The Blog Squad

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Don't Cry for Elliott, Richmond, Virginia...

Oooooh, Soooooooo close.

It came down to .2 percent of 50 million votes cast but tonight Elliott came out on the short end. But Elliott took it gracefully and with his ever-present smile. He’s a classy guy.

And may I say that the taped piece on Elliott’s trip home should be packaged and used by Richmond’s economic development mavens. I could not have been more proud of how Richmond looked in that piece. Even the Diamond didn’t look half bad! But what looked best of all was the enthusiasm of Richmonders, who didn’t come off like yokels but like a vigorous, passionate community. (Where are all these people when we’re trying to get consensus on a performing arts center or baseball stadium?)

The cameos were fun to watch: Curt Autry, Aaron Gilchrist, Susan Greenbaum, Tim Kaine -- but the true star of the montage was none other than the Westbury Pharmacy! I swear I got choked up! The old gal looked good, didn’t she?

Admittedly, Richmond was a little slow in working up a frenzy over Yamin. But by the time Elliott had Paula Abdul breaking down in tears, calling him “handsome and evolved” and a bunch of other incoherent things, Elliott had won all of Richmond over too. But we, at least, could articulate why. 1) He’s good. 2.) He was making Richmond proud, proving himself to be humble, gracious and well-mannered. 3.) He’s a mama’s boy, and who doesn’t love that?

By this week, it had become a full-blown frenzy. Everywhere you went it was the topic of conversation (even with dental instruments in one’s mouth, I can personally attest to). We started to sense that we had a very real shot at claiming a major star, a major talent, and a good guy who, unlike some other recent Richmond singing star, most likely wouldn’t spit on people at a gas station.

Alas it was not to be. So being THE American Idol isn’t in Elliott’s future but don’t cry for him, Richmond, Virginia. The truth is, as Randy Jackson would say, the guy can “blow.” He will have a career in music, and not just as a DJ.

Thank you, Elliott, for lifting this town -- at least for a while -- out of its murder spree, bear-killing, ballpark drama blues.

And OK, Anonymous, I hear you. Yes, I've written mostly about Elliott lately but truthfully I was getting pretty drained from writing about people getting killed and bears getting killed and arts center plans getting killed. This entire town needed a collective palate cleansing. Elliott Yamin was our sorbet.

Jumping off the E-train?

Well, that was abrupt. Somewhere between the last week’s Elliott lovefest and this morning’s newspaper, Elliott Yamin went from “hometown hero” to “Wolfman.” Let me count the ways in which Elliott was demeaned, insulted or otherwise dissed in the today’s Times Dispatch.

First, was the banner over the masthead with the headline “Has Elliott lost some sparkle?”

Next, was the entire section of letters to the editor -- five in all -- whining that the paper’s coverage of Elliott and “American Idol” was excessive, tabloidish, and took the place of real news. It's certainly valid to a point. Remember the A-1 story about people who couldn't get through to vote? But still, if this had been a local boy about to lead an NFL team to the Super Bowl, I doubt we'd hear anything about it not being real news. One person said he would actually subscribe to the Times or the Post just to be sure he was getting his daily news fiber instead of Cocoa Puffs. (My words, not his.)

Then there were the complaints over the paper’s use of the words “hometown hero.” That word should be reserved for soldiers, firefighters and police officers (and of course, Super Bowl quarterbacks), we were instructed. Suzan White of Richmond was very kind in her letter to give us all a mini-course in Joseph Campbell’s writing just so we could all be clear on a what a hero really is. (Perhaps we might remind Ms. White that there are there are several meanings and connotations to the word other than the mythological one.)*

Turning to the Metro section, there was Douglas Durden and Melissa Ruggieri’s recap of last night’s show in which they, quite fairly and objectively, pointed out that last night’s performance was fine but not the shining moment it should have been to propel him into the finals next week.

