Saturday, July 26, 2003


With clean air, water, employment and cool temperatures in short supply, Californians can at the least be grateful that we haven't been struck by a downturn in the supply of celebrity train wrecks.

First, a million plus signatures are collected in support of the proposition that Gray Davis is the worst governor since Pontius Pilate. The same electorate that returned him to Sacramento last November, is charged with determining which person of questionable sanity running in this October's election wins the door prize of a state $38 billion in the red. (Let's give Bill Bennett a $1 billion dollar stake and force him to cash in when he's up $100 million. We let him go back 380 times, wipe the deficit off the books and tip him 5% minus taxes)

And if you don't believe politics in California isn't an exercise in celebrity, you haven't had the pleasure of watching Willie Brown, Bob Dornan, Jerry Brown, Arnold , Rob Reiner, Babs Streisand, Darrell Issa and others in action.

If a real celebrity were governor, this couldn't have happened. The aptly named Gray Davis is a political hack from an ancient era where dishing out pork for votes was how you obtained job security. Davis - who can smell a campaign contribution buried in a fertilizer factory or a Houston based energy casino - is the anti-celebrity; a former Marine with a Porter Wagoner haircut and a demeanor that is as electric as a steam engine. Last fall's election pitting Davis and trust fund baby cum Clark Kent clone, Bill Simon, was the equivalent of choosing the Homecoming King from the Better Living through Organic Chemistry Club.

When Californians got the chance dump the guy with the matching first name and personality, the $38 billion dollar budget crater was just an excuse to get Schwarzenegger, the former Mr. AND Mrs. Michael Huffington and others on the list for a celebrity upgrade.

(This idea of buyer's remorse is so popular that Liza Minnelli has asked for a recall from her marriage to that guy who looks like he got the Michael Jackson special at the Maaco Clinic. Of course, she only needed one signature for her petition and she got it.)

If this wasn't enough to keep us titillated, the Laker's Kobe Bryant is charged with sexual assault, admits he committed adultery while pleading not guilty to the charge, and then has to buy his wife a $4 million dollar finger bauble to remind her how sorry he is. This story is the quintessential LA potboiler; sex, money, race, violence (or no violence) and jewelry. The GMs at local news stations are down at the Cathedral lighting candles for a trial in sweeps week.

There is considerable debate in these parts about how Kobe or Gray will come out looking in the next few months. And since second acts are an all important part of the Tao of Celebrity, looking good is really all that counts.

One thought is these two could temporarily switch roles until the solar system is rightfully returned to its course. Let Gray take Kobe's place as the professional athlete on trial and have Kobe run for Governor. That way Gray gets some street cred and a personality infusion, while Kobe gets to explain why the triangle offense is the perfect solution to breaking a budget impasse -- and can dunk on Darrell Issa all night long.

But that isn't going to happen. The largest state in the union and its government will keep rearranging the deck chairs on this doomed vessel, a verdict or settlement will be reached in Colorado and as always, money will determine the outcome and the future for both.

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