Duvivier the buyer?

But is there any evidence that Dominique Duvivier was really the mystery buyer whose name had been a carefully kept secret for some time at least? It was time for some more detective work. Google brought me to Duvivier's personal website.
It didn't take long to discover that Duvivier does indeed have a real fondness for Jerry's Nuggets Playing Cards. They are everywhere - in his photos, his videos, and his instagram.
Judging by the many French-language comments on his site, it also becomes apparent that Duvivier is highly respected and appreciated in his home country for his magic. It's also evident from reading some of the comments that his Jerry's Nuggets decks are a signature of his performance. Some even consider them to be the equivalent of a Stradivarius that Duvivier uses to perform with as a master magician.
But it was when I checked Duvivier's youtube channel that I found some real gold: Dominique himself performing with Jerry's Nugget cards in this clip. In fact, if you check out his other videos there, you'll find quite a few where he performs magic with Jerry's Nugget playing cards, like this performance from 2014, this more recent ace cutting routine, and this false shuffle. Duvivier has even contributed a Jerry's Nugget themed trick to the magic industry, entitled Jerry's Nuggets Cards in Bag.
You can watch the promo video for this trick in French or English. His daughter Alexandra Duvivier successfully used it to fool Penn and Teller on their show Fool Us. Here's the episode, and some unseen footage.
But just because Dominique Duvivier happens to really, really like Jerry's Nugget playing cards doesn't prove that he bought out a massive stash of the last 40,000 decks from the casino. So this still begs this question: Did any of this even happen? And is there really someone on this planet with a hoard of 40,000 decks, whether it is Dominique Duvivier or anybody else?
One of my favourite photos on Duvivier's site is this one here, with his haul. If that's any indication, surely the legendary haul was starting to seem somewhat plausible. It was time to ask around, and check in with some of the people who were around when the Jerry's Nugget decks first became the rage.
Of the sources I consulted, few could be considered more reliable than Lee Asher. For many people Lee is synonymous with the Jerry's Nugget phenomenon. He also had close connections with the events of the time, and was instrumental in bringing the Jerry's Nuggets into the limelight in the first place, by singing their paises. He was kind enough to respond when I contacted him for comment about Duvivier's alleged haul of 40,000 Jerry's Nugget decks, and Lee bluntly told me the following:
"This is misinformation. There weren't 40k decks left in 1999. We don't even know if Jerry's even printed 40k decks."
Really? Apparently Lee Asher knew Duvivier personally, and he was the very person who first told Duvivier that the casino even had the cards for sale. He also visited his home and shop in Paris many times throughout this period of time. In Lee's words:
"Without a doubt, I NEVER saw 40k of ANY deck there. That's basically nine pallets worth. The house, their magic shop and night club weren't big enough to house these decks. It also seems Duvivier isn't the last one to buy the remaining decks. Jerry's Nugget Casino believes they sold the last case of cards to someone in Japan in 1999."
Well, it seems that the story had to be put to rest. Was this entire story perhaps just a magnificent urban legend after all? And if it was, where does the number of 40,000 decks come from, and how did this story get so much traction that it spread all around the internet, and is accepted unquestionably by so many people? My task had just become a bit harder, but I wasn't going to give up yet. It was time to try to track down where the many websites that quoted this story got the figure of 40,000 from in the first place.

Where does the figure of 40,000 come from?

With some more digging, the oldest article I could find on the subject was by a card collector who has a collection of fine articles on his site, White Knuckle Cards. This particular article dates back to 2009, and is one of the earliest references to the legendary stash of 40,000 decks that I could find.
This particular article seems to be the first time the figure of 40,000 pops up, pre-dating all the more recent mentions of it. And it's not hard to figure out how it spread from there. On 6 August 2015, someone called "Doctor Papa Jones" added these details to Wikipedia's article on Jerry's Nuggets, evidently relying on the White Knuckle Cards article. As a result the Wikipedia article now read as follows: "In 2000, a private collector purchased the remaining stock of 40,000 decks".
So now this "fact" is on Wikipedia and has some real "credibility". In fact, the number 40,000 stays up on Wikipedia for the next five years unchallenged! And that allows it to spread around the internet and go wild. Because where does everyone go when they're looking for reliable, authoritative, and trustworthy information about something? Wikipedia!
Despite the mention of the magical stash of 40,000 decks, Duvivier's name remained out of the spotlight for a further four years. It was simply a mysterious "private collector" who had purchased the big haul. But in 2019, someone connected the dots to Duvivier, and so the Wikipedia article was changed to include his name.
So how did that happen? Well the supporting reference that Doctor Papa Jones included in his 2015 edit was a link to an article by Dan and Dave Buck, dating back to 7 Dec 2011. This article is also no longer available, but can be tracked down with the help of the Internet Archive here. It doesn't give the figure of 40,000 but does drop Duvivier's name.
So the evidence seems to suggest this development: Apparently relying on the White Knuckle Cards article from 2009 as a source, the number 40,000 first embedded itself in the WIkipedia article on Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards in 2015. Slowly the story grew, until somebody finally connected the dots that were hidden in plain sight elsewhere on the internet, and as a result Duvivier's name gets added four years later. Now things are set up for a great story: Mr Duvivier is sitting on a massive stash of 40,000 Jerry's Nuggets in France.
The story gained even more traction as a result of the revived interest in Jerry's Nuggets that inevitably happened when a tribute deck was printed in 2019. It was inevitable that many would rely on Wikipedia as a source, and so the details even ended up being quoted in ad copy for the reprinted decks. What had previously just been a matter of quiet rumour or speculation, was now considered as fact. Oh, the joy of Wikipedia - it has certainly helped promote quite the legend here!
And it doesn't take a genius to see that if this is true, Duvivier could be sitting on a small fortune. At $500 each, 14,000 decks would be worth around $700,000. Naturally a market flooded with them would drop their value. But even if the going price dropped to $100 a piece, that would still value his holdings at over $100,000. Even if he just sold the occasional decks at $500 a pop, this windfall could generate a nice little secondary income. That is, if the legend is true, a fact yet to be proven....

Revising the figure

Because this year, the Wikipedia article was changed. By now of course the (mis)information about Duvivier's haul had gone far and wide, and a lot of potential damage has already been done. But on 25 March 2020 someone called "TheCongressGuy" changed it to read that Duvivier "purchased the remaining stock of 1,500-2000 decks".
Suddenly the number of Duvivier's legendary purchase had been reduced from 40,000 to something around 5% of the size. A figure of 1,500-2000 seems much more likely. So who made the change and what was their source?
I did some more digging and managed to track down TheCongressGuy. He is Kevan Seaney, who describes himself as an "antique playing cards collector, specializing in the Congress 606 brand" and posts here. In February 2020 he wrote here that he'd learned that Duvivier had not purchased 40,000 decks. I was curious, and eventually found the following video that he posted about this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2pctAEuiZA
And who was his source that Kevan credits for correcting the previous (mis)information about the number 40,000? If you watch that video, you'll find out that it is none other than the great Lee Asher. Lee Asher isn't just "anyone". He's a playing card expert, and the current president of 52 Plus Joker The American Playing Card Collectors Club. He's the guy who first generated public interest in Jerry's Nugget decks, brought them to the attention of cardists like the Buck twins and Chris Kenner, and was later a purveyor of these icon decks via his website. He's also had personal connections with Duvivier, was the person who informed Duvivier that they were available from the casino, and has personally spent a lot of time with him in Paris.
And Lee Asher is a key person that has helped get real Jerry's Nugget decks into the hands of a new generation today. He's the guy who was instrumental in making a collaboration happen between Jerry's Nugget Casino and Expert Playing Card Company, by suggesting that EPCC get the exclusive licence needed to reprint these iconic decks in 2019, as announced in an official press release here.
It's plain that along with EPCC's Bill Kalush, Lee Asher (pictured below) was singularly responsible for getting an officially licensed Jerry's Nugget deck back into the hands of a new generation and into the collections of those who couldn't afford the massive sticker price of the originals. So if anyone has a passion for the original Jerry's Nuggets, it is Lee Asher. Of anyone in this picture, Lee is the person with the most credibility, and his opinion and perspective should carry a lot of weight.
With Asher as his source, Kevan Seaney points out that 40,000 decks of Jerry's Nugget playing cards is the equivalent of around 8 pallets. That's a massive amount, and would weigh around four tons. And it would take up a tremendous amount of space! Kevan cites Lee Asher as saying (via voice messages in Instagram) that in 1999 Asher told Duvivier that he could get the decks from the casino, and that Duvivier bought around 1,500-2000 decks at the time. Lee subsequently visited his home and store - France's oldest magic shop - in France many times. And according to Asher, there was no way Duvivier had room for 40,000 decks. Kevin also says that Lee Asher pointed out to him that these were technically not the final lot of decks sold by the casino anyway, and that the last decks (a "case" of unknown size) probably went to Japan.
Wow. That really changes things! So based on this apparent "new information" from Lee Asher - who to his credit has apparently been saying this all along - Wikipedia gets a new edit by TheCongressGuy aka Kevin Seaney. The impressive figure of 40,000 is reduced to a much more modest 1500-2000, which is paltry by comparison to the much larger figures circulating the internet, and not nearly as impressive a story. But this is only after Wikipedia has been singing a different tune for five years, so the `damage' has been done, and the story of Duvivier's windfall of 40,000 Jerry's Nuggets is already accepted by most people as a true story.

