Magazine | June 25, 2012, Issue

The Sticky Slope

Hands off my soda, Mayor Bloomberg

The best way to give somebody bad news is, first, give him a doughnut. This is basically the idea behind what we in Hollywood call “craft services.”

Craft services — also known as “Holy cow! Look at that huge table of snacks!” — is, well, a huge table of snacks, originally designed to feed, water, and otherwise satisfy the between-meal cravings of the various craft guilds that populate the business. Following the principle that hungry people are cranky people, and that cranky, hungry people are the last people you want handling six-ton pieces of equipment and million-dollar sets and wires with 18 zillion volts of electricity crackling through them inches from the neck and face of America’s beloved TV and film stars, free Snapple and unlimited Cool Ranch Doritos look like a pretty bargain way to deliver a safe and sane workplace.

But that simple calculation has morphed, over time, to include the need to placate everyone involved in a production. I had a show on the air, years ago, that involved a lot of complicated location filming. We had weather trouble and airplane-noise trouble and crowd-control trouble and all sorts of trouble that could really be solved, it turned out, only by an enterprising craft-service guy passing out a tray of mini egg-salad sandwiches at ten o’clock in the morning.

An egg-salad sandwich doesn’t solve production problems, of course, but it’s soothing and eggy and pleasantly bland, and doesn’t take much energy to chew, so eating one — or, in my case, eating a fistful — is a little like sucking on a mayonnaise lollipop. You forget what you’re supposed to be upset about.

I know of a major television showrunner who had the craft-service person whip up, at the end of a long shoot, a mini chocolate soufflé. As they were shooting pickup shots and retakes, the showrunner would sit in a director’s chair, face and lips smeared with gooey chocolate, staring slack-jawed and glassy-eyed at the monitors. “They’re just mini soufflés,” he would say, as if that somehow made it less elaborate. But the truth was, they weren’t mini at all. They were served in one-quart ramekins with a double-big spoon. Like a big chocolate pacifier.

So when New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he was thinking about banning, within the city limits, large sugary drinks — you know what I’m talking about, right? those giant sodas people cart around? with the tapered bottoms (because the cups are too huge to fit into a normal car-seat cup-holder) and those super-wide straws? — people naturally reacted with unhappy surprise.

We like our fat cups of sugar and fizz. It’s a little lift in an otherwise stressful day to step up to the fill-’er-up dispenser and get yourself a tankard of Type 2 Diabetes. And we know that this is just the beginning. It’s a sticky slope: From sodas we’ll get to french fries, and then to pretty much every large-sized carbohydrate ever invented, until we’re all walking around in sour moods with tripwire tempers wondering how to get through the day on carrot sticks and fair-trade iced tea.

#page#This has happened on every show or film set I’ve ever been on. Eventually, somebody gets all up in the craft-service table, somebody with clout and an obsession with health, and suddenly the chips and M&Ms and Double Stuf Oreos get replaced by good stuff, healthy stuff, like rice cakes and power bars and things with carob and antioxidants.

And then, suddenly, people start to lose a little of that extra flab. They have more energy. Things happen faster. Pants button. Polo shirts get tucked in again.

But before you know it, the entire production is at each other’s throats. The network is feuding with the studio, the studio is trying to fire the producer, and craft guilds — the whole reason we have craft services in the first place — end up cranky and hungry and a little careless with the 80-pound lights dangling above the head of the million-dollar star.

In other words, there’s a place for junk food in our lives. It’s the grease — in many cases, literally — that keeps us all a little more emotionally stable. Unfortunately, in excess, junk food also makes us fat.

So Bloomberg’s logic is pretty airtight. Sugary drinks make us fat, and fat people get sick a lot, and since we’re all responsible for each other’s health-care costs — you remember when we decided that, don’t you, a year or so ago? — banning those sodas makes economic and social sense. Fewer fat people, lower costs. Think they’ll pass the savings on to us?

Fat chance.

For liberals, what you do with your body turns out not to be such a private matter after all, which is a bit of a switcheroo. I guess the rule is this: If a woman has a big fat stomach that’s filled with a fetus, it’s her body and her choice. If it’s filled with pizza and soda and Ben & Jerry’s, it’s time for Mayor Bloomberg to step in.

