December 11, 2003

There's no business, like show business...something to think about the next time you hear of a charity event in Hollywood, from the Los Angeles Times:
Almost any night of the week around Los Angeles, one charity or another holds a glitzy fundraising benefit, backed by a Hollywood star.

But many celebrities appear at these events not solely out of the goodness of their hearts. They come to line their pockets.

Actor David Schwimmer, who has made many millions of dollars starring in NBC's "Friends," received a pair of Rolex watches worth $26,413 in advance of a 1997 charity gala that had among its intended beneficiaries the John Wayne Cancer Institute.

Singer Engelbert Humperdinck, as partial payment for a 1998 benefit appearance at the Friars Club, received two Cartier watches priced at $8,500 each.

Piano legend Ray Charles picked up $75,000 for a four-song appearance at a 2002 SHARE (Share Happily and Reap Endlessly) gala in Santa Monica, which was to benefit developmentally disabled children.

All three events were among more than a dozen organized in recent years by Aaron Tonken, a Los Angeles event promoter, who in November was charged by federal authorities with two counts of fraud related to charitable fundraising. Tonken's lawyer, Alan Rubin, said his client was expected to appear in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Sources have said Tonken was negotiating a plea agreement.

Meanwhile, federal authorities and their counterparts in state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer's office are trying to figure out what happened to as much as $7 million in funds that were raised in connection with Tonken-organized events but never made it to designated charities. According to those familiar with the inquiry — and more than 2,000 pages of financial records and other documents obtained by The Times — it appears that little of the money was kept by Tonken himself.

Rather, it was spent on — and sometimes demanded by — those who needed it the least: the rich and famous, and their hangers-on.


Another time, Tonken took to the air to make a special "rib run" to Canada for Roseanne Barr. The cost: more than $60,000.

It was May 2002, and the comedienne was hankering for fare from the Tunnel Bar-B-Que in Windsor, Canada. Tonken had just convinced Barr to be the emcee of the upcoming SHARE gala while helping to launch her private foundation. He also was setting up shop in a new role as her manager.

Eager to remain in the prickly star's good graces, Tonken whisked Barr and two of her associates onto a hastily chartered private jet for the 2,000-mile jaunt from Van Nuys to Canada. The flight cost $48,351, records show: $4,750 an hour for the plane, $1,350 for three flight attendants and a $1,009 in-flight catering tab that included $356 in Beluga caviar served with four mother-of-pearl spoons at $28 each. On top of that came limousines, an $11,500 shopping spree at a local mall and, of course, the barbecued ribs.

Barr's attorney declined to comment.
Tonken pled guilty yesterday to wire and mail fraud, and agreed to cooperate with federal investigators searching for where over $7 million dollars earmarked for charities went. David Schwimmer is denying that he ever received two Rolexes (Rolexi?) from Mr. Tonken.

December 10, 2003

The eloquent words of Nobel laureate Shirid Ebadi, today in Oslo:
In the past two years, some states have violated the universal principles and laws of human rights by using the events of 11 September and the war on international terrorism as a pretext. ... Regulations restricting human rights and basic freedoms, special bodies and extraordinary courts which make fair adjudication difficult and at times impossible, have been justified and given legitimacy under the cloak of the war on terrorism.
Your assignment for today: compare and contrast the words of this courageous woman with those who view the "war on terrorism" as a cheap excuse to kill the A-rabs.

December 09, 2003

The perils of globalization hit home....
In what I assume is a joke, blogger Jeff Jarvis writes:
On the Internet, this Internet, we're not "loosely tethered, careless and free" -- in fact, we're making stronger relationships than many of us have in the world sometimes known as the real one. And we watch what we say because somebody's fact-checking our ass. And we take on the responsibilities that come with all that.
This guy needs to get out more. As a wise man noted last October 28, if someone believes that Instapundit or Andrew Sullivan spend a second perforning due dilligence on any of the garbage they link to, they pretty much deserve the ridicule they get behind their back.

December 08, 2003

I do get ornery "drinkin' buddy" of mine, who's somewhere to the right of Dennis Prager, writes:
So I'm sitting at the bar at what used to be known as "The Happiest Little Place On Earth" early yesterday evening when I turn around and spot the venerable Paul Tagliabue standing right behind me. Having grown up in Southern California and having never been bitten by the celebrity bug, I naturally felt no compulsion to acknowledge his prescience. After all this is the man that presides over the great-quarterbackless, "Playmakers"-trashing, McNabb-overrating, can't-untuck-your-jerseying, where-have-you-gone-Roger Staubaching N.F.L. What to do? Should I act like one of those autograph-seeking a******s commonly seen on "Celebrities Uncensored" or ignore the man altogether? I know it's the football press and present members that vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame but I've got to figure he has some influence as to who gets in and Cliff Harris has been consistently ignored over the years. He must have the power to release full-game broadcasts of old N.F.L. games to the terribly disappointing "ESPN Classic". He can, I'm thinking, loosen the reins on a policy that fines a player if his socks aren't pulled all the way up. He is one of the people who desperately wants an N.F.L. team here in L.A. which would ruin my ability to view double headers on Sundays and perhaps force my beloved U.S.C. Trojans to play a full season at Dodger Stadium. Isn't that where Mike Marshall played and didn't he used to date one of the Go Go's? As I'm sitting at the bar all of this hits me and I realize how much this man has and can affect my sorry little life. So I did what most people would do in my situation. I said "Hey, Paul Tagliabue, how you doing?" shook his hand, turned around and continued to consume my Early Times and Seven-Up. Also, I took a really good dump this morning.
Mr. Cairns, I would expect nothing less from you.

December 07, 2003

Regarding the BCS mess, there is a story my late father used to tell me about Jesse Unruh, the California State Assembly leader during the Pat Brown and Ronald Reagan administrations, and the person who basically ran the state from 1958 to the day he died, in 1987. Unruh had some of his cronies over for a party to watch the 1964 Notre Dame-USC game. The Fighting Irish were undefeated in Ara Parseghian's first season as coach, ranked first in all the polls, and were generally thought to be the best football team in America, especially with Bart Starr injured in Green Bay. SC had finished tied for the conference title with Oregon State, but were clearly the class of the West Coast, and were expected to be selected for the Rose Bowl (the Trojans and Beavers hadn't played that season). Notre Dame was led by that season's Heisman Trophy winner, John Huarte, while the Trojans were carried by junior sensation Mike Garrett.

Notre Dame gets off to a 17-0 halftime lead at the Colliseum, dominating both sides of the line of scrimmage. If Notre Dame won, they would be crowned national champion, as the Irish did not play bowl games back then. However, in the second half, USC scores 20 unanswered points, the final coming on a touchdown pass from Craig Fertig to Rod Sherman with a 1:33 remaining, to upset the Irish. Along with many of his political associates, including my dad, Unruh had attended USC, and after beating the number one team in the country, he assumed that SC would be awarded the conference berth in the Rose Bowl.

It was not to be. When the announcement came that Oregon State had been selected to face Michigan on January 1, an explosion could be heard at the party, where there had apparently been a lot of drinking. Unruh, at the full height of his power after LBJ's landslide victory in the state, as well as after the humiliating defeat of his arch-enemy Pat Brown's hand-picked Senatorial candidate, Pierre Salinger, proclaimed that he would personally bring down the Pac-8 conference and the NCAA, and SC would secede from the rest of the college football after this outrage. Unfortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and it would be left to another generation to bring down that ridiculously self-important organization.