Tribeca Dining and McCain Horseshit; Pat Kennedy Gets Even Stupider as New York Press Rocks; MUGGER III Sings Them Talkin' Blues

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:55

    It was a low-key spot, with just a dozen tables, unlike factories like Sabatino's or Caesar's Den, and it was the first time that I'd established a rapport with the chef-owner of a restaurant. Sure, he was equally familiar with other customers at his new venture, but Vince made each one of us seem like a superstar. None of which would've mattered if the food wasn't an enormous leap above the competition: romaine salads, for example, with chunks of real parmesan cheese, not the Kraft powder that was dumped into tableside jars at the other restaurants. Veal dishes that featured the authentic item, instead of pork fried and breaded enough that not even Andrey Slivka could tell the difference. Pasta with fresh sauces?actual chunks of tomato!?rather than the soupy glop ladled from a 10-gallon pot that a minimum-wage worker might or might not have sneezed into. On purpose.

    Which returns me to Roc, one more outstanding business that continues to transform Tribeca into a citywide destination. God only knows what'll happen next down here. Maybe a cineplex! Councilwoman Kathryn Freed and I agree that such an innovation is sorely needed in the neighborhood; it's the damn new residents in the fancy lofts that just don't want the modern-day conveniences of city living.

    Well, this isn't getting me far into my description of Roc, a restaurant that you really should try. The menu leans toward seafood, Sorrentine and Sicilian dishes: there's swordfish, grilled with fennel as an entree, or marinated, along with fresh anchovies and salmon, as a starter. I recommend both. Fedelini with "assorted scallops," a strange way to describe a fantastic pasta dish that's brimming with mussels, baby clams, calamari, shrimp and scallops too, in a mild garlic sauce. Flawless, lightly fried calamari, topped with matchstick zucchini, carrots and crispy herbs, with a sheet of brown paper at the bottom to absorb the grease, and a tame red sauce on the side. A ragout of chopped veal and vegetables atop taglierini; shrimp salad with baby artichokes; lobster with risotto and scallions; a special one night of lasagna that's every bit the equal of the same dish at the Flatiron district's superb Campagna; and an assorted fish and shellfish soup. Every choice is a winner.

    One jarring note, completely unrelated to the fine service and grub at Roc: We were leaving two Friday nights ago?it was 9 p.m. and the place was packed?when a klutzy, vodka-fueled woman stepped on Mrs. M's foot. My wife thought nothing of it, these things happen, but then she was stomped on again. "Excuse me," Mrs. M said, "but could you knock it off?" That didn't go over very well. "Get used to it," the perp responded, "this is New York." "I'm aware of that," Mrs. M parried, "but that doesn't mean you have to be so rude." "Take a goddamn chill pill, bitch," the woman barked back and walked down Greenwich St., completely nonplused by the four middle fingers our party bid her farewell with. No offense, but I'm sure she was from the most foul town in New Jersey; her attire said it all.

    I don't write about restaurants very often anymore?I did so much of it in the early days of this column?and it's rare that I offer two consecutive raves in the space of three weeks. But Scalini Fedeli and Roc, a one-minute walk from each other, are estimable additions to a neighborhood already rich with excellent restaurants. It's really quite remarkable: walk for five minutes in any direction in Tribeca and you can dine at Nobu, Layla, Duane Park Cafe, Ecco, Danube, Walker's, El Teddy's, Rosemarie's, City Hall, Salaam Bombay, Gigino, Il Mattone, Sosa Borella, Riverrun, Tribeca Grill, and now Roc and Scalini Fedeli. And if your idea of a swell time is waiting an hour for a table, consorting with guide-book readers and Upper West Siders, there's Bubby's as well. Job well done, Ms. Freed!

