Tom Nardone wrote business plans for Ford Motor Company way back in the pre-millennium days. Nascent or not, the Internet was already popular then among porn hunters, Nardone noticed while, ahem, doing research for work. He figured there was an online market for what he calls "embarrassing products" (such as anal bleach): And so www.shopinprivate.com was born.
Nardone proceeded to open a slew of other cyber ventures (www.bachelorette.com, for instance), and in June he purchased and revamped www.romanticgifts.com. A press release from the latter site prompted Unreal to suck up our shyness and call Nardone in Hazel Park, Michigan. After all, Christmas is coming, and nothing works better under mistletoe than a vibrator (even if we're alone).
Unreal: Where do you find your embarrassing products?
Tom Nardone: We really look and search. Sometimes they're very small companies, and inventors. We have the Razorba, for instance: It's a back-shaving tool, and it's the only way a man can remove the hair from his back without enlisting the help of another person. And it was just invented by some dude! We send checks to his house and he has these things in his basement, essentially.
Sounds like you're some chef sourcing
Foie gras? That's exactly it.
Your press release says "Lily" is "the world's most sensual sensual massager." How do you know that?
Yeah, it's the world's most sensual, sensual massager. Did I need a hyphen or something?
You needed a comma. What's a sensual massager?
A vibrator. Like, you can't sell "vibrators" in Texas. You can sell "sensual massagers" and "massagers" and "personal massagers." Now I'm gonna tell you something you may not want to know: The whole adult products industry? Each company has a separate product line that they call "Texas vibrators." Those are all packaged without nudity and without "vibrator" on them.
Dang! You think our country's political leaders could use sensual massagers?
You know what's interesting? Whenever there's Republicans in office, the sex-toy business does better.
So if you were going to send a Christmas package to George W. Bush
What would I send? Laura Bush is kinda cute, and they seem like a happily married couple, so I would send him a number of bottles of massage oils and lotions, because he's soon to be out of work and he'll need to relax.
How about for Condi Rice?
She travels a lot, so I'd send her the Hide-A-Vibe, which is a vibrator that conceals itself in a bottle that looks like perfume.
Not the vibrating nipple clamps?
I don't think so. I'm not wishing those on many people.
Too bad. That would have been our pick.
Opera's for Grown-ups
"Unfortunately, Nicholas Pallesen lost his luggage this morning," a woman announces. "He will be dressed a little less formally than the other contestants."
Seventeen aspiring opera singers have come to the Saint Louis Art Museum to participate in a local round of auditions for the Metropolitan Opera. The winners will go on to a regional competition. If they win that, they'll get a chance to audition for the Met.
(And no, Unreal isn't here to sing. The auditions are free and open to the public, and we aren't the only gawker.)
Pallesen, who flew in from Florida, has managed to purchase a new outfit at Target and wears black slacks, a maroon sweater and shiny black shoes as he sings an aria in which he appears to portray some sort of wicked character, judging by the way he slants his eyes and purses his lips into a malevolent smile. When he finishes, there is silence.
A sign on the stage reads, "No applause please."
As we await the next singer, two young women enter the auditorium with two babies in tow. They take a while to find seats. One of the judges stands. "We can't continue until you are sitting down," she scolds.
When the singer comes onstage and begins, one of the babies shakes a rattle. The other starts to coo.
After the singer finishes, the judge rises again. "We can't have babies, rattles and sounds in here while these young artists are working to do their best," she says. She pauses. "Please take care of it."
While we await the judges' verdict, we pass the time with Joy Boland, who won the St. Louis prelim two years ago. The audition is an awkward event to dress for, Boland confides. She never wears anything new to auditions, not even pantyhose.
Pallesen walks by. "Well done today," Boland says.
When the judges announce their decision, Pallesen and his Target duds make the cut.
Kill, Kill, Kill
Steve Santel is an avid mountain climber and a fiction writer who specializes in serial killers. A guy with a certain fascination for le danger, you might say. We heard about him from some far-off publicist, but he lives in Maryland Heights.
According to a press release, Santel's recently released first novel, Jagged Fate, is a "gripping story" in which "corrupt madman Gerald Rucker" meets his match in "an improbable antagonist: attorney Nick Lacour. Lacour's wrath rivals the killer's thirst for blood now the hunter becomes the hunted."
Santel is loath to give away any of the meat of the story. And yet, there's more....
Unreal: Your publicist says that "even something as simple as going to the grocery store can end in tragedy."
Steve Santel: [Laughs] Well, that's pretty dramatic. I think the gist of this book is it's based in St. Louis, and it's just kind of normal people, and for some of them simple day-to-day events turn into an end.
Hunh. She also says your book was inspired by an event twenty years ago and that your main character resembles you. Does he?
Not really, but I think some of the emotional turmoil and some experiences he had through loss would resemble mine.
You're not psychotic?
[Laughs] He's not psychotic either!
What happened twenty years ago?
My girlfriend's dad I guess he was probably in his early 50s he was told he had to take a mandatory retirement, and he got real despondent, depressed. And one night he wrote a suicide note to his family, but he must have changed his course of action, because he ended up killing her, her mom and her brother. It was pretty brutal stuff.
But there's no triple murder and suicide in your book.
No. Multiple homicides by one individual. He's a serial killer; he's killed more than fifteen women and at some point in time he reaches number twenty. I won't give away much more than that, but obviously he's made a life of doing this stuff.
That's quite a résumé!
Yeah! I think other serial killers would be impressed. But don't print that. I don't want them calling me or anything.
By the way, that's quite a title.
Fate is a very common theme in this book, and in some instances the fate is jagged.
We can visualize straight fate, but what does jagged fate look like?
In this instance it's brutal.
This week's Commontary comes from Anna Shallenberger of University City, who was reprimanded for electioneering on her bum.
I thought you might find this of interest. I cast my ballot at U. City High School. When I went to vote, I was asked to put my coat on to cover the seat of my sweats, which had "Bush Bites" à la Juicy or Greek traditions. I suggested that it was not "electioneering," as he was not on the ballot. I was told that while it wasn't, some other voters had found it offensive. I asked if I was going to be asked to leave and denied my right to vote, to which I received no answer. OK then, I said, "I guess they'll just have to live with it." I voted and left.
I found it very hypocritical that nothing was done at this same polling place in 2004 when election officials were telling voters that lines were long because not enough Democratic officials had shown up but my expressing an opinion draws fire.
Ever get the urge to jump up and ____ this damn town? Tell Unreal about it! firstname.lastname@example.org.