Happy at last.

I didn’t get to the sports section of the NYT until later in the day yesterday, and am late in blogging this, but I doubt many others beat me to it. I don’t normally spend much time with that section, so it was a joy to see this handsome face dominating the page. (In the NYT, the Daytona 500 goes below the fold.)

It’s Greg Louganis, looking cuter than ever with salt-and-pepper hair and matching goatee. I didn’t know he’d been MIA from American diving since retiring in the late ’80s, and the story was pegged to his low-profile return to coaching “athletes with wide-ranging ages and abilities,” the story notes, adding:

To watch him dissecting a beginner’s front dive tuck during a practice last month was like observing Meryl Streep teaching an introductory acting class.

It goes on to note that he’s spent the past 23 years stabilizing his health (he has AIDS), practicing yoga, exorcising the standard array of personal demons and training dogs for agility trials, of all things. It almost sounded like he was hiding from the world, but then I thought back on what the world was like when he was a magazine-cover face, and thought, can’t blame him.

We’ve come a long, long way since 1988, when gay celebrities like Louganis were in an impossible position — unable to come out, but entirely unwilling to hide. I believe it was Jeff Borden who came back from the Los Angeles TV writers’ tour in 1984 and reported he’d heard from a Sports Illustrated writer that Carl Lewis was going to win every track-and-field event he entered, and then, at the height of his popularity, at his Mark Spitz Wheaties-box peak, come out of the closet. He was going to force America to admit that someone they loved was something they hated, and make them realize their position was unsupportable.

The Olympics came and went, and no Carl Lewis coming out. At the games, he came across as cocky and arrogant, making his value as an celebrity endorser less than golden. I guess he went for the money, because to this day, you can still find stories like this, from 2007:

One of the unspoken subtexts of all this, the shortfall in the public’s affection, the aloofness, the Michael Jackson comparison, even the red stilettos, was the question of Lewis’s sexuality. Some fellow athletes spread the story that Lewis was gay. He denied the rumour, but, whether by coincidence or not, Coca-Cola withdrew an advertising deal and Nike stopped using him in the States after the LA Olympics. One Nike executive was quoted as saying: ‘If you’re a male athlete, I think the American public wants you to look macho.’ The high jumper Dwight Stone perhaps hit the mark when he said: ‘It doesn’t matter what Carl Lewis’s sexuality is, Madison Avenue perceives him as homosexual.’ Lewis himself later said: ‘They started looking for ways to get rid of me. Everyone was so scared and cynical, they didn’t know what to do.’

Oh, well. The crisis for Louganis came when he admitted his HIV status some years after after the Games, and the media seized on the moment in 1988 when he’d hit his head on the diving board during competition, and allowed a doctor to treat the bloody wound without gloves. No matter that the country’s leading AIDS expert said the chances of a successful transmission under those circumstances were steep indeed. No matter he personally apologized. No matter the doctor tested negative. Every columnist needing to feed the beast weighed in — this number very well may have included me — and many of them disapproved. To them, Louganis’ Carl Lewis moment should have come on worldwide television, poolside, when the team doctor was bearing down on him to treat his bleeding head. Louganis proved not that strong. No harm, no foul, but lots of finger-shaking along the way. There was even a contingent who fretted about the other divers who entered the pool after Louganis; what about them, Mr. Olympics? Did you think about them in your selfish need to keep your condition private?

By the mid’90s (when Louganis revealed his HIV status), the first drugs that would make AIDS a chronic, rather than swiftly fatal disease were coming into wider use. But in the 1980s, the atmosphere was quite different. We knew by 1988 how one was infected with HIV, that you had to work pretty hard to get it, but it had served to make spilled blood into a metaphor for menace, not just for the person it was spilling from, but everyone who might come in contact with it. Hospital dramas on TV all featured a plot line where some nice nurse was accidentally stuck by a junkie’s needle. An ACT-UP demonstration was rousted by cops wearing thick yellow rubber gloves. Think back on all the people who used to work with bare hands and don’t anymore, from boxing referees to the ladies at the Red Cross. Christians speak of being washed in the blood of the Lamb, i.e., Jesus. Good thing this single guy who hung out with 12 other guys lived before retroviruses, or otherwise, ick.

