Smoke-Filled Room

Smoking ban? Why, that's downright un-American!
Xcel photo by Bruce Kluckhohn

Last week, a story tip came in that got our newsroom buzzing. Apparently, there would be giant, self-contained cigar-smoking rooms in the Xcel Energy Center for the RNC.

It made sense, too: There's no way Arnold would fly here and give a speech if he couldn't have a temperature-controlled space to chomp down on a Cohiba.

The news came in from Steve Bailey, a local contractor who was at a party with fellow contractors. He overheard one guy saying how he turned down an offer to build the smoking rooms. These rooms, said Bailey, were going to have 14-foot-high ceilings and ornate wood paneling. "Everybody there was shocked at the guy's story," he says. "You can't do such a thing with the new smoking ban."

Bailey called his state senator, Ron Latz, whose secretary told him they didn't know what he was talking about (oops, wrong party).

Next, Bailey called us, wisely employing the feeble to do his work for him (or what we at City Pages like to call, "our exciting internship program.")

We called Bill Gunther, the environmental health manager for St. Paul. He quickly snuffed out the rumor.

"First of all, it is illegal: You can't have a separated smoking space within a public building," he says. "And I already called over to the RNC host committee and they called back and said there is no contract out for cigar-smoking rooms."

Feeling wounded, we called up Kathy O'Connor at the Xcel Energy Center, who had just finished inspecting a Jumbotron to make sure it would adequately broadcast John McCain's balding white dome to the assembled masses.

"I checked into it and it is just a rumor," she says. "There's no indoor smoking allowed. They don't get to bend or break any rules."

I guess this means we won't be champing Swisher Sweets with T-Paw. —Bradley Campbell

Rogues gallery

Last week the Republicans released the speaking schedule for the RNC, but it left one important question unanswered: On the topic of running mates, is John McCain confused, or just messing with us?

The first day of the convention is devoted to clearing the bowels, with speeches by Dubya, Laura, Cheney, and the ever-constipated Joe Lieberman (D-Sorta). Also scheduled to speak, but threatening to sit this one out if his state's budget isn't finalized and if he doesn't get a damn smoking room in the Xcel, is Arnold.

Tuesday brings us the token to end all tokens: Michael Steele. You may recall Steele from his 2006 bid for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, which he lost by 11 points, and which apparently makes him the most bankable black Republican outside of Condoleezza and Colin. Joining him will be perky abortion absolutist and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as well as the recently exhumed and embalmed Rudy Giuliani. Also, squirrel connoisseur Mike Huckabee and Dick Tracy-villain-look-alike Tom Ridge.

Wednesday will feature the creationist Indian-American wunderkind, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, the governor of Louisiana and an ethnic-type pretend veep contender. Also in attendance will be ousted former head of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiornia, a McCain loyalist. Next comes Mitt Romney, whose aides, sources say, are furiously working on a breakthrough new "naturality" chip to install into his operating system ahead of the speech. Also, our own former peacenik Norm Coleman will take the stage, as well as Stepford wife Cindy McCain, who will be honored for supplying all of McCain's houses.

As for Thursday, get ready for "Governor No" Tim Pawlenty, as well as Charlie Christ, the heterosexual governor from Florida. Joining them will be Christianist presidential also-ran Sam Brownback, and of course, John McCain. —Jonathan Kaminsky

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