Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Political Tango

Mark Sanford won't take a hike. On the Appalachian Trail. Or out of office. South Carolina's wayward governor says he thought about calling it quits; but that would be the easy route. So after tearfully admitting to an affair with an Argentine woman, he'll continue his grotesque mid-life tango on the public stage.

Tuesday he made further confessions during an interview with the Associated Press. It seems his love affair with Maria Belen Chapur, who he describes as his " soul mate," is not his only dalliance. He has " crossed the line" several times over the years, but didn't have sex with any other women. And--let's be clear-- he's never been in love with anyone but Maria. Except for his wife, of course, who for the record, he's "trying to fall back in love with."

This guy's got quite the routine. So he's got a few kinks to work out, so what? All the elements are there for an odd lounge act. He's got the awkward ad-libs, the melodramatic faux tears and a bizarre medley including samples from the Broadway songbook: " Maria... I've just met ( well about eight years ago) a girl called Maria;" 'Don't Cry for Me, Argentina;" classic rock from The Clash, " Should I stay or should I go?" and Brenda Lee's standard, " I'm Sorry... so sorry."

Sanford's huddled with political advisers (but couldn't drop off the keys to SC's political kingdom with Lt. Governor Bauer before going AWOL) and spiritual gurus. He and his wife engaged in a Christian marriage "boot camp," led by a bible thumping court reporter named Cubby Culbertson whose name sounds like a game show host from a John Waters movie. His efforts to rekindle the long lost passion with his wife Jenny has taken him to visits at their beach house and Sunday dinner chaperoned by his eighty-three year old mama at the family farm ( could have been worse, could have been her mother).

With the relationship still a long way from thawed, the Sanfords traveled in separate cars. That allowed him time to work on his version of Billy Paul's " Me and Mrs. Jones.... we have a thing goin' on." While Mrs. Sanford could lead foot it as Gloria Gaynor blared " I Will Survive."

For her part, Jenny Sanford is no longer concerned about her husband's career and whether or not he finishes up his last lame duck eighteen months in office. She's got her four boys to worry about. But don't worry about her; she'll not only survive, she'll thrive, thank you very much. In case you hadn't noticed Jenny's mad. So mad Dr. Drew Pinsky, offered his sound-bite diagnosis on CNN last week, detecting "a disturbing rage." Sorry, Dr. Drew. I'm sure Mrs. Sanford's not too concerned about your delicate sensibilities. She's probably not too worried about her hubby's staffers either, many of whom are relieved her heavy-handed political choreography has exited stage right.

Jenny Sanford's got a solo show of her own to develop. No doubt there will be pitches for a memoir and maybe a cookbook in the offing. They'll be appearances on Larry King , Oprah and the morning show circuit to negotiate.

And should Jenny Sanford's Survival/Thrival Tour happen to cross paths with the Governor's Mea Culpa Tour, they can share a bittersweet tango. Or a WWF Smackdown.

Wouldn't want to miss it? Not to worry. I have a feeling the cameras will be rolling.I wouldn't be surprised if the Sanfords get a call from the producers of
Jon Hates Kate: Let's Debate the Fate of the 8.

They can call their reality show Sanford and Sin.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Cupcake Gestapo

Be warned: the Health Food Police are on patrol and their aiming their alfalfa sprouts at school birthday parties.

I'm not kidding, kids. There are people who want to zap the fun right out of kiddie parties. My sister was confronting this problem last week when I found her angsting over what to bring to my nephew's first grade birthday bash. Ever sagacious, Auntie A suggested a big box of crowd-pleasing cupcakes. A shrug and an eye roll later, I learned that while cupcakes aren't officially forbidden from my nephew's health-conscious elementary school, they are frowned upon. So she was debating between fruit kabobs and something called ants on a log. This scrumptious sounding delicacy is actually celery sticks smeared with cream cheese ( preferably non-fat) and dotted with raisins. Hey, that sounds pretty tasty for a lunch box or after-school snack. But I doubt the crunchy confection would make the hearts of most seven year olds sing during a festive celebration. Not to mention my nephew's a finicky eater, a self described " meat and chocolate man" who will occasionally dip into the other food groups of pizza and ice cream.

