Friday, May 21, 2010

Grandmother McClain's Tactic Backfiring

Grandmother Kathy McClain's campaign manager thought it was hilarious that I saw gay-baiting in her recent mailer snarking that her Nevada State Senate opponent Mark Manendo being never-married, 42, and having lived with his mom.

Ah, but that itty bitty line didn't just rub me and McKee the wrong way. It also prompted a spirited debate over whether to rescind the support of McClain by the committee that decides the joint endorsements of the city's two monthly GLBT publications, QVegas and Las Vegas Nightbeat, along with longtime gay activist and publisher Rob Schlegel. (McClain and Manendo received dual endorsements with a blurb: "Take your pick. Both are good on our issues.")

The committee ultimately decided to let the endorsements stand, but Nightbeat publisher Bill Schafer plans to run a piece in his June issue announcing that he's voting for Manendo because of this. In the letter, which he sent me, he quoted another committee member who said during the debate, "How unfortunate a tactic. The message should be sent that we won't stand for 'innuendo' or outright discrimination – ever! … Someone needs to stand up for what's right, so let's send the message." Other folks decided to give Grandmother McClain the benefit of the doubt given her gay-friendly voting record.

Schafer writes that Grandmother McClain campaign manager Gary Gray offered a mea culpa to Nightbeat after checking with gay activists to learn that, in fact, that verbage is well-known particularly by political operatives as code for, "Psst, he's a fag." Gray had told me that the inference he was trying to make was that Manendo is a sexual predator, a novel idea since I've never heard that being a 42-year-old single Momma's Boy was code for, "Psst, he's a rapist."

Gray never bothered to write or call me to apologize for ridiculing me for asking him about this in the first place, however, and Schafer isn't buying it. "If McClain’s top gun – who’s fought many a political battle – is that naïve, I’ll give my vote to her opponent," his piece for June concluded.

Grandmother McClain should be worried. This is, after all, the gayest district in the state and the only one to ever elect an openly gay person to anything. All other things being equal -- the two candidates have precisely the same record on GLBT matters -- gay voters are very sensitive to being slighted. And word gets around very, very fast.

By the by, I spoke to Manendo. He said he's straight, but more importantly, he said that he's been living in his own home for more than a decade. He did live with his mother for four years in the 1990s, he said, because his father was dying and he needed to help with the care. I wonder how Gray will spin that into some evil disqualification.

The Strip & Petcast Are Live on Sat

I'm back in the LVRocks.Com studio tomorrow for The Petcast from 4-5 p.m. PT with Emily Richmond and then The Strip from 5-6 p.m. PT with guest host David McKee of Stiffs & Georges. (Miles is working but vows his weekends will again be his own next week.)

Should be a good week! Remember that cat we saved a few weeks ago? Well, he and his new owner, Dawn Christensen, are scheduled to be in the studio and on the air at about 4:45 p.m. PT! Then, the guest for The Strip this week is none other than Vince Neil, the Motley Crue singer turned tattoo/bar/aviation mogul.

So join us at LVRocks.Com to chat with fellow fans and watch us do our thing on the webcam. Or wait and pick up the podcast version. Your call.

Gloves are OFF in Norm v Robin Feud

Wow. This I did not expect. The Jolly Brit won't be able to claim -- as he did last July -- that there's no feud now that The Patched One wrote this incendiary paranthetical in today's "Norm! Vegas Confidential" column:

(Local celebrity blogger Robin Leach insists he tweeted the Miss Universe move to Las Vegas two hours before the pageant. His Twitter feed Sunday shows no mention of Miss Universe and when asked -- multiple times -- to provide proof, he offered none. Leach may have been busy. He's been under fire of late from Twitter followers who are challenging his use of the term "exclusive" on "Dancing With the Stars" updates that aired on East Coast TV feeds.)

You can read the context in Norm Clarke's column; it's not necessary for me to show that there is clearly some pretty intense bad blood brewing between the two. Norm's expressed dissatisfaction with Robin in the past, but usually it's subtle or muttered. This is so pointed, so explicit and in print. Ka-boom.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Wacky #Vegas-ized Dogs!

