The Bald Truth
WHEN WORD CAME of the passing of presidential also-ran Harold Stassen, Off Beat was curious to see how the local dailies would handle the boy-wonder governor's most conspicuous physical feature: his oddly hued hairpiece. Sure enough, the rug made an appearance about halfway through the St. Paul Pioneer Press obit, with scribes Lisa Donovan and Bill Gardner deftly noting that "[t]he perennial campaigns, like the stiff toupee he wore late in life, obscured his political image." On the other side of the river, meanwhile, the Star Tribune gave the rug a miss. Because Off Beat's bosses shell out obscene sums of money for a Lexis-Nexis account, we thought we'd run the wig through the database for the definitive postmortem on Stassen's orange aid. The results: While the New York Times refrained, CNN and the Los Angeles Times mentioned the toupee in their obits, as did the Washington Post. In fact, in a subsequent column the Post took it right from the top: "Even the obituary writers, schooled in the generosity owed to the dead, mention Harold Stassen's improbable toupee," reads Marjorie Williams's opening salvo. "This one great concession to the political realities of our age was stubbornly, proudly wrong, topping his great head like a sullen possum that had been dipped in bronze." And in a piece for the Palm Beach Post, columnist George McEvoy offered up this reminiscence about covering Stassen's 1968 presidential bid as a greenhorn reporter: "We all spotted the wig immediately. Somebody must have convinced Mr. Stassen that he was beginning to show his age, so he went out and bought a toupee. He must have purchased it in a novelty store, because it was of a hideous burnt orange color, curly, and just plopped on top of his head like a damp rag."
Parking Ban, Shmarking Ban
"USED TO BE that people took a certain measure of pride in making sure their sidewalks were shoveled," laments Mike Morehead, St. Paul's director of code enforcement. "But society has changed. On my pessimistic days, I'm thinking: What is with these people?" In St. Paul, as in Minneapolis, home and business owners are required by law to keep their sidewalks clear. But as any pedestrian knows, it's been a rough winter. Since November St. Paul officials have received 1,828 complaints about unshoveled sidewalks (compared to just 283 last winter). "We get a lot of calls from the elderly, particularly in the area of bus stops," Morehead tells Off Beat. "They're terrified of the ice. And I don't blame them. For them, falling down and breaking a hip means death." In the past, he says, scofflaws were issued $100 citations, but this year the city has a better idea: Fail to clear your sidewalk and a city crew will do it for you--and tack on the cost to your property-tax bill. "We figure if they get a $200 or $300 lien on their tax bill, maybe they'll have a different attitude next winter," opines Morehead, who reports that the city has plowed 294 walks so far. Minneapolis's Sidewalk Inspections Department has issued 265 citations at $55 a pop, according to director Dan Bauer, who says he has received 1,574 complaints. Bauer is quick to acknowledge that the numbers barely hint at the extent of the problem: "We could write tickets all day long, but we just don't have the resources."
Put It in the Crease!
LATE LAST YEAR Off Beat took up the cause of a concerned father who took his six-year-old son to a University of Minnesota hockey game, where he was shocked by a profane cheer that appeared to be led by the pep band (see Off Beat, December 27, 2000). At the time, Gopher Men's Hockey Pep Band director Skeeter Burroughs said his group doesn't have anything to do with the cheer; it's the students in the stands. Well, a few weekends back we took in the Gophers' WCHA playoff-opening blowout of Michigan Tech, and right in the middle of the game a cadre of trumpets broke away from Skeeter's band, deposited themselves next to the rowdiest group of students in the arena, and led them in a cheer. "That was a completely different cheer," Burroughs protests, explaining that it goes: "Eat 'em up, eat 'em up, put it in the crease!" The one the dad got upset about goes: "You suck, you worthless piece of shit!" But, Off Beat ventures, as the students yell out the words to the "crease" cheer, they engage in a variety of hand gestures, concluding with the pounding of the left arm against the chest and the pumping of the right arm in a move generally understood to mean, um, "Fuck you." Gosh, Burroughs says, he never noticed that: He generally has his back to it all, as he's busy directing the rest of his band.