Monthly Archives: November 2009

Jesus murders eight over Thanksgiving holiday weekend

by Jon Pine

Inevitably, after a horrific crime, a perfectly coiffed TV journalist will shove a microphone in the faces of the neighbors of the accused, and ask for their impressions. “He was a quiet man; he kept to himself,” is a common reply. “We never expected him to do anything like that!”

Jon Pine

But then, in the ensuing days and weeks, the story unfolds to reveal that yes, there were signs. Lots of signs. Big, blatant billboard-size signs in bright, bold letters. Perhaps we should have expected him to do something like that.

In 1994 and ’95, early in his rabble-rousing career, Michael Moore had a TV show on NBC called “TV Nation.” In one episode he takes this notion to an extreme, as a sort of experiment to see just how bizarre you’d have to behave before your neighbors did anything about it:

It would be funnier if it wasn’t so frightening, especially in light of recent events. I’m not saying we should all be nosey buttinskis like Gladys Kravits, but for the love of mike! Wake up and smell the mass murderer next door, will ya?!

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, two horrific multiple murders occurred. The first was not far from here, in Jupiter, Florida, on Thanksgiving Day. Shortly after dinner, Paul Merhige, 35, allegedly left the house for a short while and returned with a gun. He reportedly shot and killed his sisters – twins Lisa and Carla – and his aunt Raymonde. Lisa was pregnant. Then he went into a bedroom and shot his cousin, six-year-old Makayla.

“He wasn’t moody, it was just completely out of the blue,” said Jim Sitton, Makayla’s father. “I saw no red flags” that would indicate the carnage to come.

And on Sunday near Tacoma, WA, Maurice Clemmons, 37, allegedly walked into a coffee shop and shot four police officers – ages 39-42 and all with young families – to death.

As of this writing, Clemmons has been found and killed by police; Merhige is still at large.

Now we are told that Merhige had a history of mental problems and held “an ongoing resentment” toward his family. Hmm. Sounds like a sign to me. In 1998 and 2006, Carla filed criminal complaints against him alleging domestic violence. (The charges were later dropped.) Two more signs. Unnamed sources also say that Merhige’s past mental problems include a “severe messiah complex” in which he believes, at times, he is Jesus Christ. Okay, big sign there.

Maurice Clemmons had a Jesus complex, too. Pending charges in Washington State accuse him of gathering his wife and young relatives together in the middle of the night and forcing them to undress, claiming to be Jesus and saying, according to police, “Trust me. God wants us to be like this together. The world is going to end soon.”

Believe it or not, that was probably the smallest sign that Clemmons might snap one day. He had an extensive history of violent criminal activity in Arkansas, culminating in a combined 108-year sentence for a variety of crimes including aggravated robbery, possessing a gun on school property, and five other felonies. His first opportunity for parole would have been in 2021.

But in 2000, then-Governor Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, after hearing that Clemmons got “saved” during his incarceration, commuted his sentence. He was paroled after serving only 9 years. Instead of sitting in jail, Clemmons moved to Washington State, where he continued a crime spree that included assaulting a police officer, and second-degree rape of a child, along with the bizarre naked family incident. He was released on $150,000 bond just a few days before Sunday’s killings.

“This is the day I’ve been dreading for a long time,” said Larry Jegley, an Arkansas prosecutor who opposed Huckabee’s clemency ruling.

Plenty of signs, folks. You’d have to be blind or stupid not to see ’em.

Or maybe just a neighbor.

© 2009 Jon Pine

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Nobody Has Any Money To Do Anything

by Robert Smith

The economy is great/the economy sucks.  We’re all going bankrupt/we’re all in the geetis.  Renee Zellweger is broiling hot/Rene Zellweger is just plain fugly.

Up is down, black is white, George W. Bush is a smarty pants, Barack Obama is a dolt.  So what is the deal with our economy?  Who is doing well, who is going to hell?  It’s so hard to figure out things, as in the past three weeks, we’ve had a booming stock market mixed with 10.2 percent unemployment.  We need universal health care … wait, who cares about those bums?  Consider:

Last week, a video game, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, became the biggest entertainment hit of all time.  No movie, no piece of music, no TV show, no anything has ever made as much money in as short of an amount of time.  The multi-player video game made $500 million in its first five days of release. Yep, nobody has any money to do anything.

