Saturday, July 10, 2010

No Outrage Over Gay Slurs At NV GOP Event, On NPR?

Let's play a little game.

Suppose that at the Nevada Republican Party's annual convention, the speaker appearing between the candidate for U.S. Senate and the GOP's national party chairman called Barbara Mikulski a bitch. Or Brian Sandoval a bean bandit. Or, even, Barack Obama, say, a Negro.

Would be kinda a big deal, right? Would probably lead the news, no?

Here's a startling passage deep, deep, deep inside Laura Myers' account in the Review-Journal of the GOP confab at Green Valley Ranch:

Between Angle and Steele, impressionist Rich Little entertained the crowd with an act that included a George Burns impersonation, lots of Harry Reid jokes and a gag with a punch line that referred to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who is gay, as a "queen".

And that's it. Myers didn't think it necessary to ask the GOP leadership if that was appropriate or offensive speech. She didn't think it was worth breaking out as a sidebar or moving up in the story as you know she would if any of the three examples I provided earlier had occurred.

According to Steve Sebelius' Tweet, the hilarious Rich Little quip went something like: "I performed for a queen. Barney Frank." Nevada News Bureau editor Elizabeth Crum, herself a conservative, nonetheless also seemed appalled in this Tweet: "Rich Little on stage. Cracks joke about Barney Frank that I will not repeat. Tweet. Whatever. #nvgop"

Except it's NOT a "whatever." It's a WTF? This is still OK? I wasn't there, but I betcha Steele and Angle and the rest of the room roared in laughter. That's funny, those queers, err, I mean queens.

And, yes, I call liberals to task when they refer to Rush Limbaugh's girth. That's not acceptable or relevant either. Remember back when Wanda Sykes and everyone else who laughed at her got bashed for wishing Limbaugh would die? So the fact that Little is a comic -- and that's quite a generous term for Little these days -- does not absolve him or his amused audience.

This doesn't yield an apology from Nevada Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei? Or from the party's titular leader of the moment, Sharron Angle? Or any follow-up from the mainstream media? Can you imagine if the same sort of thing was said about ANY OTHER GROUP?

P.S. My partner, Miles, has been wanting me to note that this week NPR's Fresh Air goddess Terry Gross aired a clip -- unbleeped -- from comic Louis C.K.'s TV show containing five instances of the use of the word "faggot." Gross and the comic use the word five times each in their conversation, too. The sequence goes from 11:51 to about 19:00. As Miles notes, it's fine to have a discussion of an offensive word, but if this were nigger, it would have been bleeped in the clip and the talkers would have said "the 'n' word" instead of the whole slur.

So NPR's conduct, too, is pretty outrageous. And one way you know Miles is right is that in the TRANSCRIPT of part of the sequence on Fresh Air's website, the word "faggot" is removed for "[the slur]". So it's OK for broadcast but not for writing on the Web? Huh?

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Strip/Petcast Are Live Saturday!

We'll be doing our usual hours of The Petcast (two shows recorded together) and The Strip on Saturday 4-6 p.m. Pacific Time at LVRocks.Com. Listen live, see us via webcam and join us in the chat. Or wait for the podcast version, of course, and subscribe via iTunes or Zune to The Petcast or to The Strip in iTunes or Zune.

Here's the schedule:

4 p.m.: Barbara Techel, an author who has written extensively about life with her partially paralyzed and incredibly cute dachshund, Frankie.

4:30 p.m.: David Mizejewski of the National Wildlife Federation to discuss his observations of the wildlife damage caused by the BP oil spill.

5 p.m.: Comic Brad Garrett* and I discuss "stalking," hearing aids, old gay audience members, Patricia Heaton's politics and more. Guest co-host David McKee of the Stiffs & Georges blog fills in for Miles.