The next day, to my amused amazement the pop culture pundits on The View were tackling this very issue. It seems "the cupcake wars" had hit the papers. No, my sister hadn't stormed the school brandishing bottles of whipped cream and hot fudge, demanding to hold the school hostage until every little mouth was filled with cupcake crumbs ( though that would have made for a much more dramatic story; and I do encourage friends and family to act as outrageously as possible whenever possible all in an effort to make my literary life a lot easier). It turns out, my clever, resourceful sister handled things just fine, settling on mini-bags of freshly popped popcorn which delighted both my nephew and his classmates.

A nutritional vigilante mom named MeMe Roth had apparently wreaked havoc upon her own kids' NYC school, urging them ( in a most annoying and brash way )to ban cupcakes and all junk food. MeMe-- a sort of Ann Coulter for the anti-fat, anti-food movement-- is so relentless and abrasive in her attempt to shame people into healthier eating, when she lived in Milburn, New Jersey, the PTA president sent her an e-mail that simply read, " Please consider moving." She uses strong-armed tactics, busting into schools, YMCAs, McDonalds, The Hershey Store, etc. She rails against her own mother for being obese; she blasts Angelina Jolie for letting her kids snack on Cheetos. And I'm pretty sure she spends her non-lunch hour sticking pins in her Paula Deen voodoo doll. MeMe may come off as a rabid bull in a candy shop, but she's got some pretty powerful ammo. After all, there are all sorts of studies out there: some have 1 in 5 kids as overweight or obese; some 1 in 3. Either way, kids are in big fat trouble. We all are.

But the occasional classroom cupcake is not the culprit. Blame our sedentary, super-sized lifestyles for making everyone, kid and adult alike, fatter and fatter over the last decade. Fast food meals are bigger than when we were kids (and if you read Fast Food Nation, you'll never want to go anywhere near a Big Mac again anyway). And kids spend many more hours a week in front of computers, TVs and video games than we did. They rarely spontaneously " play outside." I remember spending hours up the street riding bikes, playing tag, softball, whatever with whoever came out-- and running around for hours, often until it was getting dark and time for dinner. Nowadays, play dates have to be strategically arranged, often booked weeks, months in advance. And as anyone who watches Nancy Grace can tell you, since there's a bogeyman behind every other bush even in the safest neighborhoods, kids have to be schlepped to and fro. So there goes another opportunity or two to burn up extra junk food calories.

Of course, we all know proper nutrition and exercise should be encouraged at home and re-enforced at school. But as Whoopi Goldberg suggested, use a little common sense. "If I want my kid to have a cupcake, she can have a cupcake." And if you don't want your kid to eat a cupcake, tell her to pass. The truth is: deprivation diets don't work. I've been on my share. And I can start out like gangbusters, but within a week or two, or stuck on a pesky plateau, and the next thing I know I'm curled up with a big bag of M&Ms, with sixteen licorice Twizzlers hanging out of my mouth. Better to teach and model moderation. While no foods are deemed bad, go heavy on the veggies, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, dairy. Allow small treats and bigger ones on special occasions. And portion size is a biggie. The big thing is they should be smaller.

But let's not forever ban the venerable birthday cupcake. It's almost a national treasure. But it's a treasure with a secret. As a colorful, shimmering symbol of childhood, often topped with festive sprinkles or decorative candies, it's special. But as a treat, it's not so hot. At least the cupcakes from my childhood memories weren't that tasty; mostly dry little things with waxy frosting. So most kids eat one or two bites, then toss the rest in the trash. So really far more cupcake calories wind up in the garbage than in the kiddies' ever-expanding tummies.

