Wednesday, January 30, 2008

When topless hit the Fan


When the doorway into show business suddenly opened for me I entered gladly. At the time I had a job selling janitorial supplies that I wanted to quit. So, upon getting an offer from a friend, Fred Awad, to work at the restaurant he operated, the sales job was history. My coming aboard as a bartender/manager was part of a plan we had cooked up to convert what was then a blue collar neighborhood restaurant/dive into the area’s most edgy club.

The restaurant belonged to my friend’s parents, who wanted to retire. They had recently turned it over to their sons, Fred and Howard. The brothers promptly changed the name of place at Allison and West Broad St. to the Bearded Brothers.” Growing beards was easy, but the brothers couldn’t agree on how to run the business, so the younger brother, Howard, left to pursue the quest of opening a bar of his own.

Fred and I were convinced the burgeoning baby boomer bar crowd in the Fan District needed a place to enjoy cold beer, hot food, live music, a psychedelic light show and the spectacle of go-go girls dancing topless. At this time, late-1969, topless dancing was going on in other states, even in Roanoke, but it had yet to come to Richmond.

And, speaking of booming babies, Fred’s wife was eight months pregnant; my wife was seven months along.

With the help of a few other friends it took us a couple of weeks, or so, to paint the interior flat black, build the stage for the band, the dancers and install a light show. We also painted the front window panes that faced Broad Street in Dayglo colors and put in black lights.

Believe it or not, although everything we did was as derivative and trendy in San Francisco as could be, in Richmond, all that stuff played as ahead of the curve. I don’t know about Fred‘s thinking, but my ideas were coming mostly from clubs I’d seen in Georgetown, movies and magazines.

The rock ‘n’ roll bands went over well and brought in a fresh crowd right away. A group calling itself Natural Wildlife quickly became a regular attraction. Then it came time to hire the go-go dancers.

A few young women came in asking about the dancing job. There were auditions, which were rather surreal, as I recall. We settled on two. One of them had experience, the other didn’t. But only the girl new to the exhibitionism trade could be there for our first night, which we advertised in the local newspaper. I did the art, it featured a pen-and-ink rendered silhouette of a female dancer and a Bearded Bros. logo I had designed.

By 8 p.m. the place was packed, wall-to-wall. We were selling beer like never before. Presto! Fred and I had become successful nightlife promoters overnight.

The only problem was that our featured dancer with her brand new costume, which included tasseled pasties to cover her nipples, was scary late. She hadn’t called, either.

As the crowd clamored for the dancing aspect of the show to get underway, Fred and I tried to think of any women we might be able to talk into filling in. We didn’t get far with that concept. Obviously, our wives wouldn’t do.

As I opened a handful of bottled beers, a woman wearing shades waved to get my attention. She was chewing gum. The joint was so noisy I could barely hear her. Setting her suitcase down, she pointed to the small ad we had run in the entertainment section of that day’s newspaper.

“Could you use another dancer?” she asked.

Trying to hide my glee, I called Fred over. He offered her a fast $50 to alternate sets with the other girl as the band played. She told us she had noticed the ad in a discarded newspaper on the counter of the Greyhound bus station’s coffee shop. That night’s experience gave me new faith in the power of advertising.

The Greyhound Girl even had her costume with her. She got her money in advance. Fred suggested that since the other dancer was running late, she could go on as soon as she could get ready.

Well, it all went over like gangbusters. Up on stage, with the lights and music, she danced like the pro she actually was — she had been working along the same lines in Baltimore and actually appeared to be a trained modern dancer. Natural Wildlife never sounded better. The beer taps stayed open.

After the dancer’s first set was over, she put on a robe and found me behind the bar serving beer. She laughed, “There ain’t no other girl, is there?”

I paused to shrug and returned her smile, “I don’t know where she is.”

“I’ll need a hundred bucks to go back up there,” she said firmly.

The money was put in her hand without hesitation.

Hey, she knew she had rescued the night. Yes, a hundred and fifty was a lot of money, then, but there was no use in quibbling. After her performance she left, we never saw her again. Other women were hired, pronto. The show went on but we were never as busy as that first night again.

Hanging out after work was the best perk of the job, which didn’t always pay as much as I needed to make. Sometimes musicians and friends stayed around late, jamming, playing pinball games and partying. The most notable of the musicians was Bruce Springsteen, whose band Steelmill often played in Richmond then. He was a quiet guy who didn’t stand out as much then as he would later.

For a few months the Bearded Brothers scene was quite lively, then it began to dissipate. Other clubs opened up offering live music, some of which were closer to VCU. The restaurant began to drift back toward being what it had been before it was painted black.

In the spring I had to look for a real job again. Fred soon went into another line of work, too. About a year later Howard Awad opened up Hababas on the 900 block of W. Grace St., where he had a lot of fun making large money (1971-84) serving cold beer and playing canned music on his popular bar’s monster sized stereo.

Topless dancing soon morphed into a rather hybrid form of show biz aimed at an entirely different type of crowd. Now the only souvenirs I have from my wild times at the Bearded Brothers are a few ordinary black and white photographs like the one of the front windows above. Yes, it paid to advertise.

– words and circa 1970 photo by F.T. Rea

Monday, January 28, 2008

Jan 28: VA Top Five

Each Monday SLANTblog's Virginia Top Five for men’s college basketball is published. It attempts to rank what seems on that day to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I programs in the Commonwealth.

This week Virginia lost two games and Va. Tech went 1-1, so they exchanged spots.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. VCU (15-4, 8-1 in CAA, No. 57 RPI)
2. Mason (14-6, 6-3 in CAA, No. 60 RPI)
3. Va. Tech (12-8, 3-3 in ACC, No.75 RPI)
4. Virginia (11-7, 1-4 in ACC, No. 109 RPI)
5. Hampton (11-6, 5-0 in MEAC, No. 111 RPI)

Here's an excerpt of my piece at on VCU's Saturday win over Drexel at the Siegel Center:
On Saturday evening, early in the second half of the regionally televised Division I basketball game at the Siegel Center, VCU's Eric Maynor sliced through Drexel's retreating junk defense for four layups in a mere five-minute stretch
Click here to read "Rams Roll."

