Unreal's coolest, bestest friend (see December 10, 2003), Shandi Finnessey, rocked our world when she won Donald Trump's talent-competition-free Miss USA pageant earlier this month. But some were peeved when she declared that her hometown is "Florissant."
St. Louis native Rodney M. Norman voiced his displeasure in a screed to Unreal. "How dare she flaunt around on stage and have the audacity not to claim that she was from St. Louis?" writes Norman, who argues that Finnessey is technically a St. Louisan "in every sense of the word."
Norman says Finnessey's St. Louis snub has caused his friends in Atlanta to laugh at him, and he pledges to lead boycotts of the new Miss USA's local appearances if she doesn't apologize.
Reached by phone in New York, where she's camping out in preparation for the June 1 Miss Universe pageant in Quito, Ecuador, the leggy beauty queen got a little hot under the tiara when told of Norman's beef.
"Fine. You know what? He can boycott if he wants, because the Miss Universe organization is sponsored by NBC and Donald Trump, and we're specifically asked 'hometown,'" she fumes. "My hometown is Florissant. I think a lot of people just like to get their noses in where it doesn't belong." Noting that Norman isn't the first person to get his boxers in a bunch over the St. Louis slight, she adds: "Some of these interviews are somewhat offensive."
But Norman contends that it's not about feelings, it's about economics: The way he sees it, had Finnessey given St. Louis a shout-out, the city would have seen a much-needed economic boost. "We're trying to get this 2004 stuff going on, we just had the [NCAA basketball tourney's] Sweet 16, and this is the best you could do for St. Louis?"
Muhammad Islam, chair of Saint Louis University's economics department, says he may have a point.
"I think to the extent that if your name is out there in the media and St. Louis gets some attention and they bring in business prospects because of that, then some benefit comes to the region," Islam tells Unreal. "People might not know where Florissant is, but they know where St. Louis is."
After Miss Universe, Finnessey will tour with the United Service Organizations (USO) in Iraq and South Korea. She won't be back in Missouri until sometime later in the summer, when, she says, she'll be feted in a homecoming parade.
Florissant or St. Louis?
"Florissant!" she says. "That's my hometown!"
Chris Fowler had just finished taking a test in speech class at Pattonville High School when he got the message: The school's resource officer wanted to see him. The officer, who works for the Maryland Heights Police Department, proceeded to walk the seventeen-year-old senior through the packed cafeteria and outside to a waiting police car.
"Then they handcuffed me and put me in the car," recounts Fowler, a B student who plays saxophone in the band and has never so much as been sentenced to detention. "They said they were going to have to take me to the police station because there was a bench warrant for me for 'failure to appear.'"
Unbeknownst to Fowler, he was wanted for an outstanding traffic ticket for expired tags, a defective exhaust pipe and no insurance. Once at the police station, he had his mug shot snapped and was escorted to a small holding cell. As he waited for his mother to arrive with $300 to bail him out, he missed jazz band, pre-calculus and gym.
Unreal had a little, shall we say, attendance problem back in high school. When The Man came looking for us, we were on the roof of a parking garage, huffing dime-bag dirt weed from one of those cute little screw-together metal pipes.
But we digress.
"It was a little shocking," Fowler says. "But it makes sense. We're trapped at school anyway, so it's easy to get [students]."
It didn't make sense to Fowler's parents, who complained to John Heskett, assistant superintendent of Pattonville Schools. (Fowler's mom, former Riverfront Times staff writer Elizabeth Vega, tells Unreal she misread the amount due on the ticket and failed to send in enough money.) Heskett subsequently learned that two other students have been arrested on school grounds this year for minor infractions.
"We are not satisfied with the continuing use of our school as a place to arrest children for nonviolent incidents," the assistant superintendent says. "Missing class is a concern. The conversation among other kids about the fact that another kid was arrested was a concern. It doesn't contribute to a learning environment."
Maryland Heights Police Chief Tom O'Connor agrees.
"I'm not exactly sure what happened," says the chief, who immediately put the kibosh on classroom cuffing. "There's a technical interpretation of a bench warrant, and there's a common-sense interpretation. From a personal perspective, I don't think it's necessary to operate that way."
Songwriting grandma Jean Roed likes her scotch cold and her pigskin tough. The 84-year-old Fredericktown (pop. 3,928) resident and her husband, Arnold "Dusty" Roed, will likely be the least disappointed Ram fans when Kurt Warner receives his one-way ticket to free agency, but that didn't stop "Mama Jean" from penning a fight song, composed to the tune of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," that she hopes the Rams will adopt.
Team spokeswoman Molly Higgins tells Unreal that Roed's ditty is under consideration. Meantime, Mama Jean took a break from mounting elk heads on the walls of her southeast Missouri living room to discuss her songwriting debut, Busch Light and the legalization of pot. (To hear a chorus of "Go Rams -- Let's Roll," call 314-754-6411.)
Unreal: Why'd you get Carl Lawson to record "Go Rams -- Let's Roll!" instead of doing it yourself?
Mama Jean: Carl Lawson used to sing with Bob Kuban. Bob used to sing at Rams games, but they didn't renew his contract because Kurt Warner didn't like him. [Higgins says Warner had nothing to do with Kuban's exit.] I don't sing.
Because I'm 84 and I've used my life yelling at my four kids so much that I don't have a voice anymore.
Do you like bratwurst?
Sure, that's why I put brats in my song: [sings] "Buy me a soda and brats as well...."
Why not, "Buy me some Busch Light and brats as well"?
