Archive for July, 2009

“Beer Summit” Falls Flat
July 31, 2009

“The Audacity of  Hops”.

Just one of the bad puns I heard today on the network broadcasts as they were absolutely giddy in covering this supposed “Beer Summit” at the White House between the President, the Professor and the Police officer regarding this “racial profiling” incident. I put the term in quotes because as time goes by, this looks less and less like a case of racial profiling and more and more like a case of two people acting, in the President’s words, “stupidly”.

Any way, this beer summit was just what I thought: a photo op. The trio sitting down, being served their favorite beer. They were joined by Vice-President Joe Biden which struck me as odd. Biden, who has been known to say the frequent off-color and inappropriate remark, was sitting these at a meeting where I’m sure things were somewhat tense to say the least.

Anyway, this whole idea of the leader of the free world brokering a meeting between these two men as if he were Jimmy Carter and the pair were Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin and this was the Camp David Peace Accords bordered on silly. Why waste time drinking beer as if this foursome were college chums reuniting at an off-campus bar.

Obama

The “Beer Summit”: Biden, Gates, Crowley and Obama

Even worse, I think President Obama invited the wrong people to this “beer summit”. Instead of the Vice-President, he should have extended an invitation to Lucia Whalen. She is the woman who made the 9-1-1 call and, prior to the release of the tapes, had been called “racist” for doing what I hope my neighbor would do for me: watch my house. She is the one who could use a beer after this whole incident.

This has been called a “teachable moment” by President Obama, but I have learned very little during this entire episode. I’ve seen no healing of racial divides and no greater understanding between the races. What have we learned? We know what kind of beer the President, the Professor and the Police Officer drink.

Hardly, a moment of great racial healing for this country. As far as I have heard, no one has said whether the words “i’m sorry” were uttered during the summit.

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The Campaign Comes to a Close
July 30, 2009

Wendy Bell’s bid to win a seat aside Regis Philbin – and my career as a campaign manager – came to a quick and crushing end today. “Regis and Kelly” asked viewers to vote among ten women the five that would fill in for Kelly Ripa next month.

Wendy was one of the ten and, in my opinion, had the best of the 30 seconds videos each candidate had to submit. Instead of a highly produced piece pushing her virtues, Wendy was Wendy. Sitting in her basement with her five young children asking viewers to pick her and give her some time off from the rugrats.

On my end, I tried to rally the locals: via Facebook, Twitter and on my blog. The result: we had lots of people pull for Wendy and vote for her. However, in the end, Pittsburgh could not overcome the challenge from candidates from other markets. Wendy lost. However, I think I was more down than she wa. While she relished the experience and said “it was just an honor being nominated”, I was bummed … even thinking maybe we should have “gone negative”. Just kidding.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who took the time to vote. I got e-mails from all over western Pennsylvania. Viewers, friends, and even our pals a WDVE championing Wendy’s cause.

I guess on the bright side we keep to Wendy and her talents all to ourselves. I would hate to lose my partner.

WENDY[1]

As long as I am blogging … and on a completely different subject … I think this “beer summit between the President, Professor Gates and Cambridge police officer Jim Crowley might be the silliest thing I have ever heard of. Unless you have been living under a rock, you have no doubt heard of the so-called “racial profiling” controversy and the subsequent firestorm set-off by the President when he said the Cambridge Massachusetts police “acted stupidly” in arresting Gates even though he admitted he did not have all the facts in this case.

Now, in an attempt to bring the two sides in this mess together, he is having them over for a beer on the bench outside the Oval Office to discuss the matter and reach some sort of truce. How silly is this idea? The media has more interest in what beer the three will be drinking than what will be discussed.

Look, as each day unfolds, this becomes less and less of a case of racial profiling and more a case of two men in need a deep breath. Gates clearly was not helpful during the situation, coming off as confrontational with police. It can now be told that Crowley was not honest in his initial assessment. He said the woman who alerted 9-1-1 to the break-in said it was two black males who broke into the home. The tapes now show the woman never mentioned race in her description to the 9-1- dispatcher.