-- RPI numbers from RealTime RPI, as of Monday at noon.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

VCU separates from CAA field

Eric Maynor scored 18 points in the second half.

In the course of a five minute stretch early in the second half, point guard Eric Maynor drove for four layups. In that time the VCU Rams stretched their lead over the Drexel Dragons from two points to 12. Until then the score had stayed close. It never was again.

Before a crowd of 7,506 (a sellout) at the Siegel Center VCU went on to defeat Drexel by a score of 76 to 64.

Maynor finished with 20 points and five assists. Jamal Shuler, the other half of the Rams dynamic duo — there is no better pair of guards in the CAA — scored 17 points and hauled in eight boards.

In the first half Drexel led most of the way, although VCU took a one-point advantage, 27 to 26, into the locker room. What had been a slow and methodical pace favored the Dragons. It gave the Rams few transition opportunities. After the intermission VCU turned up the pressure on defense and ran Drexel off the floor.

Bruiser Flint, in his seventh season as head coach at Drexel, is always an entertaining guy to watch. Not one to disappoint a full house, he got so exasperated watching Maynor shred his defense he pounded on the scorer’s table with his fist, which promptly earned him a technical foul.

Before the episode was over Flint ended up down at the Rams end of the floor, laughing first with Shuler, then with VCU head coach Anthony Grant.

“Tonight I was proud of our guys,” said Grant, “the way we played the second half. Good players respond to challenges. After the first half, [Maynor and Shuler] knew they needed to step up.”

In other CAA action, all three second place teams lost, to give VCU a two-game lead on four teams, all at 6-3 in league games. They are George Mason, William & Mary, Delaware and UNC Wilmington.

And, across town at the Robins Center Richmond stunned 16th ranked Dayton by a score of 80 to 63.

Next up for VCU (15-4, 8-1 in CAA) is a Tuesday showdown pitting the Rams against the team named by the media preseason poll to finish No. 1 in the league, Mason (14-6, 6-3 in CAA), in its gym. The 7 p.m. tilt will be shown on ESPN2.

-- Words and photo by F.T. Rea

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More on the Braves Blame Game

Thanks, Scott Bass. You saved me some time.

That’s because I’ve been meaning to write a piece about the early role the Richmond Ballpark Initiative played in the unraveling of the relationship between the Atlanta Braves and Richmond, Virginia. Bass has done a good job of it in this week's STYLE Weekly.

That isn't to say RBI was up to no good, but it did play a role. And, its proposal seemed to be much more about real estate than it ever was about baseball and baseball fans.

One of the things about this sad story that has annoyed me the most has been how some of the most blameworthy personalities have sought to cast the Richmond Metropolitan Authority’s general manager Mike Berry as a villain. Scott's piece in STYLE Weekly debunks that notion, somewhat, and reminds us of what might have been.
The owners of The Diamond, the Richmond Metropolitan Authority, had been working with the Braves for two years on the $18.5 million plan; the bond issue was ready to go. All three jurisdictions — Chesterfield, Henrico and Richmond — had agreed to kick in the funding to make it happen. You remember the plan, right? There was a grassy berm in the outfield where you could bring a picnic blanket and watch a game with the kids, something all the new stadiums have. It was pretty cool — improved fan sightlines, a new field and new locker rooms for the players.

But here was the most important part of that plan: The Braves, having worked with the authority for two years on the financing, had agreed in principle to a 10-year contract extension, keeping them in Richmond through 2014...
Click here to read Bass’ open letter to RBI.

Who remembers the downtown ballpark that former City Manager Calvin Jamison floated around before the RBI proposal surfaced? Click here to read "Field of Schemes," penned by yours truly in 2001 for

Meanwhile, the local blogosphere has been churning with angst about, and chuckling at, the news about losing the R-Braves. Links to a sampling are below:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Rocket, Rocker and 'Roid Rage?

John Rocker (circa 2000)
During the 2000 baseball season I wrote two sports stories about pitchers who displayed alarmingly aberrant behavior. What I didn’t do then was connect the dots.

Since the Mitchell Report came out and named the subjects of both articles as clandestine steroids users, now it’s easier to see that the strangely bad behavior of John Rocker (Atlanta Braves) and Roger Clemens (New York Yankees) may have had something in common -- ‘roid rage.

Below are excerpts of the two pieces, written for
June 11, 2000: ...Meanwhile, I’ll be at The Diamond on Tuesday night to see what will happen, too. I’m as curious as the next guy. I’ll bet that crowd will set a season record for beer sales.

Furthermore, the Richmond Braves uniform John Rocker is wearing now may be the last Braves uniform he’ll ever wear. There’s no way he’s going to be recalled to the parent club, so he can accompany them to New York to play the Mets, at the end of the month.

My prediction is: the Atlanta Braves front office will leave him in Richmond until they can trade him for whatever they can get. (A six-pack of cold Rolling Rocks will do.) Then, with his next team, he will continue to struggle with his finicky control.

Finally, John Rocker will wig out totally, and they’ll throw a net over him. I say he’ll be out of baseball in a year – two at the most. Then he’ll find religion and do Oprah’s TV show. Eventually, he’ll reinvent himself into a sports clown – also known as a professional wrestler – and make a fortune.

Oct. 24, 2000: Sometimes, the over-the-fold news in sports is alarming and disgusting: Boxer/lunatic Mike Tyson bites off a chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear; Hockey player/enforcer Mike McSorley clobbers Donald Brashear with his hockey stick; Coach/lout Bobby Knight chokes one of his own players; Pitcher/intimidator Roger Clemens throws the shard of a broken baseball bat at Mike Piazza.

"Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?" indeed.

Tyson was suspended from boxing for a year. McSorley was suspended for the rest of the season and convicted of assault in a Vancouver court. Bobby Knight was fired. Many would say those punishments were inadequate, but at least the offenders were officially taken off the board.

Since the clip has been replayed to death on TV, I won't describe it except to say that in the first inning of the second game, the Yankee ace picked up the barrel of Mike Piazza's broken bat - that had flown toward the mound - and heaved it toward the Mets' star catcher.

It missed him.