I would have done that, except there certainly are a few bluenoses in this world who wouldn't accept that. Since we're scotch drinkers, I would have even gone further. We're so far from bluenoses. We have a couple drinks every night before dinner, and it didn't take too long for people in this town to say, "Boy, they drink!"
Why do you live in Fredericktown?
We're from Aberdeen, South Dakota. Southern Optometry School in Memphis was Dusty's choice. After he graduated I took a compass and said, "For $220 [in moving costs] we can get up this far." We love this country. It's so different from prairies. We've been in Fredericktown since '57.
If Dusty was rushing Kurt Warner in the pocket, would he sack him?
Oh, hell yes. The eighties, agewise, are not for sissies. Dusty is six-two and 220. He's a big Norwegian. When he went to Northern University in Aberdeen, he was a tight end. Offensive. Off the field, too.
Do you think if everyone drank a modest amount of scotch every night there'd be less binge drinking in the world?
Why, of course. I'm all for it. I want marijuana legalized. What's happened to this world? Hell, I could run it.
The K-Y Derby
In recent months the sporting life has come tantalizingly close to producing major pro sports' first openly gay, active male athlete. First we had Cleveland Indians minor leaguer Kazuhito Tadano admitting that he appeared in a gay porn video while a student at Rikkyo University in Japan. But Tadano dismissed the experience as "a one-time incident" and "a big mistake," asserting: "I'm not gay. I'd like to clear that up right now."
The issue hit home Unreal-ly speaking, with the murder-for-hire travails of Mike Danton. The Blues center and a female acquaintance are charged with plotting to kill Danton's agent, David Frost; federal authorities claim Danton targeted Frost because the latter threatened to tell team management about Danton's "promiscuity and use of alcohol" -- and, more mysteriously, threatened "to leave him."
Though the Frost-Danton relationship may have been more dysfunctional father-son than troubled top-bottom, that didn't stop Unreal from recruiting EXP magazine theater critic/area homosexual Christopher Jackson to handicap a field of possibly local gay pro athletes in honor of this weekend's 130th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Soon-to-be-ex-Ram Kurt Warner is Jackson's morning-line favorite. Below are the odds in this year's crowded field, along with Jackson's commentary.
Jim Edmonds, Cardinals outfielder: 4-1 "He's kind of got bedroom eyes and built-in eyeliner. There's a bit of mystery with that come-hither quality." Bonus points because Edmonds hails from California and once frosted his hair.
Julian Tavarez, Cardinals pitcher: 1-1 The Dominican reliever's an even-odds contender, says Jackson. Two years back Tavarez called San Francisco fans "assholes and faggots" after they booed him, an action that led to a round of sensitivity training mandated by his then-employer, the Chicago Cubs. Jackson likes Tavarez's double hoop earrings and imparts: "The Latino temperament tends to be more versatile. He might be open to experimentation."
So Taguchi, Cardinals outfielder: 20-1 Taguchi likes to cook, but he doesn't make Jackson's blood boil. Still, the odds-maker says, "There's a perkiness in his expression. He seems like a happy boy."
Edgar Renteria, Cardinals shortstop: 5-1 "I think he'd make a nice drag queen," says Jackson of the Colombia-born bachelor. "He looks like he's about to break into a Broadway show tune."
Gorgeous Gary Jackson, South Broadway wrestler: 3-5 The leather harness the current Mid-Missouri heavyweight champ wears in his promotional photo is all our theater critic needs: "The harness is very gay." Yes, it is.
Marshall Faulk, Rams tailback: 3-1 "Maybe he's taking out his frustration on the fact that they got to the dresses before he did," Jackson says of the alleged woman beater. "He looks like a drag queen."
Kurt Warner, Rams fourth-string quarterback: 1-5 "I've always gotten the gaydar thing just watching him. Hello, look at the wife! The haircut alone -- Brenda's definitely Novak's or Attitudes material." Warner's perpetual three-day stubble, Jackson adds, is "very gay."
Adam Timmerman, Rams offensive lineman: 15-1 "When your cheeks are fatter than your head, we don't want you. He has the potential for cruising the park bathrooms."
Aeneas Williams, Rams safety: 8-1 "'Aeneas?' Well, yeah. Sometimes the name says it all." Bonus points: Williams is an ordained minister.
Quin Snyder, Mizzou men's basketball coach: 22-1 "When I think of basketball, I don't get a very gay vibe. We know a gay man didn't design those outfits. They're too baggy."
Doug Weight, Blues center: 12-1 "He looks like he has little highlights in his hair. He's got that open expression -- but he is married."
Mike Danton, Blues center: 2-1 "How could it have gotten that far on nothing? The original story definitely gave the impression that he was gay. Of course, we were all hoping. But now it's sort of coming into focus, unless he was involved with his agent. He was unhappy with himself. There was a lot of psychological stuff there. It's all very lurid."
Chris Osgood, Blues goaltender: 25-1 The boyish-looking Osgood's favorite movie is Saving Private Ryan, which doesn't bode well for his homosexuality, according to our man Jackson. "The movie quote disturbs me. I was hoping it might be Chicago. He's got a little of that Ron Howard thing going for him."
Glit, nine-year-old Fairmount Park racehorse: 6-1 "There is a fondness there," Jackson says of the formidable sprinter's relationship with his owner, Lou O'Brien. But the real scoop is a hot rumor that Derby contender Tapit made a pit stop in Collinsville en route to Louisville. No word on who mounted whom on the backstretch.