The Week: What Caught Our Eye

October 29, 2022

IMG_7945.jpgIt’s called the Grand Canyon of the East, Letchworth State Park, where the Genesee River roars, in Castile, N.Y. (Heather Bennice)

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

Here we are in the season of surprises. The Phillies are in the World Series (Go Phillies!). Gov. Kathy Hochul suddenly has a real race on her hands. New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who’s in charge of getting Democrats elected and re-elected to the House, may have a hard time keeping his own seat. And these tidbits which hardly count as surprises: The cost of Halloween candy and Thanksgiving turkeys is going up.

A HACK AT THE POST? An employee of the New York Post briefly seized control of the newspaper’s website this week and turned the Post into the Post gone (even more) wild: Raunchy headlines, racist themes, and extremist appeals to violence. Readers barely seemed to notice. Political figures issued the usual denunciations, and The Post itself followed with a cry of “we’ve been victimized.” So, what happened at New York’s oldest newspaper, the one Alexander Hamilton founded, the one that gave us Page Six,  “Headless Body in Topless Bar” and other head-shakers for the ages?

REMEMBER WHEN: It was fall 1987, not long after the Albany, N.Y., region had been walloped by a snowstorm so unusual in its timing and intensity that local media continue to publish retrospectives. The band soon would jolt the rock world and sell out venues across the country on their way to induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but back then, Guns N’ Roses, described by the late Albany Times Union critic Greg Haymes as “a lean, ferocious rock 'n' roll machine, seething with raw, primal energy,” played before just 187 people at the city’s historic Palace Theatre.

CLEAR WATERS: Skaneateles Lake, which provides drinking water to the city of Syracuse, is the cleanest lake in New York and the second-cleanest in the country, behind only Crater Lake in Oregon, according to World Atlas (another list had Lake George at the top). Speaking of lists, another travel writer takes a shot at picking the top 10 beautiful small towns in Upstate New York, a region with enough to fill a list 10 times as long.

WE HARDLY KNEW YE: Ye’s business empire appeared to be collapsing with stunning speed this week in the wake of a series of antisemitic and other offensive remarks by the rapper and fashion designer formerly known as Kanye West. Adidas dropped its lucrative partnership with him, as did the Gap, and other retailers nationwide yanked his merchandise. The move is expected to cost Adidas at least $250 million this year. Late in the week, Ye showed up unannounced, cameras in tow, at Skechers headquarters, only to be escorted from the property. And on Thursday, his charter school, Donda Academy, informed parents in an email that it was closing immediately. Ye is hardly penniless, and we certainly haven’t heard the last of him, for better or worse.

UNIQUE HONOR: The Southland Conference, made up of smaller Division I schools in Texas and Louisiana, named Darius Lee of Houston Christian the conference’s Preseason Player of the Year in men’s basketball, the first time it had picked a preseason player of the year. The vote of the league’s coaches was unanimous. It was their way of honoring Lee, a sensational player who died of a gunshot wound over the summer in his hometown of Harlem. Lee led Houston Christian in scoring and rebounding last season, and his 52 points against McNeese was the highest one-game point total by any Division I player.

GRAY MATTERS: It’s a story so big, so complex, so compelling that the New York Post devoted three bylines to it: Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is now publicly sporting brown hair after years of gray. A source, who apparently was granted anonymity by the Post to discuss such sensitive matters, speculated the reason was so de Blasio would seem hipper in his new gig as a teaching fellow at Harvard.

 LASTING DAMAGE: Author Salman Rushdie, attacked on stage by a knife-wielding assailant at a literary event in western New York in August, lost sight in one eye and the use of a hand, his agent told a Spanish language newspaper. Rushdie, who’s 75, suffered three serious wounds to his neck and 15 to his chest and torso, according to the agent, Andrew Wylie. “He's going to live ... That's the important thing,” Wylie told the newspaper, El Pais.

PRECIOUS METAL: A few weeks ago, we previewed the two-day auction in which a renowned car enthusiast in Upstate New York was offering for sale nearly his entire collection of 130 vintage vehicles and associated memorabilia. It was, to say the least, a success, with total proceeds of $21.26 million, topped by the $1.82 million paid for a pristine 1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster. More than 1,000 bidders participated. The seller, Jim Taylor, has been collecting for more than 40 years. “I’m happy ... to see my cars and memorabilia go to good new homes,” he said in a statement.