Given the history between the two players - Clemens' beaning of Piazza during the season and the subsequent brouhaha - it is understandable that Roger lost his cool. But that hardly excuses it. While he is known to be an intense competitor, what Roger did this time was beyond the pale; he deliberately threw a bat at his opponent.

However, the real problem for me is that since his unfortunate loss of control, Clemens has told a sorry series of self-serving lies to justify his ugly deportment. Each new version has been more transparent and galling than the last.
Rocker and Clemens are just two of the occasionally boorish baseball players on the Mitchell Report list. Scowling Albert Belle, who once threw a baseball at a fan, is on the users list, too. Then there were all those charging-the-mound incidents of the same era. Hmm...

With all the emphasis on the cheating angle of the steroids story -- Should Barry Bonds’ home run record count? Should Mark McGuire get in the Hall of Fame? -- maybe the dot-connecting that demonstrates just one of the problems with taking drugs to beef up one’s body, artificially, has been overlooked, somewhat.

It would be interesting to look at the over-the-top outbursts from the last 20 seasons of baseball and see how many times the names on Mitchell’s list show up as being the ones who were foaming at the mouth. That angle seems helpful in understanding Albert Belle's surly attitude better.

Perhaps the same process applied to other sports would be eye-opening, as well. Isn't it worth considering that some unhealthy number of the most violent/out-of-control incidents involving professional jocks over the last two decades were fueled by the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs?

Then there was the time outfielder/admitted steroids abuser Jose Canseco head-butted a baseball over the fence, giving the batter a home run. 'Roid rage?

Maybe not, but it sure was funny.

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In case integrity matters

The Center for Public Integrity has published a devastating indictment of President George Bush and his closest advisers, which documents the avalanche of prevarications that launched the (undeclared) war in Iraq. Appropriately, it is entitled, "False Pretenses."
President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses...
Click here to read the shocking/depressing truth about how America was duped into diving into a quagmire that has cost it so dearly in both treasure and blood. That, dear reader, without accomplishing a damn thing to make the Middle East or America itself safer from the threat of terrorism.

Bill's spinning role out of line?

Monday night’s debate, which had the three top Democrats in the presidential race on a Myrtle Beach stage for CNN’s cameras, was entertaining and revealing. The three candidates, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, all had their moments to shine. Their similarities and differences were presented in a way that should have made supporters of all three candidates feel good.

However, most of all, the two-hour-plus presentation made the Democratic Party look pretty good. Today the mainstream media are dwelling on the moments of friction, but that approach distorts the picture somewhat. For the most part, the candidates were more jovial than not.

The differences in their plans for health care or getting out of Iraq were less apparent than the differences in their styles and personal histories.

All of which leads this observer to believe that voters in South Carolina, as well as the other upcoming primaries, will decide which one to support based mostly on two things:
  • The candidate perceived to be most likely to be able to win in November, and have coattails to get other Democrats elected.
  • The candidate demonstrating the strongest leadership ability, based on their personality and personal history.
Then, of course, there is another way to look at it -- the nagging worries, the negatives:
  • Which candidate seems most capable of blowing a contest that today seems like the Democrats should win with a landslide?
  • Which candidate has the most troublesome past, and which can be the most annoying?
Then there are the X factors. Unless John Edwards wins in South Carolina, his goose is probably ready to come out of the oven. So, how and when he exits could be important. Should Edwards withdraw and throw his support behind either of the other two, soon, that could be important. If he slowly fades for two or three months, his endorsement may be inconsequential by then.

Yet, the biggest X factor for Democrats to deal with right now is the role of Bill Clinton on the campaign trail. No one can remember when a former president rolled up his sleeves during the primary season and took on the role of spin doctor, as has Bill Clinton in recent weeks.

For instance: Both Clintons have been deliberately distorting what Obama said about Ronald Reagan last week. Hillary laughs and shrugs off criticism of Bill’s unusual advocacy on her behalf. She praises his, ahem, "passion." It’s no wonder Obama muttered a quick line about his not knowing, sometimes, which Clinton he’s running against.

Still, such problems for the Democrats seem rather small compared to what Republican voters are facing. With President George Bush’s unpopularity looming heavily over the landscape, all four of their leading candidates -- Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain and Mitt Romney -- seem quite capable of further dividing an already fractured GOP.

Barack Obama surely needs to be careful with his criticism of the former president’s stumping for his candidate wife. But there’s no denying that some Democrats are seeing Bill Clinton’s spinning words to do injury to fellow Democrats as unseemly, even out of line, for a former commander-in-chief.

How this tricky aspect of the campaign plays out may prove to be the deciding factor.

-- 30 --

--Words and art by F.T. Rea

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lee Jackoway, TV syndication pioneer dies

An old boss of mine at WRNL (AM and FM radio), Leland Jackoway, master adman, died Tues., Jan. 15. He was 78.

My fondest memories of Jackoway are of times he would hold court, telling the young DJs and salesmen colorful stories of his freewheeling days as a salesman, working for Ziv Television. He was a national sales rep for half-hour TV shows, such as "Sea Hunt" and "Home Run Derby." Traveling to markets large and small Lee sold the shows directly to local affiliates on 16 mm reels, out of the trunk of his car.

As I have sold advertising for all sorts of independently produced print and broadcast projects since Jackoway was my mentor, I have thought of what he taught me about advertising and the basics of making a presentation many times.

Throughout decades of his years traveling as a salesman, and his retirement, Jackoway had made his home here in Richmond. He is survived by Mary Ellen Reinhard Jackoway, his wife of 57 years.

Due to the magic of the Internet, I was contacted by Advertising Age to comment on my time working for Lee at the radio station in 1971. This stint included the time in which the Richmond News Leader was turning over ownership of the AM and FM stations to Rust Communications.

Click here to read Lee Jackoway's obituary in Advertising Age.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Jan. 21: VA Top Five

As is the custom at SLANTblog, each Monday our Virginia Top Five for men’s college basketball is published. It attempts to rank what seems on that day to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I programs in the Commonwealth.

