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Boob of the Year

Kid Rock bottoms out, and 34 more booby prizes

MT illustrations: Sean Bieri
MT illustrations: Sean Bieri
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Published 1/3/2007

When we at the Metro Times assumed the awesome responsibility of naming Detroit's "Boob of the Year," we knew that the decision-making process could go one of two ways. There was the possibility of fierce and heated debate as we thrashed through the nomination process, carefully weighing the relative strengths and, more importantly, weaknesses of the various contenders. Or, it could be a no-brainer, with the award-winning loser being so completely deserving that the selection would be immediately obvious.

Fortunately for us, with the crush of holiday parties pressing down, Kid Rock proved to be a no-brainer.

The competition wasn't even close. Sure, the Kid managed some year-end apple-polishing by performing for our troops in Iraq over Christmas, but even that great deed can't keep him from going unrecognized for what was otherwise a yearlong spectacle of embarrassment.

At the top of that list, of course, were the four weddings and a divorce, with Kid and his unblushing bride Pamela Anderson jetting around the globe for a series of hyped-to-the-max, alcohol-drenched commitment ceremonies that had all the class of stained faux-satin bed sheets. Less than three months after tying that fourth knot, the loving couple was headed for divorce court.

Even more abysmal was the Kid's foray into politics, with the man formally known as Robert Richie campaigning for law-and-order, family-values Senate candidate Mike Bouchard, Oakland County's sheriff. We don't know who's more of a hypocritical opportunist with this one, the guy who rapped the immortal line "Playin' shows, fuckin' hos, Got the dope in my veins and up my nose" or the hopelessly desperate politico who accepted his support.

The Kid's bid for political flunkydom failed with Bouchard's defeat. But he probably doesn't mind — that leaves plenty of time to balance his many other assumed personas, from emcee to Southern Rock savior, country crooner to Midwestern, blue collar everyman. Self-styling himself as a Bob Seger for the 21st century — even as the real Seger proved this year that he doesn't need to ride Kid's Coors-soaked coattails to remain relevant and rocking in 2006 — seems the most egregious. It's not enough that he copped the cover art of Live Bullet for his own turgid live album, Live Trucker, which rehashed (again) his American Badass-era hits instead of featuring much of anything new. Then again, Kid's bereft of his own ideas, hence his continued use of the same character theft. It's almost like he thinks that, if he's photographed with the Seeg enough, he'll just become him. We'd be remiss to not mention how Kid rode the hip-hop backs of Detroit blacks to stardom — first, you'll recall, as a Detroit version of Vanilla Ice! — only to perform onstage years later fronting a giant confederate flag. So it is with guffaws we point out that 2006's Live Trucker stiffed on the charts and his last arena tour left a trail of blood. (Shit, in Cleveland the promoters couldn't give away enough tickets to fill the joint.)

The clincher, however, came when we read among other places (and we kid you not) in the Hindustan Times that the possible cause for Mr. Rock's breakup with Mrs. Rock was Pam's appearance in the movie Borat. We offer this obeservation from London's The Guardian newspaper in commenting on the same subject: "It's suggested that the singer — who is as mocked for the dimension of his brain as his estranged wife is for the measurements of her breasts — became enraged after a private screening of the film, in which the central premise is that Sacha Baron Cohen's demented Kasakh reporter plans to kidnap Anderson in the hope of gaining 'entrance to her vagine.'"

Seems the Kid felt his beloved had been somehow unfaithful, or a least deceitful by participating in Cohen's spoof. Forget about the Kid himself having to go to court earlier in the year to keep a home video of him and a pal having sex with groupies from making its way onto the Internet. We're dumbfounded that Rock could find fault with what is far and away the only real acting his wife has ever done.

There is, however, a note of sadness in all this. In breaking up, Rock and Anderson have torn asunder the near miraculous creation their brief marriage accomplished, the formation of an almost holy and certainly mythic trinity: the union of three perfectly unbelievable boobs.

