I have no excuse for this oversight. I can only apologize that it was not until the closing hours of the Republican convention that I wandered up to the complimentary spa and makeover station set up in the building where the reporters covering the convention were working.
This is where I encountered Lisa Ellinwood, an esthetician with a firm called "Completely Bare." She has been doing complimentary hair removal waxings of journalist freeloaders during the Republican convention.
No, she said, not those waxings--but eyebrows. And, yes, she also yanked the moustaches off of several women in the media spa this week.
And, get this. After all that, Ellinwood--not complaining, mind you--said that many of the freebie-takers didn't even tip her.
"That's ok. They don't have to," she said.
On how many levels is this story cringe-worthy?
No wonder people have such a low opinion of journalists.
As Elllinwood spoke, makeup artists from Barneys were working away on two women while a man was getting a shampoo. Another fellow was getting a (fully clothed, thank God) massage.
REMEMBER HIM? Ben Ginsberg. Does that name sound familiar?
He was the Bush campaign's chief lawyer who quit last week in the flap over whether he was involved in those anti-Kerry Swift Boat ads. Apparently, it was not exactly a clean break. Ginsberg was the toast of the town at a post-convention bash Thursday night.
When you fall on your sword for the Bushes, they throw a party for you. Many Bush campaign officials attended.
BARGAIN HUNTING. Sadly, I didn't make it over to the Barneys New York Warehouse sale, but Energy Secretary Spence Abraham did.
He was spotted on the second floor, looking for a dressing room. That, however, is the women's floor. Apparently, he was misdirected in the sale frenzy.
THE BIG NEWS. Was anybody else baffled that there was so little primetime mention of the enormous story developing in Florida as President Bush (surprise!) was nominated to be the Republican candidate for president?
With well over a million people on Florida's east coast told to evacuate because of approaching Hurricane Frances, I searched vainly for information on the networks and news channels before and during the Bush speech Thursday night.
Only the Weather Channel told me what was happening in the state that was the reason that we even have President George W. Bush.
SEX AND POLITICS. "Vote Carrie," says the big campaign button somebody handed me in Times Square."
Sure, it's a gimmick. But, as Carrie Bradshaw might type into her Mac.... "Does politics really have to be so white, middle-aged and male? What if a savvy, smart woman in stilettos ran for President?"
What a concept: A President who can be a fashion role model and willing, even eager, to talk about sex in the White House-without a subpoena.
So, what's this all about? Free publicity, of course, for TBS, which is re-running the "Sex and the City" episodes.
The Carrie buttons even have blue ribbons attached. This in an era when real campaigns don't give buttons away (4 for $10 here, thank you). The real campaign freebies are paper stickers that will wreck your leather jacket.
For Carrie's campaign, there also are slick-paper fliers, billboards and newspaper ads. All show actress Sarah Jessica Parker in a Photo-shopped American flag mini dress and ankle strap four-inch heels. "Join the Cosmopolitan Party," the ads say.
At Madison Square Garden, Diddy's been showing off photos of stars wearing the movement's slogan "Vote or Die!" T-shirts (incidentally for sale at his new Fifth Avenue boutique.)
DON'T THINK SO. Jenna Bush, the blond twin, really strained credibility a couple nights ago when she told the American people, "Our parents are pretty cool. ...They know the difference between mono and Bono."
Well, that was Bono, sitting next to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) as the Speaker's special guest at a luncheon here.
Not surprisingly, he was the only person in the room in tinted shades. Bono is here pitching his bipartisan message of stemming the AIDs epidemic in Africa. A month ago, he made the rounds at the Democratic convention too.
DAILY DIVERSION: This week's fifth and final suggestion for something to do in New York that will offer a refuge from thoughts of the thousands of protesters outside Madison Square Garden and the thousands of delegates inside.
Chicago gets props at the Skyscraper Museum www.skyscraper.org at the southern tip of Manhattan. As you enter, there are wall-size blowups of essays by Chicago's Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, including Sullivan's famed declaration, "Form follows function."