This week VCU and Mason exchanged spots and Hampton replaced James Madison.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. VCU (13-4, 6-1 in CAA)
2. Mason (13-5, 5-2 in CAA)
3. Virginia (11-5, 1-2 in ACC)
4. Va. Tech (11-7, 2-2 in ACC)
5. Hampton (9-6, 4-0 in MEAC)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rams clobber Monarchs

This afternoon in Norfolk, Eric Maynor and Jamal Shuler, VCU’s nifty pair of guards, dropped seven treys on Old Dominion in the first half, to quiet the sold-out crowd at the Constant Convocation Center. Maynor and Shuler both finished the contest with 26 points in leading the running Rams to dealing out a rare loss at home to the stunned Monarchs: VCU 78, ODU 68.

While he was at it, Shuler grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds, dished out three assists and pulled off three steals. Not to be outdone, Maynor had 10 assists with just two turnovers; he also got six boards. During the halftime break the two star players sold popcorn and soda pop to the fans, refilled the gas tank and rotated the tires of the VCU team bus.

Many of the ODU fans were wearing a white T-shirt with a message on the front which said, "Ram: It's What's for Dinner." The hefty meal of crow those fans are chowing down on now was deep-fried and served up by Maynor, Shuler and their gritty teammates, who once again played excellent defense.

Next up for VCU (13-4, 6-1 in CAA) is a road trip to Hempstead, N.Y., on Wed., Jan. 23, to face Hofstra (4-12, 2-5 in CAA), at 7 p.m. (televised by MASN).

Colonial Athletic Association Standings
VCU ------- 6-1, 13-4 overall
GMU ------ 5-2, 13-5 overall
W&M ------- 5-2, 9-8 overall
Delaware --- 5-2, 8-9 overall
UNCW ---- 4-3, 11-8 overall
ODU ------ 4-3, 9-10 overall
JMU ------- 3-4, 10-7 overall
N’stern ---- 3-4, 7-10 overall
Towson ---- 2-5, 6-11 overall
Drexel ----- 2-5, 4-10 overall
Hofstra ----- 2-5, 4-12 overall
Ga. St. ----- 1-6, 4-13 overall

What is the South?

Robert E. Lee (Jan. 19, 1807-Oct. 12, 1870)

The piece above, "Mercie's Lee," is an ink and pastels study of the statue of Robert E. Lee that is on Monument Ave. in my neighborhood. Three years in the making, French sculptor Jean Antoine Mercie's strikingly dignified Lee Monument was unveiled in 1890.

"What is the South?" writer Paul Greenberg asks.
...On this Lee's Birthday, the South seems only a lingering shadow of the great civilization-and-barbarism she once was, but that ended ... when? April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Courthouse? With the last great Southern novel, and which was it? When cotton was dethroned? When industry overtook agriculture, when the city took over from the country? Did the South end with the coming of air conditioning or of the two-party system? Or when the race issue ceased to be The Issue, and became just another Northern-style ethnic competition and/or collaboration? The answer to that question always seems to come down to this: The South ended with the previous generation -- which fits in well with the common perception that each generation becomes a little less Southern, a little more Americanized. It's like Zeno's Paradox about the hare who always halves the distance between himself and the tortoise, yet never catches up: Southernness is always fading yet never disappears. Our children will doubtless say it ended with us even as it continues in them.
Click here to read "Lee and the Lingering South."

-- Art by F.T. Rea

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Doug 'Squirrelly' Wilder

Today is Mayor L. Douglas Wilder’s birthday; he’s 77.

This week the Atlanta Braves gave him a birthday present -- now he no longer has to worry about cobbling together a deal to keep them from pulling their Triple A baseball team out of Richmond. On Monday the news broke that after this coming season, the Richmond Braves will become the Gwinnett Braves.

Now, if he can find the time, Doug Wilder must turn his attention to explaining what went wrong. He’s been so busy ducking questions about his battles with the school administration, his battles with City Council, his own office’s way of handling money, the Battery Park flood troubles, etc., that he may have to hire another squad of consultants to study the baseball issue.

Wilder has been a public figure in Richmond for a long time. After earning a reputation as a silver-tongued attorney, in 1969 Richmonders elected him to represent them in the General Assembly as a State Senator. Twenty years later Virginians elected him as their governor. Fifteen years later, he was elected as his home town’s mayor.

On the flipside, there was his aborted run for president, while he was the sitting governor. Then there was his aborted run for the U.S. Senate, as an Independent, in 1994. Then there was his accepting the presidency of Virginia Union University, and his changing his mind. Then, of course, there was his saying he would not run for mayor, when he combined with former Congressman Tom Bliley, to lead the move that allowed for the citywide election of a “strong mayor.”

Again, Wilder changed his mind; he had to because we needed him. Yes, in Richmond we have gotten used to Wilder’s quirky oblique moves.

We Richmonders have seen him dart into the middle of the road many a time, scurry back and forth like a squirrel, only to take off in another direction.

The plucky, sometimes mean Doug Wilder we know delights in being predictably unpredictable. So, disappointed, or not, we aren't all that surprised by his inability to pull the elements together and push through a deal with the Atlanta Braves, who own the Richmond Braves.

When he campaigned for mayor, Wilder pointed at the simmering problem of where to play baseball in Richmond as a matter he would quickly resolve. Upon taking office he scuttled a move to build a ballpark in Shockoe Bottom, only to propose a more ridiculous location -- the former Fulton Gas Works site.

In the last week yet another new ballpark has been proposed, a smaller one than The Diamond, to be located a few blocks north of it.


Yes, you betcha, but we’ve grown accustomed to his ways.

Apparently, though, the management of the Atlanta Braves only grew weary of Wilder’s bloated rhetoric and his stalling for time. As they became more frustrated waiting for Wilder’s next reversal, it seems staying in Richmond became a dicey game they no longer wanted to play.

Richmonders may not like it, but blaming the Be-Wildered Braves ownership for how this has turned out is missing the mark. Still, hitting the mark won’t be so easy, either. After all, who knows which way our squirrelly 77-year-old mayor will run next?

