(NOTE: The saga continues)
(NOTE: Additional information available at this update)
(NOTE: I've also read and reviewed her book)
(NOTE: Find out about the Taylor Marsh cartoons here!)
A few days ago, I read a confused and silly piece at The Huffington Post by Taylor Marsh.
Taylor Marsh. She's all over the place these days, it seems. She's shown up on TV shows. She's a regular contributor at HuffPo. I see links to her blogs all over the place. I don't think you can call Taylor Marsh one of the great opinion shapers of our time, but she's definitely making an impact in certain circles.
She seems to have a lot of oomph among Hillary supporters. Her blog offers a daily dose of crazed Obama bashing and gets hundreds of comments from Clinton true believers who echo her sentiments as if they were gospel. Compared to little ol' John Brown, Taylor Marsh is BIG TIME.
I've been wondering. Who in the hell IS Taylor Marsh. I decided to find out. Strangely, this talk radio host and published author doesn't have a Wikipedia entry. Although I found several people wondering who she was, I found no bio outside of the one she's provided at HuffPo and the one on her own website. I figured it was time for someone to find out something more than that about Taylor Marsh and/or to collect available information in one place.
I'll be honest with you, though. I wasn't motivated by pure curiosity. I had an ax to grind. Day after day, I find the ramblings of Taylor Marsh and the ass-kissing dittoes of her Hillary-backing fan club more and more irritating. Her remarks are, in my estimation, another sympton of Hillary-induced soul cancer. I think Taylor Marsh sucks.
Thus, I was sort of hoping to find out that Ms. Marsh is a completely unqualified, unimportant, silly hack who just happened to fall into an audience because she decided to pledge an undying allegiance to The Monster during a contentious primary process. Hey, like I said, I had an ax to grind.
Guess what? I did discover that Taylor Marsh fails to meet the Pundit Worthy of Attention Threshhold. She is a wee hack with an audience. She does suck--at least on some level. However, she's also interesting. Believe it or not, I now have an admittedly bizarre newfound respect for her.
The Taylor Marsh story has two parts. First, it cautions us to remember that having a slick blog and a knack for PR doesn't make someone smart, qualified, or credible. Second, it teaches us that anyone can command an audience for his or her opinions. The Taylor Marsh story is about fame for the foolish, attention for the mediocre, and how a kid from Missouri can somehow grow up to be an oft-cited resource among those with an interest in serious matters--even if she might not have any business sharing the stage with serious people.
The Taylor Marsh story is at the intersection of Horatio Alger and Clifford Irving.
It starts with Michelle Marshall.
Michelle Marshall was a Missouri girl from a conservative family who entered beauty pageants to earn money for college. She ended up winning the Miss Missouri title in 1974. Even though she didn't take home the big Miss America tiara in Atlantic City, pageant circuit winnings helped her pay her way to Stephens College. Stephens is an all-female college in Columbia, Missouri. Michelle Marshall graduated, receiving a BFA.
She left Columbia (and if you've ever been there, you'd appreciate the decision) and went to New York. Her good looks, grace and talent landed her on a few Broadway stages. For whatever reason, Michelle's Broadway career was brief.
That's where Michelle Marshall vanishes. We don't hear from her again. Michelle Marshall becomes Taylor Marsh.
TAYLOR MARSH IN LA...
Michelle Marshall/Taylor Marsh went to Los Angeles. She found herself acting as a "relationship consultant" for the LA Weekly, a free alternative newspaper. Maybe. Sort of. She claims that experience today, but the details are cloudy. An interview with Marsh indicates that she wrote more political pieces. Marsh herself says she wrote relationship columns, but tried to sneak politics into them until someone in the editorial department made her stop. The interesting part of that comment is that Marsh said her future columns ran with an announcement of ADVERTISEMENT above them. Usually, if your colum is labeled an "advertisement" it's because it's not really a column at all. It's an ad.
Who was running the ad? Who was paying her to write the ad? Was it really an LA Weekly article and they just randomly slapped "advertisement" on top of it? I have no freaking clue. I'm a blogger in Kansas. I'm not Mike Wallace. What I do know is that Judith Proffer (Jablonski) was one of the publishers of LA Weekly. I also know that Proffer would later become a Marsh ally when Taylor decided she should be a radio host. I also believe that Proffer's role at the LA Weekly was concentrated on advertising issues.
All I'm saying is that it seems pretty likely that Taylor Marsh was never a paid columnist for LA Weekly. Columnists aren't labeled "advertisers" and would be far less likely to develop a close and lasting relationship with the people in the ad department than a regular columnist might. That's just a guess, but I think it's a pretty good one.
Before we move on with the Taylor Marsh biography, I want to mention an old post from Taylor Marsh. It's a review of a musical about Deep Throat porn star Linda Lovelace. Marsh gives an enthusiastic and positive review of Lovelace: The Musical. She even gives props to its executive producer for doing such a damn good job. She doesn't mention her friendship with the executive producer and future business partner, though. The backer? Judy Proffer.
TAYLOR MARSH IN PORN...
