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images-3One handed tennis prodigy realized, Grigor Dimitrov (above).

It’s always nice for a tennis fan when this time of year rolls around and the TTC begins to air live tennis, much of which is from down under, though the pro tours are going through parts of Asia and the Middle East as well.  So you may have seen some action from Qatar last week, you may have seen some tennis at AIRCEL/Chennai, but most of it has come on those spongey blue Plexicushion courts that have now seemingly covered the entire southern hemisphere in blue mush.

Catch 22 for us, really.  We despise this surface.  This surface promotes defensive play, rally tennis, and a bland, homogenized version of the game that has practically seen the extinction of the volley, one handed tennis, and namely, the one handed backhand.  We’re not going to leave it at it’s Australia’s prerogative.  Sorry.  There’s plenty of Plexicushion all over the world, and sickeningly enough, we have to watch the atrocious American swing that includes Indian Wells–a putrid Plexicushion event that diminishes the talent of the worthy and rewards the meek–and Miami (Key Biscayne), which is probably an even slower, and more terrible surface, if it can be so, on that retched Defense-Pro.  If you smirk at this, recall a practically unbeatable Roger Federer, mid prime, losing to journeyman grunt Guillermo Canas in successive weeks in 2007.  But, Australia was more than happy to sell out to Plexicushion, for fear of having a tournament “too similar” to the U.S. Open.  God forbid the most successful tournament in the world be the model, but what do we know?

http://www.foxsports.com.au/tennis/federer-unimpressed-by-plexicushion/story-e6frf4mu-1111115309530#.UOuCFI42UqY

The Australian legacy is grass court tennis and this major was played on grass in all of its years until 1987.  Maybe Australia can find the pattern when it comes to moving away from fast surfaces.  Because moving away from fast surfaces damages tennis talent, and Australia is largely irrelevant as a tennis nation in singles (the top Australian male is Bernard Tomic at #64; there are 2 Australian women in the top 100), and hasn’t produced any of the attack style players that make their legacy since they transitioned from grass to … plastic.  Once, the Aussies owned the game.  Even if that time is long passed, most people my age can vouch for Pat Cash and Patrick Rafter.  But Australia sought to destroy their legacy with bouncy surfaces–first Rebound Ace and now Plexicushion–and so now Australia produces two handed hackers like everywhere else, hardly any of them being good.

The Australians, for all their grand history are little more than tennis morons who have contributed to the ruination of the game, in a nutshell, but we can’t let it bother us too much, except insofar as it has diluted the talent pool and complexity of talent beyond repair.  The Aussie legends themselves, old men like Laver and Newcombe, were given free Plexicushion courts and since they are now 80 years old or so, they just love how “spring-y” Plexicushion is on their joints, and so they endorse putting Plexicushion in just about every development.  But ask Rafael Nadal how Plexicushion is working out for him, should you need the word of a player.  Nadal skipped this season entirely, and frankly, if we are to believe the Rafa injury timeline, he hasn’t been himself since he left Australia last year.  We even hear that Nadal’s stomach virus is largely bogus and that he is already practicing heartily on red clay in Spain.  A curious thing for a guy to forego all of those points to defend, lest he truly despises the surface and is trying to prolong his career.  Or ask Lleyton Hewitt, who has complained vociferously about the surface being too slow.  What really can we expect from Australia though, a depressed nation economically, in a bitter fight to keep their major, who has mismanaged the game in their country woefully to the point where there is basically no talent on either side, and who had to rebrand the AO as the “South Pacific/Pan Asian” major in an attempt to stave off the oil rich nations who have sought to downgrade Australia to a Super 9 and to re-organize the majors so that the Australian Open becomes “The Major at Dubai” or Beijing.  Also why, if you’re wondering, Tennis Australia rushed to up the prize pot when Roger Federer suggested this past summer that players may be willing to skip Melbourne if the lower round payouts were not seriously increased.  Obviously Australia is the only major any players of note would ever seriously consider boycotting, and Tennis Australia knew it, and did the right thing.  In this case.  Check out the article below in which luminaries from Federer to Wilander, a defensive style player, to Paul McNamee and a host of others scratch their heads over the inscrutable choice of Plexicushion for Melbourne.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/sports/13iht-srtennis.5.9176593.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Nadals and Hewitts, pushers, counter attackers, are guys who generally favor a slower track.  But not at the expense of their health or ability to end points.  Nadal sometimes needs a miracle to finish a point, and Hewitt can use the pace of a quick court to his advantage, because his balls need a little help getting through the court, help he does not get on the Plex because one is left to generate all of the pace, pretty much, on their own.  Or, as we shift the focus of this piece more to one handers, it can’t be of little consequence that Roger Federer has skipped all the Plexicushion warmups this year, and that he has already announced that he is skipping Key Biscayne, despite whatever the given reasons, because the surface is too slow.  Federer suffered his worst hard court loss ever there to Nadal, in a match where conditions suited Rafa better than slow red clay.  Federer also lost to Andy Roddick on that Defense Pro, which had not happened in some 10 years prior, and it was also the scene of Roger’s notorious racquet smashing incident.  While we expect Roger at Kooyong next week (an exo, not a tournament), we definitely feel there is a lot to Federer skipping these events when healthy.  Especially missing Miami, which we see as a huge statement on the surface issue.

Kudos to Roger, really.  As the world’s foremost tennis God, Federer’s decisions resound loudly.  Really, the people in Florida and California are no brighter than those in Australia, and they are all guilty of homogenizing the game with slow courts that have become the norm, and with safe, baseline philosophy, the hallmark of which is the dreaded two handed backhand, which leaves players moored to the back of the court, and so the result is players like Sharapova, whose fundamentals are an absolute disgrace, an embarrassment to tennis, having to hit groundstroke after groundstroke to win and then re-win the same point, because no one bothered to teach her how to take 3 steps inside the court and take the ball out of the air.  And if you don’t think that has a great deal to do with her injuries, her chronic shoulder situation, and the fact that she isn’t playing now, then you are deluding yourself.

