"The stuff that Joan digs up can be funny, especially when it's not about you. It's usually a scoop. And, as many among the powerful can attest, it can be embarrassing. But you can always believe it; this isn't gossip; it's journalism."-- Tom Fiedler writing about Joan Fleischman in The Herald, June 14, 2002
"Joan Fleischman's Talk of Our Town, [is] a pithy compilation of news and notes about people in South Florida, each item certain to be both interesting and rigorously reported." -- Tom Fiedler writing about Joan Fleischman in The Herald, July 24, 2005
I have this uncanny "gift" of remembering snippets of things I've read years and sometimes decades ago. It's kind of like the taste of that chicken chow mein you had for lunch that stays with you way past dinner, only the quotes stay with me longer.
So when the Herald's Gossip Maven Extraordinaire, Joan Fleischman, ran two items within the space of two weeks in her column earlier this month mentioning TV judge Marilyn Milian, I immediately recalled Tom Fiedler's line from six years ago about Joan's column being "journalism."
From Joan's May 7, 2008 column:
"TV judges Marilyn Milian (The People's Court) and David Young (Judge David Young), residents of South Florida, are contenders for a Daytime Emmy in a new category -- Outstanding Legal/Courtroom Program."
From Joan's May 21, 2008 column:
"Coral Gables couturier Rene Ruiz has two new customers -- Daytime Emmy contenders Marilyn Milian of The People's Court and David Young of Judge David Young. Both plan to wear his fashions when they appear June 20 on national TV for the awards ceremony.
"Milian, 47, says she'll leave the design up to Ruiz. 'I'm open to anything. I'm just going to let him do his magic.'"
Like I said I remember a lot of what I read and I try not to miss Joan's column. As soon as I read that May 21 item it dawned on me that Joan writes about these TV judges quite a bit.
It was time to hit the archives!
I didn't have to look far before little TV judge nuggets started popping up like mushrooms!
In Joan's Feb. 24, 2008 column on Miami-Dade County Judge Karen Mills-Francis quitting as of May 23 to become a TV judge with a show produced by Sony Television, she mentions Milian , Alex Ferrer, David Young and Cristina Pereyra-Shuminer, all TV judges. Sony also produces Young's show. Obviously someone at Sony has Joan's number on speed dial!
On Dec. 17, 2007 the Herald's Lesley Abravanel stole Joan's thunder and wrote an item on Judge Marilyn which prominently plugs the channel and airtime of the show in the first paragraph.
Lesley goes on to share with us essential details of Judge Marilyn's life in South Fla: she likes Mojitos restaurant at the Dolphin Mall, Bebe's at the Village of Merrick Park and her favorite thing about South Fla.: "The weirdness factor, as best described by Herald columnist Dave Barry 10 years ago in Tropic Magazine." Ugh!! Dave Barry! That tells me all I need to know about Her Honor!
In Nov. 18, 2007 Joan wrote in her column:
"Yet another Miami-Dade jurist may be headed for national TV: Karen Mills-Francis, county judge. Mills-Francis, 47, has taped episodes of a Judge Karen show that Sony Pictures Television is pitching nationwide for fall '08.
...Miami's other TV judges: Marilyn Milian (The People's Court); Alex Ferrer (Judge Alex); David Young (Judge David Young), and Cristina Pereyra-Shuminer (Veredicto Final)."
It also seems whenever Joan writes about one of these TV judges she uses the opportunity to mention all of the other local judges who have TV shows....sometimes multiple mentions in the same column.
In Joan's Nov. 18 column she wrote about David Young again after mentioning him in the item about Judge Francis:
"OUT -- AND ABOUT
TV judge David Young, a former Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge, made OUT magazine's 2007 list of 100 most influential people in gay culture.
Young, 48, had a blast at the New York reception. "I hung out with Bebe Neuwirth and Jennifer Hudson." He also met Chaka Khan, who performed at the event. Says Young: "I introduced myself. You know I'm not shy."
Young attended with his longtime partner, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Scott Bernstein."
I dug deeper and didn't have to look far.
From Joan's Oct. 21, 2007 column:
"The People's Court Judge Marilyn Milian dressed down University of Miami law student Eric Paolino, giving him a lesson in courtroom etiquette on national TV, in an episode that aired Monday. Milian was visibly angry -- no act. A video clip of her tongue-lashing is on YouTube.
"The case: a landlord-tenant dispute, initially filed in Miami-Dade court. Plaintiff: Susan M. Murray, 50, a UM film studies grad student who agreed to rent a room in Paolino's Coconut Grove condo. She gave him a $450 deposit but wanted it back after learning about the condo association's extensive application process. Paolino refused, saying he held the room for her and lost potential rent.
"Milian told Paolino that he did not give Murray adequate notice about the application process. Paolino argued otherwise. "You're dead wrong," Milian told him. "That's your opinion," he shot back."
Joan's not the only writer at the Herald infatuated with Judge Marilyn. Eleven days before Joan's Oct. 21 piece Herald writer Cindy Krischer Goodman mentioned Milian on Oct. 10 in a piece about women lawyers.