*Note: The full Brad Garrett interview will be available on the podcast sometime Sunday. Only about half will be played during the live show.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The LVW Col: The Old Man & Robbie

Now for a change of pace, re: Brad Garrett. I liked my headline (above) better, but oh well. Enjoy. -sf

Not just some old guy
A flash of insight at a stand-up comedy show

A sense of dread hung over me for most of the hour Brad Garrett commanded the stage. It was nobody’s fault, really, least of all the comedian cracking up the packed house. But it sat with me nonetheless.

Earlier, I had insisted my friend Walt join me. Walt is the elder half of The Olds, a couple I regard as surrogate gay grandparents and who provide a makeshift extended family in this city so far from my blood relatives.

It wasn’t easy to get Walt out. Nearly 85 and in physically excellent shape, he’s begun to turn away from even things he loves. And Garrett’s part of something he loves most, the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. When Walt said no on the phone, I drove over and made sure he came. I’ll be damned if the geezer’s going to rot without a fight.

At the Tropicana showroom, an usher wanted to seat us in the back. Both Walt and I have the hearing of 85-year-olds, so I asked for better seats and we ended up in the front row.

That seemed great until it became evident that Garrett channels Don Rickles, picking nearby stereotypical people as running jokes. Walt, then, became the standing target for old jokes, which he played along with cheerfully.

Yet I sat anxious. Garrett mines his marks’ marital and sex lives, so it seemed only a matter of time before he quizzed the old dude about sex.

Did I mention Walt is gay?

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com

Dear R-J: Huh?

I've been trying really, really hard to argue that the Review-Journal's political coverage is NOT in the tank for Sharron Angle. It was looking good as recently as this morning when I read today's paper to find the lead local story was all about dissension in Nevada's GOP ranks over Angle's candidacy. There was even a column by Jane Ann Morrison extolling a form of Reid's clout. A paper in the tank wouldn't print those, would they?

But then, for whatever reason, the R-J's Laura Myers posted this, uh, scoop:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle declared Thursday that Nevada and the nation are "going in the wrong direction" under the leadership of Sen. Harry Reid and President Barack Obama.

Well stop the fucking (digital) presses. It's news when a candidate from any party out of power bitches that those whose power they seek are doing a bad job? Isn't this what Sharron Angle says every day of her life, at least as often as she says grace or has bowel movements?

And here's the thing: Angle DID say something newsworthy this morning. On Alan Stock's KXNT talk show, she called the $20 billion compensation account set up by BP a "slush fund" and noted the "government shouldn't be doing that to a private company." She also said: "It's an overreaction by government for not the right reasons. They're actually using this crisis if you will, because they never waste one -- Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals -- they are using this crisis now to get in cap and trade, and every crime and penalty, and slush fund."

A few hours later, she issued a statement saying she shouldn't have used the term "slush fund." She went on with this: "My position is that the creation of this fund to compensate victims was an important first step -- BP caused this disaster and they should pay for it. But there are multiple parties at fault here and there should be a thorough investigation. We need to look into the actions, or inactions, of the Administration and why the regulatory agency in charge of oversight was asleep at the wheel while BP was cutting corners. Every party involved should be held fully accountable."

People like Angle have for years been insisting Barack Obama's remarks about clinging to guns and religion are what he truly believes because he said it in a friendly environment. But now she wants her second statement, the precise opposite of her first, to be her "actual" view on these matters. Cool!

Yet even with all of this exploding today, the Review-Journal stuck with its piece on how Angle had "declared" that Reid and Obama suck. Only in the last few paragraphs does Myers get to the BP matter that had preoccupied the national media all day, using the transition, "On another matter..."

No, dear. That was the ONLY matter.

I suspect I know what happened here. President Obama is arriving tonight, so the news will be full for the next day or so with images of Obama and Reid and with other stories about what Reid claims he's done for the state. Someone at Bonanza Road probably decided they needed to be "fair" to his opponent by reporting on a speech she gave today, too.

Except that's not how the news works. Reid gets the coverage because the president is coming here for him. When Sarah Palin or Dick Cheney or -- and we can only pray for this -- Michael Steele comes to stump for Angle, she'll get covered, too.