The AO wants 6 hour finals and 60 shot rallies and that’s too much tennis.  Here’s a novel concept: courts that promote shot making, where players actually finish points and can get done with their business before they develop tendinitis of one sort or other.  A court that promotes the high bounce may seem to favor defensive tennis in the short term, but what of the long term consequence, in terms of degrading players’ health past the point of their ability to compete.  Obviously Nadal has been degraded, with his puke style and slow high bounce surfaces to thank.  Last year Djokovic was clearly not the same in Flushing after such a long, grueling season, and since he is the better player, vastly superior to Andy Murray, we can’t see how justice is done when safe, bland Murray style tennis wins out.  Grigor Dimitrov, who checked in at #48 last week (now #41), and who we should congratulate for making his 1st tour final, lost Saturday night in a tight 7-6, 6-4 decision to Andy Murray, who used the “strategy” of lofting top spin up to Dimitrov’s backhand side, to force errors.  As was reported late last night by our main man Down Under, Matt Cronin, Dimitrov was right there with Murray, until 4 consecutive UFE’s on the backhand wing off high top spin did him in (9th game, 2nd set).  Still, we’re happy to see the improvement from Dimitrov, who we’ve long regarded as one of the only up and coming one handers in the game.  Like Serena, we’ve seen an improvement in Dimitrov since making the switch to Patrick Mouratoglou, who seems to be more mature, and stronger shot to shot.  Making such an early final in 2013 does wonders for Dimitrov’s confidence, whose trajectory toward the top 20 seems imminent.  Dimitrov, largely schooled on clay, is well suited to survive slow courts as long as he, like Federer, moves around the backhand in the ad court, which should leave him poised to make a nice run come the better grass and hard courts of the summer season.  BTW, Dimitrov’s draw sprang open when he upset Milos Raonic early in the week.  The notable stat we took from that encounter was that Dimitrov out aced Raonic 10-4.  If you can out serve Raonic, you’ve definitely got him.  Says something for Dimitrov’s return game as well.  And while we are on Raonic, we find it curious that he did not roll out to Chennai, as he usually does, and where he usually goes deep, last year picking up the hardware there.  But Chennai is only a 250, and they play on acrylic hard courts (more similar to the faster–notice we didn’t exactly say fast though–US Open Decoturf courts), not synthetic ones, so Raonic’s team felt it might be better to get the kid in against better competition on more representative courts of what is to come in Melbourne.  The result happened to be that Raonic has gotten off to his worst start to a year yet, but we’ve quibbled with it enough for now.  We trust Galo Blanco’s stewardship of Raonic, and don’t necessary mean to criticize the team as much as highlight the fact that Raonic has had enormous success in the years where he has gotten off to flying starts.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/grigor-dimitrov-one-handed-tennis-prodigy-out-in-2nd-round-at-queens-club-see-dimitrov-clips/

We noticed a very impressive young German one hander the other day, Daniel Brands, who is 6’5, and at 25 years old, is finally coming into his talent, a taller order for skilled players who develop later, than for hacks who just play the ball back with regularity.  Like James Blake, who we are still waiting on to really develop.  LOL.  It takes time to craft the all court game, which Brands, who at world #153 (now #131) has now seemed to have done, bowing out in the semis at Qatar, a result that saw him rise up the ATP rankings some, after a stunning 6-1, 7-5 victory over Gael Monfils, in which Brands dominated the match at net and with his one handed backhand, which looked to us to be as good as practically anyone’s on tour at this time.  While it is hard to chirp about the world #153, that is the sorry state of one handed tennis in today’s bland, boring tennis world.  Also, a little easier, since a Brands roars out of the gate in the new year.  We’ve seen many guys who weren’t really on the radar, and girls, who have gotten it together in style when the new year rolled around.  Raonic would be a great example of one.  Brands lost in the semis to eventual champion Richard Gasquet, who is world #10 and who, in all likelihood, is the 2nd best one hander in the game today.  Gasquet defeated Nikolay Davydenko, who seems to be in a bit of a renaissance himself of late, in a workman like 3 sets.  Davydenko has obviously worked hard to try to recapture the attention to detail needed to play war of attrition tennis, and some days, like against Ferrer in the semis, he has seemed to find the fountain of youth.  But Gasquet is a guy groomed on clay, suited to hit a lot of shots, and so we were happy to see him stay with that match yesterday, of the opinion that Davydenko could be worn down by guys who stay with the program.  Ironic indeed, since a beautiful shot maker like Gasquet is forced to outlast a hack like Davydenko, but such is the game.  Consequently, Gasquet has had a great start to 2013 and we feel very good about his chances going forward, a skilled shot maker and net player indeed, but who also has the requisite grit today’s game requires to stay on the court, match after match, with guys whose best strategy is to get one more ball back.

While it has seemed that certain developments have foretold some dissatisfaction with the prevalence toward slow courts, like the blue clay in Madrid, the very fast Paris Indoor, and the roof at Wimbledon, which no doubt helped Roger Federer collect his 7th singles crown there, the damage has already been done.  The game is all 2-handers, weak 2nd servers, top spins and high bounces, and baseline baseline baseline.  Even kids who grew up idolizing Roger are adopting 2 hand backhands, as more of the one handers on the scene go the way of the dinosaur each year.  We actually feel that they’ve sped up the clay a bit, as well, as the powers that be are tired of seeing Nadal style tennis win out match after match, but the horse has long since left the barn.

That’s part of why we feel a lot better about clay than we do about Plexicushion at the moment.  Players have served big on clay lately, especially taller players, and all the height in the game has somewhat negated the Nadal, Murray strategy of getting the ball up high to guys with spin on the backhand side.  Monfils was trying to do it to Brands, but good luck finding the high backhand on a guy six and a half feet tall.  And clay is a surface where the drop shot really holds, and where, because of change of direction issues, you always have a play at a winner by going behind your opponent.  Plexicushion has taken these plays away, meaning that only brute power the likes of no one but Serena possesses, and endurance, are the deciding factors.

So, is 2013 a good year for one handers?  Well, Saturday wasn’t bad, we’ll admit.  Maybe it has even been a great start to the season for one handers, though let’s not get crazy.  The surface issues and Chris Evert Academy type coaching philosophies that have left the game bereft of diverse talent and attack style tennis have really decimated the game for traditional tennis fans who can’t stand watching 5 hour matches in which players don’t get to net 10 times, and that’s only getting worse, despite the occasional glimmers of hope we see from time to time.

But at least there are a few bright lights still out there.  Especially Roger Federer, who we feel, will have a very good opportunity to take his 5th Aussie title in a few weeks and his 18th major title, especially if he can stick to the hard slice in the inevitable Djoker, Murray matchups, forcing those players to make their own pace exclusively, without an opportunity to use Federer’s pace against him.

Lamenting the State of Tennis,

Crackbillionair (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

angelo-harrison-st-johnIs D’Angelo Harrison (above) yelling at the barber who gave him that haircut?

With coach out for what was for all intents and purposes the entire season last year, his honeymoon period in Jamaica was effectively extended, so we thought it bad form to be heavily critical, when considering some of the errors the program made in 2011. While Lavin is perhaps already the best recruiter in team history, we are not able to say he is infallible, or that the mistakes made last year were not bad ones.  Lavin led the charge in a recruiting class in which his 4 best recruits had serious eligibility questions.  Nurideen Lindsey, the team’s shoot first point guard, had been rumored ineligible since June of 2011 but somehow got his course work done in time for last season.  But then Lindsey suffered an early slump and then essentially quit on the team, over some perceived dispute with interim coach Mike Dunlap, now the head coach of the NBA’s Bobcats.  It was a development that not only disappointed hardcore fans who bought into the Lindsey hysteria, but also one that begged the question, how exactly does a kid with so little character get recruited at all, let alone recruited for a leadership role?  Lindsey tried to downplay any controversy or that he was not a headcase, citing homesickness. So we guess Lindsey maybe was homesick for Phily in Queens but not in Oklahoma where he played his JC ball.