This can be yours!

What the hell is it, you wonder? Well, The Animal Foundation, the non-profit behind Vegas' biggest animal shelter, is selling these Vegas-show-themed dog statues on Sunday at The Orleans Arena to raise money. It's part of the 7th annual Best In Show event where 60 real dogs will be shown and, hopefully, adopted. Tons of Vegas talent are involved and Terry Fator will emcee with guest star Holly Madison.

I've gotten pictures of all the statues to be silent-auctioned at the event, which starts at noon and costs $12 for adults, $5 for kids 2-12. (Not sure what time it ends as nobody says anywhere online.)

So that dog above is, of course, courtesy of "Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular." He's dressed as "Red Death," the Phantom's costume in the "Masquerade" scene. It even has a removable "skull" mask that was custom made by the costume designers.

Here's the entry from Cirque du Soleil's KA, dressed as a spearman with a Ka charm on his chest.

Mystere's entry, dressed s the red bird with a feathered tail:

Cher actually designed this dog below herself and autographed the bottom. Ret Turner, a 5-time Emmy Award-winning Hollywood costume designer made it with about 11,520 Swarovski Crystals on it.

Here's the "Jersey Boys" entry, wearing a replica of the Jersey Boys costume from when the actors sing "Dawn". That little guitar really plays, and the dog is autographed by the real Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio.

I'm not sure how fond I am of "The Lion King" one. It's dressed in one of the grasslands costumes, although thankfully the grass hat is removable:

And finally, here's Lance Burton's dog, complete with a removable top hat and magic wand as well as custom-embroidered Lance Burton cape:

Cool, right? And for a good cause, too. No word as to what the minimum bids will be. If any of you buy one, I'll throw in two prizes off TheStripPodcast.Com's prize list, though.

This week's LVW col: Oh, Brothers!

Who knew how far this recently acquired fascination with the Smothers Brothers would take me? In addition to the initial podcast interview from May 6, after they startlingly retired in front of me I was first to cover it in the national media with this AOL News piece and then followed up for AOL News with an in-depth discussion with Tom Smothers. That also begat a second, 17-minute podcast of my May 18 chat with Smothers. And, of course, there's this column I had planned to write all along before the retirement/break/whatever. Fun. Enjoy.

Oh, Brothers
How a vintage act taught me to love Vegas for its oldies

While the rest of the city’s attention was focused squarely on the Miss USA pageant on Sunday, I was a couple miles west, taking in a far more important popular-culture event. That it passed with as little fanfare as it did was baffling, but something tells me that even if there had been fair warning, most of the entertainment press would still have been at Planet Hollywood, hoping some dimwit with huge fake boobs said something politically incorrect.

I was at The Orleans, where the Smothers Brothers were on stage together for the what may have been the last time.

And here’s the irony: I was there to do a column about how fortunate Las Vegas is to have all these oldies acts. I was going to remind everyone to see them before it’s too late.

Then Tom and Dick go and prove my point. Near the end of their 90-minute, tuxedo-clad show, Dick rambled a bit about how much he admired and enjoyed his brother, which is how you knew something was up, because for 50 years they’ve been publicly annoyed by one another as part of their shtick. Dick referenced how this is probably the last time they’d perform together on “a stage like this,” so thanks to the full house who had come. Then the show was over and the audience dispersed, many baffled. The brothers, now 73 and 71, later confirmed their retirement from touring.

I went back to the May 6 interview I did for my podcast and realized that, in fact, Tom did say, “We’re kinda retiring, taking a sabbatical for 10 years. Then you come back when you’re 90 and they give you a Kennedy Center Honor if you can still walk.” I thought he was kidding.

And speaking of kidding, I suspect you think I’m exaggerating when I say that this was the most important thing to happen in pop culture last weekend. Could I seriously believe the retirement of a duo whom half of America probably thinks is already dead is of more significance than what Miss Oklahoma thinks of Arizona’s immigration law?

