Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Returns To Pre-Pandemic Size

Last year, the classic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was heavily impacted by COVID-19. Luckily, that won’t be the case again. The parade, which debuted in 1924 and is now in its 95th year, will feature more than 800 clowns, 28 floats, 15 balloons, 10 marching bands, nine performance groups, the Rockettes, and Santa Claus in what can be seen as a return to pre-coronavirus times.

Speaking to The Daily News, parade production manager Kathleen Wright expressed how different the parade will be from 2020’s – but also said they wasted no expense coming up with emergency plans in case of any COVID-related changes.

“So much is different this year. But we were also coming up with a slew of contingency plans. We wanted to be sure that we were going to know how we would pivot if we had to pivot.”

2020’s parade saw major overhauls. In addition to the 2 1/2 mile stretch being limited to one block of 34th Street, no high school bands joined in on the tradition (they’ll be returning this year), no attendees were permitted on the streets, and overall aspects were cut back in order to align with pandemic procedures at the time. It ended up being a rainy day, a fitting condition given the dreariness surrounding the country at the time.

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There are a number of new balloons this year. Everyone’s favorite alien baby, Grogu (also frequently known as “Baby Yoda”) from the hit Star Wars-spinoff, “The Mandalorian,” will be front and center at 41-feet tall – just a tad bit taller than he is on the show.

Other new additions and balloon designs include Pikachu and Eevee from Pokemon, Ronald McDonald, Toni the Bandleader Bear, Ada Twist, Scientist, and Tiptoe, who’s “the star of Macy’s campaign,” according to the retail company.

Viewers will also see classic returning floats like Astronaut Snoopy, Spongebob Squarepants, the Pillsbury Doughboy, “The Boss Baby,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” Papa Smurf from “The Smurfs,” and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Musical acts will include the casts of “Six,” “Waitress,” “Wicked,” “Chicago,” and “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” as well as “Girls5eva.”Among the celebrities set to appear are Carrie Underwood, Jimmy Fallon, Darren Criss, Foreigner, Rob Thomas, Andy Grammer, Mickey Guyton, Kelly Rowland, and “The Muppets,” as well as the former and current hosts of “Blue’s Clues.”

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As the Associated Press noted, thousands of police will be assigned to the parade route, while the New York Police Department stated it will block off vehicle access points to the route with trucks and concrete barriers.

The parade will start at 9:00 am on Central Park West at 77th Street, and will then turn left at Columbus Circle. It will then march down 6th Avenue before ending at the typical spot in front of the Macy’s flagship store at 34th Street and Broadway.

According to the National Weather Service, the weather on Thursday morning is looking clear, and temperatures will range anywhere from 39 to 44 degrees.

Major Hollywood Union Votes To Ratify Contracts For Better Streaming Payments

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), a major Hollywood union, have ratified their new film and TV contracts this week after six months of contentious negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). LA locals rejected the deal in a popular vote. 

“From start to finish, from preparation to ratification, this has been a democratic process to win the very best contracts,” said IATSE International President Matthew Loeb in a statement today. 

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“The vigorous debate, high turnout, and close election, indicates we have an unprecedented movement-building opportunity to educate members on our collective bargaining process and drive more participation in our union long-term.”

AMPTP released a statement as well, stating: “We congratulate IATSE President, Matt Loeb, the IATSE Bargaining Committee and Board for their leadership in achieving ratification of the new contracts. Throughout the negotiations, IATSE leadership advocated changes to improve quality of life for those they represent. These agreements meaningfully reflect the industry’s endorsement of those priorities and keep everyone working.”

The union uses an electoral college system for ratification votes such as this one. During this particular vote, 359 (56%) voted in favor compared to 282 (44%) who voted against it out of 641 total delegate votes; the votes were taken from 36 local unions nationwide that were eligible.

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The Basic Agreement was rejected in the popular vote with 49.6% voting yes to 50.4% voting no. Overall 50.3% voted yes to 49.7% voting no for both contracts. In the end, “72% of the 63,209 eligible members cast digital ballots this weekend,” according to IATSE.