    You Call This a Heat Wave? Okay, listen up: last Saturday afternoon, when everyone in the city was acting as if the 85-degree weather was like July in Phoenix, Junior and I returned from a hard-fought Downtown Little League game (the New York Press Bears lost) and no one in the household was much in the mood for further outdoor activity. My smarty-pants seven-year-old got in several good whacks at the plate, and his teammates just keep getting tighter as a defensive unit, but in the end the Broadsheet Yankees prevailed. The Yanks had one ringer who had an arm like Nomar Garciaparra and looked like a sixth-grader, but no doubt that was my imagination runnin' away again. Later, Mrs. M was a gallant soldier; even though she has severe allergies, she took the boys skateboarding for a spell, but after that it was home to an air-conditioned loft. In May! Beats me?I thrive in the heat, but three against one wins every time. It was a quiet afternoon, the kids playing with Dragonball Z action figures, Mrs. M holed up in the bedroom with an old Woody Allen movie, and Señor MUGGER in deep despair after finding out the Bosox's Pedro Martinez lost his first game of the year, 1-0, despite fanning 17 Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

    I riffled through the pages of Brill's Content, still alive after two years, and had to admit the self-righteous journalistic watchdog has improved of late. (I've lost a few dollars on the magazine's survival: while Capital Style, Details, Mirabella, Blaze and Talk have all gone belly-up, Steverino chugs along.) Not that editor-in-chief David Kuhn's writing is anything less than atrocious, evidence presented by his intro: "This issue offers?in addition to bulletins from the cutting edges of the media culture... Believe it or not, journalists are human beings, too." But I read a decent story on Richard Blow's Little, Brown tell-all about his days as an editor at George, a controversy so gargantuan among a small circle of former friends that the book was scrapped. (This happened after the Brill's deadline: as much as the monthly might make strides toward readability, they'll never beat their lead time, which often makes several of their articles obsolete.)

    Newsweek's Jonathan Alter contributed an embarrassing apology for the media's fawning coverage of Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign. Alter writes that he and his colleagues had a "mind-blowing" experience on the Straight Talk Express, that it was a "gas" and "nirvana" to have access to the conservative Senator and eat donuts and drink coffee while wending their way through America's backroads. Charles Kuralt lives. But the touchy-feely question-and-answer sessions with McCain didn't compromise the media's mission to report in an objective way, Alter disingenuously continues; in fact, McCain's loose-cannon approach might've resulted in even tougher stories. Included in the two-page spread is a large picture of a beaming Alter on the bus with McCain and his wife Cindy; no doubt the original is now framed in Alter's suburban home. You see, the Newsweek and NBC correspondent points out, McCain's biography was "a thousand times more interesting" than George W. Bush's, so it was jest natch'll that while he never addressed the Senator as "John," he did nickname him "Uncle Fun." As in "Uncle John's Band." Alter, you sly old Deadhead; after all, it's a Buck Dancer's Choice, my friend.

    This is a load of horseshit. It's water under the bridge by now, but of course the media was biased in favor of McCain; of course the Senator's strategist Mike Murphy played reporters for the suckers they are; and of course the hagiography continues to this day. How else to explain NBC paying McCain's way to Vietnam last month and the gaggle of reporters who followed him like puppy dogs. McCain's slow withdrawal from the spotlight is rather pathetic: he's preserved the Straight Talk Express bus as an instant museum piece and still entices reporters to climb aboard.

    But I do give the Arizonan credit for a major feat: inadvertently, he's persuaded liberal press hacks that not all Republicans are icky prison wardens. This isn't at all good news for Al Gore. As the Veep flails away daily with attack upon lying attack on Bush's record, his father's presidency and the Third World conditions in Texas, he's losing sympathy with a constituency that's just as important as the union goons and minority voters. I think that's why Bush?who's made himself far more available to the media postprimaries than Gore?is getting an almost even hearing among the Beltway cognoscenti.

    Anyway, ever since I picked up a quintet of vintage Addams Family videos at the Lafayette St. Tower a few weeks ago?Junior was dumbfounded that tv shows were actually made in black and white?the boys have peppered me with questions about the sitcoms I watched back in the olden days. Junior's a James Bond buff, and so I figured a bunch of Get Smart episodes would give him an innocent thrill. MUGGER III's a sucker for anything very goofy, so I told him about one of my faves from the mid-60s, the incomparable Mister Ed. Trouble is, I haven't been able to locate these videos?or The Munsters, Car 54, Hazel or My Three Sons?anywhere. Any suggestions? An obscure store in the city or maybe an online service, like, that won't crash your computer or insist your credit card is expired even though the date, as plain as an Irish pug nose, says 3/02? This domestic unit would be much obliged.

