DOG(TOWN) DAYS: As afternoons in the barbershop go, last Friday was a fairly light one for Luigi Scire, providing a good 30 minutes of downtime before an old customer dropped by for a basic trim. The break allowed him some peaceful moments for a smoke, Judge Judy quietly playing on a small TV.
In his telltale Sicilian accent, Scire claims that people don't talk politics all that much at the shop -- they pretty much come in wanting a haircut. Sure, they chitchat, but they don't get worked up about current events on the local level. At least not ward politics, which he says has been a pretty quiet issue despite an interesting race in the area.
"For me, it's no difference," he says, speaking inside a barbershop that's been in operation at 5406 Magnolia for more than 50 years. "I've got to work, got to pay the bills." As for pols, he says, "Politicians are politicians. They're all the same way. They come in, they shake your hand."
According to various newspaper accounts over the past few weeks, there's been a suspicion that a good number of Hill residents haven't reacted favorably to the victory of Tom Bauer in the recent Democratic primary for the 24th Ward aldermanic seat, vacated by the retiring Robert Ruggeri. Bauer, a Dogtown denizen, took the election in a crowded field (with 888 votes), knocking off four other candidates, including his two top rivals for the job, Dan Drago (605) and Joe Vollmer (795) -- both hailing from the Hill, plus a pair of secondary candidates who didn't crack the 100-vote mark: Patrick Keenoy (75) and Ingrid Alexiou (21).
The pervasive, shadowy theory holds that someone in the ward will organize an independent campaign; the Hill simply won't abide the idea of losing an alderman. After all, the 24th Ward has been represented by a Hill person for more than six decades, no small amount of time.
"I've heard it," says Bauer of the potential new rival in the general election. "But if it's done, it'd be completely out of the ordinary. The people that would be doing it would be Democrats rather than true independents."
Bauer's Democratic, and, as Scire points out, so is the Hill.
"On the Hill, No. 1 is Democrat," says Scire, pointing a finger upward. "No matter who runs, they vote Democratic. If Jesus Christ ran as an independent, I wouldn't vote for him. If a Democrat runs, he's got my vote. If a jackass ran as a Democrat, I'd vote for it."
Funny, in that Bauer's not only a Democrat but rides a jackass. Well, a donkey. Scotty, Bauer's trusty sidekick, may well be the most famous donkey in St. Louis, a constant in the candidate's runs for the state House and the aldermanic chambers. Scire remembers Scotty tied to the tree outside his shop, kids running around and playing with the animal while Bauer got a trim.
"That's a nice guy," Scire says of Bauer. "That's a good man -- a lot of people say so. The other ones were good, too. You lose, you lose. What are you going to do?"
Apparently what the Hill's not going to do is pull together an independent campaign. As of Monday morning, Bauer hadn't heard any further word on that front, and the filing deadline for an independent candidacy is March 22. A second race looks unlikely for Bauer, though he's not taking that as a given. "The strategy will change with the circumstances," he says. "The Hill has a tradition of voting straight Democratic. They'd lose those individuals, even if it was an ethnic-unity thing. It might work on a portion of the Hill but wouldn't work off the Hill at all. It'd be tough for them to pull off."
In his two recent years as a member of the Missouri Legislature, Bauer cut an interesting figure on the House floor, using some colorful language to get his points across -- comparing the city school system, for example, to doughnuts. This time, he's playing things close to the vest, not engaging in the political version of the Dirty Bird: no type of gloating over the win, no egging on former opponents. Good for him, perhaps, but bad for those who love hyperbole coming from City Hall and those who would work there.
Bauer actually claims the recent race included "candidates that were interacting with very little bitterness. It wasn't a heated campaign. They didn't criticize my record as a representative. They didn't criticize any stands I was taking in the aldermanic campaign. No one criticized anyone. It was kind of refreshing."
As for that mystery candidate? No names have been put forward. But a potentially false rumor's better than no rumor at all.
THE MUSEUM OF DEATH: When the Arena's proverbial clock struck 12, it did so decisively. This despite the fact that a handful of proposals were circulating to keep the Old Barn alive in some capacity -- that ill-fated aquarium idea and Bob Cassilly's late-arriving but intriguing and (most important) highly funded brainstorm from Mexico. All, of course, proved unsuccessful in their attempts to stave off the Spirtas implosion party. Well, it may be a hair late, but here's a 13th-hour proposal on what could have been -- and, for that matter, what could still be, albeit in another central-city spot. (Right. Sure. Uh-huh.)
In the spirit of Cassilly's City Museum -- which has cobbled together abandoned and recycled bits 'n' pieces from around town -- the Arena would have been the perfect location for a museum, of sorts, celebrating what's been and gone. Following are more than a few examples of what could've been housed in and around Oakland Avenue (of course, many of these artifacts and installations are long since gone, but so is the Arena, so just play along on this excursion down Memory Lane):
The signage and a couple of alleys from Red Bird Lanes; the marquees from the old Missouri, Shenandoah and Ritz theaters; a roller-coaster car from the Highlands' venerable Comet; the outfield wall from Sportsman's Park; actual full-sized apartments from Pruitt-Igoe and Darst-Webbe; stuffed animals killed by Dana Brown; a Grand Avenue streetcar, running around the perimeter of the complex; the reconstructed tower from City Hospital No. 1; several tape loops continuously playing World Wide Magazine, PM Magazine, Wrestling at the Chase, NewsBeat and Corky the Clown; a decommissioned White Castle; the baskets from Kiel Auditorium; the clock from the Kingshighway Famous-Barr; and the old Arena exterior with that true-eyed St. Louis Blue shooting and scoring.
Perhaps Gaslight Square could accommodate the concept, what with the extra green space down there these days. No harm in daydreaming, eh?
R.I.P.: While I'm in a melancholy mood of nostalgia, it's the day to note the five-year anniversary of the passing of the Wabash Triangle Cafe. It was exactly a half-decade ago today that the place went down in flames. That sad fact is tempered, somewhat, by word that Joe Edwards is building a new, bigger room where Cal Case's once stood (see related story on page 20). With the Loop landlocked to the west, the only way to go for the district's expansion is east, into the wilds of the city of St. Louis, breaking the long-discussed "Skinker barrier." It seems the right time for someone to take that step, and with Edwards' ownership the venue should have the solid financial base that the Wabash didn't enjoy. That said, the old joint's weird and wacky charms are still missed, new venue or no.
TOTALLY UNRELATED FACTS: (1) The St. Louis Association of Realtors named Mark McGwire a recipient of the "Sold on St. Louis Award" for "achievement by a business or organization located in St. Louis five years or less." (2) Mark McGwire lives in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton.
We're not suggesting that the Realtors' group is making an obvious, shameful play at attracting attention for itself by giving McGwire one of the hundreds of awards he's been granted since setting the home-run record last fall. Nor are we suggesting that McGwire's done little for the local realty business by setting up shop in one of the swankiest hotels in suburbia.
These are, simply, totally unrelated facts.
RFT ANAGRAMS: Quick-witted contributors sent in a pair of intriguing anagrams this week. A little self-deprecation never hurt, eh?
St. Louis Arena = A Lost Ruin Sea
Thomas Crone = A Chrome Snot
Send quips, tips and anagrams to Thomas_Crone@rftstl.com.
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