Good for What Ailes You

Although it’s been giving up ground to CNN this election season, the Fox News Network is still a target of derision by liberals who never fail to be exasperated by its “fair and balanced” motto. But for Fox haters, there’s a delicious (if uncorroborated) new look behind the scenes at the network’s startup now appearing online, courtesy of one of the people who helped birth it.

Dan Cooper, a former Fox News managing editor who helped conceptualize and design the channel in its first six months, has written a book dishing dirt on Fox News guru Roger Ailes. Cooper worked at the Fox network from 1994 to 1996, and claims to have been a critical part of the “brain team” that put the news channel together; he helped design the studios, the layout of the newsroom, and the program schedule. After six months—and countless titanic fights with Ailes—Cooper was made redundant and left to chase jobs producing television shows and managing talent in Los Angeles. But his subsequent divorce was so brutal that Cooper returned to his native New York to figure out what to do with his life. “The divorce was emotionally and financially shattering,” he says. “I had to rebuild, and the idea came to me that writing a memoir about the birth of the Fox News Channel could be very lucrative.”

According to Cooper, he titled his manuscript Naked Launch, snagged an agent, and shopped the project around town. But, he claims, publishers who showed interest were worried about alienating Ailes. So Cooper decided to serialize the book on his website ( and see if he could drum up publicity. He posted the prologue early last month.

Cooper spends most of his time guttersniping about Ailes’s alleged swaggering, vindictiveness, and casual abuse of underlings. Near the prologue’s conclusion, he recounts a story in which an Australian transplant named Ian stuck his head in Ailes’s office and asked a question in an accent so thick no one could understand him. Ailes, Cooper wrote, always liked to imagine this employee as a pig with an anus for a mouth.

“Instantly, Roger’s face was overcome with devilish glee,” Cooper wrote. “Roger had no idea what he was talking about, and he didn’t care. Roger made a fist and put it up to his mouth . . . ‘Oim Eeyan Rye!!’ Roger shouted. ‘An oim tawkin troo me arse!!’ This was supposed to be riotously funny. The
other boys howled in hysteria. I sat down
and slumped. Roger: ‘Eeooo cayn’t mike out what oim sighin, becawz oim tawking troo me arse!’ . . . This was the man who created the Fox News Channel for Rupert Murdoch.”

In another chapter, Cooper writes that Ailes allegedly demanded that bomb-proof windows be installed in his office, because he was concerned that homosexual activists might bomb Fox News when it debuted. As Cooper scrambled to find bomb-proof glass—which doesn’t exist, as it happens—Ailes also demanded that he get the city to chop down a line of trees outside his office. Every few days, Cooper wrote, Ailes would grab him and scream, “They’re still fucking there! Don’t you have any balls? Chop them fucking down!”

When Cooper isn’t trashing Ailes, he’s writing about the female employee he lusted after, or the men he believed his wife was sleeping with behind his back. The result is a hilariously idiosyncratic account of a flawed man and the terrible people he worked under. I may be an asshole, Cooper is saying, but you should see Roger Ailes.

Needless to say, Fox News representatives did not return calls seeking comment for this story. But Cooper’s memoir is drawing more and more Internet buzz, and the legions of people who love to hate Fox News are feasting on the kind of gossip that almost never manages to leak out of the channel. Meanwhile, Cooper promises even more salacious dirt to come. As for whether he worries that Ailes will somehow retaliate, he says: “I’m staying away from skating rinks this winter. You never know who’s driving the Zamboni machine.”


Rock ‘n’ Roll Hockey

“You know, getting ready to play a gig is like getting ready for a game,” says Pete Zamboni (a/k/a Peter Katis) as he and his three bandmates prepare to take the stage at Brownies on Avenue A. He tugs a Rangers shirt over his head and continues, “This afternoon, I stopped myself from running up and down the stairs at home because I didn’t want to tire my legs out, and then I remembered that we were playing music tonight, not hockey.”

Meet the Zambonis—the world’s fastest rising hockey rock band. With a repertoire comprised exclusively of hockey songs, you’d think they are destined for a short run—a cult band singing about a cult sport.

