The Dogs Bark, The Caravan Moves On

St. Louis comings and goings in anno Domini 1999

THE DOGS BARK, THE CARAVAN MOVES ON: The pope showed up, but because most folks were scared off by Chicken Little TV media warnings of gridlock, hardly anybody showed up along the way to wave to him. The Arena blowed up real good, but now it's just a contaminated hole waiting for an office park. Ronnie White, the first African-American justice on the Missouri Supreme Court, was nominated for a federal judgeship but got double-crossed by a villainous tag team of U.S. Sens. John Ashcroft and Kit Bond in a tactic worthy of a WWF pay-for-view melodrama. U.S. Rep. Bill Clay, congressman for 32 years, announced he was stepping down. Billy Graham showed up at the Dome and got thousands to stand up and yell "Jesus" -- not unlike an old Rams game. But everybody loves a winner, so the Rams of '99 are golden -- and apparently blessed. When Isaac Bruce rolled his Benz on the way back from a Mizzou basketball game, he says that at the moment he lost control of the car, he let go of the steering wheel and yelled "Jesus." He and his girlfriend walked away uninjured. Maybe Mayor Clarence Harmon should try that -- let go of his desk and yell "Jesus." Meanwhile, the century will end with just another cold winter night in December. And don't believe the hype: Jan. 1 will look suspiciously like Dec. 31. On the other side of midnight, tens of thousands will plan their weekend around a Rams playoff game, tens of thousands will do absolutely nothing to help the city school system as it teeters toward losing accreditation, hundreds of thousands will do absolutely nothing to help the foster children who have overwhelmed the state's system of care, and you can be damn sure that Walgreens will be eyeing a corner near you.

RIDDLES OF THE YEAR: If the city school district is so dead set against charter schools, why is it setting up an office for alternative and charter schools? And if there are plans for the district to propose its own charter school, why is it suing to block the current law?... Why is it that Archbishop Justin Rigali is mentioned in the New York City media as being on the short list of candidates to replace outgoing Cardinal O'Connor and it doesn't get mentioned in local media? For starters, check out the New York Times Magazine of Oct. 10.... How did Riverview Gardens' football coach, Darren Sunkett, go from hero and molder of a state-championship team to a coach that was ushered into a resignation after a disturbance at a Pattonville game and 90-0 evisceration of Normandy High School? Maybe winning isn't everything, just mostly everything.

AND THE ANDY KAUFMAN AWARD GOES TO: It has to be Ed Golterman, the man who will never be over until the Kiel Opera House sings. Golterman can be a bit much -- just ask those public and Kiel-related officials who have gotten some of his edgy voice-mail messages. Ed went further than usual, though, a few weeks ago when he challenged Mark Sauer, Blues honcho, and David Fay of the Fox to a wrestling match. Actually, Ed faxed around a challenge to wrestle "the bastards" over their stance against doing what he wants to reopen the Opera House. A date has not been set.

QUOTE OF THE YEAR BY A PUBLIC-SAFETY OFFICIAL: On Oct. 12, a Big Lots hyper-discount store in Dellwood burned, and as smoke billowed in the background, a firefighter summed up the scene to a TV reporter: "This is going to burn for a while. There's a lot of plastic in there."

BEST "TOWN TALK" OF THE YEAR: As with all good "Town Talk" voice-mail contributions in the Suburban Journals, the following favorite makes one wonder why someone would be anxious to share this experience with strangers reading a paper thrown for free, indiscriminately, on thousands of lawns. But maybe that's the point. In this case, the caller to the Nov. 12 edition of the South Side Journal "Town Talk" said: "Regarding last Sunday at the Laundromat: I sure would like to know who took my TV Guide out of my laundry basket. I hope you choke on it." Give points also to the SSJ editor who ran that comment under the heading "Say a prayer to St. Blaise," the patron saint of throats. Guess the only thing worse than being stuck watching the tube at the Laundromat is somebody pinching your TV Guide and forcing you to flip aimlessly while your clothes tumble dry. Oy.

BEST NAME FOR A NEW CIVIC GROUP: In an effort to encourage the idea of placing a gaming casino near the Mississippi River in South County, a group formed to counteract gambling opponents. They named themselves "Lemay on the Move." That's an idea -- but where?

FOR THE RAMS' GEORGIA, THE SIXTH TIME WAS THE CHARM: Maybe P-D flagship columnist Bill McClellan was consciously poking fun, or maybe it was an unconscious coincidence or a subconscious subplot -- with Bill, it's hard to tell these days. But when he did a 628-word tome on Dec. 8 about how funkytown St. Louis might be feeling about the vagabond Rams, the headline was "When the Team's a Trophy Wife, How Secure Can You Feel?" The column compared the football Cardinals with the "first wife" cliché and said the NFL Cardinals left when they couldn't get a new "house," a new stadium. The analogy went that St. Louis got a "trophy wife" in the Rams by building a new house, a dome, and wooing a team by spending money. Bill wrote that St. Louis fans might be a bit afraid that everybody is laughing at them because this wife "didn't marry you for love." No shit.

Well, speaking of trophy wives, Bill: The Rams's owner, St. Louis native Georgia Frontiere, fit that profile for Carroll Rosenbloom, who at the time of their marriage owned the Baltimore Colts. Though published ages in Georgia's case often aren't exact, it was printed that in 1957, when they met, Rosenbloom was 52 and she was 30. They were married in 1966, three weeks after Rosenbloom divorced his first wife of 25 years. It was her sixth marriage. Rosenbloom swapped the Colts for the Rams; in 1979, he drowned in the Florida surf, leaving Georgia 70 percent of the Rams. She married a seventh time, to the man who wrote the music for The Flying Nun, but divorced him in 1988. She moved the Rams to her hometown of St. Louis in 1995. Perhaps having Georgia owning the team is fitting. The Rams are not here for love but for money, and their success might just be the prime example of how this show-me-the-money world extends beyond sports. Combine Kurt Warner's yearly salary of $254,000, the Rams' paying a measly $20,000 per game to rent the completely publicly financed $260 million Trans World Dome and the Rams' guarantee of $22 million annually for the sale of luxury boxes and ticket receipts, and what do you get? A mighty happy trophy wife and maybe a city that knows that you get what you pay for.

TIME TO CHILL A 40 FOR OLD TIMES: In the end, even though it at first seemed onerous, maybe the most significant cultural legacy of the '90s in the city of St. Louis was the ban on the sale of cold 40-ounce bottles of beer and malt liquor, forcing a switch to the 24-ounce can at virtually the same price. The prohibition was, to vary a business-world maxim, a win-win-lose scenario. It was win for the environmentalists and neighborhood SLACO types, who bemoaned the broken glass and litter: The aluminum can was seldom discarded, and when it was, urban prospectors snatched it up for its recycling rebate. It was a win, too, for the brewers, who charged at least a buck for a dose of beer that had 16 fewer ounces. Those citizens desperate for a quick, cheap, accessible buzz ended up losing. But then we usually do.

Give us your feedback by e-mailing "Short Cuts" at shortcuts@rftstl. com, faxing 314-615-6716 or calling 314-615-6711.

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