With a little more time, you can make it a two-fer, with a trip to New York's only Louis Sullivan building. It's the Bayard-Condict building near Greenwich Village. The buff façade is recently restored, including the glorious terra cotta ornamentation.
Back soon from the campaign trail.
September 2, 2004 7:00 AM CDT: FLIP FLOPS TAKE TO THE STREETS
Flip Flops. They're not just a political statement any more.
If you've watched the GOP convention on television, perhaps you've seen some delegates wearing those cheap rubber shower shoes on their hands as they clap rhythmically and holler, "Four More Years!"
At the Waldorf Astoria I saw some elaborate ones on sale for $10 that have decal caricatures of John Kerry on each foot with the right sole reading "Flip" and the left "Flop." This, of course, is a reference to the Republicans' contention that John Kerry changes his position on issues.
But I'm not talking here about these political statements.
Unbeknownst, I'm guessing, to most of the people in Madison Square Garden, if they'd put the things on their feet they'd be in the middle of a very hot fashion statement--at least hot on the fashionable streets of the Big City.
The simple rubber flip flop, the kind you buy at the Dollar Store for $1 or J. Crew for 20 times that, are the footwear of choice for many of the pretty young things here.
Comedy Central's The Daily Show fake reporter Samantha Bee, a tres hip chick, wears black ones while on assignment interviewing politicians and conventioneers.
And there was a quartet of young swell-ettes at the St. Regis Hotel's King Cole Bar sipping cocktails wearing flirty summer dresses and those cheap rubber shower sandals, a "look" that even the least hip among us (witness the delegates) can adopt with ease.
DOGGONE. This was really just an excuse to spend an hour or two in Central Park on a sunny day. I set out to test the accuracy of the "First Presidential Dog Poll."
In a grab for free publicity (it worked) the American Kennel Club Visa Card polled dog owners to determine which breed is the favorite for Top Dog in the White House.
The official poll found that the German Shepherd was the first choice, besting the number two Scottish Terrier 51 to 27 per cent. (What do you know! John Kerry owns a German Shepherd; George Bush a Scottie. But the pollsters say thatThey didn't tell people what kinds of dogs either candidate had).
My results were quite different. Almost every dog owner I talked to thought their dog should be the nation's First Dog for the next four years. Gee, that's a surprise.
These included Jack Russell Terriers (named Indy and Heather), miniature Schnauzers (Harry and Sally). And, a teacup Yorkshire Terrier named Woozie that has a dog-people clothing line called Woozie Wear and a Website, Wooziewear.com. Is that New Yorky or what?
DAILY DIVERSION. The feature where I offer a suggestion of something to do to get away from the carping and confusion of Madison Square Garden and politics in general.
Go to the pond at Central Park. Buy a soda and a pretzel. Sit on a bench in the sun.
STAR POWER. Some of the most powerful officials in the nation were shuttling between the TV and VIP skyboxes on the 10th floor of Madison Square Garden Wednesday night.
Governors. Senators. Television anchors. Household names.
Virtually anyone you saw interviewing or being interviewed on television at the GOP convention was in these elite suites at one time or another in the past few days.
But the only one who was drawing a crowd up there when I was hanging around was filmmaker Michael Moore. I counted 36 men and women with notebooks and TV cameras, lining the hot and humid hall, waiting for Moore to finish an ABC interview so they could interview the creator of "Fahrenheit 911" too.
ON THE OTHER HAND. I had the chairman of the entire Republican Party, Ed Gillespie, all to myself. I stumbled upon Gillespie farther down the corridor, past the masses yearning to interview Moore.
Gillespie was in a rush. So, perhaps he was on his way to one of those VIP skyboxes where top tier Republicans--like House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.)--entertain big donors and influential friends. They're certainly a pleasant spot to watch the convention from comfy theater-style seats with a cocktail and an hors d'oeuvre or three.
In my exclusive interview with Gillespie, I trenchantly inquired, "How's it going?" He replied enthusiastically, "Things are settling in."
If you know what he meant by that, please tell me.
