Julia Louis-Dreyfus Compares Columbia to Prison

New York Mag writer describes city as "one of the dreariest American landscapes imaginable"

Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Creative Commons picture.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Creative Commons picture.
Update - Friday - 9:30 a.m. - Julia Louis-Dreyfus sent out this tweet Thursday night about her statement in the New York Magazine article, "Just want 2 clarify.I love Maryland.Our crew is fab.The prison joke was a joke re: the warehouse.Truly sorry if anyone was offended."

Original Article

New York Magazine teamed up with Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus to bash Columbia in a recent profile.

"Thank God the work's good," says Louis-Dreyfus, to the writer, "Can you imagine if it wasn't? It would be like a prison."

Before that quote, the writer, Jonathan van Meter, wrote, "Columbia, Maryland is neither here nor there, which is to say that it's somewhere between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. As far as I can tell, it's home to one of the dreariest American landscapes imaginable: office parks, chain malls and cluster of Northeast-corridor warehouses for Sears and the like. That it is also now home to the production back lots for highbrow East Coast television does nothing to ameliorate this aspect."

Louis-Dreyfus is in town, sometimes, to film the hit show that has made her famous again, Veep.

The writer, van Meter, is the same journalist who wrote the now infamous New York Times Magazine article about Anthony Weiner, which was published in April 2013. The article focused on Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin as he prepared to run for mayor of New York City. It presented him in positive light, as someone working to overcome his 2011 sexting transgressions.

Little did van Meter know, or at least if he did know, he didn't report, that throughout 2012 Weiner continued to send racy text messages to young women.

"The tell-all piece told less than all," wrote a Washington Post reporter about van Meter's piece after the news of Weiner's continued sexting broke in July 2013.

As for Louis-Dreyfus, she's the daughter of a billionaire energy company chairman, who made millions as a star on what is possibly the biggest comedy TV hit ever... Seinfeld, but apparently isn't satisfied with the roles she has received.

In the New York Magazine article she says about her latest movie role, Enough Said, that, "this is the kind of job I've always wanted to have. I just haven't gotten these jobs. Lets just cut to it: I haven't! I haven't been given the opportunity."


Granted, she clarified that statement about opportunity by saying, "The gigs that I've gotten, about which I have no remorse, have been straight-down-the-middle comedies. I'm not complaining, but these are the jobs I sort of fell into."

Must be tough.

Luckily, things probably aren't that bad in Columbia, considering van Meter and Louis-Dreyfus also took time to bash The Four Seasons in New York City.

Here's what they had to say about the most storied luxury hotel chain in the the largest city in North America:

Van Meter, "Everything about this place is dated, and I mean that in the worst possible way. It's not old enough to be interesting as a vintage curiosity like, say, The Four Seasons restaurant five blocks south; it's more like a sad, shopworn precursor to all the Bloombergian "luxury product" rising to the heavens all over midtown."

Louis-Dreyfus: "I think this place is in trouble."

Then the two go on to complain about their new iPhones, as van Meter explains, "the inevitable conversation about how the thumbprint-recognition feature doesn't really seem to be working out."

Thanks for the criticism about Columbia, we'll be sure to heed it.

One of the comments on the online version of the article seemed to sum up the story nicely, by reader Mollove, "What I will remember most about this article is not Louis-Dreyfus's talent and charm, but Van Meter's noxious smugness and condescension. Sneering at the restaurant, at the waitress, at suburbia."

