Wait no more: Unreal's presidential-candidate endorsements are in; plus we lament the loss of "Poetry Beat," check in with the lads at Sanford-Brown and wonder if we can get a direct line to God

Jan 28, 2004 at 4:00 am
The results of the Iowa primary on January 19, which saw erstwhile front-runners Howard Dean of Vermont and our very own Dick Gephardt finish a startlingly unrespectable third and fourth, have breathed new life into Missouri's February 3 primary. Unreal can take comfort in the fact that our recurring "You Don't Know Dick" helped educate the droves of Iowa voters who sought out our Web site for information on the south-city congressman.

But that's not enough. It's Unreal's mission to ensure that each potential primary voter receives the clearest, most informed information possible before stepping into the booth on Tuesday. With that in mind, Unreal presents our first-ever presidential primary endorsements.

When Richard Gephardt made the decision to bow out of the democratic race for president, we first felt as though we'd lost our favorite punching bag, one that helped us tone our body and mind for the challenges that lay ahead. On the surface, Gephardt's decision to bail made sense: His dismal fourth-place showing was a sober reminder that, well, he didn't stand a chance. "I accept the results with the knowledge that I gave this campaign everything that I had in me," he declared in his withdrawal speech. And that's exactly the kind of man we need in the White House: someone who can analyze the facts, consider public opinion, think long and hard, and then quit. The fact that Gephardt has withdrawn from the race only confirms to us that he is the most capable candidate. What fool in his right mind wouldn't. A clear thinker. Son of a milkman. An American.

Plus, it was Iowa, and what do those cornpones know about national politics? Congressman Gephardt stood a great chance to do reasonably well in Missouri, which is much further east and south than Iowa and, therefore, more in tune with the eastern and southern constituencies that will anoint a capable challenger to President Bush. And as they say, as Missouri goes, so goes the country. We're with them on that. After all, did we mention that Richard Gephardt was the son of a milkman? A milkman! For that simple reason, and that whole clear-thinking thing, we confidently endorse Richard Gephardt as the Democratic nominee for president.

University City Republican Blake Ashby's über-outsider campaign for the Republican presidential nomination started off swimmingly, with the 39-year-old self-proclaimed millionaire preaching a bullet-point sermon of moving the Grand Old Party to the center via progressive policies on recreational drug use, the environment and women's wombs. But somewhere along the way, Ashby began taking himself a bit too seriously, morphing into a right-wing combination of John Kerry and Howard Dean and apologizing, in print, to a too-trusting Jo Mannies for lying about his personal wealth, campaign budget and "contender" status, the sum of which the Post-Dispatch found worthy of A1 treatment.

Ashby has never been a potential threat to incumbent Bush's inevitable coronation, a fact he openly acknowledges nowadays. But far more accomplished men have fallen victim to delusions of grandeur (see: Dick Gephardt), so we forgive Ashby this temporary lapse of reason. Flawed candidate that he is, his vision for his party is sound, and the 208 mugshots his campaign provided Unreal during the infancy of his quixotic quest made for great fodder. For this, Mr. Ashby, Unreal thanks you -- and gives you our endorsement. Vote Blake Ashby on February 3 -- if you're a Republican, that is.

Polling Place

As goes Missouri, the conventional wisdom tells us, so goes the rest of the country. And, if Unreal's comprehensive demographic political surveying is accurate, we can further simplify this statement: As goes Heman Avenue, so goes America.

The Loop's Heman Avenue is a short street, but oh, the diversity! Blacks live there. Whites live there. An Asian lives there. Republicans, Democrats, Green Partiers, even Libertarians. For the Blake Ashby for President campaign, it is command central. Ashby himself lives on Heman, in a small apartment of the kind college students rent with a roommate. Millionaire college students, that is (wink, wink).

From Unreal's poll of nearly a dozen likely voters on that University City street, one thing is clear: Ashby has not brought his message to the people of Heman Avenue. Most likely voters there have no idea who he is. Some know who he is but don't know he's running for president. Some know he's running for president but wonder why. Others know why but simply don't care.

The people of Heman Avenue have spoken, and they are undecided. Fifty percent plan to give Ashby the nod in Missouri's February open primary on February 3, and 50 percent plan to support President Bush. Their reasons are varied. "I'm pro-choice," says one Ashby supporter. "I can hear him having sex with his girlfriend when I walk by on the street," says another. "It's disgusting. So, if it meant he would move to Washington D.C., I would vote for him."

Are You There, God?

In October the St. Louis Board of Public Service turned down T-Mobile's application to build a cellular phone tower in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood. Undeterred, the company approached Will Mason, the pastor of Southampton Presbyterian Church, about leasing space for six cell antennas on top of the two-story church's chimney. Mason, who leads a small congregation of 150 people, agreed. The antennas will be placed this spring, if T-Mobile's application to the city is approved on February 5.

