Bob Costas is everywhere, and who can say a bad word against him, except maybe that, well, he's everywhere. This week he'll visit Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Charlie Rose and maybe the Teletubbies to plug his book. But certainly Cardinal Glennon Memorial Hospital for Children won't squawk about the Bobster's omnipresence -- the 12th annual Bob Costas Gala, held Saturday night at the Fox Theatre, raised beaucoup bucks for the Bob Costas Cancer Center at Glennon. (While we're on that topic, what's taking so long for the construction at the hospital entrance? The pyramids in Egypt went up faster.) For Saturday's event, Costas welcomed comedian Jeff Cesario and the one-and-only Lyle Lovett. Bob introduced Lyle to the crowd, some members of which weren't familiar with him, by saying that trying to describe Lovett's music to the uninitiated was like telling a "blind man about a beautiful sunset." Oh, that Bob.
The Big Bopper did a little Q&A onstage with the Blues' Joel Quenneville and Chris Pronger and, later, with Rams QB Kurt Warner, who remains a regular guy and, yes, still believes in Jesus. Though the vertically coiffed Lovett may not at first glance seem to be a sports enthusiast, he fit in fine, having just performed at the Houston Astros' opening exhibition game in their new stadium, where he sang "The Star Spangled Banner," accompanied by a gawd-damn cello. On Saturday, Lovett played "Don't Touch My Hat," per Bob's request, and confessed he and the former voice of the Spirits of St. Louis had tinkered with the lyrics of "That's Right (You're Not from Texas)." Instead of the line "And those old folks from Missouri don't even know you're there," a reference to folks in Branson, Lyle sang this: "And those players from Missouri, they don't even know how to lose." Anything for charity. Lovett played with his not-quite-large band, minus horns and backup singers, but sounded fine nonetheless, though the set ended all too soon. Anyone lonely for Bob could tune in to the Lakers-Knicks game Sunday afternoon -- or Sports Sunday on KSDK that night, or KMOX-AM Tuesday morning -- or go out and buy his book, Fair Ball. There appears to be nowhere to turn for the rest of us.
BLUE-LIGHT SPECIAL: One of the surprise supporters of the Kmart solution to the Southtown Famous-Barr brouhaha -- and about the only one who spoke for it who wasn't on the payroll -- was the Rev. Mitch Doyen. Most thought Doyen, as a founder and former president of C-4, a church-based group that is one of the 20 groups in the Southtown Coalition, would side with the vocal neighborhood activists who oppose Kmart's building at the site. But no, the populist padre backs the plan to put a big box on the 11-acre site at the corner of Chippewa Street and Kingshighway. After the first hearing, Southtown Coalition point man Phil Klevorn cast the accusation that Doyen backed Kmart because the Sansone family, which controls the site, is a major donor to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis. "I hope Phil doesn't really believe that," Doyen says, denying that Archbishop Justin Rigali did, or would, lean on him in regard to this issue. "Even if he did, they think I would do that?" Doyen asks. "Couldn't it be that I'm just being honest about what I think, like I've always been, and this happens to be the way I see it?"
Doyen thinks the Kmart at Gravois Plaza will close anyway and predicts that site's owner, Kimco Realty, is "going to tear it down to the ground and start from scratch. That would be a place for more pedestrian-friendly, smaller stores." He also predicts that the Cincinnati developer pushed by the Southtown Coalition will want "the city to take the land back from the Sansones, give it to him and finance it with TIFs." Unlike the Kmart proposal, this would mean an expense for the city, even if it's done through eminent domain. If that happens, he says, "you're looking at three to five years down the road before anybody even puts a shovel in the ground."
ST. CHARLES GIVETH, AND ST. CHARLES TAKETH AWAY: All manner of City Hall dilettantes showed up Friday evening at the St. Louis Police Officers Association hall on Hampton Avenue to bid a fond adieu to Geraldine Osborn, whose last port of call was special assistant to Aldermanic President Francis Slay. The mock resolution posted on the wall, signed by every living alderman who served with Osborn during her 27 years in City Hall, referred to the longtime 15th Ward resident's impending move to, of all places, St. Charles. One alderman at the farewell soiree suggested that Osborn could be St. Charles' new representative on any realignment of the Lambert Airport Commission. One sign of the times is that Osborn's replacement on Slay's staff is Catherine Kolb, originally from St. Charles, who is an attorney specializing in tax and real-estate issues. So City Hall wrestles with change again as Osborn, the veteran City Hall politico who knows not only where the bodies are buried but who put them there, exits and is followed by a lawyer who knows the tax code and how a development deal is structured.
READERS? WHO NEEDS READERS? At a portentously titled panel discussion a few weeks ago, "Can Newspapers Survive the 21st Century?" held at the St. Louis University School of Law, Gerald Boyd, deputy managing editor of the New York Times, suggested that the Times' increased circulation is a sign of its improving quality. Is the converse true? Does declining circulation mean declining quality? Well, Post-Dispatch editor Cole Campbell, who sat on the panel, pointed to continuing delivery and pricing problems as keys reason for the P-D's eroding circulation figures. Perhaps he needn't have bothered. Despite declining circulation, profits for Pulitzer Inc. and ad linage for the P-D were up for the year ending Dec. 31. Including a $25 million payment in 1999 to Newhouse newspapers (part of the annual profit-splitting that continues despite Newhouse's sale of the old St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1984) and a $26.7 million payout of stock options and bonuses, Pulitzer was still able to report a net operating income of $19 million in 1999. Before the payment of tribute to S.I. Newhouse Jr. and last year's largesse to the higher-ups, Pulitzer's operating margin -- operating income as a percentage of operating revenues -- was a respectable 19.8 percent, up from 14.1 percent in 1995. So will the P-D survive? As a disgruntled staffer once said, it will, as long as Famous-Barr doesn't figure out how to advertise online. As to the question posed by the title of the panel discussion, one attendee in the back of the room summarized his answer to the question thusly: "The future of newspapers is fucked." Well, at least some newspapers.
FLOTSAM AND JETSAM: Who will guard the guardians? Who will advise the advisors? At the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Don Driemeier got into hot water for taking the early-retirement package and then getting rehired in his administrative post as assistant to UM-St. Louis Chancellor Blanche Touhill. UM President Manuel Pacheco had said that top officials could not keep their jobs and receive pensions. The maneuver by Driemeier and two other administrators triggered an audit by state Auditor Claire McCaskill. Some faculty members are groaning that when they sought advice on what they could or couldn't do about early retirement, administration referred them to, you guessed it, Driemeyer for advice.... Radio veteran Frank Absher has hung up his mike at KDHX (88.1 FM), where he conducted a weekly interview session with local journalists. Phone problems beset the show, particularly a few weeks back during one program, when the main guest for the show, Selwyn Pepper, couldn't get patched through to talk on the air for about 15 minutes. That's a lot of airtime to fill, particularly because Pepper, a former Post-Dispatch editor, was going to talk about the P-D's decision not to run a Kansas City Star series about priests with AIDS. Unlike other KDHX shows, you couldn't just pop in an obscure CD to kill time.... Here's the best lawyer joke told during Sunday's annual joke show on A Prairie Home Companion: It's 90 percent of the lawyers who give the other 10 percent a bad name.... With the Houston Astros' Jeff Bagwell growing a long, scraggly goatee, fans in Houston have taken to wearing fake beards that resemble a shorter version of ZZ Top's facial hair. With Mark McGwire's chin whiskers, how long before some profiteer starts peddling fake red goatees for fans to wear at Busch?
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