Duvivier's own story

Suddenly it occurred to me to investigate Duvivier himself. Was this perhaps a line of inquiry that might produce some solid leads and definitive facts? Has the man himself ever commented on all these stories about his legendary haul? Could I find anything directly from the man himself that would shed some light on these legends? In fact, why hadn't I thought of this earlier? Just because nobody else seems to have dug up or reported anything from the man's own mouth, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. I slapped myself for my own foolishness, and headed back to Google.
As it turns out, Duvivier has written about this! But because it's an article in French, it's escaped notice from most people. Since he's popular as a professional magician in France, he not only has his own website, but he also writes his own blog. And sure enough, he's addressed this very topic in a blog article that he wrote in April 2011 under the title "Magiphageuh No 14: Les Jerry's Nugget".
With the help of an online translation tool, we learn this:
"As most of you already know, I only use real "Jerry's Nugget" cards to work with and have been doing so for many years. As these cards happen to be extremely rare to find on the market (I am obviously talking about the original Jerry's Nugget cards and not the recently reprinted ones) and they excite the magical world a lot, I am therefore constantly asked how many I own, how long have I owned them, what deal I made to get them and with whom, why do I have so many cards, why did I choose these specifically, why don't I want to sell them, why, why, eh?! And I hear such amazing stories about myself on these famous "Jerry's Nugget" cards that I decided to speak on the subject myself today."
This sounds very promising! Duvivier then goes on to tell the story about how the Jerry's Nuggets gained their legendary reputation, and the unique qualities they have. In France in the 1970s, American playing cards were quite rarely seen, and Duvivier knew a French pilot commandant called Reyno who loved magic, who would occasionally bring back cards from the US to a small circle of French magicians. At this time even standard Bicycle and Tally Ho decks were prized by these French conjurers, so besides them a Jerry's Nugget deck was considered a real crown jewel.
Over the years Duvivier occasionally got more of the Jerry's Nugget decks, sometimes even an entire case of them at once, especially via his friend Michael Weber, who was his main supplier. We fast forward to 1999, when he finds himself heading to Las Vegas to perform at The Magic Castle. Here's the story in his words, courtesy of an online translation tool:
"In 1999 (if I'm not mistaken) my daughter Alexandra and I were hired to perform for a whole week at Magic Castle and then for a few contracts in Las Vegas. You may think that I had only one idea in mind at the time: a trip to the original casino where my favourite cards were from, Jerry's Nugget! Michael Weber had told me that there were still a few decks for sale there, so as soon as we arrived I immediately asked Philip Varricchio, who had come to pick us up in a limousine, to take us there. He was rather surprised, as we hadn't even put our bags down at the hotel (yes, I'm a fool) and the old Jerry's casino wasn't really known for being a must-see place! So I told him that I wanted to go there to buy Jerry's Nugget cards. According to him it was impossible to get them for the simple reason that they hadn't been around for a long time, but I was so insistent that he finally complied (hey, hey, hey!). When we arrived there, we went to the gift shop of the casino and I asked the salesman if he was selling their decks.
- Yes," he told me, "I have a few.
He shows me a small piece of wall in the back of the store where a hundred decks were on display. I ask about the price. Not even expensive!
- Well, I'll take them," I say (laughs).
And of course I ask if he has more in reserve! Yes, there were about a hundred boxes left (each box containing a large number of cards, 144 decks!). After a little negotiation, the unit price was even lowered to less than $1.
That's it, that's how it happened and that's it. In fact, in all this story, the most difficult, the longest and the most expensive was to get the stock back to France.
Since then, I've been seeing, little by little, the bids going up on these cards in a rather hallucinating way, whereas, of course, that wasn't my initial motivation at all. From the moment I bought the remaining stock, it's as if everyone wanted to own even more! But I just wanted to have enough stock of Jerry's Nugget decks because I'm a card fanatic and these in particular. I use these cards because they're the best cards I know and I've fought like a big man to own enough of them for me (I should mention that I never had a middleman or a partner to buy these cards). Anyone could have done as I did and I don't understand why no one did: you just had to take the trouble to go to this casino, because the cards were available! In any case, now they are all warm and cosy in different safes, which I won't tell you about. They say I'm the person with the most cards in the world, but I have to say I don't care. I know Chris Kenner is the one who planned it, he has a lot of them too. I've been offered golden bridges to sell a few packages, or even my entire stock. I've had some incredible offers over the years. I never intended to create a buzz with these cards: I just use them for my own personal consumption, that's all...because they're my favorite cards."
Probably the key sentence in that account is this, and the best translation seems to be something like this:
"Yes, there were about a hundred boxes left (each box containing a large number of cards, that's 144 decks!)."
The formula is simple: around 100 boxes with 144 decks each. If true, that would mean 100 x 144 = 14,400 decks. Given that this is directly from the horse's mouth, suddenly the story becomes slightly more plausible. So too is his additional statement:
"In all this story, the most difficult, the longest and the most expensive was to get the stock back to France."
That suggests he didn't bring the whole stash to France in one go, which might explain why visitors like Lee Asher and others who saw his home and magic shop never saw any evidence of them. I'm not a French speaker, so I'm happy to be corrected if I'm misunderstanding anything Duvivier has written - by all means check the article for yourself in the original French, to see if I've got it right. But the long and short of it seems to be that Duvivier is saying that what he bought from Las Vegas around 1999 was not a stash of 40,000 Jerry's Nuggets decks, but 14,000 decks.
14,000 is not nearly as impressive a figure. But even though it's only a third of the size of what the legend floating around the internet says, 14,000 decks is still an incredibly impressive haul. Certainly the amount of pictures and videos that show Duvivier performing with Jerry's Nugget cards, seems to suggest that they are very much part of his regular repertoire. It could just be possible, and maybe I've finally found the truth!
Perhaps the most defining photo of all is this one (credited to Zakary Belamy), which shows Duvivier enjoying a bath with his Jerry's Nugget playing cards! Given the value of these playing cards on the market today, some might consider this sacrilege, but it sure suggests he has a large enough supply of Jerry's Nugget cards. At any rate, his collection of them seems large enough that he can even afford to take them to the bath for a photo op along with his favourite yellow rubber ducky.

But is it true?