-- 30 --

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

Note: The local blogosphere is both churning with angst about, and chuckling at, this week's news about losing the R-Braves. Links to a sampling are below:

Dougie at the Bat” at Save Richmond
Brave Old World” (by Robert Ullman) at RVANews
Play Ball or Rebuild A City?” at Buttermilk & Molasses
Details of Braves sweetheart deal with Gwinnett released” at West of the Boulevard News
"I’ll Survive When the Braves Head Home" at P Keip's Hype
"A Brave-less New World" (by Pete Humes) at RVANews
"Wilder passes out trying to inflate his ego" at Tobacco Avenue

Blood Isn’t Just Red

Note: An old boss of mine, Lee Jackoway, master ad salesman, died Tuesday at 78. He appears in this OpEd piece I wrote for the Richmond Times-Dispatch nine years ago.

Blood Isn’t Just Red (May 1, 1999)
by F.T. Rea

Television has dominated the American cultural landscape for the past 50 years. A boon to modern life in many ways, television is nonetheless transmitting an endless stream of cruel and bloody images into everyone’s head.

However, if you’re still waiting for absolute proof that a steady diet of video violence can be harmful to the viewer, forget it. We’ll all be dead before such a thing can be proven. This is a common sense call that can and should be made without benefit of dueling experts. Short of blinding denial, any serious person can see that the influence television has on young minds is among the factors playing a role in the crime statistics.

How significant that role has been/is can be debated.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m as dedicated to protecting freedom of speech as the next guy. So perish the thought that I’m calling for the government to regulate violence on television. It’s not a matter of preventing a particular scene, or act, from being aired. The problem is that the flow of virtual mayhem is constant.

Eventually splattered blood becomes ambient: just another option for the art director.

My angle here is that in the marketplace of ideas, the repeated image has a decided advantage. The significance of repetition in advertising was taught to me over 25 years ago by a man named Lee Jackoway. He was a master salesman, veteran broadcaster, and my boss at WRNL-AM [in 1971]. And, like many in the advertising business, he enjoyed holding court and telling war stories.

He had found me struggling with the writing of some copy for a radio commercial. At the time he asked me a few questions and let it go. But later, in front of a group of salesmen and disc jockeys, Jackoway explained to his audience what I was doing was wrong. Basically, he said that instead of stretching to write good copy, the real effort should be focused on selling the client more time, so the ad spot would get additional exposure.

Essentially, Jackoway told us to forget about trying to be the next Stan Freeberg. Forget about cute copy and far-flung schemes. What matters is results. If you know the target audience and you have the right vehicle to reach it, then all you have to do is saturate that audience. If you hit that target often enough, the results are money in the bank.

Jackoway told us most of the large money spent on production went to satisfying the ego of the client, or to promoting the ad agency’s creativity. While he might have oversimplified the way ad biz works to make his point, my experience with media has brought me to the same bottom line: When all else fails, saturation works.

Take it from me, dear reader, it doesn’t matter how much you think you’re ignoring the commercials that are beamed your way; more often than not repetition bores the message into your head. Ask the average self-absorbed consumer why he chooses a particular motor oil or breakfast cereal, and chances are he’ll claim the thousands of commercials he paid no heed had nothing to do with his choices.

Meanwhile, good old Lee Jackoway knows that same chump is pouring Pennzoil on his Frosted Flakes because he has been influenced by aggressive advertising all day long, every day.

OK, if repetition works so well in television’s advertising, why would repetition fail to sell whatever messages stem from the rest of its fare? When you consider all the murders, all the rapes, all the malevolence that television dishes out 24 hours a day, it adds up. It has to.

What to do?

I have to believe that if the sponsors of the worst, most pointless violent programs felt the sting of a boycott from time to time, they would react. Check your history; boycotts work.

It’s not as though advertisers are intrinsically evil. No, they are merely trying to reach their target audience as cheaply as possible. The company that produces a commercial has no real interest in pickling your child’s brain with violence; it just wants to reach the kid with a promotional message.

If enough consumers eschew worthless programs and stop buying the products that sponsor them, the advertiser will change its strategy. It really is that simple.

As we all know: A day passes whether anything is accomplished or not. Well, parents, a childhood passes, too, whether anything of value is learned or not.

Maybe television is blocking your child off from a lesson that needs to be learned firsthand -- in the real world where blood isn’t just red, it’s wet.

-- 30 --

Rams trample Hens

What was the No. 1 team in the Colonial Athletic Association, the Delaware Blue Hens, came to VCU’s home court on Wednesday night to meet the league’s No. 2 team. After the game, on their way back to Newark, Delaware, the Hens must have felt like they had run into a brick wall in Richmond, as Delaware managed to hit only 13 field goals in the game: VCU 60, Delaware 39.

The game wasn’t as close as the score might indicate.

The Rams defense harassed the Hens into 21 turnovers, while allowing them only five assists. VCU’s defense in its last three games has been outstanding. In this game, before a crowd of 6,877 at the Siegel Center, the home team led for all but the initial three-and-a-half minutes. Delaware got its only three-pointer with two seconds on the clock. The Hens were simply overmatched.

VCU leads the Colonial in scoring defense, holding opponents to 58 points per game. Now VCU (12-4, 5-1 in CAA) is atop the CAA standings. Delaware (8-8, 5-1 in CAA) slides down to No. 2, although it remains tied with VCU with an identical record in conference games.

“We’re learning with every game,” said a relaxed Anthony Grant, the Rams head coach. “We’re a work-in-progress, still getting better as a team.”

The Rams offense had been in a two-game slump, but showed some spark last night. Senior guard Jamal Shuler led all scorers wit 21 points; he also and grabbed six boards. Freshman forward Larry Sanders had eight points, nine rebounds and five blocks.

VCU’s next game is in Norfolk against ODU (9-9, 4-2 in CAA) at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Braves on the Boulevard (1966-2008)

At a new piece that looks at the history of the Richmond Braves is up. It was penned by yours truly. Here’s an excerpt:
...It appears now that 2008's summer will be the last for the R-Braves at The Diamond, which replaced Parker Field in 1985. No doubt, who to blame the most for what surely has come as bad news to most local baseball fans will be much discussed in the weeks ahead, as more background to the story is revealed.

When the Braves came to Richmond it was a timely move. A baseball team was needed here because the New York Yankees Triple A farm club, the Richmond Virginians -- a member of the International League -- had suddenly pulled out of town after the 1964 season. The team that came to be known as the R-Braves took the open slot the Atlanta Crackers had held in the IL, with the parent club Milwaukee Braves having just relocated to Atlanta.
Click here to read the entire article.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Last season for the R-Braves?

