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Slick Dick

Dick Morris pipes up, the Bishops come to town and I-70 gets no respect

Dick Morris is a great big pussycat.

Double entendres aside, the ex-Clinton image shaper's most poignant feline trait may be that he's a nine-lifer. No matter the scandal, Dick bounces back every time. Nothing -- not shameless political fluidity nor blabbing top-secret White House gossip to a high-priced call girl -- can keep the Dick-man down.

Flying high from his prominent gigs at right-wing shockmeister media outlets FOX News and the New York Post, Morris is back on the book-tour circuit, making a June 26 pit stop at the Ladue Barnes & Noble to promote his latest, Off With Their Heads, a screed that takes dead critical aim at (among others) the New York Times, the Clintons and the French. En route to a Big Apple book-signing, Morris submitted himself to an Unreal interrogation:

Unreal: Your shredding of the NYT seems prescient in light of the Jayson Blair scandal. If FOX News were to hire Blair and Howell Raines to co-host a show, what would the show be called, other than Polish Wedding?

Dick Morris: It would be Not Necessarily the News.

Which would you rather do: Watch paint dry or listen to a Dick Gephardt stump speech?

I used to use Al Gore, now I use Ambien, but I'm considering getting off the pill and going to Gephardt instead. Y'know how Bob Dole went into erectile-dysfunction ads? Once Gephardt leaves office, he could promote Ambien sleeping medication.

Would you rather hang out with: a) Bill Bennett at a casino; b) Teddy Kennedy, circa 1985, at an open bar; or c) Bill Clinton at a strip club eating popcorn chicken and sipping cherry Cokes?

There should be a d) -- b and c together. Teddy Kennedy and Chris Dodd invited a waitress to be part of a human sandwich between the two of them back in the '80s. I assume in Dodd's case, he'd be a slice of toast. Kennedy would be the club roll -- the hero. And she'd be the meat in the middle. These aren't like the normal questions I get.

If you were a general manager for a baseball team and President Clinton was an opposing GM, would you trade Sherry Rowlands straight-up for Monica Lewinsky, or would Bubba have to throw in another intern, Hillary or Gennifer Flowers to sweeten the deal?

I think I'll pass on that question.

Sound Off

With last week's settlement in the antitrust lawsuit against the music industry came the startling news that the defendants -- Sony, EMI, Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, Universal and Bertelsmann -- will have to distribute 5.6 million free CDs to America's schools and libraries to make amends for their price-fixing ways.

The idea of a roomful of lawyers bickering over which albums go to which educational institutions -- "Christina's first album is acceptable compensation for elementary schools, but the slutty new CD is only for reform schools and the U.S. Naval Academy" -- is amusing, but it also got us thinking: What recordings should absolutely become part of the educational curriculum?

How about this canon, for starters:

The Germs, GI: Smart kids can learn creative stupidity as an acceptable means to an end.

The Stooges, Funhouse: Stupid kids can learn creative stupidity as an acceptable means to an end.

Peter Brötzmann, Machine Gun: Kids can learn to focus rage into articulate, beautiful purpose.

The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots: Kids can learn that articulate compassion is just as powerful as articulate rage.

Jonathan Richman, Rock'N'Roll with the Modern Lovers: Kids can learn that none of it means anything if you don't have ice cream.

Road Rage

Over the past few years, several West County highway interchanges have been gussied up thanks to a variety of funding sources, including tax-increment financing and federal and state dollars. However, when sixteen bridges on Interstate 70 from downtown St. Louis to the city limits were replaced over roughly the same period, the beautification committee must have been out to lunch. Instead of West County-style landscaping, the city bridges got chain link fences, concrete slopes and bare concrete piers.

The disparity didn't escape the notice of the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council, which worked with then-U.S. Senator Jean Carnahan to earmark $5 million for the Missouri Department of Transportation to spruce up I-70. Part of the facelift, begun in March, involved brick façades for the bridge piers. Trouble is, the façades only cover the fronts of the piers; the 100,000 drivers who ply the highway each day can clearly see the metal straps that hold the false fronts in place.

"The 'shin guards' are not what we expected, nor is it what is acceptable here," complains state Representative Yaphett El-Amin (D-North St. Louis). "We expect the same commitment from MoDOT to do a quality project in the city as when they design highways in the county."

Not so fast, warns MoDOT spokeswoman Linda Wilson. "We still have to figure out how to get this done, what's the time frame, what's the cost and how do we get the money," says Wilson, adding that the upgrade could cost $500,000.

"If public facilities in an affluent community are going to look better than in a poor community despite the fact that it's the same agency responsible for both, that to me is not right," retorts East-West Gateway Coordinating Council executive director Les Sterman. "Our concern is that all areas of the region be treated equitably by our public agencies regardless of where they are located and how wealthy they are."

Perhaps when the bridges are done, local officals can apply the same egalitarian logic to our public schools.

Flogging the Bishops

Last week the National Conference of Catholic Bishops proved once again that if you're staging a controversial event in St. Louis, the Union Station Hyatt is the place to meet. (Though advance scouts may have missed the Hooters on the third floor -- an odd backdrop for a conference focused on sexual shenanigans.)

Unreal managed to smuggle soon-to-be-excommunicated RFT freelancer Tom Arterburn into the affair, then debriefed him (figuratively) afterward:

Unreal: What was it like being packed into a conference center with more than 100 religious leaders?

Tom Arterburn: Sweet revenge! It was open season on the guys who had me squirming throughout the twelve years of my Catholic education. My only regret is that I couldn't hunt down Sister Rambonita, my ear-, hair- and gut-yanking first-grade drill sergeant.

Are critics like SNAP (Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests) satisfied with the progress since last year's conference in Dallas, when the bishops promised to weed out abusers?

For professional protesters, being satisfied means being out of a job. I don't know where the mothers of these abuse victims were when all this sickness was going on, but mine only had to grab me by the collar one time, pin me against the wall in Kresge's and whisper, "Don't you ever, ever talk to a stranger! You hear me?"

Are you still proud to be a Catholic?

Damn right! I don't think David Clohessy [executive director of SNAP] and those other whiny bastards appreciate what the church has given them. Every time some furloughed crazy catches me in the dark and asks me if I'm a Christian, I flex my pecs, look down on 'em and proudly proclaim, "I'm a Catholic!" You never hear about a grown Catholic being bludgeoned to death in the rectory, do you? We're too goddamn tough! If I didn't have such a fear of authority figures, effeminate men and public bathrooms, I'd have caught that little weasel Clohessy away from the cameras and whipped his ass myself.

Did you confess these impure thoughts before you left the conference?

Nah. I headed up to Hooters and got drunk, like any good Catholic.

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