While Lindsey’s departure was not crippling to the program, that only happened to be the case because St. John’s had so few players on scholarship to begin with, and those mistakes in recruiting had already sounded the death knell for last season’s squad.  Nice that Lavin was able to walk away from a bad kid so easily, but that seems to be the only advantage really when your supremely touted recruiting class comes in undermanned and with so many eligibility questions that your roster is annihilated, and you can’t play full court basketball.

Of course the most disappointing recruiting loss the Johnnies suffered last year was that of perhaps the national class’s top big, Norvel Pelle.  Having a legitimate big man at the college level is a true luxury, even at class programs, and generally distinguishes elite programs.  Anyone who saw St. John’s struggle to score 20 points in the 1st half versus Kentucky should understand that concept very well.  Kentucky seemed to rack up more blocks than points in that 1st half of domination against us. But Pelle is another player dubious of character and intelligence who underscores the tenuous business of relying on the word of players, especially out of town players, when putting these classes together.

The 2 elite wing prospects that Lavin signed would both get to play for St. John’s, though getting them didn’t prove easy.  Mo Harkless, the team’s linchpin, brought tremendous honor to Lavin’s program when he was selected by Philadelphia in the NBA’s 1st round lottery, prior to being sent to Orlando in the Andrew Bynum-Dwight Howard deal.  But Harkless also had eligibility questions raised by the fact that at CTK, his Director of Basketball Operations was Mo Hicks, who now works on Lavin’s staff.  While Hicks was obviously brought in because of his sway with City kids, he isn’t allowed to recruit kids he coached in HS.  Thankfully the NCAA took mercy on Harkless, who had one of the best seasons of any freshman in team history.  Without him, St. John’s probably doesn’t win 10 games.

Yet, had he been ruled ineligible, then we may have seen MH suit up with this year’s talented but incomplete group of 2s and 3s.  If Harkless was to ride it out and stay on board, a kid like that with a man’s build, would have given the entire roster room to breath, while giving opponent 3s and 4s nightmares.  While we hate to play the what if he stayed game, and while we don’t like begrudging guys who have an opportunity to go to the next level, we feel like the absence of Harkless might keep the Johnnies out of the dance, especially after watching this young squad play a lot of up and down basketball already this year.  Struggling at home against NJIT is bad enough, but following such a squeaker with a flat performance against USF in Lavin’s return home to the Bay Area, after a couple days of rest and practice, even against a veteran team, is disappointing.

And so we have to mix in our first meaningful criticisms of Lavin’s program, which is a mixed bag of complaints about scheduling and recruiting philosophies.  In Lavin’s 1st year, St. John’s opened out west, also played UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, and now has trekked out to Frisco this year, all losses.

We get that a nice RPI comes from playing quality opponents out of conference and away from home, but when do we start winning some of these games?  We love that Lavin is here and we wouldn’t trade him for a second, but does having him mean a legacy of west coast losses?  Since Lavin is a Cali guy some might have the odd hope that he knows how to prepare teams to play on the west coast, but prior to last Tuesday’s game in Frisco, we all but knew that the team was headed for a loss.  When we thought about the halftime ceremony and how Lavin’s dad, Cap, was there at the game, we thought those things might have given St. John’s some extra oomph.  But it was a fantasy that was devastated early enough, as St. John’s was virtually down from the opening tip, causing us to ask ourselves how we could momentarily buy that Lavin west coast edge propaganda.

For stretches Tuesday night, St. John’s trailed very badly, which was especially disappointing when St. John’s cut the lead to 38-35 at the half, a run spear headed by a guy who looks spear headed with that odd fade, dynamic two D’Angelo Harrison, and then let SF get on a 14-2 run to start the second half and extend the lead to 52-37.  But we aren’t here to complain about the eventual loss, perse.  SF’s point guard Cody Doolin (14 Assists), orchestrating his team’s offense like a Steve Nash, seemed to have the ball on a string the whole night.  He is by far the best point guard we’ve seen this year.  That kid is a heady player who had his way with St. John’s young backcourt, except when St. John’s cut that 52-37 lead to 59-54 mid way through the 2nd half, when Lavin made a wise adjustment, putting Sir’Dominick Pointer on Doolin.  Pointer, widely heralded as the team’s best perimeter defender–another nappy headed kid–who had not really distinguished himself as a stopper to us, though Tuesday we saw that potential, as he played Doolin physically and step for step in the full court, until inevitable foul trouble necessitated a different matchup.  Pointer had at one point stolen an inbounds pass right under the SF basket, and was poised for a layup that would’ve cut the lead to 3 but he had stepped on the baseline, negating the play.  Pointer also displayed a very rough, east coast brand of defense that makes him perfect for the Big East.  You could tell that Doolin was uncomfortable with that matchup, as Pointer literally manhandled the upper classmen, reminiscent of star alum Ron Artest…um, we mean Metta World Peace, of course.

When we see the flashes that we did from Pointer, from the very promising young big Obepka, who may more than make up for not having Pelle, and from leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison, we can tell the team has a winning nucleus.  St. John’s got a reasonable contribution last night from Ohio native Jakarr Sampson, and though the highly touted freshman has shown flashes from the wing and around the rim, he’s still finding his way as he transitions to the college game.  Sampson was also part of the banner 2011 class who never made it on to the court last year due to eligibility issues, but at least he kept his word to Lavin and recommitted to SJU. He also must work on finding a better ‘do.  Is he the player he was hyped to be?  He’s had both fluid moments and struggles so far, but he does not seem to be in the same class of player as Harkless, even when rolling.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/in-lavins-return-st-johns-freshman-throws-record-block-party/

St. John’s seems to have a lot of talent by committee.  At different points in the game we saw good things from Sampson, Amir Garrett (who also plays baseball and is a strong prospect for the Cincinnati Reds, as well as another bad hair member of the Storm) Pointer, Obepka, and D’Angelo Harrison, but they all seemed to run invisible for stretches as well, which worries us more from Garrett and Harrison, who are essentially veterans on this club.  We were glad to see Pointer flash his defensive potential, and really play to the bulldog persona we’ve heard so much about, but Pointer is not a guy who we feel teams have to worry about scoring, and is, at least right now, a very incomplete player.  The usually reliable Phil Greene who can be counted on to score and play a lot of smart minutes did neither Tuesday, and was largely invisible as well.  We aren’t picking on Greene so much as acknowledging that he doesn’t match up well with legitimate point guards.  The tone of the broadcast seemed to reflect as much, with the announcers, joined by Chris Mullin, echoing the notion that the difference between the teams was that USF has a Doolin and St John’s does not.  Hopefully Jamal Branch will balance that equation as soon as he is eligible, and Orlando Sanchez, a supposed beast on the interior, will allow St. John’s to have more success in the paint.

While we are optimistic about the program, we can’t go crazy about guys who aren’t eligible, as last year has reminded us.  It is also unwise to put too much stock in guys who haven’t played much college basketball.  While Branch is a transfer, and he may have represented the best point guard option available at his late signing date, we feel that St. John’s is having trouble making commitments stick, especially at the one, and that there were several freshmen point guards who stayed relatively local that are better players than Branch.

