NYFCC Calls ‘Emergency Meeting’ To Deal With Armond White, Who Calls It ‘Communist’

Yesterday’s story about Armond White heckling (well, allegedly heckling, but we’ll get to that) 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards seemed pretty much par for course, considering there have been at least three past Armond White heckling incidents (allegedly). And yet, this most recent incident was apparently a big enough deal that the NYFCC, of which Armond White is a three-time past chairman, has called an “emergency meeting.”

I love the idea of a meeting of film critics being called an “emergency.” Gentlemen! What we decide here could save lives!

The organization has set an emergency meeting for Monday, Jan. 13 at Lincoln Center to discuss what to do about the situation.

This morning, Variety has learned, chairman Joshua Rothkopf, a senior writer for Time Out New York, sent a mass email to the other members. The subject line was “Ruined.”

“I was looking forward to sending out a post-show email of thanks to everyone who helped make last night so special,” the email said. “Instead, I’m met this morning with links to no less than TEN pieces of reporting from around the world — not about Harry Belafonte’s magnificent speech or the two standing ovations, but about the heckling. I also have a perturbed email from Barry Dale Johnson at Fox Searchlight that will require a response. In short: damage control.”

“It amazes me that we have members who are so self-serving, they would sacrifice the decorum of the group … solely to satisfy their egos,” Rothkopf added.

I can’t believe some of our members would be so self-serving that they’d take the attention away from our self-serving awards show! Is there no decorum left in our once august profession? SEIZE MR. WHITE’S CRAVAT AT ONCE!

This is all silly and fun, but do you have anything in the way of childish bickering?

A dozen or so other critics started to weigh in, including New York Post’s Lou Lumenick, who asked, “Do we really want to keep fueling the story?”

“You know what, Lou? Coming from you, that’s a f*cking laugh,” Rothkopf promptly wrote back to the entire chain. “I have no problem saying this now with the event over, but at this upcoming meeting, we’re also going to discuss YOUR ridiculous confrontation with me at the voting meeting, YOUR flagrant reporting of the vote totals and YOUR expulsion.” [Variety]

But according to Variety, the NYFCC’s bylaws don’t include a provision for expelling members, so it looks like they’re stuck with Armond White for the time being. Which is a good thing for us, because film critics bickering is a much more entertaining story than their predictable taste in awards-bait movies. Guys, guys, is that really so hard to understand? Did you really think people were going to report on the speeches and the clapping?

Meanwhile, Armond White says it’s all a frame job and he didn’t heckle at all:

Did I make sotto voce comments to entertain my five guests? Sure, but nothing intended for others to hear and none correctly “reported.” I don’t even know what it means to call Steve McQueen a “garbage man” or “doorman” even though the racist implications are obvious. None of this makes sense which is what happens when online journalism reports a malicious lie.

Yes, once again it was all “online journalism’s” fault. Nevermind that it was reported by Variety, which has been online only for less than a year, and by John Anderson, a long time print journalist for the Baltimore Sun, LA Times, New York Times, etc. Here’s Anderson’s account:

Harry Belafonte, who delivered what may well have been the most moving and eloquent presentation of an award this distinguished group of critics had ever heard, was allowed to deliver his words, but as soon as McQueen hit the podium, White exploded: “Doorman” and “garbageman” were the words that rang out the clearest, as well they might.

Anyway, take it away Armond, your writing is always more entertaining than arguing what insults you did or didn’t yell anyway. [emphases mine]

The comments that I supposedly made were never uttered by me or anyone within my earshot. I have been libeled by publications that recklessly quoted unnamed sources that made up what I said and to whom I was speaking. Someone on the podium talked about critics’ “passion.” Does “passion” only run one-way toward subservience?

The press has accustomed itself to treating me as a bete noir–so much so that eavesdroppers at the event continually misrepresent my behavior, even to the point of repeating such lies as distorting my cheer for Robert De Niro’s The Good Shepherd into “heckling” and that I “made Annette Bening cry”–both false allegations. Among some Circle members and media folk, there is personal, petty interest in seeing me maligned. I guess the awards themselves don’t matter. It’s a shameless attempt to squelch the strongest voice that exists in contemporary criticism.

Right now former NYFCC Chairman Joshua Rothkopf, acting Chairman Stephen Whitty, Karen Durbin, David Denby, Rex Reed, Dana Stevens and others have arranged a Communist-style special “Emergency Meeting” supposedly in the interest of legislating “decorum”–a meeting based entirely upon something that none of them actually heard and one that is really intended to purge me from the Circle. Only David Edelstein, with whom I’ve had past public disputes, showed the common courtesy to inquire if the rumors were true. [TheHollywoodReporter]

“I would NEVER stoop to shouting petty insults! Anyone who says that is a racist Commie!”

Shine on, you crazy Armond. Though if I may offer some advice, perhaps if some comments that were supposedly only meant to be heard by the people at your table get overheard by others and printed three years running, maybe you should try being quieter? Maybe send your buddies text messages next year.