Sunday, June 28, 2009

"And God Help Us If Yoko Shoots Him...."

This discussion popped up a day or two later than I expected.

Better late than never.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – When the news broke Thursday of Michael Jackson's death, cable television immediately went into 24-7 rolling coverage, magazines scrambled to put out commemorative issues, and the network newscasts devoted large parts of their broadcasts to the passing of "The King of Pop".

But the media faced a couple of tough questions: whether to talk about the unseemly aspects of Jackson's life along with his heralded musical and performing talents, and whether to cover the Jackson story ahead of other major stories such as the unrest in Iran, the infidelity of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, and the death of actress Farrah Fawcett.

Howard Kurtz posed these questions to a panel of entertainment journalists Sunday morning on Reliable Sources.

Extra Correspondent Carlos Diaz recalled that it was Jackson himself who gave the media the odd stories – his pet chimpanzee, the hyperbaric chamber, and his many legal troubles.

"It was Prince, Michael and Madonna all trying to combat their weirdness…They could kind of like shape their own image and give questions that only they could answer."

Diane Dimond, investigative reporter and author of Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case, pointed out that Jackson's public image was actually carefully structured by his management team.

"Michael Jackson had the master of that–the late Bob Jones. He said to me one time after he was out of the [employment] of Michael Jackson… he said, 'The theory was: Why stick with just one day of coverage because you media people will lap it up? So we put out the hyperbaric chamber picture, and let it sit there for a few days and let it fester. Everybody picks it up. Then we issue a denial. Bingo, I've got five days worth of coverage.’"

Dimond said constant updates on a big story is a part of the cable news culture, but the network newscasts went overboard

"I'm a longtime trained journalist. I worked right there in Washington, D.C. and Capitol Hill, and when the evening newscast is 99% Michael Jackson, now, I have trouble with that. Their reason for being is to tell me what's happening in the world, all over the world, encapsulate it for me, not just give me one story."

Kurtz asked Extra correspondent Carlos Diaz whether the standard for news is not whether the story is important but whether people are talking about it.

"Yes. It is now," Diaz responded. "Everyone was talking about Michael Jackson's death… Farrah Fawcett died five hours earlier, and it's as if she never even existed."

Kurtz said the real question is whether the public and the media will still be talking about Michael Jackson in a week or two. Diaz and Dimond both responded unequivocally, 'Yes.'

Some friends and I actually had this conversation the day after Michael died.

When the event was only 24 hours old.

And the wall-to-wall coverage had only gone on for 24 hours.

Here’s what I thought then.

And think now.

Admittedly Michael Jackson was a major celebrity.

But that’s not the reason the coverage went on and on and on.
And on.

Sensationalism notwithstanding, it was less about how he lived.

Than it was how he died.

Had he lived to be an old man and died in his sleep, it would have led the evening news, there would have been a few cable hours of video retrospectives and enough “Billie Jean” alternating with “You Are Not Alone” to last us a lifetime.

Instead, he died young, relatively, of what is almost surely going to end up being the result of drug abuse.

That, friends and fans, is why the media coverage was, and remains, a classic case of overkill.
To prove the point, let me offer you this thought.

On a scale of star to superstar, I think a case could be made that The Beatles had more of an impact on pop music, let alone world, history than Michael.

And at this writing, the most successful singer/songwriter in the history of pop music is Sir Paul McCartney.

But I’m willing to bet you my limited edition of Rubber Soul to your autographed copy of Thriller than when Sir Paul’s time comes, assuming he lives to be an old man and dies in his sleep, it will lead the evening news, there will be a few cable hours of video retrospectives and enough “Yesterday” alternating with “All You Need Is Love” to last us a lifetime.

Unless, of course, Heather Mills decides to get even and poison him.

In that case, be prepared for a couple of weeks of “Yesterday”.

"...And While We're At It...Anna Nicole Smith...Lee Harvey Oswald...Both Names Have 15 Letters...."

For those of you who dig conspiracy theories, here’s a thing.

I have one.

More on that in a second.

Read this first.

(CNN) -- Infomercial pitchman Billy Mays died at his Tampa, Florida, home Sunday morning, authorities told CNN.

The 50-year-old known for his shouting OxiClean ads was pronounced dead at 7:45 a.m. The Hillborough County medical examiner will perform an autopsy, Tampa police Lt. Brian Dugan said.

