Feared Hollywood reporter/blogger/gossipmonger Nikki Finke might have been fired by Deadline.com. Why should this matter to anyone who's not Hollywood? Because it matters to people who decide what matters – and because Finke gets what she wants.
On Sunday night, Sharon Waxman of The Wrap wrote a post citing multiple unnamed sources who said that Finke had been fired from Deadline Hollywood, the blog she founded that was eventually purchased by Jay Penske in 2009. Waxman and Finke hate each other, for reasons you can read about here, and Deadline shot back at the reports, saying in an internal email that the story was "a complete fabrication, with not an ounce of truth to it." They also threatened legal action. She said, he said, etc.
Finke is a subject of fascination and mystery; the latter adjective supports the former because there's somehow only one photo of her in existence. She's often described as erratic and crazy in a way that is remarkably unrelated to her gender. She doesn't care about supporting women in particular, or men for that matter. She doesn't really care about anyone, or can't be depended on to care about them for very long. If that TV show about her had ever gotten made, it probably wouldn't have been an accurate portrayal of what most women who are her age and have her level of infamy in their fields have had to deal with. Many of them have suffered through some level of gender discrimination at some point. But to hear Finke talk about the world, such issues are nonexistent.
What Finke does have is power, namely in that she inspires fear in others. Kate Aurthur at BuzzFeed has a fantastic anecdote about the way people react to Finke:
Once I was driving, and my cellphone rang. It was a private number, but I picked it up anyway. It was Nikki, asking me why I was leaving the L.A. Times to go to The Daily Beast (she hates the L.A. Times), and what were Tina Brown’s plans anyway? (She probably hates Tina, too.) I was shocked. How did she get my number? I stammered some very boring things, and soon was able to extract myself from the call. It was at that moment that I truly did understand the fear of the Hollywood executive: I hadn’t yet started my new job, and I didn’t want to screw anything up. I’d like to think that I could handle it better if I had been at all prepared for her call. And I’ve also seen since that if you outcrazy her, she does wilt.
But I haven’t answered a private number since, and that was in 2009. See? She changes the way people act! If it’s not at Deadline, it will be somewhere else soon enough.
I mean, never answer a private number. But it's this effect that Finke has on people that prompted producer Gavin Polone to write a piece for New York magazine last year where he asked people in the industry to stop reading her work because "she has no real power":
I think Nikki Finke’s manner of writing nasty personal attacks, threatening people, and exhibiting general incivility is unacceptable, and I am asking those who read this to 'unfavorite' Deadline from their browser, read it less often, and stop tipping her and her reporters when they have a story until such time as she has modified her behavior and begun to adhere to a more professional practice of journalism...Step two is to wait and see if she can rain down fire and brimstone on me for my insolence.
When Polone's piece was published, I asked a friend in the industry what they thought of this latest installment in Nikki vs. the World. They said, "It's time someone stood up to her and stopped being so afraid of her. Because everyone really is, and she realistically does not have any power."
But that's the thing about power: it's a thing that keeps growing because it's given ammunition. People have power when they're given it. Or when they take it. Or when they do both. Maybe that's what the lesson should be for those who don't really care about the details of this latest Hollywood squabble: Take what you want and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Finke has done that and she's not about to let it go anywhere.
Image via BetchesLoveThis