Imagine a world in the multiverse where MTV had produced a show in the late 80s/early 90s called “All or Nothing.” Introducing actors Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, the show follows two best friends from Europe as they form a band called “Milli Vanilli” and try to land a recording contract while navigating the strange land known as Hollywood, California. Along the way, they meet the women of their dreams and frantically try to track to them down because the girls forgot their numbers (even after they advised them “baby don’t“). And they have to convince a producer to give them a second chance after they missed an audition and blamed it on the rain. Girl, you know it’s true!
Maybe then we would have accepted Morvan and Pilatus lip syncing to songs other people sang and recorded. After all, famous actors like Natalie Wood, Audrey Hepburn and Christopher Plummer didn’t actually sing in West Side Story, My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music, respectively. Decades later, Rami Malek would win an Oscar for lip-syncing to Freddie Mercury’s vocals in Bohemian Rhapsody. Additionally, TV shows like The Monkees, The Partridge Family and The Heights often used studio musicians and singers on the recordings that were utilized on the show.
Instead, we got an industry-changing scandal that ruined the lives and careers of the two men who made up Milli Vanilli and helped kill off the popularity of producer-driven R&B/pop dance bands in the 90s.(more…)
My latest feature examines sleazy, incompetent, and ethically-challenged lawyers in pop culture and how they are shaped by, and affect, public perception of the legal profession. This one was a lot of fun to write and report. I had a blast speaking to some of the creative minds behind Liar Liar, L.A. Law and Presumed Innocent.
Plus, we got some good timing, since the issue went to press the same month that Better Call Saul wrapped up its run on AMC. As such, it was a no-brainer to feature Saul Goodman on the cover and throughout the spread. With quotes like “If you’re committed enough, you can make any story work. I once convinced a woman I was Kevin Costner, and it worked, because I believed it!” and scenes like this one where he effortlessly explains money laundering in a way that could be used in law enforcement training videos, he really is the perfect cover-boy for a story about bad lawyers.
Unless you count this guy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fit my favorite bad lawyer into the story (it wasn’t for lack of trying, though). Maybe next time…
Anyway, it’s nice to see — especially since I was at 125 a couple of months ago. Here’s to the next 500!
A bit of a departure for me on this one. I wrote an ABA Journal cover story in 2019 looking at songs that changed the law. The issue of sampling has become an important one when it comes to copyright law. A major reason why was because of two 1991 cases. I spotlighted the first: a lawsuit filed by members of 60s era band The Turtles against hip hop group De La Soul. I decided to take a look at the second one, which involves the recently deceased rapper Biz Markie.
When the Diabolical Biz Markie died in July, many publications made sure to emphasize that he was more than just a one hit wonder. Widely known for his big personality and sense of humor, the “Clown Prince of Hip Hop” (he once recorded a song about picking his nose called “Pickin’ Boogers” – either that or “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Gotta Boogie,” is the best song ever written about nose doo-doo) was a highly influential rapper who was beloved in hip hop circles and by his fans.
But the fact remains that most people only knew him by his big hit, 1989’s “Just a Friend.” A major reason why he never had another was because of a lawsuit that helped set a precedent in the then-grey area of sampling.(more…)
Late last month, NBC announced it was reviving the original “Law & Order” as a prime-time series.
The news came a month after my feature examining the show’s legacy in shaping our understanding of the criminal justice system hit the stands. Surely the folks at NBC and Wolf Entertainment read it and decided they had no choice but to bring it back, right?
So, you’re welcome! Now, if I only can get NBC to bring “Ed” back.
I’m not going to lie. This routine helped inspire the lede for my latest feature examining the impact of Law & Order and its various spinoffs on the criminal justice system. Maybe I’ll do another focusing just on SVU and how Ice-T always needs things explained to him.
Very proud to win several Azbee Awards of Excellence from the American Society of Business Publication Editors this year. I think this might have been my biggest haul yet.
I wrote a review for Robin Thicke’s Paula when it first came out in 2014. I decided to revisit it for several reasons. 1) I’m lazy, 2) It was obvious, at the time, that this record would tank his career and 3) I see him every week as a judge on The Masked Singer and I can’t decide whether being on a hit show means that his career has recovered from this debacle of an album or if it’s confirmation that his musical career is over and that he’ll just be a reality show judge from here on out. In other words, did his album about one Paula (Patton) have the effect of turning him into another Paula (Abdul)?