Maybe the cupcake needs to hire a press agent. It worked for prunes. A PR firm re-fashioned the much-maligned old-fogey fruit and re-named them dried plums( which, of course, is what they are). Now that sounds like a happy, healthy treat that would be welcome at any celebration.

Rename the cupcake Harvard Admission. Rename sprinkles Full Scholarship. And before you can say " screaming MeMe" every nutritional vigilante mom will be back on board.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shake Her Money Maker

Cue the Eddie Holman classic, " Hey There, Lonely Girl." Ruth Madoff is in exile and she's having as much fun as Marie Antoinette awaiting her date with the guillotine.

Of course the wife of the biggest Ponzi schemer in history is not exactly withering in a dungeon, praying for a piece of cake upon which to nosh. No, Ruth is prattling around her multi-million dollar Fifth Avenue penthouse. Alone. So alone, according to a recent article in The New York Times, she has ditched her chic but understated designer duds for jeans and Oxford shirts. Such an interesting fashion choice could have arm chair psychologists labeling it simulated prison garb. Maybe she's practicing for the inevitable or just punishing herself. It doesn't matter; there's nothing to primp for anyway. Except visiting day at the federal lock-up in lower Manhattan. Her hair salon won't even let her come in for a dye job. And she's been shunned by her tony Hamptons florist, too. Her sons--both under investigation, but not yet charged in daddy Bernie's greedy grab--won't speak to her. And they now refer to their parents as Ruth and Bernie. ( could be worse; they could call them Mr. & Mrs. Madoff).

Feel sorry for Ruth? She is, after all, sixty-eight, and facing an unpromising future. So yeah, when pouring out the milk of human kindness, save a few drops for Ruth Madoff. But they're sour drops, their freshness date quickly expired when I read excerpts of victim impact letters printed in The New York Post. I feel for these people many of whom are not like Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, duped big time , but young and successful enough to rebuild their fortunes. I feel for those in their 70's, 80's, 90's, with neither the time nor stamina to recoup a substantial fraction of their losses. These people, once set for a comfortable retirement, must now rely on family members for meager survival. And what of those generations of families wiped out? These people must rely on social security and food stamps. I feel for the charities, foundations and pension funds pillaged, and the countless people and programs that depended on that money. Feel sorry for sixty-eight year old Ruth? How about compassion for the eighty-year old who has to grovel for a greeter gig at Walmart for minimum wage?

Ruth, of course, wants to keep prattling around her ritzy prison. But it's gotta go. It should be sold along with the houses in France, Florida and the Hamptons, the yacht, the jewels, the art. You know, Ruth, all the goodies you tried to stash away in the days before Bernie's big old house of cards came tumbling down. All the proceeds will eventually be divvied up among his victims, doled out as meager reparations.

Well, a girl's got to live somewhere, I know. So Ruth can move to more modest accommodations. There are several cozy downtown SROS, conveniently located near her hubby's current digs, that would surely welcome her tenancy. And with such close quarters and charming communal bathrooms, Ruth could easily make a lot of new friends.

And you never know, Ruth. If you play what's left of your grubby little cards right, the Feds might offer you three hots and a cot of your own. But probably at a different facility than Bernie's. Just as well. Doubt you want to be that close to the guy that shook up your world.

However it plays out, Ruth don't bother calling your hairdresser or florist. Seems your money's no good around here anymore.

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blog, Baby, Blog!

Ply me with coffee and I'm apt to agree to anything. Within reason. So credit or blame a recent Starbucks encounter I had with two radio listeners. Lamenting my canceled daily talk show, they urged me to share my views with the charge: " Blog, Baby, blog."

So here I go. I'll offer a wayward compendium of observations on everything from politics to pop culture, sandwiched between wry slices of life and garnished with my irreverent perspective. While I can't re-create the mosaic of voices I tried to weave together with listener calls, there is a comment section or contact me via e-mail. So, please have at me. I certainly don't want to be screaming into an empty blogosphere.