Was the mystery solved at last? It was time to get back in contact with Lee Asher, and share my findings. But despite the claims of Duvivier in his 2011 article, Lee is not convinced that Duvivier is a credible source. To be fair, this is what Lee Asher has been saying all along, and for years he's been saying that the story about the legendary haul of 40,000 decks wasn't supported by the facts.
Ultimately what this comes down to is: are we going to believe what Duvivier says? For the most part, Duvivier has appeared to have had little interest in setting the record straight, despite the fact that the rumour of him nabbing 40,000 decks persisted as long as it did. And if he does have a large stash, why has he shown little interest in selling any of the decks that he does have, instead being happy to hoard them or use them only for himself? Would he really have spent all the time, energy, and money necessary to ship even 14,000 decks of playing cards across the ocean from the United States to Europe, just for his personal usage, at a time when the street value of these was only a dollar or two a piece? And if he did, where did he put them, and why has nobody ever seen his stash, including those who visited his home?
There are other details about Duvivier's record of events that call aspects of his narrative into question, such as his complete omission of any mention of Lee Asher, who was the one who made him aware of where he could get them. And in those days, the casino gift shop was very small, so is it really reasonable for them to display 100 decks on their back wall, as Duvivier claims in his 2011 article, when they had such little space to work with?
I had some private correspondence with another magician/cardist who has also stayed at Duvivier's house, and that individual expressed similar sentiments. He agreed that there was no evidence of Duvivier ever owning that many decks. Just do the math: 40,000 decks would mean Duvivier could use a brand new deck every single day for more than 100 years before he chewed through a collection of decks that size. Again: very unlikely. If he really did have that many, it would be way more than he could ever use, and surely he would have sold some by now - which he hasn't. This person remains somewhat skeptical, but acknowledges that the figure of 14,000 is a more realistic number that is not beyond the realms of possibility, especially if Duvivier has them locked up in a storage facility in Paris somewhere.
As an educated guess, it seems that there is good reason to cast some suspicion on this story, and there are some aspects about it that seem rather unlikely. Shipping that many decks, at the time only worth a buck or two each at most, all the way from Las Vegas to Paris would be crazy. But a man willing to jump into a bath with a yellow rubber duck and destroy $1000 worth of playing cards in the process strikes me as crazy enough to do it. Perhaps Duvivier's story is true after all.

A final twist

I was now several weeks into my adventures as an investigative journalist, and I was getting ready to wrap up my story and publish it. But there was one final lead that I had not yet explored. If I was really going to try every possible avenue of information, I had to try contacting Dominique Duvivier himself. Why not? Admittedly, the odds of getting a response from someone about his apparent stash of precious Jerry's Nuggets wasn't likely. If there was any truth to the story about his legendary haul, even to some degree, then he's undoubtedly had hundreds of inquiries over the years. Just imagine the long lines of people asking him about his stash, trying to convince him to part with some of it. If yet another email comes in on this subject, he'd probably roll his eyes and press `delete'. He is working full time as a professional magician after all, and has a career to worry about. I couldn't blame him if he was tired of responding to what undoubtedly would be countless messages from prospective buyers.
But I had no intention to buy anything, so as a good amateur journalist, I had to try. It was a long shot, but to my surprise, I got a response from Duvivier the very same day! It wasn't much, but it included one unexpected bombshell - especially after the journey I'd been on so far: "You'll be glad to know that a special article is going to appear in next Genii Magazine. It's called Dominique Duvivier and Jerry's Nugget cards."
I was stunned. Was someone else working on exactly the same story as me, and had they beat me to the punch? Maybe even Duvivier himself? Could it really be true that in little more than two weeks time, the next issue of Genii was scheduled to come out, and would potentially reveal all? Suddenly I knew that I had to wait with publishing my story. In further emails, Dominique was tight-lipped about any more details. At the very least, surely I would have to wait until that issue of Genii was available, and fork out my cash and purchase a subscription in order to read it. I owed it to my readers to explore every last clue, and give them a story that included all the evidence.
So that is what I did. I waited for the July issue to appear online. Digital editions of Genii are released online each month on the 20th of the month. Finally 20th of June rolled around, and I eagerly perused the contents of the latest issue. Nothing. Nothing remotely Duvivier related. Nothing Jerry's Nugget related. Was Duvivier for real? An inquiry with the editor of Genii produced this response: "Not this issue. Coming up." Would it be August or September maybe? Further inquiries produced only silence.
In follow up correspondence with the Frenchman himself, Duvivier told me "I wrote the article myself. It?s quite long." That sounded promising, but it could just be about his love affair with Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards, rather than a "tell all" story about his haul. There still was no guarantee that it would even be published. And I couldn't be sure that it would offer any more information than his blog article from 2011 which already gave his side of the story, or that it would be any more reliable than the version of events he'd provided there. Was it really worth waiting any longer? It was time to share my findings with the world anyway, and I could always provide an addendum to my story if any credible new information appeared.

Final Thoughts

Is this the final word on this subject? No. I've tried to do the best I could based on information available to me, and shared as much as I could with my readers, so that you can form your own conclusions based on the evidence so far. Undoubtedly there are still some missing puzzle pieces, and in future years some new information could come to light that shows that some of my conclusions were misplaced or that puts aspects of this story a slightly different perspective.
Today we are two full decades removed from the time when the original decks first sold out at the Jerry's Nugget casino. And the further removed in time that we come, the harder it becomes to uncover the truth. Memories become murky. As it is nobody at the casino seems to remember the specific details of what happened. At the time they were probably only too glad to get the remaining stock out of their hands, and nobody could have anticipated how these decks would become the famous icons that they are today. Even their chief evangelist Lee Asher has to be somewhat surprised at the turn of events he's produced since first singing their praises some twenty years ago!
So what can we conclude from all of this? Here's some final thoughts that I'll leave you with:
1. Don't believe everything you read on the internet.
Unfortunately, it's a fact of modern life that not everything on the internet is true. And as we've seen, this also applies to sites like Wikipedia. For topics that have a large number of experts or people interested in a particular subject, changing the facts on a Wikipedia article will quickly see the changes being reverted. But with a more niche subject, like Jerry's Nugget Playing Cards, and especially when it concerns circumstantial material that nobody is quite sure about, it's easy for misinformation to enter Wikipedia. And once it's embedded there, eventually the lore spreads and becomes considered as "fact". So it's important to check your sources, and don't take everything you see online as gospel truth - even if it's on Wikipedia.
2. The legend about the stash of 40,000 decks should be put to rest once and for all.
It's a myth, and there simply is no evidence for this claim anywhere. At most, there is the claim from Duvivier himself that he bought up about 14,000 decks. That might be true, but again, we only have his word for this. As a counter-point, there are those like Lee Asher who know Duvivier and have visited him many times, and insist that they never saw any evidence of this. The enormous cost of shipping a large stash like this to Europe already makes it somewhat hard to believe.
There's no doubt that Duvivier is a huge fan of Jerry's Nugget decks, and he appears to own and use them more than most. But in the end, how credible is he? How seriously are you going to take someone who is happy to post a picture of himself in a bath with a rubber duck and playing cards from a Jerry's Nugget deck? Either that means he has far more decks than he knows what to do with, or he is a little loopy. Or perhaps it's a bit of both. You've had an opportunity to read all the evidence for yourself, so you decide.
Either way, we can safely say that there has never been a stash of 40,000 decks, and the jury is out on whether there was even ever a stash one third of this size. But even if the size of the legendary stash turns out to be smaller than first thought, the reputation and magnetism of the Jerry's Nugget decks has only increased in size, and these now iconic decks will remain firmly embedded in playing card lore.
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Update from the writer: After the original publication of this article, Dominique Duvivier personally phoned me on 24 July 2020 to discuss it, and to share his side of this story. He remembers events slightly differently than Lee Asher does. As Duvivier recalls it, his own interest in the Jerry's Nugget decks dates back to the 1970s and 1980s. At that time he was sourcing them from his friend Michael Weber, who along with magicians like Chris Kenner was also interested in these decks. According to Dominique, he only met Lee Asher during his USA tour in 1999, after he had already bought out the remaining stock from the Jerry's Nugget casino. Duvivier confirmed that the figure of 14,000 accurately reflects the approximate number of decks he purchased from the casino at this time. He shipped the majority of these to France by boat, and stored them in a warehouse, intending them to serve as a life-time supply for himself and his family. Look for his story in an upcoming issue of Genii magazine.
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Paris casino while testing Tamron 35 F1.4

Paris casino while testing Tamron 35 F1.4 submitted by photographypx to u/photographypx [link] [comments]

Lost in the Sauce: Feb. 16 - 22

Welcome to Lost in the Sauce, keeping you caught up on political and legal news that often gets buried in distractions and theater. (the previous edition can be found here if you are super behind).
House-keeping:
  1. How to read: the headings will guide you through this piece. The Main Course covers the “big” stories and The Sides covers the “smaller” stories. IF YOU FOLLOW THE NEWS CLOSELY: you likely know about the stories in the Main Course section, so you will be best served by scrolling down to The Sides portion.
  2. How to support: If you enjoy my work, please consider becoming a patron. I do this to keep track and will never hide behind a paywall, but these projects take a lot of time and effort to create. Even a couple of dollars a month helps. Since someone asked a few weeks ago (thank you!), here's a PayPal option
  3. How to get notifications: If you’d like to be added to my newsletter, use this SIGNUP FORM and you’ll get these recaps in your inbox!
Let’s dig in!