According to media reports, “there were actually two separate contracts that were ratified: the Basic Agreement, which covers 13 Hollywood locals, and the Area Standards Agreement, which covers 23 locals outside of Los Angeles.”

“For the LA centric Basic Agreement, the vote was 256 voting for the deal that IATSE made with the AMPTP last month, yes to 188 no. In regards to the non-LA based Area Standards Agreement the yes vote was 103 to 94 no votes for the more recent deal,” according to Deadline. 

“Our goal was to achieve fair contracts that work for IATSE members in television and film—that address quality-of-life issues and conditions on the job like rest and meal breaks. We met our objectives for this round of bargaining and built a strong foundation for future agreements,” Loeb stated. 

National Toy Hall Of Fame Inducts American Girl Doll, Risk, And Sand

The National Toy Hall of Fame has three new members… and one of them is a bit more decisive than the others. The American Girl Doll, the classic board game Risk, and sand were all part of the 2021 class inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong National Museum of Play.

It was a fierce competition for the coveted spots. Among the other nominees this year included The Settlers of Catan, Battleship, Cabbage Patch Kids, Mahjong, billiards, Masters of the Universe, the piñata, Fisher-Price Corn Popper, and the toy fire engine.

American Girl Dolls have become a childhood staple in American society. Created by Pleasant Rowland in 1986, these dolls were designed to come from all skin colors, cultural backgrounds, and time periods, along with unique and fascinating backstories.

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The success of the American Girl brand has led to numerous spin-off products, such as magazines, games, and movies, as well as retail stores centered around the dolls. Not only are girls able to stylize their dolls with all sorts of hair styles, outfits, and accessories, but they also learn more about history.

Risk has been transforming tiny innocent children into war-mongering generals since 1957. The game focuses on “diplomacy, conflict, and conquest,” as the players battle each other for control of territories — 42 to be exact — across the globe.

The title comes from the intense, constant decision-making and strategy involved. According to the Museum, part of Risk’s appeal is that more than two players can join in, unlike other war games such as Battleship.

The Museum called sand the “most universal and oldest toy in the world,” noting that children recognize it as a play vehicle and that wet sand is great for shaping, molding, and sculpting. People started playing with sand as early as the 1800s, and its spawned additional toys such as sand castle molds.

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Sand certainly takes the cake for being the “oldest” toy in the Hall of Fame – after all, it does come in at the ripe age of about 4.5 billion years. It’s also provided children (and even adults!) with hours of entertainment at the beach and playground.

While some might argue that sand doesn’t necessarily fit in with the typical “toy,” this kind of inductee isn’t exactly out of the ordinary for the Hall of Fame – cardboard boxes were inducted in 2005, and sticks were inducted in 2008. For children, the kind of material doesn’t matter as long as the source can provide a creative and exciting play experience.

The Toy Hall of Fame has inducted many beloved play pals over the years since it was established in 1998. Among its notable inductees include Mr. Potato Head, Legos, the Nintendo Game Boy, Star Wars action figures, the Teddy Bear, and Crayola Crayons.

If there’s a certain toy from your childhood that you think deserves the honor of being memorialized for all time, the Toy Hall of Fame accepts nominations on their website. The criteria needed for a toy to be inducted includes longevity (has become a staple instead of a trend), icon status (it’s widely recognized and remembered), discovery (the toy encourages discovery and creativity), and innovation (the toy changed the “play” landscape).


Banksy’s Self-Shredded ‘Love In The Bin’ Artwork Sells For $25.4 Million

A self-shredded work of art by British street artist Banksy, titled “Love in the Bin,” sold for 18.5 million pounds ($25.4 million) in a Sotheby’s auction on Thursday. It was a surprising number, as presale estimates had the painting fetching up to 4 to 6 million pounds (around $5 million to $8 million).

The piece was originally sold for $1.4 million at Sotheby’s back in 2018, and was then known as “Girl with Balloon.” As the anonymous female European buyer won the bid, a hidden shredder in the frame of the painting cut up half of the canvas.

It was certainly a stunning move that, when watched on video, becomes amusing when factoring in the reactions of unsuspecting attendees and workers. Thankfully, the buyer of “Love in the Bin” was happy to be a part of such a notable event.

