Thursday, August 22, 2002

Don't make me turn this car around. I got an axe to grind, Torn Slatterns and Nugget Ranchers.

Admit it, you hate Martha Stewart as much as I do. Come on, go ahead, it’s a guilty pleasure.

Maybe I started to hate Martha Stewart because I grew up in a suburb of Chicago that was infested with Martha Stewarts: hypocrites whose priorities were so out-of-whack that they placed appearances ahead of the emotional welfare of their family.

Thankfully, neither my Mother, nor her friends, were anything like Martha. In fact, I am proud to say my parents and their friends were polar opposites of Martha: the epitome of friendly, proud, honest, down-to-earth Midwesterners.

But for some reason, however, every girl I dated in high school had a mother who was a Martha Stewart clone. Not an ImClone, but an actual clone.

Based on inside information from their own daughters, I knew these Country club Martha-like hussies despised me – a long-haired cocky jock in hideous seventies clothes – as not worthy to date their ruthlessly-driven-to-to-be-perfect little daughters. But did that stop these women from greeting me like a lost son every time I came skulking about? Heavens no. After all, it’s all about appearances.

And that, my friends, is the scary mantra – as well as the hook - for Martha and her evil clones: It’s all about appearances. Martha Stewart then took that mantra and ran it to unimaginable levels.

It is bad enough to want to rub your neighbor’s faces in your domestic over-achieving, but to build that same superficial sadism into a monolithic empire based solely on house-keeping guilt, well, that alone is inexcusable.

David Letterman nailed Martha’s corporate mission statement to the wall on a Top Ten List list from Martha Stewart:

“Don’t have time to bake a holiday pie from scratch? Well then you are an awful, awful person.”

There is no way to gauge the misery Martha Stewart and her minions have caused the countless poor, sweet, impressionable hostesses of parties who could never hope to measure up to Martha’s preposterously high standards.

“Oh, sweety. Don’t tell me you are still serving hors d’oeuvres that ‘ol tacky way, are you?”

Remember Kathy Lee Gifford? She evoked the same glorious love-to-hate emotions for the same reasons as does Martha: a hypocrite extorting millions of dollars from the eager and trusting masses by peddling a façade of perfection.

(By the way, Britney Spears is one more flip-off of a cameraman away from joining Martha and Kathy Lee in that same dubious club.)

But even as we speak, Martha has now managed to sink to depths even I couldn’t have imagined.

By now you’ve all heard of her ImClone scandal; Martha “allegedly” (like we “allegedly” breath oxygen) used inside information to dump her shares of ImClone shares before the stock tanked.

Believe it or not, there are those out there who still think;

“So what? Big deal? Why should Martha be in trouble for simply utilizing a knowledgeable source and having the wherewithal to act on it? ”

Wrong. Burping after dinner wrong. Wiping your shoes on the tablecloth wrong. Wrong.

By using information nobody else had, Martha affectively stole hard-earned money from every single solitary person who purchased those soon-to-plummet shares. In short, the rich and famous Martha Stewart stole money from the same folks who made her rich and famous in the first place.

So, let’s say, for argument, there are still some folks out there who think;

“OK, so Martha got in over her head and she messed up. Everyone messes up, right? She didn’t know any better. Stocks are tricky. Give the woman a second chance.”

Get this: Martha Stewart is a licensed stockbroker. She has her series seven license, which means she studied ad nausea all the rules specifically against insider trading and passed the broker’s test.

Not only that, but, to paraphrase Britney Spears: Oops, she did it again.

An investor in Martha Stewart's company has filed a lawsuit alleging (there’s that word again) Miss Stewart dumped shares of her own stock because she knew she would be investigated on suspicion of her ImClone insider trading. (Good to see Martha learned her lesson, isn’t it?)

It’s bad enough to defraud investors by dumping stocks based on inside information. But, ladies and gentleman, there is a special hell - normally reserved for the likes of terrorists, O.J. jurors and snooty waiters - for someone who steals money from people who bought a stock with their own name printed right on the face of it.

(Did you hear that drug addict/actor Robert Downey Jr had all charges dropped against him? Two years ago, who could have imagined that Robert Downey Jr. would be a model citizen and Martha Stewart might be on her way to the slammer?)

You think those Enron and WorldCom guys are evil? Martha Stewart didn’t just cook the books, she sautéed them in clarified butter and garlic. But that wasn’t enough for Martha, she then shoved the entire mess down the throats of her own adoring fans; fans who trusted Martha enough to put up the money that made Martha a billionaire in the first place.

Now, I am not an expert on etiquette, but I am pretty sure it is bad manners to take money from people, cash out, get rich, and then turn around and dump the financial leftovers on their heads. Isn’t the point of a gracious host to put your guests first? You think Martha gives a damn about anyone but herself?

Is there hope for Martha Stewart? Will all of these unspeakably evil acts, as well as the very real threat of hard prison time, ever humble Martha Stewart? Probably not. Coming soon to a book store near you:

Martha Stewart’s “How to Decorate the Inside of a Trade”

Prison: It’s a bad thing.