Last week, the Pontiac Silverdome – a huge arena that can hold up to 97,000 people and the venue where Hulk Hogan defeated Andre the Giant in front of a reported 93,173 fans at WrestleMania III in 1987 – was sold to a Tortonto real estate developer for … $583,000!   According to the New York Daily News, the stadium, that cost taxpayers about $55.7 million to build before it opened in 1975, was once the home of The Detroit Lions.  The same edition of the New York Daily News that reported the sales figure listed in its classified ads a brick family home in Flatbush, Brooklyn being offered for $625,000. Yep, nobody has any money to do anything.

The new tween hit film, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, made an all-time record $72.7 on its first day and about $170 million in its first few days of release.  Yep, nobody has any money to do anything.

The Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly recently cut the annual salary of an 87-year-old, time-proven baseball scout from $18,000 to $8,000, as well as slashing his travel budget. Yep, nobody has any money to do anything.

A crowd of about 3,000 Long Island teenagers and their mothers, many of whom can’t pronounce words that end with the letter “r,” showed up at Roosevelt Field Mall on September 19 to see teem dream Justin Bieber; police were forced to show up and cancel the show when the crown began calling each other names and shoving itself around. Yep, nobody has any money to do anything.

A Minnesota housewife recently sold her wedding dress, shoes, wedding ring, and various items of significant personal importance on EBay so she could buy food for her family.  Yep, nobody has any money to do anything.

TV game show star Susan Boyle’s debut album, I Dreamed A Dream, is the best-settling advance order in the history of Amazon.com. After its release, it was expected to sell 400,000 copies in its first week – in England alone. Yep, nobody has any money to do anything.

The Kentucky Post website reported that more of the working poor are seeking assistance during this Thanksgiving holiday.  A charity called Freestore Foodbank expects to hand out enough food to feed 18,000 families this holiday season, many of them with working parents.  Yep, nobody has any money to do anything.

Audience members cried when Oprah Winfrey, one of the richest women in America, announced she would be leaving her long-running talk show … in 2011.  Meanwhile, few noticed when Neighborhood House, a charity in Westbury, New York, filled four village streets with cars from people looking for goods the day before Thanksgiving.  Yep, nobody has any money to do anything.

On this holiday, regardless of which America you live in, we wish you the happiness that comes with the realization that owning a bunch of stuff is just owning a bunch of stuff.

Robert Smith will never truly be happy until all Americans get a fair shake, which means Robert Smith will never truly be happy.

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Requiem (almost) for a heavyweight

by Jon Pine

Jon Pine

Despite being indentured to one of the tiniest newspapers on the eastern seaboard, we DM Refugees occasionally got to play in the journalism big leagues. Perhaps the most exciting and rewarding of these experiences was covering the rise, during the mid-1980s, of a bona fide international sports superstar – heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson.

I was reminded of that heady time recently as I watched “Tyson,” James Toback’s extraordinary documentary, now out on DVD. So much more than a straightforward documentary, “Tyson” is the soul-weary pugilist’s attempt to bring some sort of closure to a turbulent life and career marred by bad decisions, chaos and tragedy – all of it played out in the public eye. More on the film later…

Like many African-American boys who grew up in the Brownsville projects of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mike Tyson barely knew his father and was drawn to an early life of hooliganism and petty crime. After more than 30 run-ins with the law, a 14-year-old Tyson found himself at the Tryon boys detention center in upstate New York.

As fate would have it, Tryon had a counselor named Bob Stewart, an ex-amateur boxing champion. Recognizing a diamond in the rough, and concerned that Tyson would fall back into a life of crime when released from Tryon, Stewart arranged for Tyson to live with legendary boxing trainer Cus D’Amato. The semi-retired D’Amato, whose accomplishments included title victories for Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres, had moved from Brooklyn to Catskill, and opened a gym above the burg’s police department – directly across the street from The Daily Mail.

