All the Presidents' Pets, Mo Rocca's new book about the history of presidential pets and how those pets have shaped both presidencies and the course of history, is, we assume, a corking good read. The promotional Web site (www.allthepresidentspets.com) is full of interesting tidbits about presidents and their pets, but, unfortunately, an advance copy of the book didn't arrive in time to review. Instead, an interview with Rocca was arranged, and so this unbiased source revealed the origins and implications of the book.
Rocca maintains that many presidential pets have influenced White House policy, citing the romantic example of how the tender relationship between JFK's Welsh terrier Charlie ("A real bitches' dog," according to Rocca) and Pushinka (a Siberian husky given to Jackie Kennedy by Kruschev) altered the course of the Cuban Missle Crisis. Stories such as this are suppressed, Rocca claims, because "the objective of this president and his handlers, and many before them, is to stonewall the press so that they can cultivate their own image of a president who is omniscient, who is almost godlike. They don't want anything known that would humble the president. And in this case, knowing that animals have been making many of the chief decisions would certainly take a president down a notch or two in the public perception." Long pause. "This is also why this book needed to be written as a thriller starring me and Helen Thomas."
Rocca is serious about the latter, naming Thomas a "hero" for her tough questioning of President Bush after 9/11. Rocca characterizes his relationship with Thomas as "more Hart to Hart than anything else, with a little bit of Harold and Maude thrown in."
As for the current candidates and their pets, Rocca cites John Kerry's German shepherd, Cym (pronounced "Kim"), as a liability. "Listen, if Kerry wants to win this thing, he's gotta get that dog's name changed pronto," Rocca claims. "Do you think anyone in a swing state like Missouri is going to vote for a guy with a male dog named Cym? It's got that wacky Teresa written all over it." Rocca's recommendation for the dog? "Butch," he offers without hesitation.
Rocca discusses All The Presidents' Pets at 1 p.m. at Left Bank Books (399 North Euclid Avenue; 314-367-6731). -- Paul Friswold
Eat It Up
Junk your junk-food habit
Don't pack a lunch today. Instead, hightail it over to Left Bank Books (399 North Euclid Avenue; 314-367-6731) on your lunch hour. At noon you can feed your mind with the nutritional wisdom of Neal Barnard, M.D., author of Breaking the Food Seduction(soon to be released in paperback) and one of the talking heads from this summer's fast-food documentary Super Size Me.
Barnard's free, open-to-the-public talk on junk-food junkies -- and how you can break your biochemical addiction to bad foods if you're one of them -- should have you jonesing for rabbit food in no time. May we recommend the hearts of palm salad at Café Balaban across the street? -- Rose Martelli
Love Is in the Air
If there's one thing that makes lovely, Shakespeare-inspired music more lovely, it's a beautiful space. Take for example the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus' opening concert, "The Food of Love," hosted by Soulard's Trinity Lutheran Church at 812 Soulard Street. The wide-open space within historic Trinity provides the perfect setting for a cappella songs from As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eighthand The Tempest. The 3 p.m. concert also includes pieces by Sasha Johnson Manning. Tickets cost $16 to $18 and can be purchased by calling MetroTix at 314-534-1111. For more info about the chorus or its upcoming season, visit www.chamberchorus.org. -- Alison Sieloff
It's hard to believe now, but from the late '50s until the early '70s, the area around the intersection of Olive and Boyle was the epicenter for St. Louis' beatnik/jazzbo/hipster population. Gaslight Square, as it was then known, was the place where black turtlenecks, cigarette holders and a bebop attitude were de rigeur. (Now those people congregate in Affton.) Our faded joie de vivre is celebrated by Christopher Jackson and Daniel Pearlmutter in their newly expanded production of Gaslight Square: The Musical at the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; 314-361-7229). Relive the glory days when St. Louis was for swingers at 7:30 p.m. nightly beginning Tuesday, October 12, through Friday, October 15. Tickets are $19. -- Paul Friswold
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