Take a bow, Kid. You earned it

 

To save time, she put the words "I do" on a tape loop and kept it playing.

The first published reports indicated that Macomb County's Kyle McConnell had two husbands — at the same time. Then the number of reported hubbies quickly jumped to three. Before long headlines in papers across the country and as far away as Calgary were declaring that the singularly unattractive Ms. McConnell had married as many as 15 different men over the years, taking their cash and scamming.

"Her whole life has been a series of smoke and mirrors, and it's a bit hard to keep up with her," Detective Tim Donnellon of the St. Clair County Sheriff's Office told one paper. "We don't know exactly how many men she has conned, but she has a talent for finding lonely men, marrying them and stealing their money. By the time these poor guys would find out what was happening, she would split and move on to the next guy."

Convicted in 2005 of swindling more than $100,000 from one husband, she married another man while on the run to avoid serving time for that crime. In August she pleaded guilty to polygamy charges, and is now serving time in Scott Correctional Facility.

 

Hey, the prez is a busy guy, he has to establish his priorities

This summer, after President George Bush canceled a planned meeting with struggling Big Three automakers — for the third time — Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, released the following statement: "In the last two months President Bush has canceled three separate meetings with the Big Three while finding time in his busy schedule to meet with sports teams, hold a picnic for members of Congress and personally swear in members of his Council on Physical Fitness. This is another clear indicator of where this administration's priorities are when it comes to manufacturers." In her obviously partisan attack, Stabenow unfortunately failed to note how much time Bush has devoted to thoroughly fucking things up in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the countless hours devoted to making sure his pals in the oil industry are reaping record profits.

 

Kwame's dad sure knows how to set a good example for his son

According to press reports, Wayne County is suing Jon Rutherford, head of the nonprofit mental health agency Metro Emergency Services, alleging "embezzlement, larceny and unjust enrichment." As part of that case, the county subpoenaed Bernard Kilpatrick, pappy to Mayor Kwame and chairman of the county mental health board, to be deposed. Seems there were some business relationships between Rutherford and Bernard (before he assumed his mental health post) that needed some exploring. But the elder Kilpatrick reportedly refused to answer, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Rutherford, the subject of a 20-count federal indictment alleging tax evasion, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. We're betting this whole issue shows up again next year when we compile our list of dubious achievements for 2007. But that's just a guess.

 

Change that headline to "In Michigan, Even The Really Sick Vote"

It was bad enough when The Detroit News bannered a story across the front of a Sunday paper that was long on hype and short on substance. "In Michigan Even the Dead Vote" the headline breathlessly announced. But once readers dipped into the actual copy, they learned that the purported number of dead folk voting throughout the entire state was a less-than-startling 132. The kicker came a few days later, when the Secretary of State's office wrote to say even that underwhelming number was way high. According to the SOS, the paper's figure represented the number of absentee ballots sent to the supposed dead, not the number of croakers voting. The vast majority of those ballots were — understandably — never returned. The office also pointed out that, of those who did vote, nearly all were still alive when those ballots were submitted. Civic-minded to the end, these folks passed away between the time they voted and when those votes were counted on Election Day. When all the subtracting was done, the News' banner scoop had — at the very most — no more than eight ghosts showing up at the polls statewide. In other words, never mind. And, while on the subject of not minding, we saw neither a formal correction nor, even more appropriate, a complete retraction issued by the paper.

 

Talk about blowing a wad

Things got sticky over at the Detroit Institute of Arts when a 12-year-old student from Holly Academy slapped a wad of chewing gum on a $1.5 million masterpiece, Helen Frankenthaler's 1963 "The Bay." The boy was on a field trip with his class at the museum when he decided to brand the blue-and-green abstract artwork. The gum left a small stain on the lower left-hand corner of the canvas. The boy was suspended by the Oakland County charter school and punished by his parents. The painting was successfully restored.