Who to blame for the sad news that the ownership of the Richmond Braves has called the moving vans will be much discussed in the weeks ahead. No doubt, Mayor Doug Wilder will be under some scrutiny. But don’t jump on the Blame Doug bandwagon too fast, there were other players who contributed to where we find ourselves today, and they should be given their due, as well.

The R-Braves played their first home games on at Parker Field in 1966. It appears now that 2008 will be their last season at The Diamond; maybe it will shake out some other way.

The telling paragraph below is part of a brief story on the Atlanta Braves web site, “Braves looking to move Triple-A team.”
"While the Braves have a long history with Richmond that dates back to 1966, they too [sic] have had many recent problems with the city's reluctance to provide upgrades to the stadium that is known as The Diamond."
Click here to read the whole piece. More news is expected on this story later today.

If the upcoming season is played here that will make it 43 years, through at least three ownership changes, depending on how you want to define terms. That’s a long time for a minor league franchise, blame or no blame.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jan. 14: VA Top Five

Each Monday SLANTblog’s Virginia Top Five for men’s college basketball is published. It attempts to rank what seems on that day to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I programs in the Commonwealth.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. George Mason (11-5, 3-2 in CAA)
2. VCU (11-4, 4-1 in CAA)
3. Virginia (10-4, 0-1 in ACC)
4. Va. Tech (10-6, 1-1 in ACC)
5. JMU (10-5, 3-2 in CAA)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

VCU stifles Hofstra

As with the game VCU played on Thursday night, a win against Georgia State, the Rams struggled on offense today. VCU won again, because once again, it made the visitors struggle even more: VCU 59, Hofstra 49.

This afternoon Hofstra, a team that very much needs to score points from outside, went 0-for-11 on its three-point attempts.

VCU senior guard Jamal Shuler (pictured above) said, “I wasn’t focused on offense at all, because I had a big task.”

Shuler’s “task” was to shadow Hofstra’s high-scoring guard Antoine Agudio, who came to the Siegel Center ranked fourth in the nation in scoring (26.2 points per game). Shuler and his Rams teammates’ smothering defense made Agudio work hard in scoring his 14 points for the game. Most of his shots were forced.

The crowd of 5,121, including Gov. Tim Kaine, saw a contest in which neither team ever put together anything resembling a run. Except for the first five minutes and change, the Rams led all the way. VCU’s junior point guard, Eric Maynor, led all scorers with 18 points.

However, VCU’s head coach, Anthony Grant, can’t be happy with the way Maynor has played in the last two home games. On Thursday he was not particularly aggressive, almost nonchalant at times. In today’s contest Maynor made several ill-advised passes.

Without the effort of Shuler (10 points and eight rebounds), Joey Rodriguez (five points, four rebounds and three assists) and Wil Fameni (10 points and four rebounds), Maynor could have been the goat of this CAA tilt. Of course, the good news about this slump by VCU’s star player, the preseason pick to be the CAA’s Player of the Year, is that the Rams are learning that they can win when he’s not playing at his best.

Grant said, “I’m proud of the way our guys defended ... we struggled offensively.”

On Wed., Jan. 16, VCU (11-4, 4-1 in CAA), now in second place in the CAA standings, will host the team perched at the top, Delaware (8-7, 5-0 in CAA), at 7:30 p.m.

-- Photo by F.T. Rea

Thursday, January 10, 2008

God Creates Sidemen

1. "And so the great Leader Nebulon did embark upon a search for suitable Sidemen for his orchestra, and he could find none; for in those days there were not many, and those he could find were already working.

2. Some worked the Ark with the House of Noah, and some had the house gig at The Walls of Jericho. And many played behind the scat-singing team of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago.

3. So Nebulon did return to the Lord and saith, "Lord, there are many musicians, but no Sidemen!", and he rent his clothing asunder.

4. And the Lord did say, "Hast thou looked everywhere? Didst thou call the Union?"

5. And Nebulon did say, "Lord, I have looked high and low, especially low; and only one or two could I find. What shall I do?"

6. And the Lord did afflict Nebulon with boils, saying unto him, "Leave Me to think on this!"

7. And just to buy some time he did also visit a plague of locusts upon Egypt.

8. And the Lord did summon a league of Angels, and sent them forth over the land, commanding them to find Him some Sidemen.

9. And the Angels did go to the four corners of the earth, but the only unemployed Sideman they could find was one holy man in India who did play the horn with the slide.

10. So with great fear the Angels did return to the Lord with the bad news, and filled with wrath He said, "How can this be? At one time the world did teem with Sidemen, as dead oxen do with maggots!"

11. And the Angels did say, "Lord, many left the business, many have become idiots, and some have even become Leaders, and no Leader will work for another Leader."

12. So the Lord did cause drought for 40 days while He thought, and at last the answer came unto Him. He did recall that there was a factory, part of his Beasts Of The Field, Inc. division, that was in disuse.

13. For it had earlier been used to create Golems, for which there had been no great demand, and so He had closed down the operation. And He thought, 'We can retool, and start turning out Sidemen.'

14. And so it was done, and it came to pass that the Sidemen started rolling off the assembly line.

15. But somehow a remnant of the Golem program remained, and the Sidemen did come out acting unpredictably.

16. Some stammered and stuttered, some talked to themselves under their breath, and some would not bathe.

17. Some refused to shave their beards or to have their hair shorn, and some refused to wear the Gigging Toga.

18. And some wore the Toga, but left them crumpled in their chariots in between Gigs, or slept in them, or wore Togas from eons past, with ruffles.

19. And some did not believe in maps, and wandered the land aimlessly looking for the Gig, and some did not believe in the use of the hourglass, and arrived at the Gig whenever they chose.

20. And some loved the wine of dates, and some loved the burning of hemp.

21. And some were created without ears, and some with knuckles where their eyebrows should be.

22. And some did worship the gods Mahavishnu, Sun Ra, Trane, Jaco, Ornette, Cecile, and did therefore mock their Leaders at will.