RUBBER ROOMS: The wooded property in Western Michigan was great, with one enormous exception — the thousands of tires the previous owners left behind. The choices were to leave them there, or pay a huge sum of money to have them removed. And then a third option came along, thanks to some creative thinking and a $10 million contest by Airbnb to encourage and fund unique accommodations: build a house from the recycled tires, which they will do with the help of a $100,000 grant from Airbnb. “The tire house they designed,” Crain’s Detroit Business reports, “will be a split-level dwelling with an outdoor deck on each level. The approximately 1,000-square-foot interior will have two bedrooms, a bathroom and a utility room on the main floor. A spiral staircase will lead to the upper level, which will have an open kitchen and living area. A heating and cooling system will make the house comfortable year-round. It will be able to accommodate up to four guests per stay.”

MULLET MASTER: Scott Salvadore, a 34-year-old from Stillwater, N.Y., is the 2022 USA Mullet Champion, as selected by voters in an online “America’s Best Mullet” contest. Salvadore calls his ’do, which he’s had for about four years, “The Lord’s Drapes.” He topped a field of 600 with 3,740 votes, more than 500 clear of the second-place finisher.

Photo of dog in Halloween costume.Do you have your Halloween costume? Annie, a lab mix who wears a permanent grin, will lend you her Willy Wonka outfit. (Jerzey’s Dog Resort)

ENDURING IMAGE: Michael McGuire was on a mission with no time to waste. His 3-year-old son was waiting, eager to see the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team in action live for the first time, even if it was just a scrimmage. He dashed home after a day in the coal mine in Eastern Kentucky and got there on time, not pausing to change clothes or even to wipe the grime from his face. A photo of the miner and his family caught the attention of Kentucky coach John Calipari, who posted it on social media with the observation that “My family’s American dream started in a Clarksburg, WV coal mine, so this picture hits home,” and offering the family a VIP experience at a future Wildcats game.

SIGNALS CROSSED: By now it’s commonly acknowledged that high-speed internet is a prerequisite for serious economic development and the ability to have a remote job, as well as for remote learning and streaming entertainment. But it turns out that not all internet service is delivered equally. An investigation by The Markup found that four prominent providers disproportionately offered lower-income and least-white neighborhoods slow internet service for the same price as speedy connections they offered in other parts of town. The neighborhoods offered the worst deals had lower median incomes in nine out of 10 cities in the analysis, harkening days of redlining by financial institutions, a practiced outlawed in 1968. None of the providers denied charging the same fee for vastly different internet speeds to different neighborhoods in the same cities. But they said their intentions were not to discriminate against communities of color and that there were other factors to consider.

READER’S CHOICE: Colleen Hoover was living in a trailer in 2011, working for child protective services and raising her family with her husband and childhood sweetheart, when she wrote a novel and self-published it. The title was “Slammed,” a young adult romance set in the world of slam poetry. These days, she is the top-selling author in the U.S., her books outselling the Bible by more than 3 million copies this year, including her latest, “It Starts With Us,” which had more pre-orders than any novel in the 98-year history of publisher Simon & Schuster and sold 800,000 copies the day it was released.

UNHOLY MOSES: Robert Moses might be hailed as the architect of the greatest system of modern highways and parks in the country. He would also be denounced as the man who used public money and immense influence to destroy the neighborhoods of black and brown communities under the guise of public good. Robert Caro’s biography “The Power Broker” is the consummate lesson in how to amass and exercise power in the city and the state. Now, the life of Robert Moses is the subject of a play at Hudson Yards that draws its name from the Manhattan grid that so inspired Moses: Straight Line Crazy.

THE LIGHTS ARE SHINING AGAIN: When its greatness dimmed, the City that Lights and Hauls the World became an easy punch line for late-night comics who found its name hard to pronounce. But Schenectady is surging again: After years of disinvestment, at least 1,300 new apartment units have been built downtown. A software company and professional offices are expanding and ethnic restaurants are opening. Cultural mainstays like Proctor’s, community assets like Metroplex and leadership treasures like the Golub family stuck it out and are helping steer Schenectady back to the warm spotlight it once knew.

