The Chicago Journal

Meet J.J. Hebert, the USA Today Bestselling Author Helping Authors Market Books Alongside Celebrities

Authors face many hurdles on their journey to getting published, but it’s arguably even more of a challenge reaching a large audience with a book. New authors or independent authors face the biggest uphill battle in finding a readership because they have to build a brand from scratch. But this doesn’t have to be a long and arduous journey if done right. Enter J.J. Hebert and his agency MindStir Media, providing a solution to not only publish a book faster but promote it to the masses as well through celebrity marketing.

Last year, for instance, J.J. Hebert teamed up with a couple notable celebrities to help promote books. The first one was Mariel Hemingway – actress and granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway – who writes the foreword for select books and films an endorsement video. More specifically, J.J. offers an influencer package through MindStir Media centered on Mariel Hemingway promoting a book on Youtube and also a publishing package that includes every piece of the publishing process along with Mariel’s foreword and video. As an Oscar-nominated actress and bestselling author, Mariel Hemingway is the perfect fit for authors trying to reach a large audience with their fiction or self-help books.

J.J. also partnered with Kevin Harrington, one of the original Sharks on ABC’s Shark Tank. Kevin is known for generating billions of dollars in sales from his products and businesses and he is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author to boot. So, like Mariel Hemingway, Kevin helps authors promote books through an influencer package and publishing package of his own. Kevin Harrington is an ideal fit for helping promote business-related books. The Shark Tank connection can be invaluable to an author trying to get noticed in a crowded market.

In 2022, J.J. Hebert established business relationships with Daniel Baldwin and Kate Flannery from The Office to round out his celebrity roster. Both celebrities offer influencer packages through MindStir similar to those by Kevin Harrington and Mariel Hemingway. Baldwin and Flannery use the power of video to promote books on YouTube. They do not write forewords at this time or have a publishing package devoted to them. Daniel Baldwin is, of course, one of the brothers of Alec Baldwin. As noted on the MindStir Media website, Daniel Baldwin is a good match to promote horror, suspense, thriller and other mainstream genres. Kate Flannery, who plays Meredith on The Office, is perfectly aligned with comedy or funny books, including humorous fiction. 

J.J. Hebert and MindStir Media have additionally been praised by Tom Arnold and Gary LeVox from the Rascal Flatts. J.J. founded MindStir in 2009 and has grown the brand into an award-winning book publishing and marketing company. The International Business Times hailed MindStir Media as the best book publisher in Los Angeles and J.J. as the Entrepreneur to Watch in 2021. Authors looking to publish and/or promote their books can contact J.J. Hebert through his Instagram or MindStir Media.

Bob McGrath, Sesame Street alumni, passed away

Bob McGrath, a beloved name for children across different generations and an original Sesame Street cast member, died on Sunday.

McGrath was 90 when he passed away.

His family and Sesame Workshop released a statement on social media announcing his death.


Bob McGrath’s family shared the news in a Facebook post, writing:

“The McGrath family has some sad news to share. Our father, Bob McGrath, passed away today.”

“He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family.”

Meanwhile, the Sesame Workshop paid tribute to the actor’s nearly five-decade career with the program on Twitter.

“A founding cast member, Bob embodied the melodies of Sesame Street like no one else, and his performance brought joy and wonder to generations of children around the world.”

“We will be forever grateful for his many years of passionate creative contributions to Sesame Street and honored that he shared so much of his life with us.”

Read also: Cocaine Bear trailer finally unleashed


Bob McGrath appeared as Bob Johnson in the Sesame Street pilot in 1969 and stayed for 47 seasons.

Although he left the main cast in 2017, McGrath has still represented Sesame Street at various events following his departure from the show.

According to Sesame Workshop, Bob McGrath was also an accomplished tenor and musician.

He performed in concert halls in nearly all corners of the world, from Las Vegas to Saskatchewan to Tokyo.

McGrath also produced several children’s songs for Sesame Street, including favorites like People in Your Neighborhood and Sing a Song.