I pity anyone with HIV who had to live through that era, but I’m very glad Louganis came out the other side with a satisfying life. I’m not a bit surprised he preferred to work with dogs. They don’t talk, and know the proper use for most newspapers.

Another fun thing I read in the same section yesterday: The Washington Nationals held open auditions for their mascots — giant presidents — last week:

For those who survived the physical test, auditions also consisted of an individual interview with members of the entertainment staff — which included questions like “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?” and answers like “pass gas in church.” Some candidates were ready to be spontaneous.

“I think my whole life has been leading up to this,” said Eileen, a 31-year-old schoolteacher from Alexandria, Va. “I walked around my college campus as a crash test dummy telling people not to drink and drive; I’ve been the Chick-fil-A cow and my school’s panther mascot. As the cow, I got my tail pulled a lot but knew exactly how to deal with it. I’m so ready for this.”

Fun fact: The Thomas Jefferson mascot is known as T.J.

I should read sports more often.

So, anything else going on? Pot calls kettle black, downs oxycontin milk shake. Indiana restaurant shows rare sense of humor, immediately apologizes. You can tell Foxy Brown was drunk in this photo, because only drunk chicks (and drag queens) think celery-green eye shadow is a good idea. Still, she kinda rocks it, don’t you think?

No, nothing else going on. Have a great Tuesday.

Posted at 8:58 am in Current events, Popculch |

42 responses to “Happy at last.”

  1. brian stouder said on February 22, 2011 at 9:16 am

    When I read

    So, anything else going on? Pot calls kettle black, downs oxycontin milk shake.

    I thought “Yep!” – but indeed, this article wasn’t the one I was expecting. Yesterday (and I shit you not) I heard Uncle Rush attacking the doctors in Wisconsin who (he alledges) are filling out fraudulent excused-absence notes for the teachers who have been protesting their governor’s attempt to break their union. He thinks there should be an investigation of the doctors who have supplied written excuses for teachers.

    This actually made me stop in my tracks. Hmmmmm…I seem to recall a case wherein the head Flying Monkey of the rightwing airwaves somehow obtained prescriptions for oxycontin, and that One way and another, this lead to zip-sandwich bags full of oxycontin, in parking lots in Florida, yes? Or maybe that was all just a bad dream

    Still, as Nance said, the ol Pot belly called the kettle black, and then reached for his oxycontin milk shake.

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  2. Andrea said on February 22, 2011 at 9:35 am

    I just saw Greg Louganis being interviewed on Saturday on one of the ESPN “30 for 30” documentaries – this one about NASCAR driver Tim Richmond, who died of AIDS. I was thinking two things – I hadn’t seen him on TV in years and he looked great! And two, it’s amazing to think how different things were 25 years ago. The NASCAR execs and reporters who covered the sport at the time who were interviewed for the piece admitted that NASCAR did not want to be the first major sport who had one of their stars diagnosed with AIDS and it didn’t come out until years later that that’s what Richmond died from, although there were plenty of rumors. It was a very interesting documentary, even if you’re not a fan of NASCAR.

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  3. brian stouder said on February 22, 2011 at 9:48 am

    There was a “Frasier” episode where Niles is in a bookstore trying to help a kiddo find an interesting book, and he grabs one up and says something like “This one looks interesting; “The Heroes of NisKaar….” as he casts a puzzled look (anyway – it made me laugh!)

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  4. nancy said on February 22, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Somewhere around that time in the mid-80s, a Republican judge died in an adjacent county to Fort Wayne. Never married, known for his enthusiasms for collecting political memorabilia and his well-decorated old house. He took a trip overseas, alone, every year, traveling to exotic destinations like Morocco and south Asia. He died, his obituary said, of “a wasting illness he contracted from something he ate overseas.”

    The rest, as they say, was silence.

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  5. harrison said on February 22, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Nancy, what about that eye shadow about the color of a robin’s egg? If I remember correctly, fashionistas say it’s kind of tacky.

    That judge’s obit…talk about filling in the blanks. And the kicker: “Something he ate overseas?” WTF?

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  6. Julie Robinson said on February 22, 2011 at 10:12 am

    It’s great to see that Louganis is at peace, healthy, and respected. I always admired him. The sport I follow, figure skating, is rife with gay men but very few come out until they are done competing, and most never do. Many male skaters make a big deal that they skate in what they call the masculine style. Most fans? Don’t care, or even prefer artistic skating.

