Jerry Baby!

We try to track down Jerry Berger, investigate what Carnahan is doing on the Flipside and learn about a Cosmological Flight Machine; plus, Bill Haas dishes the dirt and Unreal gets schooled at a "Rock, Paper, Scissors" tourney

Used to be that getting in touch with flacks was as easy as picking up the phone. Within seconds of placing a call to a company's media-relations department, a polished pitchman would be spinning your ear off. But that was before erstwhile Post-Dispatchgossip scribe and Unreal idol Jerry Berger brought a shroud of secrecy to the profession.

Once a ubiquitous hobnobber, Berger has been a virtual "no-sightem" since leaving the Post in March. (For more on Berger's departure, see the March 10 and April 7 installments of this column.)

What has become of the Sultan of Schmooze? Inquiring Unreal wanted to know.

Mystery solved: Reliable sourcestell Unreal that Berger's gone back to his PR roots. (Before signing on with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1978, the columnist flacked for the Muny, as well as for a few motion-picture companies in Hollywood.) One frequently mentioned client: our town's Ted Koplar, who presides over Koplar Communications International, a conglomerate of media and real estate enterprises.

Unreal promptly got Koplar's company on the blower, a gambit that yielded tantalizingly ambiguous results:

Unreal: Jerry Berger, please.

Receptionist: Ummm, I don't know if he's here.

Cindy Kerber, director of media relations for Koplar, confirms that Berger has been seen around the office with increasing frequency in recent weeks, but she declines to say what exactly he's up to.

"Jerry is a good friend of the Koplar family," Kerber hedges. "Beyond that, I don't know what his relationship is with the company."

Koplar did not return Unreal's calls seeking further comment. Nor, for that matter, did Berger, even though we promised piña coladas and chicken wings if he'd dish the dirt on his new life.

Jerry baby, the offer still stands!

Who's Reppin' Who?

On the cover of Flipside NewsZine's July issue, against a red, white and blue backdrop, snarling (or is that a confident smile?) Third Congressional District candidate Russ Carnahan stares out past the headline "Who's Reppin' You?"

Readers who turn to page nineteen of the local monthly lifestyle mag-cum-political journal are treated to a hardball Q&A with Rumblin' Russ ("What will be your plan of action?"), who as Unreal goes to press is facing off against a passel of Democratic rivals in a primary election for Dick Gephardt's soon-to-be vacated Congressional seat. Turn past the "Russ on the Issues" point-by-point, and you'll find a half-page ad for the candidate, situated directly above a half-page large-print Flipside editorial endorsement -- of Carnahan.

It's been a while since Unreal dozed through our last media-ethics class, so we called Charles Davis at the University of Missouri's Graduate School of Journalism. "It looks like the Russ Carnahan memorial edition," quips Davis, who doesn't read Flipside but does teach journalism ethics. "We'd like to have a wall between editorial and marketing."

What's really wrong with this picture, says the professor, isn't so much the interview, the ad or the editorial. It's their placement, which gives the appearance that Carnahan got a package deal for the whole kit and caboodle.

Carnahan isn't the only swinger at Flipside's political love fest. Though his photo didn't make the cover, supporters of Jerryl T. Christmas, candidate for St. Louis Circuit Attorney, ponied up for a quarter-page ad in the same issue. Flipside subjects Christmas to a Carnahan-worthy battery of questions, which take up the remainder of the page, surrounding his ad: "Since I've never been arrested, how can you help me?" asks Flipside staff writer Tiffany Bryant. "There's really nothing that I can do for you personally," Christmas responds.

Maybe next time around he'll opt for the half-page treatment.

The folks at Flipsidesay they don't sell coverage. The Russ Carnahan for Congress Committee hadn't yet expensed their ad, so Unreal isn't sure how much it cost them.

The Congressional hopeful probably got his money's worth, though. "It sort of cheapens the candidate's message," Mizzou's Davis muses. "Then again, I'm sure Carnahan might say, 'Did we reach the population we wanted? You bet we did.'"

Keep Smiling

Lest you think the strong acid's worn off, Unreal will have you know that Bill Kranz and his Celestial Theatre, an avant-garde troupe of spacey performers who deck themselves out in Day-Glo costumes, are still going strong. So strong that the troupe is soliciting volunteers and financiers to construct a state-of-the-art Cosmological Flight Machine to replace their trusty yet dated Moonrocket.

Unreal caught up with Kranz recently to discuss this and at least one other very important topic.

Unreal: What prompted the need to upgrade from a mere Moonrocket to a full-on Cosmological Flight Machine?

Bill Kranz: We have a new script that has some nonfiction associated with it concerning the potential for the sun to go nova. That requires us to be able to fly throughout the solar system.

Why did you not vie for the X Prize, like Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen?

Actually, I'm trying to raise anywhere from $500 to $50 billion. Fifty billion would be a real spaceship, so we might be in the running for it, who knows?

If an alien were to receive the benefits of an Ivy League education and major league baseball franchise ownership, would that alien eventually become a better president than George W. Bush?

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