Her Timing Was Impeccable

It's freezing outside. The heating system here at work can barely keep up with the cold (it's only giving us 62-64 degrees and it's set on 68). Our public works people were astoundingly remiss at snow removal yesterday; of the 146 reservations made for Valentine's Day, only six souls showed up. Meanwhile, the bar was full of four-wheel-drive owners who were all male, and either a) private snow plowers; b) guys pretending to be private snow plowers* or c) guys without plows trying out their new toys. All were doing the "shot and beer" thing; something we generally frown upon, especially when there's hazardous driving to be done. Their uniforms were nearly the same; Carhartt coat over hoodie; bluejeans and the requisite L.L. Bean boots.

*I know for a fact that a Fisher Speedcast® eight-foot snow plow costs upward of $10,000, installed. I will admit that I'm green with envy at the guys who can afford to keep one around to strap onto their brand-new pickup truck for the sole purpose of plowing their own tree-lined drives (and perhaps those of close friends).

What was funniest about the entire affair is that I expected some sort of sporting network to be on the bar televisions. Nope. One was the evening news (with a tidbit about Anna Nicole Smith) and the other was one of those tabloid-entertainment-news kinda shows, really, really working the Anna Nicole Smith case hard.

What on earth were all these seemingly macho, all-American dudes doing watching the sad, pathetic last gasp of Ms. Smith's fame (the peculiar kind of fame which constitutes being famous merely for being famous, or infamous, as some would accuse Ms. Smith of having been)? Surely the real "sports bars" around our area were playing basketball, hockey, lacrosse, soccer or, lacking a real game, re-plays of the Super Bowl? Or could it be that even in death, a buxom blonde beats guys running into each other on some sort of playing field?

Now stay with me whilst I go on a tangent here, by way of explaining my point. Saturday evening I produced a party at the restaurant in honor of Chinese New Year for a local news anchor for an affiliate of one of the "big three" networks. His wife enjoys having this party each year because she has her Masters in Chinese studies and teaches Chinese for the local school system. The party ended late, and everyone had quite a bit to drink. Now, this couple's been doing this with us for five years. It is customary for the host to take the day after the party, Sunday, off from his news-anchoring duties. No, not this year. His wife explained to me that a mere four hours after the end of their shindig, her husband would be at his desk, and would anchor the 7:00 and 9:00 Sunday news broadcasts.

Why was this? If anything, he'd been given a major promotion in the preceding year and one would think he could take off any day he wanted. Nope. He explained to me (bleary-eyed) that it's sweeps week. Sweeps week is when the networks work particularly hard on their ratings (the number of households watching at any given time), because if they get high ratings during sweeps week, it's like a license to charge a fortune for their advertising time (until the next sweeps week measurement). I don't know if sweeps week takes place quarterly or twice a year. All I know is one can tell it's sweeps week because there are celebrity cameos on every sitcom; the made-for-TV-movies rear their ugly heads and all have cost millions of dollars to produce, and the news programs pull polished, well-filmed stories seemingly out of thin air.

Which brings us back to the sad case of Ms. Smith. Even in death, she was in the right place at the right time. Her passing no doubt caused the producers of such dreck as "Entertainment Tonight" to salivate and wring their hands with glee. This sweeps week they wouldn't have to send helicopters filled with telephoto lenses over Brad Pitt's house to watch him go swimming. They wouldn't have to drudge-up and re-hash recent celebrity drunk driving crimes and juxtapose the accused with footage of celebrities whose lives have "changed completely since joining A.A." (The last "A" stands, by the way, for anonymous, you idiots!). No, this year, sweeps week would be a tawdry biography of the recently passed Ms. Anna Nicole Smith, from her first manicure to that all-famous "last interview," during which they teased a few errant blonde hairs from her creamy, porcelain-doll face. That footage is now broadcast in portions so frequently that perhaps the only thing broadcast more frequently are GEICO automobile insurance commercials.

Now, we must all feel very, very sorry for her baby. The poor thing is doomed to grow up without a mother, with a father who beat the rest of the pack to the DNA test (and the highest-paid lawyer to get a judge to have said test so ordered), and very, very rich. What price having no mommy? None, in my humble opinion.

We must all feel bad for the hordes of cousins thrice-removed, housekeepers, makeup artists, doggie walkers and others who perhaps feel slighted because in life Anna had promised them that she'd "remember them" but whom are then disappointed at the reading of her will. I don't even know if she left a will. But she left behind a modern-day Marilyn Monroe-meets-Judy Garland-meets-Ivana Trump story that I assure you will become a major motion picture.

For those of you who find my discussion of Ms. Smith's affairs tasteless so soon after her passing, I assure you I have written this absent any ill will or malice for Ms. Smith. Beside, we've all heard worse. By way of example, I leave you the words of Bette Davis upon learning of the death of her nemesis, Joan Crawford. Ms. Davis said, "My mother told me only to speak good of the dead. She's dead. That's good."