“When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked,” the buyer said, speaking to Sotheby’s, “but gradually I began to realize that I would end up with my own piece of art history.”

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“Girl with Balloon,” created by Banksy in 2006, featured a black spray-painted young girl reaching up for a the lone color of the piece, a red, heart-shaped balloon against the white canvas. After the shredding, only does the balloon and the smallest bit of the girl’s head remain in the frame.

Sotheby’s noted that Banksy using an “artist’s frame,” which is a heavy, Victorian-era frame, is typically how he “pokes fun at the establishment.” Sotheby’s also explained that this kind of ruse has become a norm for the artist. Previously, Banksy hung his own works of art in famous museums such as the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Banksy is just as unique as the stunt he pulled. Street Art Bio gives a fascinating look into the creator’s career, while also praising just how much of an impact Banksy has left in the art world due to his “no boundaries” approach.

“Banksy’s political statements and disruptive vision have impacted cities across the globe at vital moments in modern history, provoking alternative viewpoints and encouraging revolution in the art world.”

At just 18 years old, Banksy realized his desired form of art while hiding from the police after vandalizing public spaces: stenciling. Banksy would go on to create various artworks that deal with numerous themes, from designing hotel rooms guest could sleep in to oil paintings that form a cruise ship when combined, a shot at effects of mass tourism.

One of Banksy’s defining traits is his satirical takes. One such painting, “Devolved Parliament,”  depicted the U.K.’s House of Commons being overrun with apes. It ended up selling for 9.9 million pounds, or $13.54 million, the highest amount of money any one of his works had fetched up until now.

Banksy’s love of poking fun at society through primates is also shown in “Laugh Now But One Day We’ll Be In Charge,” which shows three monkeys holding up dripping pages that have the aforementioned title written on them.

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It’s not hard to see why people greatly enjoy the “variety and bravery” of Banksy’s pieces, and how he is able to leave such a remarkable impression on his audiences – so much so that Street Art Bio says the inspiration he gives to artists of all forms and experiences is known as the “Banksy effect.”

Banksy is an extremely private man – not even his full name is known, and he doesn’t give interviews. Street Art Bio says that some sources claim his name is Robin Gunninham.  However, perhaps this mystery is best left unsolved. After all, it only contributes more to the zaniness and intrigue that surrounds him.

Abdulrazak Gurnah Awarded 2021 Nobel Prize In Literature

Abdulrazak Gurnah, a Zanzibar-born novelist, has been awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for his ground-breaking pieces of work.

The Swedish Academy, which presents the literature prize, explained that Gurnah was given the award due to his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”

When Gurnah first heard of his selection, he though it was “a prank” and kept wondering who would win. The Associated Press captured some of Gurnah’s thoughts on receiving the highest honor a writer can achieve.

“It’s still sinking in that the Academy has chosen to highlight these themes which are present throughout my work, it’s important to address and speak about them.”

Born in 1948, Gurnah came to Britain— where he is currently active— as a refugee in 1968 after facing persecution in Zanzibar. The British Council details many of his works, which include Memory of Departure (1987), Pilgrim’s Way (1988), and Dottie (1990). These novels “document immigrant experience in contemporary Britain from different perspectives.”

Gurnah’s Paradise, published in 1995, is what the Nobel Prize website refers to as Gurnah’s “breakthrough as a writer” while comparing the piece to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Paradise deals heavily with the theme of European colonialism as a young boy, who was sold by his father, is forced to adjust to World War I East Africa and the clashing cultures that are present. Paradise was nominated for both the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Prize.

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Recent pieces of Gurnah’s include The Last Gift (2011), Gravel Heart (2017), and Afterlives (2020). Gurnah is also known for his short stories and companion pieces, such as The Cambridge Companion. Gurnah becomes the first black writer to win the literature award since Toni Morrison in 1993.

According to the AP, Anders Ollson, a professor and chairman of the Nobel committee for literature, called Gurnah one of the world’s “most prominent post-colonial writers.” Ollson also praised Gurnah for his detailed and accurate portrayals of Africa as it underwent numerous cultural and repressive shifts due to colonialism.