Related Article

Columbians Respond to New York Mag Article with #AwesomeColumbia
Andrew Metcalf (Editor) December 12, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Also, forgot to mention this writer also wrote this about the waitress serving the pair at the Four Seasons, "Suddenly, a waitress named Wendy appears beside our table. I know her name is Wendy because it says so on the tag pinned to her uniform. Her hair is piled up in the back with just the ends hanging down like a tassel holding back drapes. Louis-Dreyfus is fascinated. “We should ask her to join us,” she says. As Wendy gets us situated with menus and water, we notice that her speech is devoid of contractions, like Barbara Eden in I Dream of Jeannie (“I do not know, Major Healey”), and that she deploys the word shall as if it were still in common usage. At one point, when she asks if we would like something from the bar—“May I inquire whether you will be enjoying a drink this evening?”—our eyes widen as we stiffen from stifled laughter."
Julia McCready December 12, 2013 at 04:12 PM
Keep an eye out on Facebook and Twitter for #morethanGateway and #AwesomeColumbia for photographs of what people love best about Columbia. Post some of your own!
Brook Hubbard December 12, 2013 at 04:29 PM
The fact they think this about Columbia means they must have a very sheltered lifestyle and never stepped foot in PG or AA counties. I could only imagine what their review of Glen Burnie or Bowie might be. Columbia isn't the icon it used to be, but it's way better than most of the DC-Baltimore corridor.
Jessie Newburn December 12, 2013 at 04:46 PM
I concur with this statement from Van Meter, "Everything about this place is dated, and I mean that in the worst possible way. It's not old enough to be interesting as a vintage curiosity like, say, The Four Seasons restaurant five blocks south; it's more like a sad, shopworn precursor to all the Bloombergian "luxury product" rising to the heavens all over midtown." Even as much as a decade ago, siblings and friends with whom I grew up who had since returned for a visit commented on how surprised they were about how dated Columbia looked. And worn. Granted, as a county/area/region with lots of "super ZIP codes" and a tax base to provide amenities, services and reinvestment (private and gov) galore, we're able to make some changes; but overall, we lack "legacy architecture" as Frank Hecker pointed out when I first met him. We have little that is grand in the way of buildings and structures. (Amen for Michael McCall and the Inner Arbor.) And more so, amen for the people here. Really, who moves here for the architectural beauty, beautiful homes or false promise of walkability? I also think JLD should be given a break her. Clearly the author has little love for Columbia and he probably started a conversation in which it was easy for her to make the comment that he cherry-picked out of the conversation. None of us know; we weren't there.
Andrew Metcalf (Editor) December 12, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Hey Jessie! He actually wrote that about the Four Seasons in New York City. The first quote in the article was what he had to say about Columbia. But sure, Columbia's architecture is a bit bland, but to write, "it's home to one of the dreariest American landscapes imaginable." That's rough...
Brook Hubbard December 12, 2013 at 05:12 PM
I don't think the issue is that they didn't like Columbia. There is plenty negative to say about this town. However, perspective is necessary and the comment Andrew quoted shows that they obviously have none. Have they been to anywhere outside their hotels in the two cities besides Columbia? Have they been to anywhere along the Rust Belt? Buffalo? Syracuse? Detroit? There are plenty of places that might earn the moniker "dreariest American landscape"... Columbia is NOT one of them.
Janet December 13, 2013 at 06:30 AM
They sound like a bunch of spoiled babies to me. Sorry we can't all afford your fabulous life!
Robert Rey December 13, 2013 at 06:49 AM
Who cares what she thinks. She is just another no talent, pretty face. Bye. Bye.
Gretchen December 13, 2013 at 07:26 AM
This article reminds me of why I eventually stopped watching Seinfeld. Though it was different and funny at first, I started getting annoyed with the nasty, superior, bullying attitudes. Laughing at other people for talking differently, being snide about ANY place for not having the highbrow music, food, art, architecture, or décor that is as superior as they believe their sensibilities deserve ... then wondering why no one is interested in hiring them to work at assignments that they feel are worthy of themselves. Talking like it's a hardship to endure the atmosphere of Columbia, or even of the Four Seasons... a little humility is in order here from people who apparently are kept in business with the help of our inferior atmosphere... and a big apology. And please, no amount of healing the bay, feeding starving children, or acting like she thinks it's important to teach children not to be bullies will overcome her own wastefulness, excesses, snide behavior or pretentious manner. And a news flash for her: she may THINK she's so incredibly fashionable and possessed of advanced artistic knowledge, but finding humor in putting others down is no longer as fashionable as she would like it to be. But then, what can you expect... her sense of humor is "the dreariest imaginable...dated... in the worst possible way."
Candace December 13, 2013 at 08:54 AM