But the story out of Angle today was not that she hated on Reid and Obama, it's that she said something so controversial she had to walk it back immediately. Can't wait to see where the R-J prints that one tomorrow. If it's not at least mentioned on the front page, it will be difficult to defend the paper's news judgment in this race going forward.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


OK, so the whole Brad Garrett stalking/impersonation thing is a little creepier than I originally concluded. Having spent a couple of days examining the situation and doing what other journalists declined to -- ask the accused for her version and check out her claims -- I'm in a slightly different place than I was earlier this week.

Before I go any further, I want to mention that you can hear the accused woman answer all my questions on a special edition of The Strip. Click here to play that or right-click here to download it and hear it at your leisure. It's, uh, unusual.

To review, over the weekend, the new Tropicana headliner told celebrity journalist Robin Leach that he was being stalked by a "he" who was impersonating him on Twitter under the name BaddGarrett. The same person, Garrett said, was calling ticket brokers pretending to be him, seemed to have uncomfortable access to images of him and his family and may have even been at his comedy show in the first week. Leach not only took to his blog to report Garrett's accusations without comment from the accused person, but he also was on his Twitter telling the BaddGarrett Tweeter that she was sick, twisted and heading for the slammer.

I interviewed Garrett on Tuesday for this coming Saturday's regular edition of The Strip, and we discussed this. He seemed aware by that time that the "he" was actually a woman and he knew, as I do, her identity and location. Yet he refused the suggestion that her mischief was nothing more than a Twitter parody or, at worst, a fraudulent impersonation. He thinks it's active stalking.

Having spoken to this woman twice now, I admit that it's really, really hard to know. Much of what she claims is zany and time after time what she said about what she's been up to on Twitter does not comport with reality. She initially claimed she had never impersonated Garrett but only intended to do some loving parody and help promote the comic's endeavors.

That may, in fact, have been largely true in the public Twittersphere, but she engaged in several private chats, known as direct messages, in which it is clear she is permitting and encouraging people to believe she is actually the comic. One person misled was Vegas comic Keith Lyle, who shared with me several DMs received from BaddGarrett over the course of weeks.

During the week of June 6, for instance, Lyle wondered why this account was not "verified," meaning the Twitter puts a blue check on it to indicate it really belongs to a celebrity or notable person. These were three responses from BaddGarrett:

1. @Kevin_Nealon does not have a check 2. Enough ppl here know me IRL. 3. I don't want a ck, too many hassles. So, believe what you want

I honestly don't care who people think I am. I don't do the ego thing. This is for fun, to test drive material, sharpen skills and PR.

Who wants the checkmark and the associated assholes that come with it. I can achieve evrything I want here without it

The correct answer, of course, would have been, "Oh, I'm not really him."

At one point, BaddGarrett about family to Lyle: "I kid abt my ex, but she's really a wonderful lady & we're still friends. You have to for the kids too."

So, OK, let's posit that this woman was pretending to be the actor in some instances on Twitter. Oddly, in others she was not. Both Las Vegas Sun ace John Katsilometes and the PR team at the Tropicana had asked and were told forthright that she was just a fan, and the Trop folks told me as late as last Friday in a public Tweet -- BEFORE the ruckus began -- that they considered @BaddGarrett to be a great advocate for the show.

When I confronted the woman about the Keith Lyle direct messages in my interviews, her answers were all over the place. First she claimed she never led him to think she was the real star, then she said she didn't want to disappoint him by saying she wasn't, then she admitted she had "used bad judgment" and that "it snowballed and I didn't know what to do."

The question is, does any of this make this woman a stalker? Does it make her physically dangerous? Here, again, matters are more complicated than they appear. This woman pleaded guilty in 2006 to stalking a cop in her hometown, and she explains the details of what she did quite openly on the podcast. She says she learned her lesson, would never do that again. But Garrett knew and mentioned that, so clearly that influenced his alert as to whether she was dangerous to him.