That’s where I first met Tyson, after watching him knock the stuffing out of yet another skittish sparring partner. Man, could he hit hard! A few insiders had begun calling him “The Hammer.” He was a quiet kid, almost shy then. But he clearly took the art of boxing very seriously. With D’Amato at his side, he talked enthusiastically about his dream to become the youngest heavyweight champion ever.

Among about 13 hats I wore at The Daily Mail was that of sports writer to its sister weekly, The Greene County News. Bob Costas I was not. But I did learn to fake my way through an interview, and I actually took a pretty good sports photo. I had saved up and bought a Minolta Maxxum, the first autofocus 35mm camera. Smart move, because Tyson soon earned a fierce reputation for knocking out his opponents in the first minute or two of the first round. Getting a usable shot with those kinds of odds was, to say the least, a challenge. In fact, while still an amateur, Tyson knocked out Don Cozad in a mere eight seconds – a record that stands today.

Tyson’s first dozen or so professional bouts were lined up against “tomato cans” – fighters of limited talent, has-beens and never-wases. D’Amato, wisely, wanted to bring him along little by little, gradually matching him with better and better fighters and increasing the number of rounds, to build an impressive record of wins, all of them by knockout.

Mike Tyson with fellow Cus D'Amato protege Jose Torres, who was the New York State Athletic Commissioner at the time this was taken. Trainer Kevin Rooney is in back at the far right. Photo by Jon Pine (Sorry, it's the only one I could put my hands on easily!)

Cus was the quintessential boxing trainer – one part Burgess Meredith’s Mickey from “Rocky” and three parts Yoda from “Star Wars.” Interviewing him was a trip; he was generous with his time and also with his Zen-like pearls of wisdom, which made for great copy. And with such short fights, I needed that copy to fill out a respectable story!

But D’Amato was more than Tyson’s Mr. Miyagi; he was the young fighter’s grounding rod, his connection to reality. Tyson said many times that D’Amato was the father he never had; indeed, D’Amato had taken legal custody of him when he left Tryon. Everyone who came close to them could see and feel that special connection.

Then, back-to-back tragedies struck in 1985. First, his mother died, which left Mike grieving that she never got to see him as anything but a troublesome kid. Then in November, D’Amato died rather suddenly from pneumonia. Mike’s world was turned upside down. Many of the bad decisions and most of the bizarre behavior Mike would later exhibit can be traced back to that tragic time.

We watched, mostly on TV and in other news accounts, as Tyson’s career continued its meteoric rise. The tiny Daily Mail did not have the budget to send its reporters around the world. After all – there were pressing matters of local importance to think about, like the Coxsackie Town Council meetings, barn fires, and other small-town doings.

Tyson finally got his title shot against Trevor Berbick in November, 1986. True to form, Mike knocked the champ out in the second round to earn the WBC belt. He was just 20 – the youngest fighter ever to win a heavyweight title. By August 1987 he won the WBA and IBF titles to unify the championship. He seemed unstoppable. The poor kid from the projects now had more money than he’d ever dreamed possible, and he was famous the world over.

But there were signs that all was not well in Mike’s head. There was the brief but tumultuous marriage to actress Robin Givens, who publicly accused Mike of infidelity, physical abuse and mental illness. In “Tyson,” he admits that he cheated on Givens and confesses that he was in agony during the Berbick fight. The reason? A raging case of gonorrhea that he was too embarrassed to have treated.

In a post-fight interview – I can’t recall which fight – he told reporters, “I tried to catch him right on the tip of his nose so I could punch the bone into his brain.” Whoa. Then, he broke his hand in a street brawl with boxer Mitch Green. The following month he crashed his BMW into a tree; Tyson told reporters it was a suicide attempt caused by “a chemical imbalance.”

Tyson’s frankness about these and other episodes is perhaps the most striking thing about “Tyson,” the film. Rather than falling back on a typical question-and-answer style of documentary, Toback lets Tyson control the narrative. The result is extraordinary. In his oft-imitated high-pitched, lispy voice, you can hear the weariness and regret Tyson feels about many of his missteps. He breaks down at times, his voice cracking, mostly when he talks about his relationship with D’Amato.