 

Yeah, but we still have more automatic weapons than they do

In a short piece posted on Forbes.com under the misleading headline "Baghdad Is Safer Than Detroit," writer Bernard Condon points out that investors consider bonds issued by the government of Iraq to pay off Saddam-era commercial debt are a better bet than General Motors bonds. Translating the numbers for us, Condon wrote, "A 98-year-old company that has not missed a debt payment in memory is twice as likely to burn lenders as is a year-old Middle East republic teetering on civil war. Perhaps investors think Washington is more likely to bail out Baghdad than Detroit."

 

Is the name "Nannygate" taken?

Just when progressives were looking for his leadership in the movement to impeach Bush, U.S. Rep. John Conyers is hit with an ethics flap: Former aides allege that the 42-year congressman insisted aides work on his political campaigns and forced them to baby-sit and chauffeur his children. According to The Hill, a D.C. paper that covers Congress, aide Sydney Rook, who made complaints to both the FBI and the House Ethics Committee, said she had to tutor "Little John" Conyers for his classes at Cranbrook Academy and that a staffer "would pick the son up from school, take him to the office, fix him a snack and help him with his homework." The Hill account, however, includes something that some subsequent articles skip: Other former congressional staffers who say this type of behavior is so common as to be "the great untold story on Capitol Hill.

 

I'm rubber, you're glue...

Detroit Mayor Kwame Klpatrick, having posed a remarkable come-from-behind victory over challenger Freman Hendrix in the November election, declared that he wanted to make all the perceived bad blood between him and the local media a thing of the past. So, to get things off to a fresh start, he invited reporters to a catered reception at a local restaurant. The food was fine, the drinks flowed and the Kwamster was gracious and funny and persuasive, telling the journos they need to be balanced and tell the good stories going on in the city as well as the bad. It's a lovely moment that passes quickly when KK, claiming to have been greatly matured by the trials of his first term, can't resist rubbing the media's collective nose in his victory. Instead of killing him off like they wanted, he told the journos, "Y'all made me stronger." Then, to prove what a mature and gracious winner he is, the Mayor Mature added, "Nya-nya-nya-nya-nya!"

 

What is it about Detroit that keeps us gettin' the love?

In a profile of maverick economist Edward L. Glaeser., The New York Times Magazine revealed that the ground-breaking analysis "Urban Decline and Durable Housing," which the Harvard prof co-authored, was "initially circulated with a subtitle along the lines of 'Why Does Anyone Still Live in Detroit?'" Thinking it politically insensitive, the authors eventually deleted the line. The gist of the article: Cities boom quickly because new housing can be built quickly, and they go bust slowly because it takes time for all that housing to deteriorate beyond use by increasingly poor residents. Thanks, Ed. We were wondering what the hell we were doing here.

 

Asking Him to create the miracle of a half-off sale

Two women created a mess at the Washington Township Meijer last March that store managers couldn't clean up with a mop. Brittany Leigh Jordan of Washington Township and Rachael Sue Jacob of Rochester fell to the floor prone in prayer in front of the store entrance and wouldn't get back up. The two women entered guilty pleas to charges of trespassing in 42nd District Court and were fined $300. The judge also banned them from visiting the chain for a year. This isn't the first time the two women had been in trouble for spontaneous prayer, either. They were also found guilty of trespassing for laying down in prayer in front of a McDonalds in Shelby Township. Minutes after posting bond in that case, they laid down in the courtroom in prayer.

 

You can find the whole story at www.myhypocrisy.com

When students at Lakeview High School produced a video about the dangers of Internet privacy, they used examples of private information about their classmates they found on the Web. The superintendent vowed action to correct the matter. Unfortunately, that action was to discipline the television production teacher. The video, shown in the school's closed-circuit television network, featured scenes found on Myspace.com of students with alcohol and dressed in their underwear. They were supposed to serve as an example of Internet privacy issues. But when the parents saw photos of their children partying, they decided to discipline the messenger. "I can't monitor [my daughter's Internet activity] like I should," said one parent. "If the teacher's suspended, it's probably the right action."