Then, Mark Holmberg had to weigh in by pointing out that people online refer to Elliott as “monkey boy” or “Wolfman” and bust on Elliott for his looks. (In all fairness, let me remind you that in the beginning of the competition I gently suggested that Elliott change his hair, which reminded me of Curious George. He's come a long way since then.) Then, Holmberg goes on to say that a reference to Elliott smoking a cigarette in last week’s paper enraged some fans, some of whom suggested that the inclusion of that fact might cost him votes.

It seemed Elliott couldn’t catch a break in today’s paper. That’s a dramatic turnaround from the reception he received last week. But one gets the feeling the E-train is indeed rolling into the station. He’s done a great job and like Simon Cowell said last night, has made his mum proud. Will he survive tonight? My gut tells me no, but we’ll see. Either way, Joseph Campbell notwithstanding, he’ll still be a hometown hero.

*1. A person noted for special achievement in a particular field; 2.a large sandwich made of a long crusty roll split lengthwise and filled with meats and cheese (and tomato and onion and lettuce and condiments)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Yaminfluenza!* Catch it!

Forget McPheever! Richmond’s got a raging case of Yaminfluenza!

After Wednesday night’s “American Idol” stunner in which Chris Daughtry was sent home, a more subtle shock has jolted Richmond. Elliott just might win this thing. I think we’ve all been saying, “Isn’t it so great he’s gotten this far?” and now we are truly starting to think he could go all the way.

Elliott’s back in town today for a bunch of appearances at Q94, Lite 98 and Power 92.1 (where he used to work). Then he’ll sing a song at the James Center between 12 and 12:30 p.m., and drive up Boulevard in a convertible with cheering fans lining the street at 4. Tonight at the Diamond, he signs autographs for fans at 6 p.m. (gates open at 5).

This must be pretty heady stuff for the guy who used to wear a Westbury Pharmacy vest and point out to little old ladies where the durable medical supplies were. It is perhaps a universal dream -- and I don’t even mean the “American Idol” level of fame and fortune -- but returning to the place you grew up, where you went to school, suffered all your humiliations and rejections, made your best friends, worked your good jobs and bad as a hero.

I hope this day is magical for Elliott. He may not win it all (although now with Chris out of the way …) but today could go down as one of the greatest days of his life. I hope he drinks in every second as slowly as possible.

*Hey, look. It's the best I could do with the name.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Wilder Changes Mind; Earth's Tectonic Plates Jolted

Buried deep in the Times-Dispatch’s Commentary section yesterday was the story that should have been on A-1, emblazoned with the above headline. Did I miss something? I am not being facetious; I truly want to know if something got by me in the past several days about Wilder’s dramatic turnaround on the Braves’ stadium location. Anyway, it was an extraordinary little op/ed piece, but unfortunately will not be understood by the Wilder-impaired. Here, offered as a public service, is a Wilder-to-English translation:

One of the things that I've always tried to do in the years I've been in public service is to listen to the people. Hearing them is one thing; listening is another. The issue of where the Richmond Braves will play, if they remain in Richmond, is an appropriate reference for the analogy.
Do I have your attention?

At a time before I was elected Mayor of Richmond, it had been widely reported that the team would not play at The Diamond under any circumstances. Though I was not involved in any of the stated reasons for that decision, I had been made aware of certain facts.
I was both in and out of the loop — in to the extent that nothing of significance or importance may happen in this town without passing through me, out to the extent that I was, am and will remain blameless for any resulting fiascos.

As was reported by the media, the Richmond Metropolitan Authority — composed of representatives of Richmond, Henrico, and Chesterfield — had been authorized by its respective political jurisdictions to enter into agreement to lease The Diamond after extensive renovations were made. Apparently, all was ready for the appropriate signatories when the monkey wrench was volunteered by the former City Manager. He is alleged to have promised to build a new facility downtown for the Braves.
This whole thing is Calvin Jamison's fault.

This resulted in Chesterfield's withdrawal from the 10-year moral obligation vouchsafing for the issuance of bonds covering the indebtedness for the $18-million renovation and Diamond repairs.
It is also Chesterfield County's fault.