Regrets, he has aplenty. Of promoter Don King, who had wrangled Tyson’s contract away from his managers soon after he unified the heavyweight title, he now says, “He is a piece of shit, a wretched slimy, reptilian motherfucker” who would “kill his own mother for a dollar.” It was King who convinced Tyson to fire long-time trainer Kevin Rooney – the last vestige of D’Amato’s successful team, whom many credited with keeping the unstable fighter on track long enough to win the championships.

From there, things only got worse. With no one left to rein him in, the drinking, drugs and womanizing spiraled out of control. He surrounded himself with an entourage whose main purpose was to get him drugs and seek out women for him to have sex with.

Worse, he no longer took boxing seriously. When he faced James “Buster” Douglas to defend his unified title in February, 1990, he was seriously out of shape, both physically and mentally. The 42-1 underdog managed to keep Tyson on the defensive for most of the fight, eventually knocking him out in Round 10. The world was shocked, but Tyson was not. He was rudderless, both professionally and emotionally, he now explains.

Remorse and regret are repetitive themes in “Tyson” – except when it comes to the fighter’s most egregious offense: The sexual assault in July, 1991, of beauty contestant Desiree Washington. Calling her “a wretched swine,” he maintains that the sex was consensual and that Washington was simply after money and notoriety. A jury thought differently, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

He served three years, but the time behind bars hardened him, he says. He converted to an extreme form of Islam, “because I was bitter at the world.” The incarceration also resurrected in him a fierce determination to regain the heavyweight championship. But to do that, he needed to fight Evander Holyfield, and Holyfield wasn’t exactly anxious to give him that chance.

After months of negotiation, the two finally meet in November of 1996. Frustrated by a series of head-butts, Tyson’s head bleeds through much of the fight. It is eventually called in Round 11 when corner men can’t stop the bleeding. Tyson is clearly enraged, demanding a rematch. Following months of tense negotiations, a rematch is scheduled for the following June. It is one of the most anticipated bouts in the sport’s history.

Unless you were living in a remote cave somewhere, you know how that rematch ended: with Holyfield missing a large chunk of his ear, and Tyson’s boxing career in the toilet. In “Tyson,” he explains that, after Holyfield head-butted him again, he just snapped, and went into an “insane rage where I wanted to kill everyone in that room – even the people in my own corner.”

The fight is stopped after the second time Tyson bites Holyfield’s ear. A melee ensues as Mike tries to get at Holyfield yet again. Later that night, realizing that he probably just destroyed his career, “I just went home, smoked a bunch of weed and went to sleep.” Eventually, he would lose his license to box in Nevada and be fined $3 million.

Tyson’s bizarre behavior continued, and even intensified. After a traffic accident in 1998 in Maryland, he kicks and punches the other driver before being restrained by his own bodyguards. He later serves one year in prison and pays a $5,000 fine for the incident. In February, 2000, he settles out of court with two women who accuse him of sexually assaulting them in a Washington restaurant. A few months later, a topless dancer in a Las Vegas night club accuses him of punching her in the chest.

The following month, after a fight with Lou Savarese is stopped, Tyson knocks over the referee to keep punching his opponent. That one would cost him $187,500 in fines and almost lose him his Nevada boxing license for the second time. In January, 2002, a press conference to promote an upcoming fight with Lennox Lewis breaks out into a brawl; Tyson later admits biting Lewis on the leg. (Somebody get this guy a chewy toy, for pete’s sake!) Lewis would go on to knock Tyson out in the eighth round.

In August, 2003, Tyson files for bankruptcy. He sells his New Jersey mansion to rapper 50 Cent. Later, he says, he stays with friends and even in homeless shelters at times. Drug dealers and pimps take pity on him, he says, occasionally tossing him freebies. Strictly for the money, he fights Danny Williams in July, 2004, getting knocked out in Round 8; and fights Kevin McBride in June of 2005, quitting after six wobbly rounds, saying “I don’t have the stomach for this anymore. I’m not going to disrespect the sport by losing to this caliber of fighter.”