Gurnah’s selection could help many to discover his writing on issues that still plague refugees and countries around the globe. According to a poll on the Noble Prize’s website, 95% of voters have not read any of Gurnah’s work.

Additionally, the AP notes that Zanzibar does not have Gurnah’s pieces as required reading in schools, nor are they easy to find in general, despite the region’s immense impact on the novelist. However, he is becoming more relevant among Zanzibar’s young population thanks to his achievements.

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Meanwhile, the Swedish Academy is likely relieved the literature prize no longer has clouds above it. The Academy has faced widespread controversies in recent years, with the prize being suspended back in 2017 among sexual abuse and corruption scandals.

Talking to The New Republic, Ollson explains that the Academy used the controversies to “renovate its organization.” Ollson added that modernizing the said organization was also an action that the Academy took, eliminating some aspects such as hierarchy.

The Nobel Prize for Literature award comes in the form of a gold medal, along with prize money in the sum of 10 million Swedish Krona (over $1 million in U.S. dollars).

Among the many other winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature, which have been awarded since 1901, are Bob Dylan, Winston Churchhill, Wislawa Szymborska, and Ernest Hemingway. Last year’s winner was American poet Louise Glück.

Along with literature, the Nobel Prizes in medicine, physics, chemistry, and peace have also been unveiled. The awards will be presented to their respective winners during the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, in December.

Facebook Postpones “Instagram For Kids”

Following sharp backlash from parents, users, and lawmakers, Facebook has announced that it is pausing their latest venture: “Instagram Kids,” a spin-off of the photo-sharing app that would target tweens between the ages of 10-12.

In a statement published on their blog, Facebook explained that while the need to continue building their project remains, they will be working with those who were most vocal about Facebook’s planned platform:

“While we stand by the need to develop this experience, we’ve decided to pause this project. This will give us time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today.”

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The app had been in development since March and was set to be led by the head of Instagram Adam Mosseri and Facebook vice president Pavni Diwanji. Diwanji had previously been influential in Google’s launch of Youtube Kids back in 2015.

However, the titan of industry, which acquired Instagram in 2012, did not back down from the vast amount of criticism and admit failure. Instead, they defended their attempts at targeting a group that some might argue are the most vulnerable to the dangers and pressures of the online world:

“Critics of “Instagram Kids” will see this as an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea. That’s not the case. The reality is that kids are already online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today.”

While the app may not be going forward at the moment, there is plenty of merit to creating a safe social platform space for younger audiences who, one way or another, will inevitably make their way online.

When you hear the words “middle school” and “social media,” cyberbullying is probably the first thought to your mind. Thanks to Instagram’s popularity among teens and it’s plethora of features, which include direct and group messaging, stories, tagging, posting, and multiple account creations, it has become a breeding ground for aggressive virtual assaults.

According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of teenagers have experienced at least one method of harassment online across all platforms of social media. These can include name-calling, negative rumors, and receiving unrequested explicit images.

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Ditch the Label, a U.K. based anti-bullying charity, conducted a survey in 2017 that showed that out of the 78% of young users on Instagram, 42% experienced some form of cyberbullying. That was the highest bullying rate of all young users on any platform, beating out Facebook by 6%:

The Pew Research Center also found that 66% of teens felt social media platforms were not doing a good enough job of addressing online harassment. Facebook has stated their plans to continue enhancing safety on Instagram, implementing changes such as AI detection technology, restrictions, hidden words and the ability to make accounts private.

Facebook has also started using cross-checking technology in order to confirm user ages. Up until a couple years ago, Instagram had only required a new user to input their birth date in order to confirm they were 13 or older- something that was unbelievably easy for young tweens to lie about.

Despite Facebook’s continued safety measures, a recent Wall Street Journal report has revealed that the company is aware of the potential dangers their apps hold to their younger target audience, specifically to teen girls. However, the company has downplayed these concerns publicly.

This new information has led politicians to cast doubt on Facebook and Instagram’s ability to correctly adapt a system that prioritizes the safety of young users while also maintaining their key aspects that allow cyberbullying to consist.

