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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life

Broken News
Extra-Literary Entertainment, Part Two (continued from #10)
by Hariette Surovell ||
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One almost wishes that the Mormon Angel Moroni, the Italian angel, had descended upon the 2002 Salt Lake City, UT Olympics. Between Vladimir Putin's mistaking the Ice Games for the Cold War, the South Koreans acting like"axes of evil" by hiring a local law firm to diss-pute the speed-skating referees, the Lithuanian ice-dancers litigiously following in the Canadians' footwork , this noble sporting event promoting world harmony (see Adolph Hitler, 1936) was more like a Rumble in the Olympic Village. I couldn't quite distinguish between the Jets and the Sharks, but I wished Officer Krupke would put in an appearance, or Rodney King ( "Can't we just all get along?") or even Emily Post!
     For this sportsfan, not even the first-ever performance of Jonny Moseley's "dinner roll" could equal the adrenaline-packed thrill of watching the Olympic Village's very own Lois Lane, Kelly O'Connell. Sporting crimson hair, scarlet lipstick, and a vermilion sweater, the ace investigative reporter told Dick Clark-clone Mike Costas how she had staked-out the controversial French figure-skating judge, Marie Reine Le Gougne, widely-described as being both "emotionally fragile" and "corrupt". The excitement in her voice as palpable as if she had just landed a quadruple axel, O'Connell reported, "She was recently seen at her hotel speaking with an unidentified man. Reports that she has checked out of the Olympic Village have not been verified."
     Give Kelly a 5.9 for performance! I was as jazzed as if I had just injected darbepoetin (hey, couldn't everyone use some extra red blood cells?) Yet no sooner did Kelly score, than the dispute was settled, duplicate gold medals were given to the modest but fervent Canadian pair (Now watch, just like James Cameron winning his Oscar, soon they'll be shouting out, "We're king and queen of the world!"), and the intrigue was over. No more need for O'Connell's sneaky reporters tricks! The only fun left for me was hoping that Michelle Kwan fell down (she did not disappoint). My reactions were based solely on her "New York Post" interview in which she shared her hubris-y world view about how it "wasn't all about winning the Gold Medal. I feel like, 'Hey, I'm Michelle Kwan. Whatever!' "
     Not even remotely entertaining, however, was speed-skater Apolo Ohno being blizzarded with 16,000 hate e-mails (including death threats) after he won on a technicality, shutting down the U.S.O.C.'s server for nine hours. This reminded me of Cynthia Cotts getting "freeped" for pointing out in her "Village Voice" column "Press Clips" that the media in general, and CNN most specifically, had pulled a Le Gougne of sorts by implying that John Walker Lindh was guilty before he had been duly tried. She received over 50 e-mails, seemingly largely composed by American males with a Taliban-esque mentality towards women, who attributed her reportorial success to her typing ability (click here for more).
     I wondered: Has technology become what my cousin Jonathan Katz, aka "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist" would call "a blurse--a blessing and a curse"?
     With the Games complete, and the requisite 20 partying drunken youths arrested, who else but a hip and wholesome band like Kiss to perform at the Olympics closing ceremonies? Stan Eisen, aka Paul Stanley, who grew up about half a mile away from me in my childhood hood, widely picked-on because he had been born with only half an earlobe (children are so cruel… guess who's laughing now!), informed the press that Kiss "would provide a memorable Olympic moment" by playing its signature hit "Rock and Roll All Nite" in full make-up.
     "We're going to do the rock 'n' roll national anthem," Eisen said in an interview. "Since every country is being represented, the Kiss Army has to represent with 'rock and roll all nite and party every day, ' !"
     I awarded Eisen, a graduate of my own elementary school, P.S. 154 in Flushing, Queens, a 3.2 for grammar!
     His quote reminded me of basically any statement made by Mother-of-the-Year Linda Kantares, star of the "Transexual Custody Case", which aired in February, 2001, on Court-TV. The live coverage was as addictive as darbepoetin. Linda Kantares, a former donut-frier turned elementary-school teacher, who never encountered a double negative she didn't embrace, was ridiculed by her very own lawyer, Claudia Wheeler. Establishing thrilling new legal precedent, the mouthpiece stated, "My client is obviously really, really stupid." I couldn't decide which was more fascinating: medical expert Dr. Huang, describing an artificially-constructed penis as a "meat-stick"; Linda herself, who when told that a court psychologist had diagnosed her as having "borderline personality disorder" screeched, "I'd like to confront him about where did he got that idea!" and who blithely chatted away about how son Matthew "doesn't feel no pain" when she routinely "clocked him in the mouth". Dignified Judge Gerald O'Brien seemed to have the most difficulty pronouncing the name of Transexual Dad Michael Kantares' new flame, Sherry Noodwang, calling her, "Ms. Woodwang", "Ms. Woodwing" and even, "Ms. Hoodwink". The white-haired jurist otherwise acclimated seamlessly to the proceedings. Initially reserved, eventually he comfortably debated the intricacies of strap-on dildoes.