Now, a beer summit? It seems more like a photo op than an attempt at peace. Frankly, what peace is he seeking? It would serve everyone if each side could drop its request for an apology and just move past this, using this as the President said last week, as a “teachable moment”.

Instead, its “happy hour” at the White House.

Vote For Wendy!
July 28, 2009

Hi. I have become the de facto campaign manager for one Wendy Bell. She is not running for public office, although I think given our current state of leadership she could do just as well as some of our elected leaders.

No, I am managing Wendy’s campaign to become a guest co-host with Regis Philbin on “Regis & Kelly” August 17th. Each year, the show asks viewers to select a co-host to fill in while one of the hosts is on vacation. This year, Wendy is up against some very talented women who anchor the news at various station across the country.

So why choose Wendy? First of all, Pittsburghers have this ability to choose one of their own and give them enough votes to beat anyone in the country in any contest. Case in point, Jason Bay was voted in by the fans to play in the 2006 All-Star Game at PNC Park. We know how to rally.

WENDY[1]

Now I may be biased, since I do work with Wendy and consider her a good friend, but I can think of no better fill-in foil for Regis than Wendy. Her sharp with and fearlessness would be the perfect compliment to Mr. Philbin. She will not be intimidated or shocked by the brights lights of  the big city.

She is also “real”. I think the one question I am always asked is whether Wendy is as real as she seems on the air. The answer is a resounding “yes”. She is just as she is at home and behind the scenes as she is on TV. She is glib, real, fun-loving and sometimes its hard to tell where the anchorwoman begins and mother ends. Plus, she has the best video of all the finalists. Its her with her 5 kids, essentially asking you to vote for her to give her a day off from her five wonderful but overwhelming kids. You don’t have to be a mom to sympathize.

Wendy makes no bold promises, won’t make any campaign speeches and will not kiss any babies other than her own. Still, she is the kind of person “Regis and Kelly” needs and the kind of person to represent our town. We are a city of champions again. Let Wendy bring home one more title.

Here is the link to the “Regis  & Kelly” website. It’s a little bit to get to the voting page, but I think it will be worth it. It will prove that we, as Pittsburghers, are willing to go the extra mile. So vote for Wendy … early and often.

This message paid for by the committee to get Wendy Bell on “Regis & Kelly”. Andrew Stockey, campaign manager … and Wendy approves this message

A “Teachable Moment”
July 25, 2009

I thought President Obama was trying to clarify and push his health care plan in his address to the nation the other night.

Guess that was not the case, judging by watching the national media the last couple of nights. The President’s hour-plus prime-time event wound up being overshadowed by a question at the end regarding a situation he admitted he had no knowledge about and his subsequent answer to that question.

The crib sheet version of this story is this: A prominent Harvard professor and friend of the President was arrested by Cambrdige Massachusetts police while breaking into his own home. The subsequent altercation led to the arrest of Professor Robert Gates and his being taken to jail. He claimed the offer was engaging in racial profiling.

This was already a hit-button issue, but then President Obama turned the heat up a notch. He said the police acted “stupidly”. His apparent siding with Gates led to national firestorm … followed by some backtracking by the President Friday. He unexpectedly stopped in on the daily White House press briefing and, after announcing he had talked with the arresting officer by phone, admitted he could have chosen his words more carefully during the national address. He stopped short of apologizing for his comments.

That brings me to these thoughts:

obamapress

President Obama’s greatest strength during the campaign was his ability to deflect questions of race and concerns that he could not look at the issue of racism objectively. After the last few days, it has become clear the resident of the White House is an African-American … and it does have an impact on the way he views topics of race.

That does not mean he is incapable of being a Commander-in-Chief who can ride the country through the troubled waters of race. However, he has to once again convince both black and white Americans that he can deal with this country’s longest running trauma without letting his own personal experience affect his judgement in a biased way.  Such was the case Wednesday when he said “he did not know all the facts in the case” but then accused the Cambridge Police Department of acting “stupidly”.

