The Big Kahuna

Courtesy KARE11

Your friend Budd Rugg obviously has a perversely broad enthusiasm for the lovely, handsome, and hard-working people of the local media, but even I must admit that I occasionally play favorites. Call it a hierarchy of obsession. It's absolutely necessary to have some sort of barometer, if only to save precious time and energy. I keep useful and constantly changing lists of local celebrities--a paper version of Budd Rugg's velvet rope.

The central questions that determine who goes on which list are very simple: Should I gawk shamelessly at celebrity A if I were to encounter him or her in a local restaurant? If the answer is unequivocally yes, that person's name is entered on the first, very long list. The second question is a stiffer test of star power: would I go to a restaurant, golf course, or health club, even as far afield as Eden Prairie or, God forbid, Apple Valley, to stare at the person in question? The list of those who meet this stricter criterion is considerably shorter, the names on it recognizable to even a casual fan of the local media.

There is, finally, a third list, established for and inhabited by just one of the dazzling creatures in our local media zoo, the only one who inspires so much quivering devotion and awe on the part of faithful servant Budd Rugg that I have heretofore been unable to even approach this person for the simple reason that I am terrified I would behave in a spectacularly and criminally irrational manner in his presence. I have long felt certain that were I to actually encounter this megawatt colossus I would end up either in jail, in the hospital, or pregnant, his virility being of such manifest potency that I have every expectation it could confound the laws of biology.

Here, I'll give you some examples. Kay Harvey, the reporter on aging and family issues for the Pioneer Press? A lovely person, I'm sure, but she's firmly entrenched on the first list. Ditto for Delma Francis, the Minnesota Youth Ne s editor at the Star Tribune, and Kevin Featherly of the Skyway News. It's awfully hard to put television personalities on the first list, but I honestly can't see myself getting in the car and driving out to the Pannekoeken House to see Cale Ramaker. And though WCCO radio's website insists that Kim Jeffries is "a household name in Minnesota," Budd Rugg has to admit that somehow I've never managed to hear of her, so, household name or no, she's stuck for the time being on the first list.

The second list is marked by people like big, fat Tom Barnard, that hateful and nostalgic little monkey James Lileks, and Diana Pierce, among numerous others, including all sorts of darling, adorable, and perfectly wonderful people.

But there are celebrities, of course, and then there are true superstars, people who exude so much charisma and power and glitz that their own poor little children are positively irradiated by the intensity of their glare. I don't find children particularly interesting as a rule, but I have long nurtured a pitiful fascination with the glum, pallid spawn of our local stars. I can, of course, only imagine the tortured life of these urchins, their nightmares and ear infections and lonely birthday parties with hideous little ponies and hippie magicians. I'll admit I don't even know any of the celebrity children of the Twin Cities; it's proved virtually impossible to get any of the local media stars to send me photos of their children, and my sources tell me that most of them are sequestered under the tightest security in private encampments in the western suburbs.

But I digress. As I was saying, there is only one local media superstar whose combination of grace, intelligence, charisma, and criminal good looks is enough to break the spirit of unborn children. And that, of course, is Paul Magers.

Last week's mailbag brought Budd Rugg face to face with his one longstanding failure of nerve. I received a letter from a reader claiming that Magers's justly celebrated tan (of questionable authenticity, I might add) has begun to take on the rainbow sheen of old ham. The reader wondered if perhaps Paul was suffering from a sort of blood infection. This bit of news made me a tad queasy, to be perfectly truthful. For some reason my employers feel that it's important that I verify this information, yet in order to do so I would have to somehow find a way to wrangle my way into a reasonable proximity to the man. I certainly know full well that Magers is among the most ubiquitous of local stars, a man who lends his name and presence to virtually every telethon, charity ball, golf tournament, and backyard muscular dystrophy carnival in the metro area. I keep close tabs on the activities of Magers. I always have. He takes up more space in my scrapbooks than any other local media star. I haven't gone to a party in years where I haven't come bearing Paul's famous crab-mushroom dip (recipe available on the Kare 11 website--highly recommended!). I know that he has a law degree from Hamline University, and that he was the moderator for the state geography bee. I also know that he starred in the Hollywood blockbuster A Simple Plan--I've seen it dozens of times. I would love to see him play James Bond, and have made this desire known far and wide. I could tell you about the heroic work he has done (as special host on 93X) tracking down Minnesota's Most Wanted. And I would have no problem picking his gorgeous wife Kathy out of a lineup of Mary Kay saleswomen.

So, you say, what's the problem, Budd? I'll tell you what the problem is: I have lived with this fear for years, and now, suddenly, my editors are cruelly insistent that I hunt Magers down and assess his tan in person, sooner rather than later. They've offered me a support group to accompany me on my reconnaissance, and have provided me with a list of places where a rendezvous might best be accomplished--places like Palomino, Goodfellow's, a Lorie Line concert, and someplace called the Kenwood Market, where local intelligence suggests Magers can be frequently seen. For the next two weeks, I am told, my one, terrifying assignment is to find Paul Magers, to look at him up close and perhaps speak to him, to photograph him if I am able. One way or another I am to overcome my fear of Paul Magers. If I am unable to do this, I don't know what will become of me. I have already seen my mother's physician and secured a prescription for Paxil, and each day finds me ever more carefully weighing a number of flattering and quite tempting offers from anonymous but apparently very important Africans seeking my cooperation in potentially lucrative business partnerships.

So in two weeks Budd Rugg will either be a broken man, a rich man, or a man with a hopefully thrilling story about the biggest big game conquest of his storied and often sordid life as a media parasite. Until then, dear friends, you can continue to be of invaluable assistance by sending any and all media gossip, sordid scuttlebutt, and--most importantly--news of Paul Magers's comings and goings to [email protected].

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