MAIN COURSE

Trump’s war on the intelligence community: 10 days under an authoritarian administration

I wrote a stand-alone piece covering the biggest news from last week: Over the past 10 days, we've seen Trump fully indulge his authoritarian impulses in an attempt to stamp out any inkling of facts that he dislikes - whether that be for personal, egocentric reasons or to shore up political strength. This began with a briefing given to the House Intelligence Committee that Russia is seeking to re-elect Trump. In response, Trump purged the Office of the Director of National Intelligence of officials he perceived to be disloyal, installing loyalists in their place.
Also covered: how Trump gets away with a cabinet full of acting officials, Richard Grenell’s numerous dis-qualifications, a pardon offered to Julian Assange, and the hunt for “Never Trumpers” in the administration.

Sunday night update

On Sunday, Trump made a veiled threat toward House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff while claiming without evidence that the Democrat had leaked information from the Russia briefing on Feb. 13: “Somebody please tell incompetent (thanks for my high poll numbers) & corrupt politician Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff to stop leaking Classified information or, even worse, made up information, to the Fake News Media. Someday he will be caught, & that will be a very unpleasant experience!” tweet
Later, while speaking to reporters, Trump called for an investigation into the leak - more concerned about the public learning of the briefing than he is about Russia’s repeated interference in U.S. elections. “They leaked it, Adam Schiff and his group. They leaked it to the papers and - as usual - they ought to investigate Adam Schiff for leaking that information,” Trump said.
Schiff responded: “Nice deflection, Mr. President. But your false claims fool no one. You welcomed Russian help in 2016, tried to coerce Ukraine’s help in 2019, and won’t protect our elections in 2020.”

Pardon-palooza

Authoritarians also dispense largesse, but they do it by their own whims, rather than pursuant to any system or legal rule. The point of authoritarianism is to concentrate power in the ruler, so the world knows that all actions, good and bad, harsh and generous, come from a single source. (The New Yorker)
Last week, Trump granted pardons and commutations to 11 people with one thing in common: connections. Trump bypassed the process of formal procedures typically used to determine who is given a pardon, instead relying on connections to his wealthy friends and political allies.

Roger Stone going to prison

Perhaps not coincidentally, Trump’s pardoning of corrupt public officials like Blagojevich occurred just two days before Roger Stone’s sentencing for lying to investigators, obstructing a congressional investigation, and witness tampering. Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Stone to 40 months - or 3.3 years - in prison, much lighter than the original 7-9 year sentencing recommendation made by career prosecutors who withdrew from the case in protest of AG Barr’s intervention.
Lawfare has a great line-by-line breakdown of the sentencing hearing, if you’d like the nitty-gritty details. But if you only have time to read one excerpt from the hearing, I suggest the following:
Judge Jackson: “The truth still exists. The truth still matters. Roger Stone's insistence that it doesn't, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the very foundation of our democracy...The dismay and the disgust at the attempts by others to defend his actions as just business as usual in our polarized climate should transcend party. The dismay and the disgust with any attempts to interfere with the efforts of prosecutors and members of the judiciary to fulfill their duty should transcend party.
"Sure, the defense is free to say: So what? Who cares? But, I'll say this: Congress cared. The United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia that prosecuted the case and is still prosecuting the case cared. The jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances cared. The American people cared. And I care."
Judge Jackson pushes back
During the hearing, Judge Jackson said that the jurors in the case "served with integrity." Stone’s lawyers took this statement and moved to disqualify the judge from the case, claiming that her remarks “rendered her unable to fairly rule on his bid for a new trial.”
"Stone’s Motion for New Trial is directly related to the integrity of a juror. It is alleged that a juror misled the Court regarding her ability to be unbiased and fair and the juror attempted to cover up evidence that would directly contradict her false claims of impartiality," his lawyers argued.
"The premature statement blessing the “integrity of the jury” undermines the appearance of impartiality and presents a strong bias for recusal," they added.
As expected, Jackson denied the motion to have her disqualified...
A pardon for Stone?
But the goal may be to reach the ears of the president instead. According to Politico, a former senior administration official who remains in contact with Trump and his senior advisers says about a pardon for Roger Stone: “It’s not a question of if; it’s when.” Following the sentencing, Trump argued that Stone’s jury was “tainted” and said that “Roger has a very good chance of exoneration.”
On Sunday, Trump was asked about the possibility of a pardon for Stone and instead took the opportunity to attack the jury forewoman, again:
"That juror is so biased and so tainted, that shouldn't happen in our criminal justice system… You have a juror that is obviously tainted. She was an activist against Trump. She said bad things about Trump and bad things about Stone," the President claimed without evidence. "She somehow weaseled her way onto the jury and if that's not a tainted jury then there is no such thing as a tainted jury."

More info on Stone’s lenient sentence

In the week since four prosecutors withdrew from Stone’s case in protest of AG Barr’s interference, we have gotten a slow drip-drip of new information. A piece by The New York Times Sunday summed it up nicely: Timothy Shea, appointed to replace Jessie Liu as head D.C. attorney, was sent to the office specifically to steer cases to the president’s benefit after previous efforts failed.
A new boss, Timothy Shea, had just arrived and had told them on his first day that he wanted a more lenient recommendation for Mr. Stone, and he pushed back hard when they objected, according to two people briefed on the dispute. They grew suspicious that Mr. Shea was helping his longtime friend and boss, Attorney General William P. Barr, soften the sentencing request to please the president.
...The tensions between the office, the Justice Department and the White House date back further than the tumult in the Stone case. They have been simmering since at least last summer, when the office’s investigation of Andrew G. McCabe, a former top F.B.I. official whom the president had long targeted, began to fall apart.
Mr. Shea’s predecessor, Jessie K. Liu, a lawyer whom Mr. Trump had appointed to lead the office in 2017, pressed the McCabe case even after one team of prosecutors concluded that they could not win a conviction. After a second team was brought in and also failed to deliver a grand jury indictment, Ms. Liu’s relationship with Mr. Barr grew strained, people close to them said. She left the position this year, though she and Mr. Barr have both stressed to associates that her departure was amicable.

Undoing Mueller’s work

Trump’s efforts to derail the sentencing of Stone can be seen as part of a larger campaign to rewrite history, and specifically, erase the findings of the Mueller investigation. Roger Stone’s indictment shows that Stone was acting on Trump's personal order to find Hillary Clinton’s campaign emails stolen by Russia. In order to cover-up his role in the Russia-Wikileaks-Trump network, Stone lied to investigators and threatened a witness. By claiming that Stone did not commit a crime, Trump is attempting to reverse the findings of the Mueller report and make himself the victim.
Last week, Trump embarked on a rambling Twitter thread calling for all cases stemming from Mueller’s probe to be “thrown out.” He continued, saying: “If I wasn’t President, I’d be suing everyone all over the place.......BUT MAYBE I STILL WILL. WITCH HUNT!”
Hours later, while discussing the spate of pardons he had issued that day, Trump made the astounding assertion that he is “the chief law enforcement officer of the country” and thus has the “legal right” to interfere in criminal cases. “I’m allowed to be totally involved,” the president added. While technically he is incorrect - the Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer - in practice Trump has been proven right. A lawless chief executive is in fact in charge of enforcing the law when the Attorney General acts as his personal fixer.
This is in the style of autocrats across the globe, who weaponize the law to help themselves and their friends and hurt their enemies. The nation’s legal system is now run by a man who has spent his life mocking it. (NYT Editorial Board)
Meanwhile, the president’s allies have reportedly been urging him to fire anyone who was involved in Mueller’s investigation:
The MAGA punditry’s outsized influence over the president means their campaign against the so-called Mueller “holdovers” is likely not falling on deaf ears, especially given Trump’s fixation with what his defenders and detractors are saying about his administration in their frequent appearances on his favorite TV programs.
“It's totally unclear to me why any members of the Mueller team need to remain in the Trump DOJ,” the pro-Trump conservative blogger Will Chamberlain wrote after news broke of the Stone sentencing recommendation.
...GOP operative Arthur Schwartz, a close friend of Donald Trump Jr. who has been described as the eldest son’s “fixer,” said of the career officials in question: “I think they should all be investigated.”
...John Dowd, a former Trump lawyer who remains in touch with the White House, characterized the line attorneys in the Stone case as “insubordinate,” and “the same crowd of prosecutors wedded to the Mueller agenda” who need to be “cleaned out” from DOJ. “And Bill Barr is doing that,” Dowd said.
What can be done about the politicization of the DOJ? In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Cass Sunstein of Harvard Law School suggests that “Congress should transform the Justice Department into an independent agency, legally immunized from the president’s day-to-day control.”