If I was a member of that police force, I would be asking for an apology as well.

Look, racial profiling does exist in this country. There are examples throughout history of African-Americans being wrongly accused, arrested and imprisoned. It does happen and probably still happens today. The President is in a unique position to change that legacy because he is an African-American and has certain unique experiences that can help lead us into a place where we can be a more united country when it comes to racial issues.

The President hopes this becomes a “teachable moment”. I do as well. I hope it teaches the President that he must maintain the cool and calm he exerted during the whole Jeremiah Wright race incident during the campaign. I hope he does not let his own personal experiences and traumas get the better of him.

He is an African-American, but he has accepted the role of  Commander-in-Chief for the next four years. I hope, when decides on issues of race, sex or whatever, he will step into that role first and foremost. It will help him be an effective leader … and maybe help in his bid for health care reform.

Tuesday night, he lost his cool … and the momentum for his health care plan.

A teachable moment.

Adventures in Car Shopping
July 24, 2009

Ben Roethlisberger speaks for the first time since a civil suit was filed against him by a Nevada woman claiming she was sexually assaulted by the Steelers quarterback.

A national firestorm erupted and a debate on racial profiling was rekindled when President Obama weighed in on the arrest of a prominent university professor by police following confusion amid a possible break-in.

Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox tosses the 18th perfect game in baseball history, a feat saved by an amazing catch in the 9th inning by the center fielder to steal a Tampa Bay home run.

So much happening in the world and what is topic number one in my world?

Car shopping.

Something the world keeps spinning while you deal with the mundane. Such was the case for me when my 2004 Acura had been pushed too far. Just past 170K miles, my trusty car gave way … and the transmission went kaput … right on the PARKWAY EAST!

This happened Tuesday, leaving me in a bit of a lurch. While I did get it towed to the dealership, it was too late to save my ride. The repair shop told me the transmission was done and since the cost to replace it was cost-prohibitive, I was forced to have to buy a new car.

Normally, new car shopping is considered a fun and exciting experience. Just the chance to be exposed to that new car smell would make the journey worthwhile. However, I am no longer 16. As an adult, it often becomes a chore … especially if you are under the gun. Using the dealer’s loner car, I had to get some new wheels rather quickly.

NEW CAR 001

After a day-long  adventure in car shopping, the owner and his new ride

My car shopping adventure began with what appeared to a sign from the heavens: a TV story about the “Cars for Clunkers” program. Under this government deal, you could walk away with a car, a ridiculous rebate and zero percent financing. Sounded good, except that my little Acura was no clunker and I wasn’t eligible.

I searched the web all night, looking at makes and models available locally … and what deal were out there. Some cars were too expensive while other were too cheap. Some leases were too limiting and some purchase plans were too pricey.

 

 

So what did I do? In the end, I did what I always seem to do. Trust what I know. The trust factor sent me back to the Acura dealer with whom I had bought or leased my last four vehicles. I went to the sales manager, explained my circumstance and with some hard work and very little haggling I got the car that best fit my needs at a price I could live with. This whole adventure took less than four hours.

Because I cannot endorse a product, I won’t tell you where I bought my new ride: a 2010 Acura TSX. However, I will tell you why I went back to this particular dealership. They have always been fair with me when selling a car, never putting me through some protracted negotiation. Also, I tend to service my car according to the owner’s manual. On that score, the service department has always gone above and beyond in taking care of my car and walking me through the process when things are not working.

The moral here? There is something to be said of customer service and that is something that is sorely lacking in the country. However, for those who do put their customer first, there is a reward. My undying loyalty … and my money the next time I need a car.

“And That’s The Way It Is ….”
July 18, 2009

It’s truly a sad day in my business, television news, and for America as a whole. Walter Cronkite died Friday night at the age of 92. He was in failing health and his death comes as no shock. He lived a healthy, full life.