MOBBED UP. At a convention notably light on celebrities, I did see one actor I vaguely recognized: The fat Italian guy who plays Uncle Junior's go-fer, Bobby, on HBO's The Sopranos. Artful use of Google tells me the man I talked to is Steve Schirripa.
Is everyone getting into this journalism thing? First it was comedians playing reporters on The Daily Show. Now, Schirripa tells me that he's "covering the convention for The Tonight Show." Does that make Jay Leno his city editor?
Meanwhile Tony Soprano himself, actor James Gandolfini, appeared at an anti-Bush labor rally and said, "I don't usually do this but I can't tell you how mad I am that these people (he means Republicans) are in my city."
When did Tony move here from New Jersey?
September 1, 2004 6:58 AM CDT: WE'RE NOT IN REPUBLICAN LADIES' LAND ANYMORE
After spending so much time in the last couple days at the Republican convention's Women Events, it was time to pull a 180 and hang out with people who like to talk dirty and act naughty--on television.
I'm talking, of course, about The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the Comedy Central fake news show with ads at bus stops around town that say, "You heard it here third. Maybe fourth."
NOTHING'S P.C. HERE.Comedian Paul Mercurio warms up the live audience with gay jokes, ethnic jokes, race jokes. We're not in Republican Ladies' Land anymore.
Mercurio takes shots at the audience for being fat, for being Jewish and, in the case of Steve, a student at Brown University, being an unapologetic slacker. Then, he turns on not tall Stewart himself: "Jon's tiny, by the way. Don't stare,"
"I need you loud," says Mercurio, telling Slacker Steve to go deep within himself and find the energy to clap and scream. "It's like the remote and the bong and the beef jerky are just out of reach."
TUESDAY'S NEWS WEDNESDAY, ETC. Before the show starts, Stewart chats up the 100 people in the audience:
Talking about Comedy Central's no-elevator building on a nothing stretch of W. 54th St., he says, "Let's face facts. We're in a ----hole of a neighborhood and our show is a day late."
Which makes no difference at all to its mostly younger fans who, studies show, often get their political news from this program.
IS THIS A GREAT TOWN OR WHAT? On my way over to the Comedy Central HQ, I passed through a political protest outside Fox News on Sixth Avenue where demonstrators held up signs saying "Faux News" and passersby were taking pictures of the action with their cell phones.
Nearby, the French Connection boutique was selling its FCUK logo T-shirts with a special democracy spin: "FCUK You/I'm voting."
Fcuk You, I'm not paying $34 for that.
Then I passed the Rihga Royal Hotel where some of the GOPs biggest contributors are staying. Among other amenities, rooms there have heated toilet seats and a handy control panel to adjust the temperature and to regulate an interesting upward water flow scenario that I will not be describing any further here.
AHHNOLD. Arnold Schwarzenegger Tuesday night was telling the Republican convention about his amazing life journey from Austrian body builder to Republican governor of California.
And this got me to wondering...about another remarkable individual and how he got to the pinnacle of his remarkable career.
How does a skinny bald guy from Boston--yes, I'm talking about Rob Corddry--get to be a fake journalist on basic cable?
I wondered if Corddry had any advice for you readers out there who want to be him.
(If you want to know how to be Arnold, you'll have to read somebody else's blog.)
"Start flossing now," he said, because, if you want to be Rob Corddry, "You're going to get a lot of cavities at around 27."
"Between 27 and 30 you'll be in therapy twice for different reasons. "
Also, "Call your mother because she's not going to shut up about that!"
Anything else, I asked. Like, say, stay in school?
"Oh, God no. Who cares about that?" said Corddry.
Or, don't drink and drive?
"Don't get caught," Corddry said. "Drink very expensive gin because it's easier to cover up with gum and mints. ...And it's a nice clean buzz."
Writing the headline on that comment, he said, "Rob Corddry of The Daily Show Wants You to Drink and Drive!"
To be Rob Corddry, you'll have to get an office without a window, across a narrow hall from the show's assistant director who keeps a small dog with a mean bark that you hear every time someone walks past the door.