    Meanwhile, in the wee-hours department, MUGGER III has taken to wailing on an harmonica and bugging me with his talking blues at 4 a.m. each morning. I'm glued to the iMac, reading about Gore's latest misadventures with the truth, and the little tyke sits in my office, playing mournful licks, punctuated with made-up lyrics that he knows will get my goat. Like: "It's a rainy day and I got no toys"; "My brother's still asleep, I think I'll pour water on his head"; "Mom's pretty, but Dad's got a green butt"; and "I got a pizza party at school, but I wanna play hooky." If I'm in the mood to drive him a little bit batty, I'll speak only in fractured Spanish, but mostly I get a kick out of his unintentional tribute to the Chicago and Mississippi greats he probably won't discover for several years. Until then, I've got him working on a new composition: "The Ballad of President Impeachment and Elian Gonzalez." Fidel's not the only one who's a master at indoctrination.

    Feels Like I'm 64 It took half a lifetime, but I finally secured an "All Access VIP" badge at a rock 'n' roll event. Never mind that it was the "Rock in New York" seminar/concert that was sponsored by New York Press and the Bowery Ballroom; or that our editor John Strausbaugh?who helped organize the event, hondling this icon and that peripheral but still-kickin' survivor of Tramp's or the Factory?got me on the list. It was a kick. Hey, who wouldn't kill for the Fugs' Tuli Kupferberg lecturing from the stage not to take photos with a flash? He was, as Baltimoreans like to say, "funny as shit," and pretty current too, half-singing a screed about Yeltsin, Putin and Clinton to the tune of "Paint It Black." My bedtime is such that I didn't hang around for the concert portion of the show (a star-studded mini-rock festival that included New York Press favorites Doughty, Starr, Furious George, Marianne Nowottny and Ned Vizzini's New Mexikans; a "surprise guest appearance" by Ronnie Spector, with Joey Ramone in the audience singing along to "Be My Baby"; and Liv Tyler, who came to see her mom Bebe Buell perform), but the stories that the likes of David Johansen, Jim Fouratt, Tuli and Danny Fields (all introduced by rock's Zelig, Giorgio Gomelsky) told about when everyone was 30 years younger made for an early Sunday evening that was as much fun as I can remember. Melancholy, too, looking at the footage of the Velvet Underground in '65, Lou Reed singing "I'm Waiting for The Man," with every other scene showing Andy Warhol or Nico, looking as alive as you or me. Reed's a real shit these days, if you ask me, an old coot with no sense of humor, but man, that scratchy homemade movie was a time capsule that'll still look incredibly cool in 2035.

    Fields was a hoot when he and Fouratt paired off to talk about Max's Kansas City and the regulars in the back room of the famous restaurant/den. Fouratt was the straight guy, looking a little uncomfortable when Fields, for example, talked about Jackson Browne's wife who hanged herself ("Jackson's women were always stronger than him") or the fact that Robert Mapplethorpe, who cowered with Patti Smith in the de facto VIP room of Max's, isn't in much of a position to say anything these days.

    But grizzled old Danny was, chuckling about the bar tab he ran up in the mid-60s at Max's, when owner Mickey Ruskin would accept phony-baloney signed receipts from favored friends; Fields was "Donald Duck" and was thousands and thousands of dollars in arrears. "You have to remember, this was 1964, when a drink was 95 cents. That's a lot of drinks! But Mickey kept going till he went bust."

    Fields, whose credentials include involvement with the Ramones, MC5 and the Stooges, and is the author of a new book on his longtime friend Linda McCartney, was dismissive of the Beatles (mostly for effect, since he admitted that Rubber Soul was sweet, and credited the band with popularizing long hair in the U.S.), telling of a recent Fab Four convention and the horror of seeing boomers with "bodies by Homer Simpson and Meathead hairdos," and saying that back in the 60s any teenage boy who liked the group was a victim of arrested adolescent development. The girls going nuts, he said, was understandable.