23. And some did steal food from the buffet line, yea, even before the Guests had dined.

24. And some did try to lay with the Chick Singers, and some with the Guests, and some with the Little Sisters of these, the Chick Singers and the Guests.

25. And some did not Read, and some could only Read, but not Blow. And some could only Read one clef and not another. And some could only Blow in certain keys. And some did Blow the same notes no matter what the "Tune."

26. And some had no social skills, and some had no musical skills. And many of them were Dark, not in pigmentation of the skin, but in the Outlook on Life.

27. But every once in a while the line did miraculously produce a Perfect Sideman: One who followed orders without question; One who believed in the hourglass; One who wore the Toga; One whose chariot always ran; One who Knew all "Tunes" in any key.

28. But these Perfect Sidemen were few and far between, and besides their eyes were glazed, and they were shunned by the rest, for they were boring and knew not how to hang.

29. And soon the land teemed with Sidemen milling about, looking for Gigs, complaining and whining and arguing and occasionally stabbing each other in the back.

30. And the Lord looked down upon his work, and said, "It will do."

-- These words came to us from Gregg Wetzel, piano and vocals

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hail to Joe Gibbs

According to the Associated Press Joe Gibbs will not return next season to coach the Washington Redskins.
After the toughest season of his Hall of Fame career, one that tested his leadership like never before, Joe Gibbs is stepping down. He resigned as coach and team president of the Washington Redskins on Tuesday, three days after a playoff loss ended an inspirational late-season run that followed the death of safety Sean Taylor. Gibbs will remain as a special adviser to owner Dan Snyder and was to discuss his resignation at an afternoon news conference at Redskins Park.
Click here to read the entire article.

The Redskins have been my favorite pro football team since I was a little kid, watching their games on a black and white Zenith with my grandfather. By far, Gibbs has been my favorite Redskins head coach during all that time. After all that happened this season the job he did to get Washington into the playoffs was vintage Gibbs, it proved he's still a great leader.

Yet, I'm not surprised he is stepping down. Since the Buffalo game the Redskins lost, in part due to a mistake Gibbs made on the sideline -- he called an illegal timeout -- I have thought he would probably not be back. His standards are too high for him to permit himself that kind of a mistake. And, no doubt this season, in which the Redskins had to endure the ordeal of burying a teammate, took a lot out of the 67-year-old Gibbs.

Hopefully, the impression Gibbs made on those Redskins who will return to play for the new head coach next season will stay with them. Some of those guys probably won't fully appreciate what Gibbs was all about, an honest/sincere man in the pro football world of back-stabbers, until they look back on their time under his guidance.

All I can say at this point is thank you Joe Gibbs and, of course, hail to the Redskins!

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Slant: Clinton’s strut out of style?

It’s less than a week into 2008 and already the so-called “inevitability” of Hillary Clinton’s nomination sounds so-o 2007. The Iowa caucuses popped that leftover bubble.

Once the Iowa votes were counted the national press promptly reduced the numbers down to a one-word common denominator for what voters in both political parties were calling for -- “change.”

Perhaps that’s a bit oversimplified but a one-word theme, which plays well as a headline, is as good as it gets for copywriters in the news biz.

Cast as insurgents, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee emerged from Iowa labeled as “agents for change,” as winners. For the also-rans in both parties that change theme might have a different meaning, as a verb rather than a noun -- either change your campaign’s style, or step aside, because this year there’s a new way of walking.

For Democrat Hillary Clinton that won’t be so easy. She’s been selling her “experience” as a U.S. Senator, piggybacked onto her First Lady years, as her strong suit. Now she’s hearing from the chattering pundits that a lot of voters, especially young voters, see her as representing a fading bygone era more than a brighter future.

If that 35 years of experience Clinton has been touting is actually looking more like “baggage” to restless Democrats, tired of faces all-too-familiar, she may have painted herself into a corner.

Can’t you hear that familiar tune in the background? Yes, it’s that old jazz standard, “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” (by Overstreet and Higgins).
I’m goin’ to change my way of livin’
If that ain’t enough
Then I’ll change the way that I strut my stuff
At Saturday night’s debate, in a revealing moment, Clinton cut her eyes toward Obama to say, “I’m not running on just a promise of change, I’m running on 35 years of making...”

How did “change” become the first big buzzword of Campaign ‘08?

Well, one has to go back to 1952 to find the last presidential election year in which there wasn’t an incumbent president or vice president in the hunt. Then there’s the fact the shadow being cast across the political landscape by the baby boomer generation is at long-last shortening.

Voters under 35 apparently aren’t so interested in re-fighting the battles of the ’60s forever.

Perhaps more important than either of those reasons is the fatigue factor that’s clearly in the air. Coast-to-coast, millions of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and you-name-it are obviously more than a little tired of a bitterly partisan, consultant-driven style of politics that can’t deliver solutions. Likewise, voters are fed up with a lobbyist-driven government that routinely shovels their tax money into bottomless pits of folly and graft.

In 2008 the horses of fear-mongering and empty cynicism may well have been beaten to death.

However, as Obama is subjected to more scrutiny and attack ads, which he surely will be, it will become increasingly difficult for him to stay on message. Modern thinking has it that such attacks must be answered/refuted. If he follows that conventional wisdom, he could easily end up sounding more ordinary, which could reveal weaknesses not yet apparent.

Which means that while Obama’s momentum seems authentic -- his victory speech in Iowa has drawn universal raves -- there’s no reason to say this early in the going that if he wins in New Hampshire, it’s all over for Clinton. Not at all. Her considerable skills and resources won’t have evaporated into the mists of history, merely on account of losing a handful of delegates in two small states.

In short, Hillary Clinton has to figure out a new way to strut her stuff without looking like just another copycat politician, dancing yesterday’s steps. Maybe she can still do that ... then again, maybe she can’t.

Most likely, all that’s really been settled at this point is that we know “inevitability” is last year’s buzzword.

-- 30 --

Note: This same piece is also available at RVANews.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Jan. 7: VA Top Five

For each Monday SLANTblog’s Virginia Top Five for men’s college basketball is published. It attempts to rank what seems on that day to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I programs in the Commonwealth.