     Now that I am teaching college after a 20 year sabbatical, my Court-TV watching days are dramatically-limited. As I will be teaching a summer course called "Great Works", colleagues constantly ask me "What books do you read?" I reply, "The Cool World" (by Warren Miller, Fawcett, 1959). Written in the scornful, bewildered, observant, cynical, wistful, placating, bemused "voice" of a Black gangmember, Duke Custis, it was called "One of the finest novels about Harlem that has ever come my way" by none other than James Baldwin, who also couldn't determine whether the white, Jewish author was, in fact what was then termed a "Negro". This seems clueless on Baldwin's part. Clearly, Miller himself is symbolized by the juvenile-home shrink, Doc Levine, who sums up the book's message-within-a-message when he tells Duke (sic), "Readin…That the beginning of evry thing…When you can read an write why you can do any thing. Do any thing. Be any thing."
     Anyway, I was originally going to compose this Rant "soully" about "The Cool World", but then I reached out through the miracle of the Internet and discovered America's premiere Warren Millerologist, who well-intentionedly and courteously barraged me with so many e-mails (it became somewhat of a blurse) linking Warren Miller to everyone from Earl Warren to Warren G. Harding that I will need at least another semester to digest all this data and write a worthy homage. In the interim, I continue to read and re-read this masterpiece, wondering if I am afflicted with a form of literary autism. Savoring each sentence a requisite three times, postponing the pleasure of one of the book's most classic lines, in the final chaper, "Man that one sue cio city an I don't care if I never see it again." (You kind of have to be there…) I'm still in a snit that "The Cool World" lost out in 1960's National Book Award contest to Philip Roth for "Good-bye, Columbus" (on my deathbed, will I be able to forgive either that literary body or the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences for awarding 1950's Best Actress Oscar to "Born Yesterday's" one-note Judy Holliday rather than to genius Gloria Swanson for "Sunset Boulevard"?). However, as I bemoaned Miller's loss, I was reminded of a Roth classic, "Portnoy's Complaint", which seemed the perfect suggestion for one of my freshman students on his winter break looking for a fun read!
Michael Valevich chimed in with this precocious book review:
" Subject: Re: need a good book
To: rp@panix.com
I'm half way through 'Portnoy's Complaint' - finally got it from the library.
Somebody didn't want to give it up. It's a beautiful, beautiful book. It
should be in every Jewish household - kept next to the Menorah or in center
of the bookcase or in some other significant place."

I am also compulsively reading Matthew Ehrlich, (aka Gustave), on the website "Television Without Pity -- 24" in which he takes on the new, thrilling, originally-formatted, yet eminently dissable and laughably ludicrous cliff-hanger, "24", starring Kiefer Sutherland, which airs Tuesdays on Fox-TV at 9 p.m. With each weekly episode, Matthew Ehrlich composes a veritable classic of world literature!
     As regards movies in general, they are almost all becoming sillier than the average Kiss performance. Contemporary cinematic efforts seem to be completely devoid of serious fact-checking, thus preventing the necessary suspension of disbelief. Documentaries excluded, only when a movie's details are accurate can the viewer immerse him/herself in fantasy. But screenwriters, directors, producers, et al have been playing free and loose with the facts ever since Dustin Hoffman, an ambitious, oft-promoted advertising executive confessed to earning only $28,000 a year while ex-wife Meryl Streep, who had been hired by "Mademoiselle's" Art Dept. in her first-ever post-college gig trumped him by pulling in $31K in "Kramer vs. Kramer". Filmic fact-checking has deteriorated to such a degree that when a film actually gets the details right, it's a cause for celebration. I have already put in my 400 words on the subject at www.rj93.com, but, Movie Fans, the ranting has barely begun!
     The platinum standard for inaccuracy in films is the now-so-bad-it-has-become-a-cult-classic, "Eyes Which Really, Really, Really Should Have Stayed Wide Shut'. Four years after its much-maligned debut, I still can't believe that I, along with my fellow film critics waited so impatiently those two long years it took for Stanley Kubrick to make and to release it. One actually wonders whether the reclusive genius, who had been living in an English castle repeatedly watching Steve Martin's "The Jerk", and who died before "Eyes"' opened, was actually playing a joke on his legions of fans with this swan-song whose lyrics read, "Fuck you, you suckers!" Since 1999, in a form of cinematic autism, I have been alternately tormenting and entertaining myself by pondering the following:
1) Exactly what kind of house-call making doctor is Tom Cruise? He sees children, elderly patients, overdosed junkie hookers…and Nicole Kidman also refers to his performing breast exams. Just a run-of-the-mill 32 year old multi-zillionaire family practitioner/cum gyno/cum rehab specialist?
2) Why would the prostitute not charge him for time spent?