He also was a man who took a job and, by virtue of the way he handled his daily work, made it something more powerful and more influential. He was an “anchorman”. I know the word now conjures up images of Wil Farell’s character, but for a generation of Americans, there was no more important man than Walter Cronkite.

To understand his power, you have to go back to the days before “i”: iPhone, iPod, iTunes. In fact, the only “i” that matter was spelled “eye” as in the CBS eye. CBS was the network  of choice for news during his heyday of the 60’s and 70’s … and he was the choice of a nation. The image of him briefly choking up while delivering the news of the death of President Kennedy still has the power to move. Some say he did more to end the conflict in Vietnam than all the world leaders when he turned briefly into a commentator and said America was “mired in a stalemate”.

It was a time when ( imagine this ) Americans came home from work by 6pm and actually sat down together to have dinner and watch the national network news. A time when there were only ( gasp! ) three stations. A time when one man could actually be seen as “the most trusted man in America”.

cronkite

I will not lie to you and tell you he was my role model for becoming a TV news anchor. I didn’t even consider a career in TV when he was on his way out. However, he does represent what we all should be as reporters and anchors. He considered himself a “newsman” first … and later a news presenter. He never considered himself above the news he was covering and because he didn’t have that “anchor” look or “anchor” hair, we listened as a nation to what he had to say. It almost seemed as if he had spent the day gathering the news, writing the copy … and reluctantly had to deliver the news on air.

You will hear a lot in the coming days, along with the tributes to this man, about the state of television news. You will hear how much the quality has fallen, the line has been blurred between news and entertainment and how today’s anchorpeople fall woefully short of Walter. You may even hear how Walter could not get an anchor job today because he doesn’t have the anchor look.

To all this I say bull. This is no time to bemoan what is wrong with TV news. Rather this is a time to celebrate a life that turned what we do into an important function. Just as it did in Cronkite’s day, the television is where the majority of Americans turn to see breaking news unfold. Say what you want about Twitter, the Internet and all these web ways to watch defining moments. From 9-11 to the death of Michael Jackson, we all turned to TV and we all listened to the narration and dissemination of facts from the anchor.

What Walter Cronkite did was set this tone for this practice. The use of short, descriptive words delivered with calm and caring. The brief allowance for emotion and the adding of context to the pictures that we see. That has not changed since Cronkite took our national through the painful assassination of President Kennedy. We as anchor people still do that today … and we have Walter to thank for giving up the blueprint.

Driving The Way It Used To Be
July 16, 2009

Around 6pm tonight, Seventh Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh was turned into a parking lot loaded with very rare and very expensive cars. Alfa Romeos, MGs and BMWs. There cars from eras gone by: 1950’s and 1960’s. Some were meant for racing while others were designed from cruising but all had one thing in common. They were all in perfect condition.

Welcome to the world of the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. The 27th annual event is really a week’s worth of activity from public cars shows to private fund-raisers. This celebration of the best machines on four wheels culminates with this weekend’s Vintage Grand Prix. Its a race through the winding streets of Schenley Park.

On the outside, it probably looks like people with a lot of money to spend who have decided to invest their dollars in classic cars. That would be the wrong assumption. True, the vintage car collection business is not cheap but investing is not what drives these drivers. No, its a passion for putting the pedal to the medal and doing something they can only do in Pittsburgh.

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Behind the wheel of the 1959 Elva Formula Junior

There are vintage grand prix races across the country, but almost all take place in controlled environments: from airfields to race courses. I discovered tonight the Pittsburgh Grand Prix is the only event in this country that actually pays homage to the days of road racing when these cars would run through the streets of an actual city. That is the thrill these drivers seek … and that is what they pay for. There is no prize money at stake and their entry fee goes to the Allegheny Valley School. No, they race so they can feel that singular thrill of flooring it on a snaking, winding course.

I’m not much of a car enthusiast, but I have to admit I was blown away by the cars that were on display …. and the passion many of these men and women have for racing. I know anything above 75 miles an hour would scare me. However, this is a different breed of folk who truly have a need for speed.