    I walked out into the sunlight, my VIP pass, ticket stub and New York Press magnet as souvenirs, and had to go up to Houston St. to find a cab, so screwed up was the traffic with the bike marathon and Cardinal O'Connor's send-off, but that was okay: I was in my own world of Warhol bananas, "Kimberly," the New York Dolls, doo-wop, Danceteria, CBGB in '76 and memories of when John Lindsay was the city's mayor, the Village Voice mattered and Bob Dylan wasn't yet beating his wife but instead writing "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" for the reclusive and beautiful Sara Lowndes.

    This Ain't No Disco You run across some very stupid comments in the press over the course of a fortnight and here're just a few. The New York Post, in an April 30 editorial headlined "What We Won in Vietnam," comes to a rather remarkable conclusion about the war. The piece reads: "And too much can never be said of the bravery of those young men who answered the call when the Cold War heated up. More than two million American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines went to Vietnam. One in 10 became a casualty?and 58,148 died in combat. This morning, say a prayer for every one of them. They were the real winners."

    Prayers said, although it's a fair debate as to why those young men participated in an indefensible U.S. military debacle. But one thing's for certain, you Post editorial writers behind a 2000 keyboard: those poor souls were not the "real winners." They're dead, and as most of their families would probably agree, unnecessarily so.

    Bill Clinton, traveling with reporters back to DC from Arkansas on May 7, said in response to a question: "I'm still working on my legacy." Maybe a few more bombings of Third World countries, Bill, especially if Hillary's down in the New York polls this October? As for his future, and how he intends to put bread on the table, he said: "I don't want to make my final decision; I've got to keep my powder dry. I have too much fun being president, so I don't want to contemplate my [future] life right now."

    Matching Clinton's wit and frivolity about his boss' scandal-strewn administration, super-shill Sidney Blumenthal, according to the Washington Post's Al Kamen, has figured out the cause for those missing White House e-mails. "It was an early version of the Love Bug," Sid Pathetic said.

    Clinton and his buddies, after dodging an impeachment conviction by the cowardly U.S. Senate, understand they can do and say anything and get away with it. The media doesn't care; that's why there's this odor of Clinton Nostalgia fouling the air. One hundred times worse than pollen. I'll get to the President's recent stand-up routine at the White House Correspondent's Dinner two Saturdays ago?a disgusting spectacle of the press and Clinton engaging in public fellatio?in a Web-only MUGGER this coming Friday. Meanwhile, two of the country's more respected pundits, The New York Times' William Safire and The Washington Post's David Broder, who aren't ideologically bonded, are having none of it, to their immense credit.

    On last Sunday's Meet the Press, Safire said about Clinton nostalgia: "I can't help you there. The forgiveness of the American people is wonderful. But frankly, after the next three or four months, we'll see some real Clinton fatigue."

    Broder added: "The American people want an iron-clad guarantee that the next president will not embarrass them in front of their children like Bill Clinton did. The incumbent president shamed this nation." He predicted that voters "will not put up with that again."

    Back to the bullshit. Boy, does Mort Zuckerman like to be stroked. Ignoring for the moment that his Daily News is almost irrelevant in New York City today, Zuckerman presided over an editorial board meeting with Hillary Clinton last week and?surprise!?was deeply, movingly, impressed.

    One of his clerks wrote about the session on last Sunday's edit page, under the headline "Hillary's Ready For Prime Time." I'm a little sick of the "prime time" cliche?as well as the word "gravitas"?but no matter. Here's just a brief excerpt of the advertisement for Clinton: "Having now visited all of New York's 62 counties, Hillary Clinton is moving to a more active stage of her campaign for Senate. And in a meeting with the editorial board of the Daily News on Friday [drum roll]?the first editorial board she has visited as a candidate?it was abundantly clear that she is ready to do battle... Now, Clinton speaks with some authority about this big state. She knows about the troubled upstate economy and has ideas to help, from reducing energy and transportation costs to broadening access to information systems. And while downstate is booming, Clinton knows that not all city dwellers are benefiting. For them, she wants to raise the minimum wage and expand the Earned Income Tax Credit. Thoughtful ideas, those."