Read also: Jason David Frank details emerge following his death


Sesame Street cast member Alan Muraoka took to Instagram to pay his respects when news of Bob McGrath’s death broke.

“Words cannot begin to express what Bob meant to me: a role model, a mentor, a friend,” Muraoka wrote.

“His kindness and wicked sense of humor were such a joy, and I loved him so much. Rest well, my friend. You did good.”

In a 2015 interview, Bob McGrath was asked about his takeaways from being on the program.

“You can’t help but be influenced by all of the wonderful research and good messages that are shown on ‘Sesame Street,'” said McGrath.

“I learned how important it is to listen, really listen, carefully to what your children have to say.”


Bob McGrath, original ‘Sesame Street’ cast member, dead at 90

Sam Bankman-Fried ‘not ready’ for hearing

Sam Bankman-Fried recently responded on Twitter to US Representative Maxine Waters’ invitation to a hearing on Friday.

The disgraced FTX creator said he wasn’t sure if he would be ready to attend a scheduled hearing in Washington, DC, on December 13.

The news

Sam Bankman-Fried was called to testify before the US House of Representatives Financial Services Committee.

Maxine Waters, a ranking member, tweeted to SBF, saying, “We would welcome your participation in our hearing.”

“We appreciate that you’ve been candid in your discussions about what happened at #FTX,” she wrote.

“Your willingness to talk to the public will help the company’s customers, investors, and others.”

Read also: Sam Bankman-Fried, ‘Look, I screwed up’


On Sunday, Sam Bankman-Fried responded on Twitter, writing:

“Once I have finished learning and reviewing what happened, I would feel like it was my duty to appear before the committee and explain.”

“I’m not sure that will happen by the 13th. But when it does, I will testify.”

Reception to the response

Meanwhile, Crypto Twitter paid close attention to the FTX creator’s nonchalant attitude toward the invitation.

Paul Grewal, Chief Legal Officer of Coinbase, did not appreciate SBF’s attitude.

“Our elected representatives exercise great restraint in communicating their expectations,” he wrote.

“And still this fraudster insults their authority. What a disgrace.”

However, others have criticized Maxine Waters’ tone.

Blockchain-based video streaming platform LBRY recently lost a battle with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission over alleged sales of unregistered securities under its LBC token.

Others took the opportunity to denounce Sam Bankman-Fried for fraud.

Read also: Sam Bankman-Fried Faces Downfall with FTX Collapse

After the collapse

Following FTX’s bankruptcy filing in November, Sam Bankman-Fried issued multiple apologies.

SBF has appeared in high-profile interviews, including with George Stephanopoulos of Good Morning America, CNBC, and Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times.

During the interview with Sorkin, Bankman-Fried revealed that he spoke against his attorney’s advice.

“I didn’t knowingly commingle funds,” said SBF, referring to the relationship between FTX and his trading firm Alameda Research.

“It was, in effect, tied together substantially more than I would have ever wanted it to be.”


SBF publicly punts on the US House Hearing Invitation

Shooting outside Chicago hospital last weekend

Shooting: On Sunday, a judge ordered no bail for a man who shot and killed another outside Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

What happened

The shooting took place in the southwestern suburb of Oak Lawn, Illinois, early Saturday morning.

Prosecutors said on Sunday that Marques Rose, 36, shot and killed a man around two in the morning.

The shooting happened outside the emergency room.

Additionally, prosecutors revealed that Rose was out on bond for another case.

He currently has five felony convictions, including charges of firearms and burglary.

Read also: Shooting in LGBTQ nightclub results in five dead

Before the incident

According to prosecutors, Marques Rose and the victim were at 87th and Vincennes for an evening gathering.

After two people were shot in the area, a large group followed one of the victims to the Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

Rose and 28-year-old Brandon McGee, the victim, were members of the group.

Hospital security called the police when the large group arrived on the scene.

The shooting

According to prosecutors, Rose and McGee got into a heated argument.

McGee reportedly pushed Rose to the ground, and people pulled the two apart to cool off.