Sanchez could be this year’s God’s Gift, a guy with a lot of hype to live up to who probably won’t.  Notice how Lavin has GG moored to the bench this year when last year he was practically the toast of the town.  Sanchez could also be a guy who doesn’t get cleared to play.

We hate to come down hard on Lavin, who we would not trade for a second.  Judging St. John’s coaches calls for perspective.  Lavin is quite possibly the best coach and recruiter that we’ve ever had.  Maybe Lavin lost touch a little bit with recruiting matters last year, and if so, there are enough quality new players to suggest that he regained that touch.  And then we consider that there are ongoing eligibility questions surrounding the current squad as well.  While the program is light years better than during the Norm Roberts and Mike Jarvis eras, we feel that Lavin is plagued by stability issues, which is in no way meant as a veiled criticism of Lavin’s health problems.  Going back to Lavin’s first ever recruit, talented wing Dwayne Polee, who has since transferred as well, Lavin seems to bring in kids who have no strong ties to the community at St. John’s.  Polee may not add up to his freshman hype ever, but he would have been something this current team does not have: a contributing upper classmen.  And his presence, coupled with what would now be 3 years in Lavin’s system, would no doubt smooth the transitions of all these supposedly epic freshmen.  Truth be told, with all the turnover and whatnot, we were shocked when Amir Garrett came back to the team this year, especially in light of his ability to throw a baseball.

St. John’s is its own unique set of circumstances, so we don’t like comparing too much across programs, but if we did we’d probably wonder why Mike Rice has gotten Rutgers off the ground better, with virtually no inner turmoil.  Rice has made his recruiting base local, unlike Lavin, who, while recruiting some impressive locals, has a national recruiting base, reflected by a starting 5 with the 3 better players hailing from Texas, Detroit, and Chicago.  What we’d like to think is that Lavin is going to get the program rolling in full force, but it is year 3 already and we are looking at a very average team.  In a perfect world, coach Dunlap lays an excellent foundation in Lavin’s absence, with an intact 2011 class, which we felt, though a young squad, would have been a lot more talented than the team Lavin took to the tournament in 2010.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/on-dharun-ravi-when-released-from-prison-next-week-he-should-be-deported/

In the actual world, St. John’s is almost starting from scratch in year 3 of the Lavin era, which puts them squarely behind most projections and the rule of thumb that says a new coach needs a good 3 years to turn around a flagging program.  We would have liked to see Lavin take the advice of coaches like Boheim and Calhoun who did not rush back too soon when similarly afflicted.  As much as we love Lavin, he’s not superman, and we feel the team would’ve been better off with a full year of Dunlap plus a full year of Lavin recovery time.

But we suspect that Lavin was indeed concerned, with the flighty nature and poor academic standing of his prized recruits, and that he feared even greater recruiting casualties.  That strikes us as more of a problem when one recruits so heavily nationally.  When kids have eligibility problems, they are likely to end up close to home.  Obviously college basketball is a tough business and it must have been a terrible feeling for the coach, who is a straight ahead guy, to lose traction in year 2 after generating such a healthy buzz around the program in such a short time.

We’d never judge the program’s savior too harshly.  As a St. John’s fan, it could always get worse, and we’ve even seen it border on the sublime.  In fact, we feel the university should extend Lavin’s contract.  Lavin is a national coach, a skilled recruiter, and is rebuilding St. John’s as a brand, which is a task that will necessitate a patient and understanding fan base.  Putting Harkless and Dunlap in the league–the first guy to ever go from a college assistant to a pro head coach, oh by the way–only reinforces the reformed St. John’s brand.

We don’t care that last year was a throw way season and as long as we see this young team make strides, we won’t get too wrapped up in its won/loss record.  What we do care about is the why and the how.  It is not often that the coach of a major program declares his own team dead in November as Lavin did last year, and when we see signs of continued stability problems like ineligibility and decommittments, then those are things we’d like to see addressed.

One suggestion along those lines is for Lavin to move away from JC players and other transfers, and to go harder at local products.  As we hear it,  Syracuse looks to have bested St. John’s locally the last 2 years, and next year as well.  One recruit choosing between the Red and the Orange said he had a better sense of Syracuse’s interest because they were more ‘present and diligent’ during the recruitment process. We are by no means a Duke but we do appreciate Coach K’s reluctance to take short cuts with that program.  Teams that take on a lot of transfers are more transient and less rooted, and so they in turn suffer more defections and NBA early birds, whereas a Duke suffers notoriously few.  We also think local kids are more likely to ride things out when closer to home.

St. John’s future is still enormously bright regardless even with these setbacks and delays, as long as Lavin stays, and we’d like to credit Lavin for bringing in a great class while recovering from testicular cancer, in the face of many questions about his future and that of the Big East.  Now we have to work on keeping that class at St. John’s, and finding a top flight point guard, preferably a local kid, not a stop gap national guy, to bind the whole thing together.

And oh yeah.  It wouldn’t hurt if a few guys found decent barbers.  We can live with growing pains, but these youngsters, who may not be from here, can at least rep NY in style.  While we might not always expect wins to be the norm with this evolving crew, we are definitely expecting a big performance on the garden floor Saturday against hack coach Tom Pecora (“nobody wanted any of us” LOL) and the second rate Fordham program.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

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“I ended up that day finally at the federal lockup in Brooklyn.  The lights went on at 6 O’ Clock the next morning and within ten minutes I was approached for any drug I wanted.  Heroin, coke.  I’m supposed to be able to prevent it, but meanwhile, in a place where you’re strip searched 6, 9 times before getting to your bed, it’s okay for them to have it.”

                                                                                                     — Peter Gatien

“You go to any rock concert, for example, at either The Meadowlands or Madison Square Garden and you are gonna have hundreds if not thousands of people using drugs and you’re not gonna see the management of The Meadowlands or Madison Square Garden indicted.”

“There was a young prosecutor, very little experience.  Her name was Michelle Adelman.  I mean, she was obsessed with Peter.  She had a big picture of Peter behind her desk in her office.  I remember going in there one time and saying, ‘This is not healthy.  Get a life.  This is just a case.'”

“…regardless of how prominent the individual is, I had never seen such a scorched earth mentality.”

                                                                                                    –Ben Brafman

“The motto was get Gatien at all costs.”