A review of Lovelace: The Musical isn't the only Marsh foray into the pornography and sex industries. Somewhere along the line, Taylor Marsh developed a keen interest in the topic. She claims to have extensively researched the field for several years. Part of that research involved working with/for Danni Ashe. Ashe, a porn star, was one of the pioneers of making shitloads of cash by peddling porn online. Marsh was there with her, serving as the editor-in-chief for Danni's Hard Drive.
That year in the field served as the basis for Taylor's book, My Year in Smut: The Internet Escapades Inside Danni's Hard Drive.
We'll talk more about that book and Taylor's claims about it later. Here's what I'm interested in knowing, though. Was the year with Danni Ashe a "research thing" from the beginning or was it a job with a porn outfit that turned into a book later? I could buy a copy of My Year in Smut to find out, but I'm not really THAT interested. I have a feeling Ms. Marsh will eventually fill us all in if people begin asking for answers, anyway. By the looks of this Marsh post, it was a gig. Nothing more.
I don't think it's a stretch to imagine that someone was writing relationship and sex advice pieces that appeared in an alt weekly would hook up with a porn company to serve as an editor. I don't think Taylor Marsh was going deep undercover when she was working with Ashe. I think she was just working a job. That guess fits nicely with the record of some Taylor Marsh appearances in LA that were focused on erotica and sex.
TAYLOR MARSH THE AUTHOR...
My Year in Smut is THE Taylor Marsh book. I don't mean it's the best. I mean it's the only one. I mention that because she likes to occasionally mention her status as an author. Her background as an author and her "research" for the book create a kind of implied credibility. They probably shouldn't.
When your research is actually your job working for a porn site that's an issue. When you're book is printed by AuthorHouse, that's another issue.
AuthorHouse, previously known as 1st Books, served as publisher for My Year in Smut. Do you know what it takes to get AuthorHouse to print your book? Do you need a good literary agent who can sell them on your manuscript? Do you need a track record as an author? Do you need a knockout manuscript they just can't resist? No. No, you don't. You need a check. Or a major credit card.
AuthorHouse is a self-publishing vanity press. You pay them, they print your book. That's about it. I could take my four-year-old's assorted scribblings and Crayola pieces and transform them into a coffee table book, complete with glowing reviews of each drawing written in the tone of a serious art critic. I could do that for around $500. Would that make John Brown's daugher a serious artist? Not really, huh?
Vanity publishers are, generally, where you go when you can't get a real publisher to take your book. Yes, there are exceptions. There are always exceptions. However, if you take a tour around the AuthorHouse site and look at the kind of stuff they're publishing (oh, and they aren't editing this shit, either, you just give them the goods and they create books), you'll get a pretty good idea of what kind of stuff comes out of the self-publishing world. If you're interested in learning more about Author House specifically, here are about 8 million observations about it from writers of all sorts.
Look, My Year in Smut might be awesome. However, it's almost disingenuous to play "I'm a published author" when the very reason you're published is because you coughed up the cash. That's all I'm saying. Take it for what it's worth. Taylor Marsh mentions her book fairly regularly. You don't hear her mention the fact that she paid for it instead of getting paid for it.
That's not the World's Biggest Deal, but it is sort of interesting with respect to Taylor Marsh because she likes to build credibility via My Year in Smut and by describing herself as a radio host. She paid for the "author badge". Turns out she paid for the "radio badge", too.
TAYLOR MARSH IS ON THE AIR... SORT OF...
Taylor Marsh is a radio host. She says so. Everyone says so. It's all over the fucking place. However, you probably haven't heard her in your car on the radio while commuting to work or going to the store. You see, Taylor Marsh isn't on the radio. No one has actually paid her for being on the radio at any time, based on what I can find.
Taylor Marsh has a website that looks like it belongs to a radio show host. It's illusion. She's a podcaster. She records a show like the ones they actually broadcast on the radio and makes it available for download.
I have nothing against podcasting and I listen to a few semi-regularly. Many of the "big names" in radio make their real radio shows available via podcast. There's nothing inherently silly about podcasting.
There is something inherently silly about calling yourself a radio host and garnering credibility as a media figure from it when all you're really doing is taking a few calls from ass-kissing blog readers and converting results into MP3 format. That isn't a radio show.
Radio shows are broadcast. Radio shows, in most cases, have advertisers. Babbling into a $15 Radio Shack microphone in your basement and uploading the results to your website isn't running a radio show. Sorry, it just isn't. You are not a radio host if you do that. You're a podcaster.
But she DID have a radio show at one time, right? Well, sort of. I can understand the confusion. Occasionally she mentions wanting to find a "new home" for her radio show and she discusses her status as a screwed-over radio host when she makes crazily shallow comments about the Fairness Doctrine. Clearly, she had a radio show. Right?
Here's the deal. In 2002, Taylor Marsh went to Las Vegas and became a radio host... Sort of. Judy Proffer (Magpye Media) and Marsh came up with the cash to buy time on KLAV, a Las Vegas AM radio station. That's right. They bought time.
