"There was a time when my greatest wish was to stab Harvey Levin with a rusty implement and watch his entrails go running down my forearm, in some Macbethian stance. I wanted him to die in my arms, while looking into my eyes, and I wanted to say to him, ‘Oh, Harvey, you thoughtless little pig.’ He is a festering boil on the anus of American media.”
-- Alec Baldwin
If you haven't yet read The New Yorker's highly anticipated and impressively thorough examination of celebrity news juggernaut TMZ and its controversial creator, Harvey Levin, get on that immediately. It's a fascinating look behind the scenes at both the news outlet itself -- which love it or hate it is an undeniable powerhouse in terms of pop culture news gathering -- and the man whose brainchild it was from the beginning.
The above quote, however, may be the unexpected high point of it, as it not only makes it clear the kind of power Levin has to get into the lives and under the skin of the celebrities he chases 24/7, but it shows just why Alec Baldwin specifically is so hounded by Levin and people like him. Baldwin still hasn't figured out that its his own anger management issues that make Baldwin such a juicy target for the paparazzi. When your job is to get embarrassing pictures of celebrities and you know for sure that every interaction with one particular celebrity is going to end with that person chasing you down a street in a fit of uncontrollable rage, bitterly hurling profanity in your direction, of course you spend a lot of time trying to antagonize him.
Jesus, just mention the name Harvey Levin to Alec Baldwin and he launches into a Grand Guignol fantasy about slowly murdering the man that you just know he's played in his head over and over again, honing it to perfection and savoring every little imagined detail.
For the record and in the name of full disclosure, I worked closely with Levin when we both did time at KCBS in Los Angeles in the mid-90s. I was one of his investigative producers and while everything detailed in the New Yorker piece is pretty on-the-money in terms of his personality, I'm not sure anything the outlet exposes is necessarily bad. Levin has thoroughly transformed celebrity journalism and one of the ways he's done it is by putting the focus on journalism -- both the shoe-leather and, yes, checkbook variety -- while another is by refusing to show deference to the stars themselves. Levin's mission statement involves refusing to suck up, the way other entertainment shows do. Again, love it or hate it, it's had a huge impact.