Monday, February 22, 2010

Yo, ask not . . .

More Olympic insights.

The US men’s hockey team beat Canada 5-3. This was not as big an upset as 1980 when our US amateur college kids beat the best professional team in the world, the Soviets. This time our NHL multi-millionaires beat their NHL a-little-more-multi-millionaires. But it was an upset.

The US men’s hockey team beat Canada 5-3. This was not as big an upset as 1980 when our broke-ass spaghetti-and-beer-swallowing amateurs beat the aged-steaks-and-vodka-swilling Soviets. This time our grilled-swordfish-and-chardonnay-eating millionaires beat their crab-and- filet-mignon-with-a-really-expensive-cabernet eating multi-millionaires. But it was an upset.

Since you asked:

There is this funny and nice soccer mom we know who has this incredible crush on David Beckham. Sure, I thought, I can see that. Good looking guy, great body. But, when my daughter first got into soccer, I didn’t follow soccer much, so I started to pay more attention. That is when I first heard Becks speak. Oh my word, he was a chimney sweep cockney on helium. His wife, Posh Spice, has a lower voice.

When I teased the soccer mom about this she said; “Oh, no, we have an agreement, when we are together he doesn’t speak. Uh uh, hmm, honey, no speaking. Nope. Shhh.”

The same thing just happened to me at the Winter Olympics.

Oh, my word, (yes I know I am saying oh my word a lot) ice dancer Tanith Belbin was a cross between my biggest crush in grade school, Karen Dean, and my biggest crush now, Heather Graham. And with an “I am the kind of trouble who enjoys having men fighting over me in a bar” nasty combined with country club elegance.

Then Tanith opened her mouth.

Oh my word, dogs whined a block away. All that was missing was her cracking gum while studying her split ends and her voice would have been as annoying as Dottie Morganstern in Sixth grade. And Dottie sounded like a cake mixer screeching and chattering on top of an old chalk board.

It reminded me of a story about when I moved to New York City from Santa Barbara.

When I went to college in Santa Barbara – a town rife with attractive people anyway – the college girls were the most attractive. And the most attractive of the UCSB college girls were the sorority girls of Delta Gamma and Pi Phi. There wasn’t less than a solid eight in either house. And not just gorgeous, but smart, nice, funny and - especially when compared to the pretty girls from my hometown - surprisingly easy going and down-to-earth. (The girls from my hometown had too much of a Martha Stewart/ "Stepford Wives" thing happening) And these Pi Phi and DG girls were mostly the girls who were our fraternity, Sigma Chi, little sisters; they hung around our apartment/house and, um, were the women whom we, uh, “dated.” Cough.

It was, in a word, awesome. Turns out I didn't realize just how awesome.

So when I moved to work on Wall Street a couple years later after graduating, of course I fully intended to continue dating girls in my comfort zone, women who looked and acted just like the women at Santa Barbara and, believe me, there were plenty in New York city. The problem? It turns out I wasn’t anywhere near their comfort zone.

Don’t get me wrong, I was in shape and was sporty-jock OK-looking (My mom, rest her soul, claimed I looked like the original Brawny Paper Towel lumberjack guy complete with porn mustache, but she was my Mom and biased), but the beautiful New York women seemed to be looking for nothing less than John frickin' F. Kennedy Junior: One, underwear model looks, Two, famous and, Three, wealth beyond description.

Seriously, I was aww'ight, but strike three for the broke-ass Paper Towel guy.

Thus began what I tragically refer to as the summer (sex) drought of ’83. In one deft move from Santa Barbara to Manhattan, I went from Warren Beatty to Warren, the mentally-challenged brother in “Something About Mary.”

No lie, I may as well have been asking women in fancy Manhattan bars;

“Have you seen my baseball?”

And then one day when my buddy Hondo and I were working out at the weight room at the Downtown Athletic Club after work, guess who waltzes in? John Frickin’ F. Kennedy Junior, his own rich-ass, gorgeous, famous buffed-out self.