But their cult is getting noticed. It’s not just the in-venue airplay in cities like Dallas, performances in NHL arenas, or the fact that the Rangers have asked them to write a few tunes; it’s the colorful caricature in The New Yorker, the segment on CNN’s “Showbiz Today,” and a photo in the forthcoming issue of Rolling Stone. You wonder if these guys are merely enjoying their 15 minutes or are about to stickhandle through the pack of costumed indie bands and break away into some sort of new hit musical genre.

Like all sports, hockey has had its novelty records. Toronto goalie Johnny Bower warmed the hearts of Canadians with his rendition of “Honky The Christmas Goose” in 1962. Broad Street’s biggest bully, Dave Schultz, had a local hit single in Philly by croaking “Baby, c’mon/ Won’t you meet me in the penalty box” in his mid-’70s heyday, while Buffalo’s Jim Schoenfeld sang (awfully) Beatles, Dylan, and other rock tunes for an entire LP. Twenty years ago, Rangers Phil Esposito, John Davidson, Pat Hickey, Ron Duguay, and Dave Maloney cut the immortal “Hockey Sock Rock” for charity. And who could forget the uncharitable 1985 underground smash “Potvin Sucks” by Bobby Nyse and the Scrotums?

The Zambonis, however, are more legitimate artists, even if they are just four guys who’ve tapped the keg of recreational and pro hockey life as their sole lyrical inspiration. Why hockey? They’re happy to give you the deep explanation: “We feel that all life experience and the essence of the human condition can be communicated through the hockey metaphor.” But, confidentially, they’ve grown bored with that response. So now, Dave Zamboni (a/k/a David Schneider, who sported the minor league jersey of New Haven’s defunct Nighthawks at Brownies) trims it to, “We love hockey and we completely love music also.”

Judging by their latest CD, More Songs About Hockey . . . and buildings and food (Tarquin Records), they love an impressive range of musical styles. The disc starts with “Hextall,” a triumph of artistic ambiguity that leaves you guessing whether it’s a song of praise or derision for the retired Flyers goalie. Then they achieve an inspired rock and roll lunacy with “Hockey Monkey,” which they opened with at the Brownie’s show last Friday, complete with a gorilla-suited friend jumping around the stage waving a hockey stick.

Each succeeding song shifts the mood again, like a new forward line jumping over the boards. They draw on influences as far-flung as new wave (“Andy Moog Meets Robert Moog” and “Zamboni Drivers’ Local Union”), hardcore (“Lost My Teeth”), classic ska (“The Breakaway”) and country (“Great Zamboni of Devotion”). You can hear echoes of the Ramones, the Cars, the Clash, Devo, and, especially, Jonathan Richman throughout.

“That’s the beauty of the band,” says Dave. “If people want to say we’re a novelty band, then we’ll take it and do what we want with it—play a rock song, a country song, a waltz, right into a Devo tribute.”

They come by their hockey cred honestly. Dave played goalie as a kid, although it’s unclear if he still dons the big pads. But he admits he’s hooked on Sega hockey. Pete and his bassist brother Tarquin skate a few times a week. Pete remains amazed at the skills of ex-Ranger Alexei Kovalev, with whom he skated a few summers ago, while Tarquin (a former youth hockey teammate of Phoenix star Jeremy Roenick) actually made the Yale team as a walk-on—only to suffer Ivy League disqualification because he had previously attended a four year art school. He holds no grudge, wearing a Yale practice jersey on stage at Brownies, and confesses, “If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have gone to art school.”

Jon Zamboni (a/k/a Jon Aley) mysteriously says, “I don’t know anything about hockey,” which is hard to fathom since he counts “Lost My Teeth” (a damn good song about sacrificing for your team) among his writing credits.

Maybe Jon’s just showing off the band’s trademark sense of humor, which comes thru in songs like “Johnny Got Suspended,” the story of a kid who was kicked out of high school for wearing an “Islanders Suck” T-shirt. Because of that kind of creativity and because they keep growing, musically and lyrically, the Zambonis just might have a future. They already have devoted fans, like those at Brownies, who were singing along with every song, cheering the Hockey Monkey, calling for requests, and wearing Bruins shirts and Rangers hats. What more does a cult band need?