Erin Brockovich University to Offer a B.S.
We're just catching up to it today, but on Thursday, Universal Pictures announced it was donating $100,000 to UCLA in honor of the real Erin Brockovich and her attorney/partner/mentor Ed Masry. Erin, of course, rose to instant prominence this last year when Julia Roberts played her in the movie of the same name. The timing of the announcement and the donation couldn't be more, uh, coincidental, since Oscar voting is going on right now and most Oscar voters live in Los Angeles.
I spoke to Ed Masry yesterday at his law firm of Masry and Vititoe, not only about this educational development, but also about Albert Finney's win at the Screen Actor's Guild awards on Sunday. Finney plays Masry in the film. Ed said, first of all: "I'm very pleased for Albert. He's a very nice guy." When I asked him about the UCLA donation he told me: "Stacey Snider [the head of Universal] called last and told me. We were very surprised. But it's good that [it] involves environmental causes."
The money is, "to help students pursue studies in environmental and social justice," Masry said. Half will go to undergraduates, but it will be restricted to transfers from community colleges who are part of a special program for low-income and first-generation students. The graduate money will go toward fellowships for students doing work in the area of environmental and social justice.
Masry, of course, is not only a college grad, but an LLB as well. Erin does not have a college-level degree, although it doesn't matter: Her education, as shown in the movie, comes from the school of hard knocks.
Didn't Ed think this sudden charitable effort might have something to do with Oscar voting? "I don't think it's something that would affect the vote, but then again I'm fighting for truth and justice here," he said.
Erin, you might be interested to know, was not in the office. She is in upstate New York, interviewing victims of environmental mishaps for two different cases. But she, Masry and their respective spouses will be front and center on March 25 at the Academy Awards.
This Erin Brockovich degree, or whatever you want to call it, is just one in a series of questionable things that have gone on with Oscar voting this month. Dreamworks has had Russell Crowe, nominee for Best Actor, hosting screenings of Gladiator in Los Angeles. And Sony Pictures Classics, according to Inside.com, double-mailed "screeners" of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Academy members so they could have DVDs in addition to videos. This is against Academy guidelines, apparently.
Ironically, nary a peep has been heard from Miramax, whose Chocolat is nominated for Best Picture and five other awards. And silence must be golden, since Judi Dench, with very little push, won the SAG award Sunday night and may repeat at the Oscars. Same for USA Films, which usually sends out all kinds of paraphernalia for its films (remember the Nurse Betty syringe?) but has kept pretty quiet on Traffic. Both of these studios disappoint me: Where are those Godiva chocolates now? Where is the crack? Huh, fellas?
I do guess we can expect an upsurge in academic donations if Erin Brockovich walks away with Best Picture. Think of the missed chances this year though: $1 million to USC's Health & Diet Program in honor of Requiem for a Dream, another $200,000 to the Cuban Studies Program at the University of Miami for Before Night Falls and how about a Penny Lane Chair for Groupies Who Want to Go Straight at San Diego State in honor of Almost Famous? Apply now.
New York magazine's Intelligencer column seems to be in overdrive plugging every local foodie in town.
The current column gives extra mention to the Zagat survey, and to five local superstar chefs, plus Food & Wine magazine. There are also plugs for Vanity Fair's Oscar after party and Maxim magazine. Guess someone over at New York will be eating and partying well in the weeks to come. ...
Here's my plug for Alicia Keys' upcoming debut album on J Records: On Thursday night, Keys will showcase her band and her extraordinary material at the Bottom Line in New York. Over the weekend, I think I played her sampler CD with five of the tracks so many times that no one would ride with me — yet they all asked to hear it again.
Keys' first single was supposed to be "Fallin'" — but now I'm told that another track, "Girlfriend," is being requested by disc jockeys.
This 20-year-old is about to explode. Get ready.