Mays was on the US Airways flight from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Tampa on Saturday that had a hard landing at Tampa International Airport when the plane's front tire blew out.

There were no reported injuries on Flight 1241, US Airways told CNN.

According to a local Tampa TV station, Mays said: "All of a sudden as we hit you know it was just the hardest hit, all the things from the ceiling started dropping. It hit me on the head, but I got a hard head."

The bearded Mays was a spokesman for Orange Glo and detergent OxiClean and appeared in commercials for other products.

He is featured on the reality TV show ''Pitchmen'' on the Discovery Channel, which follows pitch people in their jobs.

"It is with incredible sadness that we have to report that Billy Mays died in his sleep last night," said a statement from the Discovery Channel. "Everyone that knows him was aware of his larger-than-life personality, generosity and warmth. Billy was a pioneer in his field and helped many people fulfill their dreams. He will be greatly missed as a loyal and compassionate friend. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family at this time of incredible loss."


Here’s my conspiracy theory.

It’s easy to come up with a conspiracy theory.

Watch this.

Billy Mays, seller of Oxi-Clean, mysteriously dead at the age of 50.

Michael Jackson, buyer of Oxycontin, mysteriously dead at the age of 50.


I think not.


Nothin to it.

"Uh, She's Signalling a Field Goal...Yeah, That's The Ticket..."


I'm a lot of things, but I'm not a hypocrite.

So, let me just, once again, state for the record.

I don't really care much for Sarah Palin.

I'll spare you the reasons. If you're interested, just read back through some of my previous pieces here in the blog.

Better yet, get yourself a copy of my latest book, "Three Hats", available at

Shameless self promoter? Bet your ass.

But not a hypocrite.

That said...

Even an anti-Palinite like my self believes that the game should be played fairly.

And that's a rule media doesn't seem interested in following.

Of the ten billion photos could have used to accompany a Palin story, they chose the one included here.

I think the debate about political points of view should be spirited, even a little rough and tumble.

And not knocked off the tracks by some sophomoric giggle pic that sends folks off in a frenzy to write the "best" caption.

"Uh, Governor Palin....what do you think made Governor Sanford so irresistable to that lady down in Argentina...?"

That pic is proof positive that media has forgotten the rules of the game.

Hit hard.

But play fair.

From Graceland To Neverland

Everything old is new again.
What follows is the complete text of the blog that Lisa Marie Presley posted last week.

Years ago Michael and I were having a deep conversation about life in general.

I can't recall the exact subject matter but he may have been questioning me about the circumstances of my Fathers Death.

At some point he paused, he stared at me very intensely and he stated with an almost calm certainty, "I am afraid that I am going to end up like him, the way he did."

I promptly tried to deter him from the idea, at which point he just shrugged his shoulders and nodded almost matter of fact as if to let me know, he knew what he knew and that was kind of that.

14 years later I am sitting here watching on the news an ambulance leaves the driveway of his home, the big gates, the crowds outside the gates, the coverage, the crowds outside the hospital, the Cause of death and what may have led up to it and the memory of this conversation hit me, as did the unstoppable tears.

A predicted ending by him, by loved ones and by me, but what I didn't predict was how much it was going to hurt when it finally happened.

The person I failed to help is being transferred right now to the LA County Coroners office for his Autopsy.

All of my indifference and detachment that I worked so hard to achieve over the years has just gone into the bowels of hell and right now I am gutted.

I am going to say now what I have never said before because I want the truth out there for once.

Our relationship was not "a sham" as is being reported in the press. It was an unusual relationship yes, where two unusual people who did not live or know a "Normal life" found a connection, perhaps with some suspect timing on his part. Nonetheless, I do believe he loved me as much as he could love anyone and I loved him very much.

I wanted to "save him" I wanted to save him from the inevitable which is what has just happened.

His family and his loved ones also wanted to save him from this as well but didn't know how and this was 14 years ago. We all worried that this would be the outcome then.

At that time, in trying to save him, I almost lost myself.

He was an incredibly dynamic force and power that was not to be underestimated.
When he used it for something good, It was the best and when he used it for something bad, It was really, REALLY bad.

Mediocrity was not a concept that would even for a second enter Michael Jackson's being or actions.