JLD is quickly becoming a washed up actress who is desperate to save her acting career. She's an elitist and I don't really give a rat's a$$ what she thinks. Her approval won't exactly increase the tourism or generate loads of revenue. I don't get what she expected out of a suburban city. As far as the landscape is concerned, has she taken the time to visit Main Street in Ellicott City?? It is quite unique and gives Howard County a bit of a niche. I was over her after Seinfeld went off the air and she tried to come back with that sorry a$$ 'New Adventures of the Old Christine' bull. However I agree with Jessie and the writer to some extent. Columbia isn't exactly a cutting edge kinda place visually. Underneath the surface there are some cool features such as a wealth of unique, small businesses, the Robinson Nature Center, and even Blandair Park. Those things makes me happy I am raising my children in Howard County. Do I hang out here with my adult friends during my free time? Nope! And the writer pretty much explains why I don't.
Anna December 13, 2013 at 11:25 AM
It may not look like an English country garden here, but with our many trees and wooded areas it's pleasantly cool on most summer days. And our Spring with it's many blossoming trees is almost as soul soothing as the Vermont mountains. My ancestors had the good sense to get out of NYC several generations ago. You can have it, Julia.
Nadine Kaelber December 13, 2013 at 02:44 PM
What a remarkably stupid and spoiled thing to say. I agree with some of the above posts, Columbia may not be perfect, but it's way above the average as far as I'm concerned.
Dan Helfrich December 16, 2013 at 07:49 AM
I will give JLD the benefit of the doubt and accept her apology. On the other hand, the writer Van Meter comes across as a brat for disrespecting Columbia which he so obviously doesn't know much about and doesn't understand. Columbia is a quieter, cleaner, and more nurturing city than NYC could ever hope to be.
Kim Cooke December 16, 2013 at 08:20 AM
Maybe we have to take ourselves less seriously. I think we look pretty childish getting all hurt by comments about Columbia. The facts are that it's a pretty bleak time of year, the main roads and common areas of Columbia are utilitarian and it's very likely these people did not manage to get into neighborhoods or parks. We know some of the lovely spots and the advantages of living here. What do we care if some passers-by make snide comments about the town? The more we protest, and lash out, the more attention we call to ourselves and the smaller we look.
Wm Thomas Capps December 16, 2013 at 08:23 AM
Well sometimes the truth hurts. Heck I live in Laurel and that is a boring place to live also.
Rick December 16, 2013 at 08:52 AM
1. Anybody who has been on a business trip has had the exact same impression when working in an unfamiliar area. Your life is nothing more than shuttling back and forth between your hotel and your job in some generic business park. 2. Let's face it, the East coast IS a strip of bland urban sprawl from Richmond to Boston. 3. The goal of anything having to do with show business is to create controversy to sell more magazines, sell more ad time, make more money etc. The fact we took time out of our lives to respond to such useless, unimportant nonsense is the biggest shame of all!
Ali December 16, 2013 at 09:42 AM
To the comment above regarding Detroit, Syracuse, and Buffalo, I'm originally from Buffalo...the landscape there is far more beautiful and interesting than Columbia's, to be honest. Buffalo has some amazing architecture, Olmstead parks, beautiful old homes, and is situated on a Great Lake, etc. Columbia looks very 1960's/19070's cookie cutter and is situated on 95. It's just the differences you'll find in a city founded 200 years ago versus one founded 50 years ago. The economy here in the Baltimore-DC region is what's far better, and is the main reason I live here now. It sure ain't for the traffic.
Chuck Burton December 16, 2013 at 11:11 AM
Columbia was begun within the development and building codes of the 1950's, 60's. Then, the thing was to build, build, build, and who cares what it looks like, or how long it will last beyond getting one's money back from the project. Most of Columbia came under the better level of things from that era, but still, it mostly lacks much panache. Even with its relatively high income level, there isn't much in the way of elite retailing there, for example. Nor are there many grand houses within the city. (It's not actually even a separate city within the county.) And, with few exceptions, the commercial buildings have a cookie-cutter sameness that is ultimately boring. Still, it has been a generally very successful development, and deserves credit for that. It also has more in the way of unifying cultural activity than most places of its size. Not too shabby.
BobBaft December 16, 2013 at 03:22 PM
Man, I'd love to sleep with her. She's hot AND has good taste.
Kimberly Korenstra December 16, 2013 at 04:57 PM
Having lived in Howard County for 21 years, and Columbia for 11 of those years, I have to agree with JLD. Columbia has passed its expiration date, but Howard County as a whole is the only place in Maryland I would ever live, which is sad to say.
leo schwarz December 26, 2013 at 01:48 PM
Stop the Columbia bashing already. I come from a mid-sized town in the midwest that has been dying a slow death for 40 years. A town whose downtown is mostly a parking lot. I've lived in several places in the U.S. and Columbia is one of the best. It's not San Fran or New York, or Buffalo (really???) but it's a lot better than most places. Get a little perspective folks.


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