                                    –John Dabrowski (P.I. & former Nassau County Cop)

We understand Peter Gatien’s criticism of Billy Corben’s 2011 documentary, Limelight.  The legendary club owner was hoping that the film would be less of a monument to him than a cautionary tale of governmental overreach, or so he told the New York Times in September of 2011.  We’re not sure if Corben meant it to be, but the early minutes of the movie nearly present Gatien as both the finder and the founder of the club scene.  We would think, even in a movie about The Limelight, that Corben has some obligation to at least mention the genesis of the club scene.  The creator of the modern dance hall/dance club genre was Bill Graham, a holocaust survivor and transplanted New Yorker to San Francisco.  Graham had observed the radical success of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author Ken Kesey and his crew, The Merry Pranksters, with their Acid Test parties, held during the mid 60’s at roving locations in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and later, Mexico, when Kesey became a fugitive from the law for violating his probation (he was arrested for possessing approximately 3 grams of marijuana).  Graham rented out San Francisco’s old Fillmore Auditorium in 1968.  The Fillmore was depicted in the Hunter S. Thompson book and subsequent movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, in a most memorable scene, when Thompson, played by Johnny Depp, drops part of a hit of LSD, paper form, onto the sleeve of his coat in the Fillmore’s bathroom, where another club patron seizes on that opportunity, and proceeds to suck the acid off of his sleeve.

Bill Graham, who was born Wolodia Grajonca, was unpopular with some of the celebrities of the Haight-Ashbury counter culture movement, like the Pranksters, because he didn’t deem them worthy of free admission.  Graham, who earned a business degree from City College, understood invariably that The Fillmore was a business.  He was an excellent businessman who also gained prominence as the manager of Jefferson Airplane.  When some Haight-Ashbury residents pressured the police to crack down on his establishment because of the notorious hippie element, Graham bought a suit of clothes, slicked his hair, and went door to door to all neighborhood businesses, to explain to local businessmen how much opportunity for revenue that hippie element created for the neighborhood.  When asked how he was able to persuade the local community not to pursue their complaints about The Fillmore, he replied, “Pressure.”

Bill Graham is well chronicled in The Haight-Ashbury: A History, by Rolling Stone reporter Charles Perry.  Perhaps the best work to date on Graham, if less comprehensive, is Tom Wolfe’s amazing nonfiction novel, The Electric Koolaid Acid Test.

We were also left unimpressed with Corben’s depiction of the beginning of Ecstasy culture in NYC.  We’d characterize crediting “Lord Michael” for essentially bringing MDMA to New York as a convenient truth for the purposes of this film.  While MDMA was first created by German scientists trying to develop an appetite suppressant for plump housewives, it was America who put the chemical on the map, thanks to our good friend Dr. Shulgin, in large part.  Ecstasy scenes in California and Texas were thriving throughout the 1980’s and a great deal of their Ecstasy made its way to NY, though Lord Michael seems to be the only chump to get himself on the map for transporting a substance, and in small numbers mind you, that was not yet illegal.  But Lord Michael’s tales of bringing in several thousand hits from England, if we can agree that such piddly “smuggling” is small potatoes, is an argument which would refute Gatien’s criticism about the essence of the film.

We love Corben’s body of work, which includes Cocaine Cowboys and the lesser known Square Groupers, a compelling collection of stories from 70’s era marijuana traffickers.  We’d have to applaud Corben for Limelight as well–especially for Limelight–because this was an establishment very near and dear to our hearts, and because any governmental over-reach is too much.  In fact, we feel no need to be as diplomatic as star club owner Peter Gatien.  This movie is about tyranny to us in a very obvious sense, and the subject of that tyranny is our very demographic–the liberal intelligentsia.

The Limelight’s venue (above), which had to rankle conservative types because it was a former church, though officially deconsecrated.

What’s most germane to this story is that Rudolf Giuliani, whom Gatien supported in his bid to become mayor, whose first wife was also his cousin, made a target of Gatien when Nicholas Marinelli supposedly died the night after supposedly purchasing drugs at The Limelight.  Marinelli, from a privileged background, whose family had the personal ear of then NJ governor Thomas Kean, called Giuliani personally about Gatien, who then unleashed the DEA upon Gatien, an easy target because of his success, notoriety, and villainous eye patch.  We also do not think it helped Gatien’s cause the way the club was portrayed in the 1992 movie, The Bad Lieutenant, starring Harvey Keitel as a dirty cop who went to the club to score drugs (frankly we are surprised Limelight made no mention of that, though Corben may not have had permission to use that movie for this film.)

If you read that as a joke, it’s not how we meant it, though we get how preposterous that should be to you.  There is no greater danger to our liberty than inbred mayoral scum doing favors for mush mouthed cronies along political back channels that seek to destroy the lives of people according to their looks, lifestyle, and progressive attitudes.  And oh, by the way, Marinelli committed suicide, and the official cause of death is listed as death by asphyxiation.  But the government was not about to let a good scapegoat be obscured by mere, actual FACTS.  In making the case against Peter Gatien, the state was also putting a sinister face on Ecstasy, a “new” and little known drug, giving our great nation a leg up in the Machiavellian propaganda machine that is the war on drugs.

While on the topic of facts, how about USADA Linda Lacewell’s oh so ignorant claim that Ecstasy commonly contained heroin and PCP?  Frankly, that may be our “favorite” bit of drug war propaganda of all time.  Ecstasy databases like DanceSafe, EData, and even the woefully disgraceful PillReports  have thousands of lab results including chemical compositions, Reagent test results, and failing those, user reports.  When one searches those databases by chemical, or should they even go report by report, dating back to the 1st published information on specific Ecstasy, there is approximately 1 pill per 1000 (0.1% of all Ecstasy) suspected to contain PCP.  We’d estimate an even smaller percentage suspected to have heroin.  Granted, the Ecstasy information available is still flagging, but only because the establishment prefers us to believe what they want us to believe as opposed to what’s true.  A person like Linda Lacewell, a Draconian moron of her ilk, would like us to believe that there are serial killers out there whose modus operandi is death by Ecstasy, preying on people by giving them heroin or PCP, which, are not even deadly drugs necessarily.  When pressed however, Lacewell and those from the same school of drug war propaganda, attempted to connect MDMA with cardiac arrest, before the weak declaration that MDMA causes…heat exhaustion.  Ecstasy has been classified as non lethal, and benign by main stream medicine.  Please recall Peter Jennings’ ABC special called Ecstasy in which Jennings declared on national television that a person could use MDMA sporadically throughout their entire life while suffering zero long term effects.

Now, can an Ecstasy pill contain heroin?  Absolutely.  Have they?  More myth than fact, and we’ve never seen a legitimate composition report of a pill sold as Ecstasy that contained heroin, in 2 decades of analysis, but it is possible.  It’s also possible that the Jets can win the Superbowl.  But can we all appreciate the chances of it happening are about the same as a snowball’s chance in hell?  For we are not able to call it a reasonable assertion that heroin and PCP routinely make up Ecstasy with statistical significance based on scientific data.  Then again, how much scientific data is really being consulted by men who marry their blood relatives?  How much scientific data was used in consultation with the Salem Witch Trials?  And how often really, does this government tell, we the people, the truth as opposed to crude distortions?