LETTERMAN vs. PALIN: David Letterman is in the middle of his Imus moment. And thanks to two apologies and a ratings' boost, he'll probably survive. Okay, so the joke about Sarah Palin's daughter being " knocked up by A-Rod in the seventh inning," was a big mistake. It didn't matter that Palin was at the game with her 14 year old daughter Willow and not Bristol, the targeted 18 year old unwed mom, who's now an out-spoken poster child for abstinence. The joke was tasteless and not very funny. Palin took Dave on quite a ride around the block in the back of her state-funded limo and she's still getting mileage out of it. First she issued a statement labeling the comments--and by implication--Letterman--perverted. This lead to Dave's first half-hearted apology. Saying he regretted the joke like he's regretted thousands he's told, Dave came as close to snarky as he can come.

Not enough for Palin, she blasted the late night comic on The Today Show. Now she was taking him on as a mom and a spokesperson for girls across America. Some women's groups got into the mix, suggesting that the joke adds to a denigration of girls and young women. Maybe. Every small cut, after all, hacks away at the wounded national self-esteem of teens and young adults. There's a provocative Calvin Klein billboard in SoHo that's dusting up liberal sensibilities, too.

So last night, Dave offered a second apology. This time he was at his sweet middle-aged mid-western aw-shucks best. The joke, he admitted again, was tasteless. It didn't matter what his intention was, he said, if it offended the Palin daughters and anyone else, he was sorry. He would, he said, try to do better in the future. Sounded sincere to me.

Palin accepted the apology, but in statement, continued to underscore the joke's inappropriate and potentially dangerous message. And protesters--presumably Palin supporters, but maybe not exclusively--were set to picket outside CBS this afternoon. And one hotel chain has reportedly pulled its ads from The Late Show.

So will Dave face the same fate as Imus? Doubtful. For one thing, he came out of the gate with an apology and a better follow-up. And, Palin is a far more polarizing figure than the innocent Rutgers Basketball team. Of course, all the attention has only helped Letterman in the ratings. He had topped Conan O'Brien last week before the brouhaha. And Conan's flailing a bit in the 11:30 slot, so add the commotion and Letterman will probably draw even more casual viewers.

The one who's got the real problem, I think, is Palin. Sure, this controversy has garnered her valuable prime face time on TV, the Internet and newspapers. And she's doing everything she can to prolong it. But should she be spending so much time on a " culture war" issue, albeit one that hits very close to home? If she's positioning herself for 2012, if she wants to be the face and voice of the tattered GOP, shouldn't she be taking on the President on something weightier like say, health care or the economy? The one thing she needs to do is eradicate her image as a political lightweight. Not so sure this is the issue to hang her presidential hopes on.

Looking for a fight, Governor? Next time,try taking on Gingrich or Limbaugh. Maybe she wants to be Limbaugh. Or at least replace him. Politics or the media? Either way, Sarah Palin can still see the spotlight from her porch in Alaska. And she wants to shine on and on. In the lower forty-eight.


WISE WORDS?: Barbara Walters offered life advice to Reality TV scions Spencer and Heidi Pratt. " You can't just be famous for being famous forever." Their big thought bubble: " Oh, yeah, Grandma? It got us on The View."

OH, BROTHER, OBAMA: The 27 year old half-brother of President Obama just scored a deal with Simon &Schuster...his memoir due out early next year will focus on the Kenyan's rise from poverty to his work as a successful community organizer. Think I read it already.

SCREEN SHAKERS: TCM is now selling Robert Osborne bobblehead dolls. If you want to shake up your movie memorabilia collection with a shaky image of the suave classic movie host, check out TCM.com. I can't wait for the Amy Beth bobblehead. Talk about a collector's item. Priceless.

Until next time.....

Drive safe. Play nice. Think peace.