That Krischer Goodman piece ran a month after a Sept. 9, 2007 piece by Herald writer Lydia Martin in which she fawned over another TV judge, David Young. Her piece also mentions Milian.
From Lydia's piece:
["David Young] has always been known for his perky judicial style. But in 15 years on the bench he never gayed it up as much as he's gaying it up for Judge David Young, which on Monday joins the crowded roster of courtroom shows. In South Florida it airs at 1 p.m. weekdays on WBFS My33. Young, a Miami native, has long been an out gay judge. But it seems he has been given orders to ramp up the camp for the benefit of the cameras."
I'm not done yet!
Joan penned another TV judge item on June 3, 2007; this one about TV Judge Alex Ferrer who was embroiled in a contract dispute with a Miami lawyer who claimed he was entitled to a percentage of Ferrer's show earnings. Inside baseball to be sure and hardly the trial of the century. And just who in the hell is Judge Alex? I wonder how many other people know this guy? That doesn't stop Joan from writing about them.
In that same June 3 column Joan once again mentions Marilyn Milian in another item about a Univision show planned for Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cristina Pereyra-Shuminer.
Are you following all this?
May 18, 2007: Herald writer Lisa Arthur:
"Hollywood once again has raided the Miami-Dade Circuit Court bench. This fall, David Young will become the third local judge with a television show in syndication.
Young, a criminal-court judge described by the producers who hired him as having a sharp sense of humor and compassionate manner, will step down on May 25. The show is tentatively scheduled to air on My33 in South Florida."
And of course Judge Marilyn and Judge Alex are mentioned.
"He joins former Miami-Dade bench colleagues Marilyn Milian , who hosts The People's Court, and Alex Ferrer of The Judge Alex Show."
Back to Aug. 30, 2006 and Joan mentions Judge Marilyn in an item about bagels; yes bagels!
Writing about new the owners of the Bagel Emporium in Coral Gables (which just happens to be in Joan's 'hood **wink nudge**) Joan finds a way to mention Judge Marilyn. Turns out the good Judge loves those bagels at the Bagel Emporium. What a coincidence!
By the way Joan ends the item with this need to know info on the Emporium: "The Emporium will carry a full dinner menu of roast turkey, prime rib, baked meatloaf and homemade chicken and biscuits."
Jan. 25, 2006: Joan breaks an exclusive!!
George Milian Sr., 82, got in a fender bender Dec. 15 at Southwest Eighth Street and 68th Court in Miami. Cops wrote him two citations - for careless driving, and not carrying proof of insurance."
Why is this news? You guessed it! George is the father of Judge Marilyn!!
Evidently Joan will use any premise, no matter how thin, to mention Judge Marilyn.
On Feb 9, 2005, Joan prints an item about James Denton, a star on Desperate Housewives who told Elle magazine that he has the hots for Judge Marilyn: "Who is your guilty fantasy?'' Denton: "That judge from The People's Court, Marilyn Milian . I spotted her once when I was bored in my trailer. I sat there watching her and thought, 'Wow, she does it for me.'" Joan shares with us that the judge is a fan of Denton too, but is happily married....otherwise, who knows?
Then between Dec. 2001 and Nov. 2004 there are six items in the Herald (not written by Joan) that mention Judge Marilyn.
Joan's first item about Judge Marilyn was in a Dec 22, 2000 column when she wrote that Milian was headed to New York to do a TV show. The brief item mentions Milian's name 16 times.
Following that December item Joan waited until May 9, 2001 to write about Judge Marilyn again wherein she gushed about Judge Marilyn expecting a baby.
Joan Fleischman has done some great work at the Herald but I think she's part of what's wrong over there. She's been doing her column too long. She's a poster child for whatever journalism's equivalent of "term limits" is.
Especially on a beat where one person deals with publicists and flacks with no apparent oversight and single-handedly calls the shots about what does and does not get in her column.
Just how does she manage to get all these "non-news items" printed? They're obviously fed to her by the PR people at Sony and Warner Brothers who syndicate these TV judge shows.
Am I the only one who's noticed this? Has anyone at the Herald confronted her...or do they even care?
Maybe it's time for everyone at the Herald--not just Joan--to take a break and stop writing stuff about these TV judges. After all, they're not really celebrities. They fall into a category I call "junk celebrities." Aren't there more important things to focus on?
Joan from time to time provides even more proof that it's time for her to hang it up.
In her column a few days ago on May 18, she printed an item about Harry Wayne Casey's KC & The Sunshine Band suing a South Florida concert promoter. WTF? KC and the Sunshine Band??
Yup, she dredged Harry out of well deserved obscurity to print this item. In case some of you don't know who this guy is, his song "That's the Way I Like It" was a disco era song that was a thousand times more annoying than fingernails on a blackboard!
Joan...who cares? This is 2008, not 1975.
Any chance you can find a few celebs to write about who aren't AARP members?
And who aren't TV judges?