That's understandable. So I asked her this set of questions:

Friess: Have you ever had any personal contact with Brad Garrett?

Alleged Stalker:

Never met him?

Alleged Stalker:
Never met him.

Never seen him in person?

Alleged Stalker: Never seen him in person.

Have you ever been to Las Vegas?

Alleged Stalker:
Never been to Las Vegas.

So when Brad says you’ve been taking photos of him and his family and his children, where did you get those pictures from?

Alleged Stalker:
I got them off Google. Off blogs, websites, Twitpics people take and post on Twitter. That’s it. I have no way of getting any other pictures of Brad.

I asked the alleged stalker to show me her credit card statements to prove where she's been. This got weird, too, as what she showed me were charges up until June 25, often more than one a day. She claims in the interview that after that she using all cash, but that's also coincidentally the same weekend the Garrett show opened in Vegas. What she provided didn't prove anything regarding her whereabouts in the time period during which Garrett says she might have attended the show.

I totally understand why Garrett is unnerved. But as inconsistent and strange as this woman's version of events is -- and you must listen to the interviews and see for yourself -- I've also never heard of a dangerous stalker who gives interviews to reporters or provides her phone number and address to them. The most likely scenario here is that this is a woman with a bit of a fantasy life and celebrity fascination who got carried away.

As you know, Robin Leach has taken great umbrage at my decision to examine this thing more closely, to question his decision to attack this woman so viciously and publicly and to try to tease out what made sense and what didn't. I forget sometimes that Robin isn't just some colleague but someone who enjoys celebrity himself. I'm not even sure he'd deny he has an obvious bias toward believing what longtime celebrity friends tell him.

This may be precisely where my background as a classically trained reporter clashes with his approach: People are innocent of crime until proven guilty. For powerful journalists to publicly declare someone a criminal without there even being any charges trips a switch in me. That's not what we're supposed to do.

If Garrett had wanted to avoid publicity over this, he could have dealt with it privately or quietly through the authorities. Instead, according to Leach, he asked Leach to trumpet the problem all over the place. Once that happened, following up by analyzing what is going on and trying to make sense of inconsistencies on every side of this debacle was a journalistic duty.

Who knows? If Garrett has a criminal case to file, we may some day know more. If not, odds are good this is where this will end.

The Show is UP: George Wallace Revisited

Miles was away and some interview plans fell through, so I took to heart a listener suggestion that instead of not doing anything some weeks, we ought to dust off an oldie. Except we did it our way; we revisited a particularly disastrous interview in the context of a whole new show. It turned out to be very entertaining. Subscribe (it's free!) in iTunes or in Zune. Click on the date below to make it play or right-click to save it and listen at your leisure. Enjoy!

July 5: The George Wallace Debacle Revisited
The Original George Wallace Episode In Full

For years, listeners have heard us joke about it, but very few have ever actually heard it: The mythical George Wallace interview of November 2005. Every now and then, when we need a reference to someone who treated them badly, it’s always the late-night comic at the Flamingo. But was it really as bad as we remember? We’ll replay that this hour.

In Banter: Vegas websites and analysts behaving badly, an awkward Brad Garrett experience, dinner with Vajohna & Co., and more.

Links to stuff discussed:

George Wallace’s website
John L Smith’s piece when we changed our show name
Follow Mike_E, Vajohna, JeffThePianist and R_Roberti on Twitter
A Twitter picture of Vajohna’s birthday treat at Alex
The background on the Asian Equation
Yelp!’s listing for the fantastic, cheap Pho Thanh Huong
VegasHappensHere.Com on the problems with the Tropicana and Cosmo sites
VegasTripping.Com’s coverage of the Skyloft site’s problems
The comic-banter show Green Room on Showtime that Amy discussed
The Portfolio.Com piece on Bill Lerner’s weird Cosmo analysis
M&M World expansion is coming, according to the Sun
The Las Vegas Sun’s piece on ads on slot machines
The R-J’s piece on Harrah’s latest stirrings of Project Linq
The Sun’s piece with the oddly lofty views of Vegas’ high-end malls