 

If they're not into it for publicity

The Kilpatrick administration rebuffs questions about just who is serving on various transition teams in mapping out the mayor's new administration initiatives. Team leaders have been announced, including NAACP Detroit President the Rev. Wendell Anthony, prominent attorney David Baker Lewis and former Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Duggan. But administration spokesman James Canning says the full list of 40 team members will remain cloaked because so many of the volunteers aren't in it for the limelight. Of course, if we knew more of who they were, we might hazard some of our own guesses about what they're into it for.

 

With supporters like these ...

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick takes the podium at the NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner and attacks the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative by turning affirmative action into a program of eternal redress. "On behalf of the city of Detroit, I say, bring it on. ... There will be affirmative action here today. There will be affirmative action here tomorrow and there will be affirmative action in our state forever," avers Kilpatrick. It's exactly the kind of thinking that could have sunk the affirmative action cause had it been presented before the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2004 University of Michigan affirmative action challenges. Worse yet, more than a few commentators note a similar cadence to Alabama Gov. George Wallace's infamous 1963 address: "I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny ... and I say ... segregation today ... segregation tomorrow ... segregation forever."

 

That's what friends spouses are for

When Detroit City Council passed a nonbinding resolution to put the name of U.S. Rep. John Conyers on the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, a couple of dubious thoughts sprang to mind: 1) Wouldn't it have been better if the resolution had been introduced by one of the eight council members the congressman isn't married to? 2) Wouldn't it have been better to put his name on a whole something rather than a half-something?

 

We never realized getting a facial was a form of philanthropy

"I plan to pursue opportunities within the private sector and devote my time and skills to the charitable and philanthropic arenas. I also look forward to spending more time with my husband and children," said Oakland Circuit Court Judge Deborah Tyner in announcing her decision, after 16 years on the bench, to retire rather than seek re-election in an unopposed race. She does not say she intends to spend more time shopping, going to the spa and working out at the gym, the activities that WDIV filmed her engaged in during 11 days over a two-month period, allegedly (and denied by Tyner) during her workday. Tyner, 49 at the time of her announcement, was described in The Detroit News as having often "dressed down" attorneys and picked up the courthouse sobriquet of "Judge Tylenol."

 

We're just hoping our Pinto won't explode if it gets rear-ended

As if Ford Motor Co. didn't already have problems galore to deal with, its troubles got upped a notch when it became the victim of the homophobic American Family Association, which launched a nationwide boycott against the automaker for supporting a gay agenda. We always suspected there was some hidden subtext involved in naming the Festiva, but apparently Ford's courting of sodomites goes way beyond that. The AFA folks had their undoubtedly drab panties all in a knot over the fact that Ford had the flaming audacity to actually contribute money to gay rights groups, offer benefits to same-sex couples and advertise in gay-oriented publications. When Ford sales continued to fall, AFA founder Donald E. Wildman puffed up his less-than-manly chest and trumpeted the bad news as a sign his group's boycott was having an effect.

 

Let's say the devil made them do it

When a guy has more money than God, he can apparently afford to spend truckloads of dollars futilely soliciting votes. That, anyhow, is the message we garnered from the ubiquitous campaign billboards conservative gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos posted in Detroit, a Democratic stronghold if there ever was one. The farce turned even funnier when some local "culture jammers" commandeered the signs by strategically changing words to read: "Devil for Governor: Enough is Enough. Vote for Satan."

