Archive for March, 2022

I didn’t watch the Academy Awards show — seldom do — but, of course, I heard about the smackdown.

Just tonight, though, Patty and Brooks were talking about the other seminal moment in the ceremony — when a wheelchair-bound, trembling and slightly confused Liza Minnelli presented the award for best picture, with some caring help from Lady Gaga.

I was very sorry to hear about that, mainly because my most vivid memory of Minnelli — daughter of Judy Garland, who starred in the immortal 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” — is of her singing the enchanting and whimsical song “I Like the Likes of You.”

Liza and mother

In that song, which Minnelli recorded in 1965, when she was 19, she sounds forever young, playful and powerful. In addition, she was beautiful, with the dark, glowing eyes she got from her mother, high cheekbones and flawless skin.

Another reason Minnelli’s debilitated condition made me wince was that we are the same age, 76. I was born March 4, 1946; she on March 12, 1946.

But for good luck and relatively healthy living, I could also be confused and in a wheelchair. It wasn’t all bad luck for Minnelli: she abused drugs and alcohol and was married and divorced four times. The only drug I used was marijuana — and not very much of that — and thank God I quit drinking in 1981, when I was 34. In addition, following the lead of many an Irishman, I didn’t marry until I was 38.

The reason I stumbled onto “I Like the Likes of You” was that I was kind of an outsider in high school and my first couple of years of college. I had friends, but I spent many Friday nights at home watching “The Friday Night Fight of the Week,” on the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, while most of my peers were out at parties, the bowling alley or sporting events.

As part of my “rebellion,” I gave up rock-n-roll radio for a while (which I regret to this day, although I caught up later) and listened to a lot of jazz and pop music. Among the pop music artists I liked were Vikki Carr (“The Surrey with the Fringe on Top”); guitarist Laurindo Almeida (“Goin’ Out of My Head”); and Petula Clark (“Kiss Me Goodbye”).

While listening to music in that vein, I heard “I Like the Likes of You” and immediately fell in love with it. The song, written by Vernon Duke and E.Y. Harburg, has been recorded by more than 25 individuals or orchestras between the time it was first recorded by Victor Young and His Orchestra in 1934 and Amanda Thorpe in 2014.

Minnelli’s version is the only version I’ve ever heard or wanted to hear. With her, it comes off as flirtatious and seductive, as if she’s peering around a corner, winking and beckoning a boy with her index finger. When I heard/hear it, that boy she was beckoning was/is me.

It features inventive lyrics, like…

I like your eyes of blue,
I think they’re blue, don’t you?
I mean I like your eyes of blue!

Oh dear, if I could only say what I mean,
I mean if I could mean what I say,
That is, I mean to say that I mean to say that;

I like the likes of you,
Your looks are pure deluxe
Looks like I like the likes of you!


For some reason, I never bought a Minnelli album, but I never forgot that song. And now, of course, I can hear it on YouTube whenever.

When Brooks was talking about Minnelli’s appearance — and how disturbing it was — I immediately went to the computer and pulled up the song. Brooks had never heard it. Patty had, and after I played it, she continued humming it.

…And now, after all this buildup, I’m going to play it for you. I hope you agree it’s pure de-luxe.

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I’ve been watching and listening sporadically to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, and, like most Democrats, I’ve been appalled at the tactics several Republican senators have taken, attempting to paint her as soft on child-porn offenders.

The critics have held up prepared posters listing cases where Judge Jackson sentenced offenders to less time than sentencing guidelines called for — which apparently happens in a majority of all child-porn cases and probably all criminal cases — and they’ve harped on the issue ad nauseam.

It appears to me one Republican goal is to pull away either Sen. Joe Manchin or Sen. Kyrsten Sinema from the Democratic wall of support, while trusting that all 50 Republican senators will oppose her when the nomination comes up for a vote.

I don’t think the Republican tactic is going to work. In fact, I’m predicting that at least two Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — will vote for her, just as they did when the Senate approved Judge Jackson last year for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit.

In any event, it was gratifying and inspiring to hear Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) this afternoon give a stirring speech that elevated Judge Jackson and made her detractors look like worms.

Booker’s speech went on for almost 20 minutes. Toward the end Judge Jackson was dabbing a tissue at her eyes.

Booker began by quoting from a National Review article about the hearings. The National Review is a very conservative publication that has been criticizing Judge Jackson with gusto. But the article that Booker focused on, written by Andrew C. McCarthy, called out Hawley for trying to appeal to people’s prejudices and emotions rather than sticking to her judicial philosophy, which McCarthy believes is her greatest vulnerability.

McCarthy dismissed Hawley’s allegation that Judge Jackson is soft on child-porn offenders, saying the argument “appears meritless to the point of demagoguery.”