KLVA is to radio what Author House is to publishing. If you can't really get a job on a real radio station, you can go to KLVA and buy blocks of time. They give you the studio, provide production assistance, and you're on the air! Instant radio host status. If you'd like to become a talk radio host tomorrow, call your local AM vanity station and offer them some cash. That's all it takes. You can stutter. You can whine. You can say outrageously stupid things. You can be boring. It's on your dime. I could put my four-year-old in front of a mic and have her sing variations on "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" for two hours a day and, voila!, she'd have a claim equivalent to Taylor's as a "radio host".
The little group that funded the project didn't sustain it very long. It looks like the Marsh plan was to buy time on KLVA and to put together a show that was good enough to attract some attention from other media types. They could then syndicate the show and turn in into a profitable enterprise instead of a pay-to-play operation. That never happened. Taylor's foray into the real world of actual broadcast radio consisted of being a self-proclaimed hour-long "antidote to right wing talk" that never found backing beyond incubation.
So, Taylor Marsh is a pocaster who took a shot at becoming a radio host once upon a time. That's the bottom line, as I see it.
IS TAYLOR MARSH A FRAUD?
A lot of people would look at her authorship and radio host claims and say, "Hell yes, she's a fraud". Originally, I was sort of thinking about saying that, too. I'm going to stop short, though. She isn't a fraud. She's just good at making things sound better than they actually are.
She can take a self-published workplace story and spin it into being a respected author, buttressing her grandiosity because some other author just happened to mention her book in another book. Taylor Marsh can take her work experience in online porn and transform it into research for her book. She isn't a former porn employee, she's an expert.
Taylor Marsh can buy radio time in a gambit to get a paying job, fall flat and then spin that into being a talk radio icon. She can take what might have been little more than writing advertisements in an alt weekly and create a background in a print journalism.
Now, I don't want to pretend like she's a complete fabrication that suddenly emerged, fully formed, out of nowhere. If you start digging, you'll find that Taylor has been prolific on the web for a long time. She writes, writes and writes some more. She's blogged all over the place, including pro-Kerry work and Patriot Project efforts during the last election cycle. Blogging regularly, however, doesn't make one a genius. Otherwise, the guy from icanhazcheezburger.com would be on TV in place of David Gergen.
Taylor Marsh isn't a fraud. She's a spinner. A dedicated spinner.
This is the weird part of this post. Every time I read a Taylor Marsh post, I make that face usually reserved for sniffing a pot of human feces. I think she's a buffoon with a website, undeserving of an audience. I find her analysis feeble and obvious. I find her writing amateurish and her weirdly unrelenting support of Hillary Clinton suspicious. I think her blog is a bad thing. I want to say she's a phony. Hell, she might be. But in the end, I'm going to tip my hat to her more than I'm going to mock her. I'm leaving this foray into Taylor Marsh biography with a newfound respect for her.
She's found a way to go from being a regular person with a strong interest in politics to having a voice, an audience and some impact. She might be full of shit, but she's slinging it to people in numbers I can't imagine. Taylor Marsh might be part of the political soul cancer that's been killing our liberal democracy, but she's good at creating a reputation, credibility and an audience. The spin is Clifford Irving. The success story is Horatio Alger.
I'd like an audience, too. Right now, this little new free blog brings me about 30-50 people per day. She gets 10X that many comments on every post because she's willing to pitch herself like crazy.
I could do that, but I don't. Now I'm wondering why.
You see, I am the author of countless published pieces (many ghostwritten for others, but what the hell). I'm an award-winning blogger (not this one). I'm an accomplished public speaker who has given literally hundreds of presentations. I'm a published academician in the communications field. I am a legal scholar and a former recipient of an American Jurisprudence award for the study of criminal law. I am a former PAID radio personality. I've made multiple television appearances, including one just last weekend on Easter, discussing matters related to a specific aspect of the economy. I've successfully operated my own copywriting firm, successfully represented the downtrodden in administrative proceedings and have inside connections at both the state and federal levels of government.
If I wanted to Taylor Marsh myself, I could be the next big thing at HuffPo. Yeah, I'd have to cut out a lot of the "fuck" and "shit" you find here. I'd need a proofreader, too. I'd have to sacrifice anonymity and just go nuts with it... That'd be tough...
But if I was willing to be as brazen and audacious as Taylor Marsh, I'd be big time.
Maybe I'll do that. Maybe I'll make this blog disappear, buy a new domain, put together a hot looking site with a few glossies of me, write a check to Author House, upload a few "radio shows", shine up my resume and go Big Time.
Taylor, if you're reading this...
Your punditry sucks ass, but you're one helluva self-promoter. Use your powers for good instead of evil and you might just have a fan in John Brown.
I suppose the other Marsh lesson is even more important. If you're listening to someone and taking them seriously, you might want to make sure they're worth taking seriously. Am I? Is she? It's worth some thought.
CLEARING THE AIR RE: TAYLOR MARSHGATE
And WHO IS JOHN BROWN, anyway... And why did her review Marsh's book?
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