There but for the Grace...?
There was a bit of a knot in Off Beat's stomach as we approached the newspaper racks this weekend, what with rumors swirling around town that a local weekly was about to publish its final issue. The knot was replaced by a guilty sort of relief when we discovered the "Famous Last Words" issue of the Twin Cities Revue. In their epitaph feature, the eight-month-old publication's editors compiled quotes from the Great Works, including Oscar Wilde's deathbed lament: "This wallpaper is killing me; one of us has got to go." The Revue's demise, however, might be more accurately described by another sage quoted in the package--Charles Darwin: In a survival-of-the-fittest market, you need a cutthroat operation just to stay afloat. "Frankly, there's an awful lot of newsprint out there, a lot of choices for people," says Rick Christiansen, publisher of Revue parent Skyway News. "I guess our expectations for the progress of the newspaper were a little bit higher than the results." Asked whether the Star Tribune's plans to debut a weekly entertainment guide this fall affected the decision to discontinue Revue, Christiansen says no: "We've heard the rumors like everyone else, but that was not the reason." The publisher also declined to comment on the theory offered by local musician Mike Merz in the Revue's last letters-to-the-editor page: Merz, the subject of a Revue cover story in May, claims to have indirectly caused the downfall of multiple magazines and music venues. The Twin Cities Reader featured his then band, Pimentos for Gus, in a cover story shortly before the parent company of a certain rival bought the paper out and closed it down two years ago (thanks for taking some of the blame, Mike), and he performed at Fargo's First Avenue just before that club folded. Merz's name last appeared in a City Pages story 18 months ago. Whew.
Saving Fringe's...Oh, Never Mind
By the time the daffodils bloomed this year, even the most dedicated political junkie--heck, even Off Beat--was long, long past the point of getting worked up about presidential satire. So it came as a bit of a surprise to Joshua Will when, on a morning in early June, a terse, Scottish-accented voice on his answering machine announced that he and fellow Brave New Workshop alum Chris Carlson had created "a bit of excitement" with a comedy revue they had planned to export to Edinburgh's Fringe Festival in August. Will returned the call and asked if the excitement was the good or the bad kind. Bad, he was told, very bad. According to Carlson, who is also an attorney specializing in civil litigation, the organizers of the massive annual theater fete were concerned that the title of the pair's revue, Saving Clinton's Privates, would cause legal trouble. "I guess there are two possible explanations," says Carlson. "Either they were just tired of the whole Clinton thing and didn't want to sully themselves with it, or there is someone over there who knows about the law--but not very much--and who was worried about the president's attorneys." But the Scot had little sympathy for that argument--or for Carlson's assurance that Privates, a collection of skits from a number of other BNW shows, had played in Minneapolis this spring without provoking so much as a peep of presidential ire. He and Will had two days, the Fringe official said, to change the name. Within 48 hours Carlson called Edinburgh back to offer a new moniker: Phallic Menace: An Insider's Guide to America. "There was this long silence," he recalls. "Then she put me on hold for like two minutes--this is an international call, remember." Carlson was about to go intercontinentally ballistic when the woman returned to the phone. "We're going to go with 'phallic,'" she said. Nerves were soothed, phantom lawsuits averted, and the last (and possibly silliest) chapter of Monicagate was closed without incident. Carlson admits that he still can't figure out why something as innocuous as a BNW show would cause such anxiety at a festival that invites an eclectic and often edgy crowd of performers from around the world. "But it's Britain," he adds. "Go figure." CP
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