After some time, Rose returned and shot McGee in the head, killing him instantly.

Rose tried to flee the scene, but the police were already there.

However, they tracked him down and found the weapon under a nearby car.

Prosecutors said surveillance footage and testimony caught the entire event.

Read also: Highland Park mass shooting victims and families file massive lawsuits

The aftermath

The judge refused to order bail for Marques Rose.

They explained that despite the victim pushing Rose to the ground, people separated them to cool off.

The judge also said that a push and a gun are not equal in terms of force.

The gunman, Marques Rose, is due to appear in court on Monday for breaching his bond.


No bail for man accused of shooting another in head outside Advocate Christ Medical Center

Billy McFarland creates another “big” music festival

Billy McFarland has tarnished his name by attempting to host one of the biggest parties in the world: the Fyre Festival.

However, the whole world witnessed the event flop.

You’d think Billy McFarland would learn his lesson, but he’s now ready to create a new event.

This time the next event takes place in the virtual world.

The news

Billy McFarland is currently trying to rebuild his name with another major music festival.

However, for the brave few who want to hear about the creator of the Fyre Festival and enjoy the music festival, they should shell out $250.

Even stranger is the revelation that McFarland will use the $50 from ticket sales to pay off his debt.


Billy McFarland shared his plans online with a video from TikTok.

He announced to the world that the music festival would be called PYRT (pronounced pirate).

In a short video, the creator of Fyre Festival explained that PYRT would partner with a remote destination.

They welcome artists, content creators, entrepreneurs and others willing to join the PYRT crew.

Read also: Sam Bankman-Fried, ‘Look, I screwed up’

The virtual aspect

Although PYRT is strongly reminiscent of the Fyre Festival, prospective audiences need not fear being stranded on a tropical island.

Billy McFarland dubs the event a “virtual immersive and decentralized reality.”

However, he said the event would not be part of the Metaverse.

Instead, McFarland says the technology is very close to the Metaverse.

The Fyre Festival creator added that the event would be held in either the Bahamas or a similar location.

The latter is more probable since the Bahamas government does not want to ally itself with Billy McFarland.

The Bahamian reception

Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper released a statement following McFarland’s teaser in November.

Cooper wrote:

“The public is advised that no application has been made to the Government of the Bahamas for consideration of any event promoted by Billy McFarland or any entity or parties known to be associated with him.”

“The Government of the Bahamas will not endorse or approve any event in the Bahamas associated with him.”

The Bahamian politician also called McFarland a fugitive, noting he had several pending charges filed by the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

Read also: The Federal Reserve resort to smaller hikes

Fyre Festival aftermath

The creator of the Fyre festival has since written to the government to apologize for the damage it has caused.

“My main focus is how I can right the wrongs and how I can make the Bahamas and Family Islands, a region I care so deeply about, whole again,” wrote McFarland.

Billy McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud in 2018.

He was also ordered to pay $26 million for the mess of a music festival.

McFarland was accused of defrauding investors from $27.4 million and was later convicted of selling festival tickets and other events.


Fyre Festival creator Billy McFarland launches new virtual music festival that costs $250 per ticket

Cocaine Bear trailer finally unleashed

Cocaine Bear is the title of a movie that few think is real, but the trailer came out recently, and people are excited about it.

The film reinvents and exaggerates a bizarre tale of a bear in the mid-1980s in the United States who ate 70 pounds of cocaine.


The dark comedy thriller is set in Kentucky.

Elizabeth Banks directs the film.

Cocaine Bear has many big names in the entertainment industry, including the late great Ray Liotta before his untimely death in May.

The film is Liotta’s last project.

The cast consists of the following:

  • Keri Russell
  • Margo Martindale
  • Alden Ehrenreich
  • O’Shea Jackson Jr.
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson
  • Kristofer Hivju
  • Kahyun Kim
  • Christian Convery
  • Brooklyn Prince

The synopsis

The over-the-top premise of Cocaine Bear sounds like something out of a 1970s or 1980s B-horror movie.