On Giuliani’s marriage to his second cousin, which lasted 14 years, FYI, before being annulled, in grand Roman Catholic style reminiscent of the warrior popes of the middle ages, which were just about on Giuliani’s same wavelength:

http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Stossel/story?id=2395516&page=1#.UJsZf442UqY

http://www.cousincouples.com/?page=famous

http://xfinity.comcast.net/slideshow/entertainment-celebcousinpairs/7/

http://www.realchange.org/giuliani.htm

Or Google it yourself.  There are only 722,000 search results that pop up when one searches “Giuliani married cousin.”  We thought it a very interesting use of device the way that Corben pulled the story of Gatien’s drug case together.  Raconteur indeed.  At the very outset of that portion of the movie that gets into the drug charges levied against Gatien, the first round of charges that is, Brafman, the best criminal attorney in the country, bar none, who has won acquittals for Gatien, Sean Combs, a laundry list of mafioso, as well as sweetheart plea arrangements for Daphne Abdela (“The Baby Faced Killer”) and Chris Paciello (who participated in the home invasion murder of Staten Island housewife Judy Shemtov), in addition to other star clients like Michael Jackson and Plaxico Burress, released a statement saying that Gatien ‘at no time in his 20+ year career owning clubs ever condoned drug use.’

Hold the thought.  Because when informant, murderous scum like Michael Alig and Sean Kirkham brag to the Feds that Gatien personally binged at drug parties that he organized, the law, having caught Gatien in an apparent lie when he wasn’t even under oath, expanded their charges to include ones that claimed that Gatien used such parties as a reward for his employees for allegedly excelling in his alleged criminal Ecstasy drug distribution operation.  Brafman had a responsibility, pre-trial, to counter the massive public relations blows coming at Gatien, rapid fire, from the inbred mayor, the NYPD, the DEA, and the federal government.  If Brafman was indeed correct in his exchange with ADA Adelman (“this is just a case”), then we may conclude that tactics like the pile on effect–creating a litany of tack on charges that give the appearance of guilt–is standard operating practice for “the people” (*cringe*).  Trustworthy prosecutors (oxymoron) may charge people with multiple counts where truly applicable, but the pile on effect does, as Gatien said, run counter to a most basic right of the actual people, which is the presumption of innocence.  For is it not more difficult to maintain the presumption of innocence when a person is facing 5 charges as opposed to 1 or 2?

What about Gatien’s specific remarks about the charges that connected his sporadic drug use to racketeering?  Isn’t he right when he says that a jury of working class, middle class people, tasked to deliberate on his freedom, will be pre-prejudiced by the fact that on occasion he binged on cocaine while frequenting prostitutes, if they were in fact prostitutes?  How is Peter Gatien, multi-millionaire/captain of industry/playboy/hotel drug partier, going to get an unprejudiced jury of his peers, in a drug case, when somebody like that has no peers?  Peter Gatien as the original Peerless Price.  Precisely why it was so imperative that Gatien retain Brafman in the first place.  An attorney like Brafman can create peers from the unlikeliest jury pools, and only one steadfast juror who follows the judge’s instructions closely, is needed to render a not guilty verdict.  As Brafman said in Limelight, after inquiring as to a possible plea arrangement, the best option was to represent Gatien in court and take their chances with the jury system.  Brafman:

“I went down to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and said, ‘this is like, crazy.  If we wanted to resolve the case, what would be the sentencing guidelines that you would think was appropriate?’  They looked at me and said ’11 years.’  They assessed Peter Gatien criminal responsibility for every pill sold by anyone that they seized in the course of the investigation.  They multiplied out the math and it came to 11 years.  I looked at them like they were nuts to suggest that Peter Gatien, who was running 4 venues at the same time, could be criminally responsible for what went on at any given moment at any one of the venues was something that I thought I could win in a court room.”

Super heavyweight criminal attorney Ben Brafman (above).

To keep suit with the very logical Brafman, should any crime be committed in a club, the club owner is not automatically criminally responsible for conspiracy to commit such a crime.  The nuisance abatement laws in NYC which permitted the police to shut any business’s doors in which there were 3 incidents in one year, if applied to strictly to clubs, would see every club shuttered.  Let’s be completely honest.  There are thousands of drug deals going down on any given night in any major venue, club, concert, festival, and so on.  The irony is, The Limelight was not nearly the drug supermarket, “a drug buyer’s paradise”, that it would become after Gatien had relinquished ownership.  Drug use should be an indicator more as to what is likely in a free society, not an indictment on that society, and never an indictment against the operator of the venue, unless truly warranted.

Sean Kirkham, in fact, conspired with the authorities (who, by the way, were so unreliable and were guaranteed to be ruined on the stand by Brafman that the prosecution could not allow their testimony) for the purposes of creating the charges against Gatien.  As Gatien explained, “the only way to prevent those drug deals from happening on those nights was to not open the doors.”  How do you, after all, prevent the DEA from running their own drug ops at any given place at any given time?  One has to consider exactly why then, do the nuisance abatement laws exist if not as a tool for tyranny, which is defined as an arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic use of authority.  But then, Sean Kirkham re-flipped, and claimed that prosecutor Eric Friedberg, who was brought in to buoy the government’s case as it headed to trial, because Adelman and her little crony were essentially amateurs not fit to duel Ben Brafman, was someone with whom he had had a homosexual relationship.  Friedberg, who was the chief of the Federal Narcotics Bureau.  LOFL.  Though probably not a guy who hooked up with a gay club kid who dabbled in counterfeiting, a clown nontheless, so that was a nice laugh which came around the one hour mark of the film.  But when the trial began, it was Michelle Adelman, who in the opening statement, admitted to the jury that the government had exactly zero evidence linking Gatien financially to any of the crimes he was charged with.

So why then would a person conspire to distribute Ecstasy and throw parties to reward his Ecstasy salesman, if not for profit?  Because Gatien had an overwhelming interest in seeing club patrons high?  High people do not spend money.  But that’s besides the point, really, because not only couldn’t the government make any sense as to what Gatien’s possible motives could be, but also, by the time of the trial in 1998, there was exactly one major witness left to their case trying to implicate Gatien, the infamous Michael Caruso (“Lord Michael”), whom Ben Brafman not only exposed for the scumbag he was on cross examination, but also, raised the spectre of possibility that Caruso was a murderer, when Caruso broke down in tears on the stand, begging the court to believe that the questionable circumstances surrounding Caruso’s roommate’s suicide were indeed true, and to believe him that he did not participate in that roommate’s death.  The government’s case was essentially blown in the course of that cross, if not by Adelman herself during the opening statement, which is precisely the reason why Brafman is known as the best attorney in the world at cross examining witnesses.  Brafman, who has made an extraordinary career at criminal defense, is practiced at exposing liars, breaking down snitches by the dozen in your average mafia case.  And it all begs the question, as Village Voice reporter Frank Owen (who authored The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture) put it in the film, “then what the hell are we doing here?”

But you had an overzealous prosecution emboldened by a hell bent, inbred mayor, who had essentially struck out with their over-riding strategy, which was, as Gatien said, ‘to break him and make him plead’, and now had to take its chances with a couple of sketchy, unscrupulous criminals, against the Ben Brafman because there was no backup plan (*at that time*).  Brafman should have won a dismissal, but we’re sure he was happy to settle for not guilty on all counts.  But at the end of the day, those not guilty verdicts read by the Gatien jury in 1998 were not by any means the end of the government’s persecution of Peter Gatien.  Also, it was where Corben’s film takes a stunning turn in complexity.