In this Monday's edition there’s one new team, the University of Richmond. The Spiders won their third game in a row by defeating Virginia Tech, which dropped the Hokies from the list. Virginia fell one notch because the ‘Hoos lost at Xavier by 38 points. VCU and JMU both went 1-1 for the week and moved up one position from where they stood last week.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. George Mason (10-4, 2-1 in CAA)
2. VCU (9-4, 2-1 in CAA)
3. Virginia (10-3, 0-0 in ACC)
4. JMU (9-4, 2-1 in CAA)
5. Richmond (7-6, 0-0 in A-10)

Rich on Obama and Huckabee

Between writing popular books, former Richmond Mercury (1972-73) columnist, Frank Rich, writes opinion pieces for the New York Times. His political observations and analysis are just as sharp and original as they have been on show business for decades. By the way, Rich could wear either hat back in his Mercury days, too.

Rich’s take on this very moment of Campaign 2008, between Iowa and New Hampshire, is a must-read piece of work. An excerpt of "They Didn’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" is below:
After so many years of fear and loathing, we had almost forgotten what it’s like to feel good about our country. On Thursday night, that long-dormant emotion came rushing back, like an old dream that pops out of the deepest recesses of memory, suddenly as clear as light. “They said this day would never come,” said Barack Obama, and yet here, right before us, was indisputable evidence that it had.

What felt good was not merely the improbable and historic political triumph of an African-American candidate carrying a state with a black population of under 3 percent. It was the palpable sense that our history was turning a page whether or not Mr. Obama or his doppelgänger in improbability, Mike Huckabee, end up in the White House. We could allow ourselves a big what-if: What if we could have an election that was not a referendum on either the Clinton or Bush presidencies?
Click here to read the entire piece.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Clinton's 'inevitability' is kaput

The so-called "inevitability" of Hillary Clinton's nomination is now a thing of the past. Was it ever real?

The momentum Barack Obama is riding by virtue of his clearcut win in Iowa, and the speech he gave afterward, looks genuine and strong.

The news out of Iowa is that "change" is what the people want. Even the Republicans in Iowa seem to have said the same thing by handing Mike Huckabee the victory.

It won't be easy for Clinton to make herself over into what might appear as an agent of change in the next month. Her campaign is in trouble because she's been selling her "experience" as more important than change. Now all that experience she's been touting could prove to be her undoing, because the voters may see it as baggage.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

SLANTblog's Rate-the-Candidates Scale

Now that 2008 has gotten underway, how do you rate the field of presidential candidates?

Many readers have already decided which Democrat or Republican they like best, and which ones they’d be absolutely unwilling to accept. Others are still mulling. In Iowa tomorrow night the first votes of confidence that actually matter will happen in that state’s caucuses. How much do those votes matter?

Well, I just heard Judy Woodruff say on PBS that she estimates, when all is said and done in Iowa, the candidates will have spent something like $400-per-vote. Putting aside considerations of how they might look later in the general election, if you were casting a vote in Iowa, what would you do to pick between two, or three candidates that all seem pretty good, but not perfect?

SLANTblog wants to help. Using the five categories below and a one-to-ten scale, rate the candidates. Then add up their totals.

The SLANTblog Rate-the-Candidates Scale’s categories are:

A. Fitness -- quality of political experience and life story
B. Speaking/Leadership -- ability to deliver speeches, field questions and inspire others
C. Grasp of Domestic Issues and Proposed Programs
D. Grasp of International Politics and Proposed Policies
E. Integrity/Credibility

For example, using this method, here’s how former president Bill Clinton might stack up:

A. 5 points
B. 7 points
C. 6 points
D. 5 points
E. 2 points
Total: 25 points

Whether you agree with my example isn’t important. Bill Clinton isn’t running this time. Well, not exactly.

The thing to do is rate the candidates who are running, then see if this method helps you separate one from another. Of course, if you’re just going to say the candidate you already prefer gets a solid 50-point rating, and all the rest of them get five points, then don’t waste your time. This only works if you're willing to try to be more honest than Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon.

In your opinion, at the threshold of the primary season -- at this moment -- does Hillary Clinton rate higher than Barack Obama, or John Edwards? Using what you know today, how about Mike Huckabee vs. Mitt Romney? Ron Paul against Rudy Giuliani?

Georgia St. upsets Mason

In college basketball the second phase of the 2007/08 season begins this week, as conferences schedules get underway with the new year. For the next two months nearly all the contests will be between conference foes that know each other well, which means upsets will occur.

The first big upset of the season in Colonial Athletic Association play took place this afternoon in Atlanta.
Leonard Mendez made a game-winner jumper as time expired, capping Georgia State's second-half rally to beat George Mason 66-64 on Wednesday...
Who saw that one coming? Click here to read the AP story.

The other 10 CAA teams are in all action tonight. Updates will be posted below as the scores come in:
  • JMU 62, VCU 61
  • Drexel 70, UNC-Wilmington 60
  • Towson 77, Northeastern 71
  • Delaware 58, Wm. & Mary 51
  • ODU 75, Hofstra 54

Party for Page on Sunday

Following a year that dealt him some bad luck, singer/songwriter Page Wilson, the longtime host of Saturday night’s always tasty musical stew on WCVE-FM -- The Out O’ the Blue Radio Revue -- needs a little help from his friends and fans.

Consequently, on Sun., Jan. 6, "A Party for Page" will happen at the Canal Club (1545 E. Cary St.). The doors open at 2 p.m., the live music, raffles and whatnot will go on until about 10:30 p.m. This special show to benefit Page, who has given of his own time for countless causes over his 30-some years in show business, will gather and present 10 acts for a mere $20. Call (804) 643-2582 for info.

The list of performers/bands that will appear on stage at during the show includes (not necessarily in this order):

Reckless Abandon
Jackass Flats
Susan Greenbaum
L'il Ronnie & the Grand Dukes
Gaye Adegbalola & Roddy Barnes
Terry Garland with Bruce Courson & Mark Wenner
Janet Martin Band
Charles Arthur Trio
Billy Ray Hatley & the Showdogs
Bruce Olsen & The Offenders

-- Photo of Page Wilson from Canal Club web site.