From there, here are excerpts of Booker’s speech…

You have sat with grit and grace and have shown us just extraordinary demeanor…This (harping on child pornography issue) is a new low. What’s especially surprising about this is it didn’t happen last year (when the Senate approved her for the D.C. Circuit). You were put on a court that I’m told is considered the second most important court in our land. And you were passed with bipartisan support. Nobody brought it up then. Did they not do their homework? Were they lax? Did they make a mistake? I wonder if they regret that…But they didn’t bring that out. No. Why? Because it was an allegation that was meritless to the point of demagoguery.

You are a mainstream judge. Your sentencing — I’ve looked at the data -– falls in the mainstream on everything from child sexual assault to all the other issues that people are trying to bring up…There is an absurdity to this that is almost comical if it wasn’t so dangerous.

Are you soft on crime? God bless America…You were endorsed by the largest organization of rank and file police officers (the Fraternal Order of Police). You were endorsed by the bosses, the largest organization of chiefs of police (the International Association of Chiefs of Police.)

You and your family speak to service, service service. And I’m telling you right now I’m not letting anybody in the Senate steal my joy. I told you this at the beginning…I just look at you and I start getting full of emotion.

You did not get here because of some left-wing agenda. You didn’t get here because of some dark-money groups. You got here how every Black woman in America who has gotten anywhere has done — by being…like Ginger Rogers said, “I did everything Fred Astaire did but did it backwards in heels.”

And so I’m sittin’ here saying nobody’s stealing my joy…I’m not going to let my joy be stolen.

You have earned this spot. You are worthy. You are a great American. Today you’re my star. You are my harbinger of hope. This country is getting better and better and better. And when that final vote happens and you ascend onto the highest court in the land, I’m going to rejoice. And I’m going to tell you right now the greatest country in the world –- the United States of America — will be better because of you.

Thank you.

With that, Committee Chairman Dick Durbin declared a break.   

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Do you remember the Democratic Iowa caucuses of 2020? Probably not; I didn’t have a clear memory of it, either, until I went back and checked.

It was borderline debacle, with several days of delays in reporting the results, which ultimately ended with Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden winning close to the same number of pledged delegates.

The delays prompted Maggie Astor of The New York Times to write on Thursday, Feb. 6, three days after the caucuses, “We could know the winner of New Hampshire before we know the winner of Iowa.” (New Hampshire’s primary was the following Tuesday.)

Now, it appears the Democratic National Committee has come to its senses and will dump the tradition of Iowa being the first state to weigh in on the primary election.

The Washington Post reported today that the DNC had circulated plans for a 2024 nominating calendar in which as many as five states would hold their contests before March.

If the plan put forward by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee comes to pass, all states would have to reapply for their places in the nominating order, with preference being awarded to states with diverse electorates, competitiveness in the general election and primary elections, not caucuses.

Iowa doesn’t qualify on any of the three criteria. Besides having caucuses, it is 90 percent White and long ago lost its label as a “swing state.”

Some of the states poised to deny Iowa its “first-in-the-nation” status are Michigan (78 percent White), Nevada (66 percent White) and New Jersey (68 percent White).

South Carolina, which turned the 2020 primary election decidedly toward Biden, is likely to maintain an early spot in the process. It is 67 percent White and 27 percent Black.

The proposed new plan makes perfect sense and could give the party a big boost.


I remember watching the 2020 Iowa caucuses on TV and how utterly boring it was, seeing people checking in at front desks at various venues, then wandering to different clusters in big meeting rooms or gymnasiums.

2020 Iowa caucuses

It reminded me of going to a Missouri caucus, probably in 1972, three years after I arrived in KC from Louisville. It was in the school cafeteria at St. Francis Xavier Church, 52nd and Troost. Like picking sides for playground basketball, we went to groups associated with our preferred candidates. Heads were counted, and then, if groups were not large enough to meet certain criteria, their members split up and headed to other groups.

It was boring and time consuming, all orchestrated by longtime party hacks.

Missouri officially stuck with the caucus system until 2000, when it joined several other states holding “Super Tuesday” primaries.

Super Tuesday is probably a good place for Iowa, too. There it would find its rightful place as an afterthought in the “Democratic” process.

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Repercussions from The Kansas City Star’s and owner McClatchy’s ongoing diminishment continue to unfold.

On Tuesday, The Star reported that it would, at last, have a new physical home: it will be leasing space in a Crown Center building at 2405 Grand Blvd.

That means the paper will be giving up its spacious “suite” on the Plaza.

If you’ll recall, I sniffed out the “Plaza Suite” story in January after The Star sent subscribers an email about carrier shortages. The paper listed its address as “4741 Central Street, Ste. 541, Kansas City, MO 64112.”

The suite turned out to be this mail box in the UPS store on Central.