One of Michael Caruso’s allegations, shoddy as they may be, gave us pause for consideration.  Caruso alleged, and though it was not even illegal at the time, to have once given Gatien 20 hits of Ecstasy, as a “display of respect.”  It was not necessary for Brafman to disprove that statement, and, it could very well have been true.  Gatien was an imperfect man, a real human being, and we thought the film did an excellent job of presenting a very complicated figure in Gatien, in a way that did not sanctify him.  Gatien said he had never used drugs in his clubs, ever.  Okay.  So maybe he got some drugs at the “massive drug supermarket” that was The Limelight, or Tunnel, or Palladium, or Club USA.  Again, he’s not under oath when he makes a statement like that, and it’s not unreasonable to think that he may have gotten drugs from Caruso.  I mean, who didn’t get E at a club like that at some point, if you are in the scene?

The implication, whether true or false, does “dirty” Gatien, and frankly, one of the things that drives us here on this page and in our other projects and in life is to legitimize the use of psychedelics, so a Gatien or his patrons, people like me, do not face damage to their reputation for using them.  But we aren’t there yet.  We aren’t even close.  So there is Gatien, the deceptive drug user, but also, Gatien, the irresponsible business man.  In watching this film, who out there feels that Gatien’s explanations about how much it cost to run his empire were valid?  I do believe they were true but at the same time, not valid, if that can make sense.  Hiring teams of artists, architects, and decorators to constantly transform and remake the club, from party to party, is not the way to run a successful club.  We hate to malign Gatien, but we are compelled to be honest.  Every successful non Vegas club we’ve ever seen has put on the show with minimum frills, save for the act.  You must spend on the music and the sound, and not necessarily on the decor.  Gatien’s style was garish which happened to work well in Atlanta where he had a campy dance floor built over a shark tank and whatnot, and for the 80’s and 90’s in NYC we see why a similar approach helped attract patrons.  But at the end of the day, you are there for the music.

Bill Graham understood the importance of keeping costs down, something that Gatien doesn’t get.  Had he gotten it, he would not have had to sell his clubs for what amounted to a song, even in the face of mounting a 5 year defense against the federal government.  To do $25M in revenue a year for ten years or whatever the numbers were, is ridiculous, and very hard to sell to me when it’s done and there’s no money that it wasn’t wasteful.  Also, hard to sell to the owner of Circa in Toronto, which Gatien ran for a while, before the ownership tired of his wasteful spending practices.  And why was NYC’s King of Clubs relegated to Toronto in the first place, having hit a home run against the government in his drug case?

Well, that’s because Gatien, a Canadian citizen, never naturalized as an American citizen, despite having an American wife and children.  One of whom produced this film (Jen Gatien, DeerJen Productions).  So when Gatien was convicted of tax fraud, which Brafman and Gatien admitted he was guilty of, the US government, still with a healthy hard on for Peter Gatien some 5 years after Brafman beat them clean in court, exercised the right to deport Gatien, as President Bush, another Republican who does not know who inspector Javert is (we loved the story relayed in the film by former mayor Ed Koch, who told Giuliani “Rudy, you are pursuing people like inspector Javert with an intensity that is not acceptable”, to which Giuliani replied, “Who’s Javert?”) gave some quid pro quo to America’s mayor, who we again remind you, is inbred trash.  (After 9/11, the Patriot Act was passed, which allows the government to deport non citizens guilty of fraud.)

Gatien somehow did not see this coming?  The government’s war of attrition took a turn in the Al Capone-esque direction, when they couldn’t get Gatien for drugs and racketeering, and frankly, he needed to be beyond reproach having had such a large bullseye drawn on his back, a “scorched earth policy” the likes of which his attorney had never before seen.  Then again, when the government crawls up your ass for ten or twelve years, they are eventually going to find something that stinks.  Who among us has never broken the law?  Then again, are we all out there committing fraud, which in this case, was a willful misrepresentation of his business’s tax records?  Would we be stupid enough to do so after seeing our freedom already so vehemently threatened?

The government aimed to get him and they got him, and what difference did it make to them really if it didn’t happen on the first try?  Well, the difference it made was that it strengthened their resolve and fortified their approach to where there wouldn’t have to be a trial next time around.  They would still find a way to see Gatien go to federal prison and then unceremoniously deport him from the United States.

Though the prosecution admitted that they had no evidence that Gatien had profited from the sale of drugs in his clubs, they hardly needed proof to levy the accusation.  It was like this: ‘while we don’t have proof, um, the guy wears an eye patch, for the love of God and country.’  The refute was like this: ‘why would Peter Gatien, grossing a zillion dollars a year, risk his freedom and the life as he knew it in order to make a few extra dollars selling Ecstasy?’

Indeed.  So why would he run a tax scam for a few extra dollars then?  Is the answer a study in complexity, a testament to human fallibility, or an indicator that the government was right all along that Gatien was indeed a criminal?  We think it was two out of three.  We don’t think Gatien a criminal.  We think, in the end, that this film was such a profile of tyranny, of the arbitrary wielding of might, wreckless and whimsical and incompetent and blatantly sinister and yet successful, all at once.  Gatien is perhaps too close to the matter to assess Corben’s film properly.  Or, rather, Gatien had a hand in the making of the film, and that in his assessment, the best way to see it to success was to be critical of his portrayal.  For why would a man assail the work of his own daughter publicly, if not for a ruse that could lead to financial prosperity?

In the end, the government was not about to get beaten again by the Gatien/Brafman dream team.  They have to live with getting beaten by Brafman when they are foolish enough to take him to court, but not by Gatien, who in the end, does get to go down as a criminal in the version of the story as they choose to tell it.  Because he “allowed” people to do drugs in a place when we live in a society where people are doing drugs anyway, everywhere, and who do not need our permission.

In the end, Gatien is a phenomenal interview and Brafman a legendary one, and Corben a genius at bringing their story together, and the government’s, the grandest of long cons, a coup d’etat by which they broke a man at a trial they lost so that he wouldn’t have the power to fight another fight.  And Gatien, banished, in exile in Toronto, essentially because despite the tremendous opportunities in America, he never loved America enough to join it, always leery of the mechanisms at play which generated those opportunities.  With good reason.

We say to Peter Gatien, “THANK YOU!”  That the money is no great loss. Can’t take it with you.  Gatien not only provided establishments for people like me, but also, for all the people, no matter their color, their sexuality, their age, their dress, what they looked like or spoke like or whether they were from Brooklyn or Jupiter.  We hope he truly takes heart in his freedom as he says, and that he isn’t the lonely Canadian outcast, a media distortion to this day.  Gatien was a wild success in his industry and in life who conquered NY and embarrassed the government.  He may no longer be peerless, but it is only a precious few who has withstood what he has and came out as well, alive to tell.

From a child of The Limelight.

