O.J. Simpson's coming to town, but good luck finding him.
O.J. flies into town late tomorrow, February 19, and departs early Friday, says Jack Pook, an entrepreneur from Dayton, Ohio, who's paying the Juice to sign photographs, footballs, helmets and just about anything else not deemed in poor taste. Knives, gloves and other items related to Simpson's murder trial will be rejected at the signing session scheduled for an undisclosed location.
Picking up his phone to Unreal's ring, Pook is more than a tad defensive. "Let's cut right to the chase -- I want to know your objective in asking these questions," he barks. "I want to know exactly what you want to know, and, based on what you want to know, I might give you the information. It's a need-to-know basis, is what I'm trying to say."
Pook explains that he's just gotten off the phone with a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter who asked impertinent questions, like: Did O.J. kill his wife? "They pissed me off, can you tell?" Pook asks. "Everything they asked, none of it was sports-related."
Though Pook says demand for Simpson signatures is stronger than for any other athlete he's handled, a glance at eBay listings confirms that the Juice, whose rookie card goes for $10 or less, is no Honus Wagner. Pook won't say what he's paying Simpson for the three or four hours he'll spend signing, but he says he'll need to line up about 800 customers to break even.
Meanwhile, Peter Gelblum, attorney for the family of Ron Goldman, the Los Angeles waiter murdered along with Nicole Simpson, is still trying to collect on a 1997 civil verdict in which a jury pinned the killings on O.J.
"Very interesting," Gelblum muses when he's informed of Simpson's secretive St. Louis appearance. "I'd assume the reason for that would be to try to avoid the [court] judgment.
"If people are actually handing over checks to him in person, we could get someone to go and get the checks," adds the attorney, who figures O.J. owes his clients more than $50 million, including interest. "The problem with that is, he just wouldn't do it then."
Bears Will Be Bears
Rob Thurman wasn't allowed to dance the night away at JJ's, and boy is she pissed.
Fresh from an evening of revelry at the AIDS Foundation of St. Louis' Feburary 7 costume ball, Thurman headed to JJ's Clubhouse and Bar, a Saint Louis University-area "bear" drinkery where hairy gay men congregate in leather and Levi's.
But not women's clothing.
Within seconds, Thurman writes on his online blog, robthurman.com, "I saw a man pointing at me and screaming at a bartender." Soon "three different JJ's patrons grabbed my dress, grabbed my corset strings and pulled me backwards." A member of JJ's staff then informed him that drag isn't permitted on the premises of the Market Street saloon.
Thurman left quietly, incensed and a little perplexed. "I have seen men dressed as pigs -- in realistic latex pig masks (which was flat out spooky) -- at that bar; and I have seen grown men getting spanked while they got their boots licked at that bar...and if that's less offensive to the bar's owners and their clientele than an outfit worn for an AIDS fundraiser, then so be it," Thurman blogged.
Yep, JJ's co-owner Jeff Plunk tells Unreal, so be it. "There's several fetishes we don't allow in the bar, like fisting, pissing, and cross-dressing," says Plunk. While the no-cross-dressing policy isn't posted, it's well known, Plunk adds. "We're just not into women's clothes and stuff like that," says he. He also worries about men who may get carried away and strip down to "just ladies' panties and garters -- and you can't do that in a bar."
Given that women are allowed into JJ's, how can the management be sure a dolled-up patron's not actually a woman?
"We've got a doorman that will card them," Plunk explains. "For their gender."
Drag queens who like their men hairy and beefy, take note: JJ's has lifted its no-cross-dressing policy for the week of Mardi Gras. The ban resumes Wednesday, February 25.
Now It Can Be Told
A February 9 story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed that members of the St. Louis Newspaper Guild, which represents newsroom, circulation and advertising staffers at the paper, rejected management's latest contract offer by a vote of 337 to 17.
But it didn't say why.
Author Christopher Carey noted that management had come to the table with raises of 13 to 15 percent over the contract's four-year term, and that the paper would pick up 85 percent of employees' health-insurance premiums the first year and 75 percent thereafter. Were workers unhappy with the money? (Unlikely: Reporters who have been at the Post for at least eight years already earn a minimum of $1,054 a week and are among the best-paid in the nation, well above the national average of $857.) Could it have been the health-insurance costs -- an issue that had grocery workers manning picket lines in St. Louis this past fall?
The story doesn't say.
Disclaimer: Unreal would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Carey. Writing a story about labor negotiations at your own paper has got to be the shit journalism job to end all shit journalism jobs.
Unreal made a few calls.
"I would say job security was the number-one issue," says a newsroom source who spoke on the condition that her name not be published. "Until we get job security, we're not going to change our minds, we're not going to agree to a contract."
Now that you mention it, the 574-word opus contains a passing reference to "job security" and "work rules" about halfway through, but no one quoted on either side discusses whether the issues had an impact on the vote.
According to our source, the contract offer would have made it easier for management to outsource work, potentially leaving some staffers out in the cold. Changes in disciplinary procedures were also key. "There would be a one-strike-you're-out instead of a graduated-step program to get rid of employees," the source reveals. Finally, management wants to reduce how much notice employees are given when their shifts change.
"What the vote showed us, especially in the newsroom, is we're stronger than we've ever been," the source says. "The problem is, for more than a year, management didn't really go to the negotiating table to negotiate anything," the source says. "We have just now started real negotiations. At this time, it's hard to say what will really happen."
Barbershop 2 pulled in $24 million at the box office during its debut weekend, shoving the aptly named You Got Served from the top slot. Many were surprised with the success of the sequel to the 2002 hit, but Eric Rhone, manager of Barbershop star Cedric the Entertainer, was not one of them. Like Cedric, Rhone grew up in the Lou and now divides his time between the Central West End and LA. He was present for the filming of the comedy, which was set in Chicago.
Unreal: Where do you get your hair cut?
Eric Rhone: I go to Leroy's, which is at Natural Bridge and Jennings Station Road. That's the same barbershop where Nelly's tour manager worked and where Nelly used to go. It's very similar to the one featured in the movie -- that same type of atmosphere.
How much of St. Louis is in the Barbershop movies?
A lot of St. Louis was in there, a lot of Chicago and Milwaukee. That movie is indicative of what happens in barbershops across the nation in the urban community. Barbershops tend to be a place where people are able to let down their guards and speak their minds free of ramifications of any kind.
Will Barbershop 3 be set in St. Louis?
I have no idea, wouldn't that be great? [Laughs] Cedric and I and our production company definitely plan to come to St. Louis and shoot some films soon, to bring those marketing and production dollars into our community.
Who do you think is hotter, Queen Latifah or Eve?
They're both very attractive women. In my opinion, Eve looks better, but Queen just has such an attractive personality. That depends on what you like -- the external or the internal. That's a dangerous question; I'm married. My wife is hotter than both of them!
Who do you think is hotter, Ice Cube or Cedric?
That's even more dangerous. I live in the Central West End, so that's even more dangerous.
Can Cedric eat a lot?
Not like he used to. Back in school we all were having a good time. But he doesn't really eat a lot these days.
Correction published 2/25/04: In the original version of this story, we mischaracterized the minimum salary for Post-Dispatch reporters. The above version reflects the corrected text.