I became very ill and emotionally/ spiritually exhausted in my quest to save him from certain self-destructive behavior and from the awful vampires and leeches he would always manage to magnetize around him.

I was in over my head while trying.

I had my children to care for, I had to make a decision.

The hardest decision I have ever had to make, which was to walk away and let his fate have him, even though I desperately loved him and tried to stop or reverse it somehow.

After the Divorce, I spent a few years obsessing about him and what I could have done different, in regret.

Then I spent some angry years at the whole situation.

At some point, I truly became Indifferent, until now.

As I sit here overwhelmed with sadness, reflection and confusion at what was my biggest failure to date, watching on the news almost play by play The exact Scenario I saw happen on August 16th, 1977 happening again right now with Michael (A sight I never wanted to see again) just as he predicted, I am truly, truly gutted.

Any ill experience or words I have felt towards him in the past has just died inside of me along with him.

He was an amazing person and I am lucky to have gotten as close to him as I did and to have had the many experiences and years that we had together.
I desperately hope that he can be relieved from his pain, pressure and turmoil now.

He deserves to be free from all of that and I hope he is in a better place or will be.

I also hope that anyone else who feels they have failed to help him can be set free because he hopefully finally is.

The World is in shock but somehow he knew exactly how his fate would be played out some day more than anyone else knew, and he was right.

Poignant? Clearly.
Sad? No doubt.

But, beyond that, I’d offer you that it’s fascinating, as well.

Because with just a tweak of a word or a fact here or there, this piece could have just as easily been written thirty-two years ago by a Presley, as well.


CCR, PM and BS

Chances are that, these days, Proud Mary wouldn’t be.

Proud, that is.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, during a high school senior year that was filled with the usual teen angst, augmented liberally with the impending possibility of being drafted to kill or be killed by Viet Cong, not to mention a mother and father whose singular skill at marriage seemed to be destroying it, I spent some much needed positively reinforcing time each weekday in a journalism class taught by a lady named Mary Kirn.

And while I’d like to say the nickname Proud Mary was the result of some witty and “precocious for our ages” satirical accomplishment, the truth is much less dazzling.

Creedence Clearwater Revival had their hit song out that year.

Come to think of it, we did think of ourselves as clever, being that the nickname was, of course, held in the strictest confidence among the rank and file of her classroom.

Wasn’t until she signed our yearbooks “PM” Kirn that we realized the lady was not only professional but playful, as well.

“PM” popped into my head this weekend as I ploughed through assorted and sundry news sites, diligent in my determination to find the latest news about something, anything, that didn’t have to do with Michael Jackson dropping dead.

Man, that was a fool’s errand, I don’t mind tellin’ ya.

Eventually, I came across a video interview with Jenny Sanford, the wife of the Governor of South Carolina who, as we have been TMI'd, not only couldn’t keep it in his pants, but couldn’t keep it in the country, either.

A little while later, I saw the written “news” about the interview.

Wouldn’t you know it, in the video, she talks about how she is taking it one day at a time, hopes she can make the marriage work, wants to raise good kids, that she has great friends, family, etc and will “survive” (insert Gloria Gaynor mp3 here). When asked about her husband’s political future, she said that her main concern was her family, children, et al.

When the interview made its way to the printed page, take a clear grasp of the obvious guess as to the headline.

“South Carolina First Lady says,”his career is not my concern…”

It really is cliché to offer up yet another bitch about how it’s ALWAYS about the bad news.

“If it bleeds, it leads” has evolved from a pointed observation to an industry standard.

But as I read the headline and replayed the whole video interview in my head, I remembered the positively reinforcing days spent in Mrs. Kirn’s class and her hip, but solid, presentation of the fundamentals of journalism.

The 5 W’s.
Who, what, when, where and why.

Read that list again with me, if you will, but I don’t see a Wow! in there anywhere.

And there’s not a Woo-Hoo! in sight.

A lot of good teachers contribute to our lives in those years.

But it’s the great ones you remember.

I remembered Mrs. Kirn this weekend.

And something I had forgotten about her.

She was hip and connected to us, but“PM” didn’t have much use for “BS.”

I have a feeling that, if Mary Kirn were teaching today, she wouldn’t be a happy camper.

And Proud Mary wouldn’t be all that proud.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Talent? Oh Yeah!....And He Could Sing and Dance, Too..."

