Patty Dukes

Unreal steps into the Thickburger fray, gets good gossip at Pujols' fête and seeks dream interpretation -- and hey, keep your dirty pictures away from Ameren UE

Food historians can't agree upon exactly where the hamburger got its start, but no one disputes the location of its coming-out party: the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. This fact was not lost upon the marketing geniuses at Hardee's, who capitalized on the confluence this past Friday, April 30, to stage a Thickburger Eating Competition at Kiener Plaza downtown.

Was Unreal there? Is Angus beef certified? With its combination of crass commercialism, gluttony, hamburgers and fierce competition, this contest promised to be about as American as a spectacle could get.

Though Unreal wasn't permitted to vie for the gustatory glory, contest organizers provided us with a Thickburger from the judges' stash. It's really not bad, especially for something we didn't have to pay for -- though no burger weighing in at a half-pound ought to be cooked through at the center. That said, the sucker is undeniably...thick.

But a year-long foray into cholesterol poisoning is for one very special St. Louisan!
But a year-long foray into cholesterol poisoning is for one very special St. Louisan!
Electric shock: Reddy Kilowatt checks out some "questionable material."
Electric shock: Reddy Kilowatt checks out some "questionable material."

So much so that we had a newfound respect for the eleven gullet gladiators who had lined up to lay into all the Thickburgers they could handle in ten minutes' time.

And what would an American tale be without a Horatio Alger finish? Despite the presence of two out-of-town ringers, the winner was eighteen-year-old Andy Hille, an offensive guard for Kirkwood High School who downed six and one-quarter burgers in the allotted time.

For his effort, Hille trudged away with $500, plus a year's supply of Thickburgers. At the rate of 6.25 per day, that comes out to just over 2,281 burgers. Flushed with the thrill of victory and acute cholesterol poisoning, Hille was nonetheless slightly daunted by the prospect. "I'm probably going to be handing them out for a while," he told Unreal. "They don't sound too good right now."

Power Outage

Offensiveness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. But if you work at Ameren UE's Sioux power station in St. Charles County, your eyes are almost certainly safe from harm.

An anonymous tipster at the station recently contacted Unreal, claiming management has demanded that employees remove anything of a sexual nature that might offend co-workers' sensibilities. Among the alleged fallen: a poster put out by the National Safety Council warning of the dangers of back injuries and depicting a shirtless man, Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition and a photo of one employee's teenage daughter who'd just won a swimming contest.

Hey, workplace rules are workplace rules. But "the real kicker," writes Unreal's deep throat, "is that the Riverfront Times has also been banned."

That put Unreal on the blower to Ameren UE flack Susan Gallagher, who couldn't confirm or deny our tipster's list of banned materials but said the swimming-contest photo was indeed a likely victim: "That does not surprise me. If the daughter was in fact an older girl with a very slim bikini on and someone took offense at it, then we would ask someone to keep that at home."

But what about the RFT?

"Basically what happens is, if we get any complaints -- and we got one on the Riverfront Times and Cosmopolitan -- in somebody's perspective there were graphically explicit advertisements," Gallagher says.

No!

"Yeah, in the back of the Riverfront Times."

Our Riverfront Times?

"Yeah, around the personals section. I don't know. I've seen some that were somewhat suggestive."

Gallagher assures Unreal that the utility's smut policy is in keeping with that of other corporations. "We did some benchmarking when we set up this policy," she explains. "Many companies do not allow any non-work-related material on their premises. We simply prohibit materials that might be deemed offensive."

Black Velvet

Events like last Monday night's dinner for Players' Choice Award winner Albert Pujols are best left to the gossip columnists. But ever since Jerry Berger's cheerful visage vanished from the Metro pages of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Unreal has struggled with a bout of ennui. So we put on our Deb Peterson afro-wig-and-glasses and made haste to Morton's of Chicago in Clayton, arriving just in time to see the guest of honor step to the podium.

With a watercolor image of Mark Mc-Gwire in the background, the Cardinals' newest, bestest first baseman thanked God, Bo Hart and So Taguchi (in that order) and swiftly made his way back to his table in the back.

Though Pujols' casual attire (loose black trousers and clubby gray rayon shirt) and brief thankyouverymuch set an appropriately casual tone for the evening, a tardy Jim Edmonds soon put an end to the mellow vibe. No sooner had the golden boy escorted his date to a table at the rear than a black velvet rope appeared, cordoning off the handful of Redbird faithful who'd shelled out $150 a pop to sample oysters on the half-shell and rub elbows with current and former Cards.

Undeterred, one of Unreal's journalistic comrades-in-arms accompanied Hart's agent, Joe Hipskind, to the makeshift VIP area, approached Edmonds and floated the notion of a nightcap at Kilkenny's on Central Avenue. The suggestion was met with a "who the fuck are you -- and how much did your wristwatch cost?" look from the center fielder, who recently split with fiancée Paige Speck. Edmonds' new lady friend rescued the moment, piping up, "Oh, I just love Kilkenny's!"

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