Public charge rule takes effect

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow the government to implement new “wealth test” rules making it easier to deny immigrants residency or admission to the United States if they might depend on public-assistance programs. Legal challenges will continue in lower courts in the meantime. Doug Rand, co-founder of Boundless Immigration who formerly worked on immigration policy in the Obama White House, estimates that as many as 400,000 people every year could be denied green cards or visas because of the new rules.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a written dissent that was sharply critical of both the federal government and her conservative colleagues, warning that they are “putting a thumb on the scale in favor of” the Trump administration. Read her full seven-page dissent here.
The justice wrote that granting emergency applications often upends "the normal appellate process" while "putting a thumb on the scale in favor of the party that won." Targeting her conservative colleagues, she said "most troublingly, the Court's recent behavior" has benefited "one litigant over all others."
"Claiming one emergency after another, the Government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases," Sotomayor said. "It is hard to say what is more troubling," she said, pointing to the case at hand, "that the Government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the Court would grant it." CNN

THE SIDES

Justice Department’s new rules benefit Giuliani

In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, the DOJ indicated that the agency has implemented another layer of approval that would make it difficult for prosecutors to widen their probe into Rudy Giuliani:
The Justice Department revealed Tuesday that law enforcement officials running Ukraine-related investigations must seek approval before expanding their inquiries — a move that could have implications for Rudolph W. Giuliani, as President Trump’s personal attorney pushes for scrutiny of the president’s political foes while facing a federal probe into his own conduct.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote to Nadler that the department had tapped two U.S. attorneys to assist in the process — Scott Brady in Pittsburgh to receive and assess new information, and Richard Donoghue in Brooklyn to help coordinate personnel throughout the Justice Department involved in Giuliani’s case and others with a focus on Ukraine. An accompanying internal memo, circulated by Rosen in January, says that he and Donoghue must approve expansions of any inquiries.

Related: The Hill admits John Solomon’s columns were misleading

The Hill’s review of Solomon’s work can be found here. I have found the review itself to be overly generous to the publication (no surprise), so I will quote from a WaPo summary of the review:
In effect, the Hill said Solomon amplified an inaccurate and one-sided narrative about the Bidens and Ukraine that was fed to him by Giuliani, “facilitated” by businessman Lev Parnas, who was working with Giuliani at the time, and reinforced by Solomon’s own attorneys, who also represented clients embroiled in U.S.-Ukraine politics.
But the Hill stopped short of retracting or apologizing for Solomon’s articles, nor did it say it shouldn’t have published them. It also didn’t characterize Solomon’s motives in presenting what appears to be a largely debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine.
“In certain columns, Solomon failed to identify important details about key Ukrainian sources, including the fact that they had been indicted or were under investigation,” said the internal investigation, which was overseen by the newspaper’s editor, Bob Cusack. “In other cases, the sources were [Solomon’s] own attorneys” — Victoria Toensing and Joseph DiGenova, who have also represented President Trump and Giuliani, who was also a key source for Solomon’s columns.
Solomon didn’t disclose this connection in his columns nor did he disclose to his editors that he shared drafts of his stories with Toensing, DiGenova and Parnas, the review noted.

Trump tries to block Bolton book

The Washington Post reports that Trump is attempting to block the release of former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s book, instructing aides that it should not be released until after the November election.
Trump has told his lawyers that Bolton should not be allowed to publish any of his interactions with him about national security because they are privileged and classified, these people said. He has also repeatedly brought up the book with his team, asking whether Bolton is going to be able to publish it, they said.
Trump told national television anchors on Feb. 4 during an off-the-record lunch that material in the book was “highly classified,” according to notes from one participant in the luncheon. He then called him a “traitor.”
“We’re going to try and block the publication of the book,” Trump said, according to the notes. “After I leave office, he can do this. But not in the White House...I give the guy a break. I give him a job. And then he turns on me,” Trump added during the West Wing lunch. “He’s just making things up.”

Susan Rice tells Bolton the truth

During a panel discussion at Vanderbilt University on Wednesday, Bolton shared the stage with Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice. Bolton made excuses for his failure to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial, blaming the House for committing “impeachment malpractice.” Rice challenged Bolton repeatedly, denigrating his decision to promote his book instead of testify:
"I thought a lot about if I had been in that position how would I have approached it, and I'll be honest: It's inconceivable to me that if I had firsthand knowledge of gross abuse of presidential power that I would withhold my testimony from a constitutional accountability process.”
"I can't imagine withholding my testimony, with or without a subpoena," Rice said. "I also can't imagine, frankly, in the absence of being able to provide the information directly to Congress, not having exercised my First Amendment right to speak publicly at a time when my testimony or my experience would be relevant. And, frankly, when my subordinates ... were doing their duty and responding in a fashion consistent with their legal obligations to provide information."
"I would feel like I was shamefully violating the oath that I took to support and defend the Constitution."

Trump corruption update

President Donald Trump’s choice to stay at his own Las Vegas hotel each night during the western states swing that wraps up Friday likely cost taxpayers a million extra dollars as well as diverted thousands of them into his own cash registers.
Breaking with precedent, Trump flew back to Vegas to stay every night at his Trump International Hotel, despite his day activities taking place in California, Arizona, and Colorado.
Had Trump held the same events but done so in a geographically logical order ― starting in Beverly Hills and finishing in Colorado Springs, but overnighting each day in the city where he would begin the following morning ― Trump would have spent four fewer hours aboard Air Force One, thereby saving taxpayers about $1.1 million.
...Indeed, the repeated overnight trips to Las Vegas may have forced the Secret Service and other support personnel to keep a motorcade there for a full four days, rather than move it to the site of an upcoming presidential trip
This week, Trump has a whole new country to focus on: India, home to the largest portfolio of Trump real estate projects outside North America, according to the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. According to The Washington Post, since the elder Trump’s last trip to India in 2014, two of his business partners have encountered massive legal and financial trouble.
During Trump’s time as president, the Trump Organization has vigorously promoted their properties in India, earning millions of dollars in royalties:
In 2018, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. — who runs the Trump Organization with his brother, Eric Trump — spent several days in India promoting the family’s developments, attending a champagne dinner with condo buyers who plunked down $39,000 deposits and bringing in millions of dollars in new sales. While there, he also met with Modi behind closed doors. The next year, Trump’s Indian business partners flew 100 early buyers of his luxury condos near Delhi to visit Trump Tower and Trump Ferry Point golf course in New York City as a way to generate interest in the properties in India. One attendee gushed afterward about meeting the son of a U.S. president on the trip.