And you'll share that tiny office with another correspondent on the show, Ed Helms, who has the same taste in shirts as you do--dozens of them hanging on a clothes rack, in a rainbow range of colors--from medium blue to light blue.
You'll also have two trashcans almost in the middle of the room, empty except for one pair of white cotton athletic socks.
Corddry caught me staring at his old, sweaty gym socks and opened his lower left hand desk drawer to show me he had a whole lot of clean ones too.
What's it like sharing an office with Helms? "He's a great office mate. When I need a cup of coffee or a banana, he's got a great attitude. Very motivated. He's a go-getter.
"He's a master of the lint brush and shoe buffer."
In the negative column, "He's a close talker. His breath always smells like hotdogs. He always wants to hug me. He's always up in my stuff."
BEN AFFLECK AND BASEBALL. When I asked Corddry to relate the dumbest question he's asked in his career as a fake reporter, he said, "I can't remember because I was staring at the president of Planned Parenthood's breasts as I asked it."
In his real life, Corddry, 33, is polite, almost sweet, married to a speech pathologist and he's a huge Red Sox fan. He's plotting how to get tickets if the Red Sox are, as he predicts, in the World Series. Corddry once was in a play with Alex Kerry, John Kerry's daughter. Maybe the Massachusetts Senator could hook a brother up?
Corddry said he has rejected another scheme involving beautiful, rich, fab, famous people. "I was thinking of befriending Ben Affleck. But then I thought it wouldn't be worth it. You have to talk to him. Hang out with him.
DAILY DIVERSION. As promised when I began this convention week report, here's another installment of a place to go to ignore politics and just enjoy yourself.
Have a drink in the dark, cool Blue Bar at the historic Algonquin Hotel on W. 44th St. It's the home--the handout at the front desk will tell you--of the "Algonquin Round Table--a group of 20-somethings who favored the hotel as a daily meeting spot" and "set the standard for literary style and wit long beyond it's ten-year duration." And I thought that was happening right here. Damn.
The Round Table crowd also set the standard for what some would call way too much drinking which probably wouldn't happen today, at least not at The Algonquin. Not when a Manhattan costs $14.
Among the Round Table group was Dorothy Parker and cocktails today are served in her honor on little white paper napkins that quote her as follows:
"I love a martini--but two at the most. Three I'm under the table; Four, I'm under the host."
August 31, 2004 2:00 PM CDT: JENNA BUSH: HELLRAISER II
At last, the "bad" Bush twin speaks out!
The girls, 22-year-olds Jenna and Barbara, have been on short leashes and good behavior here at the GOP convention.
Mostly, the recent college grads have been breezing around town, in cute tops and darling shoes, looking good and keeping their mouths shut.
Jenna, the blond one, got nailed for underage drinking a few years back and more recently stuck out her tongue at photographers.
So she riffed on that bad girl rep today at an otherwise St. John's knit kind of lunch to honor her mom, First Lady Laura, at a Times Square hotel.
With grandma Barbara "The Enforcer" Bush in the audience, Jenna said, "People tell me I'm a lot like her and my Dad. Shy. Quiet. Afraid to speak my mind.
"In our family, I'm known as Barbara's revenge on George," said Jenna.
She's not kidding. Both the President and his mom have told me that George W. was a real hell-raising handful for his mother, who did most of the child-rearing (and whip-cracking) in that family while George Bush I was off playing politics.
For some reason, for the past 24 hours, I've been hanging out with GOP women, mostly hoping to catch the Twins Behaving Badly. Instead, I've established that Republican women wear a lot of red, carry small handbags and think reporters are scum. On that last point, they've got a whole lot of company.
August 31, 2004 12:40 AM CDT: WHINERS, GOP 'CELEBRITIES'
I came away from the "W Stands for Women" gathering here thinking that the W is really for "Whiners."
Hey, ladies, do you actually believe that lousy economic indicators are the news media's fault? Come on.
After a briefing on the economy for female delegatesat the sublimely elegant Waldorf-Astoria Hotelone of the women attendees summed up thusly: "The problem is the press is so negative!"
Not that there's anything wrong with whining, mind you. I personally have medalled in it. And I've heard plenty of it, even savored it, in the past few days.
