James Brown We’re All Going to Graceland

james-brown.jpg So it begins

A couple of the principal combants appeared on the Larry King show last night.  James Brown’s wife/partner, Tomi Rae and a lawyer representing other Brown family remained in separate corners. Ms Brown went on first and the lawyer followed.

Both commented they didn’t want to disparge anyone then went on to do just that. Ms Brown tearfully complained that other family members had locked her out of her home and some were motivated by money.

Later the lawyer responded by saying the gates of the estate were paddlocked to prevent visitors from coming on the property. Then she casually mentioned a larger issue. “Mr Brown’s home will become another Graceland”.

If some other  celebrities are any indication Mr. Brown will be worth more dead than alive. Back in 2003 Forbes.com published an article titled “Top-Earning Dead Celebrities“.

Elvis topped the list earning $40 million. 600,000 decided to act on Paul Simon’s lyric. As Forbes stated “the clearest sign that Elvis never really left the building, his 30 #1 Hits CD compliation sold more than 9 million copies worldwide.”

Snoppy came in second. Licensing fees to sell everything from insurance to T-shirts helped bring the heirs of cartoonist Charles Schultz an un-“Peanuts”- like $32 million.

J. R. R. Tolkien, who wrote “Lord of the Rings”,  took the bronze. He earned a heavenly  $22 million.

During last night’s show the family’s lawyer stated that Tomi Rae had tarnished Mr. Brown’s legacy by granting an interview to a British Tabloid where she spoke of Brown’s personal problems.  It’s unlikely the interview will cause many people to think any less of Mr. Brown but it’s certain to help sales of the Godfather’s biopics, memorabalia and remixes.  The King is dead. Long live the King.


Saddam Had It Right

detainees.jpg Today the FBI published its inquiry of FBI personnel who worked at the U.S. Detention Center in Cuba. 26 employees told what they saw. Including detainees:

  • Left in interrogation rooms for 24 hours or more, no food or water, chained in a fetal position, covered in urine and feces
  • Intimidated by snarling German Shepherds
  • Wrapped in an Israeli flag

More detailed reports of Saddam’s execution surfaced today. On the scaffold Hussain offers his prayers. Guards then shout “Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada!” a reference to the Shite leader whose father was reputedly murdered by Saddam’s government.

The scuttlebutt is Sunni’s within the government orchestrated the execution to incite the Sunni population to even more violence.  True or false, the suggestion reflects both paranoia and a myopic understanding of cause and effect.

In response to taunting by guards, Saddam smiled “Is this how you show your bravery?” A guard, shouted back, “Go to hell!” 

For many, it might be a short trip.

Lonely Guy Spitzer Swears In

spitzeri.jpg  The New York Times’ coverage of newly elected governor Elliot Spitzer’s inagural began this way.

“Albany Jan 1. New York state’s top fiscal officer pleaded guilty to defrauding the government and resigned, its Senate majority leader announced that he was being investigated by the F.B.I. and a state senator was charged with diverting state aid from a children’s charity to his own private cigar label.”

A state rep from Queens is accused of directing an aide to take his E-Z pass to Albany so that the Assemblyman would receive his per diem even though he was a no show. An Assemblywoman was reelected overwhelmingly even though last summer she was charged with bribery.

Such was the backdrop to the governor’s acceptance speech, giddy he proclaimed, “We choose pragmatism and ethics over partisan politics and dysfunction.”

Did Elloit’s “we” mean the politicians surrounding him? The majority of voters? The New York financial community which despises Spitzer for his zealous prosecution of firms who ripped off investors?

After the ceremony, a lobbyist spoke about the governor. Struggling with his unfamilar  notion good government he offerred this tortured metaphor, “He poured a very good foundation. Now the question becomes: Will he be able to match today’s excellent start with the governmental architecture and political pillars to sustain what he is trying to do.”

Was Jesus a masonry?


81 Year Old In First Full Year of Life Sentence

rigas_alone.jpg  81 year old John Rigas is in his first full year of 15 year prison term. His actuary would call it a life sentence. But he does have reason to hope. If he serves at least 2 years and is expected to die within 3 months, he’ll be free.

In 2005 the Adelphia CEO and his VP son were caught taking $100 million from petty cash. In a scheme worthy of Tony Soprano, Mr. Rigas also forgot to tell investors and the public about the $2 billion in company loans used to support the familial lifestyle.

Even over ten years, spending billions takes a lot of work. But Mr Rigas kept his nose to the grindstone hiring $40,000/year masseuses, buying a fleet of jets and 17 cars. He also dipped his toe in the sporting life buying a $700,00 golf membership along with a NHL franchise the Buffalo Sabres.  In a breath taking display of hubris he ordered the TV network to show him at least once during Sabre home games.

Of course Mr Rigas’ greatest achievement was committing one of the greatest corporate frauds in history. Bankrupting the 6th largest cable company in the U.S. During sentencing Mr. Rigas extended an apologia without acknowledgement or responsiblity. “If I did anything wrong, I apologize. I’ll go to my grave really and truly believing that I did nothing but try to improve conditions for my employees … and [family].”

Ironically there is a 1986 article still on the Web published by something called Prime Time Living.  The piece is replete with black and whites of John the good son, John the Little League coach, John the early entrepeneur traces his ascendancy from immigrant parents to beloved social benefactor.

In a bit of blind prophecy, the President of St Bonaventure University says of his trustee. “Family is first and foremost in everything [John] does. … a model for our students … I don’t mean business success but in order to be successful in other ways.”