Trump 2020: Cambridge Analytica and Facebook

President Donald Trump’s campaign is bringing on an alum of the controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica...Matt Oczkowski, who served as head of product at Cambridge before it went bankrupt and shut down in 2018, is helping oversee the Trump campaign’s data program...Oczkowski, who also worked on Trump’s 2016 effort, joined the reelection campaign in January, and payments to his company, HuMn Behavior, are expected to show up on Trump’s next campaign finance disclosure later this month. (Politico)
An Axios report revealed where most of Trump’s re-election campaign is spending its advertising budget: on Facebook ads. “Last fall, the campaign urged Facebook to keep the same tools for political advertisers that they make available to companies...Facebook ultimately decided not to change its policies around microtargeting.” However, unlike in 2016, the campaign is also diversifying, “testing new strategies on several dozen platforms, including YouTube, Google, ad exchanges, publisher networks and conservative podcasts.”
  • Side note: The IRS is suing Facebook for $9 million in back taxes, alleging the social media company undervalued intellectual properties when selling them to an Irish subsidiary in 2010. Ireland has lower corporate tax rates than the United States, so the move reduced the company’s tax bill.

Erik Prince investigations

There is apparently another investigation into Blackwater Founder - and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos - Erik Prince. The FBI is reportedly investigating Prince “for his 2015 attempt to modify two American-made crop-dusting planes into attack aircraft — a violation of arms trafficking regulations...The planes became part of private military services Prince proposed to sell or use in mercenary operations in Africa and Azerbaijan.”
This new investigation adds to Prince’s legal problems, though he insists that he is untouchable “under this guy,” referring to Trump. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Justice Department is “in the late stages of deciding whether to charge” Prince for allegedly lying to Congress in its Russia probe and violating U.S. export laws in his business dealings overseas.

Trump blocking prominent climate change warning

The United States is against mentioning climate change in the communique of the world’s financial leaders, G20 diplomats said, after a new draft of the joint statement showed the G20 are considering including it as a risk factor to growth...G20 sources said the United States was reluctant to accept language on climate change as a risk to the economy. Reuters
On Sunday, it was announced that the U.S. ultimately agreed to a less-prominent placement for the risks of climate change. It will now appear in language referencing the Financial Stability Board’s work examining the implications of climate change for financial stability.
One of the G20 sources said it was the first time a reference to climate change had been included in a G20 finance communique during Trump’s presidency, even though it was removed from the top of the joint statement. U.S. officials have resisted naming climate change as an economic risk since Trump took office in 2017. One of his first acts as president was to announce Washington’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

Rightwing threats

Last week, two men were arrested in separate incidents involving threats to President Trump’s perceived opponents.
A Michigan man, Brittan J. Atkinson, was arrested on Thursday for sending death threats to Mark Zaid, an attorney for the Ukraine whistleblower. Atkinson sent the threats in November, on the day that Trump held up a photo of Zaid and read some of his tweets at a rally in Louisiana.
"All traitors must die miserable deaths," Atkinson's email read in part, the indictment says. "Those that represent traitors shall meet the same fate[.] We will hunt you down and bleed you out like the pigs you are. We have nothing but time, and you are running out of it, Keep looking over your shoulder[.] We know who you are, where you live, and who you associate with[.] We are all strangers in a crowd to you[.]"
On Wednesday, Salvatore Lippa of New York was arrested for threatening to assault and murder Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Chuck Schumer in voicemails last month.
Lippa started the threatening message by calling the congressman "Schiff, Shifty Schiff," invoking the nickname used by President Donald Trump for Schiff, the lead House manager during Trump's impeachment trial.
...When questioned by U.S Capitol Police, Lippa admitted to making the threatening calls to Schiff and Schumer because he said he was upset about the impeachment proceedings, prosecutors said.

State news

  • Washington Post: A second court has temporarily blocked North Carolina’s new voter identification law on the argument that it discriminates against African Americans. The ruling reduces the likelihood that the rule will be in effect in a key swing state during November’s elections. A three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that intent to discriminate was a “primary motivating factor” behind the voter ID law, which passed the Republican legislature in late 2018.
  • CBS News: Florida cannot bar felons who served their time from registering to vote simply because they have failed to pay all fines and fees stemming from their cases, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
  • CNN: Mississippi's law banning abortions at the detection of a fetal heartbeat -- as early as six weeks into pregnancy -- will remain blocked, a panel of circuit judges ruled on Thursday...The three-judge panel on the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's ruling that the Mississippi law unconstitutionally prohibited pre-viability abortions.
  • Tampa Bay Times: A curious request arrived in the inboxes of Florida tax collectors last week from an employee of the Republican National Committee. He asked for “all email addresses that have been collected and are in the possession of the Tax Collector’s Office.” He also wanted any names, property addresses and phone numbers connected to those emails in their records. If the tax collectors had complied, the Republican Party would soon have a valuable trove of personal information for millions of Floridians as it gears up for the 2020 election: A detailed database of many taxpayers’ emails plus the name, address and phone number tied to that email.
  • Associated Press: Most Republican lawmakers refused to attend a Tuesday night session of the Oregon House of Representatives amid a slowdown over anger at a sweeping bill on climate change. Earlier, Republican lawmakers, who are a minority in the House, insisted that bills coming to the floor be read in their entirety instead of being summarized, which slowed things down substantially. The 2020 session of the Legislature lasts only 35 days, being an even-year short session.
  • Q13 Fox News: Efforts to expel a controversial state representative from the Washington Legislature are likely over after no Republicans would sign a letter calling for state Rep. Matt Shea’s expulsion. The Spokesman-Review reports that all 98 members of the state House of Representatives were asked Thursday to sign a letter calling for the expulsion of Spokane Valley Republican. All 56 Democrats signed the letter, but no Republicans did.
CONTINUED BELOW
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Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Jan. 1, 2001

Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives.
PREVIOUS YEARS ARCHIVE:
1991199219931994199519961997199819992000
Hi everybody! Man, I missed y'all. So in case you missed my explanation for why I took the last 2+ months off, basically my whole life changed recently. Wife got a new job that required us to move to a new city. Which meant I also had to find a new job, we had to sell our house, find a new place to live, get settled in a new city, and all that fun stuff. It's been a really hectic and crazy couple of months, but everything has worked out great and we're all good now. A million thanks to everyone for all the nice messages and well-wishes during all this. You guys are awesome and SquaredCircle is by far my favorite corner of the internet.
In the midst of all this, I finally managed to get caught up on writing these things. My plan is to hopefully keep the usual M/W/F at noon EST schedule that has worked so well for the last couple of years. But full disclosure, that may not always be possible. My last job was pretty comfortable, I could sit at my desk and surf Reddit while working at the same time and it was never a problem. My job situation has changed so this will probably be posted during my lunch breaks and that might vary. So while I will always try to post at around the same time as everyone is used to, that may not always be possible. So just bear with me while we make this work.
That's pretty much it. And now, let us begin....the final year of the Observer Rewind!
Oh yeah, one other thing. I hate to come back after such a long absence and drop a turd. But this issue kinda sucks and there's almost nothing major happening this week. But don't worry, they get better from here!
  • Dave opens the first issue of 2001 with a look back at the top wrestlers of 2000. The Observer award votes are still being tabulated and whatnot but Dave decides to look at the top candidates and give his own personal thoughts.
Kurt Angle had a star-making year. One of the best talkers in the business and already one of the best in-ring guys after only really one full year. Dave says if he continues to improve at this rate in 2001, barring injuries, he may be the best in the world by this time next year (yup).
Chris Benoit is probably the best in-ring guy in wrestling today and his jump from WCW to WWF (along with the other 3) pretty much tore the heart out of WCW and they've never recovered. Benoit was going to be a main eventer and likely multiple-time world champion in WCW, headlining PPVs and TV, and who knows what may have been different if he had stayed. They almost certainly would have still self-destructed, but at least the matches would have been better.
Triple H is the likely Wrestler of the Year winner and Dave wouldn't argue it. He spent 2000 as one of the top guys (alongside Rock) in WWF and had numerous MOTY-quality matches, was a top draw for PPV, tickets, ratings, everything. Held the title repeatedly. An incredible feud with Kurt Angle that unfortunately fizzled out but was great while it lasted, etc. Hard to argue that Triple H had the best 2000 out of anyone in wrestling.
Toshiaki Kawada. Without him, AJPW ceases to exist in 2000. His star power and that alone is the only thing keeping that promotion alive and the feud with NJPW has put Kawada in a position of having dream matches that will sell out the Tokyo Dome. His match with Kensuke Sasaki was one of the biggest matches in the history of Japanese wrestling. And in ring, he's a Benoit-level worker. You could argue that other wrestlers were better this year, but nobody was more valuable to their promotion than Kawada was to AJPW.
Mitsuharu Misawa didn't really have the kind of amazing in-ring year that he's been known for in the past. But the importance of the NOAH split from AJPW is hard to overstate and was likely the biggest business story in wrestling all year in Japan (worldwide, Dave thinks the slow death of WCW is a bigger story in the long-term). If this award was for most influential wrestler outside the ring, Misawa would get it due to the successful start of NOAH.
The Rock should probably be the favorite. He's not the in-ring talent that Triple H has, but he's still pretty damn great and has had some classic matches this year. He was the top draw for WWF by far and kept the company afloat with Austin out injured for most of the year. Plus, his sheer celebrity and mainstream value to the company is huge.
Kazushi Sakuraba is a controversial pick and there's been a lot of debate over whether he qualifies, since he's MMA and not pro wrestling. Dave argues the case to why he should be eligible but it's hard to make a fair comparison to wrestling. But Sakuraba's historical legacy in MMA was cemented this year when he started beating members of the Gracie family one-by-one in PRIDE. Speaking of......
  • Kazushi Sakuraba added another Gracie head to his mantle last week, defeating Ryan Gracie at PRIDE 12. It was controversial because Gracie came into the fight with a shoulder injury suffered in training a few days earlier and doctors had told him not to fight. Gracie agreed to still do the fight but only if it was limited to a 10 minute time limit, which fans didn't find out about until the day of the show and booed the shit out of it. There may have been an agreement made before the match because though Gracie's injury was well-known (Gracie cut a promo about it before the fight, about how their family is tough and they don't listen to doctors and yada yada. Basically, giving themselves an out if/when Gracie inevitably lost), Sakuraba never went after it in the fight. But he dominated the match and won by decision after the 10 minute time limit. He has now beaten Royler, Royce, Renzo, and Ryan in the span of the last 13 months (and that's why they call him the "Gracie Killer").
  • The next major story is a recap of the recent RINGS show, and then a brief note that TV ratings aren't available and then....that's it for the top front page stories. We're already halfway through the bulk of the issue and there's not much on actual wrestling at all so far. Just a bunch of MMA recaps. Let's see what the second half brings us...
  • RVD will likely be appearing at the AJPW Tokyo Dome show in late January. No word if he'll work a match but he's at least hoping to be there for the Stan Hansen retirement ceremony, since Hansen helped him a lot in his earlier years when Van Dam worked for AJPW in the early 90s.
  • The biggest show in Pro Wrestling NOAH history took place last week, selling out a 12,000 arena. Shinya Hashimoto debuted, pinning Takao Omori. Kenta Kobashi beat Jun Akiyama in a match many are calling the best of the year. Hashimoto is expected to work a few more shows for NOAH but he isn't signed.
  • A couple of rookies in NOAH are getting a lot of praise. Takashi Sugiura is already being compared to Kurt Angle, because he's a former amateur wrestler who is making a good transition. And the other is Kenta Kobayashi (later KENTA and then Hideo Itami), who will actually main event a show next month, teaming with Kobashi (the names are SO similar) against Misawa and Marufuji.
  • Dave saw NJPW's latest show (which aired on PPV in Japan) featuring an inter-promotional match against with AJPW's Masa Fuchi and Kawada against NJPW's Takashi Iizuka and Yuji Nagata and he gives it the full 5 stars. Which is funny because on most lists you find online, this match isn't listed. Most people thought NJPW didn't get a single 5-star match between 1997 and 2012 but in a throwaway paragraph reviewing this show, he calls it a definite 5-stars and potential MOTY. So there ya go: the lost 5-star classic.
WATCH: Masa Fuchi & Kawada vs Takashi Iizuka and Yuji Nagata - AJPW vs. NJPW inter-promotional match
  • Antonio Inoki will have a 5-minute "exhibition match" at his New Year's Eve show (Dave is seemingly unaware at this point that Inoki's opponent will end up being Renzo Gracie).
  • Legendary wrestler Johnny Valentine is on death's door. Back in August, he broke his back falling off his front porch, which nearly killed him. In September he nearly died from a lung infection. He's been in and out of comas throughout that time and now he's back in the hospital again for the same reason (he ends up hanging on until April).
  • Dave saw the latest TV taping from the UPW indie promotion in California. WWF sent the Hardyz and Lita to work the show. Juventud Guerrera, Christopher Daniels, and Michael Modest were on it as well. WWF developmental wrestler Nathan Jones recently started there. Of all the guys working for UPW, Prototype (real name John Cena) shows the most promise. He's got an incredible look and superstar charisma, but he's not that good in the ring yet. Dave hopes he won't be rushed to the big leagues too soon because he will be exposed and it's hard to overcome the rep as a bad wrestler. Lots of people have been comparing Cena to a young Sting. Either way, Dave thinks the guy has a ton of potential to be a star if they don't fuck it up.
  • RVD seems to have accepted the idea that he's not going back to ECW and has said at some point in the next few months, he'll decide whether he's going to WWF or WCW. His agent has had talks with both companies. WWF is interested but they're more interested in Jerry Lynn because apparently the wrestlers in WWF who have worked with both of them prefer Lynn (RVD kinda had a reputation for accidentally hurting people). WCW is interested but can't do anything because there's a hiring freeze right now. RVD is probably the most marketable free agent on the market right now but there's still no guarantees of anything for him.
  • Randy Savage will appear in the Spider-Man movie as villain named "Saw Bones McGraw" (close enough, Dave). They're filming scenes with him and Spider-Man in a cage match.
WATCH: Randy Savage as Bone Saw in Spiderman
  • ECW held a show at the ECW Arena that was said to be somewhat of a weird show. The crowd was down from usual, only about 1000 people, rather than the usual over-packed crowd. Everyone on the roster were given checks post-dated for the following Tuesday, which now leaves them 6 weeks behind on pay. But there's no more shows scheduled until the PPV next week. Super Crazy returned, even though his father died the night before. And during the main event, Sandman tried to recreate the famous chair incident from a few years ago, asking fans to throw chairs in the ring, which many thought was pretty negligent considering how dangerous that is for all the fans at ringside. Justin Credible caught a chair in the head that he wasn't prepared for and several fights broke out in the crowd during the incident also, due to fans getting hit by other fans. Then security ended up attacking fans and it was a whole mess for awhile there. (And that, folks, was the very last real ECW show ever at the ECW Arena. Pour one out for the end of an era.)
  • Notes from the latest ECW Hardcore TV: neither the Dudleyz match or the Tazz promo from the tapings aired. Dave assumes WWF wouldn't allow it. Joey Styles talked about Mikey Whipwreck having 17 documented concussions which Dave thinks is pretty scary. That's basically it.
  • Notes from Nitro: Kevin Nash, DDP, and Sid Vicious all returned and none of them were punished for walking out last week, nor was Scott Steiner punished for his off-script promo. Nor were he or DDP punished for their backstage fight. Eric Bischoff flew out the day before and basically sat down with everybody to hash out their problems. He gave everyone the impression that he'll be taking over the company in 2001 and is trying to start things with a clean slate. Needless to say, there was a lot of resentment from the undercard wrestlers about top stars being able to just walk out of live TV tapings, shoot on the mic, and get into fights and not only go unpunished, but be put right back on TV the next week in their same top positions. Lex Luger walked out earlier this year and came back in a stronger position than when he left. Buff Bagwell has been in and out of trouble all year, is hated by much of the locker room, but still gets significant TV time in the uppercard. Meanwhile, guys like Lance Storm and Mike Awesome are out there every night busting their asses (with Awesome fighting to overcome the career-killing 70s guy gimmick) and they're barely a focal point of the show. Some in management wanted to punish everyone who walked out, but with Bischoff expected to take control any day now, they were afraid to because it's no secret that DDP and Bischoff are close friends, as are Bischoff and Nash. So it was believed any punishment levied against them would just be overturned by Bischoff anyway. Anyway, this is the Nitro that isn't airing in the U.S. but was still taped for international markets. Not much in the way of storyline progression, mostly just matches.
  • Former wrestler Tom Zenk was on a radio show discussing the potential WCW sale to Bischoff, calling it "a fire sale to the arsonist" and saying Time Warner is selling the company because it's not profitable, to the guy who made it unprofitable to begin with.
  • Remember an incident last year where Bagwell punched a ring crew member and got charged for it? Bagwell plea bargained out of it and was ordered to pay a $500 fine, one year of probation, and perform 20 hours of community service. At the time, Bagwell was suspended for 30 days over it, which cost him approx. $45,000 in pay. A rare example of WCW actually punishing someone.
  • WCW sent a few guys (David Flair, Mark Jindrak, Sean O'Hair, and Jung Dragons) to work the NWA Wildside show, which is their developmental territory. Speaking of, wrestlers Air Paris and AJ Styles have been stealing the shows at the Wildside events lately.
  • Road Dogg was sent home from the Smackdown tapings and was suspended indefinitely without pay. At this time, there's no plans to bring him back. He showed up in bad shape to the tapings and had a match teaming with K-Kwik against Lo Down that was said to be an embarrassment because of his performance. WWF wants him to get his life in order before they even consider bringing him back. He's gone through rehab a couple of times but it never took. Dave says the difference between WWF and WCW is that chances are, you're not going to see Triple H and X-Pac going on TV for the next few weeks doing Road Dogg's catchphrases and trying to go into business for themselves on his behalf, unlike some people. (Here's the match. I dunno, doesn't seem any worse than Road Dogg's usual bad matches. But you do hear the commentary talking about Road Dogg looking out of it and hinting that maybe he has a concussion. And you can definitely tell that he's a little off his game, but if you didn't know to specifically look for it, I doubt you'd really notice. He was never Ric Flair in the ring to begin with.)
WATCH: Road Dogg & K-Kwik vs. Lo Down
  • Notes from Raw: they had a hardcore match with Blackman, Holly, and Raven that ended up outside in the 9 degree winter weather. Dave feels sorry for those guys out there in tights and no shirt wrestling in that. The RTC cut a promo talking about how bad the internet is. (I went on the Network and watched this and it's great. Bull Buchanan cuts a promo on the APA's "Always Pounding Ass" shirt and then Goodfather finished it off with this quote: "The internet has become a harbinger of nothing more than filth and decay. The world wide web is there to trap you until it slowly strangles all the goodness from each and every one of you!" Well, he's not wrong.)
  • WWF officially sold the hotel and casino they bought in Las Vegas a few years ago. The original plan was to remodel the hotel as a WWF theme hotel, with a TV studio and small arena so they could hold live shows. But they quickly realized that it just wasn't feasible and have spent the last two years trying to sell it. They finally unloaded it for $11.2 million which is about $2 million more than they paid for it in 1999, so at least there's that.
  • There's been talk of bringing Bobby Heenan back to WWF to do commentary on one of the B or C-level shows, but that discussion seemed to go nowhere. Larry Zbyszko will also be getting an announcing audition soon and has pitched himself to be the new WWF on-screen commissioner as well.
  • The Rock was supposed to be doing announcing for the Orange Bowl Parade but WWF pulled him out of it. The company is being extremely protective of Rock right now and want to make sure he looks good in any non-wrestling mainstream thing he does, and there was concern about him doing commentary on a parade since, I mean, wtf does Rock know about parades? They didn't want him to look out of his depth or put in a situation he wouldn't be good at.
  • Update on WWF possibly moving out of Titan Towers: right now, many of the employees are doubled up in offices because they've outgrown the building and are out of space. There's been talk that they may sell the building and move to a new location soon.
  • Davey Boy Smith had another hearing for allegedly making death threats towards Bruce Hart. He pleaded not guilty. Bruce's estranged wife Andrea is now living with Davey Boy. His previous charges stemming from threats against Diana Hart Smith and Ellie Neidhart were dropped. Smith now says he's been clean since July, that he wants to open a wrestling school, and that he's no longer in the WWF. In a Calgary Sun story, Smith said, "I was involved in that (Hart) family for 20 years and I'm sad to say it was the worst 20 years I ever had." That led Bret Hart to speak out to defend his family name, and he said, "If it wasn't for my family and the opportunities my father gave him, Davey would still be working in the Wigan mines. He's talking about a dysfunctional family at the same time he has taken off with my brother Bruce's wife--you're right in the thick of it, buddy." (It's amazing how much of the Hart family drama played out in the Calgary Sun over the years.)
  • The Chyna issue of Playboy reportedly sold more than a million copies, while the first Sable issue did around 800,000. Dave expects a lot more WWF women in Playboy considering those kinds of numbers.
WEDNESDAY: Paul Heyman in talks to sell ECW, Antonio Inoki's New Year's Eve show, Vince McMahon Playboy interview, WCW fires Mark Madden, and more...
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Affiliate Summit West 2020 Roundup