In retrospect, “Blurred Lines” wasn’t the start of something great for Robin Thicke. It was the beginning of the end. And Paula ended up being the nail in the coffin.(more…)
For most of the 1980s and early 90s, Mötley Crüe were riding high — both literally and figuratively. The band recorded and toured relentlessly, earning them a devoted fan base and a string of multi-platinum albums, hit singles and popular videos.
Off stage, they engaged in enough debauchery that their VH1 Behind the Music episode almost singlehandedly turned that series into a hit while setting the stage for their best-selling tell-all autobiography, The Dirt (adapted into a Netflix movie in 2019). Nothing could stop them. Not lead singer Vince Neil getting into an accident while drunk and killing his passenger, Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley. Not bassist and primary songwriter Nikki Sixx OD-ing on heroin, being pronounced dead, revived with adrenaline, and then OD-ing again. Not Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee alleging raping a woman at a party (Sixx later claimed he may have embellished or made up the story during a low point in his life). Not guitarist Mick Mars suffering from a debilitating form of arthritis for most of his adult life. Everything they touched seemed to turn to gold (or more accurately, platinum) and if it didn’t, it was probably because they wanted to snort, drink or screw it. In a word, they were bulletproof.
In 1992, that all came crashing down. The band was coming off the dual successes of 1989’s Dr. Feelgood and 1991’s greatest hits compilation Decade of Decadence and were hard at work on their next album when Neil quit/was fired. The band promptly hired John Corabi, lead singer and rhythm guitarist of L.A. band The Scream and set about working on what would become 1994’s self titled album. With the music industry changing around them, the newly inspired Crüe updated their sound and recorded a bunch of songs that were heavier, both lyrically and musically, than anything they had ever done before. They were confident that Mötley Crüe was their best album ever and would open up a new chapter in the band’s already successful history.
And then they learned a valuable lesson about what happens when you mess with the formula.(more…)
I’m very proud to see “State of the Profession,” an annual feature I’m in charge of, win the National and Upper Midwest Regional Azbee Awards for Excellence for Data Journalism from the American Society of Business Publication Editors.
And I’m also proud to have been nominated for a Peter Lisagor Award by the Chicago Headline Club for Best Feature Story (Non-Daily Newspaper, Magazine or Newspaper-Magazine) for “Lawyers, songs and money: Music that changed the law.” That piece meant a lot to me, personally, and I was glad to see it get some recognition.
This was a fun podcast for me. How two Texas lawyers combined their love of music and their knowledge of state law to find a unique way of marketing their practice.
It’s been said that great art comes out of great suffering or adversity. Eric Clapton produced his masterpiece, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs while nursing a crippling heroin addiction and hopelessly in love with his best friend’s wife. Francis Ford Coppola had a nervous breakdown and allegedly threatened to kill himself multiple times while filming his classic film, Apocalypse Now. Ludwig van Beethoven composed some of his best and most-admired works after going deaf and while suffering from terrible health problems. Vincent van Gogh was, perhaps, the archetype of the tortured artist, battling mental illness for most of his career (including the infamous episode where he cut off his own ear) and produced some of the most beloved paintings in history.
Of course, sometimes, great suffering or adversity ends up producing crap – crap so bad that the artist is never quite the same afterwards. Case in point: St. Anger by Metallica.(more…)
Got some interesting news on Friday. “Nixon in New York” will be released on paperback in the fall. Hopefully the price will be more reasonable this time around.
Anyway, to celebrate this news, I figured I’d show off my Richard Nixon coin.
Got a nice review for Nixon in New York from the Massachusetts Bar Review. Thanks and glad you enjoyed it!
“Li’s unvarnished look at the man is painstakingly researched and well-crafted. It is also a balanced and sympathetic appraisal of one of the central figures of the 20th century as he worked from an ignominious defeat to the most powerful position in the world. In addition to the political perspective, the inside look at the world of the Wall Street law firm in the 1960s is particularly compelling. Today, in the age of the megafirm, while political discourse is at an all-time low, Li’s story is a solid look at an equally divisive time and an undeniably polarizing figure. There are lessons to be learned.”
- Former Lawyer.
- Current Journalist/Writer/Editor.
- Author of "Nixon in New York: How Wall Street Helped Richard Nixon Win the White House," published in 2018.
- Husband, father and dog-lover.
- Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Manchester United supporter.
- Chicago via Pittsburgh, New York City and several others.
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