Where's Florissant?

Some Lou denizens feel dissed by Miss USA (but Unreal still loves her!), a Pattonville student is treated criminally, and an 84-year-old grandma praises the Rams in song; plus, we clock local athletes on our gaydar

Unreal's coolest, bestest friend (see December 10, 2003), Shandi Finnessey, rocked our world when she won Donald Trump's talent-competition-free Miss USA pageant earlier this month. But some were peeved when she declared that her hometown is "Florissant."

St. Louis native Rodney M. Norman voiced his displeasure in a screed to Unreal. "How dare she flaunt around on stage and have the audacity not to claim that she was from St. Louis?" writes Norman, who argues that Finnessey is technically a St. Louisan "in every sense of the word."

Norman says Finnessey's St. Louis snub has caused his friends in Atlanta to laugh at him, and he pledges to lead boycotts of the new Miss USA's local appearances if she doesn't apologize.

The Lou's loss: Miss USA victor Shandi Finnessey has the nerve to be from Florissant.
The Lou's loss: Miss USA victor Shandi Finnessey has the nerve to be from Florissant.
Groovy gramma: 84-year-old Jean Roed loves the Rams, bratwurst and her nightly scotch.
Groovy gramma: 84-year-old Jean Roed loves the Rams, bratwurst and her nightly scotch.

Reached by phone in New York, where she's camping out in preparation for the June 1 Miss Universe pageant in Quito, Ecuador, the leggy beauty queen got a little hot under the tiara when told of Norman's beef.

"Fine. You know what? He can boycott if he wants, because the Miss Universe organization is sponsored by NBC and Donald Trump, and we're specifically asked 'hometown,'" she fumes. "My hometown is Florissant. I think a lot of people just like to get their noses in where it doesn't belong." Noting that Norman isn't the first person to get his boxers in a bunch over the St. Louis slight, she adds: "Some of these interviews are somewhat offensive."

But Norman contends that it's not about feelings, it's about economics: The way he sees it, had Finnessey given St. Louis a shout-out, the city would have seen a much-needed economic boost. "We're trying to get this 2004 stuff going on, we just had the [NCAA basketball tourney's] Sweet 16, and this is the best you could do for St. Louis?"

Muhammad Islam, chair of Saint Louis University's economics department, says he may have a point.

"I think to the extent that if your name is out there in the media and St. Louis gets some attention and they bring in business prospects because of that, then some benefit comes to the region," Islam tells Unreal. "People might not know where Florissant is, but they know where St. Louis is."

After Miss Universe, Finnessey will tour with the United Service Organizations (USO) in Iraq and South Korea. She won't be back in Missouri until sometime later in the summer, when, she says, she'll be feted in a homecoming parade.

Florissant or St. Louis?

"Florissant!" she says. "That's my hometown!"

Class Con

Chris Fowler had just finished taking a test in speech class at Pattonville High School when he got the message: The school's resource officer wanted to see him. The officer, who works for the Maryland Heights Police Department, proceeded to walk the seventeen-year-old senior through the packed cafeteria and outside to a waiting police car.

"Then they handcuffed me and put me in the car," recounts Fowler, a B student who plays saxophone in the band and has never so much as been sentenced to detention. "They said they were going to have to take me to the police station because there was a bench warrant for me for 'failure to appear.'"

Unbeknownst to Fowler, he was wanted for an outstanding traffic ticket for expired tags, a defective exhaust pipe and no insurance. Once at the police station, he had his mug shot snapped and was escorted to a small holding cell. As he waited for his mother to arrive with $300 to bail him out, he missed jazz band, pre-calculus and gym.

Unreal had a little, shall we say, attendance problem back in high school. When The Man came looking for us, we were on the roof of a parking garage, huffing dime-bag dirt weed from one of those cute little screw-together metal pipes.

But we digress.

"It was a little shocking," Fowler says. "But it makes sense. We're trapped at school anyway, so it's easy to get [students]."

It didn't make sense to Fowler's parents, who complained to John Heskett, assistant superintendent of Pattonville Schools. (Fowler's mom, former Riverfront Times staff writer Elizabeth Vega, tells Unreal she misread the amount due on the ticket and failed to send in enough money.) Heskett subsequently learned that two other students have been arrested on school grounds this year for minor infractions.

"We are not satisfied with the continuing use of our school as a place to arrest children for nonviolent incidents," the assistant superintendent says. "Missing class is a concern. The conversation among other kids about the fact that another kid was arrested was a concern. It doesn't contribute to a learning environment."

Maryland Heights Police Chief Tom O'Connor agrees.

"I'm not exactly sure what happened," says the chief, who immediately put the kibosh on classroom cuffing. "There's a technical interpretation of a bench warrant, and there's a common-sense interpretation. From a personal perspective, I don't think it's necessary to operate that way."

Ram-ma Jean

Songwriting grandma Jean Roed likes her scotch cold and her pigskin tough. The 84-year-old Fredericktown (pop. 3,928) resident and her husband, Arnold "Dusty" Roed, will likely be the least disappointed Ram fans when Kurt Warner receives his one-way ticket to free agency, but that didn't stop "Mama Jean" from penning a fight song, composed to the tune of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," that she hopes the Rams will adopt.

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