The official summary reads as follows:

“Inspired by the 1985 true story of a drug runner’s plane crash, missing cocaine, and the black bear that ate it, this wild dark comedy finds an oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converging in a Georgia forest where a 500-pound apex predator has ingested a staggering amount of cocaine and gone on a fuelled rampage for more blow … and blood.”

Read also: Jason David Frank details emerge following his death

What really happened

In 1986, investigators stumbled upon the real cocaine bear that inspired the film.

He was said to have been lying next to a bag full of over 70 lb of cocaine.

The bag was thrown by drug dealer Andrew Thornton, who threw it from an airplane.

However, when the contraband (worth about $15 million) was discovered, investigators only found 40 empty packages lying around the bear.

Subsequently, a coroner examined the bear and said:

“Its stomach was literally packed to the brim with cocaine. There isn’t a mammal on the planet that could survive that.”

The bear’s supplier

The accidental supplier Andrew Thornton was a former lawyer and narcotics cop.

He was on his way to smuggle cocaine out of Colombia to deliver packages in northern Georgia.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations said Thornton died after jumping from the plane, hitting his head against the tail, and failing to deploy his parachute.

The bear supplier was also found in an alley in Knoxville, Tennessee.

He wore night vision goggles, a bulletproof vest and completed his outfit with a pair of Gucci loafers.

Additionally, Thornton carried $4,500 in cash, guns, knives and keys for a plane.

Police then found nine bags of cocaine.

However, the tenth duffel bag was found with the actual “Cocaine Bear” in the Chattahoochee National Forest.

Read also: Irene Cara, iconic 80s singer, passed away

The bear

The original Cocaine Bear was later nicknamed “Pablo Eskobear.”

However, it is now stuffed for display and can be found at the Kentucky For Kentucky Store in Lexington.

Finally, Cocaine Bear will hit theaters on February 24, 2023.


First trailer for Cocaine Bear film based on a true story has been released

TikTok one of the few tech companies to continue hiring

TikTok is one of the few companies going in the opposite direction in the tech industry, continuing to hire in a bleak economy.

Meanwhile, most of Silicon Valley announced it would freeze hiring and cut its staff.


An anonymous source confirmed Monday that the short-video app company is moving forward with its hiring process.

TikTok is committed to its goal of hiring more than 1,000 engineers at its Mountain View office in California.

Additionally, the hiring decision hints at the company’s goal of ensuring that a US-based team verifies user data in the United States.

Furthermore, the company’s goal comes after a Washington investigation into parent company ByteDance’s ties to China.

News of TikTok’s hiring first emerged from the media outlet The Information.

Read also: Penguin Random House merge with Paramount dropped


Shou Zi Chew, the CEO of TikTok, confirmed the company was still hiring.

He shared the announcement last week at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore.

Chew also addressed other tech companies like Meta and Amazon, saying:

“We have always been more cautious in terms of recruitment,” said Chew.

“At this stage of our growth, I think that our pace, our cadence, of hiring is just right for us.”

The industry

Over the past few weeks, several companies have announced layoffs and downsizing.

Currently, Meta is cutting 11,000 jobs from the company, Elon Musk is laying off half of Twitter’s workforce, and Amazon confirms mass layoffs have begun.

Current and former corporate executives admit their companies grew too quickly during the pandemic.

At the time, consumers in isolation shifted their lives to go online.

However, businesses are now facing massive demand that is shedding thousands of jobs as the economy declines and a recession looms.

Read also: Alex Jones remains unwelcome on Twitter


The shift in the Silicon Valley hiring landscape is currently in favor of the short-form video app.

However, TikTok is trying to satisfy its critics and strengthen its position in the US by expanding into new product categories.

The company’s career portal website currently offers more than 4,000 global positions, but we need to clarify how often they update their recruiting page.

Last month, TikTok made headlines for listing new ecommerce-related features that indicated it was looking to build a storage and logistics network in the US.

“We are still hiring,” said Chew last week.