Read the rest at

Monday, May 17, 2010

McClain's Defense: He's Not Gay, He's A Perv!

The campaign manager for Grandmother Kathy McClain just called to laugh at my interpretation of a flier attacking her Nevada Senate opponent, Mark Manendo, in terms that every politically aware gay knows have been used since time immemorial to imply that someone is queer. To review, here's what it said:

Silly, over-sensitive me and McKee. Grandmother McClain wasn't calling him a fag, said campaign manager Gary Gray, she was implying -- wait for it -- he's a "sexual predator!" This mailer is a precursor, Gray said, to a coming set of mailers that will attack Manendo on an alleged history of sexual misconduct at the Legislature. When I asked for specifics, Gray referred to one incident involving two aides to then-Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons during the 2003 Legislative session.

But Gray said there was a "long history" and a "pattern," so I asked for other incidents. He could not come up with any, owing to, he said, the fact that victims are too scared to come forward. So poor Mr. Manendo doesn't only have to deal with an unproved incident 7 years ago but also must defend himself against nameless, possibly fictitious accusers, too? [I've left messages for Manendo but have yet to hear back.]

Grandmother McClain's campaign manager kept telling me to ask around and to check out what others who have covered the Legislature, such as Jon Ralston, Steve Sebelius and Ed Vogel, have written.

I did so. And what I learned, per a 2004 Review-Journal column by Sebelius, was that Manendo's "sexual predator" campaign amounted, so far as he could tell, to the then-assemblyman clumsily asking a couple of babes out. That column, incidentally, was Sebelius' way of sticking up for Manendo against a campaign flier in he thought was inappropriate. The salient passage:

The first flier, however, is unfair. On one page, it carries "an important message to the women of District 18 on sexual assault." On the facing page, aside a picture of Manendo, we learn: "This assemblyman wants to be re-elected but what he doesn't want you to know about is ... charges and allegations of sexual harassment while serving in the Legislature."

Get it? "Sexual assault" becomes "sexual harassment" just like that. But Manendo has never been accused of anything beyond graceless advances and crude comments. Sexual assault is a far more serious thing, and conflating the two is a cheap and tawdry campaign trick.

In Sept. 2003, Ralston did take the Democratic leadership in a piece about their inability to punish members of their caucus who misbehaved. I found it because Gray specifically said that Ralston "even referred to the 'leering Mark Manendo.' "

Here's the part about that:

Then again, these are the same folks who allowed a leering assemblyman named Mark Manendo to prosper, even promoting him to a prominent chairmanship (Government Affairs) and refusing to do anything even after they received complaints.

Manendo lost his chairmanship in the next session and never got another one despite his seniority, but was never formally disciplined. Still, he seems to have suffered even as he's steadfastly denied throughout that he ever did anything wrong.

As for Vogel, he wrote an April 26, 2010 piece about the McClain-Manendo race in which he recounted this one singular instance of possible sexual harrassment. And then there was this:

"Nothing will be said by me about Mr. Manendo's missteps," McClain said. "He votes with our caucus 99 percent of the time and so do I. I have been in leadership."

While she insists she won't make it an issue, McClain hopes someone tells voters why Manendo no longer chairs any committees.

Grandmother McClain's hopin' and wishin' have made it happen! Except that that "someone" turns out to be her via her own campaign manager, who just told me, straight out, that Manendo is a perv and that the campaign has a series of fliers coming our way all about what a perv he is.

Interestingly, Grandmother McClain rang me back, too. She just didn't know until I told her that Gray had called me. "I'm sorry that it's being interpreted that way," she said, regarding the notion that she was gay-baiting.

Friess: So what did that passage mean?

Grandmother McClain: "He’s lived with his mom and he can’t hold a stable relationship. I am a much more stable person, much more."

Friess: And you're more qualified to be a senator because you're married?

