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Au Couture, Mon Frére! Is It Good or Bad to Be Libeled by an Idiot? Writing Wrongs

Wednesday, Dec 5 2001

Au Couture, Mon Frére!

As much as journalists like to snicker at the end of the dot-com boom, in our more honest moments we have to confess: We miss the launch parties. Razor scooters! Free, logo-embroidered T-shirts! Martinis! PR flacks constantly using the word "paradigm"! Blue-shirted 20-year-old men with a teeth-gnashingly intense sense of entitlement! Canapés!

Alas, those days are over, so we're now forced to go to fashion shows to catch even a whiff of entitlement -- not to mention free food and drinks. Which is why, last week, we made a point of going to the launch party of Soma Management, a new San Francisco modeling agency.

The event, titled "L'Orchidée," was hosted in the third-floor ballroom of the Regency Theater building on Van Ness, a gorgeous spot replete with blood-red carpet, wood paneling, and onion-shaped stained-glass chandeliers. Most of the clothing came from Max Mara, a designer about whom we know absolutely nothing. The schedule promised some introductory remarks from Soma's Lee Morgan, however, so we weren't concerned. Besides, we were too obsessed with keeping an eye on George Lucas, who was sitting across the room. What was George Lucas doing here? Is this what George Lucas does for fun on Thursday nights when he's not making a movie? What would you do if you were George Lucas on a Thursday night and not working on a movie? We'd sit in the middle of a big room, fling wads of cash into the air, and scream, "Whee! Whee! Whee!" as our personal 'droids danced and squeaked around us. That is, we'd do anything but this.

We thought about walking over to the man himself and bringing up the matter, but soon Morgan came out to introduce the event. "Welcome to the opening of "L'Orchidée,'" she said. "Orchids are a magnificent symbol of harmony. ... Their shape provokes our imagination." She went on to talk about building relationships and about people expressing their gifts as models and healers, but she didn't talk a whole lot about fashion.

"The events of Sept. 11 ..."

Oh, Jesus.

"... shocked the world. More than ever, we need these ideas of beauty, fantasy, and imagination. ... Fashion unites people. It's an international language. It speaks and communicates beyond borders. We speak nonverbally, and create understanding."

And so on.

"I invite you to open your senses," Morgan continued, "and allow the sensuous world of "L'Orchidée' to come to you."

A smattering of applause, a rising velvet curtain, and there were the models, who had names you'd expect for models: Spirit, Mahogany, Heather, Valentina, Whitney, Niccole. They wore coats, which came in many colors and styles; the coats looked warm. Afterward, waiters wearing festive eye masks came in bearing cones of crab and tuna. While waiting for the evening-wear show, we flipped through our complimentary copy of MM Magazine, a biannual journal promoting Max Mara's clothing line. "Finally," we thought, "we'll get some answers." There were features on Paris Hilton, William Wegman, and "A Style Called Connecticut Zen," as well as a short item on an up-and-coming fashionable neighborhood -- the Bronx, "traditionally famous for armed gangs, drug pushers and prostitutes (remember the film The Bonfire of the Vanities?)."

No, but we've read the book. We left after the slinky dresses and formal wear, going out as waiters bearing trays of filet mignon headed in, bringing the sensuous world of "L'Orchidée" to us.
--Mark Athitakis

Is It Good or Bad to Be Libeled by an Idiot?

Late last week, a Pennsylvania judge ordered that lawyers for a software firm called printCafe Inc. be allowed to question the owner and Internet service provider of the popular tech industry gossip site FuckedCompany. com under oath. PrintCafe is hoping to obtain the identities of three pseudonymous posters to's ultra-popular "Happy Fun Slander" message board, as part of printCafe's attempts to sue them silly. What follows is an excerpt from the deposition request, which was granted. By a judge. A real judge who works in a real courtroom:

3. printCafe has attempted to ascertain the legal names of Ex-DLJ, sucky-me, and idiot! by contacting Phillip Kaplan, the owner of, by telephone, email and facsimile. To date, however, Mr. Kaplan has refused to respond to printCafe's repeated requests to discuss this issue.

4. Moreover, within days of printCafe's trying to contact Mr. Kaplan, Mr. Kaplan changed the contact information for from his real address to the following fictitious and offensive phone number: 69 Fuck You Street, Assville, Nowhere 90210, US, (900) 244-2625.

Because SF Weekly's phone system doesn't permit employees to make 1-900 calls, we were forced to guess what (900) 244-2625 spells. So far as we can tell, it's AHI-COAL. Or BIG-COCK.

We report. You decide.
--Jeremy Mullman

Writing Wrongs

On Nov. 7, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a front-page story headlined "2 Muslim charities probed for terror link," with a juicy first paragraph that read: "Donors in the Bay Area and elsewhere in California have given nearly $270,000 to two Chicago-area Muslim charities that are being investigated for possible terrorist money-laundering activities, documents obtained by The Chronicle show."

Three weeks and one defamation lawsuit later, the Chronicle ran a good-sized correction. No, the newspaper didn't have documents showing that the Global Relief Foundation and the Benevolence International Foundation were under investigation for possible terrorist money-laundering activities. Rather, the "documents obtained by The Chronicle" proved only that a few Bay Area residents, many of whom were quoted breathlessly throughout the story as being terrified their money was being funneled to Osama bin Laden, had given money to the two charities. Long after the jump from Page A1 to A12, the Chronicle mentioned an earlier Los Angeles Times story on a confidential Treasury Department memo asking state charity officials for information about eight Muslim groups in the United States, including the two featured in the Chronicle account. The story acknowledged that the government had neither contacted the groups nor frozen their assets, but hinted darkly that the Treasury Department was "expected to add to the list [of asset-frozen groups] again today."

But the next day, neither charity appeared on the list. And one week later, the Global Relief Foundation struck back, filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago against the Chronicle and several other news organizations, including the New York Times, Associated Press, and ABC, seeking $25 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages.

The Chronicle article's authors, Scott Winokur and Christian Berthelsen, won't comment on their story, and Executive Editor Phil Bronstein did not return a phone call.

Predictably, the correction doesn't satisfy the Global Relief Foundation's lawyer, Roger C. Simmons, a big-name big-media slayer based in Maryland. "It's absolutely inadequate," says Simmons, who adds that only ABC has joined the Chronicle in correcting its story. "They made a false apology, and we feel there's been long-term harm to us."

Maybe Simmons should be happy that his grievances were at least addressed. One mistake that wasn't: Near the end of the story, the Chronicle refers to the, um, "National Security Counsel."
--Matt Palmquist


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