Whatever you think, or don’t think, about the character of Michael Jackson, the person, there is, and can be, no denying his amazing sense of showmanship.

Farrah Fawcett got about six hours of major buzz today.

And then Michael Jackson did what he always did best.

Michael… spotlight stealing little rascal, you……

"It Was A Thriller...And It's No Surprise..."

For what seems like a long time now, I’ve been sharing with friends a personal philosophy that has come from my own life experiences.

You can shock me.

You can stun, even appall me.

But you can’t surprise me.

If that sounds a little self-absorbed, it’s not intended.

It’s really a simple matter of having lived long enough on this earth to realize that anything, and everything, is possible.

In that spirit, I was shocked this afternoon to hear that Michael Jackson was dead.

But I wasn’t surprised.

And not so much because of the crap about poor health and skin diseases and all the other voodoo that the tabloids do so well.

It was because I somehow have always known that there would never be an old Michael Jackson.

Just as I knew, so many years ago, that there would never be an old Elvis Presley.

Or an old JFK.

Having worked in and around the famous and near in my own life, I’ve struggled from time to time with the whole paradox of celebrity in our culture.

Because I know, from having known some of the famous and near, that they are, in the broadest human sense, no better than you or me or anyone else.

But that’s not to say that they aren’t sometimes special.

JFK was special.
Elvis was special.
Michael was special.

Sparing you the usual hyperbole in the form of “the brightest stars burn the hottest and fastest”, suffice to say that special souls that are put into our lives for a time are destined to be there for only the briefest of times.

There is, after all, only so much high wattage light one can absorb before they are blinded.

The old saying is, of course, only the good die young.

I can’t speak to the goodness, or lack, in those who come and go so brightly and quickly.

And I hold fast to the belief that, on the whole, they are no better, or worse, that you and I.

But damned if they aren’t special.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"For Those Who Don't Know Jack...."

Here's a fun thing I came across at Mental Floss dot com.

Dedicated to everybody who ever got drunk and pissed off.

Think of it as cautionary tale..

Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel of Tennessee whiskey fame was the descendant of Welsh settlers who came to the United States in the early 19th century. He was born in 1846 or 1850 and was one of 13 children.
By 1866 he was distilling whiskey in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Unfortunately for the distiller, he had a bit of a temper. One morning in 1911 Daniel showed up for work early and couldn’t get his safe open. He flew off the handle and kicked the offending strongbox. The kick was so ferocious that Daniel injured his toe, which then became infected. The infection soon became the blood poisoning that killed the whiskey mogul.

Curious about why your bottle of J.D. also has Lem Motlow listed as the distillery’s proprietor? Daniel’s own busy life of distilling and safe-kicking kept him from ever finding a wife and siring an heir, so in 1907 he gave the distillery to his beloved nephew Lem Motlow, who had come to work for him as a bookkeeper.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"At Least There Were No Midgets In The Punchline..."

First, let’s get something straight.

Both Dave and Sarah were doing what they do.

Dave told a sophomoric joke to an audience that thinks Howard Stern is a valid measure of taste and decorum.

Sarah pandered with passion to the uber-conservative Republican base that sees her as the future of the party.

Second, as you might expect, I have a little trouble standing behind the Palins as they express their righteous indignation with a skill that would be the envy of any savvy public relations firm.

Because it occurs to me that if they were more concerned with offense than opportunity, they would take Dave up on his offer to go on the program and show him up for the multi millionaire case of arrested development that he’s always been.

As parents, do the Palins have a right to be offended by a joke inferring that their 14 year old daughter got knocked up?


Like I said, though, Dave was doing what Dave does.

It doesn’t make it right.

It just makes it Dave.

Having said all that, here’s a plot twist you might not be expecting.

I’m totally disappointed in Dave.

And not because the joke was in bad taste.

Bad taste in our culture has long ago graduated from envelope pushing to status quo.

I’m not so much disappointed because the joke was in bad taste.

I’m disappointed because it was a bad joke.

Almost everybody knows that it was the older daughter, Bristol, who got knocked up.

But it was the 14 year old, Willow, who was at the ball game with her parents in New York.

And any reasonably talented comedy writer would have known that the joke was fatally flawed because it assumed that the audience would be willing, let alone able, to do a whole lot of editing in their head as the joke was told.

