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You Don't Know Dick

St. Louisans, take some civic pride in Nelly-sanctioned model searches, fire-loving artists, Vespa-ridin' cops and one really underwhelming presidential campaign

Since announcing his bid for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, Dick Gephardt has gained about as much momentum as a Ford Taurus in a Formula One race, falling short of his fundraising goals, blowing off the NAACP and managing to miss approximately 90 percent of his votes on Capitol Hill.

With so much at stake, we figured our favorite Third District Congressman would run a pretty tight ship, at least in the early going. Obviously, we don't know Dick. Hence this new Unreal feature, in which we'll present the cleverest recent sound bite from our homeboy White House wannabe.

Drum roll, please: "Foreign policy isn't a John Wayne movie, where we catch the bad guys, hoist a few cold ones and then everything fades to black."

-- Gephardt, addressing the Bar Association of San Francisco on July 22, hours before it was announced that U.S. troops had killed Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay.

Burning Stan

With Labor Day weekend fast approaching, St. Louisans with artistic bents -- and $225 for a ticket -- are preparing for the annual Burning Man festival.

A small group bound for the Burn has been meeting at the City Museum to hatch plans for the nation's largest alternative arts festival, which last year drew an estimated 30,000 to Nevada for a week of debauchery in the heat of the Black Rock Desert, where there's no running water, food or telephones. Folks who don't bring adequate shelter and enough provisions are asked to leave before they even enter the gates.

We think St. Louis can do better. Why travel 1,600 miles to sweat yourself silly when we have plenty of heat, beer and eccentrics right here in River City? So it is that we submit these modest proposals for a heartland arts festival to bolster spirits and the local economy.

Burning Stan: For a mere $50, costumes optional, everyone gathers at Busch Stadium for a Labor Day burning of the Musial statue, especially if the Cardinals' pitching staff keeps blowing games. The beauty is, we can burn the same Stan year after year. After all, he's made of metal, isn't he?

Burning Fans: The Cards will be playing the Cubs on Labor Day. A group of local pranksters disguised in Cubs caps and jerseys sets out for the Friendly Confines and steals everyone's sun-tan lotion at the gates. By the seventh-inning stretch, the fans are lobster-red and the team, fooled into believing this is actually a home game, rallies to victory.

Burning Glands: St. Louis has one of the highest rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia in the nation. Why hang our heads? We've been getting it on, and we should be proud. Let's have a parade through downtown and burn a pile of condoms at the end.

Burning Bland: We pile copies of speeches by Governor Bob Holden and burn them while state auditor Claire McCaskill recites how much she'd save taxpayers if she were in the governor's mansion.

Sweet Cheek

When Nelly's urban youth cross-marketing posse took over Lucky's dance club on Laclede's Landing last week for a model search, Unreal sent playa wannabe Tom R. Arterburn and an assistant in search of a complimentary pair of Apple Bottoms Jeans (apple bottom included), a fifth of Hpnotiq liqueur and a six-pack of the elusive Pimp Juice coolers.

Nothing says exploitation like a musty bar filled with unaffiliated videographers, scantily clad starlet hopefuls and a panel of no-name judges. Actually, perhaps a misogynistic, self-promoting freelancer says it better. Having stumbled into the VH1 viewfinder one too many times, our Johnny Knoxville was relegated to the sidewalk, where he resorted to the standby of pimple-faced adolescents, corporate execs and low-budget cable producers everywhere.

Tom Arterburn: Hey, this thing's been sittin' here blocking traffic since we got here. How 'bout takin' me and a bunch of contestants for a little spin until the real celebs get here?

Limo chauffeur: I don't know about that, but you can come in and check it out.

[To his assistant] Let's get a shot of this finalist!

Hottie who missed the contestant call by five hours: Awww, no, you ain't gonna put this in the paper with some headline about the girl who got cut!

What? Everybody was telling us you were in the top six!

[Finally managing to buttonhole a contestant who believes (mistakenly) that she was chosen a finalist] The word among the media is you're in the top six to move on to Chicago!

Anjali: [Smiling confidently] I know. I heard they had who they wanted right from the start.

So, what do you do?

I'm a makeup artist.

At least for a few more hours, right? What happens? You win, you hop into the limo and it's off to Chicago to party with Nelly?

I heard we go to the Millennium, they let us get some clothes, then we leave.

Who needs clothes? You'll be wearing free Apple Bottoms for the next twelve months, won't you?

That's right!

By the way, did you hear about the after-party at the Mansion House?

Anjali: No. Where's that?

We'll be heading over there for some behind-the-scenes photo shoots later. We'll look for you.

Anjali: Okay!

[Amid the mahogany trim, mirrored ceiling and leather upholstery, a player's worst enemy -- morality -- rears its head, in the form of acute claustrophobia and unspeakable visions of Mike Tyson, Marv Albert and Kobe Bryant] Where's the door in this damn thing!

Officer Spiffy

Police officers are rarely mistaken for fashionistas. While citizens aplenty zig to the espresso bar, cops typically zag to the Eat-Rite for a steaming pot of leaded fuel and the grease-plate special. And when it's time to wind down, hipsters peep Queer Eye for the Straight Guy while cops might watch, well, Cops. Need further proof of police officers' cultural tin ear? Check out those cruisers they typically wheel around in (and the corny wraparound shades they wear).

But then, out of nowhere, comes an officer speeding down Washington Avenue on a 150cc white Vespa -- a sexy, sassy vessel that's as retro-chic as retro-chic gets.

"We're kind of progressive here in the Fourth District," St. Louis police Captain Larry O'Toole says of the district's three Italian scooters. The two-wheelers, O'Toole imparts, were purchased from Vespa St. Louis on Manchester Road for $5,000 apiece, with Community Improvement District funds doled out by the Downtown St. Louis Partnership. "The idea came from the fact that we were looking for a way to get around downtown a bit faster than bicycles. All the officers love them so far. People downtown and on Washington Avenue are like, 'Wow, look at those Vespas!'"

Impressed they are, confirms local filmmaker and downtown loft dweller Margie Newman. In fact, according to O'Toole and Ninth District Lieutenant Kenneth Kegel, the Vespas have proved so popular and effective that the department is considering buying more for patrols in Forest Park and the Central West End, where the svelte scoots might serve as a spiffy deterrent to foot-soldier drug peddlers who are all too often able to exploit the city's many blocked-off boulevards to evade their cruiser-bound pursuers.

Vespa USA spokeswoman Kimberlee Auletta says that while Vespas are utilized by police officers in Spain, France, Singapore, Puerto Rico and Portugal, St. Louis might well be the first major metropolitan U.S. city to purchase them for official use.

Asked if he'll consider letting the Vespa patrol officers dress up like Italian models for hot August night patrols, O'Toole says he's keeping an open mind.

Ab-fab, Cap'n!

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