 

Lonnie Bates? Crooked? Nah, man — it's all the fault of the KKK

Detroit voters have been known to make some interesting choices, but few have been more inexplicable than the election of Alonzo "Lonnie" Bates to the City Council in 2001. As Frank Beckmann once observed, good ol' Lonnie had already compiled quite a record as a public servant by that point: "On the Detroit school board, Bates spent so much time on the road that he could have been a prime source for Fodor's travel guides. As administrator of Detroit's parks and recreation department, he became famous in TV news reports for avoiding the office as if the toilets had flooded the building." Voters did, however, reject Bates four years later, but only because he was facing indictment at that point. Bates fiercely maintained his innocence. But a federal jury in August put an end — at least for the next several years — to the possibility of Bates again being on the public payroll. Unless you count the cash he'll earn working in a prison laundry. After first pleading guilty to four misdemeanor counts of failing to file federal income tax returns from 2001 to 2004 (earning more than $397,000 during those years), Bates was convicted of placing his son's mother, ex-girlfriend's daughter and his yardman on the city payroll without having them, you know, do any actual work. Classy to the end, Bates reportedly remarked, "Ku Klux Klan ... Ku Klux Klan" when the jury handed down its guilty verdict.

 

Speaking of the Klan and classy guys

Ward Connerly, the conservative African-American businessman who led the effort to have Michigan voters abolish state government affirmative action programs, showed his true colors when he welcomed the KKK's endorsement of Proposal 2. "If the Ku Klux Klan thinks that equality is right, God bless them," said Connerly. "Thank them for finally reaching the point where logic and reason are being applied instead of hate." After the ballot measure passed, with nearly 60 percent of the vote, Connerly — who, according to published reports, benefited early in his business career from state contracts granted to his consulting firm because of affirmative action programs — told the Los Angeles Times he was planning to take his fight to ease the white man's burden to other states. "I won't retire until my toes curl up," he said. We don't wish him ill, but ...

 

One ball, corner pocket

It sounds like the line from a bad joke: Two unidentified men walked into the Bien Hoa Social Club in Warren, but only one and a half walked out. Trouble began when the pair started to rough the place up, and then one of the intruders shot a man sitting in the club's Internet Café. As the gunman proceeded to exit the establishment, he stuffed the pistol into his waistband. Bad move. The gun discharged into his groin. When someone with a particularly telltale wound showed up at a local hospital later that morning, police were pretty sure they had their man. For those concerned with such things, "Bien Hoa" is Vietnamese for "land of peaceful frontiers."

 

Dick DeVos: the man, the myth, the legend. Mostly the myth

In an interview with the student paper at his alma mater, Forest Hills High School, gubernatorial candidate DeVos recounted a stirring conversation he once had with high school football coach Frank Rosengren during Dicky's glorious gridiron days: "He and I took a walk right behind this building [the old gym]. It was a warm day and I remember he told me, 'Dick, I am going to start you because you have leadership skills and the team responds to your leadership." Or maybe it was DD's creative approach to image-building the team responded to, because a reporter from the Grand Rapids Press contacted the now retired Rosengren and was told by the coach that "he never walked with DeVos behind the gym for the coach-athlete heart-to-heart" and that he was certain "DeVos never started as a quarterback in a varsity football game." Which might explain why DeVos so badly fumbled away his chance of defeating incumbent Jennifer Granholm despite spending $41 million on the campaign, with most of the cash coming from DeVos' personal fortune

 

Maybe Dick's problem was being too damn honest

Nolan Finley, a columnist for The Detroit News, is supposed to be a journalist, someone who digs hard for the truth and strives for honesty, holding the feet of politicos to the fire when they're running for office and presenting themselves to voters. But apparently the Nole man would much rather be a political consultant and advise clients that obfuscation and evasion are far better than candor on the campaign trail. As proof, we offer this lede from one of Finley's columns: "Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Whenever Dick DeVos hears himself talking about anything else for the duration of the gubernatorial campaign, it should be a clue for him to just shut up."