Of the twenty or so guys in the relatively small weight room, I was probably one of two or three people who even knew who the hell he was. The other bond traders and brokers, including my buddy, Hondo, couldn’t have cared less. Besides arriving with a body guard, John-John looked shy and a little apprehensive, like we were all going to rush him for an autograph. (Which I thought of doing, as I was a full-blown Kennedy-phile like my mother)

Every bit as good looking in person as on TV, as soon as JFK Jr. noticed we basically ignored him and kept working out, he immediately relaxed and let down his guard. We - me and Hondo - were working out on the bench press and JFK Jr. asked nicely if he could work in - as is the protocol in gyms around the country. Next thing I know, I am spotting on the bench press the kid who saluted his father’s flag-draped casket twenty years ago.

The next thing I noticed was exactly what made the Kennedys the Kennedys: World class public relations manipulation.

The Kennedy patriarch, Joe Kennedy, was an absolute master at spin control. He was the Irish Al Capone. No lie, he was a bootlegger who worked closely with Al Capone. But Kennedy bought a Boston bank for a cover and posed as a Wall Street tycoon and everyone, except the thousands of business victims he ruthlessly left in his wake, believed Joe Kennedy’s brand new upper class image.

This was a guy who was able to take his son drunkenly getting his PT boat rammed in two in the middle of the night, a bonehead move that would put every other Navy rat in prison, and turned John F. Kennedy into a full-blown war hero complete with the Navy equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Now that is spin control.

Now I don’t pretend to know what Joe’s sons, John F. Kennedy or Bobby or Ted Kennedy were like in person, but we all knew how their touch-football-on-the- expansive- lawn classy; “This is daaahhmn good clam chawwwder” polished public images clashed with their drunken horn-dog ways.

The prior classy tone was the exact same tone and image that John Kennedy Jr. had just barely begun building and projecting on TV. Sure, he had been a bit of a knucklehead as a kid getting caught with pot at boarding school, flunking out of exclusive private schools, barely getting into Brown despite all the wealth and influence in the world and, at this time, flunking the bar exam a half dozen times.

But, in public, JFK Jr. had all of the good looks and class of both his mom and dad including the Brahman Boston accent. And he was a fairly adroit public speaker.

However, my impression of him up close in the gym?

May he rest in peace, but this JFK Jr. dude was a cross between John Travolta’s Vinny Barbarino in “Welcome Back Kotter” and a friendly chocolate Labrador Retriever. John-John wore a gold necklace on his hairy chest, a wife-beater T-shirt and he would preen and primp in the mirror, flex and openly admire his biceps, smack his gum, endlessly adjust his junk and ask repeatedly, in a thick New Yaaaahk accent;

“Howyahdoooin’?” followed by an awkward swat on the butt.

“Camelot”? More like this ‘moke was “Jersey Shore” but, way, way closer to “The Situation” than Lancelot. Don't misunderstand, especially considering his lineage, he was a perfectly nice and jovial guy. On the other hand, the mystery of why JFK Jr. kept flunking the bar exam vanished in thin air and was replaced by the mystery of how he tied his ties. (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea)

Truth be told, JFK Jr. was acting more like a jamoke than normal when he worked out and let his guard down; I am sure, as we saw later with his “George” magazine launch and other ventures, JFK Jr. could pull the Kennedy polish and charm on at the drop of a shiny top hat. And his early demise was tragic.

Be that as it may, at the time, I thought if this guy was the gold standard for which the snotty Kir Royal-sipping east coast debutantes were unfavorably comparing and rejecting me, I suddenly felt vastly more competitive. No, I wasn’t as good looking nor was I remotely famous and nowhere close to as rich as JFK Jr.

But I could tell stories and make jokes that would have left this handsome John-John guy scratching his thick curly chestnut mane in amazed baffled confusion.

Speaking of the beach, with my new-found confidence, that very weekend, right on the beach after a house party in the West Hamptons, the drought of ’83 ended in a, well, bang.

“Ask not what I can do for east coast babes, ask what east coast babes can do for me.”

The moral of the story? Looks, wealth and fame can be deceiving, the true measure of a person is how they can tell - and appreciate - a joke.

But either way, it doesn't help if you talk like an idiot.