    This weekend Rent opens here in Fort Wayne, at the Civic, the largest of the local theater companies. As far as I know, it hasn’t been performed here since a touring company came through for one night in the late 90’s. How is this very conservative town going to react? Will there be letters to the editor bemoaning what has become to this city of churches? The show is beloved in the theater community, but your average Civic patron is more tuned to last year’s big musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Since our son Matt is in Rent, we’ll be observing closely.

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  7. coozledad said on February 22, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Bruce Chatwin maintained his illness came about as the result of eating a hundred year old egg.

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  8. Julie Robinson said on February 22, 2011 at 10:48 am

    How sad that even in death the judge had to deny his very core. I had an uncle who did the same, living in small town Iowa. Why are people so afraid of those who are different? Haven’t we made any progress at all?

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  9. MaryRC said on February 22, 2011 at 10:59 am

    To me, it was the pot calling the teapot black, not the kettle. Michelle Obama is not fat. But it was always this way. An obese man feels free to call a woman unattractive because she doesn’t look like Brooke Decker.

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  10. brian stouder said on February 22, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Up ’til this moment, I’d never heard of Brooke Decker, but upon googling and oggling her, I cannot say that anymore

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  11. Suzanne said on February 22, 2011 at 11:14 am

    I’d never heard of Brooke Decker, either, but then, I don’t normally follow swimsuit models. And I’m dying to know the name of the judge with the “eaten overseas” disease…

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  12. LAMary said on February 22, 2011 at 11:26 am

    I bet Michelle Obama could beat the shit out of Rush Limbaugh.

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  13. ROgirl said on February 22, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Fat fucks shouldn’t call other people overweight.

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  14. coozledad said on February 22, 2011 at 11:28 am

    And I’d pay a couple of grand to see it.

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  15. Julie Robinson said on February 22, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I was just thinking the same thing, ROgirl. Let’s see a photo of Limbaugh next to one of Louganis in his Speedo, and then we can do some comparisons.

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  16. LAMary said on February 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    “…And I’d pay a couple of grand to see it.”

    You and me both. She hasn’t been toning those arms for nothing. I figure she’s a few inches taller and has a longer reach than he. That and she’s not a junkie.

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  17. Rana said on February 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    I’m impressed by how the billboard story managed to hint all around the nature of the controversial billboard… but never actually described it. I guess they’re expecting that their readers will have to accept their word that it’s objectively offensive, as opposed to disturbing to a few people?

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  18. Scout said on February 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    “I’m not a bit surprised he preferred to work with dogs. They don’t talk, and know the proper use for most newspapers.” Loved this observation and wanted to note it.

    Julie Robinson asks if we’ve made no progress at all. I would submit that we’ve made some, but still have quite a way to go. Last weekend one of the local mega churches (Church of the Nations) held a How-To-Avoid-Being-A-Homo symposium. Predictably, it was picketed by a whole bunch of homos, some friends of mine included. I didn’t hear about it until after the fact or I’d have been there too, peacefully offering my average Jane presence.

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  19. Deborah said on February 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    When Little Bird was, well little, we had started a ghastly habit of calling grape Kool-aid Guyana Juice (why we were so cruel I will never live down). Then when Little Bird started kindergarten, her teacher had previously lost a daughter in the Jim Jones tragedy. Little Bird’s father and I were terrified that they would serve grape Kool-aid during snack time and Little Bird would innocently make a comment about Guyana Juice (she had no idea what it referred to). As far as we know it never happened. Just be careful what you say to your kids, you never know when it will come back to haunt you.

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  20. nancy said on February 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Seriously, though, what are the odds your daughter’s teacher would have that sort of connection? Was this in San Francisco?

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  21. beb said on February 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Rana I was going to say the same thing. Just what did the billboard say that was so offensive?

    I so actively block out all stuff about pro sports tjhat it took me a minute to figure out who Greg Louganis was. And that, apparently he’s not a retired NASCAR driver.

    I’m still trying to figure out who Foxy Brown is, and why should I care.

    I just read where the Democrats of the Indiana legislature have taken a powder out of state because of some Republican union-busting. We are, as a nation, about to have a year of “government in exile”

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  22. nancy said on February 22, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    The picture of the billboard was way off to the right. It was a picture of a red margarita of some sort, and said, “We’re like a cult with better Kool-Aid,” with the words “to die for” elsewhere.