“Although, you know, at a pace that we think corresponds with the global challenges that we’re facing.”


As Meta and Twitter slash staff, TikTok plans to keep hiring

Sam Bankman-Fried says he donated to the Republican party

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and former CEO of bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, shared that he had donated to both political parties.

The revelation

Sitting down for an interview with Tiffany Fong, the FTX founder revealed that he donated to both parties, saying:

“I donated to both parties.”

“I donated about the same amount to both parties,” said Bankman-Fried.

Democratic donations

Since the crypto exchange’s 2019 launch, Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) has been known to support Democratic candidates.

In 2020, SBF was one of Joe Biden’s most prominent campaign donors leading to his presidency.

He gave $5,220,000 from FTX US and $6,242,800 from Alameda Research.

Read also: Sam Bankman-Fried Faces Downfall with FTX Collapse

Republican donations

SBF cited the Citizens United Supreme Court case while talking about his donations to the Republican Party.

“All my Republican donations were dark,” said Bankman-Fried.

“In practice, no one can fathom the idea that someone actually gave dark [money].”

Dark money

Political finance tracking website Open Secrets refers to “dark money” as spending that influences political outcomes, where the source of the money is undisclosed.

Sam Bankman-Fried explained that he chose to donate dark money to avoid attention from the public.

He also explained that journalists “freak the **** out if you donate to Republicans.”

The former FTX CEP labeled journalists super-liberal and said he didn’t want to start a fight.

SBF explained and said they conceded in the primary because there were good and bad candidates compared to the general election.

However, Bankman-Fried didn’t expand on what he considers a good or bad candidate.

Ukraine rumors

Sam Bankman-Fried also cleared up rumors that he was helping Ukraine launder money for the Democratic Party., a nonprofit, non-partisan election organization, also called the allegation false.

The group wrote an article dismissing the conspiracy theory, saying:

“There is no evidence to support the claim that Ukraine invested in or gave money to FTX.”

Sam Bankman-Fried says he can’t think of why Ukraine would launder funds for the Democratic Party or how anyone would launder funds.

“I wish I were a part of an international conspiracy that interesting,” said SBF.

Read also: Elon Musk says SBF didn’t contribute to Twitter buy

Other notes

After the company’s collapse, several US officials called for an investigation into Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX.

The US Financial Services Committee requested that SBF appear in Washington to testify on December 13.


SBF hid Republican donations so media wouldn’t ‘freak the fuck out’

Sam Bankman-Fried, ‘Look, I screwed up’

Sam Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, has admitted he made mistakes as the leader of the company.

He said that it was not his intention, nor was he trying to cheat anyone.

The former FTX CEO recently appeared on video at the New York Times DealBook Summit in New York.

“There are things I would do anything to do over again,” said SBF.

“I was shocked by what happened this month.”


In early November, Sam Bankman-Fried resigned as CEO of FTX after filing the company and dozens of its affiliates for bankruptcy.

Clients from all over the world are rushing to recover billions of funds they deposited on the platform.

Almost overnight, SBF’s multibillion-dollar personal wealth disappeared.

In addition, crypto companies with financial exposure to FTX are starting to fall asleep.

One of the questions surrounding SBF is whether the platform was stealing money from clients while lending money to his hedge fund, Alameda.

“I didn’t knowingly commingle funds,” SBF said.

“I was frankly surprised by how big Alameda’s position was.”


The cryptocurrency exchange platform experienced a run on banks in early November.

However, it quickly collapsed during a liquidity crunch.

“Look, I screwed up,” admitted SBF. “I was CEO of FTX… I had a responsibility.”

Sam Bankman-Fried acknowledged that FTX lacked corporate controls and risk management for the companies he oversaw.

In the bankruptcy filings, the new CEO for FTX described the matter as “a complete failure.”

“There was no other person who was chiefly in charge of positional risk of customers on FTX,” said Bankman-Fried.

“And that feels pretty embarrassing in retrospect.”