Republican Senate candidate Alan Keyes was complaining that he couldn't get a hot breakfast at Madison Square Garden, where he spent something like six hours Monday doing TV and radio interviews accompanied by a make-up artist hired to make him camera ready.
And what is this about no straws at the convention site? Fear of terrorist toxic spitballs?A newsy friend was complaining that some of those protesters he covered were reekin' of b.o. And that the streets around here smell like urine.
I'm on a roll now.
This hotel where I'm staying supposedly has wireless Internet, but it doesn't work in my room and they're trying to tell me it's my computer's fault but I know it's not and they used to have free cappuccino in the lobby and now they don't and a nice fruit assortment in the complimentary breakfast and they cut that out too...
The head of the Illinois delegation, State Treasurer Judy Barr Topinka, has a gripe or two as well. Topinka says, "They won't let me smoke in the van! It's a $200 fine for the driver and a $100 fine for me," she said, snapping on her fanny pack to leave a party.
Topinka, an accomplished bargain shopper, is hoping to get some time to poke around a Goodwill store or two but she has this complaint from past experience here. "Is everybody a size four in New York? I'm kind of a big kid. And the stuff is so expensive. To pay $150 for a pair of used shoes? Come on!"
One more gripe. Delegates got free tickets to Broadway shows and the Illinoisans saw "The Lion King." It was good and all, one freeloader told me, but, "It started 45 minutes late and there were technical difficulties at the end of the first act that held it up for another 10 minutes."
Then when the delegates left, the free red tote bags they got from the New York Times (which were kind of flimsy and cheap) marked them as out of towners here for the convention.
Former Gov. Jim Edgar, and his wife, Brenda, were strolling back to their hotel after the show when someone hollered, "Get the f--- out of New York. Shame on you for coming to New York."
And today's Daily Diversion, for those who'd like to savor New York and get away from worrying about the media conspiracy to make the economy look bad or the protesters' hairy armpits: A small plot of calm at an Aveda cosmetics store at 509 Madison Ave.
The sales clerk, Pamela Adamic, offered sweaty me a cup of free peppermint iced tea and a five-minute neck and back rub. That was free too. And, get this, Adamic is page 498 of the current InStyle magazine, the one with Halle Berry on the cover.Actress/model Adamic, a native of Warren, Mich., was ringing up a lipstick sale when I asked if shelike every other hip young New Yorker I'd met in a store or restaurantwants to be in show business. You bet, she said.
"I've got an Allegra ad in InStyle," she told me. Adamic is a tiny, pretty blond. But when I stopped at a drug store to check out page 498, I hardly recognized her in the "before" ad for Allegra-D, an allergy pill. She's all puffy eyes and red nose, clutching a pink Kleenex under the headline, "Can't take the congestion?"
But as anonymous as that full-page ad might be for the lovely Pam, she's probably more famous than a lot of the so-called talent appearing at the Republican National Convention. Celebrities have never been the Republicans' strong suit.
Put it this way, these "stars" are no Ben Afflecks.
In fact, most of the show biz and music types at Madison Square Garden working for the Bush-Cheney ticket are not likely to appear in Vibe or People or, even, a TV Guide published in this century.
I dropped by the Republicans' huge press office to pick up bios of some of the "celebrity" participants in the four-day convention here and, to tell the truth, there was only one that I'd ever heard of. Well, two if you count actress Bo Derek, whose career peaked as the bosomy co-star of the movie "10"back when Jimmy Carter was President.
And finally, from the Only-Marginally-Better-Than-a-Toxic Spitball Department:A press release emailed to me early Tuesday morning says, "Just hours after speaking at the Republican National Convention in New York, Indiana Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Marvin Scott, spent Monday evening with Vice President Dick Cheney in his private box."
August 30, 2004 6:50 AM CDT:
The Bush twins' ballyhooed "R -- The Party" was L -- the Letdown for the A-list GOPsters who wangled one of the hottest tickets of the GOP convention here.
