Jewish World Review Dec. 8, 2004 / 25 Kislev, 5765
The miracle of profits; this movie is no joke; How do you say "sieg heil" en espanol?; more
In the spirit of Chrismukkah, can't we all get along?
Apparently not quite yet.
Chrismukkah, as fans of Fox Television's "The O.C." know, was invented in an episode last December by main character Seth Cohen to celebrate his mixed identity as the son of a Christian mother and a Jewish father.
Now, Warner Bros., which produces the hit series for Fox, is locked in a fierce competition with Montana businessman Ron Gompertz to market and profit from Chrismukkah holiday cards, T-shirts, coffee mugs and other paraphernalia.
"I have a bone to pick with Ron," "The O.C." creator Josh Schwartz told me yesterday, tongue in cheek. "He's kind of using us to make money. I don't know if we invented the word 'Chrismukkah,' but this guy is sure running with it."
The Chrismukkah episode was written by Schwartz's co-executive producer, Stephanie Savage, who credits the word to "somebody in the room during the writers' meeting" last fall.
Warner Bros. has just begun marketing Chrismukkah items notably bright-red "Yarmuclaus" headgear through the show's official Web site theocinsider.com.
The 51-year-old Gompertz, a native New Yorker who moved to Montana's Paradise Valley last year, has been selling his own cards, gift-wrapping paper and other products on his Web site, Chrismukkah.com, since September.
Gompertz who's Jewish and married to a gentile beat Warner Bros. to the marketplace by at least two months. The AOL Time Warner subsidiary didn't even apply for a trademark on its Chrismukkah products until Oct. 13.
"Their trademark hasn't been granted by the federal government, and I don't think it will be," Gompertz told me, though he conceded that the "O.C." Chrismukkah episode gave him the idea to market Chrismukkah products. "I never applied for a trademark, but I was out with my products first, and my attorney tells me that's enough to give me the right to use the name. It should be treated as a generic name and wasn't invented by 'The O.C.' It has been around at least since 1998. I expect to sell 50,000 Chrismukkah cards by the end of the season. The mugs are selling like hotcakes."
Schwartz retorted: "We have Chrismukkah cards and wrapping paper, too, and our stuff is the real deal. It was cool, though, that he acknowledges our show inspired him."
Happily, I believe the dispute will eventually be resolved.
"In the spirit of Chrismukkah," Schwartz said, "I will try to make Ron feel guilt and at the same time, I will turn the other cheek."
THIS MOVIE IS NO JOKE
It was no small feat especially after Sept. 11 to get the green light for "The Assassination of Richard Nixon."
The ripped-from-the-headlines indie movie, directed and co-written by Niels Mueller for under $10 million, stars Naomi Watts and Don Cheadle and Sean Penn as troubled furniture salesman Sam Bicke, who, during Nixon's presidency in 1974, plotted to hijack a commercial airliner from Baltimore and crash it into the White House.
"Sept. 11 certainly didn't help us," Mueller told me yesterday, the day after screening the film at the Bryant Park Hotel in New York City for Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and a crowd of friends and family of producer Alfonso Cuaron. "I started making notes for the movie in 1996 and finished the screenplay with Kevin Kennedy in 1999, when we got it to Sean. He loved it, and he's been absolutely steadfast in his support of this movie. It's safe to say it would not have happened without him."
Still, there were a few tough days last year when the filmmakers shot the climactic hijacking scene, complete with a flyable leased jet, at Sacramento International Airport a stand-in for Baltimore-Washington Airport, where the bloody incident actually took place.
"We lost a day of production to spend a whole day to meet with officials from the Transportation Security Administration and other officials of the federal and local governments," Mueller said. "Since we were shooting the scene inside the terminal, near boarding gates that were in use, they wanted to tell us about anything we did that would cause them to shut down the production."
Of particular concern: Box cutters (a common tool on movie sets) could only be handled by select pre-authorized personnel. Sean Penn's gun loaded with blanks could only be fired when real-life passengers were nowhere near.
"And then, of course, there's that rule at airports that all jokes are taken seriously," Mueller said. "People tend to joke about all kinds of things on a movie set, but the TSA people warned us to keep our humor to ourselves."
HOW DO YOU SAY "SIEG HEIL" EN ESPANOL?: The posh One & Only Palmilla resort in Los Cabos, Mexico, requires each employee to salute the customers whenever they pass, by crisply placing a hand over the heart. It's supposed to be a warm and welcoming gesture, but Lowdown hears that when one guest asked a staffer recently if she ever got tired of it, the employee replied: "No, you get used to it like they did when they used to salute Hitler." Very, very off message, if I don't say so myself. So, yesterday, a resort spokesperson earnestly explained: "This traditional custom of greeting guests originated in a small village in Mexico. The guests love it and feel a great rapport with everyone who works there. We've had a terrific response to that."
US VS. THEM: Does Wilmer Valderrama still heart Lindsay Lohan? According to Us Weekly, the 24-year-old actor has been phoning his 18-year-old ex "nonstop" since Thursday night. Finally, the mag reports, she was forced to change her cell-phone number. Yesterday, Wilmer's rep, Heidi Slan, assured Lowdown: "The item is absolutely not true. He hasn't called her at all. But I do think it's funny that Us is reporting that."
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© 2003, Creators Syndicate