Fantasy Island

No month is survivable without all sorts of rich and delicious mental vacations; particularly if, like Budd Rugg, you find yourself with a wholly unreliable car and $36 in your checking account. But the glum post-holiday stretch--which commences the dreary day I help my mother dismantle her monstrously flocked Christmas tree and pack up her frightening nativity scene--always finds me feeling particularly vulnerable to the wildest flights of fantasy.

It's no coincidence that my absolute favorite television programs were Love American Style, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat. I hate to death the whole tired concept of reality television precisely because it's so unglamorous and fraught with the sort of sordid real-life nastiness that breaks Budd Rugg's heart on a daily basis. I have no interest in seeing bartenders and farmers and real estate agents muck around in the jungle or grope each other in a hot tub. Nor do I wish to see washed-up celebrities drub each other in a boxing ring, unless, of course, I'm allowed to handpick the pugilists. If these sorts of spectacles are going to be truly compelling entertainment you have to dispense with the has-beens. Careers have to be at stake; there has to be at least a modicum of dignity and ego still smoldering in the combatants for there to be any true drama. I mean, I would gladly sit ringside to watch, say, Tom Lyden and Ed Heil pummel each other senseless for some worthy charity, but for the most part I'd much rather hold on to my Make-A-Wish fantasies of love and happiness and unfortunate children frolicking in idyllic locales.

Which brings me to my latest scheme to make the world a better place. I'm fully prepared to once again be branded a raving lunatic and an idiot, but what real dreamer hasn't had his spleen ruptured by mobs of gloomy realists? What I'm proposing is Budd Rugg's Media Fantasy Camp, a summer retreat for children whose parents neglect them by going out every night to Broadway shows and star-studded benefits for unfortunate children, where they can have their photos taken with Burt Cohen and Barry Zevan. These are unquestionably people who can afford to send their unhappy children to a camp where they can rub elbows with media stars and ride horses and shoot arrows at bales of hay.(You know exactly the kind of people I'm talking about; you see them with big plates full of shrimp and cocktail wieners in the front pages of Mpls.St.Paul magazine every month, and it makes you as nauseated with jealousy as it does me.)

Make no mistake, at Budd Rugg's Media Fantasy Camp there will be stargazing and bonfires big enough to roast a witch. S'mores and sing-alongs and entry-level meteorology workshops. We might even make time in the schedule for makeup and hair care tips. Who knows? Granted, this is all still in the very early planning stages, but I've already found a former KOA campground in Thief River Falls that is willing to host my camp for what seems a very reasonable fee. And heaven knows there are scads of media luminaries in the Twin Cities who have seemingly fallen off the planet or been thrown to the wolves in recent years, people with years of experience who doubtless have much wisdom to impart to the next generation of Randi Kayes and Sharon Schmickles. I'm thinking of people like poor Bill Carlson and Joyce Lamont, Bob Yates and Rusty Gatenby. Or Jim Klobuchar, Colleen Needles, Thor Tollo, and Stan Turner. The list of potential counselors is endless and truly impressive.

Yes, the wonderful people at WCCO have been hosting glamorous celebrity cruises and exotic travel expeditions for years, but these wondrous voyages have always been clearly marketed for elderly media groupies with fat nest eggs and too much time on their hands. Every time I have ever heard these vacations advertised on the radio I have been sick with envy at the thought of the shenanigans that must ensue. Put Budd Rugg on a boat with Howard Viken or Ruth Koscielak and I can assure you that I would be prepared to drown at sea a happy man.

That, of course, will sadly never happen. I have inquired from time to time about these cruises, thinking it might make a splendid vacation for my mother and myself, but the cost was simply prohibitive.

There is no reason, however, that the Media Fantasy Camp cannot become a reality. My faith in the media stars I have worshiped from afar, and in their commitment to the future of our children, gives me the necessary confidence to proceed with my plan, even in the face of my mother's earnest and well-intended attempts to dissuade me from a course of action that she feels certain can lead to nothing but further disillusionment.

Yet in these dark days, when there is so precious little in the way of media scuttlebutt coming my way (the juiciest tidbit I have received in recent weeks involved the New Year's Day sighting of Dave Dahl at a Cub Foods in Woodbury, where he was seen buying four boxes of macaroni and cheese and a bottle of barbecue sauce) and when I feel so pathetically disinclined to venture out on inevitably fruitless expeditions, I am oddly content to nurture what seems a decent dream, even as I steel myself for disappointment.

Until next time, I remain your faithful correspondent, and entreat you to send any and all media gossip and inane prattle to [email protected]

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