“Uh..let’s see, it was the younger girl who was there, but he’s really referring to the older daughter who was the one who got knocked up even though all he said was “daughter”, so we have to assume that he was talking about the older daughter, although it was the younger daughter who was there although no one in their right mind would ever think that somebody would make a joke about a 14 year old girl getting knocked up at a baseball game, although……”

There’s a generations old acronym that writers, song, comedy, etc consider gospel.

Keep it simple, stupid.

It’s bad enough that the joke was told in the first place.

Paying that kind of money for that kind of joke is beyond bad.

Not to mention in bad taste.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

"She Can See The Moon From Her House, Too..Does That Make Her An Astronaut..?"

She’s a chorus girl who believes she has what it takes to star in the show.

And, no matter what you think, I remain willing to be convinced she’s got the right stuff.

So far, not so much, no.

CNN) – In her strongest public remarks to date on the matter, Sarah Palin admonished the Obama administration on Saturday for proposing cuts to Alaska's missile defense network, a move she said would leave her state and the rest of the country vulnerable in the case of a future attack.

The administration cuts, which were announced by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in April and would be enacted in the next fiscal year, would trim $1.2 billion from the Pentagon's missile defense programs. The expansion of a missile field in Fort Greely, Alaska would be halted under the proposed budget.

"Reducing Alaska's defense readiness in these perilous times is a show of weakness, it is not a sign of strength," Palin said during a celebration in upstate New York honoring native son William Seward, who negotiated the purchase of Alaska in 1867 as Secretary of State. Video of the speech was posted by the Web site "Conservatives4Palin."

Palin said Alaska's missile defense system is now more vital than ever, particularly in the wake of North Korea's recent nuclear and missile tests. She said a missile fired from North Korea could easily reach Alaska and other parts of the country.

"And yet, Washington thinks it's best now to actually cut defense spending in Alaska by hundreds of millions of dollars," she said. "Now that is an odd priority there."

Palin said she will "argue with every ounce of my being for Washington to pay attention."

Credit where it’s due:

She’s doing what every governor should do if that governor is a savvy politician.

Screaming bloody murder when Uncle Sam yanks any lollipops out of her state’s mouth.

And even though it’s a long shot that I’m ever going to believe that Nurse Six in the chorus has what it takes to be Nellie Forbush, I’m okay with Caribou Barbie’s refusal to go away and shoosh.

Because it makes me happy for Tina Fey.

No matter what happens to 30 Rock, looks like Tina has job security for the foreseeable.

"Geez, I Wasn't Gonna Put 'Em On EBay, For Pete's Sake..."

There was a time that I considered becoming a lawyer.

I think I would have made a damn fine advocate for those in need of advocacy.

I believe myself to be compassionate, articulate and easily the equal of Sam Waterston when it comes to convincing a group of twelve people that my train of thought is the one they should be boarding.

Just one little rub.

I’m really, and I mean really, a spirit, as opposed to letter, of the law kinda fella.

It may have to do with the fact that I think any kind of inflexible absolutes in this chaos disguised as civilized world where we live are exercises in futility.

Or it could just be that I don’t care much for being told what to do.

So, I know that I would have simply ended up being frustrated at the obvious stupidity of any judge and/or jury who didn’t, to paraphrase Sinatra, “see it my way.”

And I know I made the right decision because my girlfriend is a lawyer, and a damn fine one, too, but I find myself getting a little chapped when I ask her a legal question and her answer doesn’t immediately fit the neat little slot that I had all carved out for it.

Put simply, it pisses me off when people disagree with me.

Well, maybe pissed off is too strong a phrase.

Not to mention a scoche self-absorbed.

Let’s just say that I’ve learned to see things from other people’s points of view.

That being that they cant be blamed simply because they’re wrong and I’m right.

After all, they’re only human.

My once imagined, but ultimately ill fated, legal career popped into mind this morning as I happened across this little blurb from Travel and Leisure Magazine. The writer of the piece is a lady named Lynn Yeager.

For those of you who have had this debate with a loved one, I offer it up, followed by two cents, give or take a nickel.

(Travel + Leisure) -- I stole a laundry bag from the Alvear Palace Hotel in Buenos Aires. It was made of thick ivory linen, embroidered with the words "dry cleaning" in cerulean blue, and looked like something that I could have found at an antique textiles show. But that wasn't the case.