3) Since when does a medical license function as a detective badge? Tom Cruise flashes his everywhere he goes, explaining, "I am a doctor" to: successfully get information from a waitress and also a motel desk clerk on the whereabouts of pianist pal "Nick Nightingale" and to the owner of the costume shop, to gain entry after it has closed. Undercover cops in NYC should have it so good! ?" Cruise, however, dazzles as a virtual police impersonator, a la "Untrue Blue"! Okay, I know it's ONLY a television show, but nonetheless, consider "Law and Order". "We're here to investigate the quadruple homicides of your next-door neighbors, Ma'am," Briscoe will delicately volunteer, only to be countered with, "Can't ya see I'm making a tunafish sandwich/washing my hair/re-arranging my file cabinets?" Or, "Go away, I'm watching my soaps/taking a nap/jerking off!" average citizens will yell from behind closed doors. Even better, "You guys got a warrant? Otherwise call my lawyer!" "Law and Order" fans: If two homicide detectives were ever to knock on my door, if I were as innocent as Olympic snow, or as guilty as Robert Blake (Does art imitate life OR WHAT?) I would invite them to sit down and say, "Yessirs, Officers, Sirs, is there any way in which I can hopefully help you, Sirs Officers Mr. Policemen Sirs?"
     I was planning to count the amount of times Tom Cruise utters the phrase, "I am a doctor", when I figured it might be simpler to note the times he actually DOESN'T say it. Then I lost interest in this exercise. Perhaps the movie should actually be re-titled, "I am a Doctor". Whoop-ti-doo.
4) I did calculate a running tab of the amount of cold cash Tom spent. Why? Because he wandered through the mean streets of Manhattan at 4 a.m., chased by threatening orgy-organizing henchmen, and gangs of macho college kids calling him "Mary" (In 1999? Not, "Hey, Fag?") limo-less, with a wallet full of Benjamins, and yet never once stopped at a cash machine. He spent : $150 on the prostitute, who never mentions her name (yet, oddly, when Cruise returns to her apartment the next day, discovering that she has just received the results of her Annual Christmas Eve Aids Test, he refers to "Domino"); $375 at the costume shop ,and $180 plus the amount of the running-meter of the taxi which drove him out to the Long Island orgy-mansion (another $200? $300?). Plus, he drank a cappuccino at a West Village café: $3.75 + tip, although he seems to have run out without paying THAT tab!
5) It was set in contemporary New York City, but there were no blue re-cycling garbage cans on the pristine streets!
6) Exactly what does Tom Cruise mean when he tells med-school mess-up Nick Nightingale, "You know what they say…once a doctor, always a doctor." This statement seemed as illogical as the critically-acclaimed and incessantly-quoted Danny DeVito line in David Mamet's "Heist": "Everyone needs money; that's why they call it money."
7) When Cruise goes in to check on the overdosed hooker he has conveniently just read about in "The New York Post" (wouldn't someone who boasts about "being a doctor" in every other sentence pick up the elitist "New York Times"?) he tells the woman at the hospital's front desk (was it indeed a hospital or a five-star hotel?) that he was her physician and had checked her in earlier in critical condition, yet the newspaper story says that she overdosed in her home. Perhaps this is more of a plothole than an inaccuracy, because wouldn't the doctor's name who brought her in--DEAD, not still alive--be on that computer?
8) After leaving the kind of 27-room apartment replete with uniformed Third World maid only seen in Woody Allen movies, Cruise walks a few blocks, into the West Village, when he clearly could only have been either on Central Park West or the Upper East Side.
9) Just as it strains credulity to imagine an aging Eastern European Lothario trying to pick up a chick at a party by asking her if she has read the oeuvre of Ovid, as well as by bragging, "I know some people IN THE ART GAME" could (would) Sydney Pollack (or anyone) really forget the name "Nick Nightingale", when he referred to "that prick piano-player, Nick whatever the fuck his name was"? Sydney, by the way, appears to reside in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
     I was naturally steamed over the 2002 Academy Awards Ceremony--but not for the coolheaded reasons cited by the critics. I wanted The Oscars to replicate The Olympics, since its frosty atmosphere was barely concealed behind the luke-warm scripted banter. Imagine if the show had been replete with tantrums, protests, lawsuits, investigative reporters, Stan Eisen "representing with rock and roll all nite and party every day! "Although there were frightful profusions of British Sirs and Dames in all their foppish/frumpishness, not a single saucy French soubrette comme Juliette Binoche seduced as either nominee or presenter. Porquois pas Madame Le Gougne? The account of her confession by Richard Pfenning, the Olympic skating referee, who claims "she broke down in the post-competition meeting on the morning after the event (with) a rambling avalanche of words," reveals to this celeb-watcher that "La Femme Fragile" may in fact be a veritable Tinsel-Towner who should check herself into Promises Rehab Center STAT! (Quick! Call Melanie Griffith--see Corpse 10). Wouldn't the bronze figure-skating medalist also have pumped up the animosity lurking so blatantly beneath the surface like freezing waters beneath a sheath of ice? Imagine those ice-queens, Joan and Melissa "Frozen" Rivers sneezing at Kwan's gown (might she wear one of her trademark tacky, sequined baby-doll nighties...I mean, skating-costumes?) What better come-back than, 'Hey, I'm Michelle Kwan! Whatever!'

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