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Babe-Shaped Hole in Robin's Badd Tale

On his blog and Twitter feed this weekend, Robin Leach has reported the following:

* Brad Garrett has a stalker
* Brad Garrett is very upset about his stalker
* Brad Garrett's stalker is someone who Tweets at @BaddGarrett

He's so sure of it, he's called the Tweeter all sorts of awful names and wished jail and worse on the poor soul who has been doing an obvious and loving parody feed of the "Everybody Loves Raymond" actor.

Leach's stated timeline is already perplexing. Robin spoke to the comic yesterday, at which time he was, according to Robin's own Tweets, the first to show Garrett the Tweets in the @BaddGarrett feed. In that same discussion, Garrett told him:

“Two days ago, I triggered the legal machinery to really go after this person. He’s even called ticket brokers about my new Comedy Club shows at the Tropicana. He’s sent out dozens of fake Twitter messages pretending to be me and saying things I’d never say. But he’s fooling everybody into thinking it’s really me.”

Beyond Garrett's ability to travel back in time two days and get cops to probe something he didn't know about until yesterday -- totally cool, man! -- there's something else that blows Leach's harrumphing way out of the water.

The Tweeter behind @BaddGarrett EXCLUSIVELY!!! told me today... she's a she.

A woman.

That makes it really, really hard to be the same person who Garrett called a "he" several times in the Leach interview and who the comedian claims has "called ticket brokers about my new Comedy Club shows at the Tropicana."

Have any of you heard Garrett? He sounds a heckuva lot more like Harvey Fierstein than Margaret Ray. That's a really tough voice for a lady to even attempt, no?

At the very least, Leach must admit we may be talking about two different people. Garrett may have a stalking problem, but the real-world things that Garrett says are happening can't quite be coming from this Tweeter.

Sorry, old chap.

P.S. Looks like Robin's got a "stalker" of his own now. Ut-oh.

The Silly Triangle Of Robin, Brad & Badd

Robin Leach is going apeshit on his blog and Twitter feed on behalf of comic Brad Garrett because there's a fellow who uses the Twitter name @BaddGarrett who the Vegas headliner "exclusively" told Leach was upsetting him.

According to Leach, Garrett is getting the cops involved because he says the Tweeter has also been impersonating him by calling "ticket brokers about my new Comedy Club shows at the Tropicana" and sending "out dozens of fake Twitter messages pretending to be me and saying things I’d never say. ... He behaves as if he is me and has Twitter conversations with people as if he was me, and they all think it is me. It is not me." Garrett refers to the whole thing as "stalking" and told Leach that his "stalker" may even have pictures of his family.

The only problem is that Robin wrote in his own Twitter feed that Garrett didn't even know what @BaddGarrett had written until Robin showed it to him yesterday:

Uh, Robin? How would the real Brad Garrett know to say, "He behaves as if he is me and has Twitter conversations with people as if he was me" if he didn't know UNTIL THAT VERY CONVERSATION what might be being said in @BaddGarrett's Tweets? How could say "he’s had his lawyer go to the District Attorney’s Office and criminal detectives to hunt down the impostor" if he didn't even know what the Tweets said until YOU SHOWED THEM TO HIM?

Best case scenario: Garrett does have some sort of stalker or impersonator and he decided on the spot when Robin showed him a few select Tweets from @BaddGarrett that the Tweeter and the stalker were the same thing. And somehow Robin didn't think to say, "Well, Brad, how do you know this Twitter guy is the same guy?"

But wait. There's more.

