-- Letter to the Editor, (St. Louis) University News, Thursday, April 1
STEALTH CAMPAIGN: In the St. Louis aldermanic races this Tuesday, there were a handful of interesting twists. Independents ran in both the 6th and 22nd wards. Republicans were found on ballots in the 10th and 16th wards, and a Democrat ran against lone Republican incumbent Fred Heitert in the 12th. There was a widely held, ultimately false rumor that an independent was going to run against colorful Democrat Tom Bauer in the 24th. And a handful of contentious primaries among the Democrats added some early spice.
If the face of the board didn't exactly change this week, there were at least some threats to its Democratic complexion. Nothing would have modified the look of the city's most august body so much as a win by Libertarian candidate Mike Chesnut, running against incumbent Democrat Jim Shrewsbury and Republican challenger Matt Hoffman in the 16th Ward.
But Chesnut, a stock clerk at Grandpa Pidgeon's, ran a race so under-the-radar that even members of his party were unsure of his strategies and background.
"We don't know a lot about him, either," says local Libertarian leader Ken Bush. "He hadn't attended any Libertarian meetings. I called him up at his work this morning and spoke to him for a good 20 minutes. He didn't have an objection to some of the basic Libertarian platforms. I don't know what he's doing for the campaign. He spoke of a massive campaign to clean up litter, putting businesses rather than housing at the Darst-Webbe site. I wouldn't really emphasize those themes as being the most important.
"He thought the city needed an independent voice for a change, and I like that. In the city, even a Republican would be a change of pace."
Chesnut agrees with the ultimate-outsider status, in a backhanded way, by saying, "I haven't been to a whole lot of meetings. I just thought Libertarians were interesting; that's how I chose them. A lot of people don't think much of Republicans or Democrats. If they see a Libertarian, they'll check that out."
If Bush was uncertain about parts of Chesnut's approach, at least he spoke to him, unlike most of the possible voters in the candidate's ward. As of last Thursday afternoon, Chesnut's campaign had yet to hit high gear. "When I was campaigning, I went to four people's houses," he says. "They knew I wasn't Jim Shrewsbury. They thought I was a Republican. I told them I was a Libertarian. When I did that, one lady shut the door in my face."
Not wishing to meet for an interview in person (he also declined several requests to be photographed for this column), Chesnut sketched out some ideas in quick strokes during a short telephone conversation, in which he often referred to a handful of interviews he'd had with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Suburban Journals.
Chesnut doesn't like the idea of more suburban sprawl, and he wants police officers walking the beat. He thinks the city should pay residents for their recycling and believes the now-demolished Arena should've been used as an after-school center for youths.
In fact, he says, "The reason I initially ran was because of the Arena thing. Jim Shrewsbury sponsored the bill that got it torn down, and it wasn't even in his ward." He also had a pair of defining conversations that put the thought in his mind. Consider them coincidences or omens: Once, walking down the street with a woman, he noted the great amount of trash, whereupon she suggested he run for office; another time, at the Laundromat across the street from his apartment, he was holding court on several subjects when the other folks suggested he run for office.
It was advice, of course, he would eventually take. But without a budget. In fact, after his $287 filing fee, Chesnut didn't spend one thin dime in this run for the job. No fliers or yard signs? "No." No public meetings? "No." No last-minute get-out-the-vote, door-to-door drive? "No." As for the actual election day, any big plans? "The usual." So, just go to work, vote, watch the results? "Yes." Asked whether he'd taken anything of note from the campaign experience, he says he enjoyed the interviews and appreciated the six votes he received in the primary. Six votes?
"In the primary, mmm-hmm," he says. "And I was happy with the six votes, considering how little time and effort I had for it. If I got 50 in the general election, I'd be happy. If I got 55, I'd be jumping for joy."
On questioning Chesnut whether he would ever run again, the RFT enjoyed a response that hadn't been given to the Post or the Journals -- a scoop, of sorts.
"Whoo boy," he says. "You're the first person that ever asked me that! Right now, I'd say no. But then again, who knows? Say next Wednesday, after the election, you ask me, I'd probably say no. But in a year or two, with more support, or if people don't want to see Shrewsbury again, or if he retires, I'd think ... well ... right now I'd say probably not."
Hope springs eternal.
