Whenever the religious right detects a dip in fund-raising, the resident cheerleaders hit the airwaves with all kinds of madness in search of the "outrage" hook that will pull in the big bucks from the God (and liberal, gay, minority and immigrant) -fearing faithful. To wit: Jerry Falwells outing last May of the purple Teletubby Tinkie-Winkie as a gay icon and corrupter of 1-year-olds.
The most recent flap came two weeks ago, when the Family Research Council (which gave us Gary Bauer as a plausible presidential candidate) decided to champion the cause of First Lieutenant Ryan Berry, an Air Force missileer and devout Roman Catholic who balked at serving in a two-person missile silo with a woman. Berry claimed a "religious objection" to serving a 24-hour shift alone with a woman on the basis that it would strain his fidelity to his wife. His recalcitrance led to a bad evaluation by superiors and killed his chances of promotion, Berry said.
The Family Research Council said Berry was right to be concerned, and brayed that the only reason he received a bad write-up was "anti-religious bias."
"The Launch Control Center has one bed and one toilet, and theyre concealed by a curtain," said FRC spokesperson Robert Maginnis. The story of Berry, who has hired a lawyer to appeal the bad evaluation, was rehashed over and over for Focus on the Familys 6 million radio listeners until the inevitable occurred 70 Republican and five Democratic congressmen signed a letter urging that Berrys religious convictions be respected.
The Air Force said the issue is not faith but military order and discipline. Berry trained four months at Vandenburg AFB with full knowledge that he was silo-bound with the opposite sex. His complaint is purely theoretical; Berry has never actually been assigned to serve a single shift alone with a woman at his base in Minot, N.D.
"The mission must always come first," said Lieutenant Colonel Claudia Zebis of the Air Forces Press Relations Department. "We do accommodate religious practices, but this is not about accommodating a religious practice so much as it would be a personal conviction." In plain-speak, that translates as: "Where in the Bible does it say that a man cant serve side by side with a woman without a boink-fest occurring?"
The job involves inspecting, testing and maintaining ballistic missiles hardly a proving ground for hanky-panky. "Youre so busy and dirty that the last thing you want to do is take off your clothes and have sex," said Alison Ruttenburg, a former A.F. legal officer. Berry remains at Minot on a different assignment, but the tale of his forced conscription with a woman lives on in radio broadcasts and news releases. Public Enemy No. 1 in the stories: Bill Clinton, who is accused of attempting to "radically feminize the military."
Pairing of male and female officers in the missile silos, however, dates back to 1988. The commander in chief at the time was that granddaddy of feminazism, Ronald Reagan.
Basil exposition goes to holyland?
Our scrappy little community newspaper the Los Angeles Independent usually does a good job of exposing local skullduggery. But this time its gone too far. An article by reporter Jillian Bailey suggested that actor Michael York had told the L.A. Times a whopper when he claimed to be a weekend visitor at one of our most eccentric local institutions, the Holyland Exhibit museum.
"Hes telling a big fib," the paper quoted Holyland "resident docent" Mrs. Betty Shepherd as saying. Mrs. Shepherd added that although she had never met York, she "seems to remember him playing Satan at one time."
Now, one might ask why Bailey would let the esteemed British star be impeached by a woman who dresses as a Bedouin to lead tours of such "artifacts" as a piece of Noahs Ark and salt from "Lots Wife." Or whether Bailey actually read the Times piece, which clearly identified Holyland as one of the odd little museums York would like to visit, not someplace hed been. (For the record, York reprised his role as superspook Basil Exposition this summer in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, but has never donned red horns and pitchfork. Could this little prevarication be the work of Sa-TAAAAN???)
But no hard feelings. Mrs. Shepherd said shed be happy to show York around her Silver Lake establishment, birthplace of the "Eye-ographic rapid visual" Bible course and home to a genealogical chart tracing Jesus ancestry directly back to Adam.
"Id like to see him come here," Mrs. Shepherd said pluckily. Dont miss the 2,600-year-old mummy case!
Tenants in the buildings to the north of the Farmers Market, just across the parking lot, learned last week that they have until September 30 to get out and make way for a $100 million retail development anchored by Nordstrom. The 650,000-square-foot project, is the latest in a series of renovation plans for the Fairfax District produce landmark. Neighbors a decade ago stopped a 2-million-square-foot mall (twice the size of the Beverly Center), also with Nordstrom, by raising the specter of the demolition of one of the few remaining L.A. tourist spots with local flavor and history. Developers this time swear they will not touch the market proper, but they will be razing four peripheral buildings. They offered to relocate tenants, but at least one said no. "It is very difficult for an independent store to compete with a chain," she said. During the Depression, the Farmers Market was opened to hard-pressed truck farmers to peddle their wares. Today the eclectic collection of produce and specialty stores and restaurants attracts 6 million visitors per year. Will the Farmers Market be engulfed by the new mall? Will it be killed off slowly, by strangulation? Stay tuned.