Read also: Sam Bankman-Fried says he donated to the Republican party

The companies

It is unclear how much FTX customers will recover while the company restructures.

Sam Bankman-Fried hinted that US and Japanese customers might be healthy, but he didn’t suggest how.

Additionally, his previous statements on the state of affairs will be reviewed in light of his lack of oversight.

At the start of the liquidity crunch, SBF tweeted that its FTX business was doing well and said it had enough to meet customer interest.

However, he deleted the tweet within a day and attempted to orchestrate a bailout that fell apart.

SBF’s admission that he had no oversight raised questions about his knowledge.


Federal prosecutors are investigating FTX for the Southern District of New York following the company’s collapse.

According to a person familiar with the matter, Bahamian authorities are also investigating the company.

Financial regulators are working with the company’s new management.

The team is led by restructuring specialists who are walking FTX through bankruptcy.

Read also: Sam Bankman-Fried Faces Downfall with FTX Collapse


Sam Bankman-Fried’s appearance at the DealBook summit comes weeks after he issued a public apology.

Unfortunately, his apologies surprised the press.

During his interview on Wednesday, SBF was asked if his lawyers were encouraging him to speak up.

“They’re very much not,” he replied.

“And I mean, you know the classic advice, right? ‘Don’t say anything, you know, recede into a hole.'”

“I have a duty to explain what happened,” added SBF. 

“I don’t see what good is accomplished by me just sitting locked in a room pretending the outside world doesn’t exist.”

The former FTX CEO was also asked about his personal fortune, estimated at $26 billion at his peak.

According to SBF, he had given everything to FTX and believes he only has $100,000 left in his bank account.


FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried: ‘Look, I screwed up’

The Phantom of the Opera to close its doors next year

The Phantom of the Opera is one of Broadway’s most popular shows and has established itself as one of its longest-running musicals.

Despite being a prominent title on Broadway, the musical was initially set to close the curtains for good.

However, the musical decided to listen to the audience and postpone the final show.

The announcement

The Phantom of the Opera recently postponed its last performance by more than eight weeks.

The change means that the last show will occur between February and April next year, following an increase in ticket demand.

Last week, The Phantom of the Opera grossed $2.2 million to a sold-out audience.


The Phantom of the Opera has been a Broadway fixture for more than three decades.

It first opened its doors to the public in 1988.

Since then, the musical has outlasted recessions, wars, and cultural shifts.

The Phantom of the Opera will play its last Broadway show on April 16.

By the time it closes, The Phantom of the Opera will have played more than 13,981 shows.

Read also: Mariah Carey allegedly lip-synced on Thanksgiving


Cameron Mackintosh, the lead producer of The Phantom of the Opera, released a statement about the postponement.

“We are all thrilled that not only the show’s wonderful fans have been snapping up the remaining tickets, but also that a new, younger audience is equally eager to see this legendary production before it disappears.”

The producers have since confirmed that there will be no further delays.

“This is the only possible extension for the Broadway champion,” they said.

“As the theater will then be closed for major renovations after the show’s incredible 35-year run.”

The musical

The Phantom of the Opera is based on the classic novel by Gaston Leroux.

It tells the story of a deformed composer who haunts the Paris Opera but falls in love with Christine, an innocent young soprano.

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical includes well-known songs such as “Masquerade,” “Angel of Music,” “All I Ask of You,” and “The Music of the Night.”

The Phantom of the Opera’s final show means the series’ longest-running title would go to Chicago, a musical that debuted in 1996.

Next is The Lion King, which premiered a year after Chicago.

Read also: Simu Liu rips Quentin Tarantino on Twitter


Broadway has been one of the businesses greatly affected by the pandemic, with all theaters closed for more than 18 months.

Popular shows like ‘Hamilton,’ ‘The Lion King,’ and ‘Wicked’ have managed to bounce back.

However, other shows have had problems.

An expensive show like Phantom of the Opera requires a steady stream of tourists to break even.

While there were more tourists, visitors to New York have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.


‘The Phantom of the Opera’ extends its long Broadway goodbye