After a Fashion

Stephen explores the similar trajectories of the lives of Martha Stewart, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela??!

The glamourous independent film producer Tina Sinatra, daughter of Frank, producer of The Manchurian Candidate, and all-around classy dame
The glamourous independent film producer Tina Sinatra, daughter of Frank, producer of The Manchurian Candidate, and all-around classy dame

I'LL BE BACK proclaims Martha Stewart. Five months in jail, five months under house arrest, and a $30,000 fine – a reasonably fair sentence for the unrepentant Diva of Domesticity (fair, as long as the crooks at Enron go to the big house for the rest of their lives). But in a jaw-dropping PR blunder, Stewart compared herself to Nelson Mandela as one of the "many, many good people that have gone to jail." Hardly of the same caliber as Mandela, Stewart painted herself as a saint in a letter to the judge before sentencing, with touching tales of "greeting new neighbors with freshly baked bread," or "consoling a friend whose father died the day she was convicted," or "displaying products of small businesses on her TV shows," and even noted that she spent time "complimenting staff at lunches, barbecues, and Passover Seders." Martha, Martha, Martha. Mother Teresa, you are not, so don't even go there with us. Nor is she a monster or a hardened criminal. She was a successful commercial and print model and clawed her way up through the men's worlds of Wall Street and real estate in the Sixties and Seventies. She started a catering company in 1975, and the rest is history – the magazine, the television show, the newspaper column, the products ... Kmart. She achieved it all like a woman possessed. Being ruthless and demanding is not a crime, but lying to a grand jury is. Since her indictment, this proud, accomplished woman has suffered deeply – like Leona Helmsley did. I want for Martha to serve her sentence, get past the jokes and humiliation, and get back to doing what she does best: promoting herself, her products, and her "lifestyle" ... and being the queen of all she surveys.

PYROTECHNICS ON THE AVENUE It was a post-Fourth of July fireworks display at the most recent monthly meeting of the South Congress Merchants' Association, says our spy-on-the-wall. Various reports tell us that a few months ago, Güero's owner Rob Lippincott set out to collect the signatures of local merchants, residents, and neighborhood groups who were interested in exploring and developing a plan for a Save South Congress Festival. By the time Lippincott presented his plan to the Merchants' Association at a well-attended meeting at Güero's, the scope of the fair had evolved into a Save South Austin Festival. With an agent for the Pecan Street Festival and another associate at his side, Lippincott outlined a street fair with streets around and including South Congress being closed from Academy to Elizabeth. The plan called for vendors, live music on the streets, and other entertainment ... and beer. There was heated opposition among a sizable contingent – neighborhood associations were concerned about issues such as parking, traffic, trash, and toilet facilities (their front yards?), and merchants objected to bringing other vendors in. Lippincott, according to sources, was angered, reminding them that they'd all given their signatures. But as one merchant said, "I only signed a statement of interest, not a commitment to support and participate in a plan we'd never heard of." One attendee suggested that the festival be held on the grounds of the Texas State School for the Deaf – a suggestion which Lippincott's associate was reported to have dismissed by saying, "We can't sell beer at the School for the Deaf." Another local wondered, "How is attracting hordes of drunken tourists to South Congress supposed to 'save' South Austin? Don't we already do that once a month with First Thursday?" Concerned parties anxiously await the next monthly meeting to see what develops.

NOT NANCY, BUT DAMN CLOSE Our esteemed Austin Chronicle editor, Louis Black, always knows more than he tells, and I can only pry gossip out of him once in a blue moon. But he did tell me that when he was in New York not long ago to preview a version of the new film by his close friend Jonathan Demme, a remake of The Manchurian Candidate, he went out to dinner with Demme and an assorted group of associates, one of whom was Tina Sinatra (producer on the film), whom Black hadn't realized would be attending. A bit smitten, he introduced himself to her, and found her to be smart and charming. "Now, I'm one of those Sixties kids who used to disdain Frank Sinatra – the man and his music," says Black. "Until one night, when I put on a CD and fell so in love and still regularly listen to 'It Was a Very Good Year,' whenever I lose my moorings and things get especially tough. At the end of the evening I had to go over to her and say, 'Look, I hate to do this and I know you get it all the time but I have to tell you how much I love your father's music and how much it means to me.' She was beyond gracious and said that no, she loved to hear that." Frank starred in the original 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate, and Demme's remake is garnering rave reviews for its powerhouse performances by Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, and Jon Voight in this gripping political thriller.

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