Y'see, the day before Garrett complained to Leach, I publicly asked the official Tweeter for the Tropicana Hotel-Casino whether @BaddGarrett was actually the comic. I doubted it, but I figured asking would be worthwhile. And this is what @TropLV wrote:

In other words, the publicists for the Trop knew this Tweeter wasn't their headliner but they were HAPPY that @BaddGarrett was out there as an "advocate" for #BGCC, which is a hashtag for the Brad Garrett Comedy Club.

I don't know about any impersonations offline, but @BaddGarrett is and always has been a somewhat obvious parody Twitter feed. How Robin Leach didn't instinctively know that is truly baffling, but his Las Vegas Weekly colleague John Katsilometes himself wrote today (2nd item) that he's known it was a parody for weeks. A parody is not an impersonation, especially when the person doing the parodying acknowledges he's not the actual person whenever he's asked.

Parody Twitter feeds have a long history, at least long for the life of Twitter, anyhow. @NotSteveJobs, @BPGlobalPR and @ATT_Wireless_PR are three that I follow and giggle at. The last two are even less opaque than @BaddGarrett; if that really were the comedian, it surely would have been spelled correctly.

Many, many stars and notables have taken easy measures to clarify for the public which Twitter feeds are theirs -- including @Robin_Leach! Why did Robin not give his pal Brad the 411 on how to set up a "verified account" on Twitter the way he or @ActuallyNPH or @The_Real_Shaq did. Problem solved!

Instead, Robin's opted to be the voice of hysteria for Garrett, calling out @BaddGarrett on Twitter as a "fraud" who is "headed for the slammer! Good riddance to anybody this sick, twisted and mean!" Yes, those are actual excerpts of Robin's Tweets.

See, I reserve "sick, twisted and mean" to people who commit actual, usually violent, crimes. Making loving fun of a famous person in a manner that isn't even original hardly rises to that level. Robin Tweeted: "
You have tricked & deceived people into thinking you are him." Who? Somebody -- anybody! -- step up and say, "Yes, he told me he was the real guy and I've been damaged by this horrifying experience." This is something that Robin Leach believes we need to tie up our court system with? Seriously? I wonder how nutso Robin would get if someone poisoned his cat.

@BaddGarrett, whoever he is, has altered his bio to clarify for the truly joke-impaired what he's up to:

That really ought to be where the matter stops. At least via Twitter, the author of that feed has not broken any law. If he happens to also be calling people claiming to be Garrett, then maybe there's something there. But someone would have to prove that and right now there doesn't seem to be any evidence.

This Week's LVW Col: Thomas & Smack

Here's my second Sun Valley-related column, this one looking at Parry Thomas' views on where Vegas is today and what it needs to do. Enjoy. -sf

Thomas & Smack
Parry Thomas is still outspoken at 89,
and says Vegas needs a train to LA now


One story in the news caught my eye as I flew to Sun Valley, Idaho, a few weeks ago to interview the man who made Vegas possible. Some Clark County commissioners were kvetching over whether to allow the use of some redevelopment money to help finance a new arena on the property formerly occupied by Wet N Wild, an idea they eventually nixed.

One intriguing reason: They feared that the competition with the Thomas & Mack would harm UNLV’s cash flow. That made some sense to me, but a few hours later, when I arrived at my destination, I decided to ask someone who ought to know. I mean, after all, Parry Thomas is the “Thomas” in the university landmark, and that first arena—and the university itself, really—was built largely because he and Jerry Mack acquired the land for it.

“Oh, that’s bull,” the 89-year-old Thomas replied. “There will have to be an adjustment, but I’m all for the new arena. It’s great for business and anything that’s great for business is great for the university. We add a big sports center and we add all kinds of activities. You get major sports, you’ll get some of the biggest gamblers in the world down there. There’s certainly room for two venues.”

Before you write this off as the mutterings of an out-of-touch oldster, keep in mind the speaker’s track record. In the 1960s, bankers Thomas and Mack loaned money to casinos when nobody else would. Because they secured the capital, the “good old days” happened.

You know what else Thomas thinks would held Vegas recover

Read the REST at LasVegasWeekly.Com