Friday, May 18, 2007

Gossip Maven

My daily tour through the 'Internets' has pit stops for sports--real or fantasy--politics, news and mostly-naked young celebrities.

From time to time, in my daily stop at the Star Tribune, I'll see that their columnist dubbed the 'Gossip Maven' has written somethign that might make for a decent time killer at work. Usually I regret clicking on CJ. But in two stops at Minnesota's version of Wonkette this week I had completely different reactions.

The first was priceless.

Titled Mellencamp hurts McHale so good with smokin' comment, CJ picks up on a throw-away comment by performer John Mellencamp in a interview that leaves a reader to believe he used to hit the bong with Wolves GM Keving McHale. CJ quotes Mellencamp from Blender:
I've known Larry Bird since we were kids. When he was on the Celtics and I was playing in Boston he and Kevin McHale would come to my dressing room after the show and smoke me under the table.
Now, that comment alone is completely priceless. So, being the pesky gossip maven she likely is, CJ sought out McHale for a clarification. She got a public relations lackey, who said McHale smoked cigars and Larry Legend smoked cigarettes. That certainly explains Mellencamp's 'smoke me under the table comment.' Um, no.

The last thing McHale needs is for his detractors in the Twin Cities to get wind of the possibility he was-and then presumably maybe currently is-a stoner. Too late. KFAN radio's Dan Barreiro is on the prowl. More from CJ:

KFAN's Dan Barreiro told me he devoted about three minutes of his Thursday show to "the Mellencamp throw-away quote. I wasn't using it to take any kind of moral stance on McHale. For me it was [an opportunity to take this] shot: 'If this is true, this might explain a series of spectacularly bad management decision years later.' "

Ndudi Ebi comes to mind. So does cheating and Joe Smith.

Thursday evening, after Barreiro had signed off his radio show, a reportedly screaming McHale "called me on my cell. First time we've had any kind of conversation in years," said Dan. And by years, Barreiro said, near as he can recall the last time McHale tracked down Dan at home was during the J.R. Rider era. "I've been hard on him, for some time so I don't expect him to be warm and bubbly to me," said Barriero.

According to Barreiro, McHale "called and said You can't go on the air and say I'm breaking the law and he's just screaming. Eventually I got him to calm down enough to [explain what was said on the radio]. I did offer, 'You're upset. Come on the show, I'll let you talk about it as long as you want. Or I'll bring up your concerns, shall we say.' "

I think we can all agree that is priceless.

Then, today we have another CJ effort, this time one that swings and misses. Titled U athletic department staffer seems mighty inept handling good PR, CJ takes out her wrath, in a completely unamusing way, on some random University of Minnesota athletic department public relations flak. CJ writes that she was slated to write a story that was "sure to make you say Awwww."

CJ reports she asked this PR guy for verification that Tubby Smith was on a plane last Sunday. She was trying to verify a story some unnamed source gave her that the old ball coach helped out a woman and her child. It was going to be positive pub. The public relations flaks should jump when a gossip maven calls. In this case, communications guy Kyle Couglin did not.

"Here's the thing," Coughlin said. "I've already talked to him a couple different times today. I'm going to stop bothering him now. This is something that isn't really pressing. If I call him with this he's going to look at me and go Why are you calling me with this?"

Since Coughlin didn't seem to know his job, I reminded him that he was calling Smith because a media member had made a request for information. When media are wrong, I'm guessing Coughlin is one of those guys who stands around talking about how irresponsible we are.

"I'm trying to do the best I can for you. We are talking about probably the busiest
man in Minnesota," said Coughlin, whose title should be senior associate athletic communications obstructionist. Stonewaller for short. I asked Coughlin to call the next day. He didn't

Strike one, Mr. Coughlin. But there's more. During a previous event, CJ , doing that hard-hitting journalism she is known for, wanted to write about the suit Tubby was wearing. Again, Coughlin wasn't helpful.

What kind of suit was Smith wearing for his Williams Arena debut, I asked Coughlin that day.

"Pinstripes," said Coughlin, sounding uncertain. "Gray pinstripe."

Very good. But that question is usually an inquiry into the label.

"I have no idea," Coughlin replied.

A few minutes later, I asked Coughlin, who was mainly escorting Smith from one corner of Williams Arena to another for sit-downs with local TV stations, if he had found out what kind of suit Smith was wearing.

"No, I have not asked," Coughlin said. "I don't think I should open up Tubby's suit and look on the inside."

When Smith came near me I asked him to open up his suit.

"Oxxford," Smith said off the top of his head, as Coughlin ventured a guess that it was an Armani.

Oxxford it was. "Oxxford is big time," said Smith, who seemed to like answering that question. "Huge. Probably the best suit ."
Now, sure, this Coughlin character sounds like a weenie. I'll give you that, CJ. But maybe, just maybe, Coughlin had more pressing things on his mind than what the label said under Tubby's coat. Surely a certain segment of the population would have an interest in the compelling 'Tubby helps lady in airplane' and 'Tubby wears expensive suit' stories. Smith is new in town. Perhaps Coughlin doesn't feel comfortable askign the multi-millon dollar savior of Minnesota basketball about his clothing. Perhaps, Coughlin's job tyipcally requires sports reltaed inquiries.

CJ? Love her? Hate her? I know the feeling.