Press Release of the Week: Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

Last night I was lucky enough to attend a reading by my favorite poet, Philip Levine. For those of you not familiar with Levine's work, he's a bit of a firebrand and a social critic, though calling him a poet of the working class is probably unfairly limiting. Last night he told the audience how when he was a student at Wayne University (now Wayne State), one of his teachers came into the classroom one day mourning the loss of Henry Ford, who she called "a great American." She asked that all the students say a little something in his honor. Well, when it got around to be Phil's turn, he simply looked at her and said "I'm glad he's dead." Of course she was furious, but Levine said that looking around the classroom that day, he saw more than one student nodding his head at the sentiment. Because however Ford has been mythologized -- as America's great industrialist, as the man who brought us the pleasures of the automobile -- he was also a nutjob racist and anti-Semite, and when Levine thought of the man, he couldn't separate him from the miserable conditions at the Ford plant where he'd had the displeasure of working.

Henry Ford, Levine said last night, "was a motherfucker."

So anyway, all this got me to thinking ... we here at Barrelhouse are always picking on the religious folks. Maybe it's time to give them a break, and instead this week check in on America's wealthy and see what they've been up to.

First up is a press release that only a handful of rich people care about: the United States Polo Association has won a lawsuit against Polo (as in Ralph Lauren) that will finally permit the association to use images of tiny men on horseback wielding polo mallets, an image Polo claimed was trademarked.

Right now, there are a few hundred people in East Hampton wondering whether they should be happy or not. Who to root for? The man who's kept them fashionably clothed for years? Or that most noble of sports, so much more honorable than the plebeians' football or baseball? I have a theory, actually, that the reason rich people love horse-based sports is that they occur at a height (horseback) that allows for optimal viewing while one's nose, and eyes, are angled slightly upwards. Of course for optimal polo viewing, one may need to bring along the maid or the nanny to keep one apprised of what's happening at ground level.

Actually, it's not just the USPA who was a winner in the suit, but Jordache, a company that -- who knew? -- still exists. When I was in middle school, all the fly girls wore super-tight Jordache jeans, but when those fell out of favor, I assumed the company just disbanded and limped off to wherever it is that failed companies go to die. Apparently I was wrong. Jordache, realizing the immense popularity of America's favorite blue-blood pasttime, has aligned itself with the sport of kings.

Also this week, 33-year-old Bernard Smith, president and part owner of Stealth Components, Inc., was sentenced in connection with the finding that his company bilked the U.S. out of nearly $400,000 in import duties. Apparently Smith's company would import electronic components from Korea, mark up the price and then resell them in the U.S., only they skipped the part where they compensated the government. You'd think Smith would have to pay that money back, but in fact he's been given a $30,000 fine and 3 years probation.

Ah, the wonders of the American justice system. Billy Bob sells a little meth in Nebraska and gets ten years; this douchebag takes the American government for $385,000 and gets a relatively small fine and a stern warning. A guy gets picked up on the streets of Detroit with a little baggie of cocaine, it's a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. A few blocks down the street, someone else gets picked up with a vial of crack and they're put away for half a decade. Not, of course, because one drug is inherently worse than the other -- in fact, they're the same thing, just differently prepared, sort of like a T-bone steak and a McDonald's hamburger. But rich people on Wall Street snort coke. Poor people in alleyways smoke its less expensive cousin.

Finally, to end on a more lighthearded note, the rich people do sometimes give back to the community. Take this week's star-studded Beverly Hills gala to raise money for The Maple Counseling Center, a mental health services clinic.

"In addition to mingling with TV's hottest stars and supporting the night's honorees, guests of the 2005 Crystal Ball were given the opportunity to bid on spectacular lots, ranging from a Mediterranean vacation, to box seats at a Dodgers game, to cuisine at the finest Beverly Hills eateries."

TV's Hottest Stars in this case means the actresses of Desperate Housewives, including Marcia Cross, who according to the press release has a master's degree in clinical psychology. Plus, she played an insane doctor on Melrose Place, so this woman knows from crazy.

Not to make fun of what was certainly a worthwhile event, but I can't help imagining this as one of those many benefits attended by Kirsten Cohen on The OC. All the surgically enhanced and freshly Botoxed women mingling around the room making biting comments to one another. Maybe a few bitch slaps here and there. Or even a full-on rumble.

Because that's how I imagine rich women live. Weekly polo matches where they drink mimosas and feast on the ova of exotic fish, celebrity-infused galas every couple weeks, then one day Hubby finally gets busted for tax fraud and they have to withdraw from the country club's annual mixed-doubles tourney because that electronic ankle bracelet is just too unseemly for public consumption.

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