Affiliate Summit West 2020 Roundup

The 50th Affiliate Summit!

The Paris Hotel turned over once again to become the North American affiliate HQ. Over 6000 attendees from all major affiliate networks, SaaS providers, OPMs and leading online advertisers headed for Affiliate Summit 2020. In fact you can’t walk a corridor, go for a coffee or ride the elevator without starting another conversation. And, it could be an old friend or even a newbie – it’s the ideal conference vibe.
Amazingly there have been 50 Affiliate Summit events over the last 17 years – and as each comes around they get bigger and better. This year’s ASW20 was larger in floor area with some excellent sessions tackling some of the thornier issues in affiliate (or partner) marketing. In celebration, many of Shawn and Missy’s friends surprised them with a party at Toby Keith’s ‘I Love This Bar & Grill’. A great end to another great week.
The team from Publisher Discovery was exhibiting and showing our latest platform for identifying, filtering and recruiting new affiliates. Our booth was so popular at times there were people queueing to talk to us – its great that we hit the right note with attendees.

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Next year’s ASW conference moves to a brand new venue in Caesar’s Forum, Las Vegas, from February 2-4. This is brand new and right on the Strip – with no smoky casino to walk through. The event hotel will be moving to Harrah’s, a more up to date venue – so, save the date – and see you there!

AM Days


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AM Days has become an integral part of the Affiliate Summit offering as an add-on for serious affiliate managers. This year was three times larger than ever before – and in fact was more than sold out. They made sure that they made space for everyone who wanted the gen on this unique content..
Geno Prussakov led with the keynote session on
Key session from Wade Tonkin of Fanatics, on Targeting Content Partners, which featured some of the main tools used; and which included a short presentation of Publisher Discovery is used to view your the main advertisers in your market.
From conversation we had with attendees this is a truly invaluable part of the Summit for any affiliate manager. We’d highly recommend signing up early for the next at ASE20 in New York.

Main ASW20 sessions


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Of course for a lot of attendees its the conference sessions that are the big draw. Each session led by a key industry figure – or a panel of leading figures. Some of the key sessions that caught our attention, reflecting the focus for a lot of affiliate managers in recruiting affiliates to keep ahead of their competitors. These included:
  • ‘9 Software Tools Affiliate Managers Need to Grow the Program’ – Dustin Howes of j2 Global
  • ‘Tapping the Power of Content Commerce Partnerships and Third-Party Reviews’ by Jessica Seib of Buzzfeed
  • ‘Why Affiliate Should Be Every Advertiser’s Largest Paid Marketing Channel’ by ESPN/Disney’s Aaron Weigum
  • ’15 Affiliate Recruitment Techniques That Work’, Geno Prussakov
The Keynote session was especially busy tackling a current topic of discussion in all markets: ‘Partner vs Affiliate – Is it One or the Other‘. This was a panel with key figures from leading players – including Awin, Partnercentric, Rakuten and Acceleration. Its surely a conversation that is set to run and run.

Our Next Shows

The next show we’ll be attending is PerformanceIn PI Advanced, New York in May. An innovative one-day format focusing on how e-commerce brands can optimize planning, execution and ROI in performance marketing. It is retail focused and will bring together the leading networks. SaaS and technology providers in one place.
In August we’ll return to the US for Affiliate Summit East in July – for the east coast version of the show. You can see more and where to meet us on our Events page. We look forward to meeting you at the next show.
Chris Tradgett
Publisherdiscovery.com
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Paris Hotel and Casino, Room Tour Eiffel Tower View ...

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