Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You
WHENEVER OFF BEAT feels the urge to wax snide on the topic of television news, we ratchet the Barcalounger back another notch and switch to the Food Network. Still, now and again we get our shorts in a knot. And so it was last Sunday, when we came across a blaring color ad KARE-TV (Channel 11) placed in the Star Tribune to pimp a two-part feature called "Behind the Music." Catchy name, to be sure, and one that has been working out pretty well for VH1. More striking were the two photos of KARE reporter Roxanne Battle at work: beaming with her arm draped over the shoulder of record producer Jimmy Jam Harris, and beaming while clasping hands with diva Mariah Carey. Is this what has become of the classic journalistic directive to maintain a dignified distance from one's subject? Or is it just us? We asked local media watchdog Dean Alger. "It raises the issue of credibility," Alger notes dryly, "when they are both literally and figuratively embracing celebrity." KARE news director Tom Lindner notes that the ad was put together by the station's promotions department but says he has no problem with Battle's cozy poses. "We wouldn't do a publicity photo of our capitol reporter embracing Jesse," Lindner allows. "I think this was different, because it was an entertainment profile." Barbara Walters, he adds, "has been doing this sort of thing for years."
From Here to Perdition
OFF BEAT WOULD never, ever, under any circumstances, gamble...but because we like to stay on top of things, we've been following Canterbury Park's effort to install a 50-table card room at the racetrack--a virtual certainty once the Legislature cleared the way last spring. Presumably, card sharps will be able to ante up by January--and that, says Vernon Bergstrom, will be the beginning of the end. "As soon as people get accustomed to it, they will try to pass more [laws]," says Bergstrom, the Northern States director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. "That's the nature of the gaming industry--it is insatiable." For Canterbury, Bergstrom argues, "more" will mean slot machines, for which the track lobbied unsuccessfully earlier this year. "From our perspective slots would be great," affirms racetrack spokeswoman Sheila Williams. "Slots are really the gravy in the gaming business. The way we look at it is this: That's what we do here. We gamble. We were here before the lottery, before the casinos." Oddly, as the card-room discussion percolates, the people who already have slots--the tribal casinos--have remained quiet. Neither the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association nor the Shakopee Mdewakanton (Dakota) Community (proprietors of Mystic Lake Casino, near the track) had any comment to share for this item. If Off Beat were the sort to place a wager, we'd bet their silence has something to do with a little-known detail in their agreement with the state. "There is a clause about allowing tribal casinos to conduct any games that are not forbidden by state law," notes Pat McCormack, a legislative policy analyst who follows gaming issues. "So I'll get out my crystal ball and say somewhere, sometime, tribes will try to have poker tables."
Legend of the Fall
LAST HOLIDAY SEASON we were treated to the "Lights Out" myth about the fatal hazards of flashing your brights at an oncoming car that had its headlights turned off (see Off Beat, November 18, 1998). This year, hardly had we removed the annual cranberry-sauce stain from our best (only) tie when this news arrived via e-mail: "It has been 'ritual' of gang members to take one body part from women as an initiation into gangs. The rule is that it has to be in a well lit area and at a gas station, so be careful. They tend to lay under the car, and slash females' ankles when she goes to get in her car, causing her to fall and then they cut off a body part and roll and run." Never one to show courage in the face of potential mayhem, Off Beat hatched a plan to trade in our rustbucket for a bicycle. But first we hied to urbanlegends.com, the online archive maintained by the alt.folklore.urban (AFU) Usenet discussion group. Lo and behold, there at the tippy-top of the list of new entries: "Ankle-Slashing Gang Initiation." Happy holidays!
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