    Talk about laying it on thick! I'm tired of the jokes about Al Gore inventing the Internet, but it now seems that Hillary Clinton has come up with?all by her lonesome?the novel Democrat idea of raising the minimum wage. This is almost as nauseating as the report that Bill Clinton's impeachment lawyer, Greg Craig, trying to outdo Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives in demonstrating the wonders of America, brought the young boy to a Democratic fundraiser at the home of Smith and Elizabeth Bagley. Don't know if Elian cared for the smoked salmon and shrimp, but surely he's worldly enough by now to recognize the irony of Bagley, a veteran donor to Democratic campaigns, being an heir to the R.J. Reynolds fortune. Silly me, I thought it was the Republicans who took those tainted tobacco dollars.

    Patrick Kennedy's Tiny Brain I'm not going to nuke Al Gore this time around; too many others, unlikely messengers at that, are taking care of business. For example, on the front page of The New York Times last Saturday there was a large photo?above the fold?of a forlorn Gore sitting in a Michigan high school seat that was way too small for him. He was wearing khakis and a polo shirt (I think the Vice President is taking this dress-down look a bit too far; after all, he's not running for the position of head football coach at Exeter), with a bottle of water and pen on his desk, daydreaming, perhaps about campaign chairman Tony Coelho's upcoming dates in court. Last Friday, former JFK speechwriter Ted Sorensen was feted in his native Nebraska; according to the Lincoln Journal Star, he believes that Gore wins the election because Americans will vote "not to take a chance." That was the end of the good news for Gore, as Sorensen praised George W. Bush as being "at ease on the stump, a glad-hander and backslapper. He likes people, and they like him." Gore, the septuagenarian said, doesn't possess "quite the same zip and zest or warmth." Sorensen also heaped accolades on Nebraska's retiring Sen. Bob Kerrey, who's sided with Bush on his Social Security partial-privatization plan?apparently that Democrat, along with New York's Sen. Pat Moynihan, doesn't think the idea too "risky"?as well as Nebraska's Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel. Sorensen said: "The first time I talked to Senator Hagel, I told him I was very proud of his leadership role in the Senate and in his party, particularly on international issues. In many ways he is a logical running mate for Bush."

    In the middle of the week, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, led the charge in a suit against Majority Whip Tom DeLay, accusing him of extortion and racketeering in his fundraising efforts. Those Kennedys, with their grand sense of entitlement, do have balls the size of a rhino's, no matter how dimwitted they may be. Kennedy thundered: "Never before has a senior congressional and party leader devised a scheme like this: hammering contributors for money, threatening to punish those who decline and setting up a shadow party structure outside public view and outside our laws to make it possible." After that burst of rhetoric, obviously written for him (it was in English), Kennedy presented no evidence.

    Gore doesn't need distractions like this. Especially from a brat like Patrick Kennedy, who's raised millions of dollars for the Democrats?Minority Leader Dick Gephardt has shamelessly exploited the kid's family name?often with promises for meet & greets with his famous relatives. Young Kennedy is no stranger to legal proceedings himself; just last month he got into an ugly scrape with a security official at LAX in Los Angeles. It didn't help Gore's or Kennedy's position that, on May 24, the Democrats will hold a fundraiser in DC with tickets going for as high as $500,000, a record for either party.

    Even The Washington Post, on May 5, gently ridiculed the suit against DeLay. An editorial read: "Mr. Kennedy is filing under the federal racketeering statute, a notoriously stretchy provision that prohibits 'extortion.' If a court can be convinced that the suit has merit, it seems unlikely Mr. DeLay is the only offender; both parties could be said to 'extort' money from business, with varying degrees of crudeness. Success against Mr. DeLay would therefore trigger a barrage of copycat litigation."


    May 8

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