They make the same argument about smokers — raise the price! punish the bastards! — though for some reason they rarely make it about cycling — that’s a pretty upscale sport, with its tight-panted riders and DayGlo helmets, but there are an awful lot of gruesome accidents — and they almost never make it about sexually transmitted diseases, especially those that are transmitted in currently chic ways, like between two guys who are about to get married.

No one’s trying to ban extreme sports. No one’s trying to outlaw Grindr, the smartphone app that helps homosexual gentlemen find each other quickly via satellite technology. No, it’s all about tacky fat people just trying to get through the day, trying to give themselves a little mood bump in the face of a dismal job picture, a faltering world economy, and an uncertain future for their children. It’s been a non-stop cascade of bad news for them, and now the liberals are begrudging them their doughnut. Well, not the doughnut, but the super-size drink it comes with.

In This Issue


Politics & Policy

A Real Race

We’ve gotta wake up,” James Carville wrote in a May 31 fundraising e-mail. “Everywhere I go, people are telling me that ‘Obama has it in the bag.’ Newsflash: nothing is ...
Politics & Policy

Conventional Unwisdom

Raleigh, N.C. – ‘Well you crazy people, is this the Democratic party or what?” That was David Parker, the embattled chairman of the North Carolina Democratic party, announcing on May ...
Politics & Policy

The Sticky Slope

The best way to give somebody bad news is, first, give him a doughnut. This is basically the idea behind what we in Hollywood call “craft services.” Craft services — also ...


Politics & Policy

Falling Bricks

Madrid — Just off the Plaza Mayor in the Spanish capital, there stands an abandoned Santander bank branch, shuttered, vandalized, and covered in graffiti. “Murderers!” is spray-painted on the edifice ...

Books, Arts & Manners


Politics & Policy


Don’t Forget Payroll Taxes I was happily reading Arthur C. Brooks’s article in the May 28 edition, agreeing all the way, until I hit the point at which he picks up ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Why is Wisconsin like Eric Holder testifying before Congress? They both said, “I don’t recall.” ‐ The May job numbers were even worse than April’s, and came with a downward ...

Agent Obama

Every so often you find yourself reading a gripping account of a super-secret government program designed to foil the plots of our foes, and you think: Why am I reading ...
The Long View

Wilson & Sterling

  Wilson & Sterling A professional corporation IN RE: CLINTON/CLINTON CONTINUATION OF MARRIAGE AGREEMENT 2000, AND ADDENDA, UPDATED JUNE 2012 Dear Steve: Many thanks for the phone call yesterday. I have received your e-mail and ...
Politics & Policy


CONVERSATION You are a lovely sky of autumn, clear and rose! But inside me, grief is rising, like the sea, Leaving as it ebbs upon my lip morose, Bitter culinary silts of memory. – Vainly ...
Happy Warrior

Gradus ad Narcissum

‘How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice.” It’s an old line, and perhaps an obsolescent one. I can’t recall the last time I heard anyone use it. Americans don’t ...

Most Popular


‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’

It was just one more segment to fill out the hour, and thereby fill the long 24 hours of Saturday’s cable news on November 2. Or so it seemed. Navy SEAL Mike Ritland was on the Fox News program Watters World to talk to Jesse Watters about trained German shepherds like the one used in the raid that found ... Read More

A Defining Statement of Modern Conservatism

The greatest documents in American history never lose their ability to astonish. They deserve, and repay, careful study, and inevitably have contemporary resonances no matter how long ago they were written or uttered. There’s no doubt that Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” belongs in the top ranks ... Read More
White House

Impeachment Theater of Trolls

As a boy, I used to watch a television show with a weekly gag titled “MasterJoke Theatre.” A pompous egghead smoked a pipe in a leather-bound chair in a richly appointed library, told a joke, and got a pie in the face for his trouble. What the Democrats launched on the Hill this week is their own variant, ... Read More
White House

The Russian Conspiracy That Won’t Die

The Mueller report accomplished nothing. Whether you thought that the two-year, $32 million investigation was warranted or not, the report promised to establish a factual record that both sides could accept, especially on the explosive charge that Donald Trump had conspired with the Russians to win the ... Read More