Looking for something off the beaten track ( or course ), then check out the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. While these drivers pay for the privilege to experience racing the way it used to be, you get to enjoy the cars careening around the course … for free.

A Renewal of Our Faith … In Love
July 15, 2009

I’m not sure what it is about weddings.

I mean its our most sacred institution, but perhaps our ordinary. Despite the variations, its been the same since the dawn of time. Two people get up, hold hands and before the Almighty as well as their assembled family and friends, pledge their love and affection from now until the end of time.

Even though I know what will happen each time I go to a wedding I cannot help but be moved by the experience. Such was the case this weekend in West Palm Beach. My agent, business partner and friend Bill LaPlante walked his daughter Lauren down the aisle and asked me to be there. I was happy to do so. I had known Lauren since she was a little girl. While I am not her mom or dad, to see her walk down the aisle was a wonderful and moving thing.

laplante family

The LaPlantes, my second family, celebrates daughter Lauren’s wedding.

As everyone sits and watches the ceremony, they cannot help but think back to their special day. I remember mine. It was a sunny day in June in St Thomas in 2000. It rained one hour before the ceremony, but when the skies cleared we  were wed in front of our parents, our close friends … and more than a few beach combers. It was a special day that holds great memories and images for me.

I think weddings, whether they are our moment or someone else’s, are a renewal of our faith in love. Either in the power of love if you happen to be with someone during that wedding … or the hope that love is there for each one of us if we happen to attend the wedding alone. A wedding is the greatest expression of love that two people can share. It’s also the launching of a great journey called life that the couple who take together.

A journey in which love shuld only grow … and hopefully the best is yet to come … for those witnessing the wedding as well as the happy newlyweds.

Serving Up More than Coffee
July 13, 2009

Monday morning.

Let’s be honest, no one (  not even your chipper correspondent ) enjoys getting up and going to work on Mondays which is why I love working evenings. However,  Monday morning is even more difficult for the millions of Americans who do not have a job. It’s easy to gripe about having to go work … but at least I have a job.

The priority of the unemployed is different. They are struggling for their very survival and their is a ticking clock – their severance. Talk about deadlines and pressure. I thank the Lord everyday that I am gainfully employed. I know an increasing number of people who are not.

One of them is my friend Richard Citrin. He and I met last year while I was taking a course called Leadership Pittsburgh. Richard is a successful executive who got caught in the numbers game. Now, he is among the growing number of unemployed persons in our region. While we are on the move and have been an example of weathering the recession, western Pennsylvania is still feeling the sting of the economy.

Richard and I reconnected last week and played golf. Obviously the down time has allowed him to get better at this game. He always beat me before. Now, he really beats me. However, during our discussion of his plans to “get back in the game”, Richard forwarded me an article he wrote for the Post-Gazette. A very interesting article.

I will let you read it. It’s entitled Memo From A Panera Booth. In summary, it’s about Richard’s plans to rebound from his layoff. However, during his attempt to set up an office at home, Richard found that being a home was no office. That is where he went to escape work.

Instead, he found a haven … and a new place to connect … at his local Panera Bread store. Now I don’t want to turn this into an advertisement, but I eat at Panera between broadcasts because I like the Chicken Chipolte sandwiches. However, Richard found even better reasons to visit Panera.

For the savvy worker looking to save a few bucks, the free refills and the free Wi-Fi make an enticing combination. It’s one less expense for him. He also discovered that he is not alone. Given the number of Paneras in town, there are many of the newly unemployed who have found refuge at the store … and made connections as well.

The point of all this is that even the most difficult of times professionally, there is creativity. It’s that kind of resourcefulness that will get Richard “back in the game”. It will also allow him create a new place to make contacts that will help him advance his career. Of course, Richard also knows he needs to be out of there by noon … before the working lunchtime crowd arrives and takes over the place.

I wish nothing but the best for Richard – and the rest of those – battling to get back to work. Having lost my job once in my life, I know the feeling it can take emotionally and physically. I know it often identifies who we are and what we are about. I hope this economic downturn ends soon and people are able to get back to work.