“Tyson” is as honest a tale as can be told by a man eternally fraught with contradictions. He describes himself in one moment as “not quite human, almost an animal,” and in the next moment, in loving, gentle tones, describes himself as the quintessential family man. He claims to be deep in rehab, but does not go into detail.

Even his tattoos are contradictions. The curly lines on the left side of his face, he explains, are the markings of New Zealand’s Maori warrior tribe. On his torso are tattoos of Communist Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung and Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.

I can’t help but feel sad for Mike Tyson. Not so much for the magnificent sports hero who tumbled from grace in a most self-destructive manner. But for the 18-year-old kid I first met in a musty gym above a small-town police station. Full of promise, full of hope, and with a surrogate father by his side to help keep him on the straight and narrow. Had D’Amato stayed with him just a little bit longer, his life might have had an entirely different outcome.

© 2009 Jon Pine

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Fun For The Small Fry!

by Robert Smith

What follows is a compendium of classic children’s entertainment and products, much of which we know will bring back fond memories of Saturday matinees, Bonomo Turkish Taffy, and dad threatening to use the “other end” of the belt. Enjoy!

Old Yeller, produced by Walt Disney in 1957, was a hugely successful Disney live action film featuring a young boy who befriends a lovable and wacky stray dog who eventually contracts rabies.  The boy is forced to shoot the dog at the end of the film.

The 1986 children’s book Love You Forever (by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw) features narrative by a mother who continually recites a poem/song featuring the words “I’ll love you forever,” no matter what her son does throughout his life.  When the boy becomes a raucous teenager, the mother creeps into his room at 1:30 in the morning and sings the song to him as he sleeps.  When the son grows into an adult, the mother gets into her car with a ladder attached to the roof and drives across town. She climbs into her son’s apartment, basically breaking in, and sings the poem/song as he sleeps.  An illustration depicts the sleeping adult son in pajamas, curled up in his elderly mother’s arms.

The 1952 Tom & Jerry cartoon “The Two Mousketeers” features the cat being guillotined as the film ends.   The film won the 1951 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons.  Following the off-screen execution, a little mouse, Nibbles, looks at the camera and says, “C’est la guerre.”

In 1988, the Coca-Cola company began an ad campaign with a jingle with the words “Coke in the morning,” apparently designed to sway people from juices, water, and teas upon waking up and instead to reach for the familiar red bottle or can of carbonated sugar water.

In 1999, Walmart pulled an action figure of WWF wrestler Al Snow that some found offensive; the doll seemed to be carrying a severed head.  In actuality, the wrestler always brought a severed mannequin head to the ring, which was much more tasteful.  A Walmart in Florida in 1995 also banned a T-shirt featuring Margaret from “Dennis The Menace” saying: “Someday a woman will be president!”

One of the most beloved and wholesome family comedy shows in TV history is “The Andy Griffith Show,” and the “Opie And The Spoiled Kid” episode, originally shown on February 18, 1963 and which still shows up in reruns today, features a

Andy

The Andy Griffith Show: Life's lessons learned

spoiled friend of Opie’s named Arnold Winker, who always gets his way by throwing huge tantrums.  Arnold is such a brat that he runs around Mayberry getting into big kid-type trouble.  At the dramatic end of the show, both Sheriff Andy Taylor and the boy’s father agree the best way to teach the boy a lesson is to take him to the woodshed – literally.

Herman & Katnip, an action-packed cat and mouse comedy team by the theatrical animated production house Famous Studios than later ran on children’s TV shows throughout the 1960s, featured the cat’s life ending in at least two cartoons in the series.  At various times, the wacky cat (“not that Katnip didn’t have it coming to him,” says the Harvey Toons website) was killed in a rockslide; eaten by sharks; electrocuted by an electric socket; and, in one memorable scene, dying and becoming a ghost that is sent to something that looks a lot like hell. Each time Katnip gets napalmed, a bunch of little mice rejoice in sheer joy.