Crackbillionair (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

Our beloved Jenni (above) playing kiss kiss with a Jeff Lewis promotional SUV.

We’ve never made any secret of the fact that we love Jeff Lewis, who rates with us as an immensely talented and driven individual.  He also happens to be one of the very best personalities on all of television and has been since “Flipping Out with Jeff Lewis” first aired some 5 years ago.  Our respect for Jeff was tarnished, as you may know, during the last season of FOWJL because of how mean he was to Sarah and Trace, and how we felt this turn was affected by Jeff’s partner Gage, who seems manipulative at best and who is, in truth, completely unlikeable.  That’s our opinion, sure, but it is obviously shared by the viewing audience.  The Gage feedback is decidedly negative, and with good reason.  We can tell by all the traffic we get to our page based on negative Gage internet queries.

It takes a special sort to put daggers into people’s backs, to submarine Jeff’s family members, and to sneakily sift through a rival’s email, and then use those findings to prompt his firing.  We aren’t going to like Gage.  That’s how it is.  The people who love Jeff won’t ever like him.  Fact.  But Jeff is a person with a right to happiness, and he likes Gage, and needs him as a steward for his business, as a hatchet man for dead wood.

In fact, we feel Jeff has a greater right to happiness than most because he provides us with so much quality entertainment.  The flap with Ryan exploiting Jeff’s name was legitimate, and it obviously hurt Jeff very badly.  It was a double whammy, for reasons of breach of trust and because it effectively ended Jeff’s relationship with Ryan’s daughter, to whom he obviously became quite attached.  Jeff, for all the bluster, and brutal honesty, perhaps may be closer to the “fragile little turtle” that Kelly, a “shamanic therapist” who was featured in a recent episode of the new Jeff Lewis hit “Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis” suggested.  And therefore he needs a guy like Gage to be the heavy, to have his back against the incompetence of the Sarahs of the world, and of the time stealers like Trace, who in all candor, Jeff is probably too nice of a guy to fire.

Lewis has built a loyal fan base on the strength of his talent, wit, straight talk, and of course, because of the epic flip outs.  But last year, it seemed over the top.  Even when Jeff had set up spy cams that led to the breakup of Jenni’s marriage, you never got the sense that Jeff was a mean guy.  Jeff was mean to Sarah though, and in fact, bludgeoned her with meanness so repeatedly, that she wisely felt relief when he let her go.
But that’s the show, now more than ever.  Jeff isn’t flipping houses.  He’s just flipping.  While the fans have a right to criticize the show, it would be hypocritical of us all to be too hard on him for doing that which he does perhaps even better than design: nag, criticize, complain, badger and even bludgeon.

So we apologize to Jeff Lewis for our heavy handed criticisms.  Either way, we are married to his endeavors as we are often mesmerized by the force of his personality, the more so when he is flipping out uncontrollably.  While we criticized the show, especially when he was so mean to Sarah and Jenni, suggesting she could also be fired, we should not criticize his personal life.

This is not to suggest that the show has gotten out of hand, but in looking at IT, it is clear that Bravo has found a new medium and a great outlet for Jeff to do his thing.  Perhaps it is an even better outlet than Flipping Out which at times has become tedious because of the more contrived, repetitive, and played out aspects of the show.

How much Chaz can we really take, after all?  How much can we take of the same jobs and storylines that drag on from season to season?  What about Sarah’s trap bachelor party and similar antics, such as what we feel was his rift with Jenni, probably done mostly for the cameras?

How much abuse should Zoila be subject to, after all?

So we love Interior Therapy because Jeff gets to do what he does best: flip out and design great spaces.  The formula for the show is a winner, providing Jeff new people to complain about each week, thereby sparing Jenni and Zoila the abuse, and has subtracted the most hated part of the equation, which obviously is Gage.

And when Jeff gets to work in these homes and on these people, the things that come out of his mouth are priceless.  A few weeks back when re-doing Kelly the shaman therapist’s office, Jeff immediately hit on the bane of Kelly’s existence, her relationship with her ex-husband, who had moved out 5 years prior, but whose stuff dominated the home.  As soon as Kelly declared her love life complicated, Jeff followed with a barrage of questions, ascertaining that Kelly’s ex Armand was seeing other people.  Cut to Kelly, who declared to the camera that she was uncomfortable being grilled about her love life.  Cut back to Jeff, launching more and more questions, declaring the odd relationship “fascinating.” Cut to Jeff again, now telling the camera that obviously Kelly needs to move on, that the guy sees other people and that Kelly is in denial.

Then Jeff discovers a load of rat feces in Kelly’s office space, sending Jeff’s OCD into high gear.  When Jeff and Jenni pack the family off so they can complete their work, a necessity because Jeff refuses to try to explain to somebody that they don’t need 9 pairs of tweezers (Kelly is also a horder), he begins to go through the entire house with a huge trash bag, throwing all kinds of senseless shit away, while admitting he is unable to stop.

Jeff then focuses on the fact that Kelly keeps old fortunes from fortune cookies.

“Jenni”, he says, “do you save your old fortunes from fortune cookies?”

“No.”

“Kelly does.” Then Jeff discovers another old fortune and blurts out, “Look.  Another fucking fortune!”

Jeff has been fairly diplomatic with some on the new show, at least to their faces.  Some of the time.  We can’t say he was too diplomatic with Ross Matthews, with whom he butted heads with repeatedly.  But who in the audience could stand Matthews’ grating personality and bully attitude?  The only person around who could stand up to him was the one who did.  Jeff Lewis.

With nicer people he has looked to massage situations a bit more, yet when it’s just him and the camera, or him and Jenni, he speaks his mind.  That type of talk is well worth the price of admission.  Like when Jeff declared a few weeks back that the home he was doing did not have one nice possession and that everything needed to be thrown away, suggesting that not even charities would want that stuff donated.  Or how when last week Jeff made fun of the very annoying Brit who repeatedly questioned Jeff’s taste, yet wore eccentric, over-sized bow ties.  Jeff told Jenni he couldn’t look at “another stupid fucking bow tie” and also complained “I hate these people.”

Stupid bow tied British douchebag (above).

Jeff has dealt with more than one horder, several momma’s boys, domineering women and men, and other difficult personalities.  And in short spans of time, has done everything he could to set them all straight personally, while also taking care of their homes.  He has also cracked us up in the process.

That’s why Jeffrey Lewis is the man, and why almost any JL driven show would work.  Kudos to Bravo for finding the perfect vehicle for this great talent.  They have channeled Jeff’s energy toward less static situations and different families and we may even feel the new show is a better one than Flipping Out, especially since Gage was added to the cast.

In fact, Jeff is flipping out more than ever.  He’s just not making us cringe while doing so.  Neither is the smarmy, duplicitous, officious Gage who stars by his exclusion, positively conspicuous by his absence.

Speaking of traffic, we’d like to thank our loyal readers and others for their patronage.  On Wednesday we had 69,000 plus to this site.  But don’t worry.  We are not about to go big time on you!

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

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