The South Butt takes on the North Face -- and more

The South Butt takes on the North Face; Missouri's first poet laureate reflects (as poets are wont to do); and a major Pi fight shapes up

The North Face to Missouri Teen: No Ifs, Ands or "South Butts"
Meet Jimmy Winkelmann, or as his lawyer affectionately refers to his client, "Little Jimmy."

At the tender age of eighteen, the St. Louis native and University of Missouri freshman apparently has caught the attention of the outdoor fleece clothing giant, the North Face, which is threatening to sue Winkelmann over his clothing line, the South Butt.

Winkelmann's attorney, Albert Watkins, says the North Face has indicated that the South Butt (which riffs the North Face's "Never Stop Exploring" motto with the tagline "Never Stop Relaxing") violates its trademark and could confuse the public. 

But that argument just doesn't hold up, insists the St. Louis lawyer. "There appears to be little recognition, if any, that the savvy of consumers precludes anyone from confusing a face with a butt," Watkins contends.

On September 28 Watkins sent out a press release in which he and Winkelmann defended the South Butt as an innocuous product whose proceeds are being used to complete the young man's education.

"The economy is tough; I know my parents are working hard to help me out with college, I took steps to contribute, and now I am being bullied into submission," said Winkelmann in the release.

How much he really needs to help out his parents is unclear. Watkins admits that he got interested in the case because he and Winkelmann's father play squash together at the exclusive St. Louis Racquet Club.

Whatever the case, Watkins says sales of the South Butt products skyrocketed after media outlets ran with the story. Prior to last week, Winkelmann had made just over $5,000 from the South Butt, whose products are available online and at Ladue Pharmacy.

On September 28 sales orders reached several thousand dollars in just a matter of hours.

Concludes Watkins: "We're going to continue to do everything we can to ensure that capitalism and the 'American Way' is not trampled on, and that a creative entrepreneur can still make a go of it in this country."
—Chad Garrison

Missouri's Poet Laureate Reflects on His Tenure
In January 2008 Walter Bargen of Ashland, Missouri, was tapped to be the state's first poet laureate. With his term winding down, he recently took a moment to discuss the experience with the Daily RFT.     

RFT: Your two-year tenure is almost up. What's it been like?

Walter Bargen: I'm surprised at all the interest, and it hasn't really let up the way I thought it would. It's a little stressful and exhausting.

How so? What does the state expect from its official bard?

I've been really fortunate [in that] I've been left to my own devices. The position has been a work in progress in a lot of ways. Originally, there were certain minimum requirements. It was six public appearances a year, then write a poem for the state of Missouri. But they backed off of [the poem requirement]. They were concerned about writer's block, and they didn't want to encourage doggerel.

But I think in the first month I satisfied the requirement of six public appearances. This September and October, I'm probably averaging ten events a month. By the time I'm done, I will have made easily over 100 appearances and dozens of interviews.

Is it a paid position?

It seems like it's unpaid. There's a $2,500 stipend and $2,500 for expenses each year, but that [expenses allowance] lasted about three months. I've probably driven 40,000 miles. Whoever does this next is going to need a good car. 

Who has booked you to speak and do readings?

I've been to libraries, schools and book clubs. I've been to poetry society conventions. I've been to prisons. There really is an audience out there for poetry. Usually we think just the opposite.

You're obviously someone attuned to the nuance of language, but in interviews like the one we're having now, you don't have time to craft your words as you would a poem. How has it been, dealing with the media? 

When you're spontaneous, there's always the opportunity that you'll surprise yourself and discover something new.

There is one question [in interviews] that always catches me up short: What makes a good poem? [On one occasion] I said, "A good poem is looking for the 800-pound gorilla running through the rooms of your life." That surprised me. I felt it was more satisfactory than saying it has an authentic voice, strong rhythm, etc. That list could go on for a day, and you could still not have a sense of what makes a good poem.

Basically, poetry is not only something enjoyable, but a reservoir for wisdom and a mirror that people can look into and see something in their own life.
—Nicholas Phillips

Pi Fight
The former general manager of President Obama's favorite pizzeria wants his dough: Ryan Mangialardo is suing his former bosses Chris Sommers and Frank Uible, the owners of Pi, for past and future pizza profits, plus damages.

Mangialardo filed his lawsuit in St. Louis County Circuit Court on September 26. He's now working at Bar Louie in Kirkwood. He says Sommers and Uible fired him on July 2 without explanation.

"I was very blindsided," Mangialardo tells RFT. "I love the place. I did everything from the cocktails to the drinks to the atmosphere."

The lawsuit says Sommers, Uible and Mangialardo verbally agreed that Mangialardo would acquire a 2 percent stake in the pizzeria.

But Mangialardo has yet to see a penny.

"[Pi] is as successful as it is today because of him, and for them to just cast him aside when they were done getting what they got from him is totally improper," says Tim Lemen, Mangialardo's attorney. "[Sommers and Uible] now flat-out deny that he was ever an owner."

Kyler Humphrey, Sommers' and Uible's attorney, has not yet returned a phone call for comment. 

Mangialardo says he started out as Pi's chef and then became general manager (while continuing some kitchen duties).

Sommers bought the recipe for Pi's cornmeal-encrusted dough from a San Francisco restaurant; Mangialardo says he tweaked the basic recipe and devised the different pizza styles, appetizers and salads.

The pizzeria got a big boost earlier this year after Mangialardo and Sommers got invited to the White House by President Obama. Mangialardo calls cooking for the POTUS "the experience of a lifetime."

Pi is expanding to the CWE and Kirkwood.
—Kristen Hinman

City's Only LGBT Paper Shuts Down
The Vital Voice has ceased publication until January 2010. The monthly newspaper serving St. Louis' LGBT community published its last issue for 2009 in September. Voice publisher and owner, Pam Schneider, tells Daily RFT that she decided to shut down the paper for the rest of the year to concentrate on a redesign of the publication. 

The Voice is also leaving its current space in the city's Grove neighborhood for a yet-to-be-determined location. Schneider, who owns the building that now houses the paper, says she's selling the property. She hopes to relocate in the Grove or Central West End neighborhood.

"The economics of it all — with us moving offices and doing a major redesign — it just made sense to take the time and money we need to focus on coming out in 2010 the way we want," she says. 

Schneider says the Voice has a monthly circulation of between 13,000 and 15,000 and will continue to provide online content during the temporary shutdown of the print edition.
—Chad Garrison

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