In Tuesday’s story, reporter Kevin Hardy said The Star anticipated moving into its new space in June or July. He said terms of the lease were not disclosed, and he quoted Star president, editor and suite supervisor Mike Fannin as saying…

“We’re pleased to establish new headquarters in a terrific, central location in the city. Our journalists will continue to work from — and cover — communities across the metro area, as they have done so well throughout two long years of the pandemic. We look forward to working together again in-person, and this will be a great new place to call home.”

2405 Grand Blvd.

I hope The Star finds some level of stability at Crown Center, partly because in its wake the paper is leaving behind two properties that seem lifeless.

First, McClatchy, which bought the newspaper back in 2006, sold the longtime headquarters at 1729 Grand Blvd. to businessman Vince Bryant, who said he planned to redevelop the building into retail, residential and commercial space. Before Covid, significant activity was taking place at the site, but it seems to have ground to a halt. I’m dubious about Bryant’s plan coming to fruition. He’ll have to show me a lot more than what I see to make me a believer.

The second step in The Star’s real-estate meanderings goes back to about 2003, when Knight Ridder, which owned the paper at the time, gave the go-ahead to construction of a $199 million printing plant. The stunning green-glass building, which soars above I-670, opened in 2006, the year McClatchy bought The Star and the other Knight Ridder papers as that firm was folding up its tent.

McClatchy took on more than $1 billion in debt to buy the K-R papers, and the print plant was part of that debt.

A few years ago, before it filed for bankruptcy and was subsequently bought by a hedge fund, McClatchy decided to sell the print plant with the idea of leasing it back from the new owner. Up stepped a company called Ambassador Hospitality, which is an arm of Mark One Electric, owned and operated by the Privitera family.

Ambassador/Mark One did, indeed, lease the plant back to The Star, but only for a couple of years because The Star decided to abandon the plant and start printing what was left of the paper at the Des Moines Register and truck the papers back to KC in the early-morning hours. The result, to break it down to its essence, is why when the Royals play on a Thursday night, print subscribers don’t get the game story until Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, Mark One sold or trashed the not-very-old printing presses and began looking for a way to unload the building. Last year, when talk of a downtown baseball stadium bubbled back to the surface, the Priviteras eagerly threw out the prospect of selling the building to make way for the stadium, if it came about.

The downtown-stadium flirtation, fueled largely by sports talk radio, quickly went cold — who’s going to pay for it? — and the Priviteras’ big building is looking less green and more white elephant by the day.


The Star hasn’t said how much square footage it is renting. My guess is it will be significantly larger than its Plaza Suite and significantly smaller than its previous two homes.

However much space it turns out to be, I doubt that The Star will have its name on the outside of the building. For all intents and purposes, The Star’s future presence will mostly be in cyberspace.

Correction, per Wiley Coyote comment: The Star hasn’t published a Saturday print product in a few years.

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I’ve got to get back, figuratively speaking, to our Florida trip…the last part of it, anyway.

We had planned to drive back in two days, two long days. But a couple of days before our scheduled departure from Clearwater, Patty mentioned the possibility of taking three days. I jumped on that for a couple of reasons: First, I was itching to get moving, and, second, my night vision is not what it used to be and I don’t like driving at night.

It also occurred to me we could stop at Montgomery, Alabama — about an 8-hour drive from Clearwater — and go to The Legacy Museum.

The full title explains…The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. It’s the powerful and soul-crushing story of enslavement in America.

Nearby is the outdoor National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a six-acre site that depicts — through sculpture, art and design — the terror of lynching. The centerpiece of the memorial is a winding display of 800 suspended, metal “caskets,” symbolizing the approximately 4,000 lynchings that took place in the United States. The caskets bear the names of victims and the counties and states where their deaths took place.


On Thursday, March 3, we drove to Montgomery. We spent the night at an Airbnb not far from downtown. Here’s a photo I took of a spectacular fountain a couple of blocks from the State Capitol, which is visible in the deep background.

The next morning, Friday, we headed for the Legacy Museum. You can’t take photos inside, but the photo below shows what the front looks like. The museum and outdoor memorial opened in April 2018. Both were founded and developed by a nonprofit called the Equal Justice Initiative. The cost was about $20 million, which consisted of private and foundation money. Former Vice-President Al Gore spoke at the opening ceremony.

Among other things, the museum features first-person accounts of slavery and auctioning through narration and voice overs. Like a good newspaper story, the museum captures visitors’ attention at the very outset. Sounds of crashing waves play as huge, animated videos reflect the plight of 12 million people captured from Africa and put on ships, never to see their homeland again. Two million of those people died on the ships or in the sea.