That way Panera can be a place where Richard and I can get together … just for fun.

Alive & Well
July 10, 2009

The year is 2009. At least that is what the calendar tells us, but sometimes there are events that take place in this world that make you wonder whether its 1969 … or 1889.

Two recent events come to mind. The first happened across the state, outside Philadelphia, where a group of African-American children say they suffered the ultimate humilaition. They were campers – paid campers – at this private swim club. However, when the 65 kids dove in, they say they faced derogatory comments from the people already there … and some parents pulled their kids out of the water.

The group, Creative Steps, was later told their swimming privileges were being rescinded and their $2000 fee for the summer was being returned. The club president later told a Philadelphia TV station that club member complained because the children “fundamentally changed the atmosphere” at the pool, but it had nothing to do with race. They say the isssue is overcrowding and lack of facilities. 

The club board has since said the any chares racism is completely untrue.

Obviouisly, I would be more sensitive to cases of racial discrimination, but we should all be outraged that this is even going on. There really is no defense for the members of the swim club and their alleged behavior. The least they could do is come to sort of comprimise on pool use if “overcrowding” is the issue. Racism or not,  to put children in the middle of this is the worst form of child abuse I can imagine.

However, racism need actually take place for it to hurt and anger. A recent story on ABC News.com left me wondering if we had made any progress at all. The title is “Will Michael Jackson’s ‘White Kids’ Get Along in a Black Family?”. The gist of the story is that Jackson’s three young children – Paris, Michael and Blanket – must not only deal with the loss of their father but must adjust to life with a black family, should a Jackson family member end up with custody.

Not to oversimplify, but this article turned the children plight into a story of trans-racial adoption and the difficulty for the children to adjust with their lighter skin to the darker-skinned members of their family.

Are you serious?

Does anyone realize that these kids are not suddenly being thrust into an African-American family and culture? Janet Jackson has been their aunt since the day they were born and its quite obvious that these children know the rest of the family and what they look like. Anyway, does anybody remember that Michael Jackson ( appearance aside ) is an African-American?

Its an insulting theory to the children and to the Jackson family. Its also an insult to African-Americans when you say that you wonder how “white kids” will adjust and yet no one is ever concerned with a white family adopts a child of a minority group. It reminds me of the comment I heard when Sharon and I first started dating. She is Serbian but her appearance is Caucasian. Someone asked me “what do her parents think?”. Never was she asked what do my parent think.

Race has always been that issue that we – as a country – have never been able to deal with and always walked around with kid gloves. Unlike the comments of Attorney General Eric Holder, I do not think we are “A nation of cowards” when it comes to race. We just have a subject that is not easy to break down, filled with a strange and painful history and one that has no easy answers.

All that being said, there are examples of stupidity in the racial discourse of this country. These are two clear examples.

A Pro Pittsburgh Stance
July 9, 2009

Imagine this:

You come into my town and make your fortune … paying a nominal fee to do yuor business in my backyard …. and then leave, taking your riches elsewhere.

OK, that’s pretty simplistic, you get the idea if you have heard the latest proposal from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. He wants people who work in Pittsburgh, but choose to live outside the city limits, to pay more than the current $52 work tax. He is lobbying state lawmakers to give them the power to raise that tax on “suburbanites” to $145 annually.

On the surface, its hard to argue. Pittsburgh is a city in need of money to balance its budget and give its residents the services necessary to live. Why not tax the folks who benefit from Pittsburgh but don’t live in the city. Its a stance that will win him the votes of residents and those who are complaining don’ t have a vote in the city’s next mayoral race.

luke tax

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl: Proposing raising the tax on “suburbanites” who work in Pittsburgh. Great political move … if you live inside the city limits.

Of course, there’s a flip side to all this.