Sunday's fest at Roseland Ballroom was the first event involving the First Daughters -- 22-year-olds Barbara and Jenna -- ever promoted by the White House. But once the twins passed the cameras on their way in, they disappeared behind a blue curtain into a VIP corner leaving the heaving masses yearning for more than the brief peek at the pert young ladies.
The party went from country music to alternative rock but the mood went from anticipation to damnation for those who'd worked hard to clout an invite only to barely glimpse the sisters who left early -- around midnight -- without ever making a second appearance.
Among those attending was hunkalicious George P. Bush, oldest son of the president's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb, and a young man with a huge political future if he wants it.
Back to the Bush twins: What a difference four years makes. At the GOP convention in 2000, the Bush girls went virtually unnoticed eating lunch with their grandma, Jenna, at Philadelphia's swanky Le Bec-Fin. Now, there's always an army of paparazzi waiting for them at the curb, hoping for something impertinent from the First Daughters.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had this advice for Chicagoans visiting his town for the Republican convention: Move to New York.
"It's a wonderful city. What's not to be happy about?" the GOP mayor said when I questioned him about the gathering in his town. Then he asked where I was from. Hearing Chicago, Bloomberg grinned and got cocky, "That's OK. You can move here."
Then he told me to be sure to "Tell Richard Daley I said, 'hi.'" Done.
A tiny dark-haired dot in that huge ocean of protest humanity Sunday was Chicago's own Deborah Mell, the well-connected gay rights activist. She's related to two powerful Chicago Democratic pols: Daughter of Ald. Dick Mell (33d) and sister-in-law of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Deborah Mell bought a "Lick Bush" T-shirt from a street vendor ($8) and marched with other pro-gay marriage advocates past Madison Square Garden on a hot, sunny Sunday on the eve of the GOP convention.
We talked by cell phone as she passed flag-draped cardboard coffins representing those who have died in the Iraq war, reporting that, from her location, the crowd was orderly and moving very slowly. Same here.
Mell was traveling light. "I've got some cash and a legal aide number to call" -- lessons she learned the hard way after unexpectedly being arrested in the Loop earlier this year at a gay marriage demonstration. From that experience, Mell said she learned she should wear long pants despite the sticky temperature, just in case she wound up in jail (she didn't).
"When I went to the jail in Cook County, it was cold," she said.
Mell said her group also was protesting Democrat John Kerry's views on gay marriage rights, but the crowd didn't want to hear it. "Someone yelled at me that I was a Republican!" Not hardly.
Before she caught a plane back home Sunday night, we met up and she was wearing a sticker over on her chest that said, "George W. Bush is a Punk-Ass CHUMP."
Speaking of the gay equality movement... What about Mary? Mary Cheney, that is. She's the gay daughter of vice president Dick and his wife, Lynne.
Lynne Cheney and one of her two daughters are on the roster of top Republican wives and offspring listed as speakers at Monday's "W Stands for Women Forum." But notably absent from that list is Mary Cheney.
Meanwhile -- how retro -- all the married women are listed as "Mrs.": Mrs. Barbara Bush, Mrs. Liz Cheney Perry (the Cheney's other daughter); Mrs. Doro Bush Koch (President Bush the First's only daughter; sister of the current president). Also listed, the president's twin 22-year-old twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna, who everyone wants to meet, or at least eyeball this convention week.
An unlikely Bush supporter, fight promoter and big mouth Don King has been making the rounds, talking to any TV camera pointed in his direction. King was hard to miss with that trademark gray hair stretching skyward. I talked to him about the Illinois U. S. Senate race, where Democrat Barack Obama faces Maryland import Alan Keyes in November.
King -- with diamond bling dangling to mid-chest amidst his Bush campaign buttons -- made a rare admission of ignorance. "I do not know about Obama" -- meaning where the Illinois state Senator stands on the issues.
Added King, "I do know about Alan Keyes, that he's running for something all the time." And there was this prediction that nobody will dispute: "A black guy will win."
Another man who enjoys the attention of a TV crew is the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He walked the entire length of the protest route at the head of the group of demonstrators and was among the first to reach the end of the march at Union Square. As he took the stage to talk to the large gathering, an aide called for a bullhorn.