I'm usually pretty scrupulous about purloined souvenirs. Of course, I help myself to soap and shampoo, sewing kits, even those black sponges meant to spruce up your shoes -- oh, and ballpoint pens and darling little notepads. But the laundry bag was my first sojourn into the land of, what shall we call it ... outright theft?

How widespread is this brand of petty larceny? A brief survey of my acquaintances -- a glass of wine, or three, helped them remember -- reveals that B. (names are omitted for patently obvious reasons) spends an inordinate amount of time at her favorite inn in St. Bart's hoarding the Hermès soap (using the same one for the sink and tub and then pilfering the other), and K. became so addicted to the slippers at the Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg that she now begs peripatetic friends to bring back their extra pairs. Both of these tales were recounted in voices dripping with shame -- which, it turns out, was entirely uncalled for.

The truth is that even the most parsimonious innkeepers want you to take their grooming products and paper goods home, the thinking being that every time you use an item that bears the hotel's name you'll remember what a wonderful time you had there and plan another visit (and not just to take more stuff).

At the supercool Chic & Basic budget hotels in Amsterdam and Barcelona, the owners even anticipate guests' illicit impulses: their toiletries read, "This is the cutest soap that you will steal from a hotel. Enjoy it." and "Amazing quality shower gel rarely found as hotel amenity."

François Delahaye, general manager of Paris's Hôtel Plaza Athénée, confirms that the shampoo, shower gel, slippers, of course, and even ashtrays (remember those?) are good to go. Delahaye says anything with the hotel's moniker is extra-desirable.

"If you want it stolen, put your logo on it," he tells me. Usually, he says, hotels shrug off minor light-fingeredness; it's just part of the cost of doing business. But sometimes it gets on even his steady nerves. Lately, he says, there has been such an epidemic of filched silver tea strainers that "it's become a nuisance."

At least Delahaye hasn't lost his sense of humor. He chuckles as he recounts the tale of the absconded umbrellas. Like all good hotels, the Plaza Athénée provides parasols for rainy days.

At one time, they were not for sale, but that didn't prevent them from regularly showing up on eBay. (The hotel, noting this flourishing secondary market, now sells these brollies for $46.)
Okay, François, what about my laundry bag? Was my misdeed really so awfully naughty? Silence, then a most surprising confession: Turns out that way back in the day, Delahaye once helped himself to a laundry bag at a Rosewood hotel. This mischief, though hardly sanctioned by the property, had the desired effect. "Whenever I use it," Delahaye says, "I'm thinking about that Rosewood."

Lifting laundry bags is nefarious enough, but it's hardly world-class in the hotel-theft department. For that we must turn to the notorious saga of the bad, bad girl who told me in hushed tones that, while she was staying in a room with two beds at the Setai in Miami, she proceeded to carefully remove the Christian Fischbacher satin sheets from the unused bed, then meticulously remake it so as not to alert housekeeping. Or there's the story of the Kiton-suited banker who never met a wooden shoe tree he didn't like enough to take back with him to Park Avenue.

Now you'd probably think that even the most unscrupulous guest couldn't walk off with a nailed-in showerhead. Guess again. Andrew Stembridge, managing director of Chewton Glen, a manor hotel nestled in England's Hampshire countryside, says he's had visitors unscrew all types of furnishings, including the big bottles of Molton Brown lotion affixed to the spa's walls.
Stembridge cheerfully volunteers harrowing tales of people pocketing silver sugar tongs and helping themselves to the iPod docks available at reception. "Sometimes the culprits are the fanciest people; it's not the guests on the special Sunday night rate. We just factor it in," he shrugs philosophically.

On the other hand, Stembridge is not afraid to fight back. Once, when an antique cup and saucer went missing from a room, he confided that he actually riffled through the guests' luggage, which had been stored as they took a final spin around town. "They had a lovely leather bag falling to bits," he remembers. As he suspected, the dishes were indeed packed in the crumbling old bag, but any triumph Stembridge felt at their retrieval quickly vanished when he realized "I couldn't zip the case!" He finally managed to close it, just minutes before Bonnie and Clyde returned.

That crockery wasn't for sale, but the good news is that plenty of coveted items offered by hotels can be yours, legitimately, for the swipe of a credit card. Have sweet dreams of the bed at the Four Seasons? Everyone knows you can order it. Develop an unwholesome relationship with the Perspex mini-mannequin lighting at the Soho Hotel in London? The property can arrange a set for you.