Hanna-Barbera is fondly remembered for Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, The Flintstones, and The Jetsons.  Other programs churned out by H-B have included JabberJaw, The Biskitts, C.B. Bears, Birdman And The Galaxy Trio, 3 Robonic Stooges, Wheelie & The Chopper Bunch, The Amazing Chan & The Chan Clan, The Funky Phantom, Kwicky Koala, Cattanooga Cats, and The Pac Man/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show.  Also included were superhero shows such as The Herculoids.

Still available: Candy cigarettes, available in many “old-time” candy shops as well as online.  The packs are of “brands” including Target, Victory, Round Up, Lucky, and other faux manufacturers that kinda sorta look like the more famous cigarette brands.

Robert Smith has experienced every single one of these products and entertainment vehicles, and now spends his days on blood pressure medication, his nights shivering under the covers screaming for his departed Aunt Meg.

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Convenience, Flavor, & … Sorry, Nodded Off

by Robert Smith

Here is more actual stuff that people buy and sell. It’s a cornucopia of values!

On the box of the health food supplement Swanson Kyoto Brand Chlorella Growth Factor: “Five-Diamond Quality.”

Every Croton watch comes with a “limited lifetime warranty”; others offering a “limited lifetime warranty” include quick-strut assemblies by Monro, many Fender musical instruments, and Balfour rings.

A legend on the somewhat ribald package of generic freezer pops we recently spied: “Freeze ’em, eat ’em, love ’em.”

While we’re on the subject, we can’t figure out which type of freezer pops to buy: Sqweeze Freezer Pops; Pop Ice; Freezer Ice; Mr. Freeze; Otter Pops; the generically titled Freezer Pops; Fla-Vor-Ice; Zoo Pops; or Gator Pops.

And while we’re still on the subject: Otter Pops has a website called OtterPopstars.com, where you can enjoy the adventures, hear the music, and read the interviews of various fruit-flavored ices in their quest for pop stardom. The band

Otter Popstars

Otter Popstars: Rock, career ambition, and fruit flavors!

member names feature Poncho, Lil, Louie, Alexander, and Kook. For some reason, there’s a little dog that scratches on a turntable that doesn’t seem to get any billing, though by far he seems the most talented.

A heartening ad slogan by L’Oreal for as far back as we can remember: “Because I’m worth it.” As if you use Jones Shoelaces for purely altruistic reasons.

In the 1970s, you could walk into Dairy Queen, and, with your head held high in your most dignified voice, say: “I’d like a Brazier burger, a Dilly Bar, and a Peanut Buster Parfait, please.”

There was an actual, no-holds-barred overnight infomercial for vibrators, dildos, and other sexual aids on the Oxygen Network recently. The show was set up as sort of a home shopping network for butt plugs. We are not exaggerating.

An Internet ad line for Natures Variety Prairie Homestyle Canned Cat Food (Lamb/Liver Flavor) notes the product features “home cooked taste.” The way the economy is going, Ed and Myrtle down the block might be able to prove that claim.

Is there a silk shortage? While enjoying a tall boy of Pabst’s Blue Ribbon, you can also sit on a couch adorned by a cover from California’s Blue Ribbon Quality Upholstery; if you need shingles, you can contact Blue Ribbon Quality Roofing of Colorado; east coasters can instead call upon Blue Ribbon Exterior Remodeling; Blue Ribbon Abrasives Co., Inc. of Minnesota makes cutting wheels; Blue Ribbon Quality Meats produces, we assume; meats; and Trucchi’s Supermarkets in Massachusetts assigns many of its products a certain emblem, according to their website: “Blue Ribbon items are distinguished by the blue ribbon quality seal that appears on the packaging. These items are unique to our stores. Only items that are prepared fresh daily in our own stores and meet the highest standards of quality are awarded our blue ribbon.” Oh, my, all these ribbons! We’ll assign a blue ribbon panel to check out all these companies.

Psychic sales: Many companies seem quite intuitive, to say the least. The label for a large bag of Spangler’s Dum-Dum Pop claims: “All Your Favorite Flavors!” In music, the legendary TV ad for a Roger Whittaker hits compilation showed the British singer looking into the camera and telling us: “These are the songs you really love.” Others who know exactly what you want to hear are John Gary (Sings Your All-Time Favorite Songs), pianists Floyd Cramer (Plays Your All-Time Country Favorites) and Roger Williams (Plays Your All-Time Favorites), and, of course, full-throated singer Jim “Gomer” Nabors (Sings Your All-Time Favorites). Easy listening artists can peer directly into your soul while performing “Hot Diggity, Dog Diggity (Boom What You Do To Me),” it seems.