Jackson didn't run out of juice -- he never does -- but the bullhorn did and as the batteries failed, his voice trailed off so almost nobody could hear him.
Keyes was nowhere to be found at the Illinois delegates' first cocktail party of the convention Sunday night at ABC's Good Morning America studios on Times Square. Guests boarded a room-sized elevator, where a bar was set up serving three kinds of Martinis to fortify the delegates for the long trip from the ground floor to the party room, one floor above.
Asked about right-wing outsider Keyes' run for the Senate, a top ranking Republican Party official said, "That's why they had the Martinis in the elevator."
Looking around the party -- honoring House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and paid for by The Walt Disney Co., the Chicago Board of Trade and other deep pocket operators -- the GOP official said, "If he (Keyes) comes in, this place will clear out." He might be the party nominee but these people don't have to like it. And they don't.
Legendary New York City newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin sipped a Diet Coke through a straw and slowly strolled down Broadway Sunday afternoon. A group of foreign reporters assembled around him, looking for his take on the mostly peaceful protest.... Contrast that with columnist George Will, strolling along solo and unnoticed far from the protest, clutching a bag from Brookstone near the theatre district.
Pretend for a moment you're in New York and didn't have to pay attention to street protests, the war in Iraq, the state of the economy, health care for the poor or the Republican party Let's just say you wanted to enjoy what New York has to offer.
To that end, I'll be bringing you a Daily Diversion this convention week.
Here's Installment One:
If you love the music of Louis Armstrong -- who doesn't? -- his refurbished home in Queens, 34-56 107th St., is worth a trip (Satchmo.net). The exhibit there right now is intriguingly peculiar because it explores Armstrong's lifelong "fascination with food, weight control and laxatives."
Armstrong never missed an opportunity to promote the virtues of the herbal laxative Swiss Kriss (even to the Queen of England). There's a letter on display signed with his trademark close, "Red Beans and Ricely Yours" that hails the stuff.
(My Chicago transplant friend Mike Stamm even has a Swiss Kriss advertisement signed by Satchmo himself hanging in a place of honor in his suburban Connecticut home.)
Anyhow, you can put Swiss Kriss to the test yourself by dropping by the Armstrong House gift shop after your visit there. A trial size package sells for only $5.99.
If you are looking for something more lowbrow:
Who would have guessed that a Republican convention would offer the welcome opportunity to write about sex?
Or, more specifically, New York's unique Museum of Sex, a real museum--not some XXX gimmicky place--with exhibits that you could, if you were inclined, take grandma to see. (And, she'd get a $1 off senior citizen discount.)
As for the GOP convention connection: To try to discourage the mass of anti-Bush protesters from tearing up the streets and parks here, Democrat-turned Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a discount plan to reward "peaceful political activists."
With a special button or coupon, these peace-loving protesters can take a break from shouting, sweating, marching, whatever and pay cut-rate prices at places like the Sex Museum or off-Broadway's "Naked Boys Singing."
At the Museum of Sex (MOSex), I was welcomed by a big red, white and blue sign that looked like a blowup of a campaign button and showed a dominatrix in red latex and the legend, "Talk About a Grand Old Party."
Another dominatrix with another frisky political sign says, "The House Majority Whip is here too."
Students as well as seniors save a buck off the $14.50 ticket price here, where the current featured exhibit is "Sex Among the Lotus, 2500 years of Chinese Erotic Obsession."
But those peaceful protesters can knock another $5 off the ticket price. Actor/ticket seller Brian Edwards says "tons" of protesters have taken advantage of the discount, most of them in the under-35 age group. And, is this convenient or what? The Museum is just a short hike from the Madison Square Garden GOP convention site and the route of Sunday's huge demonstration.
Incidentally, convention delegates get price breaks too at various entertainments and shows that are a little more mainstream, like Disney's Beauty and the Beast. The head of the city's tourism office, Cristyne Nicholas, told me, "This is New York. We have something for everyone!"
A couple more stops on the New York GOP convention sex tour: