Monday, March 22, 2010

Rhody Beast

Tina Brown’s latest media venture Daily Beast is all about buzz. Her Web site and its bloggers delve into politics, art, media, celebrity, fashion, style, food, glamour and the like in sections called “Sexy Beast,” “Book Beast,” “Art Beast,” “Hungry Beast” and “Giving Beast.” Rhode Island has certainly received its fair share of press at the site, but here at Half Shell we think we’re worthy of our own Beast.

The legacy of Little Rhody as a haven for rumrunners, rabble-rousers and revolutionaries, pirates and politicos, mobsters and lobsters, treasure-hunters and seedy characters out of bad noir novels is well earned. But that’s yesterday’s pewter. Rhody Beast will bring you what’s currently occupying the Ocean State of mind.

In politics: Rocky Point may be dead and gone, but Rep. Patrick Kennedy has been spinning his own personal Tilt-a-Whirl with the press in Rhode Island over the past few months. First, there was his very public feud with Bishop Tobin, which generated months of letters to the editor at the ProJo and enough hot air on local talk radio to fill the skies at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival for the next decade. Then, there was his surprise resignation. Then, his wild-eyed, gut-wrenching rant in front of an empty House chamber about the press being more interested in Daily Beast-type gossipy news than covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the oxymoron that we like to call celebrity news: As I type these words, Dana Delany (of “China Beach,” “Tombstone” and “Desperate Housewives” fame) is dodging the puddles and potholes of a Rhode Island March with Jeri Ryan (of “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Boston Public” and “Leverage” notoriety) in a new shot-in-Providence ABC pilot, “Body of Evidence.” This being March, most Rhode Islanders would prefer to see the first branch of yellowing forsythia or the osprey return to their nests than a Hollywood star taking up what little parking remains on Providence streets. That’s not to say that we don’t have our own glitterati in Little Rhody (rhodyrati?). We’re happy to run into Tim Daly at Benny’s or Richard Jenkins at Whole Foods. It’s just that we no longer trust the legions from Tinseltown ever since we got Shatnered last fall. Oh, and Oscar winner Nicolas Cage still owes $128,000 in unpaid taxes on a Middletown mansion he bought a couple of years ago. Maybe in the next “National Treasure” movie his character can look for a bobble or two to pay off his Rhody debt.

In culture: The Daily Beast makes a daily habit of reporting on Sarah Palin, and now, thanks to the set-in-Rhode-Island cartoon sitcom “Family Guy,” Rhody Beast can jump on the Palin bandwagon. Created by Rhode Island School of Design grad Seth MacFarlane, “Family Guy” has become the gold standard of bad taste in American culture. But it’s filled with Rhody references and language that every Rhode Islander hears everyday. The classic episode when Brian goes on a campaign to legalize marijuana presciently satirized the state’s own efforts, which have made national headlines. (The power of “Family Guy” on the 40-and-younger generation in Rhode Island cannot be overstated. At a wedding I attended last year in Bristol, one guest described the perfect Rhode Island night as getting “drunk, stoned and a four-hour block of ‘Family Guy.’”)

In true crime: OK, so our mobsters’ heyday may be waning. In the past few months, we’ve had a front-page story in the ProJo on a 300-pound bronze statue of peace that was stolen from a sculpture garden at Tiverton Four Corners. (It was later discovered that two Fall River, Mass. men had cleaved it in twain and planned to sell it for scrap metal.) There was also the case of the 92-year-old woman who made a quilt for a library fund-raiser, only to have it stolen off the wall. Two young women wearing baseball caps and sunglasses robbed a bank in Barrington, only the glasses were wrapped around their caps and their faces were captured on camera, prompting a local TV reporter to say: “It’s common for bank robbers to wear sunglasses, but usually not as a fashion accessory.” And, just a couple of weeks ago, a bicyclist robbed a bank in Wakefield, but he was caught with the money and the note he wrote while pedaling away. The days when Providence was home to the New England mob, with guys named “Bobo” and “Buckles” roaming the streets with baseball bats, are long gone. But the stories never get old. (One legend: Supposedly the reason why there’s a grassy area next to the beach at Scarborough in Narragansett is that it was once a popular gangster’s hangout and the mobster’s wives didn’t want to have to deal with the sand.)

Do you have a news nugget to feed to Rhody Beast?