‘The Wire’ Creator, David Simon, Pulls Upcoming HBO Series From Texas Following Abortion Ban

David Simon, mainly known for being the creator of popular series “The Wire,” announced that he will not be filming his newest upcoming series for HBO in Texas as originally planned because of the state’s abortion ban that passed earlier this month. 

The specific project that was set to film in Texas has not been announced, however, Simon claimed the restrictive abortion law passed in the state motivated him to film in other locations. The ban currently in place means abortions can’t be performed after six weeks, and allows citizens to sue doctors and other citizens who attempt to access safe abortion procedures after the six week point in their pregnancy. 

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“[As] an employer, this is beyond politics. I’m turning in scripts next month on an HBO non-fiction miniseries based on events in Texas, but I can’t and won’t ask female cast/crew to forgo civil liberties to film there. What else looks like Dallas/Ft. Worth?”

Simon took to Twitter to make his announcement, which was met with mixed reactions based on the individuals in Texas who don’t support the law but don’t have the means or desire to leave. Critics argue that the refusal to film in the state hurts working professionals in Texas and also diverts critical resources. 

The Dallas Film & Creative Industries Office in response to Simon’s announcement tweeted: “Laws of a state are not reflective of its entire population. Not bringing a production to Dallas (a big ‘D’) only serves to further disenfranchise those that live here. We need talent/crew/creatives to stay & vote, not get driven out by inability to make a living.”

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Simon then responded to the tweet, defending his decision and claiming that his intentions were being completely misunderstood by critics. 

“You misunderstand completely. My response is NOT rooted in any debate about political efficacy or the utility of any boycott. My singular responsibility is to securing and maintaining the civil liberties of all those we employ during the course of a production.”

After Texas officially passed the abortion ban, several other film industry professionals called for a “boycott” of using the state for any sort of Hollywood production. Oscar winner Patricia Arquette called for a boycott of the Lone Star state while Salesforce CEO, Mark Benioff, offered his Texas employees the option of relocating with support of the company in response to the ban.

The overall goal of these “boycotts” when state’s pass laws that attack civil liberties is to show them that human rights are more important than the revenue that can be brought in by being the setting of a Hollywood production.

Music Teacher Creates Map Of Female Composers Lost In History 

We all know who Wolfgang Amadeaus Mozart was; one of the most famous composer prodigies of the 18th century and all time. However, most of us don’t know he also had a sister, Maria Anna, who was just as much of a prodigy as her brother, but wasn’t given the same opportunities due to the fact that she was a woman. 

Sakira Ventura is a music teacher from Valencia who wanted to shine a bright spotlight on Maria and any other woman in music who has been lost and forgotten due to sexist societal values. To do so, Ventura created an interactive map that features more than 500 female composers from across the globe. 

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“We’ve never given women the place they deserve in history. They don’t appear in musical history books, their works aren’t played at concerts and their music isn’t recorded.”

“I came up with the idea after realizing I had rarely heard of women who had composed classical music during my academic studies of music. I had always talked about putting these composers on the map – so it occurred to me to do it literally,” she explained. 

To create the map, Ventura did extensive research into encyclopedias, libraries, and social media archives. 

“When I started I thought I wouldn’t know more than five female composers, but after more than a year and hundreds of hours of work, the site documents 530 composers – including a short description of each one and a link to listen to their work.”

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Ventura is currently working on cycling through another 500 names to add onto the map as well. The catalogue currently includes artists who were born all the way back in 810, who wrote hymns that are still sung in the Orthodox Church to this day. 

Ventura explained that women are often erased from music history, especially classical music, due to the fact that at the time music was only seen as a hobby for women, and could never be taken up professionally. 

“It was taken for granted that a work composed by a woman wouldn’t be of the same quality as that composed by a man. The barriers forced female composers to get creative; some enrolled in convents in order to study music while others published works under male pseudonyms.”

Ventura has even collaborated with other teachers on the map who are using it as a part of their lessons now. “I’m 28 years old and nobody ever spoke to me about female composers,” she said. “So I want to do what hasn’t [been] done for me, I want my students to know that [Wolfgang Amadeus] Mozart and Beethoven existed but also that there were also all these female composers.”