Grandmother McClain: No, no, that's not why I'm more qualified. I was just pointing out our differences.

Friess: But Gary Grey just told me that it was a lead-in to a series of fliers about his alleged past. So I'm trying to understand how the fact that he's never married and lives with his mother is related to these other allegations.

Grandmother McClain: Who do you write for again?

Friess: Oh, I write for lots of different folks, but this is for my blog.

Grandmother McClain: Oh, I see. Well, then, you said you were in touch with Gary Gray? Then I'm going to let you deal with Gary Gray.


Boy, can't wait to see those campaign fliers. (Did I forget, Grandmother McClain, to mention I live in your district?) Something tells me Grandmother McClain's campaign won't be quoting the part of the Sebelius piece that refers to this as "a cheap and tawdry campaign trick."

Is This NV Candidate A Gay-Baiter?

David McKee, the Stiffs & Georges blogger, is straight and he first noticed the above in a flier for Kathy McClain, who is running against Mark Manendo for the Democratic nomination for State Senate in, as it turns out, my part of Vegas. They're both term-limited members of the Nevada Assembly who are seeking higher office. Trouble is, their voting records are virtually identical -- and identically very liberal, in fact -- so they have to beat one another up personally.

A mailer from McClain that arrived today contained the snippet above in which she gingerly points out that "Mark Manendo, age 42, has never been married and has lived with his mother for long periods of time." By contrast, she's in a "long-term marriage" with three kids and four grandbabies.

McKee referred to that bit as "lobbing a creaky old form of sexual innuendo." Other gay leaders I read it to also read it that way, that she was making a backhanded reference to the prospect that he's a gay Momma's Boy. Bob Forbuss, the former Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce chairman and prodigious Democratic fundraiser who is openly gay, told me, "It's definitely an inference, and it's really tacky."

So, really, Grandmother McClain? This is how you want to win? Really? Might I remind you that your district contains the ZIP code with the most number of gay couples registered in domestic partnerships in the entire state? That your district includes the only region ever elect an openly gay person to anything in Nevada, the man who could be your colleague, Sen. David Parks? [Each Nevada Senate district gets two representatives.]

The rest of the mailer is vicious but also largely fair game. Click on it below to read it:

Yeah, yeah. College education, job performance surveys and endorsements are all fine political arguments. I wonder how far she's going to get painting Manendo as "unemployed for significant periods" since so many of the residents around here are, too, and don't need Grandmother McClain telling them it's a character flaw.

But she also wants points for being a married heterosexual, too, in the GAYEST district in Nevada? Does she not get that this is precisely the undercurrent presently being floated against Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan, that she's a lifelong spinster who loves softball and has a short haircut and you know what that means! (Grandmother McClain, incidentally, has a really short haircut, too, see? Hmm!)

Surely McClain finds that kind of innuendo offensive against people like Kagan. So why would she do it herself?

People's life and relationship choices, so long as they're legal, are their own. That's what Grandmother McClain's own voting record reflects, actually. So how about her campaign literature does so, too?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

R-J Publisher Has Prostate Cancer

At the end of his weekly Sunday column today, longtime Review-Journal Publisher Sherman Frederick announced that he has prostate cancer and will be having surgery this summer. In his words:

Because you're good enough to read this column when it comes to your home, as you are doing now, I thought I should use a small amount of newsprint to tell you that my prostate and I plan to part ways this summer.

After a few years of the obligatory tests most men go through, then a recent biopsy, doctors told me I have cancer, and surgery is the proper course of action.

So, early this summer, my prostate will go one way, and I'll go the other. With a little luck, the cancer will go with it, not me. I wanted you to know.

Cancer's always a pretty terrifying and personal event, so bravo to Sherm for being public about his and hopefully he will continue to share. I would especially be interested to hear Sherm's take down the line about the controversy that has swirled in recent years over whether such regular prostate check-ups are necessary or if prostate cancer even ought to be treated.

Regardless, here's to a safe procedure, a comfortable recuperation and a speedy return to normal.