DON'T QUESTION THIS PLEDGE DRIVE: In an effort to bring more of a community-friendly feel to "Hit Parade," I hereby pledge $1 every time the phrase "No question" (and/or its first cousin "No question about it/that") comes into play at all-sports KFNS (590 AM). Heard on my radio: Tuesday, March 31, 3:45 p.m., Mike Claiborne; 4:36 p.m., Claiborne again; Wednesday, April 1, 4:34 p.m., caller "Tom"; Friday, April 2, 10:28 a.m., Earl Austin, and 3:30 p.m., Claiborne; and Monday, April 5, 1:21 p.m., Andy Van Slyke. With matching funds from closer-listening sports fans, it's possible that the on-air staff at KFNS could generate enough funds to (a) reforest the Great Plains, (b) build up this nation's inner city housing stock and (c) pay off Jim Campbell's hernia surgery. For my part, $6 is going straight to the Gaslight Square Preservation Society.
OUR COLORBLIND SOCIETY: Speaking of Earl Austin, the St. Louis American sports editor might be the only person in town who can accurately discuss eighth-grade basketball in any detail. That uncanny kind of background in the sport makes him a valuable asset to that paper and all the other outlets he writes for and broadcasts on. But in last week's issue an interesting note was struck. His "Fab Five All-Star Teams" comprise only black players.
As Austin points out, this type of list has a history in such publications as Jet and Ebony. But is such a list really necessary at this point? When going to high-school hoops games, you really get a good feel for the balkanization of the metro region, more than you do in going to any number of charity parties, charrettes or other community meetings. But is there a continuance of an us-vs.-them mentality when the differences in communities become too overt, too pronounced, too stressed?
It's only a matter of time before a talk-show host on some AM station gets asked, "Why is it OK for a paper to print an all-black all-star team but not an all-white team?" It would look strange, for example, for a paper with a primarily white readership (the numbers don't lie) to name this type of starting five: Jarriot Rook (Troy Buchanan), Joe Ries (DeSmet), Kevin Nordmann (Webster Groves), Adam Glosier (St. Charles West), David Lee (Chaminade). Bench: Michael Kernan (DeSmet), Mike Van Hee (CBC), Kevin Dunlap (St. Mary's), Keith Schunzel (St. Louis University High).
That'd be a ridiculous idea for a list, right? No question.
HEY, BIG SHOT: Nothing beats reading concert riders for sheer, mindless fun. Take Marvelous 3, a "modern rock" band with all of one hit, "Freak of the Week." They recently played the Side Door, and it was a very important show, because Point personalities made real live personal appearances. And this is a very important band, judging by their rather voluminous needs, including (but certainly not limited to): a fifth of Stolichnaya vodka, fresh chocolate-chip cookies, honey, low-fat tortillas, a bottle of merlot, 10 bath towels, Celestial Seasonings echinacea teabags, enough "bird" meat for a dozen sandwiches, spicy mustard and lots, lots more. It's scary what a second hit might do to this band. What will they want then? Veal quiche? Velvet smoking jackets? Breathe-Right nasal strips in multiple colors?
At times like this, we can only muse what some local acts would want if they, too, scored that elusive, first national hit.
Triplexir: three pints of human blood, the head of a bat, a hound's tooth. The Schwag: hemp underpants and socks, orange juice, soft hemp pillows. Ultraman: canes, Geritol, spectacles.
THINKING OF THE AFTERLIFE: At times, you wonder what'll become of us all at that critical moment when life turns to, well, that next phase. Once in a while, you actually do hope that there's the old-school, Christian vision of hell, with a sinister, mustached character in a red cape, pitchfork in hand -- a lava-dripping, heads-in-boiling-oil, hot-coals kind of joint.
And if there's such a place, there's probably a corner reserved for commercial-radio DJs.
Occasionally, with my senses taking complete leave, I stop the dial at a radio show so irredeemably dumb that I can only shake my head in wonder. Then it moves to another level. On their Nocturnal Emission show Saturday evening, Point (105.7 FM) jocks "Joe and John" did a song-skit called "We Wanna Be Retarded." Apparently unaware of that fine line between anti-PC humor and simple insult, the duo came up with a comedy dud that offended on so many levels, they've surely booked their passage south.
Comedy can be cutting, but a shred of decency sometimes pulls back that knife. But when has that been a priority at KPNT?
"HIT PARADE" HAIKU: We swing into spring with a fantastic new way to celebrate Our Town while bastardizing an ancient art form. Join in, readers. Remember: five syllables ("Skip Erwin chatters"), seven syllables ("Without pause, words leave his mouth"), five syllables ("At a rapid rate"). Poetry! Ta-da!
West County lawyers,
Metropolis leaders, will
Save us from ourselves
Guy Phillips: funny
In doses so small, science
Cannot detect them
Highway Matrons, all
Together, weigh less than the
Humble priest, Lexus,
They are words that don't really
Fit well together
E-mail your tips, quips and haikus to Thomas_Crone@rftstl.com.