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  23. alex said on February 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    As someone who otherwise wouldn’t bother with Hacienda’s food, I’d say the ad actually improves my impression of the chain.

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  24. Deborah said on February 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    No Nancy, it was when we lived in St. Louis. Little Bird’s teacher’s daughter had lived in San Francisco and had gone down to Guyana after attending the church that Jim Jones ran in SF. It happened before we moved to St. Louis, we moved there right before Little Bird started kindergarten (and her dad was the principal of the school so it would have been even more horrible if LB had said anything about Guyana Juice).

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  25. Rana said on February 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Ah. Didn’t see the picture, even though I was looking for it.

    Breaking news… Indiana Democrats are staging a walk-out over union-busting a la Wisconsin, and $P seems to have been caught sock-puppeting herself on Facebook.

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  26. Dexter said on February 22, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Here’s the South Bend La Hacienda billboard.

    The judge nance is referring to , last name initial Q., made a fateful journey to Thailand (as I recall). We in that community heard that he came back with HIV-AIDS. This was never reported anywhere that I recall. His mother was interviewed and she told the press that her son the judge had contracted a rare tropical disease from eating fish.
    The body of Judge Q. was lying in state for a few days at the local courthouse. I thought that was a bit over-the-top.
    The county honored the departed judge with this statement, and I have eliminated his last name to keep in step with the anonymity nance used:

    “C. L. Q. Memorial. WHEREAS: The Honorable C. L. Q., Judge of the DeKalb Superior Court, has departed this life on Saturday January 14, 1989 after an illustrious career as jurist and citizen, and;

    WHEREAS: The loss of this servant of God and community saddens all who knew and worked with him,

    NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That the DeKalb County Commissioners do now take this official action to express their deepest sympathy to the surviving parents, (listed)and (to) his brother and sister.(also listed)

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That this resolution shall be placed in the minutes of the DeKalb County Board of County Commissioners recognizing that this executive body of this County government honors the memory of the dedication and service of Judge C. L. Q.

    (Res. 011689, passed January 16, 1989)

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  27. 4dbirds said on February 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    I’m another one who had to look Brooke up. Are they real?

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  28. cosmo panzini said on February 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    That billboard thing–weenie-ass whiners.

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  29. Jolene said on February 22, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    People, get with it! It’s Brooklyn, not Brooke Decker.

    As for something new under the sun, there’s this speech in favor of same-sex marriage by a Catholic priest in Maryland–not something you hear everyday. The legislature seems to be about to pass this, by the way, and Gov. O’Malley has said that he will sign it.

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  30. Dave Kobiela said on February 22, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    A dear departed friend was also a friend of Judge Q. Before my friend passed away, he told me how the Judge had shown him no favoritism at his DUI trial. He said, “I later thanked Judge Q., my wife and her lawyer, for helping me get on the path to sobriety”.

    My friend had over 20 years of continuous sobriety when he died, and he helped hundreds of other men and women, including myself, to live clean and sober, one day at a time.

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  31. brian stouder said on February 22, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Hey Jolene – thanks for the excuse for another Google-oggle!

    Some of her ‘Brooklyn’ photos appear to predate ‘urban renewal’ upon two of her Brooke buroughs

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  32. Little Bird said on February 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Deborah, I never, EVER called it that when I was in school. I think I would remember having a teacher either burst into tears or pass out on the spot.

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  33. jcburns said on February 22, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    People, get with it! It’s Brooklyn Bridge, not Brooklyn Decker. The latter’s just some momentary flash of a model babe. That darn bridge has been around since 1883.

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  34. Jolene said on February 22, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    There’s a new Frontline tonight about the Egyptian revolution. Looks like it will be a chance to learn something about the players in Tahrir Square, including the much discussed Muslim Brotherhood.

    I discovered a while back that I could get al Jazeera English on my TV, and it’s been fascinating to hear so many new voices from places we–or at least I–don’t know much about.

    Most interesting fact I learned this week: Libya, which is half again as big as Egypt, has only 6,000,000 people, as compared to Egypt’s more than 80 million.

    Along with its vast oil reserves, Libya has a long Mediterranean coastline that, if developed properly, could be the focus of trade and tourism for nearby (and affluent) Europeans. If it had a reasonable government, it could be a rich country.