And what about that classic stuff-it-in-your-suitcase item, the terry robe? Plaza Athénée's Delahaye says that this is actually a much smaller problem than it was a decade ago, since there is frequently no room in today's carry-ons for these puffy behemoths. Do hotels really charge for swiped robes, making good on the threat implicit on those little signs in the bathroom? Since I have learned the hard way that a diet Coke gulped on the sly the final day of your stay will almost surely show up on your bill, I have always wondered about the robe scenario.

"We put a charge for the robe on a card if we can be absolutely sure someone took it, and didn't just pack it by mistake," says Leslie Lefkowitz, the Four Seasons Hotel New York's director of public relations. On the other hand, some hotels have bent the stick far in the other direction. At the Raffles L'Ermitage Beverly Hills, they not only gift a bathrobe to VIP guests, they monogram it, too. (But do these swells take their personalized dressing gowns homes? Nope -- they often let the hotel keep them for use on subsequent visits.)

As it turns out, sometimes resisting temptation can be just as haunting as giving in to one's base instincts. My friend P., who has been traveling longer than many of us have been alive, recalls wistfully, "As you know, hotels of a certain caliber turn down the bed at night and put little linen towels down so your feet should never, heaven forbid, touch the carpeting. Not only did they do that at the Ritz in Paris, but they put down a second one for my dog. It had a bone embroidered on it with the words 'I Am Ritzy.' I didn't take it and, to this day, I regret it."
Maybe he should have just folded "Ritzy" into his Goyard duffel. Then he and Fido could have dreamed of the Ritz as they rested their tootsies back home, just as the sight of my ill-gotten Argentinean laundry bag has me fantasizing about dancing the tango at 2 a.m. in the grand ballroom of the Alvear Palace.

G and I had this conversation a few weeks ago when we were at the beach and staying in a fine bed and breakfast that offered up the usual assortments of soaps, shampoos and blow dryers.

And, of course, the robes.

She was enamored, I was unimpressed.

That, of course, because they were not the big, thick, plush terry types and, with the combination of my less than buff bod and that typical “one size fits all” mythology more than evident, I thought I looked like I was wearing a sausage casing.

Nevertheless, G thought it would be charming to have one as a memento of a romantic time.
I remember saying something to the effect of “hey, what the hell, that’s why they’re here…help yourself.”

In my defense, I would like the court to recognize that at no time did it even cross my mind to unscrew a showerhead.

G, being the good person she is, called the desk and asked them if the robes were complimentary.

Turns out the French might think of pilfered possessions as the cost of doing business, but the folks in Rehoboth Beach apparently don’t think of themselves as continental.

That’s why I was somewhat heartened to come across Yeager’s piece, which pretty much absolves those whose closets look like a hotel supply warehouse.

So I made the right choice not to be a lawyer.

Because I would make the case that the robes were there to be taken.

And the Rehoboth Beach District Court would probably rule against me.

Hey…it’s not like I looked to see whether it would take a flathead or Phillips screwdriver to bag the blow dryer.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"Nicely Played, Grasshopper...Nicely Played..."

Leave it to Quentin Tarentino.

In the midst of all the predictable platitudes, ponderings and pronouncements in the wake of the death of David Carradine this week, the Q man managed to strike what I think was the most loving chord.

More on that in a minute.

A couple of years ago, I interviewed David for the morning show I was doing in Delaware. It was a typical five minute, in and out fast, telephone chat, part of a “promotional radio tour” that celebs do when they are selling something, a book or a new movie or a new show. I don’t remember what Carradine was hawking, but I do remember after it was over I knew that it was unique in terms of interviews I had done to date.

He was, in a word, eccentric.

Of course, calling David Carradine eccentric is like calling Joe Biden insensitive.

Hi and welcome to this edition of “Clear Grasp of the Obvious”.

Of the famous and near I’ve talked with, there have been more than a few who were “marching to their own drummer”, as it were, but that’s to be expected when you’re talking with the creative types in our civilization.

I imagine Van Gogh would come off as quite the wack job if FM had been around in the ear chopping days.

After all, how surprised are any of us to find out that the famous are freaks?

The word that comes to mind when I recall talking to Carradine, though, isn’t “freak”.