At best, this can be called taxation without representation: taxing people who have no vote. It’s also raising the tax on people who more than just come into town and make their fortune within the city limits. Pittsburgh is not just the city’s name, its the region;s moniker and if not for those who work in it but choose to live outside of it, Pittsburgh might have gone under long ago. They may be taxed just $52, but I’m sure they spend more than $52 every year on food and parking. Suffice to say, the greatest economic impact comes from the people who commute into town to work every day.

What’s the answer to raising more money for a financially-strapped city? I do not know. State lawmakers from our region opposed to the idea say cut the fat and look for ays to reduce the amount the city spends. That’s nice in theory, but you tell me how popular you are going to be when you cut $80K from expenses by passing on that Pens championship parade.

I’m sure there will be a happy medium reached … and that means the city work tax will most certainly go up in the coming year. While the money is needed, and the argument from the city side is understandable, please don’t make those who live outside the city limits and work inside seem like some sort of carpet baggers.

The Circus Gets Real
July 8, 2009

I have to admit when I tuned in to watch today’s memorial service for Michael Jackson, I was expecting to see a concert. I was expecting to see more of a freak show than a tribute to the musician. I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised.

The service, on the whole, was dignified and poignant. It focused on the positives without being over the top ( even the $25K gold-plated casket ). It was filled with more music than talk and more singing than speeches. Other than Al Sharpton who somehow connected Jackson’s breakthrough on MTV 28 years ago to helping Barack Obama becoming President of the United States ( a bit of stretch as far as I am concerned ), I thought it was fairly normal.

All that being said, it wasn’t until the end that I finally realized that someone had died.

paris jackson

Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris: For me, her words made it real.

I’m serious. I saw the “celebrity” grief, complete with matching sequined gloves and all the family members wearing sunglasses – indoors. I saw Brooke Shields cry and Jermaine Jackson hold back emotional as he sang, but I never sensed any real grief … until Jackson’s 11-year-old daughter spoke.

She was not wearing sunglasses. She wore her pain on her face for the whole world to see. She was simple. She was real. She was elegant. She was simply a daughter who had lost her father. No matter what you may think of the man, the molestation charges, the weirdness or the plastic surgery, there was one role he served that was indisputable. He was this young girl’s father … and this daughter was suddenly without a parent.

Frankly, that was all I needed to see to understand that someone had died. That made the whole Jackson thing real … at least for me. My only hope is that this girl finds some solace and comfort … and does not become the next sacrificial lamb for the tabloids.

Of course, I know better.

Death: Its Only the Beginning
July 6, 2009

He did die Thursday, June 25th, right?

Just thought I would check because with all the coverage on the national network and cable news, you would think Michael Jackson is on his deathbed. No matter where you turn, there are shows with the “inside” story on Michael Jackson: his death, the drugs he was taking, the people he was with at the time, the secret tapes, etc.

It’s quite obvious that Michael Jackson was loved by millions worldwide, influencing a generation of musicians and young people. He made people very happy and despite the child molestation case, he is genuinely loved by people around the world.

All that being said, since when did this guy who hasn’t had a hit record in five years suddenly earn the kind of deity status reserved for heads of state? Here’s Al Sharpton( and since when did he become the conscious of  a nation ) asking that Tuesday’s memorial service become a national day of mourning. Folks, I know he was the “King of Pop”, but last I checked no one voted him into that office. Come to think of it, I don’t the death and remembrance of Ronald Reagan lasted this long.

While I think it makes sense to broadcast the proceedings Tuesday inside the Staples Center ( 17,000 seats and 1.6 million applied to get tickets ), I think all the ancillary coverage has gone way too far. It’s even being called a seminal moment, his passing, like that of Elvis Presley a generation ago. The difference is that we live in a world which celebrates celebrity to excess.

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The late “King of  Pop”: Sorry to see him go, but given the amount of coverage his passing has been getting, is he really really gone?

Truth be told, I don’t even know if he is truly dead. I keep hearing it, but until I see MJ in that $25K gold-plated casket, I probably won’t believe it. The cynic in me says that this is all part of this comeback tour and somehow on Tuesday he will rise from the dead and start this concert tour he planned before his passing.