    It sounds simple-minded to say, but lately I’ve been impressed over and over again with what an achievement it is to have any sort of functional government–that is, a government that solves problems and provides reasonable security–at all.

    I’ve always been a critic because, you know, we have racism and poverty and environmental depradation and gross disparities in access to healthcare and education and all the rest, all of which we could fix if we only would, but it could be so much worse. Bad as the Republicans are, they’re not, literally, strafing our cities.

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  35. brian stouder said on February 22, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Bad as the Republicans are, they’re not, literally, strafing our cities.

    True enough.

    But one doesn’t have to look far (especially in your part of the country!) to see the legacy of a horrendous and catastrophic intra-American war, started by the “intellectual” antecedents of today’s American right wing.

    At that time, we had 31,000,000 citizens, and at the end of the war that the plutocratic/aristocratic/”states rights”/I got mine crowd started, at least 620,000 people were killed ouright, and hundreds of thousands more were wounded; fully 3% of our entire population killed or wounded, in just 4 years.

    Our government works now (more or less), but we surely had a hell of a comprehensive breakdown, then.

    By way of saying, I still take our modern-day chuckleheads very, very seriously

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  36. Jolene said on February 22, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Indeed, Brian, and one could certainly argue that the effects of policies now being implemented will strafe the cities in a less direct way.

    But, back to simple-minded observations: Isn’t it interesting how many people are somewhere other than the country where they were born? Something happens in Egypt, and there are demonstrations in NY, Washington, LA, London, Paris, and Rio. Something happens in Libya, and immigrants in the UK and Germany pop up with their opinions.

    Not to mention all the experts that appear, many of whom are also exiles of one sort or another working at think tanks, universities, the World Bank, the UN, and wherever.

    Today, I saw a great interview w/ an African woman who is an agricultural expert at the World Bank. What made it great was mot so much her expertise as her headdress, which persuaded me that, if I ever decide to go somewhere where women are expected to cover their hair, I’m going to her country. So much more interesting than a hijab.

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  37. Jolene said on February 22, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Whoops, just to explain, I wrote the comment in response to a one-word reply from Brian–“yet”–to my previous comment, which he apparently deleted.

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  38. brian stouder said on February 22, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Jolene, indeed. I find myself accepting as “obvious truth” all this talk about revolutionary technology and/or that we tuly do live in a new “information age”; a new era.

    Why would revolutions sweep across the Middle East and the Horn of Africa so quickly? In the space of 10 or 12 weeks, we’ve seen several (Tunesia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Yemen…) autocratic governments rocked and/or pulled down by citizens in the streets….and one has to think that paperless, wireless information is an indispensible part of the speed of the events, and indeed the restraint (more or less) of the autocrats.

    For example, one of the most chilling things I can remember seeing on the TV news back in the early ’80’s, was a story about an uprising in a Syrian city. In those pre-internet days, I recall a CBS Evening News report from there, with a smirking Syrian soldier speaking from the turret of his tank. He said that the way they dealt with the protesters, in whatever large city they had surrounded and isolated, was that if anything moved, they fired. Eventually, nothing was left moving.

    Days like that may be reduced (if not ended), and if so, thanks be to God/Yahweh…and/or Google/Youtube (et al)

    edit – Jolene – Sorry about my disappearing “yet”. Your comment makes perfect sense, regardless; I just wanted to enlarge upon that reflexive utterance of mine. I think I “edit” 3 or 4 times (or until I run out of time) for most comments (usually for silly mis-spellings, but also for silly grammar mistakes and so on, not to mention silly content)

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  39. Deborah said on February 22, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Rahm Emanuel is the new mayor elect of Chicago. He got 55% of the vote which means there doesn’t have to be a run-off in April.

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  40. Sue said on February 23, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Deborah, and fake Rahm (@mayoremanuel) is about to be sucked into a portal due to a problem with the space/time continuum. I’m so worried about Quaxelrod and Hambone.

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  41. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 23, 2011 at 10:22 am

    That Twitter feed has been disturbingly funny. Can s/he keep it up?

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  42. Sue said on February 23, 2011 at 11:00 am

    I don’t think so, MMJeff; it was both wicked and sweet in its way but I don’t think it can translate into day-to-day Chicago politics without losing that vibe.

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