WITCH WAY: In 1692 in Salem, Mass., more than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft. Twenty people were executed. Today, Salem has built a thriving witch-based tourism economy that embraces the past with an Old World Witchery store, custom wands and tarot cards, and by catering to the increasing interest in witchcraft in America. Not everybody’s under the spell.

LIVES

KENNETH J. DOYLE grew up in Troy, N.Y., and was a priest, school chaplain and journalist when he decided to study law. Nearly perfect test scores earned him admission to the Harvard Law School but he chose Albany Law instead so he could continue to serve the people of the Albany Catholic Diocese. His career as a priest-lawyer-journalist-adviser took him to Rome, where he covered the Vatican for National Catholic News Service. He served as a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and as a popular lobbyist for the New York State Catholic Conference, wrote newspaper columns, was a beloved parish priest, and earned coveted best customer status at Domino’s and Friendly’s. For years, he carried a basketball in the trunk of his car in case someone wanted to play. He loved jokes, horse racing, golf, Notre Dame, the Boston Red Sox, politics, and a line of friends who circled the globe, but his greatest love was helping people get to Heaven. He died Friday morning.

ASHTON CARTER served presidents of both political parties over parts of five administrations, beginning when President Clinton appointed him assistant secretary of Defense for global strategic affairs. He served as the nation’s 25th secretary of Defense under President Obama, and directed the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School upon leaving government service at the end of Obama’s term. Carter opened all military combat positions to women and ended the ban on transgender troops serving in the military, a policy that remained in place for about a year before former President Trump reinstated the ban. Carter had a “sudden cardiac event,” his family said, and died at 68.

LOUIS GIGANTE grew up in a family of mobsters and became an influential street priest and political figure in the South Bronx, spearheading the transformation of a notorious slum into a vibrant neighborhood with thousands of new homes and residents. “What he’s done for that area is fantastic,” Anthony Gliedman, the city’s housing commissioner, told reporters in 1981, after more than 1,000 units had been built or rehabilitated. “It’s almost like a phoenix rising from the ashes.” Father G, as he was known to all, had family and friends in the underworld but insisted the Mafia was an anti-Italian stereotype and never gave them up to authorities. He was 90.

DIETRICH MATESCHITZ co-founded the energy drink company Red Bull and grew into not only a force in the world of caffeinated beverages, but as a global sports, media and real estate brand with teams in F1 racing, soccer and hockey. It has sponsorship contracts with hundreds of athletes, and one of Red Bull’s F1 drivers, Max Verstappen, just won his second consecutive F1 season title. A predecessor won four drivers’ championships in a row. Mateschitz, an Austrian who co-founded Red Bull in 1984 with Thai investor Chaleo Yoovidhya, was 78.

LESLIE JORDAN was a beloved comedic actor who became an Instagram sensation after the onset of the pandemic, sharing humorous stories for his more than 5.8 million followers. Jordan, who stood 4-foot-11, first came to stardom in the 1990s with roles on “Hearts Afire,” “Murphy Brown” and, later, “Will & Grace.” More recently, he played alongside Mayim Bialik in “Call Me Kat” and in the award-winning anthology series “American Horror Story.” He apparently suffered a medical emergency while driving, crashing his car into a building in Los Angeles. He was 67.

BEN FEIGIN was an executive producer whose creativity in financing helped get the TV series Schitt’s Creek off the ground and whose marketing savvy helped grow its audience from a relatively modest platform. His work earned him an Emmy Award in 2020 and a Golden Globe and Producer Guild Award in 2021 as Schitt’s Creek wrapped up its six-year run. Earlier in his career, he oversaw such popular series as “Friends,” “The West Wing” and “ER.” He died at 47 of pancreatic cancer.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“Halloween is right around the corner. You can tell because all the stores are decked out for Christmas.”
—    Stephen Colbert

THE SIGNOFF

OK, WE WON’T: A software company employee who was traveling for work and evidently having a bad day instructed the flight crew on her Hawaiian Airlines flight not to look at her for the nine hours of the flight from Sydney to Honolulu. No problem; the crew informed the pilot, who taxied back to the gate and had the passenger removed by Australian Federal Police.
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THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Ryan Moore, Troy Burns, John Brodt, Heather Bennice, Tara Hutchins, Claire P. Tuttle, and Jerzey’s Dog Resort.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.  www.behancommunications.com

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

Let’s make it a conversation:   mark.behan@behancom.com

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