OK, I am getting cynical, but I’m getting tired of hearing from all the members of the Jackson family … who by the way are now planning a concert tour to remember Michael. Oh great, the Jackson 4 … or will LaToya and Janet be joining them.

I will always hjave fond memories of  Michael Jackson, the artist. He could sing and he could write great music. His appearance? Let me just stay away from that. I guess what I’m saying is leave me with my memories and please don’t tell me this is something greater than what it is: the premature passing of a pop music performer.

Head Scratcher in South Carolina
July 2, 2009

There are some stories you just cannot make up. The latest to cross our desk is the deal in South Carolina involving the Governor and his affair with a woman from Argentina. In case you haven’t heard about this, I will give you the Cliff Notes version:

Governor goes away to Argentina without telling his staff – or anyone else for that matter – and consummates a long-time, e-mail relationship with a woman from South America. Upon returning, he’s busted and holds a news conference professing his guilt to the media. The govenor has a wife, four kids and possible Presidential aspirations. As of tonight, he still has the wife and four kids.

The story should, for the public’s purpose, should have ended there. However, Governor Mark Sanford showed off his gift for gab at the press conference where he admitted to the affair. Now, he’s gone one step further.

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South Carolina governor Mark Sanford … and the ultimate example of TMI.

In what was described as an emotional interview with the Associated Press, Sanford admitted he had “crossed the line” with other women but did not have sex with them. Wait, it gets worse – and even harder to believe. He calls the “other” woman his “soul mate”. Still, he says he would “try and fall in love” with his wife all over again.

Did I really need to know this? More to the point, did his wife need to know this? I can see the breakfast conversation the day after these interviews. She asks him not to do her any favors and “try” and fall in love with me all over again.

What was this guy thinking?

When one spouse cheats on another, it’s never pretty. However, there are different ways to admit your infidelity. The best is just to admit doing it without giving too many details. Hearing the “other woman” is still his “soul mate” can’t make Mrs. Sanford very happy and to hear the governor is going to “try” and fall in love with his wife again might be worse than the original sin.

Political figures seem to always end up in these sexual quagmires. Some will actually save their careers … and their jobs. Sanford offers a textbook example on how not to handle scandal. In this case, less would be more. Instead, his political career is history and I would assume his marriage may follow.

The Superstar Next Door
July 1, 2009

When it comes to sports – as a nation in general – we have a rather limited concept of what truly constitutes a sport. If its not football, basketball, baseball, hockey or NASCAR, its often doesn’t get network coverage or big-time attention. That’s too bad because some of the most incredible athletes live on the fringe.

Such is the story of Kristi Leskinen, who has become a bona fide star in the sport of freeskiing. Essentially, the half pipe and other forms of performance skiing that need not only skill, but also creativity, daring and a flare for the dramatic. She has become the leader in this genre known as Action Sports. By the way, did I mention she was from Fayette county?

Now, she has an opportunity to show her stuff to the entire country. Kristi is competing on the ABC reality series “The Superstars” where she matches wits and talents with the likes of Terrell Owens, Brandi Chastain and Lisa Leslie. I had a chance to sit down with Kristi at her Fayette County home. You know it better as The Summit Inn. The resort has been run by her family for some 60 years.

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Kristi ( Second from left ) with her mother, two sisters and a visitor

That’s where Kristi grew up and learned skiing and just about every other sport under the sun. She says Farmington is a wonderful place to come back to … and the skills she learned as a child have helped her in this competition against some of the heroes she grew up watching.

But for Kristi, instead of individual fame, she says her appearance on “The Superstars” is her chance to advance the cause of Action Sports. Except for the X-Games, their sports get very little attention. Kristi figures if she can perform well and equal her contemporaries from other sports on the field of play, the audience will want to learn more about this freeskiing star from Fayette County … and the sports she plays.

You can count me as one of her new fans … and one who wants to learn about her field of play: the world of Action Sports.