Finley went on to declare that DeVos made a "colossal political blunder" when he slipped up and actually responded to a question about the teaching of "intelligent design" in public school science classes. A fundamentalist Christian, DeVos is all for the teaching of what used to be called creationism — even though the courts have ruled that anything grounded in religion has no place in a science class. Finley didn't have any problem with a man seeking to be the state's chief executive holding firm to such parochial beliefs, he just didn't want voters to know about it for fear they would see DeVos as a right-wing religious zealot. Nolan's sage advice to the candidate: "He must get better at the essential political art of giving the answer you want to give and not the one that actually addresses the question. If asked about abortion, intelligent design, gay marriage, boxers or briefs, DeVos' response should always be: "Good question. Let me tell you how I'm going to create jobs in Michigan." Astounding.

 

And then there's his dad, Big Dick

Seems candidate DeVos wasn't the only one in his family who had some difficulty knowing when to keep his yap shut. His dad, Richard DeVos, didn't help Sonny's election efforts much when he declared that getting a good education wasn't all that important when it comes to finding success in life. Speaking to the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, the senior DeVos, co-founder of the company that used to be called Amway, criticized a college tuition guarantee for Kalamazoo high school students. "If its free, its not worth much," said Daddy Rich. According to the Kalamazoo Gazette, he added, "I have kids who work for me who don't have a college education that make millions of dollars. They play basketball." DeVos owns the Orlando Magic NBA team. African-American leaders in Detroit were none too pleased with that attitude, and they didn't much like that the candidate supported his dad's skewed view. "Comments by the father that are this irresponsible must be addressed," said the Rev. Horace Sheffield III of the New Galilee Baptist Church in Detroit at a press conference. "And we certainly don't believe that the candidate should publicly stand by words that denigrate the pursuit of higher education and promote professional basketball as a realistic alternative for most of our young people."

 

We're beginning to hope there really is a Hell, just for this creep

As if seeing your loved one die in a war our president lied us into wasn't hard enough, some of Michigan's bereaved had to bear the sight of an out-of-control homophobe from Topeka, Kan., dancing on the graves. We refer to pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church and his small band of followers who believe that "America is a homofascist state, cursed of God and doomed — a nation of sodomite crybabies and hypocrites — led by a Congress of whores." OK, maybe they got that part about Congress right, but Phelps, never mistaken as someone preaching the gospel of tolerance and love, went way over the edge when he and his crew began showing up at the funerals of fallen soldiers across the country, including a number here in Michigan, waving placards and shouting slogans like "Thank god for dead soldiers." (The group even closed out their vile year by vowing to picket former president Gerald R. Ford's funeral because he reached out to include gays and lesbians in the GOP.) According to Phelps' deluded thinking, it's the price we pay as a country for not stoning queers, or something like that. To counter the rants and protect grieving families and friends from the hate spewing from the mouths of these protesters, a group of motorcyclists calling themselves Patriot Guards began showing up at the funerals as well, positioning their hogs between mourners and the Phelpites, revving their engines to drown out the chants and holding up flags to block the view. Subsequently, both the Michigan Legislature and U.S. Congress passed laws banning protests at military funerals. We understand the sentiment that led to those laws, but worry about the slippery slope that comes with restricting speech.

 

Honk if you think Ferndale police need to fight real crime

After cops warned Victor Kittila to desist holding a protest sign that urged passing drivers to "Honk if you want Bush out" because it inspired motorists to violate a law prohibiting them from sounding their horns "when not reasonably necessary," the city's not-so-finest showed they have absolutely no sense of humor and very little actual crime-fighting to do when they subsequently handcuffed, threatened with a Taser and then arrested Kittila for holding aloft a revised sign that declared: "Ferndale cops say: Don't honk if you want Bush out." That inspired raging granny Nancy Goedert, 73, to stand at the corner of Woodward and Nine Mile with a sign that read "Police Say Don't Honk for Peace." She too was cited and, like Kittila, faced the prospect of a $500 fine and more than 90 days in the clink if convicted of the misdemeanor. Lawyers from the ACLU and the Sugar Law Center came to their defense. Charges were eventually dropped after the two protesters crossed their hearts and promised to stop their involvement with any signage that even hinted at horn-blowing.