We spent at least two hours at the museum and could have spent a couple more. But we had to get moving, so it was on to the memorial. There I took these two photos, one of a sculpture, the other of a plaque that illustrates how harmless an action it took for some white people to decide to snuff out the life of a Black.

Foolishly, I didn’t take a photo of the “caskets,” but here’s one I found on the internet.

We left Montgomery Friday afternoon, and about 8 that night we got to Memphis. What a town! We stayed at a downtown hotel and after dinner headed to Beale Street. This is what it looks like, I believe, on most weekend nights.

Two blocks of the street are blocked off on weekends. Bars, restaurants and retail stores line up one after another. We had heard about B.B. King’s Blues Club, and that’s where we ended up stopping. The cover charge was $10 each, but the show, by the B.B. King Blues Band, was well worth it. (I stood on a wooden chair to get this shot.)

On Saturday morning, after going to a coffee shop for breakfast, we stumbled upon the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed by James Earl Ray. Not thinking about the motel and not expecting it, we were a bit shocked to happen upon it.

But there it was, looking just about like it did on that fateful day, April 4, 1968. The motel is now part of The National Civil Rights Museum, which opened in 2014.

The room outside which King was standing — 306 — is memorialized with a large wreath, which hangs from the balcony where King was standing when Ray shot him from a nearby boarding house. Parked in front of first-floor rooms are replicas of a 1968 Cadillac and a 1959 Dodge, which were parked outside the motel the evening of the assassination.


I’m sorry I don’t have a happier ending to this post, but I’m sure you can see why I was compelled to do it.

Much of history is hell, and we’re living today through a war that will add another hellish chapter to the checkered history of the world.

Anyway, good to be home.

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We’ve been home since Saturday night, and, while it was nice to be in the Florida sun, it’s great to be back in Missouri.

Great to be back in Kansas City, too, even though the hometown paper keeps sagging, sagging, sagging.

One predictable facet of The Star, however, is Chief Star Meteorologist Robert Cronkleton’s almost continuous updates on the weather. This morning he was reporting “numerous accidents.” This afternoon he was warning of “a prolonged (snow) event, stretching over 24 to perhaps even 30 hours.”

…I was joking when I called Cronkleton the paper’s chief meteorologist. Actually, he’s one of only two or maybe three general assignment reporters they have. His byline appears on a majority of all breaking-news stories.

Checking his bylines in the “search” box for Tuesday, Wednesday and today, I found five weather stories, three crime stories and one story about the Big 12 basketball tournament. Nine stories in three days is a pretty good churn. I wonder if he also had time to get down to Grand Boulevard and shoot some hoops in the makeshift buckets set up on the street…weather permitting, of course.

Cronkleton, who’s been at the paper about 30 years, is a good hand. He’s not in the upper echelon of reporters, and he’s not an outstanding writer, but he’s reliable, accurate and persevering.


I know him pretty well. We worked together for several years when I ran the KCK bureau, from 1995 to 2004. He’s managed to hold on to his job through many rounds of layoffs (the first of which occurred in 2008), partly because he’s been willing to work the very-early-morning shift. When most everyone else is in bed, he’s checking the overnight police, fire and weather activity and pecking away on his computer — at home, of course, because The Star no longer has a physical office, as far as I know, anyway.

At this point, I’m sure “Cronk,” as he’s known by many, is just trying to keep his powder dry until he can retire. So today, hats off to a new-era, old-time reporter…Keep churning out the bylines, buddy!


Here’s something else on my mind…Do you remember, not that long ago, when there was an abundance of office-supply stores in central KCMO? During the period that Office Depot and Office Max were competing (before Office Depot bought the competitor out) an Office Max was built at the site of the former Club Royal (which just about everybody mistakenly pronounced Royale, as if it had an “e” on the end). Another office supply store was on Grand at about 20th Street. Then the Office Depot on Main and another one near 103rd and State Line Road opened. You didn’t have to go far to get your papers, pencils, erasers and computer supplies.

But then the “great closing” began. I think the store at 20th and Main was the first to go, followed by the “Club Royal” Office Max. A few years ago, the Office Depot in south KC closed, and the building was converted to a Tesla dealership.

The Office Depot in Midtown has been a pretty sorry place — they don’t even carry traditional 3-tab file folders — but at least it stayed open. Today, though, I got a big surprise when I dropped by and found it shut. The glass doors were locked, and accordion-style, metal gates were pulled together behind the glass. There was no sign on the door indicating it was out of business, but closed it was, and my guess it wasn’t because of the “snowstorm.”

If it’s closed, the nearest office supply stores for central city residents are in Merriam, Overland Park and Independence.

If it’s closed, that would be rotten. On the bright side, though, wouldn’t it be something if I beat The Star’s ubiquitous retail reporter Joyce Smith to the story?

Why, I bet “Cronk” would be proud of his former boss.

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