After Talks Collapsed
A series of events followed the withdrawal and subsequent avowal by the Braves, relative to their disinterest in continuing at The Diamond.
I am a lawyer, you know.

A group of young developers known as the Richmond Baseball Initiative (RBI) formed. I met with them and was informed that they had identified a site in the Shockoe Bottom that would be suitable to the Braves and was sanctioned by the parent organization.
In meeting with representatives of both, no developer was identified who could furnish the financial information necessary to go forward with such an ambitious undertaking. The RBI apparently folded its tent and faded from the discussion table.
RBI can share in the blame as well. Myself, not so much.

There was then brought forth a proposal seeking to create a Community Development Authority (CDA), which would require the approval of landowners controlling at least 51 percent of all land within the proposed area. Those of us in attendance were told that the plan would not require any tax increase on the part of the city, though we were not given a project pro forma to review. The plan did, however, assume that increased revenue above current levels from within the boundaries of the CDA would be available to defer debt service on the development.
Global Development Partners was the next iteration of proposing a new stadium to be built in Shockoe Bottom.
(I would add that none of the discussions referred to herein were at my initiation. To the contrary, I always pointed out that under the city's charter, the ultimate determination of the issue of the stadium location was to be decided by the City Council. I have never seen any plan of financing set forth nor any agreement of landowners made public for any consideration, either by me or by the Council.)
Also, City Council...

There also seems to have been a withdrawal and fading away by Global Development Partners.
...and of course, Global Development Partners.

It was then that I, after discussions with the developers of Rocketts Landing, asked the Braves if they had any interest in a Fulton Bottom site at the Fulton Gas Works. I was under the impression that they were interested and would enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU), as had been literally stated in their e-mail correspondences to our office of economic development. Notwithstanding the Braves' failure to forward the MOU, there still may be the interest that I had gleaned from all of the communications.
Try as I might to save the day in the most heroic fashion, one can clearly see that the Braves have been at fault all along.

People Have Spoken
I said I listen to the people. I have determined from all of the correspondence and discussions and conversations that I have had with the people of the area — not just in the City of Richmond — that they feel that the most adequate place for a stadium in the area is the present area of The Diamond. I know what plans we have for the complete redevelopment and beautification of that area.
But you do not.

I concur in their feelings and would like the Braves to know that the people of the metropolitan area want them to stay in Richmond. But we want them to stay at The Diamond.
(Um. This one is anybody's guess. Some translations might suggest "I have sincerely changed my mind and now believe the Diamond is the best location." OR ... "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," OR ... "OK, Braves. You won't play at the Diamond? Are you ready for some MAJOR LEAGUE hardball?")

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Pt. 1: Not so fast, Elliott ... Pt. 2: Knock, knock. Who's there? Taboka. Taboka Who?

As Elliott Yamin crooned a heart-felt version of Michael Buble’s “Home” last night, singing “I wanna go home, I wanna go home, I’m coming home…” I thought, “What is he thinking?” Apparently, Simon Cowell got the same vibe I did, which Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson just seemed too dense to get. It was just so … so … jinxy. I missed Elliott’s first song because I was putting kids to bed. Sounds like he got mixed reviews. How do you think he did? Anyway, I hope “Idol” voters didn’t — as Elliott mumbled himself last night — take him literally when he sang “I wanna go home.” Elliott, we love you, but we don’t want you back quite yet.

Switching gears wildly, I loved the news out of Philip Morris today that the cigarette maker is going to begin test-marketing a smokeless, spitless pouchy thing called Taboka (from the Cherokee word meaning, “slow death”). This from the T-D: “The venture into smokeless is part of what executives call an ‘adjacency strategy,’ an effort to introduce new products that are complementary to its core cigarette business.”

I think this idea of offering “complementary” products to cigarettes is a great one. A few suggestions for other complementary products Philip Morris could market:

1. Breath mints
2. Teeth-whitening products
3. Wrinkle-reducing creams
4. Coffins

Any other ideas? And can someone finish the knock-knock joke for me?