 

A hole lot of trouble for nothing

For nearly two weeks a small army of FBI agents searched the 89-acre Hidden Dreams horse farm in Milford for the remains of long-gone Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. There were engineers and geologists and forensic anthropologists and archaeologists and cadaver-sniffing dogs and a demolition crew. The one thing there wasn't was any trace of Hoffa. Perhaps the search would have been more successful had the agency acted a bit more quickly after first being tipped in 1976 that Hoffa was buried on the property. But the tipster, a federal inmate serving a 10-year-sentence for drug smuggling, persisted in claiming he'd seen a backhoe at work and a rolled-up carpet deposited in the hole the day after Hoffa disappeared in 1975. And then there's the good people of Milford, who handled the media attention, er, tastefully. One local bakery sold chocolate Hoffa cupcakes that featured a green plastic hand reaching up through brown frosting topped with sprinkles to make it look like dirt, and a bar advertised its Hoffa steak salad "buried under field greens with mushrooms and edible flowers." Classy.

 

Later, they used a game based on the AIDS epidemic to promote discount travel to Africa

Looking to cash in on the big Hoffa dig, Spirit Airlines created the online game "The Hunt for Hoffa" to tout its cheap ticket prices. According to one news account, the airline promoted the game on its Web site with the line: "Help us find Hoffa with our Hunt for Hoffa game and enjoy airfares from just $39 each way." The game was only up for a few hours before complaints started rolling in and Spirit honchos realized what a really bad idea the whole thing was. A company spokesguy told The Detroit News: "It was all done in good fun and topical humor. We got a couple of dozen complaints. Some people thought it was in bad taste." Really?

 

It's OK to protest — just make sure no one can hear you

In a case the ACLU of Michigan said illustrated the "absurdity of so-called free speech zones," environmental advocate David Brooks was told the only place he could hold aloft a sign declaring "There is no refuge if you can't drink the water or breathe the air" in protest of then-Secretary of the Interior Gayle Norton's appearance at a Wayne County Metro Park was at a spot two miles from where Norton was speaking. "I felt like I was in China or Iran," said Brooks, a retired engineer. "As soon as I put up a sign protesting the policies of our government, I was whisked away out of sight." The ACLU of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Brooks. The case has yet to be resolved, but the ACLU is confident that the Constitution is on its side. "The government can't force critics to protest in the woods where no one can hear them," said Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the Michigan ACLU, apparently laboring under the delusion that there will actually be any woods remaining by the time George Bush leaves office two years from now.

 

Wait'll you see the flamethrower-and-swimsuit competition

Here we have an example of government truly working for the interests of the people: Michael Sessa Jr., Harrison Township resident and founder of Gun Owners of Macomb County, asked the state government to look at its 1977 state ruling relegating Michiganders to antique or relic machine guns. Sessa said the ruling was too strict and asked Cox to overturn it. Cox complied. This now meant Sessa could get his hands on machine guns made before the 1986 federal ban on the ownership of newly manufactured versions of the weapons. So why did Sessa originally want a machine gun made after 1977 but before 1986? So he could better compete in the twice-annual Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot contest in Kentucky. But it wasn't just selfish competition that drove him — it was also a deeper sense of duty to his fellow residents. As he told The Macomb Daily, "Now, we'll be able to own slightly newer machine guns." Which is just what the world needs.

 

That explains why the nice young sheikh had a Spanish accent

The Free Press reported that Michigan resident Anthony Enrique Gignac was in trouble with the law yet again for impersonating a member of the Saudi royal family — something the 35-year-old has been doing since he was 17. The fact that he was born in Colombia apparently wasn't much of an impediment as he conned people out of tens of thousands of dollars over the past 18 years. The ongoing charade and attendant fraud has resulted in Gignac being arrested at least nine times. If nothing else, Gignac gets style points for chutzpah. The Freep reported that during an appearance in federal court in Detroit the conman "identified himself as Al-Saud, insisting that Gignac is an alias."