Aaliyah Estate Releases Statement After Former Label Teases Music Release 

The late Aaliyah was truly an icon in the 90’s. Her untimely death left a true void in the pop/R&B sphere but her talent has continued to live on for decades. However, a majority of the singer’s music is unavailable to stream on most platforms. Her albums One In A Million (1996) and Aaliyah (2001) have remained off all platforms since the dawn of their existence. 

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Aaliyah’s earlier singles and debut album Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number (1994) are available. This week, fans on social media began to speculate that the remainder of her discography would finally be uploaded to streaming services after the account Blackground Records 2.0 shared a new website and hashtag: #AaliyahIsComing. 

The original Blackground Records was owned by the late singer’s uncle and former manager Barry Hankerson, who released the majority of Aaliyah’s music. Hankerson owns the majority of Aaliyah’s master recordings aside from her debut album, and he confirmed that he’s behind the label’s “2.0” revival which suggests he’s also behind the new hashtag. 

The Estate of Aaliya Haughton shared a statement this week, detailing the battles behind the scenes they’ve faced when it comes to releasing the icon’s music, including this recent attempt: “We’ve battled a lot behind the scenes, enduring shadowy tactics of deception with unauthorized projects targeted to tarnish the work.” 

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“Although we will continue to defend ourselves and her legacy lawfully and justly, we want to preempt the inevitable attacks on our character by all the individuals who have emerged from the shadows to leech off of Aaliyah’s life’s work.” 

“Ultimately, we desire closure and a modicum of peace so we can facilitate the growth of the Aaliyah Memorial Fund and other creative projects that embody Aaliyah’s true essence, which is to inspire strength and positivity for people of all creeds, races and cultures around the world,” the statement continued. 

The estate also released its own hashtag, #IStandWithAaliyah, which superstar Missy Elliott, who was also close with Aaliyah, retweeted. 

“While we share your sentiments and desire to have Aaliyah’s music released, we must acknowledge that these matters are not within our control and, unfortunately, take time.”

Movie Clapper

Lucy Liu Recalls ‘Inexcusable And Unacceptable’ Behavior From Bill Murray During ‘Charlie’s Angels’

Lucy Liu recently appeared on the “Asian Enough” podcast where she opened up about her career, specifically working with Bill Murray in the 2000s smash hit “Charlie’s Angels.”

Liu explained how she had a not so pleasant interaction with Murray when he came to set after attending a family party and began hurling insults at everyone on set, especially Liu. 

Liu claimed that after Murray was not present at a rehearsal due to a family gathering, he showed up and began to “hurl insults that kept going on and on.” 

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“I was, like, ‘Wow, he seems like he’s looking straight at me.’ I couldn’t believe that it could be towards me, because what do I have to do with anything majorly important at that time? I asked whether Murray was speaking directly to her as the conversation started to become a one-on-one communication.”

“It was unjust and it was uncalled for. Some of the language was inexcusable and unacceptable, and I was not going to just sit there and take it. So, yes, I stood up for myself, and I don’t regret it.”

“Because no matter how low on the totem pole you may be or wherever you came from, there’s no need to condescend or to put other people down. And I would not stand down, and nor should I have and nor did I,” Liu explained. 

Liu also claimed that in the years following the confrontation, numerous crew members came up to her and told her they were “grateful” that she spoke up. 

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Today, Liu claims to have nothing against Murray, and has even interacted with him pleasantly in recent years. “At the SNL Reunion he came up to me and was perfectly nice, but I’m not going to sit there and be attacked.” 

“I don’t want to be that person that is not going to speak up for myself and stand by the only thing that I have, which is my dignity and self-respect at the end of the day.”

“Because in the end, we all end up in the same place as time goes on. Nobody is immortal. But in that time, no matter what happens between now and whatever career choices I make or whatever life decisions I make, I will walk away with my dignity.”

“I didn’t understand how it got flipped when I had nothing to do with instigating it or creating that platform of confrontation or anxiety. So even though it’s been decades, it’s something that obviously I remember very intimately,” she explained.