During the 1970s, sportscaster Chris Schenkel appeared in a commercial touting the “good taste of beer,” but not for any particular brand – he touted that beer always tastes best in glass bottles in one TV ad. Later, he displayed a bottled product called “Good Taste Of Beer,” which was delivered on a tray to a bunch of happy folks singing around a piano in a bar.

A 1960s TV commercials touting the benefits of U.S. Savings Bonds featured The Three Stooges, surely a trio you’d want to take financial advice from.

We all know Ronald McDonald and The Burger King, but other fast food mascots from today and yesterday you might not be aware of include Carvel’s Fudgie The Whale (we know it’s not what it is, but it look as if he shows up at events wearing oversized boxer shorts), some sort of half rat, half hamster from Quiznos, “The Noid” from Domino’s Pizza, and a North Carolina yellow thing for a indie pizza place that doesn’t exist any longer. The most unappealing self-mascot we know of is veteran bad guy pro wrestler Abdullah the Butcher, who owns and operates Abdullah the Butcher’s House of Ribs & Chinese Food in Georgia. Abby is a gigantic and rotund 300-pound man with a horribly scarred forehead and a psychotic leer nicknamed “The Madman From The Sudan” who routinely stabs his opponents in their heads with forks. In his off time, he serves candied yams and mac and cheese to Atlanta residents.

Again, we are not exaggerating.

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Run, Sarah, Run: Humorists for Palin

by Steve Ricci

dm avatar 1

Steve Ricci

“It’s an emotional day. A lot of us are still mourning the loss of one of America’s most entertaining figures, who left us all too soon. But don’t worry, folks, Sarah Palin will be back. Comedians everywhere are praying.” —Conan O’Brien

I’ve always held that, as social constructs go, religion and politics have damaged humanity more than any others, with the obvious exception of square dancing. And yet I frequently find myself, knees in right-angled supplication, praying fervently that Sarah Palin tosses her Bumpit back into the political ring, and fast.

I’m not some closet conservative or ditto head, nor am I unsympathetic to the plight of the Alaskan wildlife she seems to revel in riddling with high-caliber ammunition while hanging out the door of a Bell Cobra attack chopper. Hey, everyone has as much right to their provincial, repressive political views as they do to their vicious, sadistic hobbies, right? Who am I to judge?

No, I advocate here on behalf of the international brotherhood of humorists, those of us who labor (either for fun, for profit, or for the seedy black-market humorist slave trade) to wring humor from the consistently dismal pageant of despair we call current events. Alas, 2009 has been an especially tough year for our jest-happy brethren.

In the entertainment realm, we lost Michael Jackson, an ever-gushing wellspring of self-parodying hilarity who did for the humor business what the discovery of electricity did for sales of electric blankets. We shall miss him/her/(insert approximate pronoun here). O.J. Simpson sits in a prison cell, barred from any more felonious frolics. Mss. Lohan, Spears, and Hilton rarely haunt the savage landscape of primordial vapidity over which they once ruled like bra-less Tyrannosaurs. Is a blathering Kanye West all we’re going to get to work with this year? Really? Because if I have to come up with one more Jon and Kate meet the Octomom gag, I just might take up a more comical avocation, like ice road trucking or sequoia toppling or any of those dismemberment-intensive jobs the History Channel seems obsessed with chronicling.

Nor does it end there. Our losses in the political world have been far more arduous. In January we bade farewell to a president with the intellectual acuity of a rusted trailer hitch; a man who presided over a financial crisis, a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, and a constitutional catastrophe with all the administrative dexterity one might expect of a squirrel attempting to fly the space shuttle. So dazzlingly inept was our former Sock Puppet in Chief, that members of the Nobel Committee practically trampled each other to be the first to hurl a Peace Prize in the direction of his successor. There is no question in my mind that, had a cocker spaniel ascended to the presidency after Bush, even the dog would have been lauded as a peace-making agent of global change.