 

Make that, "All the news that's fit to misprint."

We found the following item regarding the venerable New York Times on the gawker.com blog, which posted two corrections the paper of record had run and suggested it "might want to get a man to Michigan pronto":

"A chart with The Fifth Down column in Sports on Oct. 25, which ranked the top five states that produced the most NFL players on opening-day rosters this season, gave the incorrect ranking in some copies for two states and omitted a state. The correct rankings: California is first (206 players); Florida is second (177); Texas is third (175); Ohio is fourth (83); and Georgia is fifth (80). Because the city of Detroit was listed as a state, in third place, the rankings for Texas and Ohio were incorrect and Georgia was omitted.'" As they sometimes say in the news business, oops. That was followed by a second correction Gawker also noticed: "An entry in the News Summary on Saturday misstated the name of the team that the St. Louis Cardinals defeated to win the World Series. It was the Detroit Tigers, not the Detroit Lions." OK, we can understand thinking Detroit's a state, but confusing this year's Tigers with the Lions, now that's really journalism at its most clueless.

 

But discount Hummers are one of life's great pleasures

How screwed up are American auto companies? In May, prominent New York Times columnist Thomas (The World Is Flat) L. Freidman welcomes the demise of GM as we know it. "Is there a company more dangerous to America's future than General Motors? Surely, the sooner this company gets taken over by Toyota, the better off our country will be," he began his harangue. There were two flashpoints for his ire. First was a "fuel price protection program" for buyers of certain vehicles in California and Florida who would, in essence, be reimbursed for the extra costs incurred when gas climbs above $1.99 a gallon at the pump ("so more Americans can get hooked on nine-mile per gallon Hummers"). Second was a $500 purchase and lease discount on select vehicles for active duty military ("who have to protect the oil lines to keep ... gas guzzlers guzzling"). Concluded Friedman: "The whole thing is a travesty."

 

Remember those old "Will the last person out of Michigan please turn out the lights" bumper stickers?

Michiganders watch unemployment statistics as intently as an ICU patient eyes a vital signs monitor. Just makin' sure we ain't dead yet. The seasonally adjusted state jobless rate was 6.2 percent in January and floated upward, passing the 7 percent mark in April. When it dropped to a flat 6 percent in May, a four-year-low, the experts looked for a fluky explanation. One was that the jobless numbers were being skewed by folks dropping out of the workforce, including those giving up job searches or leaving the state, which means they no longer count as Michigan jobless. Sure enough, the jobless numbers were back in the 7 percent range by July and stayed there through the most recent monthly figure of 6.9 percent, issued for November. By comparison, the national jobless rate fluctuated between 4.4 percent and 4.8 percent for the year through November.

 

Have we got a deal for you ...

The marketing world gives DaimlerChrysler a high-five in June for buying a couple of the hottest spots in mass media real estate: two pages in People magazine in the middle of the coverage of the blessed birth of the year, Brangelina's newborn, Shiloh. The price of the ad pages is undisclosed, but People is reported to have paid $4 million for the baby pictures. So figure the ad pages for the new Dodge Caliber went at something above the typical rate of four pages for $230,000. By the way, automakers and others interested in early placement for next year's Booby awards, at far more reasonable rates, can call 313-961-4060 and ask for Metro Times retail ad department. (Which reminds us of the GM-Robert Reich dust-up, in which the former U.S. labor secretary claimed — while the company and its PR minions denied — that he was offered moolah to say the company buyout offers were good deals for employees. For those kinds of offers, call our editorial department at 313-202-8011.)

 

Sources: The New York Times, Gawker.com, Grand Rapids Press, DetroitWonk, Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, Observer & Eccentric, The Daily Tribune (Royal Oak), Forbes, Times Herald (Port Huron), Associated Press, United Press International, Los Angeles Times, The Edmonton Journal (Alberta, Canada) and Hindustan Times (Mumbai, India).

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