It’s “frequency”.

As in, this guy was simply broadcasting from a different place on the cosmic dial than the most of us.

And while I’m pretty confident at being able to hold my own in any conversation, no matter how inane or insane, I have to admit that I was paddling pretty fast to stay connected with the guy.

And the interview only lasted about six minutes.

I’m not sure I could have made it through, say, an entire dinner conversation.

Obviously, since the entire length of my relationship with Mr. Carradine was approximately 360 seconds, give or take, I have no idea whether he was an artist of another astral plain doing his compassionate best to communicate with a mere mortal…or whether he was just a very intelligent, very funny mere mortal who liked yanking people’s chains.

I’ve never forgotten the conversation, though.

And, hey, I had to be reminded the other day that I talked once for about fifteen minutes to the guy who played “Peterman” on Seinfeld.

So, whether Carradine was a wack…or simply witty, I’m happy I got the chance to make the connection if only for 360 seconds, give or take.

And, as mentioned earlier, I think Tarantino was the most eloquent of all those who attempted to be eloquent on the night of Carradine’s passing.

While the others, friends, managers, acquaintances, et al, were doing sincere, albeit stereotypical, lip service to the man and his career, all the while doing their best to tiptoe around the manner of his passing, Tarantino, who directed Carradine in the Kill Bill movies and isn’t exactly Mr. Average Guy Next Door himself, did what he always does.

Shot straight from the hip.

With a glint, and a tear, in his eye and a smile on his face, Q remarked…

“Sad as it is to lose him, the way that he died and all the unanswered questions around it…’The Mysterious Death of David Carradine’…you just gotta know that David would have loved it…”

The moment I heard Tarantino say that, I flashed back to my conversation with Carradine and realized what I hadn’t been totally able to grasp during the 360 seconds, give or take, we were talking on the phone.

I couldn’t see him.

But he was winking at me the whole time.

Damned if he’s still not winking at us.

"How Do YOU Spell Salvation?..."

Warm and fuzzies often come from the most unexpected places…

(CNN) -- She was a call girl working the streets of Sin City. He's a guitarist in a heavy metal band. They found commonality in their Christian faith and Friday evening, the two were married in a Las Vegas, Nevada, ceremony broadcast live via the Web.

Annie Lobért, who founded Hookers for Jesus, and musician Oz Fox of the Christian band Stryper said their "I do's" at the Church of South Las Vegas in front of an applauding crowd and an audience on the Internet. The wedding had been widely touted on several Christian Web sites.

Lobért, 41, walked up to the stage in a white strapless gown, gloves and veil. Earlier this week, she wrote on her MySpace blog: "I am getting married. It's about time."

She had worked as a prostitute for 11 years, making as much as $500 an hour. She said she hit rock bottom when she overdosed on cocaine and everything went black, according to an ABC interview posted on her Web site. She asked Jesus to help her and became what many jokingly call a "porn-again Christian."

Lobért says her mission now is to save the souls of women who sell their bodies. She often spends time at night on Las Vegas streets handing out Bibles to prostitutes and seeking to convince them there is a better way to make a living.

The Hookers for Jesus Web site describes the organization as "an international, faith-based organization that addresses the realities of human sex trafficking, sexual violence and exploitation linked to pornography and the sex industry."

Before he administered the vows, Pastor Benny Perez said Lobért was a shining example of Christ's love for everyone.

Fox, 47, is a longtime member of Stryper, which stands for Salvation Through Redemption, Yielding Peace, Encouragement and Righteousness. The band's albums include "Reborn: and "In God We Trust."

I don’t really have a lot to add.

Except to say that both the Jesus, and for that matter the God, that I conceive of are possessed of a sense of humor and wisdom that makes these kinds of stories even more poignant.

Oh…and one little sidebar curiosity.

In all the years I’ve been aware of the band Stryper, I’ve wondered if they don’t get tired of having to clear up the confusion about the pronunciation of their name.

Stryper as in stripper?
Or Stryper as in stripe-er?

Anybody who has ever been in a band knows the slippery slope of word play.

Even Tom Hanks knew the pitfalls.

Which is why out of lots of funny bits in “That Thing You Do’, one of the funniest is the whole problem of “The One-ders” getting famous fast as “The Oh-Needers”.

At least Hookers for Jesus had the good sense not to mess with the spellings.