What, I ask you, WHAT are we humorists to do without the man who said, “I didn’t grow up in the ocean, as a matter of fact, near the ocean. I grew up in the desert. Therefore, it was a pleasant contrast to see the ocean. And I particularly like it when I’m fishing.”? Or this: “All of us in America want there to be fairness when it comes to justice.” Or this, from a 2001 radio address: “My plan reduces the national debt, and fast. So fast, in fact, that economists worry that we’re going to run out of debt to retire.” (Seriousness spoiler alert: This debt was around $5.7 trillion when President George W. Door Knob made the comment. It was pushing $11 trillion when he left office. But I’ll bet those anxious economists are sleeping easier now.)

Sigh. The salad days. Bush churned out malapropisms with such blinding rapidity that Bushism websites, struggling to keep pace with the gaffes, had to outsource the work to India. Ah, well. It’s over. It’s just over, that’s all; and we humorists need to accept that there may never again be a politician on the national scene as blundering, as bungling, as singularly oblivious…

Wait a minute… Who’s that hottie in the updo, winking at us from behind a wall of makeup? Yes! It’s Sarah! The Barracuda’s back, stone cold sober, as a matter of fact! She’s gonna save the humor industry!

Now, I know some of you will say, “But, Steve. C’mon. She’s not in public office anymore and she’s not running for anything. Is it really fair to take potshots? Isn’t that kinda like throwing rocks at the short bus? Fun? Sure. But hardly sporting.” To that I say, “Meh. Double meh.” Check out this quote from her gubernatorial resignation speech. I repeat… RESIGNATION SPEECH: “…it may be tempting and more comfortable to just keep your head down, plod along, and appease those who demand, ‘sit down and shut up,’ but that’s the worthless, easy path; that’s a quitter’s way out.”

You read it right. In a speech in which she’s resigning her office, she claims that continuing to serve in the position to which she was elected is the quitter’s way out. That’s gold, Jerry, GOLD!

As though that tender, glistening morsel of Pavlovian absurdity weren’t enough to spritz the salivary glands of every starving humorist in the country, her very next statement was: “And a problem in our country today is apathy. It would be apathetic to just hunker down and go with the flow. Nah, only dead fish go with the flow.”

Can it be? Is she actually giving us a fish analogy in much the same vein as former President George W. Mulch Pile gave us in his stirring appreciation of ocean water? Can this logic-mangling temptress be the heaven-sent messiah we humorists have been waiting for?

You betcha. That’s why I have formed the Humorists For Palin political action committee. We are not interested in what is politically expedient or beneficial for this country. We don’t care about jobs, deficits, wars, health care, or whether polar bears are chasing tigers through the rain forests. We just need material!

Nor are we discouraged by the polls, which estimate Palin’s odds of winning the presidency as roughly equivalent to that of Gary Coleman starting at center for the Lakers this year. We will sweep her into office on a tsunami of satire so profound it will make Saturday Night Live look like a six-hour seminar on tax code revision (not that it doesn’t already). Our organization’s official logo is a dead fish swirling against the flow of a toilet bowl basin.

If America needs anything right now, it’s laughs. And what better way to clang the chimes of laughter across this mirth-starved nation than with a president who thinks Afghanistan is a neighboring country of the U.S.; who actually thanked a radio talk show prank caller posing as the president of France for complimenting her on a satirical porn video entitled Nailin’ Palin; and who believes that the United States has a Department of Law?

We have the utmost confidence in our chipper candidate because here’s what she herself said about her future plans: “I’m like, okay, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is.”

Here’s your open door, Sarah: Humorists For Palin. It’s your gilded, swinging saloon door to the Oval Office. Don’t let it whap you on the backside as you walk in.

—Steve Ricci is a writer, editor, and photographer who is on Step 7 of a 12-step program designed to help him overcome an addiction to deli mustard.

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Filed under Celebrities, Current events, Entertainment, Humor, Politics, Posts by Steve Ricci