All Fun & Games

...until Unreal puts our eye out. Plus: We hit the lake for some high-speed action, then attempt to chill with Chuck Berry.

Unreal receives hundreds of press releases each week, most of which we burn in a pyre out back. But send us one entitled, "Eye Injuries Can Take the Fun Out of Sports," and we'll devote serious column inches to your cause.

Which brings us to the wisdom of the nearly century-old Chicago-based nonprofit Prevent Blindness America, which was once called the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness and is dedicated to...preventing blindness.

Unreal: Why are you so intolerant of blindness?

Mike Gorman

Sarah Hecker, director of PBA media relations: The thing is, half of all blindness if preventable. So we want you going to the eye doctor to make sure you don't have glaucoma, or cataracts, or any of those diseases. One thing about glaucoma is you can have it and it starts deteriorating your vision, but you might not notice it right away, and before you know it part of your vision is permanently gone.

Your press release says 40,000 Americans per year injure their eyes during sports. But we've heard through the grapevine that the number is actually closer to 39,500.

Actually, we got that number from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Aren't ophthalmologists notorious liars?

Absolutely not!

OK, we've tried to control the urge, but we've got to say it: It's all fun and games until someone puts an eye out — right?

You know what, that is true. What your mother and father told you when you were five years old — it's one of those "everything I need to know in life I learned in kindergarten" sort of things.

Could plastic goggles prevent a stingray's tail from puncturing your eye?

You know, I haven't seen any results of stingray testing. I want to say it would, at least, help. I'm sure it wouldn't hurt.

In eighth grade we were voted 'best eyes' by our junior-high class. Do you think beautiful people should take extra-special care of their baby blues and browns?

Clearly, it is your duty to protect your eyes, especially if yours are much better looking than the rest of ours.

Glad we see eye to eye on this.

You Never Can Tell

Chuck Berry turns 80 on October 18. But the public party for the mercurial musician began last week.

On September 13, in anticipation of the milestone, St. Louis event planner Bill Kay Jr. treated 160 friends, family and clients to a private screening of the 1987 flick Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'N' Roll at the Tivoli Theatre. Kay, who's 45 years Berry's junior, spared no expense, serving brats-in-a-blanket from Gus's Pretzels and arranging for aisle service of libations. Afterward the crowd waddled up Delmar Boulevard to Blueberry Hill's Duck Room for Berry's monthly gig.

For most of Kay's cohorts, it was their maiden Berry voyage. ("Is 'My Ding-A-Ling' about what I think it's about?" asked Ben Terrill, an ad rep at the St. Louis Business Journal.)

Kay himself was hoping for a little more showmanship than Bo Diddley — who shoved his hand down his pants groping for a hernia — displayed at Harrah's the week prior. Mostly, though, he just wanted to play culture czar.

"Chuck Berry almost errs on the side of being too available," he told Unreal. "I think people take advantage of the fact that they think they'll always get to his concert like they do the Saint Louis Art Museum or the Zoo."

Earlier that same day, British television reporters had blitzed across town on their own quest for a story slated to air on the BBC next month. The producers sought Mayor Francis Slay's take on Berry's greatness (no dice), visited KDHX and posted a digital message — "Chuck Berry Where Are You? BBC Newsnight" — on the Busch Stadium scoreboard during the Cardinals' tilt against the Astros.

Not surprisingly, they failed to line up face time with the media-averse rocker.

Must have been the foreign correspondents' toughest assignment to date, right? "Without getting shot at, yes," confirmed Stephen Smith, adding, "I don't get it. It's not like we're here to do muckraking."

At ten o'clock sharp Berry ascended the Duck Room stage, resplendent in a glittering blue blouse. The Red Hat Society ladies in the crowd forgave him a repeated verse or two, as did Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan, also in attendance. Forgetful Berry was, but charming.

When the concert wound down a mere hour later, Bill Kay and the BBC-ers strategically placed themselves outside the stage door. When Berry reappeared a few minutes later wearing his trademark yachting cap to sign a few autographs, he balked at the BBC reporters and snapped, "No pictures!" as Kay got down on one knee.

Kay took the rejection in silence, too polite to mention that he'd just shelled out $4,000 on an evening devoted to the granddaddy of rock & roll.

Kay's friends, meanwhile, were grateful. "Thanks, man," said Chris Barlow, a former record-store clerk. "That was a real education."

Unreal Overboard

Some of Unreal's earliest and fondest memories are of summers spent at the Lake of the Ozarks aboard our fifteen-foot 1972 Delta. These days the Lake's overrun with Scarabs and idiots, but our love of boats endures — and after a few beers we can still slalom our Unreal ass off.

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