"There are going to be six antennas on the chimney, painted the same color as the building," Mason says. "They'll be no taller than the chimney, and they're next to the alley."

Still, the antennas have been something of a lightning rod for controversy. Neighborhood residents have circulated petitions and distributed flyers in opposition to the project, concerned about possible health effects and the impact on property values. (The World Health Organization says "no study has shown adverse health effects" from cell antennas that operate at standard frequencies.)

But for Greg Patton, who has spearheaded much of the opposition, the issue is more about the way the church, located at the intersection of Macklind and Nottingham avenues, agreed to the deal without any input from the community.

"I'm more pissed off, upset, at the fact that they haven't been able to tell the truth," says Patton, who lives directly across the alley from the church.

The lease isn't the first between a cell provider and a local church. Ladue Chapel, a Presbyterian church on Clayton Road, has antennas affixed to its roof. Vicki Hampton, the church's business administrator, declined to comment on that arrangement. Neither Mason nor T-Mobile officials will disclose the terms of Southampton's lease.

Laura Altschul, director of national siting policy for T-Mobile, says T-Mobile has approximately 200 cell antennas on churches across the United States -- and even more on other buildings. "It's not that it's a church building," Altschul says. "It's an existing structure right in an area where we have to build. Whether it's a church or an office building, it's going on an existing site." Altschul adds, "It's a great alternative to having to build a new structure."

A Season on the Brink

Sanford-Brown coach John Campbell counted on returning a solid core of players from the prior Indian outfit. What he didn't count on were Gary Lenoir and Darrin Burns, two out-of-nowhere newcomers who have arguably been Campbell's two finest performers this season. To wit, the pair led the Indians to a second-place finish in the Concordia Seminary tournament over MLK Day weekend. Lenoir netted a season-high 28 points in a 72-59 opening-round win versus St. Louis Christian, while Burns notched 26 in a 100-85 loss to Concordia that was closer than it seemed (the priests-to-be padded their lead with free throws in the final two minutes). The Indians then closed out a busy flurry of games with a 64-52 win over Central Christian on January 19 and a 93-53 loss to Robert Morris on January 23. The Indians are now 6-9, thus surpassing their cumulative victory total for the prior two seasons combined. They next play Concordia Seminary in the opening round of the St. Louis College of Pharmacy tournament at 6:15 p.m. on January 30.

Poetry's Beat

Fiery station manager Beverly Hacker's KDHX (88. 1 FM) is, as she puts it, first and foremost, a music station (though infighting occasionally gets in the way; see Mike Seely's December 3 feature story, "Rattle and Humbug"). Still, the nonprofit, community-supported radio station has stridently made room for a handful of "mission" shows, programs like Michael Castro's long-running "Poetry Beat," known locally as "The River Styx of the Air."

But despite impassioned pleas by well-respected local academics, the station is sticking by a startling recent decision to end "Poetry Beat"'s fourteen-year run, citing low pledge-drive totals, poor annual reviews and sloppy programming as reasons for dropping the axe.

"On the contrary, the annual evaluations were enthusiastically positive," counters Castro, who works at Lindenwood University in St. Charles.

Hacker also pointed to Castro's failure to endure mandatory training sessions, a citation that River Styx editor Richard Newman, a longtime fan of the show, finds a wee bit puzzling.

"It seems a little cold-blooded to pull his successful show after all these years," says Newman. "I think it's really unfortunate and short-sighted. It's the only thing like it in the area."

University of Missouri-St. Louis professor Howard Schwartz concurs.

"Literature in St. Louis has only one radio outlet, and that's 'Poetry Beat,'" laments Schwartz. "All of the best-known writers in St. Louis have been on there several times. What's happening at KDHX is they're taking him off the air to put on more music. This is such a beautiful radio station, it doesn't make sense to cut off this audience. Literary people are cultured, educated people that KDHX should be aiming for. Music is essential, absolutely, but what would the world be like if we had no more books? That's the effect this has on St. Louis radio."

While he says he's ready to "move on to other projects," Castro hasn't ruled out the possibility of shopping the show to other stations. After all, should KDHX be expected to serve as the sole bastion of locally engineered literary radio in the entire region? Probably not, concedes Newman, who points to well-heeled, UMSL-headquartered National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate KWMU (90.7 FM) as a station that might feel some obligation to air a show like Castro's.

Come to think of it, KWMU could probably broadcast "Poetry Beat" in the same time it takes spasmodic dysphonia-afflicted host Diane Rehm to complete a sentence while her listeners splash on the Old Spice in the morning.

Wishful thinking, perhaps, as KWMU is not exactly a wellspring of local-origin programming. No matter, says Castro.

"You can't stop poetry," he asserts. "The Beat goes on."